30 Teams in 30 Days: Washington Nationals Preview

Nationals

Washington Nationals

Last Year: 59-103 (-34)
Over/Under: 70.5 (-125/-105)

Notable Gains

  • Brian Bruney
  • Matt Capps
  • Adam Kennedy
  • Jason Marquis
  • Ivan Rodriguez
  • Doug Slaten
  • Chien-Ming Wang

Notable Losses

  • Josh Bard
  • Marco Estrada
  • Livan Hernandez
  • Austin Kearns
  • Wil Ledezma
  • Mike MacDougal
  • Jorge Padilla
  • Saul Rivera
  • Zack Segovia
  • Jorge Sosa
  • Dmitri Young
  • Three Things To Love

    1) The General Manager: The Nationals might have had done the best free agent work this offseason. They grabbed Chien-Ming Wang at a discount. They picked up Pudge to work with an underrated staff of young pitchers. They seriously upgraded a bad bullpen by picking up both Matt Capps and Brian Bruney. They infinitely upgraded at 2B by signing Adam Kennedy to replace Anderson Hernandez. The Nationals made great bargain-basement moves. Credit there goes to the general manager – finding discounts where they were available and, if the media is to be believed, drafting really well.

    2) The Ownership: To this point, Jim Lerner appears to be proactive in building a future winner. They paid big money to bring in Stephen Strasburg. I’m presuming they’ll pay the same big money to draft Bryce Harper in June. The Expos, after nearly two decades of suck, look to be finally out of the dark and on the brink of good things. Giving them the benefit of the doubt on Strasburg, their second pick in the draft has future closer written on him. Coupled with a willingness to shop in the Free Agency Marshalls, the Nats might even be somewhat competitive this season.

    3) The Future: People say this about the Blue Jays and the Orioles all the time, but with the Nationals it’s really true: The Nats are about a year away from being jaw-droppingly good. Their rotation will be (fellow Siena Grad) John Lannan, Strasburg, Wang, Jason Marquis, and a huge mix of largely competent 22-year-old pitchers. And, if Bryce Harper is the real deal, their core will be Adam Dunn (presuming they can re-sign him), Ryan Zimmerman, Rule V pickup Jesus Flores, Adam Kennedy, Harper, and Nyjer Morgan. That’s a pretty solid group of young players that will look really good in this division when Philly’s contracts start expiring in 2012. If the Nationals are smart in a deep 2011 free agent market, they’re going to be contending for this division maybe by next year and definitely by 2012.

    Three Things To Hate

    1) As mentioned above – they’re still a team in transition. Next year will probably be a pretty good time. Unfortunately, this season looks like it’s still going to the standard Expos/Nationals poor 70-win effort. Fortunately, the team is still new enough with a big enough investment in the city that there’s no chance of them calling the whole thing off. As a city of transients, one can hope for the road teams to keep the stadium populated. Then, if the city’s lucky, a good team can start bringing in local fans and, hopefully, winning some fans from pitiful Baltimore.

    2) However, speaking of attendance, the Nationals should probably bring their ticket prices somewhat in to whack for a 70-win team. Folks, good seats for a bad team shouldn’t be more than $50. They shouldn’t be more than $20. In the Expos last few seasons in Montreal, tickets on the third baseline were $15. Canadian. And, for God’s sake, replace the Walgreen’s W with your DC logo. It’s infinitely better and not already reserved by a chain pharmacy.

    3) The television. Good lord, Washington – could you have put the home plate camera any further above the field than you did? Watching the game on television makes me feel like I’m sitting in the $2 seats at Shea Stadium. Why in the world would you design your stadium in such a way to make your camera angles suck so hard? This is my first chance to complain about it so, well, consider this a complaint. I understand you’re probably bitter about being a franchise without your own broadcast rights (which, by the way, is possibly the second worst sports’ business decision in recent memory — the first being the Jets remaining in Giants’ Stadium instead of moving to Queens — and will likely be the reason the Nationals move sometime in the next ten years), but do you have to punish all of us?

    Three Things That Will Be Fun To Watch

    1) Stephen Strasburg: Obviously with all the hype surrounding this guy, he’s going to be like a wrapped Christmas present until he makes his presence felt on the roster. Of course, should the Nationals stay out of contention all year, there’s also nothing wrong with keeping him down in the minors to keep the clock frozen until 2011. The only reason to bring Strasburg up this season is if the team’s in some sort of contention by June or July or if they desperately need to sell some tickets to make ends meet. The former is unlikely. The latter… kind of likely.

    2) The 2010 Draft: Bryce Harper was featured in an SI article last year. His plan was to get his GED so he’d be eligible to declare for the draft as soon as he cleared the age limit. The gist of the article was, first, he’s the best MLB prospect since A-Rod and, second, he’s kind of already an entitled douche. The Nationals already put a huge chunk of change in to the draft with the Strasburg signing and it seems likely they’ll have to put a good chunk in to Harper as well. But, as I mentioned before, the Nationals’ management gets it: there’s no chance for them to build through free agency (only the Yankees can do that), so they need to have three or four solid draft classes (two down) in a row with some solid trades and Rule V pick-ups.

    3) John Lannan: Maybe for me more than most as he went to my old college roommate’s high school and graduated from our alma mater. I can’t help but root for Lannan when he’s on the mound.

    Summary: As mentioned in the Marlins’ preview: I think this is the year that the young Marlin players just kind of run out of gas playing in front of a dead stadium. I think this opens up the Nationals to be the “Spunky Young Team Makin A Run” crown in the league this year. That’s probably good for fourth place in a pretty loaded division. As I said, though, next year might be very different.

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