My blog-writing hero, that is to say, the guy who made me think “hey I should do something like that” is Steven Goldman, who writes an incredible column on the Yankees. If you love the Yankees or hate the Yankees, you should read his Pinstriped Bible and Blog, because he is one of the best baseball columnists I have ever read. Articulate, cynical, funny and painfully honest in his assessment of his team, he really shows what intelligent analysis is. Anyway, he wrote his holiday wish list for the Yankees, so I thought I’d copy him and do the same for the Nationals. Mine, however, will concentrate more on the Nats and less on other wishes (mostly)
1. Good physical health for everyone of course. But especially the young MLB ready players – Ryan Zimmerman, Lastings Milledge, Wily Mo Pena, Shawn Hill, and Tyler Clippard. All of whom are young enough to be good for a long time, and good enough to be useful for a long time
2. Good mental health for Lastings Milledge and Elijah Dukes. I am of the opinion that any bad thoughts in Milledge’s head are overblown and nothing to worry about. Dukes, on the other hand, I am not so confident.
3. The establishment of a solid duo of middle infielders by the end of the season. Belliard is not a long term option, maybe Guzman learned to hit and is the future. Maybe Lopez had a bad slump the last year and a half and can succeed again. Maybe there are answers in the farm system. But going into 2008, it is probably going to be another “let’s wait and see” season, hopefully that won’t last until 2009.
4. Continued growth in the bat of Jesus Flores. Whether it’s in AAA or with the big Nats, I don’t care. As long as he can hit better than the average catcher, I’ll be happy for the future.
5. 150+ games for Nick Johnson. Wouldn’t that be a miracle?
6. Also, 20 good starts from John Patterson. I’m no longer even considering him in any assessment of the team other than as an ancillary player. But if he was able to pitch again like he used to… I’d be happy.
7. Justin Maxwell, Christopher Marrero, Ross Detwiler, Michael Burgess, Josh Smoker, Colin Balester, and maybe even Matt Chico play enough time in the minors in 2008 to get the proper experience before being asked to do too much for the Nats.
8. And they all keep improving.
9. The farm system continues to grow and get better. Last year’s draft was great, but the upper level of the system is still pretty barren. Rather than worry about who’s coming up in 2008, it’s important to make sure that ’10, ’11 and ’12 will all bring good crops to the big leagues.
10. That Nationals Park be a truly great place to watch and play baseball. From convenience, to accessibility, to speedy bathroom lines.
11. At least one more Redskins win before baseball starts.
12. 3rd place in the NL East. It’s always possible.
13. Gary figures out what the hell is wrong with the Terps and fixes it.
14. Somebody – anybody – pitches 200 innings this season. Chico, Bergmann, Clippard, Redding – I don’t care who, just somebody would be nice. Last year there were only 4 teams that didn’t accomplish that: Washington, Seattle, Texas, and Philly. But Philly had Moyer go 199 1/3, Seattle had 3 guys who pitched 190 or more, so they were fine there. Only Texas compared to the Nats. This is how bad it was last season: Chico lead the team with 167 IP, Bacsik was second with 118 IP. Their top 2 guys had 285 IP which was dead last, with Texas 308 2/3 second to last, and the rest of the league significantly higher. St. Louis was next, with 377 IP. In other words Washington’s top starters combined for about 25% less IP then the worst of the other teams except for Texas. And who can blame those pitchers in Texas, that park is tiny! Sooooooooo, like I was saying, somebody pitch all year, please.