Nationals 2008 Year-In-Review

Posted by Dave Nichols | Wednesday, December 31, 2008 | , | 3 comments »

Everybody else is doing their year-in-reviews, I figured, "Why not me?" It was the best of times and the worst of times for the baseball team in the Nation's Capitol.

January: Fresh on the heels of signing Paul LoDuca and trading for Lastings Milledge in December, the Nats go out and sign another free agent catcher, Johnny Estrada, to a one-year, $1M contract. Estrada hit .170/.200/.170 with no homers and four RBIs in 53 at bats and was released in July, trashing the team on the way out.

February: Signed Odalis Perez and Bret Boone and invited both to spring training. One worked out, the other didn't. Also, along with a host of others, signed Wil Nieves to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training. Nieves ended up performing admirably and was just 16 at bats short of LoDuca and Estrada--COMBINED.

March: In a harbinger of things to come, the Nats finished spring training 12-17-1. Released former opening day starter John Patterson. Lost Rule 5 draftee Matt Whitney back to Cleveland. Placed Estrada on the DL for the first time with a sore elbow. Placed Elijah Dukes on the DL after tearing his hamstring on opening day.

March 30, 2008: The single biggest highlight of 2008, Opening Night of the season, the inaugural game of Nationals Park. With a national audience on ESPN looking in, President George Bush threw out the first pitch, flash bulbs popped, and Ryan Zimmerman sent everyone home happy with a homer to left center in the bottom of the ninth to win the game.

It only went downhill from there.

April: Won their first three games then promptly lost 15 of their next 17 on the way to an 11-17 month. Felipe Lopez hit a grand slam in the 10-5 win over the Mets.

"I'm me again, you know? I steal bases, score runs, get on base, walk. It's exciting." --Felipe Lopez, April 24, 2008.

Placed Chad Cordero on the DL for the first time. Called up John Lannan. Optioned, then released, Ray King.

May: Record: 13-16. Beat the Mets at Shea 1-0 thanks to the defensive play of the year, Willie Harris' all out dive on the gravel warning track in left field. It was Harris' sac bunt that set up the winning run as well.

Placed Chad Cordero back on the DL, effectively ending his tenure with the Nats. LoDuca broke his hand in a game in Houston and he and Estrada went on the DL together. The Jesus Flores era began the next day. Nick Johnson tore the tendon sheath in his right wrist, done for the year. Austin Kearns went on the DL, thus clouding his future with the team. The Elijah Dukes era began.

June: Record: 9-17. Lost four-game series at home to fellow bottomfeeder San Francisco, getting outscored 25-6 in the process. Took two of three from Baltimore in the "Battle of the Beltways".

Manny Acta and Elijah Dukes got into a screaming match in the dugout in a game in Pittsburgh, after Dukes homered and showed up the Pirate pitcher.

On the last day of the month, future Nationals left fielder Josh Willingham homered off Jon Rauch in the bottom of the tenth inning for the win.

Photo by AP.

Placed Ryan Zimmerman on the DL with a small labrum tear, suffered a week before in a game against the Orioles. Released Rob Mackowiak, an off-season major league free agent. Mackowiak would not be claimed or signed the rest of the season. Odalis Perez went on the DL with tendinitis in his shoulder. Shawn Hill went on the DL with the dreaded "forearm strain", ending his season.

July: Record: 5-18. Simply dreadful baseball. Losing streaks of six and nine games. They had ten games scoring fewer than two runs, losing all of them. Bronson Arroyo, Brandon Webb, Brandon Backe, Matt Cain and Clayton Kershaw all shut the Nats out in the month.

Willie Harris, enjoying his career year, homered, walked three times, went 2-for-3 and had five RBIs in a 15-6 win over Atlanta on the 20th of the month.

"I just feel fortunate to get some balls to fall for me," said Harris, who had seven hits, seven RBI and scored five runs in the series. "I was looking forward to this series. I have a lot of friends over there. I really want to beat my old team." --Willie Harris, July 20, 2008

July saw the end of Wily Mo Pena and Dmitri Young. Pena had season-ending shoulder surgery and Young was placed on the DL due to complications from his diabetes. Neither would play again. Elijah Dukes had knee surgery and would be out several weeks.

