APRIL SHOWERS BRING MAY HORRORS
[April 4th] -- The inaugural season of the Washington Nationals began in the city of Philadelphia, and in the first days and weeks that followed, the team played good but not great teams, and were given the opportunity to get used to their new surroundings before facing a very difficult stretch in the schedule.
Not in 2006.
After playing the presumptive NL best Mets in New York in games 1-2-3, the Nationals travel to Houston to play the NL Champion Astros for a four-game series. Then it's on to Washington to play the Mets for three more games before gaining a brief respite by playing the Marlins for three games before facing the division champion Braves for three games. After a series against the Reds, it's on off to face the Central division champions St. Louis Cardinals.
All this before May 1st.
I understand why the "powers that be" forced the Nationals to play on the road the first two weeks of 2005; no one was sure if RFK Stadium would be ready. But what's the story this year? Thirteen of the team's first sixteen games are on the road. The Nationals survived their opening nine-game road trip last season (5-4) but against this stiff competition, they could easily return to D.C. to face the Braves with a 5-11 record, maybe worse.
I listened to the "talking heads" describe the Reds "traditional" opening day, and how Cincinnati fans were a little peeved about having the White Sox open the season the day before. It seems that no one remembers that, at least as far back as I can recall, the Senators opened the season every year, with the Reds opening the NL slate later in the day. So why is the team who has traditionally opened baseball's season now spending the first two weeks on the road?
It'll be a tough April for the Nationals, with a record that might not look too impressive. And unless Nick Johnson and Brian Schneider start to hit, tough might not be the right word to describe it. Hang on, my brethren. It'll get better.
It's sad to say, but Washington isn't a traditional season opener anymore, and it hasn't been for decades. Cincy's tradition has been, continuously, and this is why that tradition lives.
Hopefully, MLB will resume Washington's traditional home opener. But, for now, the tradition bears little resemblence to reality.
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