- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 25, 2004

With the reality of a Washington ballclub approaching, we’d like to indulge our inner baseball fan by taking a look at next year’s Washington Nationals. In the past, the Montreal Expos were the rest of baseball’s farm team: Good at developing outstanding talent, exceptionally bad at keeping it. Imagine Frank Robinson commanding a rotation anchored by Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Javier Vazquez backed Jose Vidro, Vladimir Guerrero, Larry Walker and Moises Alou. That’s the stuff of dreams. All those players are in their prime today; only one has stayed with the financially-strapped Expos.

These days, the roster is potentially competitive but has some gaping holes in it. Mr. Vidro is still around and the ill-tempered Jose Guillen will be the team’s stars. Veteran badboy Carl Everett still has pop in his bat, as do new third baseman Vinny Castilla and first baseman Nick Johnson. But the pitching will be an adventure: The rotation features right-handed ace Livian Hernandez and junkballer Tomo Okha, plus an assortment of untested rookies and would-be regulars. In a division that includes the traditionally pitching-strong Atlanta Braves and a New York Mets team that added World Series ace Pedro Martinez, the Nationals have some formidable competition.

Whatever happens, there are reasons to think this year will be an improvement on 2004’s last-place finish. The Expos went 67-95, 29 games behind the first-place Braves and four behind the struggling New York Mets. An unusually high number of injuries devastated last year’s team, not to mention a grueling Puerto Rico-based travel schedule. Assuming fewer injuries, a return to something like Frank Robinson’s first two years at the helm seems possible. Both years the team finished above the .500 mark despite a shoestring budget in the range of $40 million.

It’s speculation to wonder what the owners of the new Washington Nationals will do when they take over the ballclub, but the baseball fans in us can’t help but see potential. We’re not so brazen as to use the word “dynasty” to describe what we’d like to see in Washington, but we do think the nation’s capital in time should rival whatever cities like Boston, New York and Philadelphia can muster. We’ll need an owner who has a similarly ambitious vision. Position available: Ballclub owner with George Steinbrenner’s fiery spirit. Moneyballer required (Steinbrenneresque pockets preferred).

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide