It has been a great start for the NL East-leading Nationals. D.C. sports fans continue to ramp up their Natitude, and despite the current 4-game skid, there is plenty to be encouraged about.
Whether the Nationals make history this year or not remains to be seen. However, there was already some history made in the Nation's Capital this week as Roger Clemens earned his 355th career victory. Clemens was found not guilty Monday on six counts of lying to Congress by a federal court jury.
If you are scoring at home (baseball geeks love to score at home), you know the record is not good for the Feds in these high profile cases. Barry Bonds was able to avoid the big charges and the case against Lance Armstrong still has never materialized. Plus, they also blew it against former Senator John Edwards.
Why do I care? Besides the fact that I am in a Federal Prosecutors fantasy league? Well, it's our taxpayer dollars they are wasting! I could be burning that money on my own!
I personally hope the Feds have now figured it out and stay away from sports from here on out. Well, unless they can figure out a way to take some power away from NFL Commissioner Roger GOD-ell (the judge, the jury, and the hangman in the Saints bounty scandal).
Maybe after Nats' skipper Davey Johnson is done with managing, he can help the Feds with finding evidence, as he did so well Tuesday night in tipping off the umpires about former National and current Rays reliever Joel Peralta.
In this week's Chain Reactions, we deal with a Real Deal Option for the Wizards at No. 3 and the Nationals' need for a 5th starter.
Wizards Real Deal Option at No. 3
I had the opportunity to speak with Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal (@RealDealBeal23 on Twitter) this week on ESPN 980. The kid came off as advertised: smart, thoughtful, and mature at just 18 year old ( he turns 19 on draft night).
Beal could easily be the pick for the Wizards at No. 3, and if they do not take him, there is a good chance the Cleveland Cavaliers will. Beal would fill the Wizards' most glaring need: a good spot up shooter. He has drawn comparisons with Ray Allen and Eric Gordon.
Beal is a good rebounder for a guard, with good, not great size at 6-4, 202 lbs with a 6'7 wingspan. He still needs to improve his handle and ability to create his own shot.
His strengths, though, would fit nicely with a team that has a pass-first point guard in John Wall. Beal has a strong basketball IQ and has gotten high marks for his ability to play defense.
Frankly, I'm torn on what the Wizards should do. They have a serious need for a shooter, which Beal or Harrison Barnes could fill. They still need more toughness and rebounding down low, which Thomas Robinson could fill.
However, they are not good enough to pass on players that could end up being stars, i.e. Michael Kidd Gilchrist. Three of those four players will be sitting at No. 3 and it is up to team President Ernie Grunfeld to make that pick count. I'm leaning towards taking the best available shooter. Check back next week when I man up and go on the record.
Nationals in Need of a 5th Starter
Chien Ming Wang has been a below average starter for the Nationals. I know, he's just the 5th starter on a team with four legitimate studs. Well, keep in mind that the Nationals' No. 1 starter is apparently on a innings count. So if this team is a real contender like we hope they are, then Stephen Strasburg will be a spectator late in the season and everyone in the rotation suddenly moves up a spot.
Davey Johnson is a patient manager and does not react to outside noise. Observe his handling of Danny Espinosa, Ryan Zimmerman, and Michael Morse (homered Tuesday night) this season. Following Wang's latest clunker (3 1/3 innings, giving up 5 runs on 7 hits and walking 3, his ERA swelled to 6.75 in 4 starts. He is clearly the weakest link in the Nationals rotation.
Despite Wang's obvious issues, Johnson is not taking the bait, at least not after Tuesday's rocky outing.
"I know how good he can be," Johnson said. "My job is to get everybody doing the things they're capable of doing. That's my job. If I thought he could get it better out of the bullpen, that would come into the decision. I'm not going to make a decision right after a rough outing."
So what are the Nats options if Johnson is not ready to pull the trigger on a change?
Ross Detweiler could be moved back into the 5th spot, where he started the season. He performed well out of the bullpen once again Tuesday, keeping the Nats in the game over 3 2/3 scoreless innings.
The other option is that the team's former opening day starter, John Lannan, could be recalled from Syracuse. Lannan is 5-6 with a 4.91 ERA in Triple A in 13 starts.
The Nationals could also go shopping for some starting pitching help outside of the organization. The Braves just released Livan Hernandez. OK, I'm spit balling here, but unless CMW shows something soon, Johnson (or even Mike Rizzo) will need to make a move.