Babe Ruth may be coming to Nationals Park.
The Great Bambino isn't the latest zombie to return, but if the Washington Nationals win 10 straight, manager Matt Williams pledges to deliver his spot-on impression of Ruth circling the bases. It was a promise made in April maybe in jest, but the Nationals have taken eight straight entering their Aug. 20 matchup against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Maybe this will be home run 715?
Baseball is a 162-game grind, so pranks and puns are a staple to keeping a clubhouse alive. Williams was cited as far back as 1990 for his impressions. He could do anyone from Reggie Jackson at the plate, to Mike Krukow on the mound. But in 1991, Williams delivered a maestro of a performance by stuffing a pillow under his jersey, swinging like Ruth and circling the bases just like the Sultan of Swat -- complete with cap tipping and crowd waving during the waddling stroll.
It's great theater.
When injuries crippled the Nationals' roster during the opening weeks, Williams' promise seemed farfetched. The 3-4-5 hitters were hurt, and the Nats trailed Atlanta in the National League East. But, Washington finally regained the lineup for a short time before Ryan Zimmerman was reinjured, pitchers continued to sizzle and finally pieces came together.
Washington is an NL-best 70-53, and six games ahead of Atlanta in the division race. With six weeks remaining, the Nats are in good shape to reach the postseason. Whether they advance to the World Series is uncertain after sputtering play against some top teams, but then, Washington has smoked several contenders, too.
Williams has done a strong job during his first season. Outfielder Bryce Harper is young and sometimes youngsters say dumb things, like his thoughts on the lineup and whether outfielder Denard Span should play. Span has since become the team's best hitter, while Harper is batting just .253.
It would have been easy for the clubhouse to take sides, but Williams defused it quickly. When Harper's slump became so bad, Williams also quickly ended speculation the outfielder would be demoted to the minors.
Williams runs this team, but not with an iron glove. It's a veteran team coming off an easy preceding manager. The days of kicking butt in the majors with veteran players lining the lockers are gone. Williams doesn't need to prove who is boss.
So it's OK to have some fun when the summer grind hasn't quite yielded to pennant-race excitement after Labor Day. The next couple of weeks could set Washington up for less pressure during the final month, so having everyone happy certainly helps.
Then again, everybody's pretty happy with eight straight wins and a dominating starter on the mound every night.
Watching Williams waddle around the bases would be a lot funnier than the Presidents Race. After all, it's Babe freaking Ruth.