Ask a Washington Nationals fan what their prediction for the upcoming baseball season is, and many of them will talk about Wild Card games, playoff berths, and even World Series appearances (I’m a little bit more realistic, but admit that it would be nice if they made it to the postseason). After years of supporting a mediocre team, this year we have hopes, dreams, and high expectations.
But what do other baseball fans think of the Nationals’ chances this season? I went on several dozen baseball websites – newspapers, sports magazines, sports networks, and even some sports betting sites. The team is still an afterthought to many, and if the Nationals are mentioned at all, it’s something having to do with either Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper (the only two players on the team, it seems).
But it was very humbling to read what non-Nats fans have to say about the team – they’re definitely improved but are not yet ready for the playoffs; their pitching looks great but you can’t win without run support; Ian Desmond should not be batting leadoff… and so on.
So really, are the Nationals for real this year? Is this the season where we can celebrate a winning record and a playoff berth? If Spring Training is any indication, then… perhaps. The Nationals have had a busy Spring Training, with a record of 5 wins, 4 losses, and 2 ties so far (all NL-East teams have 5 wins except for the Braves, who are 1-10, and the Mets, who are 3-6). Their bats have just started getting hot and the pitching has been OK, but it’s hard to tell how a team is really doing so early on, when starting pitchers don’t go more than 4 innings and your veterans don’t get more than 3 at-bats per game.
Speaking of veterans, Rick Ankiel continues to impress with his cannon arm in center field, building his case to get the job at that position once the season starts. Ankiel saved eight runs from being scored last year, which led the Major Leagues. He is competing against Roger Bernadina for the starting position, and I go back and forth regarding who should get the job. While Ankiel (a former pitcher) can throw anyone out at the plate, Bernadina has more speed on the bases (if he can get on). I don’t think Nationals’ General Manager Mike Rizzo has ever liked Bernadina, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the job went to Ankiel.
And have you heard about Ryan Zimmerman tearing it up so far this spring? He is batting .571 with 6 extra-base hits that include 2 home runs. I hope he doesn’t wear himself out before the season has even started – with this fancy new contract of his, he needs to be healthy for 162 games!
And what’s a Nationals blog without mention of Bryce Harper’s latest whereabouts? Well “Wonder Boy” Harper has been recovering from a calf strain (allegedly his first injury ever), and is itching to get back in the lineup. This 19-year-old needs to realize that the rules will not be bent for him – he wanted to be in Tuesday’s game but was told that all players must complete a full workout without any pain before returning to the lineup. In the meantime, Bryce needs to eat a piece of humble pie and keep his mouth shut.
The next televised game will be this Thursday against the Yankees, where Chien-Ming Wang will start for the Nats against his former teammates. I will be watching, as I continue to count the days until the first regular season game.
About the Author
Written by Marien Hornyak
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico but have lived in the continental US for 22 years. I have a BS in Athletic Training and a MEd in Sport Management, where I did my thesis on "The History of Baseball Litigation." I am a wife, mother of 2, and self-proclaimed "Baseball Nerd." My favorite baseball players include Roberto Clemente, Kirby Puckett, and Iván Rodriguez.