As I've done a few times this season, I recently exchanged questions with Nationals blogger Will Yoder of TheNatsBlog.com to discuss the upcoming series and to get a little first-hand information about our NL East foes. Here are a few questions, and be sure to check out their fine blog to see my answers as well.
Q: As the season winds down, what are your overall thoughts on how the Nats performed?
The Nationals started the season way stronger than anyone expected this year. The club was able to play close to .500 ball for the first month-and-a-half of the season, causing hopes to be set perhaps a little to high around Washington. The team quickly fell to earth, disappointing many, and to be honest, left a real bitter taste in a lot of people's mouths.
Once fans in the area had accepted that this would be yet another losing season in Washington, we were rewarded with an amazing gift, Strasburg. Strasburg made his debut in July in front of an electric hometown crowd and rejuvenated a franchise that hadn't felt any communal excitement since 2005. Finally, people had a reason to care about the Nationals...that lasted a little over a month before the injury occurred. Now Nationals fans are in limbo. So much attention had been paid on 2011. Everyone believed with the rise of the clubs prospects, and the presence of Stephen Strasburg, the team had a real shot a playoff appearance. Now no one knows what to expect.
So to answer your question, the Nationals played ok in 2010. The defense was poor, the pitching and hitting got better, and while they lost a lot of games yet again, they played much more respectable baseball. However, even though the improvements were present, one can't help but note the feeling of disappointment around Natstown.
Q: Stephen Strasburg's injury; In your opinion, was it a matter of the Nats over-working him, not getting him to the Majors soon enough, or just the natural wear and tear a pitcher faces?
I think the Nationals handled Strasburg perfectly. From the time they gained control, until the point of his injury, they were constantly planning every single start he had. They laid out how many pitches he would throw, how often he would start, even how he would warm up and workout between outings. I believe that this was just a natural result of wear and tear he accumulated over the first 22-years of his life. There is some speculation that his new changeup may have caused stress on his elbow that was never there before, but there's really no way to prove it. People around Washington just hope that it wont be a chronic problem.
Q: With Willingham done for the season, is there anyone besides Adam Dunn or Ryan Zimmerman that the Braves should pay special attention to?
Danny Espinosa is the Nationals newest edition. The slugging second baseman has electrified Nats Park not only with his bat but with his glove in the two short weeks since his call-up. In nine games he has posted a 1.079 OPS by launching three homers and three doubles. The 23-year-olds call up is a result of his outstanding breakout season which saw him combine to hit .268/.337/.464 with 22 homers and 25 steals in 123 games between Harrisburg and Syracuse. While he's slumped in his last several games, Espinosa is an electrifying player who, if he stays at the second base position, will likely win a gold glove or two before he's finished.
Q: What are your thoughts on the Rob Dibble situation and his firing?
I wrote out a long diatribe here, but after reading it I felt it was too harsh. Lets just say...I was not a fan of his "style" or "personality." He was not a good fit for MASN or the city of Washington, however that's not to say he may not fit a personality of another city that may be looking for an aggressive homer who likes to talk about his own glory days. There I go again.
The one thing I can say about Rob Dibble is this, he was true to himself. He didn't change for anyone and he had an opinion and he gave it. That's what he was hired to do, and he did that aspect of his job well.
Should he have gotten fired for his insensitive comments about women or Strasburg? No. That was probably a poor decision on the Nationals part. Should he have been let go for his inability to bring a product the fan base wants? Unquestionably.
I think both Rob Dibble and the Washington Nationals are better off now.
A big thanks to Will and TheNatsBlog.com for answering my questions.