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Thursday, July 31, 2008

"No he's not dead yet!"

Pardon me because half my brain remains in New York and fellow Broadway aficionados will recognize the headline as a line from the great play Spamalot.
It came to me last night while I was in the restroom after watching the Richmond Braves absolutely hammer Columbus starter Craig Stammen. I mean, HAMMER him. Even the outs were blasted. So they're making a pitching change while I'm in the head and I hear the PA announcer go, "Now pitching for Columbus *** Levale Speigner."
So he's not dead yet. I had forgotten all about him. He actually looked pretty good.

But enough of that. Levale Speigner is not why so many have flocked to this blog today. Levale Speigner is not the answer, not the key to life as a Nationals fan.

People want to know what I think after watching Emilio Bonifacio. He was the main reason for my visit to the decrepit Diamond. He did not disappoint.

Here's what I think: JimBow, as soon as you finish reading all the blogs (and we know you do read them), get on the phone. Punch in Emilio's digits. Tell him to get in a car and get on 95 north. Stay with it through the change to 395 and to look for the ol' ballpark on the right soon after you cross the bridge into D.C.

Get his ass up to the bigs. Now.

This is not a declaration that we've all been wrong about JimBow. This is not me saying I want him to get a big money deal. I still hope JimBow has to buy a ticket to get in next season. I am, however, willing to concede that this might - just might - work out. And we're not going to find out with him in AAA.

I stopped in the press box to see some old friends before the game. They know all about my Curly W tattoos and they all said, "You must be here to see Bonifacio."
"Wow, he can fly."
"OH MY, he is fast."
"Run, run, run like the wind."

Yeah, yeah I got that. Lots of guys are fast. Can he play? I didn't get an answer from any of them but I did when the game started. He can play.

I didn't get much chance to judge his defense so I'm going to take it on faith he's OK there. I did get lots of chances to judge his speed and we were not sold fool's gold there. He has jaw-dropper speed. In bed before the room is dark speed. Shake your head and wonder speed. Serious, serious, win games for you speed. His stolen base numbers aren't great and that has me concerned. Bad jumps? He was 3-5 in AAA before last night. The one I saw him steal last night was ridiculous. He went in head first and was in the process of standing up when the ball got to second. I have no idea how anybody throws him out.

I like him at the plate, too. He got two hits, scored a run, drove in a run, stole that base. He wasn't just flailing away and getting lucky. He seems to have a plan when he goes up there, knows what he is looking for and jumps on it when it comes. He also has what I have always called a powerful bat but probably should call a fast bat because I don't mean there's power as in home runs. I mean it gets through there quickly and he hits it hard. You don't want those gappers sitting up for the likes of Willie Harris to run down. You want them down on the ground and rolling fast (like my golf shots!). Bonifacio's do that. If he gets it into the gap, it is a sure double. If it gets through, he's on third. He hit a double last night and I could not believe how fast he got to second.

Granted, I saw him against AAA pitching and bad AAA pitching at that. It could mean nothing. That's why he has to get to the Nats now and get a real look. If he makes any kind of consistent contact, he'll be a delight to watch.

Oh, JimBow? While you're on the phone get Dukes the hell out of my town, too, and back in the bigs. Get his body guard to drive the two of them up there. Today. He's going full speed, playing as hard as we saw him play in June. Is it somehow less risky for him to do that in AAA than it is in the majors? Uh, no. So get him to Washington. He was by far the best player on the field last night. If the players all wore plain jerseys with no numbers, even a novice would have been able to pick out the big leaguer. That's how much he stood out.

He laid down a bunt early in the game that was close to remarkable. No one had a clue he was bunting until the ball was down and he beat it out easily. When a pickoff throw went awry, he was on third before the Braves chased down the ball. Later, he drove in Bonifacio with one of those explode-off-his-bat doubles.

Bonifacio and Dukes at the top of the lineup is something to finally get excited about in a season that's gone downhill since the opener. Tell FLop thanks for, well, nothing and to take his snarky ass down the road. Tell Pete Orr thanks for the hustle and that, if he hurries, he can catch the plane to China. Activate Dukes and promote Bonifacio. Now.

Here's the lineup I want to see tonight and for the final two months:

Bonifacio, 2B
Dukes, LF
Zimmerman, 3B
Kearns, RF (did I just type that?)
Guzman, SS
Milledge, CF
Flores, C
Belliard/LoDuca, 1B
Pitcher, P

You have knee, groin and elbow injuries across the outfield (sing it with me now: Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes). So work Willie in out there 2-3 times a week, plus once somewhere in the infield. He can get 15-20 at bats a week that way. Willie, Belliard and Casto give the bench three versatile players. Langerhans has been a good pinch-hitter lately. And, you know, that lineup for next year may be OK with a real answer at first. We won't know until we get a look at Bonifacio.

JimBow, you still here? GET ON THE PHONE!

A few other observations:

*No one else really jumped out at me but I really wasn't looking at anybody else.
*The Nationals can't bunt. The Clippers can't play bunt defense. They screwed up easy outs on three bunts last night. I left in the seventh so there may have been more.
*Montz hit an impressive home run. He also screwed up one of the bunts, probably the worst of the bunch when he threw to the wrong base. Hell, he's the future first baseman anyway (you knew that was coming).
*My man Zech got the win in a crazy game and he's proof that stat lines are misleading. He gave up two runs in his first inning. He gave up a sharp single to open the inning. A screwed up bunt followed by another screwed up bunt loaded the bases with nobody out. A grounder through a drawn-in infield scored one. Larry Broadway, in right field, sees the runner has stopped at third. Instead of throwing it in anyway, Broadway makes a lazy lob to second and the runner scores. I know Broadway is a first baseman by trade but that's a fundamental. Outfield gets it into the infield ASAP. Always.
*Jimenez at first is a big ol' guy and he hit a home run after I left. He also was responsible for one of the screwed up bunts. Speigner flew off the mound to pick one up on the third base line and made a great throw to first. Safe. Everyone is wondering why for a moment - then everybody sees Jimenez' foot is about a foot off the bag. Oops.
*If Stammen ever makes it to Washington, remind me to buy a seat in the Red Porch so I can get a ball. Two innings, seven hits and seven runs - not a one of them cheap. It was ugly.


Mama B said...

Stammen's outing sounded awful, just reading the box score and recap. Don't judge him by that, as he is a much better pitcher than what you saw last night. Maybe still adjusting to AAA - I think it is his second start there.

MikeHarris said...

That's good to hear. I hate judging anyone on one outing but he was hit so daggone hard.

Steven said...

wouldn't you rather see one of our kids at 1B? Casto, Broadway, Jimenez, Rhinehart? I don't think any of them are the long-term answer, but do you *really* *want* to see Lo Duca and Belliard at 1B?

MikeHarris said...

Casto maybe. Rhinehart I haven't seen. Jimenez maybe. Broadway? No.
For this year, I can live with LoD/Belliard if the other moves are made.

Simon Oliver Lockwood said...

Breaking News: FLop and PLoD are released. Bonifacio and Gonzalez are coming up. Dukes is coming off the DL as well.

Gus said...

Those moves might be too late. I didn't even care today. Kearns in RF must still be a big maybe. I mean, defense is one thing, but surely you need to score more runs than your opponent?