PLAY BALL! It’s the happiest day of the sports year: opening day of the Major League Baseball season. So it’s also the perfect time to take a look at our hometown team.
With any luck, the Washington Nationals will be average this season. That might not sound like much, but average would be a big improvement for the Nats.
Two years ago, the Nats were the worst team in baseball, with a record of 59-103 (59 wins and 103 losses). Last season, they were a little better, posting a 69-93 mark.
If the Nats keep getting better and win 10 more games this season, they will be 79-83. As I said, average.
In this case, average is okay. Kids understand that getting better — whether it’s in baseball, music lessons or long division — takes time. If you are getting D’s and F’s on your report card, chances are you won’t turn into an A student overnight. Working harder and getting C’s and B’s would be a big improvement.
Hopefully, that’s the way it will be with the Nationals. Here are the reasons I think the Nats will have a better report card — I mean, a better record — this season.
Starting pitchers: Livan Hernandez (166 career wins), John Lannan (28), Jason Marquis (96) and Tom Gorzellany (36) have all had success in the major leagues. They are not Hall of Fame pitchers, but they should be an improvement over last year’s group. Keep an eye on Jordan Zimmermann. The 24-year-old right-hander is coming back from elbow surgery and has looked healthy in spring training, throwing a 98-mile-per-hour fastball. He might be ready to become the steady winner the Nationals need.
The batting lineup: The Nats have added two solid veteran players to their everyday lineup: Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche. Werth batted .296 and blasted 27 home runs while playing right field for the Phillies last season. LaRoche is a slick-fielding first baseman who hit 25 home runs in each of the past three seasons. Werth and LaRoche, along with all-star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, should make up for the loss of Adam Dunn, who took his big bat to the Chicago White Sox.
I’m also excited about some of the Nats’ younger regulars. Ian Desmond (25 years old) and Danny Espinosa (23) should be a dynamic duo at shortstop and second base. They are fast, can hit and make some fabulous plays in the field.
The Nats are not a perfect team. They need a center fielder, a consistent leadoff hitter and a star pitcher (let’s hope that phenom Stephen Strasburg recovers from his surgery before the season is over) to get on baseball’s A list.
Still, the Nationals have enough to be . . . average. And average sounds pretty good to me.
Fred Bowen writes KidsPost’s sports opinion column each week. He is also the author of children’s books about sports, including eight books about baseball.