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Poll time: Pennant race?

Feb 3, 2010, 12:00 PM EDT

Good morning, NatsTown. Hope you managed to survive this latest in a string of snowstorms that has certainly caught me off-guard. This is my 10th winter in the D.C. area, and I can’t remember any others in which it snowed this often. Long-time locals, help me out: When’s the last time we got this much snow in one winter?

And since I’m in a question-asking mood this morning as opposed to a question-answering mood — I am a reporter, after all, it’s my nature to ask questions — I’ve got one for everyone out there. You’ll see I’ve created a poll off in the upper-right corner of this blog, posing the following head-scratcher:

How soon do you think the Nats could realistically be in a pennant race?

Your choices are: 2010, 2011, 2012 or 2013-or-later.

I’ll share my opinion on the matter once everyone’s had a chance to vote. Polls are open until 8 a.m. Thursday. Please, no ballot-stuffing. To paraphrase Sam Wyche’s famous rant: “You don’t live in Chicago. You live in Washington, D.C.!”

  1. Positively Half St. - Feb 3, 2010 at 12:56 PM

    I'm going to go with 2011. I have taken the Kool-Aid on Mike Rizzo, and want to enjoy its sweetness until such time that he proves he is nothing special. I am not saying that 2011 is when the team will make the playoffs, but that they will be in the race long enough for people to think they were in it for real.+1/2St.

  2. Brian - Feb 3, 2010 at 1:45 PM

    Realistically be in the pennant race? 2011More likely to be in the pennant race? 2012I think they have a wild card shot next season if everything breaks right (Strasburg sticks in the majors as a front of the rotation starter, Zimmermann bounces back from TJ, Desmond or Espinosa can reasonable handle SS, among other things)But I'd think 2012 is a more reasonable guess

  3. Let Teddy Win - Feb 3, 2010 at 1:56 PM

    The wild card changes everything. Any team playing .500 ball could still have a shot in September. Based on that criteria, even 2010 is possible (your question was "could," right?). Still, I'll bet if you took this poll every February since 2005, the most popular answers every year would be 1-2 years after the upcoming season.

  4. Anonymous - Feb 3, 2010 at 1:57 PM

    2014. Never underestimate the ability of this team to fail. We are more Pirates than Rays.

  5. Positively Half St. - Feb 3, 2010 at 2:48 PM

    On another subject, the Dodgers just signed Ramon Ortiz to a minor league contract. I am not remotely upset that the Nats did not, but I still have a warm spot for him, only because he came closer than any other Nat to a no-hitter.

  6. Kevin - Feb 3, 2010 at 3:25 PM

    2012, and that's only if everything breaks the right way: Strasburg is STRASBURG!, Zimmermann comes back from TJ and matures as a pitcher, and they get a solid #3 SP. In addition, it's fair to assume one of Willingham or Dunn won't be on the roster in 2012, so that gap will need to be bridged. Same for the MI. As rich and tough as the division is, the Nats are lucky that the Mets are incompetent and the Phillies are aging just when the Nats maybe — maybe — have something developing on the far horizon.

  7. nationals anthems - Feb 3, 2010 at 3:36 PM

    2011:September will dawn, a-dewWith moist playoff dreams.

  8. JayB - Feb 3, 2010 at 4:11 PM

    Tough to predict untill Spring Training get going….is this team theone we have seen for years that does not care about fundementals and team defense? If so then the answer is never. Or is this a new team that understands that nothing is more important than defense, fundementals and throwing strikes. I have two trips to spring training planned this year. In my past trips to Spring Training I saw Milledge and Dukes "working" in the OF with their caps on backwards and letting balls role to a stop before they picked them up….who was hitting them you ask….good news, the coach is gone and who was sitting in a golf cart watching you ask….well more good news…Acta is gone!

  9. NatsGirl - Feb 3, 2010 at 4:16 PM

    As much as I dearly love the Nats, I think it takes a long time to really build a contender. I've been a Caps fan for *years* and there were many a "rebuilding" year before we got to cheer for anything other than beating the Flyers or Devils once in a while (oh, or beating the pants off the Penguins, Zuck). The Nats have something good in the works, but there's no guarantee that (heaven forbid) Strasburg won't take a line drive to the hand at Spring Training and JZimm won't end up with a career ending tendonitis–remember John Patterson?–midway through the season. Lots of awesome looking prspects ended up fizzling out. I'm not trying to to be a wet blanket; I still jump up and cheer whenever someone blasts a homer at Nats Park, but I'm not quite ready to take the 300:1 Vegas odds just yet.This is why they play the games and don't depend on Strat-o-Matic to determine the World Series Winner. That, and the parades wouldn't be nearly as interesting.

  10. Anonymous - Feb 3, 2010 at 4:19 PM

    @JayB: You know there's a Rants & Raves forum on Craig's List for people like you who just want to moan and complain. Why don't you come back when you actually have something constructive to contribute. Put down the Doritos and Mountain Dew and get out of Mommy's basement.

