The 2007 All-Stars Against The Nationals
So with the all-star teams to be announced on Sunday, and with Dmitri Young as the Nationals' clear choice, I got to thinking about the Nationals' own all-star team. No, not some group of former Nats that might make good all-stars (aside from Soriano, are there any?).
Rather, this would be the guys who, over the first half of the season, have killed the Nationals. As Washington develops as a baseball town - and you guys are obviously ahead of the curve, and you can help me out here - we'll be able to identify "Nationals Killers", guys who might be average against everyone else but seem to just throttle your home-town boys. You become infatuated with them. I remember when Joe Carter was with Cleveland, it felt like he hit two homers every game against the Red Sox (when I had a rooting interest in that outfit). I think a few guys on this list qualify already (I'll let y'all pick). Usually would be in the same division, etc., so you're real, real familiar with (read: sick of) them.
Much like selecting the actual all-star teams, this isn't a scientific survey, and it's actually probably weighted in favor of guys who played the Nats for just three games and were particularly hot then (see: Ordonez, Magglio), but I'll take into consideration their overall seasons (where it's convenient for me) as well as their lifetime performance against Washington (where it's convenient for me).
A position-by-position breakdown:
C - Brian McCann, Atlanta (12 games, .308 average, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 1.149 OPS)
Don't you get the feeling you're going to be seeing this guy in your nightmares for, say, the next decade. He clubbed two homers in the three-game series that just ended, drove in all four runs the Braves got in the first game, broke up Bergmann's no-hitter with a solo homer in the eighth at RFK. Feels like a life-time Nationals killer.
1B - Albert Pujols, St. Louis (3 games, .667 average, 1 HR, 1 RBI)
Certainly not Pujols type run-production numbers, and he's hurt by just playing three games against Washington. But he went 8 for 12 with a double, a homer and a walk in those three games, proving that it's the same for the Nationals as it is for the rest of the league - he's tough to retire.
2B - Dan Uggla, Florida (9 games, .293 average, 3 HR, 9 RBI, .659 slugging)
Like McCann, this guy could throttle the Nats - and the league - for years. He hit a monstrous upper deck homer in the opening series of the year. He has more doubles against the Nationals (6) than any other player this year. Nine of his 12 hits against Washington are for extra bases.
3B - Miguel Cabrera, Florida (7 games, .345 average, 3 HR, 7 RBI, .531 OBP, .826 slugging)
This was probably the toughest category, but there can only be one starter. Chipper Jones just drove in four runs on Wednesday, and he has three homers and nine RBI against the Nats in nine games. But Cabrera gets the nod because he was simply scary in that three-game set to open the season. Plus, nine walks. Nats faced him 31 times, he got on base 16 times. Yikes.
SS - Hanley Ramirez, Florida (9 games, .395/.465/.684, 13 runs scored)
Edgar Renteria of the Braves (more runs (14) and hits (17) than any player against the Nationals) makes a good run here. But I like Ramirez as a player, he's got a longer career ahead of him in which he's likely to torment Washington, and I figure he could be the starting shortstop on the All-Stars-Against-the-Nationals for years to come. Thirteen hits in nine games. Detroit's Carlos Guillen - three games, two homers, seven RBI, 1.083 slugging - makes a run, too.
OF - Magglio Ordonez, Detroit (3 games, 7 for 10, seven runs, 3 RBI)
This has more to do with Ordonez's season overall - and my own fascination with it - than his statistical merits (though I would argue that hitting .700 is a pretty good average). With the way the Tigers smothered the Nationals, it's probably worth having one Detroit player on there, no? I'm a supporter of Ordonez for A.L. MVP right now. I know A-Rod's got better pure numbers in a lot of categories, but watch this guy. Man.
OF - Andruw Jones, Atlanta (12 games, 3 HR, 12 RBI)
Yes, he's hitting only .200 against the Nats. Then again, he's hitting only .200 against everybody, isn't he? But I acquiesce to his overall career accomplishments against Washington. Since baseball returned here in 2005, no one has hit more homers against the Nats than Andruw (15), and his three-run shot Tuesday basically sealed a 6-2 Braves' win. This guy doesn't seem to hit meaningless blasts against Washington, either. He could be hitting .051 and the Nationals would need to fear him. No one has more RBI against the Nationals this year.
OF - Terrmel Sledge, San Diego (5 games, .500/.611/.929)
I'll admit to some sentimentality here, but why not? The guy hit the first home run in Nationals' history, back in April 2005 at Philadelphia. He was part of the deal that brought Soriano here. And though he had only 18 plate appearances against the Nats in the Padres' six games against Washington, he hit a homer, walked four times, drove in three runs and hit three doubles. That's enough for me.
Starting pitcher - Tim Hudson, Atlanta (3-0, 0.86 ERA in three starts)
In talking to some of the Nationals' hitters, they just have no fun against Hudson. The only hope is that he's up in the zone, where his ball flattens out a bit. But if he's keeping his sinker low, it's over, because he's also got a cutter/slider that breaks the opposite way. Against rest of baseball, Hudson is 3-4 with a 3.86 ERA. (Pssst. Sounds like a "Nationals Killer" to me.)
Reliever - Francisco Cordero, Milwaukee (3 saves in 3 opportunities)
Yes, Cordero gave up a meaningless run in the Brewers' three-game sweep of the Nationals in Milwaukee in May, a sweep that finished off an eight-game losing streak. But this was at a time when the Nationals were just one big hit away from getting some wins, and Cordero wouldn't allow it. Atlanta's Bob Wickman is also 3 for 3 in save opportunities against the Nats, but they came over the course of 12 games. Plus, when they play that intimidating closer music for Wickman at Turner Field, then show his lumpy body up on the immense scoreboard in center field, I get the feeling some really scary plumber or refrigerator repairman is taking the mound.
Of the 2007 All-Stars-Against-the-Nationals, only Sledge and Ordonez are done with Washington this year. McCann, Pujols, Uggla, Ramirez, Cabrera, A. Jones, Hudson and Cordero all have shots at securing or frittering away their spots on the year-ending team.
Three games in Pittsburgh beginning tonight. Sunday's game marks the 81-game point - the halfway mark. A true point for reflection, and I intend to reflect, introspect, etc.
I'll get you lineups when I get to PNC Park (my second-favorite new ballpark behind San Francisco). But for now, in the theme of this threat, discuss who you would least like to see up against, say, Chad Cordero, Nats up 4-3, bottom of the ninth at the new ballpark, runners on second and third with two outs.
(And by the way, anyone coming out to National Aiport today: It's mayhem. Forgot what it's like traveling from DC in the summer on a Friday. Total chaos (though US Air 1901 to Pittsburgh appears to be on time). Be warned.)
June 29, 2007; 6:18 AM ET
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