Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Interview With Nationals Pride

To get ready for the series with the Washington Nationals, Fenway West interviewed Mike "Hendo" Henderson, columnist for NationalsPride.com.

- Should Manny Acta be on the chopping block?

Mike Henderson: There've been many questions about Acta's ability to guide this club through its struggles to an improved, if still probably losing, 2009 record, as well as to get the Nats to the next level. Still, he has much support in the clubhouse. The Rosenthal rumors seem, somewhat paradoxically, to have given Acta something of a cushion, as team president Stan Kasten appears to be pretty steamed about Acta getting "fired" in the media because of unsourced reports.

I'd expect the Nats to consider, among others, triple-A Syracuse manager Tim Foli as a candidate for next season, but won't be surprised if Acta holds the job through 2009, and won't be stunned if his tenure is extended. His even temper is a welcome breather from the drama that's surrounded the club over the last several months, and the Nats' ownership and front office -- not to mention much of the fan base -- deeply appreciate that.

- Are the stories of Nationals PR mistakes (uniform misspellings, fireworks, etc.) exaggerated or is the team being run by fools?

Mike Henderson: Gaffes are news, especially for a losing team. Even so, the Nats are trying, not without success, to make lemonade from lemons: the misspelled jerseys brought nice prices at their Dream Foundation auction, and the fireworks kerfuffle appears to have been ironed out. Fans are, I think, much more concerned about whether Teddy will ever win the Presidents' Race, and with reason. While I hate to burst their bubble, the outlook is pretty grim for him, and it wouldn't shock me to see single-A Potomac mascot Uncle Slam get a September callup.

- Has Adam Dunn been a good acquisition for the Nationals?

Mike Henderson: Absolutely. He's hitting the ball hard and taking good at-bats. Also, especially along with Dukes and Willingham in the lineup, he's offering needed protection to Ryan Zimmerman; an intentional walk to Zim is no longer a "gimme" as it's been in the past. Dunn's defense has been no more or less than expected, although I'm not wild about the experiments the Nats have tried with him in right field or first base. Perhaps most importantly, he's a steady clubhouse presence and is rapidly growing into a fan favorite.

- Do you see the Nats making any deals before the deadline?

Mike Henderson: The Nats still need relief pitching and prospect arms, and Nick Johnson's name is the one most often mentioned as the player they'd offer in exchange. I could see Johnson going to the Mets, who are struggling without Delgado, but it's not clear whom the Mets or any other club would be willing to deal back at this point. Dunn's name also comes up in rumors; I don't take those too seriously.

- What is your prediction for the series with the Red Sox?

Mike Henderson: Three-and-oh Nats sweep, baby! Seriously, I think Lannan, especially if the defense stays behind him as it has, stands an excellent chance in the matchup against Brad Penny. Stammen just earned a win at Yankee Stadium, which should prepare him to do battle with Lester. The real X factor will be how ready Smoltz is on Thursday; I'd say both he and Zimmermann could end up throwing a lot of pitches, resulting in a slugfest against the bullpens. Call it Nats 1, Sox 1, undecided 1.

Thanks for the chance to chat with you. I'm looking forward to three exciting games at Nats Park this week.

P.S. Please advise Washingtonian fans of Sox Nation to keep a watchful eye on the Metro Red Line, as there's just been a horrific Red Line derailment this week. The Green, Orange, or Blue Line or the Nats Express buses from RFK Stadium may be preferable.



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