Sunday Paper (Year 4, Volume XXX)
The state of (baseball in) the union ('s capital) is strong.
After spending three days at Nationals Park for Mets-Nationals this week, I can assure you:
*There will be October baseball in Washington (and the park will provide a pretty good home field advantage for the Nationals)
*It would be a severe oversight by Major League Baseball if there's not an All Star Game at Nationals Park in the next three years
*For a great ballpark experience, the Washington Nationals are doing it right.
When I originally started thinking about going to the three Mets games in Washington, it started out as a chance to scout out my preseason NL East-winning pick, the Nationals. Then, it turned into a, "Hey, this might actually be a battle for first place" situation. And what I ended up seeing might have been the last gasp by the Mets in 2012...and a pretty good display (at least in the first two games) of why the Nationals are on their way to their first Washington-based playoff appearance.
And I found myself thinking often during those three games about how Nationals Park would hold up in the national spotlight of the post-season. It will do fine. I mentioned earlier this week that there is something of a party-like atmosphere at Nationals Park
. When the fans show up (which they did in the series against the Mets), and when the game is close (the games against the Mets were pretty tight), that place can get loud and those fans get behind their team. Bryce Harper's 10th inning triple Tuesday night was the perfect example of how Nationals Park might play in the excitement of the post-season.
As for this season, you can look at the Nats' weekend so far in two ways: 1) Their struggles Friday night against the Braves (blowing a 9-0 lead and losing in 10 innings) are a harbinger of bad things to come, or 2) The fact that they bounced back after that tough loss and a loss in game one of Saturday's doubleheader to win the nightcap shows that they're going to have the fortitude to close out this successful season they've had. But regardless of what happens this year, taking a look through the long lens at baseball in Washington - I came away from the trip last week thinking that baseball absolutely belongs in our nation's capital. And the reason I say there needs to be an All Star Game there is that Washington, D.C. would be a great host city for the game. Think of all the All Star events that could take place there - and it certainly is due - the city hasn't hosted an All Star Game since 1969.
I know I'm on a high from a really great vacation in Washington, but I really enjoyed my three days at Nationals Park. I want all baseball fans to get a taste of the great experience I had, and a Nationals post-season and/or 2015 All Star Game in Washington would go a long way towards providing that.
And it will help anyone who thinks moving the Montreal Expos to Washington, D.C. was a mistake realize that Major League Baseball made the right decision.
*A couple of other loose ends from the Washington trip:
-They give you a little magazine as you enter the ballpark that has the rosters and a scorecard in it - much like what you get these days at the gates of NFL games. It's a really great perk - I wish the Mets did that.
-About the only disappointments last week were 1) I missed seeing Stephen Strasburg pitch (though he wasn't great on Friday), and 2) there is a really confusing aspect to the lower bowl at Nationals Park, where there are limited options to get up to the second level. Even after three days I still got confused about how to get to certain sections from certain places in the park.
-If I were in charge of such things, I would make some kind of animation for home field advantage at 'Nationals Park' where the words would meld together and there would be some kind of 'National Spark' to get the crowd going. No? Not working for you?
*OK. I've put it off long enough...time to address the Mets. It might be time to put away the trade talk and just hang it up for the season. After Saturday's loss, the Mets dropped to .500 at 47-47. It's been a pretty fun ride, and there's still some of the things we talked about last week that are worth looking forward to this season (R.A. Dickey's performance, David Wright's hitting - and fielding - performance)...but the pennant race aspect is fast slipping away. The importance of the next couple of months is looking like how do you weave in the young pitchers so that you're setting yourself up for success in the coming years.
*On the way back from Washington my family and I stopped at Camden Yards. It is beautiful. We walked down Eutaw Street, peeked in on the field, and had lunch at Rick Dempsey's pub, in the warehouse beyond right field. I've been to Camden Yards twice - once in 1994 (I think...maybe 1995) and again in 2001. It's gotten even better than it was - and it was special to begin with. I need to get back there for a game. God, I love ballparks.
*There's a lot of football talk starting up, with training camps set to open up this week...I'm not quite ready yet, but there'll be no shortage of excitement out of Jets camp with the Tim Tebow storyline...and another possible Darrelle Revis holdout looming. (For the record: I don't expect he will hold out.)
*One more Nationals note - John Lannan had a solid start Saturday night for the Nationals. He's being considered as a potential replacement for Stephen Strasburg when he reaches his innings limit for the season. 1) I think the innings limit is a mistake - taking away a great pitcher from your team as you head into the playoffs. 2) I wonder if it would be worth giving Strasburg like a month off now, and then gearing him back up in late August so that he'll reach his innings limit in the playoffs rather than early September. 3) I can't imagine Strasburg will shut it down quietly and go down without a fight when he does reach 160 innings for the year.
*I have some good sports reading ahead of me this week: I didn't get a chance to start R.A. Dickey's book while I was away...provided I catch up on Sports Illustrated in a timely fashion, I'll read that, and my brother got me The Art Of Fielding for my birthday, which has gotten rave reviews. When I finish the books I'll post my thoughts.
*Oh, hey - the Olympics start this week. That'll be fun for a few days.