To show I’m not just a grumpy old bastard, I thought I’d start with the things I like. It’s more than you might think and there’s actually more than this. We’re just hitting some of the highlights here. It’s long enough without talking about everything.
ZIMMERMAN. Yes, let’s start with the obvious.
This choice has very little to do with the fact that he is ridiculously good looking, at least according to the women of the house. Nor does it have to do with the fact that he’s simply a terrific player. No one can argue that. That glove. Wow. He’s responsible for two of the biggest wet-my-pants moments of adulthood – the 2006 Father’s Day dong off Wang (or should it be dang off Wang?) and the 2008 Opening Day blow against Australia’s finest Peter Moylan. I look at video of each about 600 times a day.
So we concede the guy can play.
The biggest reason I love Zimmerman is he truly seems to be a good kid. That’s important. I don’t mean to sound all Pollyana-ish and goopy but I don’t want some asshole being front-and-center as the face of the franchise. I want a solid citizen and Zimmerman is, by all accounts, exactly that.
A few stories from personal experience to this point:
When Zimmerman was runner-up as rookie of the year, my paper wanted to include a story in our special section on Richmond’s own Justin Verlander. We’re his hometown paper and we can’t get 10 minutes on the horn with Verlander. Zimmerman, meanwhile, promptly returns a message only to find the reporter who called him on another call. So Zimmerman leaves a message and then promptly calls back when we try again.
In November, we were doing a pre-game special on the Virginia-Virginia Tech matchup. We wanted to get thoughts on the game from various celebs. I purposely avoided any Nationals coverage because I wanted to be a fan but someone had to get in touch with these folks and my staff was busy so I did it myself. I figured I could handle that much. I got in touch with a very nice, helpful man named John Dever in the Nats’ media relations office, hoping he’d take my number and have Zimmerman call. Instead, he gives ME Zimmerman’s number. Being on that side of it now, I know you don’t just hand out the number. Zimmerman must have told him to give it to media members at his discretion. I called, left a message, got a prompt callback and a very professional response to my questions (and I managed to cool it as a fan for five minutes).
At the Opener this year, I met two of Zimmerman’s uncles and his mother while hanging out on the outfield concourse. I introduced myself and told them of my newspaper past and relayed those stories to them. I told them how much the media appreciated athletes who dealt with them with professionalism and class. They thanked me for sharing the stories.
Every media member I know who has dealt with Zimmerman speaks of him glowingly.
If I ever get ahead in the money game, the ziMS Foundation gets my check.
My son, by the way, is a Braves fan. He comes by it honestly, having grown up in the Braves’ AAA city. He is a Virginia Tech graduate. When we go to a Braves-Nats game together, he has to stand up and sing the U.Va. fight song if Zimmerman hits a home run (I have to do the damn chop if Francouer hits one and I have issues with John Lannan because of this).
He was unable to attend the Opener with us. I called and asked him to sing anyway as Zimmerman toured the bases. He was not amused.
FLORES. I love Flo.
Look, I really don’t wish injury or ill will on anyone. I do not want to see LoDuca and Estrada – the $6.25 million DynamicDudDuo – hurt. I just hope they don’t play again. You will never, ever convince me their signings were wise. If this team is in the growing phase, and I can accept that it is, then let Flores grow at the Major League level.
Plus, I think he’s better than both of them. He darn sure is with his arm. Last night, my wife and I were tuned into Charlie and Dave when Flores gunned out Reyes. “I thought you said the catchers were worthless and couldn’t throw out either of us,” The Boss said. Yes, I did. But this isn’t those catchers. They’re hurt. This is the catcher I’ve been calling for all year.
“The one we saw in New York?” she said.
“Yes, that one.”
She likes Flo, too.
We go to New York every summer to take in some shows, shop, be tourists. Last year, I managed to convince her to subway over to Shea for a Saturday afternoon game. The Nats stunk and got beat 3-1 but Flores threw out Reyes and Milledge. A very nice Mets fan (they do exist) and his young son were seated next to us. I explained Flores and the Rule 5 thing to him and he was not happy. Catching wasn’t exactly a strong suit for the Mets at that time (and some will argue it still isn’t). “This guy was in the Mets’ chain?” he asked, many times. WAS, sir, WAS. He’s a Nat now. And he better be for a long, long time.
