Washington Nationals Strengths: The Nationals can only go in one direction: Up. They added some key pieces in OF Jayson Werth and 1B Adam LaRoche. Rookie sensation SP Stephen Strasburg hopes to pitch before the end of the season after undergoing surgery last year. If he’s half as good as he is hyped to be, the Nationals have a number-one pitcher for years to come. 3B Ryan Zimmerman will also be a key player in 2011.
Weaknesses: Losing 1B Adam Dunn doesn’t hurt so bad when you pick up Jayson Werth, but his presence will be missed. The pitching staff is scary to look at, in a bad way. SP Livan Hernandez and SP Jason Marquis are way past their prime, and the rest of their pitching options are young guys with little experience.
Analysis: It’s hard to predict good things for a team with no pitching. They made some big off-season moves, acquiring Werth and LaRoche, but the offense they provide isn’t going to be enough to turn this team around. Manager Jim Riggleman is going to have to work a miracle to save this team from itself.
What does it mean? I’ll tell you: baseball (I almost typed “basketball” right there) is officially back. While today is considered Opening Day, last night’s game between the Atlanta Braves and the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies was evidently the opening act. Call it “Opening Night” if you want. As for the game, the Braves beat the Phils, 4-1, behind a masterful Derek Lowe outing. The Braves’ new ace pitched eight strong innings, giving up only two hits and zero runs. As for Philadelphia, there’s not a whole lot you can take from the loss. Last season, the Phillies also opened with a loss, but went on to win the World Series.
Like I said, there’s not a great deal to take away from last night’s game if you are Phillies fan, good or bad. As for the Braves, seeing their new ace pitch well has to provide some hope for a team that struggled with starting pitching last season.
Not to take any of the thunder away from the Chicago Cubs and all that strange awesomeness going on at Wrigley, but the buzz around the MLB seems to be focusing on John Smoltz, Joba Chamberlain, and Pedro Martinez — and with good reason.
So which of these three is the bigger story? For my money, and I’m no baseball expert, I’d have to say either Smoltz leaving or Pedro returning would take top billing. As for Joba, can’t we just give it a little more time before he’s thrown under the proverbial bus?
It was only his first start, folks.
For the Braves, is it time to start looking at life after John Smoltz? He’s having season-ending shoulder surgery because of chronic pain. Smoltz also indicated if he had to go through another arm procedure, he just might retire from baseball. Apparently, he’s relented on that stance some, but nevertheless, could you really blame Smoltz if he didn’t want to go through another extended rehab process, favoring a decision to hang them up instead?
With regards to Pedro, you have to believe the prevailing thoughts concerning his performance are, “can he keep this up for the rest of the season?”
The Washington Nationals opened their new ballpark last night with a 3-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves. On hand to kick off the Nationals Park festivities was President George Bush (the Second) and the Nationals crowd made sure they discussed his approval rating the best way they new how: by booing him.
Judging by their reaction and by his impressive booth appearance (well, it was better than his press conferences on, say, Iraq), maybe he should have stayed in the baseball business.