Knowing When You Have Reached the Promised Land
For forty years Washington Baseball wandered in the wilderness, maybe longer. Yet deliverance is upon us–the Washington Nationals have the best record in the early going of the 2016 season and the team as a whole is playing well. Are those who have suffered for so long ready for their own redemption?
Rumors popped up in the last week that Dan Duquette might be headed to Washington as president of baseball operations, one can assume to replace Mike Rizzo. Yet if there is a single architect of the Nationals ascendance to baseball dominance it is Rizzo. From low-A Hagerstown to Syracuse in the International League, the organization is showing signs of maturation. There are high-upside prospects at every level and most of them are doing rather well. Trea Turner to the tune of .424/.525/..606.
Bryce Harper has a slash line of .349/,458/.897 and a gaudy OPS of 1.356. The only player on the planet who is even close is Daniel Murphy–an OPS of 1.307– who was brought over from the Mets by Rizzo, those same Mets who are struggling to find themselves offensively. The Nationals had an unbelievable spring as they acclimated to new manager Dusty Baker. And so far the momentum is carrying over into the regular season. A million things can go wrong, but the plan appears to be working remarkably well. Dan Who??
There was one golden age of Washington baseball. It lasted for ten years, beginning with the start of the 1924 season and ending with the end of the 1933 season. Almost every one of those seasons the Nationals were in contention and squeezed in three pennants. It is like the reign of some ancient king whose name has lost its luster, but there were once baseball riches in the nation’s capital. And then penury and famine swept the kingdom and now everyone sees the return of the bad times around every corner.
The wilderness years were long indeed. But did they leave the old fans challenged to see just how good this team is, how much their fortunes have changed? Whether it is the overwrought complaints of the writers or the lamentations of the fans themselves, a dark cloud of fatalism hangs over Washington sports. Charlatans like Calvin Griffith the Younger and Bob Short have taken advantage of the sense of dread and insecurity, backing their waiting trucks up to the palace and off they went.
Bryce Harper could be on his way to a monstrous season. He is a streaky hitter, but six home runs in the first two weeks in not some Sam Horn fluke show. He could be on a record setting pace and all Washington fans need do is pay the price of admission to watch it. The pitching looks pretty damned good as well, and yet I would take bets about how many weeks will pass before we hear “Double, Double, Toil and Trouble” about Jonathon Papelbon again.
This season looks like there is a new king and he will reign from right here in DC. Bryce Harper is going to make DC great again!! He has good company. Ben Revere will be back in a couple of weeks and the batting order will only get better. Wilson Ramos can see the ball and it better run. Stephen Strasburg wants that big payday and Ryan Zimmerman is wearing the mantle of elder statesman with galantry and aplomb. Lucas Giolitto, Trea Turner, Austin Voth, and Brian Goodwin look like they want to help. What is not to like??
So let the mead flow like a mighty river. Good times are here to be had and it’s time to revel in them come what may.