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March 3, 2008 at 12:32 am ET
Your Team Ain’t S#!t #10: The Nationals

Since no one else will, I will fill the void of objective team season previews and Devil Rays information on the internets:

By previewing the 29 other MLB teams and comparing them to our beloved Devil Rays, in anticipation of the 2008 season which is sure to be the greatest in Devil Rays history, ….

Working backwards through the final Bugs & Cranks Top 30 rankings, we continue with The Washington Nationals….

Argument #1: This Year.

I truly believe both our Devil Rays and the Nats are franchises headed in the right direction. The Nationals should be commended for their willingness to disregard reputations and dish out second chances. Soon they may have a team to rival the outlaw Oakland Raiders of the 60’s and 70’s.

But right now, in 2008, our Devil Rays are much further along.

Thomas Boswell of The Washington Post says the ’08 Nats have:

one huge “if” — starting pitching, especially the health of Shawn Hill and John Patterson. Last season, even helped by huge RFK Stadium, Washington’s starting ERA was 5.11. In a normal park, things could get ugly.

And Boswell reports in Sunday’s Post that neither Hill nor Patterson, the Nats top two starters, looks fully recovered.

Hill underwent “a precautionary MRI exam for right forearm tightness.” And then there’s this exchange with former Orioles great Mike “I Never Had A Mullet” Flanagan about Patterson:

“Looks like Patterson’s arm hurts him,” said Orioles executive Mike Flanagan, meaning no harm, just ballpark chat. “He used to have this nice long arm extension. Now his motion is short and he’s throwing a lot of curveballs.”

“Patterson says he feels great,” I said. “You never saw a guy so happy to be pitching again.”

“I’m probably wrong,” Flanagan said apologetically. Unfortunately, about pitching, he seldom is. Until Patterson gets a radar gun to 92 mph this season, feel free to hold your breath.

Even if healthy, Patterson and Hill are not anywhere near as good as our Scott Kazmir and The Master Of The Modified Circle Change James Shields. They may not even be as good as Devil Rays #4 starter Edwin “Iron Jaw” Jackson:

D-Rays Manager “Coach Joe” Maddon: “He’s got one of the best arms in the American League, maybe in all of baseball. Velocity on his fastball, consistently 95 plus, he’s got one of the better sliders in the American League right now. Then the pitch nobody talks about is his changeup, he’s got a really good, straight changeup.” [Tampa Bay’s 10 via Rays Index]

Certainly there is optimism in the District, but much of it seems to be placed on the Nats being better offensively in the new ballpark than they were in the cavernous, hallowed ground of RFK. And certainly, they’ve added some impressive offensive pieces in Elijah Dukes and Lastings Milledge. But what helps their hitters, will also hurt their pitchers. And they really haven’t added that much to an offense that was one of the worst in the Majors last league. ESPN’s fantasy guys paint this picture of what the ’07 Nats were like:

the Nationals were a particularly terrible offensive team, finishing 30th in runs scored, 26th in hits, 28th in homers, 29th in RBIs, 26th in batting average and 28th in slugging percentage. The pitchers struck out the fewest batters of any staff in the league. [via my favorite Nats blog, The Nationals Report]

Still, I wouldn’t be shocked if the new stadium and bigger crowds got the Nationals to play above their abilities. As I’ve said before, second place in the NL East isn’t out of the question — not so much because the Nats are good but because the Phillies don’t have much pitching, and the Marlins and Braves really, really ain’t shit.

But our Devil Rays have a far better pitching staff, and a much, much stronger offense. So much so that it would be redundant and redunculous to demonstrate this with the Troy Percival Talent-By-Talent Player-By-Player Test. So I won’t.

Instead, a short aside. Thomas Boswell agrees with me that last year’s Rockies were sucky flukes: “near-miracles such as the ’07 Rockies actually do happen.”

Back to the Nats. I am a big fan of Elijah Dukes, Dmitri Young, Lastings Milledge and even Chad Cordero. I wish them the very best this year.

But sorry guys, your team still ain’t shit compared to our Devil Rays.

We won’t get to prove it head-to-head, unless it’s in the World Series.

Coming soon to Your Team Ain’t S#!t Compared To The Devil Rays….

On Deck: #11 The Texas Rangers

In The Hole: #12 The Oakland Athletics

Previously on Your Team Ain’t S#!t Compared To The Devil Rays….

#1 The Pittsburgh Pirates

#2 The Houston Astros

#3 The Florida Marlins

#4 The Baltimore Orioles

#5 The Kansas City Royals

#6 The San Francisco Giants

#7 The Cincinnati Reds

#8 The St. Louis Cardinals

#9 The Chicago White Sox

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4 Responses to “Your Team Ain’t S#!t #10: The Nationals”
  1. jon says:

    The Rays are my second favorite AL team, so I enjoy this little bit you’re doing.

    But Edwin Jackson? C’mon.

  2. David Chalk David Chalk says:

    The Joe Maddon quote is not a joke. I don’t think he’d trade Jackson for Hill or Patterson. I’ll defer to his judgment. Jackson really came on in the second half last year.

    Glad you’re enjoying the series.

  3. George says:

    News flash! They are now the Tampa Bay Rays. They’ve dropped the Devil part of the name.

  4. David Chalk David Chalk says:

    George —

    To true Devil Ray fans, they will always be the Devil Rays.

    We here at Bugs & Cranks have been fighting for some time now to preserve and protect the word Devil and the dignity and tradition of the franchise:


    We’d appreciate your support or at least your sensitivity.

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