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Spring storylines: Expectations raised

Feb 11, 2013, 12:00 PM EDT

With the countdown to spring training in its final stages, we're counting down the five biggest storylines facing the Nationals in Viera. We finish today with spring storyline No. 1: The expectations of another NL East title and possible trip to the World Series…

The Washington Nationals have never reported for spring training with anything close to resembling legitimate expectations hovering over them. For the first seven years of its existence, this franchise would have considered a winning record major progress, let alone winning its division or aspiring to reach the World Series.

Those days are no more. When Nationals pitchers and catchers officially report to Viera, Fla., tomorrow, they'll do so as the consensus "Best Team in Baseball" and the sport's most-popular pick to win the World Series.

Nobody's ignoring this franchise anymore. Nobody's setting the bar low. Everyone expects the Nationals to at worst repeat as NL East champions, at best hoist the Commissioner's Trophy on the finalRead more »

  1. sjm308 - Feb 11, 2013 at 12:18 PM

    I feel like I should thank Mark each time there is a new post. I hope his writing is never taken for granted. OK, suck up done.We will not be sneaking up on anyone this year. Important to remember that as fans, no matter what kind of start we have, expectations are high.How many teams picked to win actually do win? Certainly not the Giants in their last two Championships. Maybe the Tigers were one of the favorites in the East. My point is, this is a really really hard thing to accomplish. I know that many on here will not be happy until the WS trophy is resting somewhere in Nationals Park.Of course that would be a wonderful situation. I am honestly happy with us winning 90+ games each year, making the playoffs and striving for the WS. Maybe after 10 years of that I will get frustrated (hell, in 10 years I doubt if I can find the ballpark), but for now I am just thrilled to know we have one of the best teams in Major League Baseball and I can be a big part of that fanbase.I am all for the "World Series or Bust" campaign and feel it is the right way for the team to handle it. This is no time for the team to be humble. I am just saying as a fan that its a wonderful thing to be a part of this and no matter how far they go, it should be fun.

  2. Rabbit34 - Feb 11, 2013 at 12:24 PM

    With so much optimism, I sure hope we don't start off something like 0-10 and get into a big hole. Please get everything working right off the bat! GO NATIONALS!!!

  3. MicheleS - Feb 11, 2013 at 12:34 PM

    It's fine to have confidence – which the Nats (and the fans) should have. We have the most balanced and best team going into the season.I just don't want over confidence. Like Mark sited, last year the Angels were supposed to run away with the AL West, didn't happen. The games still need to be played. The key for the Nats is health. The team must not go through the season with the same amount of injuries as they did last year. The pitching staff is key as it was last year.April will be a good test with Cinci(twice), Chi Sox, STL (blech) and ATL at the end.

  4. Faraz Shaikh - Feb 11, 2013 at 1:10 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. MicheleS - Feb 11, 2013 at 1:10 PM

    A couple of DVR alerts:ESPN BBTN will be on today (I think at 2:30 or 3). Buster Olney is in Nats Camp.MASN, new Nats Classic on tonight at 7 pm.

  6. natsfan1a - Feb 11, 2013 at 1:12 PM

    That would be swell, Faraz. :-)I'm not worried about overconfidence with our guys, as they seem to say all the right things. I'm also with sjm on having fun as a fan.

  7. Faraz Shaikh - Feb 11, 2013 at 1:14 PM

    what I meant is we need to sweep STL comprehensively.

  8. natsfan1a - Feb 11, 2013 at 1:17 PM

    Either way, it would be cool with me. :-)

  9. natsfan1a - Feb 11, 2013 at 1:25 PM

    I'm confused, as per the ESPN site, it looks like today's BBTN broadcast has SFO scheduled, with the Nats slated for March 5.

  10. Section 222 - Feb 11, 2013 at 1:27 PM

    What 308 said.It's going to be a lot of fun this year. I'm keeping that in mind, whatever happens.

