Many Nats fans are feeling tiny nagging pains of pessimism, especially after the team dropped four out of five to sink below .500 and fall 6.5 games behind the Braves during a week when 28 members of the active roster sustained injuries.
Ray Knight, though, does not feel those pains. Ray Knight stands strong against the whipping winds of doubt and the freezing rain of despair and the hailstorm of negativity and the mud puddle of insecurity and the falling tree limbs of existential agony over the possibility of finishing behind the Phillies. Ray Knight will turn himself into a massive human sandbag to sop up all your doubts.
“Ok, we’re 28-28, right buddy?” Knight asked Bob Carpenter Sunday afternoon, while filling in on MASN’s broadcast for F.P. Santangelo, who had traveled home for his son’s graduation.
“Yeah, and you’re gonna lay on the folks some reasons why the Nats are still going to win the National League East,” Carpenter agreed.
“And I believe it with all my heart,” Knight said. “We’ve got the five best starting pitchers in the league. [I think he meant best starting five - ed.] And when it boils down to it, it’s going to be pitching and defense. Our defense is playing better. We’re getting the big boys back within a week or so, when we look at Jayson Werth and Harper. When you go down this lineup, there’s not a person that is doing what they’re capable of doing other than Ryan Zimmerman, and Harper when he was in there. And I’ve got to throw Span in there.
“And LaRoche has turned things around,” Carpenter said.
“And LaRoche,” Knight allowed. “But I think Span is right at the tip of the iceberg with what he can do. You know, Tyler Moore’s hitting .144. Bernadina’s hitting .171. Espinosa’s hitting .164, Chad Tracy’s hitting .157. That is NOT going to continue. Theyr’e too good of hitters. It just will turn around. But the fact that you’re getting the big boys back, you’ve got Ramos sitting there, it’s almost gonna be like making a trade and acquiring a 2 and 3 hitter, a catcher that’s very very strong.
“Get Mattheus back and get that bullpen a little tighter,” he continued. “You know, we have a good bullpen, there’s no doubt about it, but tighten it up just a little bit and I believe that we’re gonna have a very strong not just second half. It may not happen in a week when they come back, but there’s just too many positive things. Don’t you think, bud?”
“I like it,” Carpenter said. “I like it a lot.”
They talked about the game. And then Knight resumed his case.
“It’s 25, 26, 27 long weeks of baseball,” he said. “162 games. And you can have a team in April and Mary play horrible, and then all of a sudden things get right, they start gelling, and then you just can’t stop ‘em. They’re like a runaway train….I mean, you look down this Nationals stats sheet, Desmond’s at .261, he’ll end up at .280, .285. It just is gonna happen. LaRoche is at .242, he’s gonna end up at .260 or above and end up with his 30 home runs. Bryce is gonna come back and hit 30. Zim’s gonna continue to hit — he’s a .287 lifetime hitter, that’s where he’s gonna end up. So a looooot of positive things ahead, a loooot of baseball left.”
And heck, two months from now they might be a runaway train, needing
Bob Ray Knight to be turn himself into a human emergency brake. In the meantime, for the more negatively inclined, Grantland’s Jonah Keri has you covered.
“The Nats came into this year as one of the favorites to come out of the National League and challenge for the first World Series title in franchise history,” he wrote on Monday. “They’re now six and a half games back of the front-running Braves, lagging well behind the league wild-card contenders, sitting below .500 with a negative run differential, and dealing with performance and injury concerns for about a half-dozen key roster spots.”