Somehow three months have passed since I have published a new edition of “Dear NatsGM” and because I have such terrific readers, my inbox is currently overflowing with emails. Just in these few short months, we have lived through the rise and fall of Linsanity, Ozzie Guillen talking Cuban politics and quickly sticking his foot in his mouth, and E! giving a Kardashian sister yet another reality show (just kidding… I think). Therefore, in an attempt to distract my readers stuck inside working this week when they should be out enjoying the sunshine, here is Part 1 of the latest installment of “Dear NatsGM”.
Charles from Section 312 via email -> “Dear NatsGM, it was nice meeting you on Opening Day- what were your impressions of Nationals Park on Opening Day?”
Charles, it was nice meeting you as well, thank you for reading and for saying hello. As for your question, overall it was a pleasant experience and dramatically improved from seasons past, however, there is still room for improvement. The food and beverage lines still moved far too slowly, as I attempted to get a hot sandwich and drink and it took me more than a full inning (almost an inning and a half) to do so: this is unacceptable. Also, while I cannot speak to this myself, I had numerous people tell me that the Nationals closed off the center field gates from letting patrons in while the team was doing their pregame introductions. Assuming these individuals are telling the truth, this makes little sense to me, as I would think the team would want as many fans as possible in the park to welcome their first place team home for the season.
Those critiques aside, I want to commend the team for hosting a truly wonderful opening day at the park. Granted, Cincinnati is not a large draw in terms of opposing fans, but I was stunned by the overwhelming number of Nationals hats, jerseys, and merchandise worn by the crowd. Furthermore, the fans were passionate throughout the game and were especially energetic and loud in the later innings as the Nationals rallied to win the game in the 10th inning.
In addition to the spirited crowd, I was particularly impressed by the improved quality of the food (my steak and cheese was solid) along with the growth in quality beer options available (Dogfish Head anyone?) throughout the park. Cheers on a job well-done! Also, I was excited to hear that Tyler Clippard’s entrance music this season will be The Fugees “Ready or Not” – this song instantly transports me back to my high school years. Not to mention the amusement I took shocking my Dad by knowing the words to the song: the look of confusion on his face was priceless. Finally, in previous years the Nationals giveaway on opening day has been a souvenir cap, and recent efforts have been underwhelming, to say the least. However, the hat this year was rather nice and of much higher quality than you would expect from a stadium giveaway and another subtle upgrade to the game day experience from the Nationals. Incidentally, if anyone has an extra hat, please email me and let me know.
Like I said above, the Nationals did an excellent job producing a wonderful experience for their fans on opening day. Did anyone else have something to add, either positive or negative, about opening day? If so, please leave your comments below, I would be curious to read them.
Alden via Facebook -> “Dear NatsGM, the recent talk in my office is when we’ll see Harper called up to Washington, general consensus was mid-summer. I disagreed. Thoughts?”
Alden, I probably have received this question in some form or another more often than paparazzi on the red carpet this winter asked each other who is George Clooney’s new tall girlfriend. A month ago when I was visiting Nationals spring training, I started to believe that counter to the numerous financial considerations for delaying Harper’s major league debut, that Bryce would be the opening day right fielder. Yes, his growing pains would be considerable, but his talent would allow him to be a passable major league outfielder today.
That being said, my current prediction is Harper arrives in Washington June 1st, the beginning of the Nationals home stand against the Braves and the Mets. Also, if I was a gambler, I think June 1 would be an excellent over/under date for his arrival in Washington, as his arbitration clock would be delayed a full season and the absence of Mike Morse’s bat in left field will likely be wearing on the lineup by then as well. This timeline would give Harper about 50-55 minor league games and 200-250 ABs, all while polishing his defense in center field. This timeline is aggressive and would be delayed if he injures himself at any time, but I think it takes him about 100 ABs to find his groove and another 100-150 ABs to force his way to Washington.
Thank you for writing… Anyone else want to share a prediction for Harper’s first game in Washington?
Marc via Facebook -> “Dear NatsGM, is Ian Desmond as good as his recent play or is this an illusion?”
Marc, good question and something I have been wrestling with myself, as Desmond has played better in the first two weeks of the season than at any point I can remember during his pro career. The easy (and snarky) answer is that it is a small sample size and his numbers will quickly subside from his current .321/.356/.446 batting line and two errors on defense. However, I do not believe our eyes are completely deceiving us, and the answer lies somewhere in the middle.
I think we are witnessing the beginning of Desmond fulfilling the potential the Nationals have seen in him for many years. While I agree he is currently riding a hot streak, I see Desmond settling in as a .275/.330/.410 batter with 10-15 home runs, 15-25 stolen bases, and average to slightly above-average defense at shortstop. If he can post these type of numbers annually, it would make him a league-average (or slightly better) major league shortstop, a particularly valuable commodity in today’s game. Here’s hoping Desmond is entering his prime and flourishing with his opportunity… Thanks for your question.
I will return in the next day or so with Part II – I sincerely thank you for the many emails you send me. I encourage you to continue to do so, as there is nothing more enjoyable about writing NatsGM than talking baseball with each of you. Thanks for reading and please continue to spread the word.
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