February 22, 2010 [LINK / comment]
Spring (training) has arrived !!!
The snow may still still cover the ground across much of the country, but the annual resumption of the baseball spring training in Florida and Arizona gives us hope that fair weather can't be far off. In Viera, Florida, where pitchers and catchers for the Washington Nationals have begun practicing, hopes are soaring. Seeing Jason Marquis wearing a Nationals cap gives me an indescribable feeling of optimism. There is a veritable media feeding frenzy for newly-signed pitcher Chien-Ming Wang, dubbed "the Michael Jordan of Taiwan." Chinese-language reporters are swarming Space Coast Stadium to interview him, but there is no guarantee that his shoulder will fully heal. See the Washington Post.
There is just as much excitement, if not more, over Stephen Strasburg, the phenomenal pitcher from southern California whom the Nationals signed as their #1 draft pick last summer. Ivan Rodriguez, one of the newest Nats, said he was impressed, but "manager Jim Riggleman hinted that Strasburg may not be on the Opening Day roster..." See MLB.com. No need to rush; give the guy a chance to grow up first. As for "Pudge," he will certainly help the team as a batter, but some doubt that he has sufficient defensive skills as a catcher to help nurture and instruct the Nationals' young pitching staff.
As for the rest of the Nats' roster, Josh Willingham remains a question mark, but I hope he stays with the team. He may not be 100% consistent, but he does get some big clutch hits, and I like his attitude.
I was browsing the annual baseball 2010 preview magazines yesterday, and every one I saw forecast that the Nationals would finish in last place in the National League Eastern Division once again. Well, I beg to differ! It's a highly competitive division, I know, but there is no reason why they shouldn't expect to end up with a record over .500, for the first time since they moved to Washington.
Perhaps the biggest news of the day is that veteran slugger Johnny Damon, one of the most prominent free-agents, just signed a one-year contract worth about $8 million with the Detroit Tigers. He had been negotiating with the Yankees and other teams, and it would appear that he held out too long, as the terms he accepted weren't all that great. I'm sure he would have preferred a multi-year deal. See MLB.com. With a soaring unemployment rate, Detroit is in desperate need of an emotional lift.
Spring cleaning (photos)
One of my long-postponed chores is updating the photos and making them more consistent, especially the panoramas which I have taken over the past two years. I have now done so for Nationals Park, Citi Field, Shea Stadium, Yankee Stadium, and Yankee Stadium II. With any luck, I'll get to see games at two or three new ballparks this year, so you can look forward to more new photos. I also added five excellent photos of Wrigley Field that were sent to me by John Minor a while back.
On a more somber note, demolition work at Yankee Stadium is advancing rapidly, with both the first and second decks of the grandstand now completely gone, and a small portion of the upper deck getting "whacked" as well. If you can bare to look, see the photos at baseball-fever.com; hat tip to Mike Zurawski. After the recent weather-induced delays, they will have a hard time finishing the work before Opening Day, now less than six weeks away.