Got home last night after a fantastic weekend in Chicago of artery-clogging food, a re-acquaintance with the Northwestern University campus in Evanston, a heart-breaking loss to Michigan State, lots of walking up and down Michigan Avenue and a random run-in with Barry Svrluga and his Washington Post colleagues at the Marriott. I don't know if the groans we heard around downtown Chicago yesterday afternoon came from Bears fans upset at another Jay Cutler interception or from all the Redskins writers trying to figure out what they'd done to deserve covering what must have been one of the sloppiest NFL games in a long time.
Let's get caught up on the weekend's other developments...
The World Series, of course, is set. It'll be the New York Giants facing the Washington Senators in a rematch of the epic 1924 Fall Classic that brought this town its lone MLB championship. OK, so I can't imagine many people in New York or Washington are feeling much attachment to their former teams right now. Though it's worth noting that despite playing in San Francisco for 53 seasons, the Giants have yet to win a World Series on the West Coast. And the Rangers, of course, are making their first-ever appearance in the Series after 50 seasons as a franchise (the first 10 in D.C., the last 40 in Texas).
You've surely heard by now that the Rangers' clinching of the AL pennant leaves only two remaining MLB franchises that have never been to the World Series: the Mariners (who debuted in 1977) and the Nationals (who debuted in Montreal in 1969). I know plenty of you have no interest in embracing Expos history as part of Nats history, but facts are facts. This franchise has been in existence for 42 seasons and it has not yet appeared in the Fall Classic.
It used to be that plenty of franchises were lacking a World Series berth on their resumes, but a lot of teams have gotten over the hump in the last decade: the Diamondbacks in 2001, the Angels in 2002, the Astros in 2005, the Rockies in 2007, the Rays in 2008 and now the Rangers in 2010. As much as everyone likes to complain about the dominance of big-market clubs like the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies, there's actually quite a bit of parity in baseball right now.
Which, I suppose, should provide some semblance of hope for Nationals fans who desperately want to experience what fans from so many other cities have experienced in recent seasons. Are the Nats anywhere close to reaching the World Series, or even the playoffs for that matter? No. But the state of the sport right now does offer a better chance for franchises like this one to make the leap than it did a decade ago. Had the Nats come into existence in 1995 instead of 2005, I think it would have been even more difficult to build a winner.
If and when the Nationals ever get there, it will be thanks to the progress of their best home-grown talent. Several of those prospects are still playing baseball in late-October, whether in the Arizona Fall League or in various winter leagues across the Caribbean...
Bryce Harper appeared in his second AFL game on Saturday, serving as DH and batting eighth for the Scottsdale Scorpions. The 18-year-old went 2-for-4: He singled to right, beat out a grounder to third, lined out to third and struck out swinging in the Scorpions' 6-1 win over the Phoenix Desert Dogs.
Teammate Derek Norris homered in that game, his second in six AFL appearances so far. The 21-year-old catcher, who hasn't played above Class A, hasn't looked fazed at all by the higher level of competition in Arizona. He's batting .316 (6-for-19) with four extra-base hits, six RBI, five walks, a .480 on-base percentage and a 1.269 OPS that ranks third in the entire AFL at this early stage of the season.
Other Nats prospects in Arizona...
Michael Burgess: 6-for-24, one double, four RBI, three walks, eight strikeouts.
Stephen Lombardozzi: 6-for-24, four doubles, two RBI, four walks, two strikeouts.
Sammy Solis: 6 2/3 innings, five earned runs, six hits, four walks, four strikeouts.
Brad Peacock: 6 innings, four hits, one earned run, one walk, 12 strikeouts.
Cole Kimball: 5 innings, three hits, one earned run, one walk, five strikeouts.
Adam Carr: 4 innings, two hits, one earned run, two walks, two strikeouts.
And in various winter league action...
Yunesky Maya made his first start in the Dominican Republic for Escogido yesterday, tossing five shutout innings, allowing three hits while striking out eight in a win over Licey. Maya didn't allow any baserunner past second.
Danny Espinosa is 1-for-9 with an RBI, three strikeouts and a stolen base in two games for the Leones de Ponce in the Puerto Rican winter league. Chris Marrero is also playing for that team and is 3-for-9 with a double, an RBI and two strikeouts.
And finally, Byron Kerr of MASN and Francis Rose of Federal News Radio are hosting a weekly Nats show this offseason called "Nationals 360" and were kind enough to have me on for a few minutes during their latest episode to talk about Mike Rizzo's contract extension. You can download the entire show here.