The Nationals are a baseball team. They are not the national team however, that would have to be the YankeesâŚsome might say the CubsâŚbut it is definitely not the Nationals who lost more games than anyone in baseball last year. My favorite team plays the Washington Nationals 19 times a year. Out of those 19 games I expect to win 16 or so. These are all indirect ways of saying the Washington Nationals are a franchise with some problems.
The Nationals were the Expos. Wait let me backupâŚBefore that, Iâm told the Nationals played in Washington D.C. and then moved to Minnesota to become the Twins. A new team was founded in Washington and called themselvesâŚthe Nationals. They stayed for awhile and then moved to Texas to become the Rangers. The Expos were their own team, and decided to move to Washington to becomeâŚthatâs rightâŚthe Nationals. Itâs all very confusing, but if youâre a Nationalâs fanâŚwell maybe you should prepare yourself for an eventual move because this marriage of team and town seems to be a fleeting one at best.
But there is promise in the Nationals organization. They have been relatively bad for some time, and have been able to parlay that badness into high draft picks. This past year, the Nationals selected Stephen Strasburg (Cy Young reincarnated) with the first pick of the first round. Stephen Strasburg throws the ball 214 miles per hour. Or 100 miles per hour. One of those two. He has some pretty terrifying secondary pitches. He likes to smile.3
The reality is that the Nationals will be able to field a really respectable everyday lineup. Morgan is a fine leadoff hitter and has the ability to swipe maybe 40 bases. Adam Dunn is a lock to hit 40 home runs with 100 RBI. Cristian Guzman usually has about 175 singles at the end of every year. Pudge, Willingham, and Kennedy are all solid veterans that can help a locker room cope with losing 95+ games.
Ryan Zimmerman is the star of the team and after a 2009 that saw him compile a .292/30/106 lineâŚas well as a 30 game hitting streak, Nationals fans have to be excited that the team has an All Star locked up for the foreseeable future.
But back to that losing 95+ games bitâŚThe Natâs pitching staffâwhile Iâm sure are a bunch of nice guysâis going to really struggle in that division this year. The Phillies, Mets, Braves and Marlins all boast fastball killer lineups. And thatâs what the Nationals have. A bunch of pitchers that throw fastballs that donât move so fast.
Marquis is a great third or fourth starter on a playoff bound team, but heâs no ace. Lannan is really aided by their huge stadium, but he quietly posted nice numbers last year. Scott Olsen looks to regain some of the promise he showed in Florida while Craig Stammen and J.D. Martin are two gentlemen I couldnât pick out of a lineupâŚand I watch this team 10 or 15 times a year. Washingtonâs other young Zimmerman, Jordan, will miss the 2010 season following surgery to his pitching arm. If youâre a home run ball collector, you could have a worse business plan than buying season tickets in the left field seats this summer.
Matt Capps had varying levels of success as Pittsburghâs closer over the last few years, but heâs probably not going to surprise anyone this year. If he notches 30 saves…it’s a good year.
The real story in Washington is when will Strasburg arrive, and how will he do against major league hitters? If you havenât seen his stuff, take a look at this. Those college kids look like theyâre swinging blindfolded up there, but who knows what major league hitters will do against him…
Team MVP â ZimmermanâŚheâs simply their best player on offense or defense and he should improve upon last yearâs legitimate breakout campaign
X-Factor â Again itâs StrasburgâŚif he comes up in the early summer months and dominates, fans in Washington will give the team a free pass for another season or two
Here’s another post from newly minted writer Brent. His sports knowledge is vastly impressive and to be frank, a little worrisome. Below you’ll find a reference to Bo Jackson, someone named Charlie something and a Techmo Super Bowl video among other items. It’s quite the creation. We’ll try to get both new guys set up with accounts this week and cut out this bloviating middleman…
My fellow copywriter Ariel is giving you a taste of what youâll see in the playoffs this fall, but there is a lot you wonât see again until Spring Training.
I love Spring Training. I love that it gives every team a brand new start so they can suck and fall well short of expectations (New York Mets, Chicago Cubs), be awesome (Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees), or just experience more fledgling mediocrity (Milwaukee Brewers, Toronto Blue Jays). But for me, it doesnât get much better than post-season baseball. Iâm a Minnesota Twins fan and while the Twins havenât had much success in October in the last decade, they have at least been in the playoffs in four of the last seven seasons, including a Game 163 in 2008 that they lost to the Chicago White Sox. John Danks shut the Twins out in that game but could not deliver the same result in his regular season finale this year against the Detroit Tigers when he walked three in the first inning, including one with the bases loaded. Now the Twins and Tigers will square off in Game 163. 2009 is the third season in a row to require a 163rd game. Two years ago the Colorado Rockies beat the San Diego Padres 9-8 in 13 innings.
