Imagine you are a fan of the Washington Nationals. Your team has been a doormat since they moved from Montreal. Then, in the middle of the 2009 season, you see a light at the end of the tunnel. It turns out to be an oncoming train only you are thrilled to be hit by it. The train is #1 pick Stephen Strasburg and he is about to breathe some life into your comatose franchise. So as you start your climb to respectability, an avalanche starts to roll into your path. Again, you are thrilled about this as your Nats draft Bryce Harper, the most hyped hitting star to have skipped his last two years of high school. So after all of these years of empty late Augusts, Septembers and Octobers, your time is finally here.
So how great must you feel?
True, Strasburg’s innings this season will have to be limited because of the arm surgery in 2010 and his brief appearances in 2011. He may only make 20-25 starts and pitch 165 innings at most. Right now, Harper may not even start the season in Washington. Despite all of that, I am still picking the Nats to win the National League East in 2012. The New York Mets are a mess. The Miami Marlins have the potential to be an even bigger mess. I do not trust the starting pitching of the Atlanta Braves and who knows how last season’s collapse will affect the team. As for the Philadelphia Phillies, this is the one year where everything goes wrong. It has already started with the delayed progress of Ryan Howard from his foot injury. I am picking Washington in spite of the fact I believe Strasburg and Harper may play only 75% of the season with the big club. Picture the Nats’ future with those two around for an entire season.
If Strasburg and Harper live up to their considerable advance billing, you could very well have baseball’s biggest gate attractions in years. Strasburg is destined to become one of those pitchers whose every start is an event. Harper could very well be one of those hitters where you stop everything you are doing to watch him swing. For the next 10-15 years, as long as they produce and stay in the Nation’s Capital, the Nationals will become the most-talked about team in baseball, even more so than the New York Yankees. Players will want to come to Washington because Strasburg and Harper will make them winners and make them additional money with more TV appearances and more media attention.
I look forward to watching these two youngsters play for a very long time. In fact, they give me an excuse to buy the Extra Innings package. My one hope is that they stay in Washington for their entire careers. The Senators were a down franchise for most of their time in Washington. It will be nice to have some winners in DC. And I am not referring to the politicians.