We'd better prepare ourselves for the onslaught of insults that are about to be unleashed upon our Washington Nationals as one media outlet after another unveils their '09 preview and prediction editions now that we're only a day away from pitchers and catchers reporting and three away from the official beginning of Spring Training when all players "may report" as the Official MLB Calendar puts it. Cause let's face it...not one of these preseason prognosticators is going to pick the Washington Nationals (even after they've inked Adam Dunn) to do anything other than finish in the bottom half of the NL East, most likely fifth, but maybe, possibly, fourth, should either the Braves or Marlins implode...And the reasons they'll give..."The Nationals need pitching", "they're too young", "the rest of the NL East is too strong", well, just accept that each of the '09 MLB Season Previews that comes out will say one or all of these things, and it'll premptively soften the blow...
Let's start the season with Lindy's Sports Annuals, 2009 Baseball Preview, which hit the newsstands recently with the "Broadway Bat Men" David Wright and Derek Jeter featured on its glossy cover, (at least in this region). Inside, the first mention of your Washington Nationals comes in a column entitled, "This Could Be Your Year. Yes, Even In Kansas", where the uncredited scribe recounts the exchange this past year between Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader and the Washington Post in which Mr. Nader asked, "Then why are you covering the Nationals?'" after being told that the Post wasn't covering his campaign because he had no hope of victory.
In the opinion of the Lindy's 2009 Preview's writers, as expressed in their "Fearless Forecasts" introduction to the National League, the Nationals will finish 5th in the NL East in 2009, and the one line review included with the ranking should amuse those of you in the nation's capital:
"Nats are hoping Rockies/Rays magic might next hit in nation's capitol."
Anyway. DC Manager Manny Acta is quoted on the team page noting that, "Over the last two years, with the Rockies and Rays, baseball has shown you that when you think you're in, you're out. And when you think you're out, you're in." To which the Lindy's writers respond,"Wishful thinking? Sure. But it beats the harsh reality in Washington." A "harsh reality" which includes, in their assessment, the fact that, "The issue with them always comes down to pitching. Most of their young guys are back of the rotation types." This opinion's in keeping with the majority of reports I've read about the Nationals' arms, and when combined with the problem of the Nationals facing, "...some of baseball's most daunting competition in the NL East," you can clearly see how the Lindy's folks reached their conclusions.
The widely held belief that, "Most of their young guys are back of the rotation types," as the Lindy's writers put it, makes this year's draft all the more important, or as DC's Asst. GM Mike Rizzo characterized it today in a brief interview segment with XM MLB Hot Stove host Kevin Kennedy, "...the most important draft in team history." Mr. Rizzo also noted that it's the first time in MLB history that one team has two of the top 10 picks (1st and 10th) in the draft, and he stated that there were, "...several players who have a chance to be a Longoria-type or Price-type," of player, in terms of being capable of contributing immediately on the Major League level as Evan Longoria and David Price have been able to do for the Rays... (ed. note - "Did someone say 'Strasburg'?")
Mr. Rizzo was on the radio just a short time before the Washington Nationals officially introduced Adam Dunn to the DC Faithful in a press conference at Nationals Park, where Mr. Dunn, somewhat refreshingly, (as recounted by the Washington Post's Dave Sheinin in a Nationals Journal post entitled, "Dunn: 'This is Where I Wanted To Be'"), tells the assembled media that he initially had doubts but looked closer at the Nationals and decided to join the team, in spite of his initial reservations about doing so, instead of signing with a contender.
The discussion since Dunn signed has revolved around where the big hitting left fielder/first baseman will be playing for DC. The Post's Nationals Journal has three posts dedicated to the subject today alone. You'll remember that MLB.com's Bill Ladson wrote yesterday, in an article entitled, "Nats sign Dunn to two-year, $20M deal", that, "Dunn will bat cleanup and be the everyday first baseman, replacing Nick Johnson," but Mr. Sheinin, later on in the same article referenced above, writes about DC Manager Manny Acta's take on the subject:
"'It's been talked about. At the end of spring training we'll decide what's best for the Nationals. He'll play first base and left field in spring training.' (Acta also said he loves the thought of having both Dunn and Nick Johnson, with their high OBPs, in the lineup together--implying that is his preference.)"
Today, MLB.com's Bill Ladson, in an article entitled, "Dunn a big gun for Nationals' lineup", writes that Adam Dunn's arrival in DC, "means that the Nationals will likely make additional moves," especially if Dunn's going to be in the outfield, since:
"Prior to Dunn's arrival, Washington already had three outfielders -- Elijah Dukes, Kearns and Josh Willingham -- vying for two spots."
Or Dunn could play first, which would necessitate a trade being worked out for Nick Johnson, the oft-injured-but-incumbent first baseman, who has openly stated that he does not want to come off the bench. "I'm glad I don't have to make the decisions," Adam Dunn told Mr. Ladson. One decision that Manny Acta has made, according to Mr. Ladson, "Acta said after the news conference that Lastings Milledge will be the center fielder entering Spring Training." Which means it's either Dunn or Josh Willingham in left, and Austin Kearns or Elijah Dukes in right...? Your guess as to what DC GM Jim Bowden and the Nationals have planned is as good as mine...
Post Your '09 Nationals' Lineup In The Comments Section...
(ed. note - "#32 huh, Dunn? "We" are not off to a good start...I guess the Nationals didn't retire The Flat-Brimmed Closer Chad Cordero's number? I guess it means that Cordero is really not coming back...")