So that “Natinals” thing across Adam Dunn’s Washington uniform this past week?
That wasn’t a misspelling. That was an alias.
Membership on the Washington National League team right now would make any player try to pretend otherwise. Firsthand exposure to the Nats shows that ex-General Manager Jim Bowden has left another franchise in tatters, at least in the short-term. The outfield is a defensive mess, the infield wobbly, and the ace of the pitching staff makes his second major league start tomorrow.
Elijah Dukes nearly got himself killed on David Wright’s first-inning fly ball at CitiField this afternoon. Sunglasses still perched atop his cap, Dukes missed catching the ball by about three inches, and missed getting conked in the noggin by the same measurement. The presumed good news is that if Lastings Milledge was still playing center for Washington, the ball would’ve landed 40 feet behind him.
Dukes’ glasses were down in time for him to see, but not catch, Daniel Murphy’s fading fly in the sixth. Dukes slid, and the ball hit him in the glove. Murphy was credited with a single, presumably because, given how he plays the outfield, Dukes’ glove is considered part of the field of play, and not an actual piece of equipment.
Even Nick Johnson threw away a Mike Pelfrey sacrifice bunt in the third, and just for good measure back-up catcher Wil Nieves tried to gun down David Wright by throwing the ball to Dukes in the sixth. Starter Daniel Cabrera gave up five runs – only one earned, though the six hits and four walks were his problem.
This is not to say the Nationals are hopeless. No one who has seen him doubts Jordan Zimmermann is the real thing, and even with only Dunn to protect him, Ryan Zimmerman went 2-for-5 and was robbed of a third hit only by a Daniel Murphy slide that actually worked. Jesus Flores is one of the game’s most unsung two-way receivers, and Joel Hanrahan may have straightened himself out.
One of the intriguing questions facing new GM Mike Rizzo and the able and somehow-still-sane manager Manny Acta is whether or not to offload some of their supply of generic, identical outfielders (the A) Austin Kearns, Josh Willingham kind, and the b) Dukes, Lastings Milledge kind) and give Justin Maxwell a serious look in center. The recuperating former top prospect smoked a Brian Stokes fastball in the ninth off the top of the wall in right-center (in any other park it would have been an easy and a frightening homer). On the off-chance that Dukes might be convinced to pay attention and handle leftfield, and accepting Dunn as a necessity in the line-up, why not try Maxwell in center, and see if anybody wants any of the others.
The current Nats are going nowhere, and as the stories of Flores, Zimmerman, Zimmermann, and Hanrahan suggest, Acta and his coaching staff seem to be able to draw quick results out of younger, more focused players.†
THERE’S BEEN A WILBUR HUCKLE SIGHTING
Well, not really, but his name came up on the field before the Mets and Nats played, and it permits me to address the dumbest of my Dumb Obsessions, and solicit your help.
Huckle was one of the two earliest products of the Met farm system to be summoned to the majors, from the low minors, in September, 1963. The other, Cleon Jones, was absolutely overmatched (.133 in six games). But Huckle fared far worse. A shortstop, he didn’t get into a single game, and never got another chance. His remaining claim to fame would be as Tom Seaver’s first professional roomate (Seaver said he never saw him awake, not once in any hotel room they shared – Huckle was an early riser who was dedicated to long walks at dawn).
I had heard of Huckle, but never of his fruitless cameo, until today. Photographer Steve Moore insists he was at several Mets’ games (and has the scorecards to prove it) with Huckle listed on the roster. Huckle would thus becomes the 51st member of the Bill Sharman Society, my list of players who can be proved to have been on major league rosters, but who never played in a major league game. The Elias Sports Bureau calls them “Zombies” but that doesn’t quite capture their sad fates. Sharman, of course, is the basketball Hall of Famer who originally doubled as a top outfield prospect for the Brooklyn Dodgers. After a stellar season in the minors, he was summoned to Ebbets Field in September, 1951, and spent the rest of the year on the Dodger roster. He never got a moment’s action – although one of the games he didn’t play in was that featuring Bobby Thomson’s famous homer.
Wilbur Huckle, in spring training with the Mets in 1964 (no, there wasn’t an ion storm – age has withered the negative and thus my only copy of the print).
In any event, if you have any nominations for the Sharman Society, put them in the comments and I’ll be happy and grateful to research them.
NO REASON FOR YOU TO CARE DEPARTMENT:
But there are flaws in every new ballpark and I suspect the Mets will address this one, eventually. This is the view from what would otherwise be about fifteen of the best seats in the press box.†
Again, not a complaint, just a laugh. And a possible explanation if a reporter tells his office he really didn’t see the pitch. Or the batter. Or the umpire.