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Back to the old airplane field

New York Mets (6-1) at Washington Nationals (2-7)

Game 10: April 13, 1:05 pm; MASN/WDCA, WTWP, XM 183
Victor Zambrano (NR) vs. Livan Hernandez (1-1, 5.25)

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Amazin' Avenue

As I write this, ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike are evaluating the claim, apparently put forth by Tony Kornheiser on yesterday's PTI, that if the Nats did not plunk Pedro Martinez---and plunk him hard---then that's a sign of weakness.

This evaluation, I must say, is rather insipid. They are currently analogizing things according to what Mike Golic would do as a defensive lineman. While that's fascinating---okay, it really isn't all that fascinating---it completely misses the point, which is that the Nats really couldn't start any trouble last night. Not one of Washington's starters on the young season had pitched into the seventh inning coming into last night. The bullpen has been overworked and still faces Felix Rodriguez's three-game suspension. Tony Armas, last evening's starter, isn't exactly known for his durability, and he's trying to work back from an injury. He can use the work.

Aren't these factors worth exploring? Not if you're a dumb radio show. But, all kidding aside about lliK'ing ordeP, it wasn't going to happen.

Instead, Pedro killed the Nats, in what the Times-Dispatch's John Markon characterized a "maddenly efficient" performance.

Nat at Bat: Jose Vidro

Vidro might be the only man in big league history to complain about a ballpark's dimension's on the very night he homered in the same ballpark:

"It killed us last year, and it's going to kill us again this year," said Vidro, who did hit a solo home run to right field in the fourth inning. "The organization didn't really look deep into it last year. They saw what happened, and they didn't change anything. So I guess they didn't care about it, and it's going to hurt us again this year. I guarantee you. . . .

"This is not by any means a major-league ballpark. This is a -- you could call this an airplane field. This is not baseball-type dimensions."

There are probably thousands of reasons why I shouldn't quibble with Jose Vidro on the subject of whether RFK's vast dimensions are harmful to the Nats, so I won't. However, I will reference my belief last June that the big ballpark was a huge advantage to the team during last season's surprisingly blissful first half, for the simple reasons that the pitching staff used the dimensions to stifle opposing power. About a half-season into the campaign, visitors were posting fewer than 100 points of "Isolated Power" (SLG-BA), a thoroughly ridiculous figure.

I still think this was one of the main reasons why the Nats were so successful in the first half of the '05 season.

Of oourse, that advantage almost completely evaporated in the second half. Maybe the advantage was a product of the great first-half bullpen, or maybe it was a product of matching the dimensions with types of pitchers (i.e., flyballers), or maybe it was sheer luck. Whatever the reason, the effect didn't stick.

So maybe the club should listen to Vidro (and the rest of the complaining players), but in this instance, I am inclined to give some credence to Tony Tavares' response: "Both teams played here tonight. . . . It's a pitcher's park. They're 2-7. They're frustrated and they're making excuses. The best thing everybody can do is just look in the mirror at themselves."