What I want for the Washington Nationals in 2009:
1. A .300 season at the plate out of Ryan Zimmerman. (After struggling through an injury-filled '08, Zim worked his way back to a .283 AVG by the end of the year, but the lack of power as he recovered was somewhat alarming. A .300 AVG, 20-25 HR's, and 100 RBI's should be the goal, but who knows who will surround him in the batting order?)
2. An injury-free campaign from Nick Johnson. ('05 or '06 Johnson would be fine. The good news about Nick Johnson's '08 performance, even though a wrist injury which required surgery ended his season after 38 games, was that his surgically-repaired right leg was not the problem. His '08 #'s project to around 30 doubles, 20 HR's and 80 RBI's...The Nationals didn't get "their free agent target", and they haven't signed Adam Dunn yet, so as of right now, a healthy Nick Johnson is the best bet at first...Who will be spelling Nick or replacing him if he's injured is a BIG ? though...)
3. Continued progress from Elijah Dukes. (Is the cure for Washington's offensive woes already part of the lineup? In 81 games and 276 at bats, at 24-years-old, in his second major league season, Dukes hit .264 with 16 doubles, 2 triples, 13 HR's, 44 RBI's, a .386 OBP, .478 SLG...and he drove Nelson Figueroa a little crazy...and, uh started a fight with all of Shea Stadium...(ed. note - "I know I shouldn't have enjoyed it, but seeing Dukes respond to the NY crowd's taunts live in Shea like I did filled me with a little bit of Nationals-pride!" Let's Go Nats Go!!)...you can do the math on the projections for a full season...and though he recovered from injuries quickly enough to earn the nickname Elijah "Super" Dukes here at federalbaseball.com, that did require his getting injured quite often first...Basically, he could be the big bat DC's looking for...or a 4th outfielder.)
4. "Wild" Joel Hanrahan as the next big thing in closing games. (Granted, the Nationals need to give Hanrahan leads to work with, but after becoming the Nationals' closer in the wake of Chad Cordero's stunning decline, and the trade of the Tallest Pitcher in MLB History, Hanrahan rode an exciting roller coaster through the rest of '08, blowing 3 of 12 save opportunities, while continuing the DC Closer tradition of consistently "Making It Interesting". One of 21 minor league free agents signed back in November '06, after seven years in the LA Dodgers' system without a promotion to the Majors, Hanrahan's all alone in the closer role for now...)
5. Continued Patience from the DC Faithful. (Some onfield proof of the continued rebuilding efforts would be nice, say in the emergence of a few more rookie arms over the course of the season, and maybe one or two successful offensive call-ups...(not to ignore Kory Casto's OK '08 campaign), but after that the DC baseball fans are going to have to be patient. These things don't happen overnight (laughs), unless you're the Rockies or Rays...but the Rockies fell back last year and the Rays are going to have to prove '08 wasn't a fluke in an AL East gone MAD in '09..So it's going to be a few more years before the Montreal years of the franchise are fully behind the team...and the Phillies and Mets aren't going anywhere, the Braves are rebooting, (probably ahead of DC's progress), and the Marlins are always pesky overachievers, so...Maybe another run like the beginning of '05 can reenergize the DC Faithful..short of that, it's going to have to be patience...)
I Heard An Interview WIth Josh Willingham...
XM's MLB Hot Stove coverage featured an interview with the Washington Nationals' prospective left fielder, Josh Willingham this afternoon, what follows is the (paraphrased) contents of what I heard in the segment, which was co-hosted by XM's Buck Martinez and Seth Everett:
...Willingham says (in a slightly southern accent) that he's talked to Manny Acta and Jim Bowden (more than he would've thought, he says) and he thinks he was brought to DC to play left field...that's the message he's gotten...Willingham says his back feels great, and last year's problems were a result of stubbornly continuing to play when he knew he was injured...just starting to work out, will start swinging a bat soon...Willingham liked to hit at RFK and he likes Nationals Park as well...(STAT CHECK - In Nationals Park - Willingham - 6 for 20, .330 AVG, 1 2B, 2 HR, 4 BB.)... Willlingham says he can't explain why he's hit so well in DC...sees the ball better at Nationals Park maybe...(ed. note - "Hitting or reaching base in 11 of 20 AB's in DC's Nationals Park would seem to support this contention.")...Miami was always hot and humid, the small crowds were tough to play in front of, especially since Florida had a good year...Willingham's thoughts on the Yankees' new first baseman?...The big money doesn't bother him as a player, (ed. note - "...inferring it's a benefit for all players when one gets PAID, if I read the Hammer right), it shows the Yankees commitment to winning...How did he get the nickname "Hammer"? Willingham says that his nickname used to be Willie, but when he came up, (former National-for-a-minute Josh Wilson was in the organization and called "Willie" so he ended up WillingHam(mer!)...but Willingham says that he tells people the nickname was given to him after the first time people in the Marlins' organization saw him hit...(ed. note - "WIllingham comes across well in the interview, both hosts make mention of how good a guy he is...How good a left fielder will he be for DC though?")
end transmission...back on Friday...