But there are guys who had phenomenal seasons who wonât see stadium lights after October 4th. Zack Greinke led the majors in ERA at 2.16, led the AL in WHIP at 1.07 and finished 3rd in strikeouts in all of baseball. And he won 16 games on a team that won 65 all season.
Albert Pujols got all the press this year in the NL, but what about Prince Fielder’smonster season? Prince set a Brewer record for RBIâs at 141, he hit 46 home runs, behind only 47 by Albert Pujols, and he hit .299 with an on-base percentage of .412.
Roy Halladayâs reputation speaks for itself and because Toronto couldnât get a deadline deal worked out (other than sending Alex Rios to the Chicago White Sox), he too will miss the playoffs, just as he has in every season of his career. The Toronto Blue Jays havenât seen the post-season since they won back-to-back World Series Championships in 1992 and 1993. Remember Joe Carter jumping around first base? That team also had Minnesota natives Paul Molitor, Jack Morris, and former Minnesota Golden Gopher basketball stand out Dave Winfield (yes, basketball, he was also drafted by the Minnesota Vikings without ever having played a down of football in his life) on the roster.
Fernandez went from the Pads to the Mets in 1992 in a deal involving former outfielder/running back D.J. Dozier and then the Mets traded Fernandez back to the Blue Jays in June of 1993. The Padres received McGriff, Dozier, and Wally Whitehurst in exchange for a World SeriesâŚ (more or less, Iâm blowing it out of proportion. But I canât help but be reminded of when the Vikings traded for now MMA fighter Herschel Walker and gave the Cowboys a dynasty. I think Hershal Walker also tried out to be an Olympic bobsledder at some point, too. He dabbles.).
Our old friend Charlie Leibrandt from a few paragraphs ago played with a couple of two-sport athletes. He was a teammate of Bo Jackson on the Royals, who of course was an Oakland Raider and legendary Tecmo Super Bowl player.
Besides getting ready to vacation in warm climates, what else do these guys have in common with Greinke, Fielder, and Halladay? In the next few years, theyâll each probably receive ginormous contract offers from teams you will see in the playoffs this year: Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, and The Los Angeles, California Angels of Aneheim, USA. Or other big market teams, like the New York Mets, Chicago Cubs, and Chicago White Sox.
Small market teams find it difficult to hold on to their best young talent, even through the playersâ arbitration years, after all, Ryan Howard was awarded $10 million in arbitration after striking out 199 times. I wonder what Mark Reynolds of the Arizona Diamondbacks will get after striking out over 400 times over the last two seasons?
There are pitfalls to rooting for both small market and big market teams, however. Small market teams, like my Twins, have to wave good-bye to guys like Johan Santana and Torii Hunter because they cannot afford to keep them. The Tampa Bay Rays will find out the same thing when they try to hold on to Carl Crawford and others. The Florida Marlins know this reality well and will face it again when it comes time to pay Josh Johnson, Dan Uggla, and Ramirez.
Big market teams throw money at players like they are Pacman Jones making it rain. But that comes with great risk sometimes, too. San Francisco gave Barry Zito $126 million over seven years and they got a #3 starter at best. The Cubs are locked in to Alfonso Soriano for more than any club would like to be. Mike Hampton signed a monster deal once upon a time and then spent much of that time on the DL. The same can be said about Carl Pavano, Kevin Brown, Jason Schmidt and others.
Things you should know that have happened sort of under-the-radar and may be of help to you in future fantasy drafts or baseball nerd conversations:
Jair Jurrjens had a 2.61 ERA for the Braves this year, good for 6th best in baseball.
The New York Mets hit 95 homers as a team, last in the league and 149 behind the league leading New York Yankess. The Mets could combine home run totals with seven other teams and still have fewer than the Yankees did. Handfuls of players could combine their home run totals to have the greater than sign in their favor when compared with the Mets.
Fielder, Braun, and Mike Cameron > 2009 Mets.
Mauer, Morneau, and Michael Cuddyer > 2009 Mets.
The second baseman of the AL East* > 2009 Mets.
Pujols, Fielder, and Carlos Zambrano > 2009 Mets.