It seems the only interest the national press has in the Nats Spring Training this year concerns two people, Nick Johnson and Dmitri Young. We knew going in that this would be the key position battle this March. With Nick playing well, Dmitri injured and not making playing time demands, it seems more and more likely that Nick Johnson will be the opening day starter at first base. What's becoming a little more unsettled is the other position on that side of the infield.
Coming into this season, Jim Bowden pretty much ended any debate as to who would be starting against the Braves at shortstop, it would be The Guz. That left Felipe Lopez and Ronnie Belliard to play for the spot this spring. Word from the front office was that it was Belliard's position and Flop was going to have to take it away. Then, a few weeks before the season kicked off, the Nats made a signing that perplexed some and was ridiculed by many. They signed 38 year-old (soon to be 39) Brett Boone to a minor league deal.
Many around the league figured we were just signing a player to fill out Spring Training rosters and basically paying some has been to field BP. Meanwhile, Brett himself swore up and down that he left the Mets in the spring of 2006 because he was battling alcohol and that he was now clean, hungry, and still has plenty left in the tank. I, like many others dismissed his quotes as someone who had lost touch with reality and was in denial that he is past his prime. Heck at this point most players are past their usefulness at all. Despite this, Boone showed up to Nationals accelerated minor league camps ready to play.
It wasn't long before Bowden made the decision to move Boone over to the big league camp and allow him to prove that he's still got a little juice left in the bat. Shortly thereafter Boone showed everyone that he was not a liar and that he could still hack. Boone's swing has been as sweet as it ever was, showing decent power to go along with a keen eye.
As of today Boone's batting line is .462 .636 .364. He's got the fourth highest slugging percentage on the team (min. 10 AB) and has yet to strike out. Compare his line to Elijah Dukes, .476 .778 .389 and their pretty similar. That is until you take into account that Dukes has struck out in just short of half of his at bats. (See crazy Elijah Dukes stat at the end)
Personally my vote for opening day second baseman has to go to Brett "The" Boone. I haven't even begun to get into his defense but both Flop and Belliard have obvious holes in their defensive games (Flop's penchant for errors, Belliard's range). It also couldn't hurt to have another veteran to show the youngsters the right way to approach the game day in, day out. I know we're paying Flop/Belliard significantly more money but I've never been one to play who you pay. You play the players who give you the best chance to win the game and from what I've seen so far this spring, that player is Brett Boone.
That being said there's still plenty of time this spring for Boone to fall off and for Flop and/or Belliard (btw Belliard is raking) to really lay claim to the spot, so I'm keeping an open mind. And to be honest I'm biased because I dig the fact the Brett wears a helmet instead of a cap. I think there's no question Boone should be on the bench, but I think this is one position that the front office and Manny should take a closer look at before penciling in the opening day starter.
RANDOM ELIJAH DUKES STAT: So far this year Elijah Dukes has had 18 AB and has not been put out once. 7 hits, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts...wow