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The Road To Kissimmee, The Road Back

Within the next few days, the mileage ticker on the rental Mazda is gonna get a serious workout. Washington still has 13 exhibition games remaining. Only three are in Viera. That's caused some grumbling among players -- especially the swing that begins in April: Dunedin... Clearwater... Norfolk, Va... DC -- but today, we're just heading to Kissimmee, about an hour away. John Lannan takes the mound. Pudge Rodriguez will be debuting for the Astros.

In the meantime, you can take a glimpse at the dead tree story, something of an update on Nick Johnson's progress. I'm intrigued by what he's going through right now -- trying to regain his stroke after so much time away. The prevailing theory among baseball people I've talked to seems to be that injuries/time missed does NOT erode natural hitting ability, especially if those injuries are not career threatening or altering to the physique.

Oft-injured players like Paul Molitor and Kirk Gibson and Nomar Garciaparra tended to remain very consistent, statistically, so long as they were on the field. (Those are just a few examples.) But again, none of those players ever had such a hole in his record. Maybe the ultimate recent example of recovering the hitting ability is Josh Hamilton, who was out of baseball as he battled drug addiction. But Hamilton's natural gifts, by most accounts, are superlative, which probably puts him in a percentile where comparisons with Johnson become dangerous.

But even players coming back from more serious injuries than Johnson's have still pulled it off. Boswell mentions former Dodger Tommy Davis, NL batting champ in 1962 and 1963, who endured a gruesome ankle injury in May of 1965. His next full season back, 1967, he hit. 302. Wasn't quite the same player, but not because he lost his ability to hit.

Good historical comparisons for Nick? Anybody else care to provide nominations?

By Chico Harlan  |  March 22, 2009; 7:40 AM ET
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Next: Today's Lineup Vs. Astros


Another guy I think about is Rico Carty. He was a guy who had tremendous seasons when younger but then had a 5-6 year stretch where he just couldn't stay healthy (knee problems). He remained a productive offensive player throughout his career, hitting .280/31/99 at the age of 38 in 1976 when he finally put together healthy seasons again. The bad news though is that he did it as a DH, maybe the best path for Johnson. His stats are below.


Posted by: db423 | March 22, 2009 8:07 AM | Report abuse

Here's a comparison...Tony Conigliaro..On August 18, 1967, the Red Sox were playing the California Angels at Fenway Park. Conigliaro, batting against Jack Hamilton, was hit by a pitch on his left cheekbone, and was carried off the field on a stretcher. He sustained a broken cheekbone and severe damage to his left retina.

A year and a half later, Conigliaro made a remarkable return, hitting 20 homers with 82 RBI in 141 games, earning Comeback Player of the Year honors. In 1970, he reached career-high numbers in HRs (36) and RBI (116).

Posted by: Favman | March 22, 2009 8:17 AM | Report abuse

Not from injury but significant time away I have to think back to the World War II era when Ted Williams and Hank Greenberg both left in their prime for several years to return to form.

As you look at career records and losing all those statistical years from the record books and possible single season records, these 2 gave up a lot to Serve our great Country.

Hank Greenberg left for over 4 full years at the age of 30 for World War II. At the age of 35 in Greenberg's 1st full season back he hit 44 HRs!! His time away during his prime almost certainly cost him from making the 500 HR club.

Ted Williams left for almost 3 years at the age of 24 and came back and hit .342 in his 1st season back. His time away cost him well over 600 HRs (still ended up with 521 career HRs).

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | March 22, 2009 8:31 AM | Report abuse

Nick is not just coming back from injury. Eckstein has him learning a new way to hit. It's a double-whammy.

Posted by: fischy | March 22, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

From the Washingtonian article, titled "Harlan Would Rather Write About the Real Hot Dogs"

Harlan - "I don't like sports, I'm embarrassed that I cover them. I can't wait to stop. It's a means to an end and a paycheck."

Why don't you quit Chico? You are driving the Nat’s journal and baseball coverage at the WP into the ground anyway.

I cannot believe the WP would permit a writer to publicly show disdain for his beat and the interests of its readers.

For the second time D.C. sports fans are chanting "Fire Hanlon". Unfortunately Chico probably doesn't know enough about D.C. sports to know of the first.