GM Jim Bowden announces to a talk radio show that the team will non-tender closer Chad Cordero, before informing the player or his agent.

At the end of the month the purge began. Jon Rauch was traded to Arizona for 2B Emilio Bonifacio. Felipe Lopez, Paul LoDuca and Johnny Estrada were released. Minor league pitcher Jhonny Nunez was traded to the Yankees for SS Alberto Gonzalez.

August: Record: 13-15. Won five out of six to start the month, then lost 12 in a row, then won six in a row to close the month. Highlight of the month was sweeping the Dodgers late in the month, including an 11-2 romp, with Cristian Guzman hitting for the cycle and Elijah Dukes hitting two homers.

"It feels great," Guzman said. "Everybody said, 'Hit the triple, hit the triple.' I said, 'OK, I'm trying.' " --Cristian Guzman, August 28, 2008.

The purge continued after the non-waiver trade deadline, as Luis Ayala was shipped out to the Mets in exchange for 2B Anderson Hernandez. Austin Kearns was put on the DL with a stress fracture in his foot, ending his season, late in the month.

GM Jim Bowden shows up for a press conference in Los Angeles wearing a Manny Ramirez dreadlock wig.

September: Record: 7-17. Nats tried to play spoiler all month like they had the previous year, but just got beat up. Lowlight of the month: in a 4-0 shutout by Philadelphia's Cole Hamels, 2B Chase Utley maliciously dove shoulder first into Jesus Flores' lower leg, knocking him out of the game and ending his season. Utley was out on the play, trying to steal home with two outs.

The Nats ended the season being swept by the eventual World Series champs.

Starting pitcher Shairon Martis made his debut, going 1-3 in five starts with a 5.66 ERA.

October: Sent Ryan Wagner, Pete Orr, Ryan Langerhans, Lavale Speigner and Chad Cordero to AAA Syracuse. Cordero refused the assignment and became a free agent.

Fired all coaches except pitching coach Randy St. Claire. Hired new hitting coach Rick Eckstein, bench coach Jim Riggleman, first base coach Marquis Grissom, third base coach Pat Listach, and bullpen coach Randy Knorr.

November: Sent Dmitri Young to AAA Syracuse, making him the highest paid minor leaguer at $5M. Traded Emilio Bonifacio and two low-minor leaguers to Florida for LF Josh Willingham and LHP Scott Olsen.

Photo (c) D. Nichols 2008.

December: Released Jesus Colome. Selected reliever Terrell Young, a 24-year old that has never pitched above A-level, from the Reds in the Rule 5 draft. Signed Willie Harris to a two-year contract. Signed Corey Patterson, Freddie Bynum and others to minor league contracts with invitations to spring training.

Signed Daniel Cabrera, formerly of the Baltimore Orioles, to a one-year contract. Cabrera is 48-59 in five seasons with a 5.05 ERA.

The Nationals offer free agent Mark Teixeira a reported 8 year, $160M contract. There were reports the Nats upper the offer in years and money as well. Despite reports that the Nats offered more years and money, Teixeira signs with the Yankees on Dec. 24.

So there you have it, the Washington Nationals year-in-review. Hope you've had as much fun reliving it as I have had in writing it. I think I'll go have a drink now.



  1. Green Mover // December 31, 2008 at 6:51 PM  

    I forgot how much excitement that we really had! Thanks for bringing back soo many lights, more like spot lights. Dave, you forgot to mention that the team really cleaned house when they let go most of the coaches at the end of the season. Those darn coaches just didn't coach very Jim Bowden seems like a good place to start to prepare for 09.

  2. Dave Nichols // December 31, 2008 at 7:35 PM  

    i totally forgot about the firing of coaches! i'll have to add. thanks.

  3. Hendo // December 31, 2008 at 8:02 PM  

    Well, that was depressing.

    But never mind. A Happy New Year to you and yours.