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ACHIEVING THE POSSIBLE

[April 10th] -- There weren't many certainties heading into the 2008 season for the Washington Nationals. About the only one was a guarantee that they weren't - weren't - going to start the season 1-8 and thoroughly embarrass both themselves and their fans.

And they didn't. After nine games, they're 3-6.

Much, much better. Good job, guys.

Seriously, globally, the Nationals have yet to make me want to push the panic button. Individually, however, there are some concerns. Why is it, for example, that Jason Bergman can look like Bob Gibson for the first four innings and Hoot Gibson thereafter? And is Austin Kearns ever going to become a powerful right-fielder? Come August, they could ultimately become two of the Nationals' best players. I'm just saying ......

Each year, all of us take a look at the team's roster and predict what could happen. The problem is that our predictions are based on what the players could do and not what they probably will do. For example, here was my predictions for the '69 Senators (I know, I gotta start throwing some of this stuff away):

1B: Mike Epstein - .285-25-100

2b: Bernie Allen - .260-7-50

SS: Eddie Brinkman - .240-5-45

3B: Kenny McMullen - .260-25-90

LF: Frank Howard - .300-40-100

CF: Del Unser - .285-8-60

RF: Hank Allen - .277-13-65

C: Paul Cassanova - .250-8-45

No one prediction was off by much, yet as a group, these players (with Lee Maye replacing Hank Allen in right) really didn't come close because I assumed the best case scenario for each player. Now, take a look at my predictions for this year:

1B: Nick Johnson - .285-20-80

2B: Ronnie Belliard - .280-13-60

SS: Cristian Guzman - .270-5-45

3B: Ryan Zimmerman - .300-30-100

LF: Wily Mo Pena / Elijah Dukes - .270-25-90

CF: Lastings Milledge - .285-23-85

RF: Austin Kearns - .265-24-85

C: LoDuca / Estrada - .270-12-55

Again, each individual prediction seems reasonable, but as a group, I've probably guessed too high. Come October, three of these guys will probably do better, three will do worse, and two will do about what I figured.

And if that happens, the Nationals aren't going to have a great season.

Around the Minors: Michael Burgess his hitting just .200 for Hagerstown but has already hit two homers. He's struck out 9 times in 20 at-bats (ouch!). Bill Rhinehart continues to surprise. After hitting .299-5-43 for Vermont last season, he's at .318-1-6 in 22 at-bats for the Suns. The problem is Rhinehart is the same age as Ryan Zimmerman and is still playing 'A' ball. Andrew LeFave (also 23), obtained in the Ray King trade last year, is hitting just .083 in 2008. He has a career .348 career average in two minor league seasons.


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