One of the most popular during-the-game entertainment stunts in all of baseball is the “racing presidents” that has become a tradition at Nats Park. Unfortunately, Teddy Roosevelt hardly ever wins. In fact it took him several years to accomplish the feat, which was well timed on his part for the Nats first post-season appearance in 2012. Even with the addition of a fifth racing president last year Teddy seldom wins, but he remains hugely popular with the fans. Here is a cute video, made at least 2 years ago, about Teddy’s exploits:
My next post will be about recent on field events. I promise! I’ve been waiting for the effects of the weekend games in Atlanta to wear off.
Compared to the 2012 Nats, the 2013 team was a disappointment. They won the most games in the majors in 2012, but 12 fewer last season. What’s worse, they did not get to the playoffs. Former manager Davey Johnson, who retired just after the 2013 season (and is a Trinity University grad), predicted before the season that the Nats would get to the World Series. I think this created needless pressure on the players, and led to the offense taking almost half the season to really get rolling. (Note: The most important thing that affects batting is being very RELAXED! I’ve been playing this game for 60 years and it has taken me a big chunk of that to be truly relaxed at the plate.)
They aim to improve in 2014. Matt Williams
, the new manager, appears to be an exciting upgrade. Though this is his first crack at managing, I think the team could not have made a better choice. Matt is a no-nonsense, hands-on type. As a player (and I watched him play frequently) he worked hard to excel, setting the bar pretty high for himself, and he is likely to expect the Nats to do the same.
Going into the 2014 season, the team needed a better no. 4 starting pitcher, a better “bench” and a better bull-pen (especially left-handers). They recently acquired Doug Fister
from the Detroit Tigers as the 4th
starter. He is likely to be more effective than Dan Haren, last year’s 4th
starter. Doug is young, did well in Detroit, and has the potential to get even better with time. Tyler Roark and Ross Detwiler will likely compete for the 5th
starter spot. There is a chance Ross could be used as another lefty in the bullpen too.
The Nats also acquired Nate McLouth
, a very capable, fast outfielder from Baltimore to bolster the bench. The fact that Nate bats from the left side is good as the other bench outfielder, Scott Hairston, bats right-handed. Nate is also a potent base-stealer, so he could do lots of pinch-running! The Nats still need at least one more backup infielder. They lost Steve Lombardozzi in the Fister trade, and he will be greatly missed, I predict. In a “stealth signing” just before Christmas, the Nats picked up veteran infielder Emmanuel Burris
. He grew up and played high school ball here in the nation’s capital.
The bull-pen has added one new left hander, Blevins, but needs one more. They also need to replace Ryan Mattheus, who was not very effective last year.
The coaching staff so far has not changed much from last year, but the new manager has added a new position, that of defensive coordinator, staffed by Mark Weidemaier
. I think this is a great idea.
Besides the remaining moves I have recommended, another issue Matt Williams needs to address in Spring Training is the glaring inability of the team’s pitchers to hold runners on base–this is simply unacceptable in the major leagues.
I predict the Nats will win 88-92 wins, depending on what additional moves they make. Two very significant things that happened last season are reasons for optimism: (1) the Nats were the best team in baseball over the last 6-8 weeks of the season (they almost made the playoffs); and (2) the new hitting coach, Dick Schu
, who was hired mid-season in 2013. He likely was one of the reasons Jayson Werth almost won the national League batting title!