I was in Denver last week, and I felt rather like Lincoln during Gettysburg, following the battle from afar via telegram. By the end of it, though, I felt more like Jefferson Davis, since my side got destroyed.
The Nats are 0-6, working on 0-7 as I type this. One of the things Nationals fans often find themselves saying is, “It could be worse.” But it couldn't. We got swept by Florida, swept by Atlanta, and now the Phillies get to take their shot. Obviously, this team has a lot wrong with it, and a column about all the problems would be like a 1:1 scale map – as long as the season itself. So let's talk about the outfield.
We have too many outfielders – that's not news. Adam Dunn's a lock to play every day. Nick Johnson is temporarily healthy, so first base is not available to him. That leaves two spots for Austin Kearns, Elijah Dukes, Lastings Milledge, and Josh Willingham.
The troublesome thing is that Milledge, who hasn't exactly proven himself in New York or Washington, was handed both the centerfield job and the lead-off job without a competition. Did he earn it? Does he deserve it? That was questionable at the start of the season, and the first week has done nothing but make it questionabler. Milledge has frankly humiliated himself and the Nats and (most importantly) me in the outfield – Emilio Bonifacio's Milledge-assisted inside the park homer is a memory that will stick with me like patchouli. And Lastings' offensive contribution has been offensive: a 158/238/158 line going into the home opener (tickets still available!).
It's not clear, though, that the Nats have better options. Elijah Dukes has been on the bench, and that's unacceptable. He has the potential – and it's not just potential – to be our best hitter. Austin Kearns has been getting starts, and that's defensible: he's the only outfielder who can field, and there's no doubt that they're trying to showcase Kearns for a trade. Willingham is as useful as a fourth nipple and needs to be traded.
The Nats are punting on defense anyway: Milledge isn't a natural centerfielder, so guy with the guy who can hit. I'd put Dunn/Dukes/Kearns out there and pray for ground balls. As long as they're not hit to second.
UPDATE! This is what being a Nats fan is like: Cristian Guzman goes 5 for 5 in the home opener . . . and injures himself on the last one. And we lose by a run. 0 and 7!
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Written by Ryan Moore