I’m quite comfortable with a Flores-Nieves combination all season.
An aside: Wife and I were in our Section 420 seats for the Wil Nieves “Zimmerman moment” game. Also in the section were about 100 high school kids on a tour from Indianapolis. We struck up conversation with the 3-4 who weren’t trying to feel each other up. When Estrada came up for the first time, one of them tapped me on the shoulder and asked, “Who is this guy? That’s the biggest butt I’ve ever seen.”
My sister is one of my half-dozen readers and she may come after me with a bat for this. I can’t help it. I have no evidence to support my fondness. In fact, there’s way more evidence against. I still like the guy, still feel comfortable when he’s at the plate.
Maybe it’s because he, too, seems like a very good guy. There I go again. I just don’t like assholes. Channeling my inner JimBow, I really think Austin Kearns is going to become a big-time hitter.
That’s all I have on Kearns. Nothing logical, nothing I can support. I just like the dude.
EDIT - I wrote this before Kearns played Ryan Church's out into a two-run double. I still like the guy, I just won't sleep tonight. How much you think Church loves kicking the Nats' asses?
The big guy has grown on me. Get it? Big guy? Grown? Groan. Yeah, that sucked. But I no longer whimper at the site of Rauch up and throwing. Maybe my feelings changed when he cut his hair and revealed his neck tat (why do you tat your neck?). Whatever. I’m OK when he’s in the game and OK with him as the closer. As my wife is my witness, I even said that before Chief’s shoulder exploded.
This is guaranteed to jinx him but he’s had a good month. Rauch has only given up one run since April 11. At 6-11, you expect him to just rear back and blow people away. I go nuts when he gets all cute out there but it doesn’t change the fact that I like him.
Until ol’ double-Z is ready – Zech! – Rauch will do nicely as the closer.
I’m still not sure what kind of manager he is and don’t think we’ll be able to tell for a while. I tilt heavily toward him being a good one. I like his demeanor. I think he’s the right fit for this club now and I hope he remains that way when (not if, WHEN) the team finally gets good and contends. I hope that is in my lifetime.
A guy I work with and a guy I know who works on the video for the Pirates both said the same thing after visiting Nationals Park: No “wow” factor.
Uh, yeah? So what? What is a “wow” factor?
Here’s what I want in a park:
*Easy to get to, easy to leave. Check, as long as you aren’t on the subway going out. Only way I’ll get on a train out of there again is if I’m dead and someone drags me on. We’ve done RFK Express and that’s fine, though I can’t imagine Uncle Stan will keep it free much longer. We’ve also parked near the stadium.
*Easy to get around. Check.
*Good sightlines. Check, and we’ve been all over the place. When we go up for one of our package games, we buy another the day before or after. We’ve had a number of vantage points.
*Food and drink of quality, since the prices will be ridiculous. Mostly check. I love Hard Times Café. The wings are good, meaty and reasonable. Love the Frito Pie, too. My wife loves the barbecue platter at Red, White and Blue. We enjoyed the vegetarian chili at Ben’s. We haven’t done Five Guys yet. The only bad meal we had was the night we sat in the Red Porch. The service was excellent and polite, the food blew. My daughter about blew a gasket (that’s meant in a good way) when she found out Leinenkugel was available. She won’t pay $7.50 for a mere Bud. I won’t pay $7.50 for any beer.
*Relief. Check. You can get in and out of all the heads I’ve visited pretty quickly.
Nieves’ “Zimmerman Moment” game was the night we took the subway in and, as we strolled up Half Street, I mentioned to my wife that I had no earthly idea what the stadium actually looked like.
“It looks like THAT,” she said, pointing straight ahead.
I explained that THAT was two parking decks and the outfield concourse, the only view we get whether we drive, RFK Express it or take the train (never again). There’s no reason to go to the other side. There is, I assume, an entire structure on the other side of all those seats. We may make it all the way through the season without seeing it.
“Wow” factor? There’s an actual nice stadium in the ‘burg where I grew up that houses a team I love to watch play even though I appear to be in agony most of the time. That’s “wow” enough for me.
Now let’s watch some ball.