Tuesday, April 05, 2005

What I Did On My Spring Vacation

Despite the red splotches of sunburn on my cheeks and hands, I had lots of fun in Philadelphia yesterday. It was a warm, sunny day, although the strong gusts of wind forced me to repeatedly reach up and grab my hat.

I was amazed at the number of W hats I saw in the crowds, when I was milling about the stadium before the game. The Philly phans seemed pleased that we were there, and several asked about the hats and the team.

The Stadium
I was sitting in the 200 level, with the Nats Fan Club contingent. (Great job by Colin and everyone there in getting the whole trip organized -- and chronicled by the Post.

The seats were far from home plate, to the foul side of the fair pole, but you could still see the players easily and identify location of the pitches.

The ballpark has blue seats, which is a refreshing change from the sea of green most stadiums have. The stadium’s made of brick, which is pretty, but looks really strange rising out of a sea of asphalt parking lots surrounding it completely on all sides.

Particularly refreshing was the lack of croud cues. The only sound that played was the player’s introductions and music. The fans didn’t need to know when to cheer, and were quite vocal at the right times -- even when booing Bobby Abreu and Placido Polanco.

I’ve never had an authentic Philly Cheesesteak. Until yesterday, that is. I had one of Geno’s: Wiz, Witout, thanks! Mmmm! Although I could feel my arteries hardening and my wallet lightening ($7.25!).

The Hitting
Yesterday was a microcosm of what this team’s offense is going to look like this year: lots of singles, not a ton of patience, and little power.

They strung 13 hits together, but only got more than 2 in an inning twice. When you only have two extra-base hits -- Brian Schneider’s second-inning double and Terrmel Sledge’s home run, you’re going to need to group all those hits together. They didn’t. And they didn’t score.

Brad Wilkerson, despite the three strikeouts, looked effective. He saw a ton of pitches in his at-bats and displayed a lot of patience, fouling off some tough pitches. He didn’t get the results we would’ve liked, but the approach was there.

Nick Johnson was the hitting hero. He had the same approach as Wilkerson, but actually got results, finishing with two hits, a walk, and a run. In the 6th inning, he grounded out to third, but still forced Lieber to throw 8 pitches -- the only inning the entire team showed patience.

Cristian Guzman blows: Weak swings, zero patience, a slap-hitting style, which still somehow looks like he’s swinging from his heels. If he stays in the two spot in the lineup much longer, I’m going to scream.

Every National who came to the plate, other than pinch-hitters Wil “Alleged Wife Beater” Cordero and Tony Blanco had a hit.

The Defense
Jose Vidro’s range looked bad. I can’t say there were any balls that he necessarily should have scooped up, but he had zero lateral range. When the ball was hit in his direction, he makes an angle backwards, towards right field, trying to cut the ball off way back on the grass. He was a pretty poor defender before his knee surgery. This is something we’ll have to watch as the season goes on.

Brad Wilkerson made his first start of the year (spring or otherwise) in center and looked decent on the few plays he made. One particularly difficult one was a screaming liner off the bat of Polanco, which was hit right to him. With the wind, and the funny aerodynamics of a liner, it was a tough play for anyone, especially someone making their first start.

Vinny Castilla booted another ball, when Pat Burrell ripped a line drive at him. It went right through him -- a tough play, but one he has to make.

The Pitching
Ugh. Yeah, Ugh.
!Navil¡ was on the mound today. Not making excuses, but he didn’t look comfortable at all, and even complained about the mound at one point. I’d imagine the wind didn’t help much either.

At one point, I can’t remember who it was against, he threw what had to be a 55 mph curve ball. This thing was so slow -- the kind of play that gets the people half-buzzing, half-laughing.

The bullpen looked shaky. Joe Horgan, the second lefty got the job done, but it wasn’t pretty. He left the bases loaded in the 6th, but not before striking Jim Thome out. Antonio Osuna, who we didn’t recognize warming in the bullpen because he’s lost so much weight (must be he’s off those damn Mexican horse steroids) looked like the Osuna that Yankee fans came to loathe. He, too, loaded the bases, but did allow a run on a Chase Utley sac fly. Even Joey Eischen was on the verge of getting knocked around. Thankfully, Louis Ayala got a LDP off the bat of David Bell.

The Other Team
As John from Nationals Pastime pointed out, when Jon Lieber is your opening day starter, you’re in trouble. Lieber, who we decided is a non-fat, right-handed David Wells definitely doesn’t fool anyone when on the mound. He’ll give up a ton of hits, but won’t walk anyone. And, that’s exactly what he did yesterday.

I hate Kenny Lofton. Always have. Always will, especially now.

The Philly fans were hanging around, wanting to see Billy Wagner throw 100 MPH. I think he only got up to 95 or so. Why bother? He had a 4-run lead.

The Game
See what the pros say. Oh, and Boswell too.


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