Monday, March 9, 2009

The Nats Blog in Florida, Day 2

The Nats game wasn't until 7 today, so we made the hike down to Port St. Lucie to watch the Mets take on the Orioles at Tradition Field. Tradition field is alive with just that. Draped in orange and blue the Mets fans come out in droves, the stadium comes alive with a charisma that only a historic franchise can infuse. It is a beautiful example of what a baseball community should be and hopefully what young Viera can grow into. 

Our seats were in the last row behind home plate, which in spring training translates to about the 25th row. Behind us was the owners box, and to our surprise there sat not only Mets owner Fred Wilpon and general manager Omar Minaya, but also their guests Dolphins head coach Tony Sporano and  Dophins executive and legendary football head coach Bill Parcells. 
While the celebrities enjoyed one another, we enjoyed what turned 
out to be an excellent game. 

The Orioles jumped out to an early lead as Mets starter Brandon Knight could not get anything but loud outs. Knight is attempting an MLB comeback after a few stints pitching in Japan, but unfortunately for this journeyman it looks like that may be the only place he belongs. An eventual homer by Ty Wiggington put the Orioles up big and it seemed like the game was in hand as the O's turned 
the game over to their reserves. 

Up four in the eighth, the O's gave up a grand slam to a selective Nick Evans to tie the game up. The Mets retired the top of  the 9th in order, and following an incredibly bad at-bat by the aforementioned Wilmer Flores, Rene Rivera surprised the entire stadium by crushing game winning home run to center.

Nationals vs. Astros (written by Papa Yoder and Uncle Kit)
Anderson Hernandez started tonight in the leadoff spot. Are the Nats serious? Hernandez had a .268 on-base percentage in over 500 plate appearences in AAA last year, and the Nats are expecting him to be a leadoff hitter? They are letting his couple of hot weeks at the end of last year cloud their judgement. The real question is, who will they turn to after they give up on Andy?

Austin Kearns showed that there is still life in a moribund bat that has been left for dead by some fans by blasting a long shot out of the park in left-center. Kearns homer capped what was a great offensive outburst at the start of the game which gave the Nats an early big lead. 

This big lead allowed us to see some young guns that we otherwise might not be able to. The Nats brought in some of their backup infielders such as journeyman Joel Guzman. It appears Guzman may be playing himself out of whatever prospect status he has left. The former shortstop, who now plays a sluggish first base, couldn't handle a one hopper that would have completed a nice play in the hole by Ian Desmond, the Bats current best prospect at shortstop. Guzman also looked overmatched at the plate, despite some questionable Astros pitching.

While the Astros slowly chipped at what was once a big lead, Manny Acta decided to put in the Nats first overall selection in the Rule-5 Draft, reliever Terrell Young. Young, fighting for a position in the bullpen as a possible set up man, came in throwing hard but nowhere near the zone. He finally settled but not before allowing the tying run in the top of the eighth. Two innings later, well into free baseball, the Nats won the game with a walk off homer by Mr. Nobody Brad Eldred.

It was a day for obscure heroes. After watching the Mets come from four runs down in the eighth inning to beat the Orioles in a game apped by the walk off homer hit by Rene Rivera (who has been bouncing between AA and AAA since 2004), we watched our second walk off homer of the day with Eldred.

Brad Eldred? Who is Brad Eldred?

Brad Eldred is a non-roster invitee to Nats camp, who hit 35 homers with 100 RBI in the International League last year. The Nats signed the 6'5" right-handed hitter as a minor league free agent in December. Unfortunately Eldred is 29 years old and has been stuck at AAA since 2004. Twenty-eight year olds like Eldred, who strike out five times as often as they walk in AAA are not prospects. Worst of all, Eldred is primarily a first baseman who occasionally takes his glove to the outfield. Thats right- the Nats have still another power-hitting firstbaseman/outfielder with problems making contact. Eldred's walk off homer will be a moment to remember - even in spring training, but if the Nats end up giving many regular season plate appearances to Eldred, you will know that something has gone terribly wrong with their season. 

On an aside we got to see Northern Virginia native and former high school baseball opponent of mine, Brandon Snyder, take batting practice with the Orioles. Snyder was the Orioles first overall pick in 2005 but has had trouble staying healthy/finding a position. 

1 comment:

fishtoprecords said...

Nice writeup, but its now Thursday.