With less than one month until pitchers and catchers report, professional baseball teams are wrapping up their off-season activities. For the Washington Nationals, the off-season proved to be one of high tensions, gripping negotiations and many questions regarding their moves and how they can be beneficial to the ball club in the near future. Here are five questions that Nationals fans should be asking:
1. Why have the Nationals not finished over .500 since 2005?
When the Nationals were moved to Washington D.C. for the 2005 baseball season, many fans were skeptical of how they would do. With famed manager Frank Robinson running the show, expectations were high and with key players such as Brad Wilkerson, Ryan Zimmerman and Ryan Church, the Nationals posted a 81-81 record in their first year as a team. The few years that followed proved to be less than expected for Nationals fans. Going through five mangers in six years, the Nationals win percentage would dip down into the .400 range, then to the .300 range, and they would eventually finish the 2011 season posting a 80-81 record under new manager Jim Riggleman. After six years of losing records, hopefully they can pull themselves up and be over .500 this season.
2. Where did the Nationals get all of this money?
Lets face it, the Lerner family is not poor. With the Nationals net worth sitting at $417 million, and Ted Lerner having a net worth of $3 billion, the Nationals have some throwing around money. First off, signing pitching star Stephen Strasburg was not a cheap acquisition. Strasburg signed a 5-year contract for $10.5 million. In addition to picking up Strasburg, the Nationals ended up in last place the following season, and acquired the number one player in the country, Bryce Harper for $9.9 million for 5 years. With Strasburg injured and Harper still in the minors, the Nationals needed a couple more guys just to hold them over. They decided to pick up Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth for a whopping 7-year $126 million contract. Even with over $145 million dollars spent in 2 years, the Nationals must have found an extra wad of cash in their back pocket, and decided to sign former all-star first-baseman Adam LaRoche for $15 million for 2 years, with a $10 million optional contract for 2013. As the off-season is winding down, the Nationals are still in the hunt for all-star free agent Prince Fielder. Being the high-caliber player that he is, Fielder will most likely ask for more than $150 million. Maybe if Ted Lerner searches in one of his pants' front pockets, he can scrounge up the extra cash to acquire Fielder.
3. Will Stephen Strasburg be healthy for the 2012 season?
After his big debut on June 8th 2010, where he posted 4 hits, 2 earned runs and 14 strikeouts in seven innings pitched for the Nationals in a 4-2 win over the Pirates, Washington fans were swept away by the pandemonium that was Stephen Strasburg. But all of the excitement was short lived when he tore a ligament that required Tommy John surgery and 12-18 months of rehabilitation.
Nationals fans were devastated that their savior was placed on the disabled list. After months of rehab and months of minor league play to get back in the swing of things, the Nationals say that Strasburg is better than ever and is expected to pitch about 160 innings this season.
4. Will Bryce Harper be what the Nationals need?
After tense negotiations, the Nationals signed 17 year old Bryce Harper in 2010 just minutes before the midnight deadline. Being the number one draft pick, and indisputably the best amateur player in the country at the time, Harper was a golden ray of sunshine for the Nationals organization. With a more than powerful bat, and a fantastic arm, Harper is working his way up through the minors, leaving a trail of devastation in his path. However, last year, the Nationals were not pleased when Harper hit a home-run and then proceeded to blow a kiss to the opposing pitcher.
This act of immaturity placed some reservations in the Nationals coaching staff, but they saw it as merely a minor setback in his progression. In my opinion, if he matures, Bryce Harper will be exactly what the Nationals need to obtain success.
5. What is the future of this ball club?
Taking into account everything that was mentioned above, the Nationals are setting themselves up for greatness. With Stephen Strasburg healthy and Bryce Harper working his way up through the minors, the Nationals are setting themselves up to be a real competitor for the post-season in 2012. Most fans however, would be more than content with a winning record. With all of the off-season moves, and new acquisitions, one can only expect the Nationals to achieve that goal of .500 or more.
My Prediction for the 2012 season: 95-67. That is a winning percentage of .586.
But then again, I am optimistic.Back to the Washington Nationals Newsfeed