Last year, he couldn't hold onto the leadoff spot -- one he acquiesced to Wilkerson -- because he walked just 30 times in 547 plate appearances, a horrific rate. He hit .277 and stole 32 bases, but it hardly mattered, because his on-base percentage was just .318, including an unforgivable .291 when batting first. The result: He scored just 65 runs. This year, the goal has been clearly stated. The Nationals want Chavez to score 100 times. Doesn't matter how. Just think that way. Make it happen.That's right, a sports reporter for a major newspaper just said a good batting average and stolen base total "hardly mattered" because of a poor on-base percentage and walk rate. And this after he provided an intelligent, honest analysis of the two versions of Vinny Castilla. The Times routinely scooped the hell out of the Post in the pre-Nats months, but the Post might have a leg up now.
Inning-Endy is the only Nats starter whose job is in danger. Everybody wants him to get to on base more, and I don't see it happening. He's not a young guy, at least by baseball standards - 27 this year - and it's unlikely that he's going to turn into Wade Boggs at this point. And remember this: Endy is out of favor for his bad OBP on a team that obviously doesn't care much about OBP. Jose Guillen and Vinny Castilla are both high-power, low-patience hitters, but Jim Bowden liked their approach enough to acquire their services. Cristian Guzman can't get on base or hit for power (though he is speedy and has good makeup, according to the former Executive of the Year). Being known for your lack of patience on this team is like being known as the wussy one at a Cure concert.
I don't think Endy would be even the nominal starter if management had confidence in any of the alternatives. Capitol Punishment has a thorough run-down of the guys fighting for the last few spots on the bench. I like Ryan Church (whom I'm going to call Soul Patch until I get tired of it), but it all comes down to who has options left. In other words, if the Nats can send a player down to the minors without losing him, they probably will. That means Church and infielder Brendan Harris, both major league-ready and not getting any younger, stay south while the rest of the team comes to D.C. and forms like Voltron, so the best guy to beat out Inning-Endy will be wasting time in AAA. New Orleans might have a pretty good team this year, at least until Guillen starts a fistfight with Frank Robinson and Jose Vidro gets destroyed trying to turn a double play.
Worth reading: former ESPN minor leagues expert John Sickels has his list of the Nationals' top prospects.
After that you have three position players that I like, Broadway, Harris, and Church. I don't see any of them as stars, but rather solid contributors."Solid contributor" is prospect-talk for "better than Endy."
Here's something you won't hear me say often: Yay Phillies!
Del Unser and Mickey Vernon will throw out ceremonial first balls when the Phillies begin the 2005 season against the Washington Nationals, the National League's newest team.
Unser, a member of the 1980 World Series champion Phillies, will throw out the first ball at Philadelphhia's home opener on April 4 at Citizens Bank Park.
Unser, 60, was the right fielder in the Senators' final game on Sept. 30, 1971, at RFK Stadium. In that game, the Senators led the Yankees, 7-5, with two outs in the top of the ninth inning when many of the 14,460 fans stormed the field. The game was eventually forfeited to the Yankees.
Vernon, one of the Senators' greatest players, will throw out the first pitch before the April 6 game, at 7:05 p.m. ET.
Born and raised in Delaware County, Vernon won two batting titles in Washington, in 1946 (.352) and 1953 (.337). A seven-time American League All-Star first baseman, Vernon played most of his 20 seasons with the Senators.
He managed the Senators during the 1961-62 seasons and through 40 games of the 1963 campaign.
The Phillies managed to find a couple of worthy fellows with ties to both teams. They deserve credit for honoring their own history while at the same time welcoming Washington back to the majors.