Red Sox & Nationals Series Preview Q&A
Inter-league play around Major League Baseball has lost a lot of it’s appeal in the past few years but for Red Sox fans, this weekend series against the upstart Washington Nationals will renew some popularity in Bud Selig’s precious baby that sees the NL visit AL ballparks and vice versa.
The Nationals are a young, exciting team that are the ideal model of how to build a championship caliber team and the Fenway faithful will get a first hand look at phenoms Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg. We reached out to Aaron the Senior Editor at District on Deck who walked us through all things Nationals, including some advice for those sitting in the right field corner this weekend. Enjoy.
1. We heard about the plan to build the Nationals into a contender, but many didn’t believe it would be this soon and here we are in early June and the Nationals are in first place in the NL East. While it may be surprising to some, are Nats fans believing this team can compete this year or are they over achieving a little?
I think the simple answer is there’s a little of both. A segment of this fan base stems from the generation who watched the Senators years ago. They longed for a team to support in D.C. and have embraced the Nationals whole-heartedly. The thought of this team becoming a true contender goes beyond appealing – it’s starting to excite some people. But by the same token, there’s a segment of the fan base who aren’t convinced yet that this team can maintain their current pace. I think it’s good that there is still such widespread variety among the fans, it keeps things interesting. Personally speaking, I think there is a degree of over-achievement taking place, but I think there’s more talent on this team than some may have realized.
2. Red Sox fans will get a look at Stephen Strasburg on Friday. Just how good is this kid even after TJS and what can you tell us Sox fans to expect on Friday night when he takes the mound?
He’s exciting to watch, first and foremost, just simply based on the potential he carries in that right arm. We’ve all been hearing for years how pitchers come back from TJS throwing harder, etc. but so far Strasburg looks just like the rookie who impressed us all in 2010. The one thing that I think is holding Strasburg back right now, however, is the fact that he’ll throw a lot of pitches – partially due to the high frequency at which he strikes batters out. He throws a lot of strikes and if hitters can be patient and foul pitches off, it drives up his pitch count and gets him out of the game sooner. I had actually hoped to make it to this game of the series, considering I live outside of Boston and cover the Nationals from afar, but the timing and logistics just didn’t work out that way.
3. Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson were two pitchers the Red Sox were after this winter, only to see them both go to Washington. How would you rate both of these pitcher’s performances through the first two months in a Nats uniform?
Gonzalez has been arguably one of the best pitchers in the National League through the season’s first two months, so that acquisition is a no-brainer to rate. Down the road we’ll see how things played out but that’s another discussion altogether. But so far, Gio has been completely worth it and has provided another strength atop the Washington rotation. If Jordan Zimmermann can break out of his recent funk and get some run support, Washington could arguably have one of the best front threes in all of baseball. Jackson, while a seeming bargain on just a one year contract, hasn’t quite pitched to expectations so far, but part of that has also been due to inconsistent run support. He hasn’t pitched poorly by any means, don’t get me wrong, but he hasn’t been that “right piece” to help complete a playoff rotation. The second half is going to need to be big for Jackson, in my opinion.
4. Bryce Harper has made a lot of noise for both his performances on the field and some of his antics. How are fans reacting to the youngsters behavior and do they want him to tone it down or as long as he produces he can act how he wants?
Some of the “antics” that came about last year when he was in the minor leagues didn’t exactly paint a very positive picture of the young phenom, but for the most he’s been the model citizen since arriving in Washington and has shown a maturity in interviews that most did not expect. That has won a lot of fans over. The thing that got me, the hustle on the field. The way this kid plays the game is just … the right way. He hustles on every play and it’s fun to watch. If he keeps doing that, I’m ok with him getting a little over zealous and excited once in awhile.
5. We’ve heard the name John Lannan involved in trade rumors for months now. Do you see Lannan being dealt by July 31 and if so give us your best guess as to where and what the club might be looking for in return?
The Lannan situation has been a tricky one to decipher. Multiple teams, including the Red Sox, have been rumored to have some interest in him over the past two months but no deal has ever come close to fruition. Everyone always seems to cite the money still owed to Lannan (roughly $3.5 Million as of June 1st) as a sticking point. The Washington organization seems willing to eat the salary remaining, in my opinion, so I think the sticking point is really what they are asking for from another organization. Usually in trades like this, the more salary a team is willing to eat, the better the prospect they’ll ask for in return. I’m guessing Mike Rizzo and Co. are merely asking for too much in return and that’s held up any true talks from developing. The other part of the problem has been Lannan’s performance at Triple-A, which has been average at best. He’s been highly inconsistent, isn’t striking batters out, and one has to wonder if the frustration is starting to get to him mentally. I do think that Lannan ends up getting moved – to where all depends on what team suffers the latest injury that causes a need for added depth – but Washington won’t be getting much in return for him. And for the record, he doesn’t end up in Boston.
6. Finally, which players should Red Sox fans keep an eye on as to who could break the game open at any given moment?
Fans sitting in right field at Fenway Park might want to bring a glove. Harper and others could take aim at the short porch there. Steve Lombardozzi has been a big asset over the past few weeks, adding some much-needed stability atop the lineup. Michael Morse has returned, but his timing hasn’t been there just yet. If he can figure things out he could take advantage of the dimensions at Fenway. Ian Desmond might also be worth watching, as he’s been Mr. Clutch for the Nationals more than once this season.