Posted by: thom202 | March 22, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Sorry Chico but when you earn your paychecks by covering sports, publicly declaring that you are embarrassed to be associated with them is about as dumb as the President making Special Olympics jokes. You might want to move on sooner rather than later as these quotes are bound to be reposted all season long.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | March 22, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Rico Carty also developed TB in the late 1960's.

What's all this about Chico and a Washingtonian article? I'm in Idaho and haven't heard about any of this.

Posted by: rushfari | March 22, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse


... as a regular NJ participant, I would respectfully request you provide a URL where these alledged comments can be found. Until then, maybe a little less 'biting the hand that feeds ...' is in order.

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 22, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

I'll take the cigarette and blindfold with Chico. I think he has done an excellent job, constantly improving from a buppy start last year to some really memorable pieces this year. He posts at an incredible rate.
Although I guess at some level I wish he thought like me, I judge him by his product not by his desires.

Fire away but then.....

Let's play two!

Posted by: SlowPitch63 | March 22, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

I think GGG and Chico both have pegged the standard for comebacks in mentioning the WWII experience.
I'm impressed with how hard Johnson is working and choose to be optimistic about his future hitting.
Now if he could just practice being healthy...

Let's play two!

Posted by: SlowPitch63 | March 22, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

I wish I could but Washingtonian doesn't put all their content online. You'll have to go to the newsstand. It is in this months magazine.

Posted by: thom202 | March 22, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I keep coming back to the Chico's statement as quoted by thom202. I believe we ought to celebrate diversity. Judge the individual by the product or sevice that they produce and, of course, "by the content of their characters" and not by their race, gender, orientation, or secret desires.
I, also, have taken a pay check as a means to an end, but I have tried to provide my employer with the best of which I am capable.
That doesn't mean I wouldn't bolt for a multi-million dollar contrat to play senior softball, but those are so thin on the ground.
The wisdom of stating desires is another issue entirely.

I still want to play two!

Posted by: SlowPitch63 | March 22, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

I need an editor.
In posts above it should be pumppy instaed of buppy and contract instead of contact.
Are there any hedge fund managers out there who secretly want to edit posts from spelling challenged seniors?

Let's play two!

Posted by: SlowPitch63 | March 22, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Some one else post and save me from myself.

Let's play two!

Posted by: SlowPitch63 | March 22, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

... not all of us have local (DC) media readily or even possibly available. Therefore, without a cross-reference, I am still a bit sceptical about even the existence of such a report.

... that said, however, I am quite familiar with journalism and journalists. I live in very close proximity to one, and at arms length to half a dozen more. I understand that it is the role of a journalist to write about, not to cheerlead for any given issue or community. Indeed we would be in a sorry state if the only people who wrote and reported about the Washington Nationals were those people whose first (or worse, only) attribute was that they were fans. Heaven help us. We need, whether we know it or not, people who can write, who are journalists, to do the reporting for us. As fans, we are supposed to be mature enough, adult enough to decipher what those reports tell us - for ourselves. We live vicariously through their reports, not through their own personal opinions.

... thankfully the Post has provided us with a beat 'writer', not a surrogate fan.

"News is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; all the rest is
advertising." - Lord Northcliffe, British Newspaper Baron

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 22, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

You guys are real toadies. Resorting to race, gender, and FUD to avoid the core issue. Ditch the personal attacks and appeals to authority.

The regulars who used to be around here post less because the quality of coverage has declined. Chico is mailing it in.

From the Washingtonian article, titled "Harlan Would Rather Write About the Real Hot Dogs"

Harlan - "I don't like sports, I'm embarrassed that I cover them. I can't wait to stop. It's a means to an end and a paycheck."

Posted by: thom202 | March 22, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

One thing about the time gap...HAVE HIM TAKE A THOUROUGH EYE EXAM WITH A PREMIUM OPTHAMOLOGIST IMMEDIATELY! Look at what vision improvement did for Guzman! Imagine what some small deterioration in his vision might do to a selective hitter like Nick.

Posted by: angusgoodson | March 22, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse


Are you sure those comments weren't maybe taken out of context?

