I’m not going to lie - the pictures of Nationals Park with a hockey rink smack dab in the middle of the field both look very bizarre and also have me very excited for the NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s Day.
I won’t be attending the game between the Capitals and Blackhawks, largely because I plan on enjoying the afternoon from the warmth and comfort of my couch instead of sitting through a game in which temperatures will be in the upper 30s. But it will be cool to see the NHL’s premiere regular season event held on the same field where we all watch the Nats play 81 regular season games a year.
As The Post’s Dan Steinberg notes, however, I just wonder if Denard Span will be watching the game from the mini Capitol Building in center field.
I doubt Wilson Ramos will be watching the Winter Classic; I don’t think they air much hockey in Venezuela. Educated guess. But as he prepares to enter the 2015 season, Ramos will yet again need to deal with questions about his ability to stay healthy and in uniform.
Ramos, now 27, has been effective and productive when he’s been on the field in recent seasons. He posted a .777 OPS and slugged 16 homers in just 78 games in 2013, and then hit 11 more homers and drove in 47 during the 2014 season, despite the fact he regularly hit toward the bottom of the Nationals order.
The problem for Ramos continues to be injuries.
He appeared in just 25 games in 2012 before tearing the ACL and meniscus in his right knee, causing him to miss the rest of the season. He saw action in 78 games in 2013, twice landing on the disabled list with left hamstring issues. Then, in 2014, Ramos was limited to just 88 games, again seeing time on the DL twice, this time due to a broken hamate bone in his left hand and a right hamstring strain.
Some of those injuries have been fluke things. The ACL tear came when Ramos’ knee buckled when he got out of his crouch to get a ball behind the plate. The hamate bone fracture came when a ball was foul tipped off Ramos’ glove hand on opening day in New York.
But regardless of how the injuries occurred, there have been too many of them for Ramos to get into any type of consistent groove as an everyday catcher. Ramos has the ability to be one of the top offensive catchers in the game, and his skills behind the plate have improved in terms of calling a game and framing pitches. But Ramos badly wants to get a chance to put those skills on display over a full season, over 120-130 games, instead of the 64 he’s seen on average over the last three years.
Ramos works hard during the offseason to make sure he’s in peak shape, and he has adjusted his workout routine as time has gone on, implementing stretches and drills that will strengthen his hamstrings and make him less susceptible to future issues with those muscles. He hopes to see the results from that in 2015.
Entering his second year of arbitration, Ramos’ salary will continue to rise. He’s projected to make $3.2 million in 2015 through the arbitration process, according to MLBTradeRumors.com, and then will be eligible for arbitration for the final time in 2016, before he’s set to become a free agent.
A healthy, productive 2015 season would not only improve Ramos’ value from an individual perspective as he nears free agency, but it would also help strengthen an already dangerous Nats lineup.