April 15, 2005
It's hard to believe that it was not all just a dream. Some will say that it was too bad Livan Hernandez didn't get the shutout, but from the perspective of a true baseball fan, that nerve-wrenching ninth inning made it as close to a "perfect game" as you could get. The defensive highlight of the game was first-baseman Nick Johnson's spectacular diving stop of a would-be double. The Nationals are now alone in first place (!??) for at least a day, and the team's overall balance and depth are very impressive.
In an interview before the game, President Bush explained why he refrained from taking an active role in pushing for the return of baseball to D.C., and I suppose he's right. He also made a big point about how baseball should reach out to African-American kids, which is very good, but there is also a big Latino minority residing in Our Nation's Capital, and I would hope the Nationals reach out to them as well. In that respect, it was quite fitting that Vinny Castilla (from Oaxaca, Mexico) stepped up to the plate as the Opening Day (& Night) hero. Then Diamondback pitcher Lance Cormier ruined what would have been a monumental accomplishment by Vinny, hitting for the "cycle," one week after Brad Wilkerson did so. If you ask me, any batter who hits a double, triple, and homer before getting hit by a pitch deserves to get a "cycle" in the record books. Here's what Thomas Boswell wrote on that little incident in the Washington Post Live Chat this morning: "
I suspect that this affront to Mr. Castilla's attempt to complete the cycle with the president on hand will not go unnoticed. If not this weekend, then eventually. Baseball is a game with multi-year memories."
[in response to a related question]:
No brawls on Opening Night (or in a World Series). On Saturday and Sunday we revert to Normal Baseball. A lot will depend on whether the Nats thought it actuually "slipped." Which happens. But it didn't look that way. Castilla had tripled in two runs on an outside pitch and hit a two-run homer on an inside pitch. To Arizoan, he probably "looked to comfortable up there."
Then he went on to my query:
Staunton, Va.: RFK Stadium looked so good last night, that it made me wonder: Is there any chance they can stretch out construction of the new ballpark for a couple years, to make up for all the "lost years" at RFK?
Tom Boswell: Talked to a member of a potential ownership group yesterday on their guess at a stadium opening date. For '08, no way. For '09, probably. For '10...it could actually take that long if they don't start hustling."
You're going to see plenty of RFK. But, if an honorable group buys the team, they will pour plenty of money down the RFK rat hole to improve the fan experience each year. THEY MUST. It's a pure seed-corn business decision. (As well as the right thing to do.)
But this one really hit the mark for me:
Baltimore, Md.: Hey Tom,
Up here in Charm City; where the whining has really hit fever pitch. Let me tell you from this perspective; Angelos' pettiness has harmed the once proud Orioles franchise much more than the mere presence of the Nats ever could have. He is a myopic man who thinks that litigation and brinksmanship can win every battle; it is all he knows. He really misplayed this one; much less leverage than he really believes he has, as the owners will not let him devalue the Nats further prior to sale. He should embrace the new rivalry and welcome the Nats, not because he's a nice guy, but because it's smart business.
Tom Boswell: I'm over Angelos. Enough with the guy. Get the Nats-on-TV stuff solidified and then lets go on to more interesting subjects. And almost any subject is more interesting than Peter.
Indeed. "Maryland is for crabs."