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July 6, 2008 [LINK / comment]

Nationals look to the future

Well, at least in this afternoon's game in Cincinnati, the Nationals didn't go down without a fight. Even though they once again wasted a solid outing by a young starting pitcher, stranding multiple runners on base, they staged a two-out rally in the top of the ninth inning. They hustled and got two runs across the plate, but Wil Nieves was caught looking at a perfect pitch down the middle, and the game ended, 6 - 5. The twisted knee suffered by left fielder Elijah Dukes in Saturday night's game is adding yet more injury to insult to injury. He will probably be out for a month or more; see

Having just been swept by the Reds in a four-game series, the Washington Nationals have reached a new low, with the worst record (34 - 56) in all the majors. In spite of occasional moments of hope and even outstanding achievement this year, it is fast becoming clear that the Nats are giving up on their goal of ending the season with at least an even .500 record. What a shame. As the August 1 trading deadline approaches, that means that the franchise will be unloading some of their veterans who might be of use to other teams in winning a postseason berth. The Washington Post got some answers from General Manager Jim Bowden about the team's strategy in the bleak present situation.

We're open to any trade that makes us better long-term. That includes proven major leaguers that are successful, top prospects in the minor leagues; we're open to anything. We've told every club, we have complete flexibility on trading players and acquiring players.

So, here's my list of reliable veterans on the Nationals roster who are most likely to be traded in the next few weeks, in descending order of likelihood:

  1. Tim Redding
  2. Austin Kearns
  3. Aaron Boone
  4. Ronnie Belliard
  5. Odalis Perez
  6. Paul Lo Duca
  7. Dmitri Young

I would hate to see Belliard go, after his recent surge in slugging performance. Letting go of their star player this year, Cristian Guzman *, is almost unthinkable. Ordinarily, Wily Mo Pena would be on that list, but he's having a lousy year.

* On a brighter note, Cristian Guzman was chosen as a reserve player for the All-Star Game, the only National to earn that honor. He currently leads the Major Leagues in total number of hits, and kept his hitting streak alive today; he's now at 14. He previously appeared in the 2001 All-Star Game, when he was with the Twins. See

In contrast to the Nats today, the Cardinals actually achieved such a come-from-behind victory against the suddenly-slumping Cubs last night. [This afternoon, the Cubs got revenge, winning 7 - 1.] This is shaping up to be the biggest rivalry in all the majors, as only two other divisions have a tighter race at the top: the White Sox are one game ahead of the Twins, and the Diamondbacks are a half game ahead of the Dodgers, but that hardly counts since neither team is over .500.

The mail bag

Loyal sponsor Mark London reminded me of something that Jonathan Karberg had told me last year, but which I had forgotten: The bullpens in Busch Stadium II were originally located beyond the foul poles, underneath the seating section. (It's that empty space where Mark McGwire's 62nd home run landed.) A photograph from John Pastier's book Ballparks Yesterday and Today confirms that there were no bullpens in foul territory during the late 1960s. The correction has been duly noted.

More updates

I have updated the Antique stadiums page, and have added two of those old ballparks, Robison Field and Hilltop Park, to my list of "Coming attractions." [The revised data are taken from the latest (2006) edition of Phil Lowry's classic, Green Cathedrals.] Also, I made some further data revisions on the Stadium statistics page.

Posted (or last updated or commented upon): 06 Jul 2008, 10: 44 PM

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