Since the first week of the MLB season, MASN color analyst F.P. Santangelo has been using an interesting nickname for the Washington Nationals bench players and pinch hitters. He calls them "The Goon Squad."
So far, the Goon Squad's weapon of choice has been the baseball bat.
Through Tuesday's game, the Nationals pinch hitters have a total of only 44 at-bats, which ranks 12th of the 16 teams in the NL. Their 12 pinch hits put them in seventh in the Senior Circuit. The Nationals' two pinch-hit home runs, however, are tied for third and their 10 pinch-hit RBI are best in the National League.
The biggest of the "goons" is Chad Tracy, who actually created the alias. This professional hitter barely made the club out of spring training. Like several members of the "Goon Squad," Tracy benefited from injuries to projected Opening Day starters like Michael Morse and Rick Ankiel.
Tracy has made the most of his opportunity as a goon. Chad is now 5-for-14 in pinch-hit situations. This means that his average as a pinch-hitter is .357. How appropriate. Tracy also has one pinch-hit home run, along with six of the Nationals' 10 pinch-hit RBI.
Chad set the tone early for the rest of the goons in the season's opening series against the Chicago Cubs in Chicago. On Opening Day, Tracy led off the ninth inning with a double, and scored the winning run.
The next day, Tracy won the game with a two-run single, again in the ninth inning. He had cemented his reputation as the head goon.
Here is a look at the Nationals' other henchmen:
- Steve Lombardozzi: The newest recruit to the Goon Squad, Lombardozzi was probably the last National to make the team out of spring training. Steve played 13 games last season as a September call-up, and this season he is learning the ropes with the goons. He is 1-for-7 off the bench.
- Rick Ankiel: Ankiel's season started later than expected, missing the first eight games while healing from an injury. Ankiel is known for his defensive skills, but he's pretty handy with the bat, too. He is 1-for-3 as a pinch hitter with an RBI.
- Roger Bernadina: With a deep outfield, "The Shark" has been forced to come off the bench. So far, he is devouring his victims, going 2-for-6 with an RBI as a pinch hitter.
- Xavier Nady: Once an everyday player, Nady has been a role player ever since leaving Pittsburgh during the 2008 season. But even off the bench, Nady is a good hitter. He has become Tracy's right-hand man, as he is 2-for-6 with a solo home run when a hit has been ordered.
Thanks to the Goon Squad, the Washington Nationals are killing the opposition.
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