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RELIVING THE MOMENT

[December 21st] -- As strange as this may sound, I don't have a thing to say this morning, so I thought it might be fun to relive "the" defining moment for Ryan Zimmerman's rookie season, his 9th inning blast against the Yankees that won the game for the Nationals, 3-2.

Hope it brings back warm memories for you as well.

[June 18th] -- The outcome of Sunday's game against the New York Yankees underscores and emphasizes why I have been using my blog to beg the Nationals to trade their veteran players for kids. It's not about payroll, it's about intensity.

Had that long, game-winning home run been hit by a multi-millionaire, he would have stood at the plate and admired his blast, then jogged around the bases slowly before touching the plate with his big tow. "Been there, done that" would be the body language of the veteran.

Not Zimmerman.

the Nats' 21 year old rookie swung at Chien-Ming Wang's first pitch - a fastball over the plate but a tad inside - and drove it high and deep towards those bush-league banners in left center field. He knew it was gone the minute he hit it, but started running towards towards first without stopping to appreciate his blast. He pumped his fist in the air as he rounded first, flipped his helmet after passing third, and leaped high into the air as he reached home plate, falling commandingly into his teammate's waiting arms. Nats win! Nats win! Zimmerman, 300 at bats into his major league career, is now an all-around star for the Nationals. I've got to be honest, a month into the season, I was beginning to worry about him, that he might actually have to spend some time in New Orleans this summer. He kept striking out on outside breaking balls, and his batting average, hovering near .245 for most of the young season, had dipped to a low of .229. Since then, however, he has been the Nats most consistent hitter. Not the best, to be sure; he hasn't had any of those "hot streaks" that Alfonso Soriano, Jose Vidro and Nick Johnson have had.

That said, neither has he had any of their "cold streaks" that are difficult to watch. At this rate, he'll hit near .290, whack close to 25 home runs, and drive in far more than 100 RBI's for 2006 despite batting in the number six hole in the lineup for the first part of the season.

And now's he a hero too.

Mike O'Connor - who would never have had the opportunity to pitch in Washington if Brian Lawrence and Pedro Astascio not been injured - is another reason that a youth movment won't be as painful as some may think. This was an important game for the rookie. After throwing his first bad game of the year in his last start against the Rockies, he needed to prove that his first eight starts were the rule, and his last start the exception. No sweat -- the kid came through. In seven innings, O'Connor baffled super-stars and future hall-of-famers with his 85 mph fastball and that looping, drooping curve ball. He struck out five and walked three, allowing just four hits. He allowed one earned run to lower his ERA to 3.43, but I don't see how that run was earned. Rodriguez doubled and reached third on a wild pitch, then scored on a sacrifice fly to right fielder Jose Guillen. If O'Connor doesn't throw that wild pitch, Rodriguez never scores -- that fly ball to Guillen waould have been nothing more than the second out of the inning. In fact, I don't see how it was even a "wild pitch," as the ball was no more than a foot outside. More likely, Fick was expecting an off speed pitch and couldn't catch the fastball that bounced off his glove. I hope the official scorer takes another look changes the call to "unearned."

I was stunned to see Yankees' manager Joe Torre send Chien-Ming Wang back out to pitch the 9th inning. I have to assume that he didn't trust his under-performing relievers, and his performing relievers were too tired to go into the game. And it's a shame, too. Wang has shown he is a solid major league pitcher, and shouldn't have been put into that position -- either he win's or he gets a "no decision." I'm sure that those warm-and-fuzzy Big Apple journalists are going to give Torre a "pass" for his decision. Right?

And for you anti-youth movement readers (and most of you seem to be just that), may I point out that the Florida Marlins, who couldn't beat a drum earlier this season, have now won eight games in a row and are only a half-game back of the Nationals for third place. Even weirder (more weird?), the Atlanta Braves are in last place.

Go figure.


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