Charles Krauthammer is the Washington Nationals' number one fan even if they are far from being the number one team in Major League Baseball. As Dr. K puts it:
They are a baseball team. Not yet very good, mind you, but it matters not. When you live in a town with a great team, you go to see them win. When you live in a town with a team that is passing rapidly through mediocrity on its way to contention - the Nats have an amazing crop of upcoming young players - you go for the moments.
And believe me, the moments are usually fleeting. As of this writing, the Nationals are 26 games behind the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East and have lost nine of their last ten games. Maybe Nats GM Mike Rizzo should have given Jim Riggleman that contract extension after all. When Riggleman abruptly quit on June 23rd, the Nats were 38-37 and had won eleven of their past twelve games. After John McLaren had managed three games, Davey Johnson (who guided the New York Mets to the 1986 World Series title) was brought on to manage the team for the rest of the 2011 season. Since Riggleman's departure, the Nats have gone 25-36.
Yet Krauthammer sees a lot of silver linings, particularly in their defense. He praised the work of Gold Glove third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, rookie second baseman Danny Espinosa and especially centerfielder Rick Ankiel's prodigious throwing arm. Krauthammer writes, "Now, when mortals throw a ball, they give it arc to gain distance. That's how artillery works. Ankiel is better than artillery."
It isn't the first time that Dr. K has sung the praises of Rick Ankiel. In August 2007, Krauthammer wrote about Ankiel's improbable return to the majors as an outfielder after wildness had curtailed his ability to throw a strike during the 2000 post-season. At the time of Ankiel's return to the St. Louis Cardinals, he hadn't appeared in a big league uniform in over three years. In less than four years, Ankiel has since gone from St. Louis to Kansas City to Atlanta and now D.C. - for now.
What Krauthammer didn't mention is that Tuesday night marks the return of Stephen Strasburg who will make his 2011 debut against the Los Angeles Dodgers. After striking out 92 batters in only 68 innings, Strasburg's rookie season was cut short when he required Tommy John surgery. A healthy Strasburg will help the Nationals passed through mediocrity that much more rapidly.
One could make the case that by rooting for the Nationals that Krauthammer is also rooting for the Montreal Expos. Of course, if not for the Expos there would still be no baseball in D.C. Krauthammer, of course, spent his formative years in Montreal. I wonder if he ever attended games at Jarry Park while he matriculated at McGill. Whether he did or not, I suspect that Charles Krauthammer would be a good guy to sit next to during a baseball game. If I am ever in Nationals Park, I shall saunter over to Section 128.
UPDATE: I don't know if Dr. K was present for tonight's game between the Nats and the New York Mets but if he was then he would have seen more than his share of moments. Tonight, marked the big league debut of pitcher Tom Milone. Although Milone would allow four runs over four and a third innings, he had a memorable first at bat. On the very first pitch Milone saw, he hit a three run homerun. That earned Milone a curtain call.
The Nationals beat the Mets 8-7 on a two-run single by Ryan Zimmerman in the bottom of the ninth.
I don't blame Krauthammer for loving the Nats one bit.
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