What a way to open The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches with some nifty pitching, clutch hitting, and a walk-off to save the game from tie for a Washington Nationals 4-3 win. They say there are no ties in baseball, but there are ties in spring training baseball.
The score was 3-3 with 2 outs in the 9th inning and seemed destined for a tie until Michael Taylor blasted a flyball to left field that had home run distance, and the only question was whether or not it was a fair ball for the walk-off. It was fair in terms of inside the “foul pole” for the walk-off winner, but not fair to the Houston Astros who ended up on the losing end of their first game on this field where they are the Nationals’ co-partners in this new baseball complex in West Palm Beach which is the finest facility in all of baseball.
The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches inaugural game ended the same way Nationals Park’s did in 2008 which also ended in a Nationals walk-off winner in which that hero on that day was Ryan Zimmerman.
“I got a pretty good pitch to hit there,” said a happy Michael A. Taylor after the game.
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) February 28, 2017
Dusty Baker got to see Michael Taylor last spring training put up big numbers, and Taylor as of today’s game is a .340 hitter in his career in spring training with an enormous OPS of 1.017. Baker expected to see Taylor have a breakout 2016 regular season, but instead saw him struggle to a .278 OBP and a .654 OPS in 2016.
“Had [Michael Taylor] carried that [spring training hot streak] into the season [in 2016], we probably wouldn’t have looked for a center fielder coming into this year,” Dusty Baker said. “Now you’ve got to work your way back up. Michael’s young enough where he could do that and talented enough, as you saw. He’s a big-time, two-way player. Last year was kind of a … you scratch your head ‘as to why’. Sometimes it takes you a little longer to get your act together at the big-league level on a consistent basis.”
In this same game, Derek Norris hit an absolute bomb to left field, giving the fans who were watching a glimpse of what D-No can do so U-Know that if you trade him you have given up any chance to control this former All-Star for this year and next year.
Norris is still under team control and arbitration eligible for next year also. If Norris is traded soon, you must consider that Matt Wieters controls his own fate for the 2018 season as he holds the player’s option, and Wieters could be gone as a “one and done” player leaving the Nats in the same situation 9 months from now as the team was in at the start of this “Hot Stove” when the Nationals did not have a veteran catcher except for Jose Lobaton.
A tandem of catchers consisting of Wieters and Norris could put up combined numbers on offense and defense that could exceed what Wilson Ramos and Jose Lobaton combined for in 2016. Mike Rizzo has the opportunity for a sabermetric net gain if he plays this right.
The Nationals ranked #1 in catcher OPS in 2016 from the catcher’s position because of Ramos’ career year. Could a platoon of Wieters/Norris exceed that production in 2017?