So how long do we get to enjoy this lofty perch, looking down upon all four of our hated rivals? The prognosis is good, at least for the very near future. As Basil points out at Nationals Inquirer, the Nats have plowed through a very difficult schedule so far, putting us at third in ESPN's RPI ranking. The NL East may not have a great team, but it's also patsy-free -- there aren't any Rockies or Royals or Yankees for everyone to beat up on. Yet the Nats have held their own, with a .500 record against each one of our divisional pals except Atlanta, against whom we're 6-3. And things are about to get easier. The vagaries of interleague play pit the NL East vs. the AL West this year, and we get to start off with the softies: Oakland (23-33) and Seattle (24-31) at home. Meanwhile, the Braves have the first place Angels, and Philadelphia gets the surprisingly tough Rangers. Florida gets first crack at Seattle, but I expect them to stumble around for a while after getting clobbered at RFK. As Eddie Jordan might say, we have to harvest our nuts right now. We need to stuff them into our cheeks and hide them in the tree, staying vigilant for the deadly owl . . . hey, this metaphor is broken -- can I have a new one? The point is that the Nats have a prime opportunity to put some meat on this division lead.
Sometimes I don't get Jim Bowden. Jose Guillen is getting rave reviews for his performance and his attitude. Brad Wilkerson leads the league in doubles. Ryan Church was named Rookie of the Month for May and is making a serious case for Rookie of the Year. Marlon Byrd provides speed, defense, and invaluable umpire intimidation. But Bodes keeps looking for an outfielder. Ken Rosenthal:
Nationals general manager Jim Bowden nearly stole outfielder Juan Encarnacion from the Marlins for righthander Zach Day, but the trade was quashed when an MRI revealed that Day had a hairline fracture of the right wrist. Undaunted, Bowden continues his quest for a righthanded-hitting outfielder, targeting the Rockies' Preston Wilson, the A's Eric Byrnes, the Devil Rays' Aubrey Huff and the Rangers' Kevin Mench, among others. Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi jokes that Bowden calls him once a week about Vernon Wells.I've voiced my dissatisfaction with Encarnacion and Wilson before. It's unclear that Byrnes, Huff, or Mench would improve matters -- at most, a minor offensive upgrade would be cancelled out by weaker defense and heavier expense. Vernon Wells is great, but it sounds like Ricciardi isn't taking Bowden very seriously. Our current outfield is flexible, cheap, and effective, so what's the problem, Bodes?
Once again I've been remiss. Nationalz.com has been in the blog game since November but somehow escaped my notice until just recently. So go over there and tell 'em Ryan sent you. I want everyone to know what a buzz machine I am.