  11. Anonymous - Feb 3, 2010 at 4:32 PM

    Acta is gone? Then how come JayB is all over the place complaining about him all the time?

  12. JayB - Feb 3, 2010 at 4:33 PM

    Hey facts don't lie and neither do my eyes..that is what I saw….you may want to hide your head in the sand but I don't. I want them to fix what caused the problem. I am hopeful but until I see it…..how does it go fool me once….fool me 3 spring training in a row…same on Nats.

  13. JayB - Feb 3, 2010 at 4:46 PM

    What are you people clueless….The reason I am talking about Acta and Spring Training is because it is Spring Training time and we have an opportunity to vastly improve things from past years. The biggest thing this team can do to win back fans is play better baseball starting with Opening day. How do you do that, you work hard on fundamentals and set a tone in Spring Training. You all can dream about 2011 and beyond but I want to see good baseball now. All that would take is a well run focused spring training with high expectation from management. If you do not get that you do not understand how the game works.

  14. JayB - Feb 3, 2010 at 4:52 PM

    Nats made 143 errors last year to lead baseball the next worst team by 19 errors. That is really, really bad. Nothing is going to change if they do not get that number down to under 90 errors. That is going to take a whole new approach in Spring Training because the players in the field have not changed that much. Now do you get it?

  15. JayB - Feb 3, 2010 at 4:58 PM

    143 errors by Nats in 2009 was the second highest number in baseball over the past 10 years just two better than 145 which is the worst in the past 10 years…..gee I under why JayB is talking about Spring Training and why it is important?

  16. JayB - Feb 3, 2010 at 5:11 PM

    Per Zim on NJ talking about last years effort on Defense…."I think it was just pushed under the rug [last year]. It's unacceptable…..so you don't like hearing it from me….fine but don't be the people who Zim is talking about who just push it under the rug…..and I promise…I will not say another word until I get to spring training and see for my self.

  17. CheapSeats - Feb 3, 2010 at 5:24 PM

    Natsgirl, FWIW, the Vegas line is 200-1 on the Nats winning the Series in 2010. 100-1 on the Nats winning the NLCS. I was in Vegas in January and put $10 on the Nats winning the NLCS this year. To be clear, I don't think they'll even make the playoffs. But, if they're remotely close in August, I'll have my betting slip and Kool-Aid at the ready.

  18. Anonymous - Feb 3, 2010 at 5:46 PM

    Great to have you back Mark. Your blog is my first stop each day now for Nats news.

  19. NatsGirl - Feb 3, 2010 at 5:55 PM

    Cheapseats: Those were the odds in January–looks like they've climbed since then. I think 2 years ago I put $10 on them winning the NLCS and the odds were 125:1. At Spring Training, I wanted to tell all of my favorite players that I had money riding on them to go all the way–as in "Look guys, I believe in you so much!"–but was informed by my boyfriend that it was a bad idea. I don't know if he was right, but he's kind of a baseball buff.Just for the record: I love Manny Acta. I loved him as the Nats manager, and I'll continue to follow him as the Indians manager. But I don't think he was the right guy for this team at the time. I think he took too much of the responsibility for the losses. He didn't hold his players accountable for their own actions and was a little too Zen for the DC fans. Most of the players are young and largely undisciplined. Remember the scene from Bull Durham where Skip throws all the guys into the shower room and yells at them for being lollygaggers? Maybe last year's Nats could have used a bit more of that management style.I'm watching Riggleman closely and so far he looks good. But we don't have a lot to go on, and I don't know how much you can really see at Spring Training unless you're there for the whole six weeks like the writers are. Maybe we should take up a collection to send Zuck, so he can keep us informed.

  20. Positively Half St. - Feb 3, 2010 at 6:25 PM

    It will be really hard to argue with JayB's negative take until the Nats cease to be a 100-loss team. I am certainly one ready to jump on the team's bandwagon at the earliest possible opportunity, but it is helpful for me to have my high hopes tempered by others less willing to give the benefit of the doubt.

  21. JayB - Feb 3, 2010 at 6:46 PM

    PS 1/2….I am more optimistic than ever before because of Rizzo. What I asked Mark repeatedly and he refuses to give an opinion on is Acta's Spring Training effectiveness to teach fundamentals in contrast to Riggleman's effectiveness to address the issue with the same basic starting players as last year. This really is the most critical question facing the team for the next 8 weeks. Rizzo publicly questioned last years efforts and Zimm publicly stated it was "sweep under the rug". My question is will it get fixed?

