Space Coast Stadium

Today I embarked on my whirlwind tour of the Grapefruit League, which will involve me and my mother attending eight spring training games in six days.

Today’s game featured the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals facing off against the Washington Nationals at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Florida. Although Space Coast is putatively the home park of the Nationals, no Nats fans were in evidence, as the entire park was filled with Cardinals fans sporting “Eckstein” and “Pujols” jerseys and cheering every ball or strike that went the Cardinals’ way.

We were treated to a rare spring training pitching duel. Redbirds starter Kip Wells looked sharp, going five strong innings and allowing only two runs to “raise” his ERA to 1.06 in five games this spring. But even more impressive were the 5.1 innings pitched by Nats starter Shawn Hill, who allowed only two unearned runs on two hits, and did not allow a hit between the first and the sixth innings. With a spring ERA of 0.93 in five starts, Hill has literally come out of nowhere to blow past established starters Jerome Hill, Jason Simontacchi, and Pedro Astacio to be named the Nats no. 2 starter. And given so-called staff “ace” John Patterson’s history of injury woes, I’m going to go ahead and name Hill the true ace of the Nationals staff as we head toward opening day.

Slide, Skippy, slide!On the Cardinals side, another no-namer who continued to shine brightly today was centerfielder Skip Schumaker, who went 3-5 to raise his spring average to a team leading .405, and showed his desire to make the team by beating out two tough grounders for singles, including a head first slide into first on a ground ball to the 5.5 hole. Schumaker entered camp with no place to play, absolutely buried on the oufield depth chart behind Jim Edmonds, Chris Duncan, Juan Encarnacion, Preston Wilson, So Taguchi, Scott Spezio, and even some guy named John Rodriguez. But anemic spring play by Wilson and Taguchi, injuries to Encarnacion and Edmonds, and Schumaker’s all-out hustle on the basepaths and in the outfield, have put him on the edge of winning a spot on the opening day roster.

Looking toward the negative side, watching him play today made me wonder: is there any regular player in the major leagues worse than Nationals shortstop Christian Guzman? Although Guzman is having a ridiculous spring training, raising his team-leading average to .438 with a 2-3 performance today, this is the same Christian Guzman who was too injured to play a single game last season, and the same Christian Guzman who has a career on-base percentage of .298. Statheads like to talk a lot about “replacement level” players, but the iron-gloved, wildly hacking, power-less, increasingly slow-footed Guzman is so far below “replacement level” that you feel like you could run Frodo Baggins out there and get more for your money. After all, hobbits are pretty spry.

In any case, thanks in large part to 4 errors by the Nats (and two missed plays by Guzman which probably would have been made by any shortstop above A-ball), Washington fell to the Cards 4-2 in ten innings.

On the way back to our car, we noticed a monumental bronze statue off in the distance, right at the main entrance to the stadium. Who could it be we thought? The Nats have only been around for two years…could it be one of the glorious Montreal Expos from days of yore? Andre Dawson? Hall-of-Famer Gary Carter? Maybe even shrine to beloved erstwhile Expos mascot Youppi? But no! It was in fact an enormous statue of Casey from “Casey at the Bat” sporting a handlebar moustache and his “smile of Christian charity.”

Indeed, we decided, who is more fitting a symbol for one of the most hapless organizations in sports than the man who is the ultimate symbol of baseball failure? Sure, hope springs eternal in the human breast when you see a young player on the Nats like Shawn Hill…

But there is no joy in DC, for Christian Guzman still mans short.

One Response to “Grapefruit League Diary: Day 1”

  1. Alejandro Leal says:

    I could so see Frodo Baggins scoring from second on a single to right…

Leave a Reply

    Recent Comments

    • planet hobbywood: This is very interesting.
    • Bren: He is a awesome player and a good man.. sweet.. polite.. friendly.. down to earth.. he never acted as though he...
    • HADAJUN( Japanese): Okajima a Japanese hero?
    • Rickt: I am the biggest Cal Jr fan around but one of my good friends played minor league baseball in the Orioles...
    • HADAJUN: I wish for play in Japan. The death is regrettable.


    Subscribe via email

    Enter your email address:


Featured posts

December 5, 2011

Will anybody get elected to the Hall of Fame this year?

Last week, we asked you to vote for who you would like to see enshrined in baseball’s Hall of Fame. The verdict? If it were up to UmpBump readers, nobody would make it in. The leading vote getter (so far) is Jeff Bagwell, who has 60% support. Of course, in the real voting, players need […]

January 5, 2011

Annual UmpBump Hall of Fame Balloting: 2011 Edition

In what has become an annual tradition, we here at UmpBump cast our ballots for the Hall of Fame on the eve of the announcements of the voting for the real Hall of Fame. Voters can vote for anyone ever who has been retired from baseball for at least five years and is not already […]

October 19, 2010

Crowdsourcing the Greats: The Top 10 Managers of All Time

Now that we’ve looked at every position on the diamond, as well as relief pitchers, we are nearing the end of our “Crowdsourcing the Greats” series. But before we finish, let’s turn one more time to the internet hoi polloi for answers on who the greatest baseball manager of all time was. As usual, we […]