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ZIMMERMAN BANGS AND ZOOMS WAY INTO HEARTS OF NATIONALS FANS

[July 4th] -- The 4th of July fireworks started a few hours early on Tuesday as Ryan Zimmerman hit his second walk-off home run in a little more than two weeks.

Now, you're probably not going to believe me, but when Jose Vidro came to the plate with two on and one out, I yelled at the television set, "Don't hit into another double play, Zimmerman need's another walk-off!" Vidro then flied out deep to left, giving the rookie the opportunity to repeat his heroics of just two Sunday's ago. With the count 2-1, Marlins' reliever Joe Borowski threw a hanging slider up and in, and even before the ball came near home plate, I shouted, "Hit it Ryan, hit it!" He took it for a strike. You could see it in his eyes, and the eyes of Frank Robinson when the TV camera cut to the dugout, that if in fact Zimmerman was to re-create his once-in-a-season heroics, that was the pitch to do it. Then, Bowrowski did something strange. He threw a second hanging slider, this time more towards the middle of the plate. Swing. Swat. Seeya. Just like that, Zimmerman hit yet another walk-off home run, and just like the last time, he threw his helmet in the air as he rounded third base and jumped into the waiting hands of his adoring teammates. In all the years growing up rooting for the Washington Senators, I don't remember Frank Howard hitting a single walk-off home run. Heck; I don't remember any Senator hitting a walk-off home run. It's a very difficult thing to do and yet Zimmerman's done it twice in sixteen days.

Certainly, he looks like a rookie at times. After hitting his first home run of his career, against Billy Wagner at Shea Stadium earlier this year, he promptly went 1-18. Then, after his game winner against Jay Seo, he went 1-27. But he always comes back. He hit in ten out of eleven games after that first slump, and has now hit in seven straight games following his second slump. He's on pace to hit .277-23-107 with 45 doubles and 80 runs scored. He's on pace to strike out 133 times, but just six weeks ago, he was headed for 170+ strikeouts, so even the rough areas of his game are improving. MASN showed a graphic in his third at-bat indicating that Zimmerman has the most hits in the National League with runners in scoring position. His high number of doubles is typical for a budding slugger. He'll likely be a 35 double a year guy, so he's likely to transform those ten extra doubles into homers, giving him 33-35 homer-per-year power. I guess all those things that Jim Bowden said about Zimmerman two draft-days ago were right. Who woulda thunk'd it.

NATS NOTES: John Patterson pitched well enough, but hasn't yet shown that sharp curve ball that made him almost unhittable last year. Hopefully, he'll continue to get better and revert to his 2005 form .... Harold Reynolds mentioned that Endy Chavez was one of the Expos "top" prospects a few years ago, and that he is finally showing his "stuff" with the Mets this year. He is hitting .272 this year in 160+ at bats, that's true, but he only has a .314 OBP. In essence then, nothing has changed, and the Mets are welcome to him .... Reynolds also said that the Los Angeles Dodgers are the team most likely to get Alfonso Soriano, and have "several" prospects they would be willing to trade for him. I'd love to get three players for Soriano, a "can't miss," a "4th outfielder" type and a third guy who should have made it but hasn't .... Tuesday's crowd of under 22,000 was about half of what the team drew last year on the 4th. Now that things are finally settling down in and around the Nationals, we'll begin to see if the damage caused by the D.C. City Council and Major League Baseball is temporary or permanent. The Nationals will probably draw about 1.7 million fans in 2006, on the low end of acceptable for a large market team. No matter how bad things might get, however, I don't see the team drawing much less then they are now .... Royce Clayton, after hitting tremendously well in the number two spot in the lineup, has been moved to sixth. You would think that manager Frank Robinson would ride Clayton at #2 until he cooled off, which he hasn't yet .... Juan Rivera, one of two players traded to the Angels for Jose Guillen, hit his seventh and eighth home runs of 2006 on Tuesday. His 8 homers have come in part-time duty, and is only one less than Guillen's total of 9 .

Comments:
Dodgers would be a great trade partner. They have a lot of great looking prospects.
 
Yep, and adding Soriano to the outfield would all but guarantee them the division crown.
 
"Walk off homer losing thrill..." I'm not sure I understand this headline. Is it perhaps meant ironically? The Nationals have seen three walk off home runs, (with a fourth walk base hit) this season, in a season that has been basically one long struggle. I'm thrilled to see them get the lift that comes from winning a game they thought might become yet one more loss. Even apart from all that, I cannot imagine that the drama of a walk-off home run will ever lose its thrill from me.
 
I think it's clear he meant it ironically.

So, Farid, your left-hand column suggests that a minimum of 8 and as many as 13 of our 25 man roster will be traded by the deadline? I think that's a bit overboard. I expect no more than 4-5 to go. I certainly believe that all those players you name are legitimately TRADEABLE potentially, but I just don't believe that many trades can actually be consumated in the next 3 weeks.
 
Anonymous, I was being smart allecky -- the inference was that we've seen so many in the last three weeks that it "seems" like no big deal. I was KIDDING!

