- The Washington Times - Monday, July 24, 2006

Major League Baseball’s latest self-promotion further marginalizes the Washington Nationals.

The premise of “Hometown Heroes” is simple enough: Baseball picks the top five players for each franchise. Fans go to their local ballpark, MLB.com or a DHL shipping center and vote for their favorites.

It’s a fun idea — unless you’re a Nationals fan.

The Nationals’ nominees are: Gary Carter, Livan Hernandez, Brian Schneider, Rusty Staub and Jose Vidro.

First things first: Those aren’t the five best players in franchise history.

The five best players in Expos/Nationals history are: Tim Raines, Carter, Andre Dawson, Vladimir Guerrero and Tim Wallach.

OK, so what?

No one in the District cares who Montreal’s Hometown Hero is. Put a ballot box outside Olympic Stadium and let them vote.

But this should be about baseball in the District. The last thing Nationals fans want to do is hold a parade for Rock Raines.

Washington’s list of nominees should be a celebration of Washington baseball. The players should have played in, you know, Washington.

The Senators played here from 1901 to 1960 before moving to Minnesota. Then the expansion Senators played here from 1961 to 1971. That’s 71 years of baseball history.

That’s enough for a few hometown heroes.

Washington’s nominees should be: Walter Johnson, Sam Rice, Frank Howard, Goose Goslin and Clyde Milan.

Write one of those names in when you’re at RFK Stadium or on the Internet. Don’t vote for Gary Carter.

Johnson wasn’t shoehorned onto the Minnesota Twins list, so the greatest pitcher ever is nowhere to be found.

Howard wasn’t squeezed onto the Texas Rangers list, so the Nationals shouldn’t be left with Montreal’s leftover heroes.

About that Rangers list, there’s Mark Teixeira and Rusty Greer but no Juan Gonzalez (a two-time MVP) or Rafael Palmeiro (which may point to a steroid bias).

Major League Baseball ignored steroids for most of the past 25 years, and with these hero nominations, it’s doing it again.

Other than Barry Bonds, no players even vaguely connected to steroids made the list of nominees.

The most egregious omission: Ken Caminiti from the Padres list.

The most laughable list of nominations comes from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays: Wade Boggs, Carl Crawford, Roberto Hernandez, Aubrey Huff and Fred McGriff.

The Devil Rays haven’t had a winning season or much else in their nine-year history, but Tampa, Fla., has produced many major leaguers.

How about the five best players from Tampa: Boggs, McGriff, Steve Garvey, Dwight Gooden and his nephew Gary Sheffield.

That’s a real list of hometown heroes.

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