  11. MicheleS - Feb 11, 2013 at 1:28 PM

    1A. That's the bus tour with Timmy K. Olney is tweeting out photos from Space Coast. So hopefully we will see some news today.Olney's Picture

  12. Laddie Blah Blah - Feb 11, 2013 at 1:30 PM

    Character and make-up are the hallmarks of a Mike Rizzo team, even before pitching and defense. They will be focused and determined and tough as all hell to beat. Those guys are good. Win or lose, they will bring it every night. Can't wait.

  13. natsfan1a - Feb 11, 2013 at 1:38 PM

    Thanks, Michele. Evidently the sight of Space Coast bowled Olney over. :-) I believe that Mark is due to arrive there today as well. Yay!

  14. Section 222 - Feb 11, 2013 at 1:59 PM

    Ok, so when do Ps&Cs actually report. The NIDO spreadsheet says today, Mark's clock says tomorrow, Ladson's most recent article says Wednesday, and The Sporting News says Thursday. Is the confusion the difference between a reporting date and the date of the first workout? Please advise. NatsJack?

  15. Candide - Feb 11, 2013 at 2:00 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. Joe Seamhead - Feb 11, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    Nice piece, Mark. Great post, sjm308.As to the upcoming year, I think the Nats are going to have a very tough time winning the division, but will do it. I'm not sold on Atlanta really being an improved team, but they will be very tough again. They're going to seriously miss the leadership of Chipper and Prado. They have a great looking OF, a rather middlin' IF, great bullpen, good, but not great starters, and potentially some serious issues at catcher. But putting the Braves aside,though the Phillies are not likely to be in the running for the NL East, neither are we going to go 18-0 against them, or the Mets, for that matter.All three of them will put up a tough fight in every series we play them.I see winning the East to be the toughest obstacle. Once that feat is accomplished I really see this Nats team as a team that has been put together to win playoff baseball.GYFNG!!!

  17. SCNatsFan - Feb 11, 2013 at 2:08 PM

    All the confidence in the world is worth zero games in the standings; these guys are professionals and they know that. Sure there will be times they need to have their hands slapped and reminded of that but that is Davey's job. And it is true, some teams will be gunning for us, but the opposite is true too; some teams will be expecting to lose to us because, on paper, we are better. While it will make the fall much worse if the team does not live up to expectations this is still much better than hoping we sign some journeyman we can flip for a prospect at the deadline.

  18. NatsLady - Feb 11, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    Amanda is at Viera and so is James Wagner (WaPo) and both are tweeting with Nats sightings. Werth showed up in his truck with teammates, Danny still has his beard. Desi, Storen and various others have been spotted.

  19. MicheleS - Feb 11, 2013 at 2:22 PM

    Looks like Channel 9 is jumping on the bandwagon too.http://www.masnsports.com/nationals_pastime/2013/02/masn-partnering-with-wusa-9-to-simulcast-20-games-in-2013.html

  20. Snivius - Feb 11, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    "World Series or Bust" is silly.Smart GM's (and fans) know that the playoffs are a crapshoot. The difference between a stunned and demoralized dugout and moving on to the NLCS last year was a 1-inch break of a Drew Storen pitch. They know that there's only a few milliseconds of difference between a loud strike two and a three-run double that bounces on the chalk line. People frame a 100-win team losing to a 91-win team as an "upset". No, it's variance.Manage a pipeline and a roster that wins 92+ games a year for the next several and let the chips fall where they may when the games happen to occur after October 1st. The 2012 team was a success.

  21. SonnyG10 - Feb 11, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    Great opening post, sjm. You expressed exactly how I feel.MicheleS, thanks for the DVR alerts. I appreciate them very much.NatsLady, thanks for the Nats sightings.Thanks for the nice post, Mark. Are you in FL already?It's great to see the countdown clock register zero days and only a few more hours to go. Baseball is back!!!!

