NATS WIN, JOHNSON SIGNS, THEORIES ABOUND
[June 7th] -- I don't get it. A month ago I wrote an article that implored the Washington Nationals to cut their losses and send Ramon Ortiz packing. He was 0-4 at the time and really hadn't been effective in any of his starts.
Then something interesting happened.
Pitching coach Randy St. Claire suggested that he make a change in his pitching approach, and the veteran actually listened -- and made the change. St. Claire said that, sometimes, the most effective fastball a pitcher can throw is one that isn't his fastest. In other words, by backing off a mile-per-hour or two, a "thrower" can become a pitcher. Since then, Oritz has gone 5-0 and lowered his ERA by almost three runs per game.
Last night, Ortiz pitched another masterful game, allowing six hits and two runs in seven innings. He struck out seven, and continues to strike out many more players with that slower fastball than he did earlier in the season by trying to blow the ball past the batter. Without a doubt, he and Tony Armas Jr. are the reasons that the Nationals are now only six games under .500. It'll be interesting to see if Ortiz ends up on the "trade" list when the new ownership takes over. He has a one year contract, and is pitching very well right now. He would really help a team struggling to make the playoffs, but I don't think he could bring the type of prospect that would help the Nationals. I say keep him and try to sign him to a workable contract.
Okay, on to the Davey Johnson "thing." The Nationals announced on Wednesday that Davey Johnson will be a "consultant" to the team's general manager (notice that they didn't mention Mr. Bowden by name? Hmm...). Bloggers and fans alike are predicting that this was in fact the hiring of the next Nationals' manager. To a man, the posters over at the Ballpark Guys think this is a tremendous move, that Johnson is "just the man" to take the Nationals to the next level.
I was hoping that the Nationals were going to do something different, something that seldom happens in major league baseball: give a fresh face a chance. Were the team to be populated next spring by young but talented kids, I had hoped that the manager would be relatively young and equally talented. Davey Johnson is 63, and carries with him as much baggage as he does ability. So this question begs to be asked: if the Nationals are planning rid themselves of a 70 year old curmudgeon, why replace him with someone equally grumpy and almost as old? No, I think that Johnson could be a "plan B;" if whoever the team chooses to run the team, perhaps someone experienced as I mentioned, doesn't fair well, then Johnson would swoop in and take the reigns. And that works for me.
Now it's back home to RFK to take on the Phillies, who are playing very well right now. Although I'm downright giddy about the team's recent play, I'm not fully sold that this incarnation of the team is it's real reflection. But if they can play well against the Phillies, perhaps win two out of three, then I'll be sold.
About a year before Larry Bowa was canned as Phils manager, the team hired Charlie Manuel as a "consultant" to help out with Jim Thome. Management tried to pull one on the fans saying they were having a "worldwide search" for the next new manager. We ended up with Uncle Cholly. The writing is on the wall.
Oh, and its not like Phils fans aren't bitter that they interviewed Jim Leyland and let him go. How is Detroit doing this season? Yeah. Woe is the Phils front office.
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