If I remember correctly, when Chico first took over for Barry last year, he stated he was a HS baseball player and that he was a big fan of the Pirates and Steelers growing up in Western PA.

Maybe he was joking with the interviewer, and said that he was embarrassed that he actually got paid to write about sports, which he loves.

Until I hear from Chico on the subject I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, something you obviously aren't willing to do.

Posted by: Section505203 | March 22, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Stop by a newsstand. Read the article. I suspect it will remove any doubt.

Chico will have to address it eventually. Expressing open disdain for your day job in a rival or at least another local publication is a career limiting move.

Posted by: thom202 | March 22, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

>I wish I could but Washingtonian doesn't put all their content online. You'll have to go to the newsstand. It is in this months magazine

Oh just type it up and copy it onto here. Who cares about copyright violations? Better yet, post it on BPG. Anybody that's primitive enough to run off at the mouth like that deserves what he gets. It's the old 'sports is intellectually beneath me' routine, like the snickering, finger-pointing geek that sits on the sidelines while the jocks get the chicks. I guess if he figures he can watch enough games, he'll figure out what it is he's watching and there's nothing left to learn. This is where having played a sport enhances your enjoyment and understanding of it. Every game is different, that's why they play them. Organized sports is one of the hallmarks of an evolved society - you can break society's rules during the game, but then dust yourself off and shake the opponent's hand afterwards. I know one thing that sports brings that geeks never really understand - and that's the team concept - let's say you have a rotten game, but your team still wins. Then let's say you have a great game, and your team loses. Which situation has more meaning? How does that change the way you look at others? How does that enhance your ability to be less narcissistic, and probably more successful in the long run? It's because a geek isn't generally looking at others as someone they can meld with, but only as opposition to their individual goals. We don't need someone pandering to us. We have real jobs and look at this mostly as enjoyment. Unfortunately, your job is part of our enjoyment. Nobody cares what some 26 year old thinks about his job.

Posted by: Brue | March 22, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Well said.

I'm one who disagreed with you. Does this make me a toadie, whatever that may be? I spoke of diversity, the most important being point of view in my opinion. I have not attacked you personally, nor will I. If it some how contributes to your quality of life to attack me, feel free.

Let's play two!

Posted by: SlowPitch63 | March 22, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

"You guys are real toadies."

... er, ... what's a 'toadie'?

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 22, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse


The article exists - there's a brief blub about it from Kristen on We've Got Heart.


CHarlan may not be the happiest camper in Viera, but I don't consider the majority of his writing as "mailing it in". His game reports & player pieces of late have been solid, imo. That being said, I would like to see more pieces on the Hispanic & Black players on the roster.

I haven't read the article, but wonder about the context of the piece, overall. Was it a Q&A, or more of a conversational string over a single (or series) of meetings?

Posted by: BinM | March 22, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

To imply that holding an individual accountable for their public statements is somehow undermining “diversity”, and is equivalent to judging “by their race, gender, orientation, or secret desires” is hyperbole with a thinly veiled personal insult. Much worse in my book to the presumption that comes with implying information is simply false until personally observed.

I have attributed a quote to a publicly available source. I have no intention of being goaded into violating copyright laws or laboring to type in the entire article. Purchase it from the newsstand and support a place providing insight into the media in D.C.

The toadies comment may have gone to far but between the ad hominem and argumentum ad verecundiam; I was rather annoyed.

A definition of “toadies” can be found here:

Posted by: thom202 | March 22, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

So I'm
A person who flatters or defers to others for self-serving reasons; a sycophant.

I have niether thinly nor thickly veiled any attack on you. I disagreed with you. I'm not sure what self-serving reasons you see in my posts. I think Chico does a good job. You don't. I doubt if he could pick either one of out of a line up.
I meant no offense but you took offense.
So be it

Posted by: SlowPitch63 | March 22, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

If no offense is intended, no offense is taken. I do believe there are inconsistencies between your intentions and how they are manifested in your writing.

Like I said, the toadies’ remark probably went to far. I do stand by that arguments made consisted hyperbole, strawmen, ad hominem and argumentum ad verecundiam.

Posted by: thom202 | March 22, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: thom202 | March 22, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

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