I've had two great ideas in my whole life, and both of them came to me last night after the Washington Nationals' 2-1 Opening Day win over the Chicago Cubs. They entered my mind while listening to "Staying Alive" by the Bee Gees on repeat for two straight hours at full blast and blaring a vuvuzela across my yard and towards the house across the street. The house contained four college nerds who all had the audacity to wear Cub jerseys and prance around my neighborhood this morning. That's right. In MY neighborhood.
Opening Day brought it all out of me. Secretly, I'd felt like a soccer hooligan all day. I felt the burn. That scrumptiously savage and primitive lust a rabid sports fan feels when he or she dedicates a piece of their lives to a team. The team becomes another ball or kidney and if you are anything like me, no one puts their hands on or pounds on my balls and kidneys without a fight. These guys had it coming for their insolence. Back to my ideas.
Please, don't mind me as I pat myself on the back because these concepts are instant gold. The first was that someone needed to create a full fledged Rocky Horror Picture Show Wii game. They need to make it like those Just Dance games where you follow the dances to the songs. Can you imagine seeing people do the Time Warp in living rooms across America? Dr. Frank-N-Furter would be pleased.
But hold onto your pants, Natstown. I'm about to blow you away with an even bigger idea. It is going to totally to turn the script on everything you know. While taking in the first game of the regular season on Thursday, I thought it would be a good idea if the Nationals actually learned to hit the ball.
Make no mistake: a win is a win and I will take it any day of the week, but for seven innings Thursday the Nationals looked absolutely ridiculous. Washington had only four hits all game. Three of those hits came from Ian Desmond while the other lone hit of the game came from an all important at-bat from a pinch runner in Chad Tracy. They left 9 men on base. Somehow, the Nationals struck out ten times against Ryan Dempster. Ryan Freaking Dempster. Again, a win is a win-- but the door could have easily swung the other way and D.C. wouldn't be in such bliss now. We can't ignore that. The Nats offense was setting up to be the team's own Steve Bartman, overextending it's bloody reach from 2011 into 2012 to snatch crushing defeat from the jaws of victory.
It is only the first game of the season, and we aren't really going to have a good read on the 2012 Nats until something like 10 games in, but problems with the offense have been foreseen since the Winter Meetings when general manager Mike Rizzo built an incredible rotation, but failed to address the line up. This neglect will come with a heavy price for the Nats in 2012. The definition of "insanity" is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I suspect putting the same line up as the Nats had in 2011 out there over and over again will lead you to the same madness.
The team's big hitters (or at least guys who need to seriously hit), Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche and Wilson Ramos went a combined 0-for-12 on Thursday. Sure, they worked a combined four walks, and Werth's walk was the play of the game, but the Nationals won't be facing Kerry Wood every game, unfortunately, and a team that is looking to contend needs to learn how to hit and make their destiny rather than having it handed to them. Really, I have no idea what Rizzo or manager Davey Johnson were thinking when they decided throwing out the same 2011 lineup was the best course of action.
Maybe they have more faith than I. There was a bright spot yesterday. Desmond, hitting leadoff, went 3-for-5 and batted in the winning run. He did all that was asked of him and delivered. The walks are all a promising sign, though they need to be complimented by hits. Outfielder and slugger Michael Morse has begun rehab and will be back with the big team soon. So maybe there are reasons to remain optimistic, but even so, the offense will be a continual problem for the Nats this season and it will be up for much debate.
I'm thinking of writing a sympathy card to hitting coach Rick Eckstein. I might send flowers with it. You have to sympathize with him to a point because you know this guy has got to be on the hot seat this season. If this offense repeats 2011 or (god forbid) does worse then you know there will be a call for his job. Eckstein carries himself like a stonewall, but you know he has to be feeling some pressure. This is his season.
I'm trying to decide between the card with a sunrise or the one with the flowers and flowery language. I'm going to write my idea in it too to help him out:
THE NATS NEED TO HIT.