Tuesday, August 16, 2005


In his gamer of last night's 6-3 victory over the Phillies, St. Barry makes an obvious but interesting comparison:

Back in May, when things were just starting to go right for the Washington Nationals, Manager Frank Robinson hobbled onto the field at RFK Stadium and argued that a ball hit by Atlanta's Brian Jordan, one that was ruled a home run, should be called foul. The umpires met, discussed the matter, and ruled the ball foul.
Monday night, when Preston Wilson launched a ball toward right-center field at Citizens Bank Park that ricocheted back onto the field of play, first base umpire Alfonso Marquez put his hand in the air and twirled it around -- a home run. But Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Bobby Abreu, positioned directly under the ball, immediately disagreed, saying it had hit a fan who reached over the fence. [. . .]
But even considering all that, might there be something else going on here, an indication that the Nationals are not only beginning to snap out of their five-week funk, but are having karma turn back their way as well?

The call in that May 30 game did in fact herald success for the Nats, who split the next two contests as a prelude to a 10-game winning streak. This is the point at which that infamous "luck" truly did go their way. When half of a 10-game winning streak comes by way of one-run wins, that's abnormal. It was gigantic fun, but---in retrospect, of course---it was fool's gold.

As compelling as St. Barry's comparison may be (and I'm not suggesting he's actually ascribing "karmic merit" to it, by the way), I'm not going to follow it on down the line---and for good reason. The Nats weren't just lucky to win last night; they were good. The call was not dispositive a night ago, unlike that prior game.

This team still has a huge hole in its lineup, in the form of you-know-who (whose confidence in the field has now apparently lapsed, too), but it is playing much better all the same. While it was tempting to get pumped up after a sweep, even against the Rockies, it's perhaps more judicious not to get too pumped up after one series sweep, especially of the Rockies. Thirteen-hit shutout? Yikes.

Undeniably, though, things are turning a corner. Back when Preston Wilson was acquired, I didn't think much of him in a low-altitude environment; then again, I noted that a guy with some pop can get hot for 200-or-so at-bats. Maybe Wilson is getting started now. Nick Johnson's smokin' hot. Wilkerson strikes out a lot, but we knew that already. He also laced two doubles, and perhaps the little tiff with Robinson gave him the rest he needed. Jose Guillen's body must resemble a giant bruise, but if he's as tough as he talks, then he'll be around. The one thing about a veteran team is that veterans are trusted and given playing time---give anyone semi-competent playing time, and he might turn in a hot month or two. If several guys do it at once, then 18-12 months can follow.

And that's what the Nats need. They entered last night's game with a 62-55 record. I said somewhere that they'd need a 27-18 record the rest of the way to set up at least a wild card playoff. They won last night, but I want to push things. (Besides, front-runner Houston also won.) Now I'll say the Nats need 27-17 the rest of the way; that's an even 90 wins.

Do I think it will happen? No, not really. Do I hope it does? Of course.

But do I believe it will happen? I'm starting to, and that is what's important to me.

If you're gonna start using highfalootin' $5.00 words like "dispositive", I'm gonna looking for another blog to read.
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