A cardinal just landed on my deck. I love cardinals (not the St. Louis variety). They make me happy and I can use a little of that because snow depresses me. I'm sitting here staring out my bay window, watching this snow melt and hoping it never, ever returns. That would make me happy.
You know what else makes me happy? Pitchers and catchers report shortly. My brother got in touch yesterday, he got his season ticket package along with my sister and their spouses (I still haven't done that, must expedite). Another sign that the wait is almost over. It's almost baseball season.
This is one of my favorite times of the season, when it isn't acually here yet and there's nothing on the field to refute your reasons for optimism. I stay pretty jolly and upbeat through the spring. It usually takes a couple of games into the regular season before reality hits and I turn into a grump again.
I honestly think it is going to be different this time. No really. This isn't snow-melting-in-early-February talking. This is real. This isn't a pennant year. I voted for 2012 over at my pal Mark Zuckerman's new blog (www.natsinsider.blogspot.com). But this is the "take a big step year." I just know it.
Here are a few reasons why. Disagree if you must but please don't throw cold water in my face until at least April 8. I'd like to stay happy until then.
*The team WILL be better managed. I said this out loud before Jim Riggleman was named non-interim manager (no manager is permanent). I would have said this regardless of the managerial choice. Yeah, we all love Manny and I wish him well in Cleveland and all that. But all three of his teams got off to slow starts. Only the 2007 team recovered. All three seemed to come out of spring training ill prepared. His personality is his personality and he's to be commended for it, but I'm not sure it fit this team. Were the Nats all that much better under Riggleman last season? Not by a lot but there was something there, something in the approach, something I'm not smart enough to define. I felt better about the man at the wheel, let's leave it at that.
*Nyjer. In fairness, Manny might have looked better with a legit speed guy in CF and at the top of his order. Was it really Manny who thought Lastings Milledge was a leadoff guy and a CF? Doesn't really matter now. Nyjer Morgan is both and while he may not be an all-star, he's at least legit and adds something on offense and defense that's been missing. A full year of a healthy Morgan will make a big difference.
*The bullpen won't look like it was thrown together from Toys-R-Us on Christmas Eve. This bullpen looks like it has the potential to at least be at the major-league level. It is not an All-Dumpster Diving crew.
*There's a law that a team can't lose 100 three seasons in a row. It's from the same law book that says a three-colored cat has to be female (who came up with that one). Or is it male? Yeah, I know, the Royals put up a three-straight-100s not that long ago. This law is very new.
*I'm not sure playing Josh Willingham all season in 2009 would have made too big of a difference but I'm willing to guess it may have helped. Pretty good hitter and no worse than what's been in left field. I cancelled a stress test the day after I saw Manny send up Alex Cintron when Willingham was sitting right there.
*Pudge of 2010 ain't the Pudge of old and I don't think anyone in the front office would claim that. I'd hope not. But Pudge of 2010 is a better option at catcher than Josh Bard (no defense, little offense) and Wil Nieves (solid defense, no offense). The offense is better with a Pudge/Flores (please be healthy) combo and so is the defense. Pudge's ability to help the pitchers is a bonus, if that comes to fruition.
*The middle infield situation is *** oh wait, that one goes on the other list. Sure wish I knew who was going to be the SS and who was going to be the 2B. I bet Jim Riggleman does, too.
*One of the "S" guys will emerge, maybe both. I'm trying not to get my hopes up too much for Stephen Strasburg in 2010 but that's hard to do in February. I'm equally excited to see what Drew Storen brings to the bullpen. My prediction is one of them becomes a standout. This season.
OK, the cardinal just flew away. Some work has landed in my inbox. Time to stop thinking of baseball for a couple of hours. Let me know your reasons for optimism, if you have any. We'll do pessimism in another post, probably this weekend if we get more snow.