Wednesday, February 20, 2008

5 Questions About the Nats

The Washington Nationals' pitchers and catchers reported to Viera on Friday and the rest of the team should arrive at rehab prison Spring Training today. As Manny Acta's squad begins its quest to improve upon last season's surprisingly mediocre record, questions abound: Who will start at shortstop and second base? What will the rotation look like? Will Nick Johnson or Dmitri Young be traded?

The WaPo has touched on all of those questions in some detail recently. But the Nationals' success or lack thereof this season could hinge on the answers to the following, more burning questions:

1. Will Teddy finally win the Presidents Race?

Ricky Bobby’s dad said, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” If he wasn’t so hardened by his Rough Rider, Teddy might have a hard time coming to grips psychologically with his laughable ineptitude in the Presidents Race. Could this be the year he gets into the win column? Could this be the year the Redskins implement the Racing Portises – Racing Coaching Candidates – during TV timeouts? A man can dream.

Prediction: Mr. Run Slowly and Carry a Big Stick charges out to a huge lead on Opening Night before a guy in a huge John Wilkes Booth costume misses his intended target, Abe, and drills Teddy with a t-shirt gun.

2. Which National will appear in the police blotter first?

Bret Boone looks primed for a bar fight, Viera style. Anyone who heckles Lastings Milledge about his rap album could be asking for trouble. And would you really be all that surprised to hear that Elijah Dukes punched a fan in the face while waiting in line at Panera after said fan asked Dukes for a personalized text message instead of an autograph? Well, you shouldn’t be.

Prediction: As much as I want to believe – and sincerely hope – that the kid has turned his life around, I have to go with Dukes, dawg. I was somewhat tempted to nominate Ryan Zimmerman, if only to top the absurdity of Nook Logan being named in the Mitchell Report.

3. How many innings will John Patterson pitch this season?

The flowing locks are gone. The hop is back. Will his fragile body hold up? And what’s that panda’s name again?

Prediction: 100. After pitching a combined 71 innings over the last two seasons, I think this is generous. I also think the club would be thrilled to have JP healthy enough to make 15-20 starts. I’ll pay $1 to land him on my NL-only fantasy baseball team for a third consecutive season.

4. How early will you have to arrive at Nationals Park to be one of the first 15,000 lucky souls to receive a Dmitri Young bobblehead on May 1?

Screech, Teddy, and Dmitri will make for an incredible Bobblebelly trio for your mantle or dashboard.

Prediction: I’m typing this from a tent along the Southeast-Southwest freeway.

5. Who will be the Nationals’ biggest surprise?

Written off by most, Dmitri Young came out of nowhere last year to post terrific numbers that earned him Comeback Player of the Year honors. Will another Nat step up to the plate to keep that award in Washington?

Prediction: Dukes. If he can control his temper and keeps certain people out of his Fav Five calling plan, I'll bet he forces his way into significant playing time. Think 18-55-.285. Yeah, I'm drinking the Kool-Aid.

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