  22. Anonymous - Feb 3, 2010 at 7:03 PM

    I would like to see the Nats make an approach that rebuilds the team and puts them in contention for the next few years but it does not look likely to happen. Yes, the Nats have the Zimmerman(n)s and Strassburg and the #1 pick and Dunn but what else is there after that?The 3rd best prospect in the minors is a reliever. I liked watching Desmond but is he really likely to become an allstar? What about Espinoza or Norris? Is it even likely at this point that Burgess or Merrero will make it to the Majors? The Nats still have a below average minor league system and they have too many holes in the majors to fill through free agency.I know its not the popular decision but at this point the best way to turn the system around may be to struggle to draft for the next 2-3 years and play crappy below .500 ball and then to trade off at 1-2 superstars for a huge return. The Nats need to draft smart and they could really use a Texiera/Bedard type trade to rebuild their system. The good news is that Strassburg could provide them just such a candidate if he's half as electric as he's supposed to be.

  23. An Briosca Mor - Feb 3, 2010 at 7:07 PM

    "He's really not dead. As long as we remember him." – Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan"He's really not gone. As long as I complain about him." – Acta II: The Wrath of JayB

  24. An Briosca Mor - Feb 3, 2010 at 7:16 PM

    "What I asked Mark repeatedly and he refuses to give an opinion on is Acta's Spring Training effectiveness to teach fundamentals in contrast to Riggleman's effectiveness to address the issue with the same basic starting players as last year."JayB, only two of the eight starting position players on Opening Day 2010 will have started at their positions on Opening Day 2009. (This will be true whether Hudson gets signed or not.) So what Acta did with the 75% of the starting lineup that Riggleman won't have has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not there is any improvement this year.You really need to get over your fixation with Acta. Either that or move to Cleveland.

  25. Mark Zuckerman - Feb 3, 2010 at 7:21 PM

    Plus, JayB, how am I supposed tell you how Riggleman's spring training differs from Acta's spring training until, you know, Riggleman has actually run his first spring training with the Nats?

  26. JayB - Feb 3, 2010 at 7:31 PM

    Starting 6 of the projected Starting 8 at this time were on the team last year. All 6 of them made significant contributions to the 143 errors.Mark, you covered Rigglemen daily as manager for half a year. You covered Riggleman as bench coach in last years spring training. Team in 2008 also lead the NL in errors so the issue is not new. You have reported on how Riggleman repeatedly says he will do nothing differently than Acta did and that Acta did all the right things. All BS from Riggs I know but I would think you have some insight and opinions to share on all this. This market really needs colonists to take stands and call this as they see them….I had hoped you would make that transition.

  27. Anonymous - Feb 3, 2010 at 8:57 PM

    Shame on you Mark for not turning out to be the wacko JayB wanted you to be.

  28. Wally - Feb 3, 2010 at 9:50 PM

    JayBI thought that Mark did give you his opinion on Acta and fundamentals, which was that he did stress them in ST (like all teams do) but then failed to hold players accountable during the season when they didn't follow through? Makes sense to me. Riggleman's behavior at the end of last year seemed better in that regard, so I am hopeful.By the way, while I can't say that I often agree with you, I encourage you to keep voicing your opinion. With the collapse of journalism as we knew it, these blogs are taking on an increasing role in public discussion, and people shouldn't get shouted down just for an unpopular viewpoint (even if repeatedly made!)WallyBall

  29. JayB - Feb 3, 2010 at 10:24 PM

    That was Ben not Mark…..big difference. Mark has seen it all and has a perspective on all the bad baseball we have seen here in DC. I would really like him to use that perspective to comment on what he thinks the causes of the poor defense has been.

  30. Anonymous - Feb 3, 2010 at 10:42 PM

    JayB, are you at all upset that the Post has not named a new beat writer yet so you can get started hectoring him/her to legitimize your opinion of how bad Manny Acta is?

  31. Wally - Feb 3, 2010 at 10:46 PM

    JayB – I was referring to his reply to you in the comments section of 'Orlando is close to Viera'"JayB: I'll keep it short, and then let's move on: Every team stresses fundamentals in spring training. Find me a team that doesn't say they're stressing fundamentals in spring training. What I believed happened last year: …. [guys] probably lost focus in the field and in the clubhouse. Acta's biggest fault was an inability to hold them accountable when it happened…."

  32. Anonymous - Feb 3, 2010 at 10:49 PM

    All those who want to continue a pointless debate with JayB, stay here.Everyone else, there's a new post up about Lannan/Marquis. Let's move on.

  33. JayB - Feb 3, 2010 at 10:49 PM

    Thanks Wally,I did not see that…Sorry Mark and everyone else….my bad….my question now is when you say Mark is did the team stress fundamentals in spring training. Did they work hard until they got it right and if so did they somehow just forget it between FL and DC that first week?

  34. natbiscuit - Feb 4, 2010 at 12:24 AM

    It's dangerous to feed the bears.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 55 44 --
ATLANTA 55 47 1.5
MIAMI 48 52 8.0
NEW YORK 48 54 8.5
PHILADELPHIA 44 58 12.5
Through Thursday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
FRI: Nats at Reds, 7:10 p.m.
SAT: Nats at Reds, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Nats at Reds, 1:10 p.m.
MON: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
WED: Nats at Marlins, 12:40 p.m.
THU: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

ON THE RADIO

As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
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