Sbrent, you very well could be right, but I have this (unsubstantiated) feeling that Kasten wants all the guys with one-year contracts traded, because those guys (the one-year wonders)typically don't return to their team the following season. Both LeCroy and Ward are very valuable -- to AL teams. Surely the Red Sox or Yankees would like to bolster their bench with guys who can change the game with one swing of the bat.

So, if Ortiz and Astacio and LeCroy and Fick ...(and on and on)have one year deals, and they aren't "Kasten" guys, and more than likely won't be back in '07, wouldn't the team rather trade them and get a prospect vs. keeping them the entire year and winning 72 games while receiving nothing in return?

We KNOW that Soriano and Guillen are gone, and Livan probably is. Bill Ladson has said that Armas is gone for sure. Neither Ortiz or Astacio are in the team's plans next year. That's six. Don't you think that Ward and either LeCroy or Fick will be wanted for bench depth by some of the contending teams? Now we're at eight without including Jose Vidro.

You're right, that's a lot of guys to trade in one month. Typically, 4-5 guys is a lot to trade in a month. But Kasten is demanding that 1)the team gets younger, 2)the team gets cheaper, and 3)prospects are played.

If Kasten wants all those things to happen, why would the team keep all of their one-year "band aid" players until the end of the year and receive nothing in return?

One of us will be right come August 1st. If I'm wrong, I'll give you the opportunity to say "I told you so" in an article we'll write together.
 
Yesterday, despite the Zimmerman fabulous home run, Vidro showed why he needs to be traded now. In the 4th, the Marlins scored 1 run and nearly added another when Vidro couldn't range 6 feet to his right for 2 routine ground balls and then made an error on a third grounder hit sharply 1 foot to his left. Later in the 8th, his poor relay throw on a potential 5-4-3 inning ending double play ball lead to the Marlins pulling ahead 4-3. And, once again, with 2 runners on in the bottom half of the night, Jose flied to left and is now hitting a robust
.190 with runners on base in the last 3 innings of every game this season. My hopes are that Omar Minaya wants to win for the Mets so bad this season that he would be willing to trade off some seriously good young players for Vidro. It would only be fair since Omar decimated the Nats/Expos farm system as caretaker GM in the previous seasons before Montreal moved to DC.

On another Note:
Check out the Nats320.blogspot.com Nats blog. We are a group of season ticket holders in Section 320 directly behind the Nats 3rd base dugout and next to the players wives, girlfriends and family. We are known for our loud cheers and songs for various Nationals. Rachel Robinson, Frank's wife loves us for our enthusiasm. Jose Guillen can't get enough of us. We started the blog in late May, and except for one week, that I was on vacation, have been able to update it on a regular basis. Let me know what you think. If its helpful or not??
 
Wow--1.7 million??? That's about what sad sack small market Pittsburgh draws. If it ends up that low, Lerner and Kasten should be worried. We know that MLB has sold them a sack of dog poop. Further, Kasten isn't helping matters by keeping Bowden around and going back to a weak radio station next year solely for more money. Is Peter Angelos coaching these guys?
 
I agree, the Dodgers have a stable of young talent. One propect who should be watched is Joel Guzman, a 20 year old 6'5" former SS who was converted to a left fielder when Furcal signed as a free agent. I saw Guzman in Vero Beach during spring training and he is a hitting machine. He played at Double A Jacksonville last year and is currently at Triple A Las Vegas.
 
Actually, the team is on pace to draw over 2 million right now, probably 2.1 to 2.2 million. The difference is that there are 6,000 less season ticket holders, which makes up the dramatic slide from last year. Its not a surprise that there is a drop off in attendance, the team is still very popular, just its not a very good team, not new anymore and its up to Lerner/Kasten to attract the non fans and make the Nationals a must see event. The Nats had the largest no show figures of any team last year in MLB and many used that opportunity to buy cheap seats in the outfield of RFK and poach a good seat down low. That has been addressed in a big way this year. I am not worried, the Nats will be a top market, and player for years to come. I really believe it.

Farid: Thanks for your kind words on our Nats320 blog. Please link and pass along our site to whomever you like. Most of our crew come to EVERY SINGLE GAME!! We really enjoy baseball in Washington, whether the team is good or not!! JEFF (Screech'sBestFriend)
 
Thanks, Farid. You make excellent points, and I can't rebut the logic of any of them. My main point is just that "it takes two to tango" and I'm skeptical that enough willing trade partners can be found whose needs and assets match up with all these spare parts of ours. Of course, in baseball trades, sometimes it takes more than two to tango, with multi-team deals. But I suspect even the indefatiguable Bowden will have trouble piecing together that many deals in such a short time.

On the other hand, this may be based on the (perhaps flawed) assumption that we insist on getting adequate value for each trade, and don't resort to just trading for its own sake. I have to hope that Trader Jim doesn't get so desperate to enact the boss's bidding to trade the veterans that he just takes crap in return. Of course, if he does, I have to think his future with the organization would be endangered. (Silver lining?)
 
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