Wooden's World of Baseball

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Opening Weekend

Wish I could find a picture of the big, honkin' pennant that's now flying above the CF wall, but for now this generic shot will have to suffice.

More than seven months after the P-Nats took the 2008 Carolina League pennant, they came back to the Pfitz, against the very same Myrtle Beach Pelicans.

Well, same in name, anyway. There are a baker's dozen or so players that saw time in 2008 for the Pelicans, and sixteen for the Nationals.

Just like last year, there's a whole lot more youth and enthusiasm from the folks in South Carolina and a lot more "experience" on the Potomac roster.

But what makes minor-league ball so eminently watchable is that while Baseball America is fascinated with what will be, a fan like me can still appreciate what is right now.

This weekend, the P-Nats took two out of three from the Pelicans, losing the opener 7-5 on Friday night and taking the next two by scores of 5-4 and 11-4, going above .500 for the first time this season.

It's tough to tell how the pitching will develop, but it does seem clear that this team will be able to generate offense every way possible: HRs (a three-run shot and a grand slam today), doubles (three today, two last night, three on Friday) and a little small-ball, to boot.

I've always been a fan of "putting pressure on the defense" and the good news is that new Potomac manager Trent Jewett is too. Last night was a perfect example of just how well that can work.

With two out and runners on the corners in the bottom of the fourth, Jewett sent the runner on first, catcher Brian Peacock, on a 2-2 count. Instead of throwing through, the Pelican battery instead got upset over the "missed third strike." With a full count, the batter singled to left and both runners were sent and both runners scored, with the batter taking second on the failed throw home to get Peacock.

Clearly rattled, the next batter singled, and the batter after that doubled, who was subsequently sent to third via the steal (still two out!) and the Jewett went for the squeeze play, which ultimately failed, but the point was made: We will make you get us out and we will dictate how.

It was a beautiful display of "real" baseball, as the Pelicans looked every bit the part of a team full of 21- and 22-year-olds and the Nationals looked every bit the part of a team full of 23- and 24-year-olds. Sure, maybe more of the Pelicans may be in the majors this time in 2011, but for now, for that night, the Nationals were the better team.

And that's what I came to see.


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