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12/26/07 'Aught-Seven...Washington Nationals: Season Three...

A month-by-month Look At The Nationals' Third Season In DC...

January and February '07

Top Stories...

     1/3/07 In the first post of the season at my old site>>>...I wondered about...

     "...Nick Johnson, the twenty-eight year old first baseman,
      who was injured hustling for a short pop in shallow right
      field in late September '06. The admirable effort didn't
      soften the blow, and the collision with outfielder Austin
      Kearns, which resulted in Johnson suffering a fractured right
      femur, cast a pall over the last few weeks of the Nationals'
      sophomore campaign..."

     At the time, Larry Broadway was the only other reasonable alternative for a starting first baseman on the Nationals' roster, and he was recovering from shoulder surgery, so I jokingly suggested:

          "I've got one word for you, Nationals GM Jim Bowden.
          Wilkerson. If the Yankees can give Randy Johnson back
          why not bring Brad Wilkerson back to DC?"

     The Nationals had other ideas. On January 18, 2007 the Nationals signed Travis Lee, along with thirteen other free agents, among them, Arnie Munoz, George Lombard and Jesus "Everyday" Colome. A month later the Nationals extended an offer to veteran first baseman Dmitri Young. When Broadway and Lee failed to land the first base job, DY stepped in and performed up to MLB Comeback Player of the Year standards...

     ...As far back as last January, I was rallying against the fact that the Nationals, who I wrote, were as an organization, "...openly planning for the future throughout the 2007 season..." seemed intent upon trading Chad Cordero.

     Though his name is still occasionally in the trade news, to this day Chad Cordero, the Nationals' Flat-Brimmed Closer remains the Nationals' ninth-inning-arm...

     On 2/18/07 the Washington Nationals signed Ronnie Belliard, or as I wrote:

          "...Ronnie Belliard? Last seen winning the World Series
          with the St. Louis Cardinals, formerly of the Cleveland
          Indians, a career .272 hitter, with 247 doubles, 80 HR's
          and 439 RBI in 3,812 at bats over nine seasons in the
          Majors..."

     I was excited about the signing of Belliard(who hit .290 with 11 HR's and 58 RBI's in '07) and DY for other reasons...Mainly because free agents were, for the first time in years, choosing to join the troubled franchise. At the time I wrote comparing the signings of the two veteran free agents(who were admittedly not in high demand) to the previous July's amateur free agent signing in which..."...the Nationals turn(ed) a few heads by outbidding... several of the same old teams (Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers...) for the services of 16 year-old Dominican shortstop Esmailyn Gonzalez."

      In his first season in the Major Leagues in '07, Esmailyn Gonzalez, playing with Washington's rookie ball affiliate, the Gulf Coast League's version of the Nationals, hit .245 with 3 doubles, 2 triples, and 11 RBI's. Though Gonzalez is still far from the Nationals' infield, what is more important is what his signing, and the acquisitions of DY and Belliard last February symbolized...

      The Nationals were, as an organization, going to act like a Major League franchise in the nation's capital. And though there were now new owners at the helm, I wrote:

          "...the franchise that is responsible for producing Tim
          Raines, Andre Dawson, Gary Carter, Randy Johnson, half
          of the current Indians, Javier Vazquez, Orlando Cabrera,
          Vladimir Guerrero, Jose Vidro, Brian Schneider, and Ryan
          Zimmerman is now being run by the man, Stan Kasten,
          who helped rebuild the Braves before their decade-plus
          dominance of the National League, and they've hired
          Tom Rizzo, the man responsible for the most recent
          rebuilding of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and then Kasten
          hires a Manager best known as a talent evaluator, in
          Manny Acta. This finally sounds right..."

      ...Does it still feel like the National are on the right path in rebuilding the franchise heading into January of '08? What are the biggest needs that still need to be addressed before the upcoming season? How many years straight will the Nationals start the season unsure of what to expect from John Patterson?