[April 11th] -- John Tudor was a pretty darn good major league pitcher. He won 117 games over twelve seasons with a very sharp 3.27 ERA. I was living in St. Louis when he was traded to the Cardinals from the Pirates in a four player trade that featured George Hendrick going to Pittsburgh. Though I thought it a good trade, I saw Tudor nothing more than a #3 pitcher. Over the previous two seasons, he went 25-23 with an ERA in the mid threes. I expected another near .500 effort in 1985. When he began the year 1-7, 4.40, I figured the 30 year old just wasn't that good. Cardinal fans were screaming for Whitey Herzog to get him out of the starting rotation. The St. Louis Cardinals were just too good for him.
Then something interesting happened. He found the flaw that was causing the problem and fixed it. Over the remainder of the season, Tudor went 20-1, 1.44, and led the Cardinals into the World Series against the Kansas City Royals. In his last five seasons (injuries cut short his career), the southpaw went 44-18, 2.78. In his first six years, he was just 69-54, 48-46 if you don't count that turnaround year in 1985.
The point is, he showed no real promise early in his career; he was a .500 pitcher and looked like he would always be just that. Then he had some sort of epiphany, and he finished his career as one of the best pitchers in the Major Leagues.
Right now, the Nationals have a couple of starting pitchers - Matt Chico & Jason Bergman - who are underwhelming Nationals' fans. Both have shown flashes of competency over their short careers, and could "get it" at some point and fix those faults that make them only pseudo-effective. Or they both will end up having careers where 12-11, 4.40 years are the norm and are welcomed by the Nationals. For now, that kind of production works. In the future, when the team matures and is finally ready to contend, it may not be enough. We'll just have to wait and see.
In 2005, the Nationals had only one or two minor league pitchers that anyone thought had much of a chance to make an impact with the big club. A quick glance this morning found 14 pitchers who could make a difference: Ross Detwiler, Colin Balestar, Jack McGeary, Josh Smoker, Jordan Zimmermann, Colton Willems, Tyler Clippard, Garrett Mock, Mike O'Connor (I still like him), Shairon Martis, Jhonny Nunez, Adrian Alaniz, Hassan Pena and Cole Kimball. If just 30% of prospects (real prospects) become solid major leaguers, then the Nationals have 4-5 starters that will take their place in the Nationals' - or someone else's via a trade - rotation.
The Nationals are going to be just fine. Shawn Hill, Bergman, Chico, Odalis Perez and Tim Redding are good enough for now. In time, we'll be able to tell if any of them will be like John Tudor and turn an average career into a stellar one. It'll hurt on the field until we all find out, but after all, none of us expected that much from these guys this year. 75 wins. 85 wins. Somewhere in between. Three years from now, no one will remember, and no one will care.
Stay the course.
Now, while I'm not worried about the wins and losses, I must admit that the 15,000 or so empty seats the last few games is bothersome. Those same whispers about Washington not being a baseball town that we hear today were around forty years ago. I can remember dozens of games in the late 1960's where the attendance at RFK was 7,000 or less. So after losing two teams in ten years, yes, I am a little skittish when it comes to fannies in the seats. With a new stadium and a long lease, the team isn't going anywhere. That said, I don't want us to become a Cincinnati type team with a moderate payroll and inability to keep our free agents because we don't draw well.
fFrankly, I was worried that the Nationals wouldn't be able to draw any more than 35,000 fans a night to watch the Marlins play. I hope - I pray - that the Braves series will average at least 30,000 per game.
The Nationals try to stop a seven game losing streak tonight. Against Tim Hudson. Change of waking up tomorrow morning and finding the Nationals 3-8? Oh, I dunno -- 75%?