By Travis Stahl
My good friend Matt Stoots works and lives in the Washington D.C. area and on occasion goes to Washington Nationals games. Last summer we were in D.C. and Stoots wanted to know if we wanted to go the Nationals-Cubs game while we were in town? At the time I thought, “No, who gives a crap. The Nationals are the Nationals and I hate the Cubs.” But now the Nationals have turned in to the NATIONALS and I have a lot of admiration for how they built the team in to a success.
Nobody likes it win a team buys a championship. Even though the Red Sox and the Yankees compete for World Series rings nearly every year baseball fans recognizes that the reason the two teams are good every year is they have the top two pay rolls in the sport. Back in the 1990’s the Braves were the model of how to build a team through the farm system by adding young players to the team and bringing them up through the organization. Now Washington is following that same model.
The Nationals feature the top young pitcher in baseball right now, Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg is fifth in MLB in strikeouts with 64 and has four wins with a 2.21 ERA. Who is the the No. 1 pitcher in baseball right now? That’s Strasburg’s teammate Gio Gonzalez with 69 K’s and six wins on the season with a 1.98 ERA. I know it’s a long ways off until the playoffs, but consider the possibility of a team facing Strasburg and Gonzalez twice in a series. That’s scary.
Washington is not exactly the hottest team in the league at the plate, but the team is consistent and playing well. Adam LaRoche is seventh in the league in RBIs and but other than the Nationals first baseman nobody else stands out. Ian Desmond is a possible All-Star at second and outfielder Bryce Harper is still learning the game.
As it stands right now the Nationals are leading the NL East in a heck-of-a competitive division with the Braves and Marlins constantly on Washington’s heels. The good news for Washington is that what was thought to be the team’s best player, Michael Morse, is yet to play this year. Morse likely won’t return until after the All-Star break.
If you are a fan of baseball at all you have to admire the Nationals. The former Montreal Expos never won when the team was in Canada and are finally exciting. The best part about the team’s success is Washington did it the right way, drafting players and building a team instead of buying one. I promise if I’m ever in Washington D.C. again, I’ll take Stoots up on his offer and go watch the Nationals play.