A (Cautionary) Tale of Two Cities
Baltimore and Washington – 50 miles of interstate separate the two metropolis’…and this baseball season, the gap between the Orioles and the Nationals is much larger. To begin with, people from each city hate each other. “Envy,” says the Washingtonian to the Baltimorean. “Just a bunch of snobs and politicians,” says the Baltimorean to the Washingtonian.
In the NFL, the Ravens vs. Redskins would be a good match-up…for Baltimore. Baltimore has superior management and ownership…a better (and I mean MUCH) better stadium…better drafting…a better record for a long time.
Orioles vs. Nationals…looks like the easy pick is the Nationals, based on what this season has shown. And, with the presumed drafting of 17-year-old phenom Bryce Harper on Monday and Stephen Strasburg about to hit the starting rotation for the Nationals the following day…the Nationals are looking good. They are just 5.5 games out of first place…and it’s June 3! This was a team that would have been every National League team’s homecoming game if they played such a game. Now, ya better watch out.
They are building a good team that will have pitching and power. They go into the next six weeks with a friendly schedule and 22 home games before the All-Star break. Looks like they have a great shot at being over .500 at that time. And, just a year ago, when Strasburg was pitching for San Diego State, when drafted by the Nats, everyone thought he had to get up to the majors immediately to create some good-will with the fans.
They are doing well without him…and will do even better with him now following his seasoning in Single A and Triple A ball where he totally dominated the hitters. Don’t look for a lot of wins for Strasburg…he will be on a strict pitch count. If he goes six innings a game, my guess is that he will leave a lot of games with a lead…but the bullpen will have to hold it for him. He may win 6 – 8 games this season, but the numbers will not be the story. The story will be how he pitches…how he gets out of trouble…how he matures so that in 2011 and beyond, he will be the one pitcher you do not want to face.
As for Harper, the Sports Illustrated cover boy when he was 16, he will be down in the minors for a while. He is only 17…left high school after his sophomore year, attained his G.E.D., and has attended college just to keep playing. From all reports, he is a tremendous hitter, but will absolutely need to be in the minors for a few years. After all, we can’t have a 17-year-old, who should be in high school, as the best player on your team, can we?
If you look at the power situation with the two baseball teams, just look at the Nationals. They signed Adam Dunn, traded for Josh Willingham and hit home runs on both. Now, the Nats are the only team in baseball with three regulars with on-base-plus-slugging marks over .900.
In the same area, the O’s miscalculated badly. They assumed their three most gifted young stars — Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters — would develop enough power to anchor a lineup in cozy Camden Yards. They haven’t…and while it is surprising, it just seems to go with the fact that the Orioles management (off and on the field) are not doing the job.
Pitching behind Strasburg (who everyone is assuming will be the best pitcher on the Nats staff…if not the best in the league), by mid-season, the Nats’ rotation could John Lannan, Livan Hernandez , Scott Olsen, Jason Marquis, Luis Atilano, Craig Stammen or prospect Ross Detwiler, who’ll start his minor-league season in two weeks. By Aug. 1, look for Chien-MingWang.
However, the best news is that Jordan Zimmermann, the Nats’ only top-of-the-rotation prospect except Strasburg, hit 94 mph in two recent extended spring training games.
The Orioles have, basically, no one. They went out and got the closer they really wanted, Mike Gonzales…and the starting pitcher they really wanted, Kevin Millwood. How’s that worked for them? Not so well. Gonzales has NO SAVES and his return from an injury keeps getting pushed back. As for big-dollar Millwood…again. NO WINS. That’s why the O’s are not winning. They got the players they really wanted, but I think any fantasy player could have done a better job in picking pitchers.
Baltimore and Washington are as different as night and day. I like both cities for many different reasons. Baltimore is not as sophisticated as DC, but it is not as stuffy either. I think the ballparks for both baseball teams are great…remember it WAS Camden Yards that set the tone for all new ballparks built since 1992…and it is a great park. Too bad the owner is horrific. Talk about EGO (yes, in BIG LETTERS), Peter Angelos has it…and isn’t afraid to tell you about it. He single-handedly kept Washington from getting a baseball team for years, and sued, I believe, once they got a team. He said HE owned the entire Baltimore-Washington corridor…and had the cable rights to it. Do you think anyone in the DC area has forgotten this?
Friday morning, the Orioles fired their manager (again) and start from scratch. It won’t really matter if they were able to get Connie Mack, John J. McGraw, Casey Stengel, Walt Alston, Joe Torre or any great manager to sit in the dugout. They just don’t have enough talent. Yes, the O’s have some good young players, but they are struggling…mightily. I thought they would be much better than they are this year, but the newly-acquired players they counted on just are no good.
So, the Nationals will capitalize on this…believe me. Nationals Park will be packed on June 8 when Strasburg makes his debut…and every time he starts for the rest of the season. The Orioles held Floppy Hat Night on Saturday. Floppy Hat Night for the Baltimore FLOPS. Perfect.