Opening Day is now behind us, with the Nationals falling to the Braves with a final score of 7-2.
I think that most of us went into this game (and the season too) with similar expectations: we knew that the Nats weren't going to win that many games this year, and there'd be some growing pains; but we clung to a few bright spots that we thought could carry us through the marathon that this season could very well feel like.
One of those bright spots is CJ Abrams. We finally get to see our shortstop of the future in his first full season in Washington. Given his flashy and encouraging 44 game stint with the Nationals after the trade that brought him to DC last season, I'm sure the team and fans alike were excited to see CJ's improvements over the offseason, and come out firing on Opening Day.
But it didn't happen.
The excitement about Abrams was dampened today. Big time. Abrams finished 0-4 in his plate appearances; a fly-out to left, a ground-out to first, a pop-out to third, and a strikeout, in that order. That's discouraging enough. However, what was really discouraging was watching Abrams commit 3 errors.
3 errors in 1 game. Ouch.
Things got off to a rocky start for Abrams, as he commits his first error in the 2nd inning on a ball that could have easily been turned as a double play ball. The Nationals missed the chance to end the inning, and the Braves tack on 2 more runs before the bleeding stops.
Abrams second error was a rushed throw to first to try and get Atlanta's Orlando Arcia out at first base in the top of the 5th inning. Nationals were lucky to escape without damage there, as a steady throw from Abrams would have likely gotten the job done.
Abrams final error came in the top of the 9th inning when he rushed a relay throw to Jeimer Candelario at 3rd base trying to tag Travis D'Arnaud out. The rushed throw landed in the dirt and Candelario really never had a good shot at it as it wound up in the Braves dugout, letting D'Arnaud trot home to tally the Braves 7th and final run.
So, quite the opposite of what we had hoped to see from CJ Abrams today, but I don't believe there is reason to worry.
1) Opening Day Jitters
This one is self-explanatory. It happens. Give it time.
2) He's still very young.
Any good shortstop (or player) in the history of Major League Baseball has gone through some sort of growing pains at the start of their career, and I believe that Abrams is no different. This is how players learn; the best way to avoid mistakes in the future is learning from the ones that you make.
Remember, just because he's no longer in the minors and is in the majors doesn't mean he's a completely polished player. CJ is 22, and is going to be in Washington for a long time. Give it time, I bet you'll be very happy with the player that CJ Abrams becomes.
3) We know what he can do.
One of the bright spot for fans last year after the Soto/Bell trade was seeing a cornerstone of our future take the field for the first time. It gave us a glimpse of Nationals' baseball could look like years from now, and I remember how we all seemingly fell in love with CJ as soon as he came to DC.
That was no coincidence. We know exactly what CJ Abrams is capable of. The clip above is one of many flashes of the pure talent that CJ has, and we know that there will be much more when that came from.
It's sad how many people change their perspective on a player as quick as they do. Some people who praised CJ for his performances last year have already given up on him and turned away due to his performance today... in his first game of the season. I just don't understand it.
CJ Abrams has not (yet) joined the list of elite shortstops, the guys like Turner, Lindor, Correa, Bogaerts, etc. Those are established players, fans know what to expect from them. CJ hasn't even played a fraction of the amount of games those players have. I find myself circling back to the same point over and over again, maybe it'll help if I put it in big bold text so that you really understand it.
GIVE. IT. TIME.
Players don't become great overnight, and CJ Abrams won't either. I trust him, and I think you should to.
I bet you'll be happy with the results.