There are 42 days until the Washington Nationals' prospective pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on February 14, 2009. Forty-two days for the Washington Nationals to somehow figure out how to add offensive power to a lineup that finished at or near the bottom of the League in nearly every statistical category that's measured these days...for Washington to find the "...guaranteed 30 home run(s) and 100 RBIs" that Nationals' Manager Manny Acta asked for in an October 2, 2008 article by MLB.com writer Bill Ladson entitled, "Nationals see reason for optimism in '09", where Mr. Acta said what he thought was missing from Washington's lineup:
"We need a guy who strikes fear. That guy will go in the middle of the order regardless of who is there now."
The Nationals thought Mark Teixeira was that player. The rest of the baseball world thought Washington had lost it, and the Yankees eventually stepped in and signed Tex, so DC turned its attentions toward Adam Dunn, the 29-year-old left-hander out of Houston, Texas, who is the very definition (+10 HR's) of what Mr. Acta asked for just after the Nationals' 102-loss '08 campaign had mercifully ended. (ed. note - "Though I bet if you asked Mr. Acta again he'd ask for a .300 AVG and less than 110 K's.")
...Still, here we are on January 4th, and just this weekend, DC GM Jim Bowden is quoted in another article by MLB.com's Bill Ladson, this one entitled, "GM Jim Bowden not done improving Nats", where Mr. Bowden assures the DC Faithful:
"We are exploring a lot of possibilities," Bowden said. "I think, obviously, we would like to have a big left-handed bat in the middle of our lineup. So that's a priority."
42 Days...Outside of a trade for Prince Fielder, the possibility of which keeps coming up and getting quickly dismissed in Mr. Ladson's articles, the only other targets the Nationals have identified are Dunn and possibly Milton Bradley, and unless DC plans on giving another oft-injured first baseman like Richie Sexson, Nomar Garciappara or one of the many 30+ outfielders on the market a chance, (and please don't think I'm advocating that), the likelihood of their adding a substantial bat to the lineup, (in any way other than a blockbuster trade which somehow materializes in the next month and a half), is dwindling every day...
There are pitchers on the market. Just sayin'...
But Adam Dunn is still on the market too...and as of now the Nationals are the only team that's been indentified as having a serious interest in his services...So surely some will argue, with the newest trend in numbers in support of their claims, that Adam Dunn is just what the Nationals need, but I'd answer that like the great actor of our generation Kevin Costner (Q: Kevin Costner? A: Just go with it!) says, as DA Jim Garrison in Oliver Stone's conspiratorial mess of a movie, "JFK", "Theoretical physics can also prove that an elephant can hang off a cliff with its tail tied to a daisy! But use your eyes, your common sense..."
...The fact that Dunn hasn't signed with Washington yet is probably a sign he thinks something else is out there, though there haven't been any official reports yet of a contract offer from the Nationals or anyone else as far as I know, (though the Dodgers and Rays have expressed "interest")...and though I just don't see the point of paying Dunn what it will take to keep him from going to LA or Tampa, or understand why Dunn would want to come to DC now in the first place after eight seasons of not winning as a Red...I'm almost to the point of thinking it's the only option left, uh, for first...if...?
...If you're not going to stick with Nick Johnson and Dmitri Young. If...you don't think Elijah Dukes or Ryan Zimmerman or Josh Willingham can turn into the 25-30 HR, 100 RBI guy the Nationals need in their lineup. If...you don't think Austin Kearns can finally put it all together...If...you don't think the needed offensive boost is to be found within the Nationals' system...That's a lot of "if's" and only 42 days to sort them out...Where will Washington's offense come from in 2009?
DOMINICAN WINTER LEAGUE PLAYOFF UPDATE...
The Tigres del Licey dropped two straight this weekend to drop to 3-3 in the first round of DWL postseason play. Friday night at home in Licey's Estadio Quisqueya, it was the newest Nationals' pitcher Daniel Cabrera taking the loss in a 6-4 decision after allowing 6 hits, 4 runs, (1 earned) and 2 walks with 1 K in 4.0 innings pitched against the Gigantes del Cibao. Anderson Hernandez was 2 for 4 Friday, (and hitting .500 after 5 playoff games). Saturday night, the Gigantes welcomed the Tigres to Estadio Julian Javier where they took the second half of the home and home by a score of 4-2. Ronnie Belliard returned to the Tigres' lineup for the first time since being hit by a pitch on December 21, but went 0 for 4, as did Anderson Hernandez, as Licey was unable to hold on to a 2-1 lead, losing the game when Cibao scored 3 in the bottom of the seventh off Tigres' reliever Frances Beltran, who was trying to hold what another Nationals' pitcher, Jorge Sosa, had kept in tact through six innings on the mound.
PUERTO RICAN WINTER LEAGUE...
With the Puerto Rican Winter League playoffs set to start this week, the Criollos de Caguas finish up with 5 games from Friday through Monday, starting with Friday's doubleheader against the Lobos de Arecibo, on the road in Estadio Luis Rodriguez Olmo, both of which Caguas lost. Justin Maxwell, 2 for 4 with a double (8) in game one, went 1 for 4 with a DP grounder in game 2 for a .222 AVG so far on the Winter. Garrett Guzman was a combined 0 for 6 Friday, with DC reliever Saul "Sa-ool" Rivera taking the loss in the second game after allowing a walk, 3 hits and 1 run in 1.1 IP.
Saturday night, the Criollos de Caguas came back with a big 6-2 win over the Gigantes de Carolina at home in Parque Yidefonso Sola Morales. Garrett Guzman, Criollos' DH, was 1 for 4, and Maxwell, who started in left, was 0 for 3 with a walk...but the Criollos got all the offense they need from former Mets' catcher Raul Casanova, who hit 2 HR's and collected 2 RBI's in the win.