  22. SonnyG10 - Feb 11, 2013 at 2:42 PM

    Snivius said…"World Series or Bust" is silly.Sometimes its fun to be silly. :)

  23. sjm308 - Feb 11, 2013 at 2:58 PM

    Back from the gym:WS or Bust might be silly if it was said by some 25 year old player or someone who has years left in an organization. For a baseball man who has spend probably 45+ years in his sport, has been to and won World Series and has just one season left to do what he obviously loves it is not silly at all. It lets his players know exactly how he feels. I think for Davey it is absolutely the opposite of silly, it is brilliant.

  24. The Retired Journalist - Feb 11, 2013 at 3:06 PM

    Don't forget — if any one day's final score doesn't mean "another curly W is in the books", remember: even the best teams in baseball history only won about two-thirds of the games they played.

  25. NatsLady - Feb 11, 2013 at 3:08 PM

    It's a long season. If players can visualize themselves with that trophy in their hands (as Clip said) it gets them through a lot of heat, exhaustion, discouragement, pain, squabbling, slumps, etc. "You have to have a dream, or how you going to have a dream come true?" (South Pacific).

  26. bowdenball - Feb 11, 2013 at 3:08 PM

    I agree with both Snivius and sjm."World Series or bust" is a terrible way to look at the game when you consider the crapshoot of the playoffs. Every GM knows the best way to win a WS is to build a team that wins consistently and hope that one year in the playoffs your number comes up. Most fans should know that too.But for an old baseball manager who says he's retiring at the end of the season, why not?

  27. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 11, 2013 at 3:12 PM

    sjm308 said… We will not be sneaking up on anyone this year.The bulk of the national media has set the bar at the highest wrung. The Nats are no longer a well-kept secret and it happened a year ahead of schedule.For his part Rizzo adds 3 key pieces in Dan Haren, Denard Span and Rafael Soriano while not retaining Michael Morse and Edwin Jackson and a 2nd lefty in the bullpen.Even if Rizzo retained Morse and Jackson and did nothing else all the parts are here.The one unknown is "HEALTHY". The 3 question marks going into Spring Training are on health issues:1. Dan Haren2. Danny Espinosa3. Wilson RamosI don't even consider Gio's link to Biogenesis to be an issue just a pesty inconvenience.Stay healthy my friends.

  28. JD - Feb 11, 2013 at 3:21 PM

    Bowdenball, Snivius and SJM, Add me to your team. Anyone who thinks that the Giants were the best team in Baseball in either of their WS years hasn't been paying attention. Anyone who can predict a Marco Scutaro type of WS is just making s*it up. The best you can do is get to the dance and with as many home advantage situations as possible. If you keep going to the playoffs year after year the numbers say you will win a trophy at some point.

  29. waddu eye no - Feb 11, 2013 at 3:22 PM

    nats lady – another cockeyed optimist

  30. Navy Nats Fan - Feb 11, 2013 at 3:25 PM

    Or, to continue the reference, Talk, talk, talk, talk happy talk…

  31. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 11, 2013 at 3:39 PM

    JD, not only Scutaro in the NLCS, they got clutch performances from Zito as a starter and Lincecum and Romo as relievers.It just defies logic but I guess that is the Baseball Gods.

  32. NatsLady - Feb 11, 2013 at 4:33 PM

    Interesting "strategy" by the Rays. They went way over their pool money for international signings….international signingshttp://ht.ly/hC6l2

  33. NatsLady - Feb 11, 2013 at 4:38 PM

    Not sure that was the right link on the Rays. Here is what I got from Twitter.Baseball America ‏@BaseballAmericaThe #Rays became the 1st team to face significant penalties after they exceeded their 2012 bonus pool. http://ht.ly/hC6l2

  34. Sec. 3, My Sofa - Feb 11, 2013 at 4:43 PM

    ZERO!!!The bar is set at the Zero Rung. We're under 24 hours. Presumably the clock will reset to Opening Day?

  35. Sec. 3, My Sofa - Feb 11, 2013 at 4:45 PM

    the best version of Happy Talksorry about the ad in front

  36. NatsLady - Feb 11, 2013 at 4:46 PM

    The #Nats have agreed to terms with LHP Will Ohman on a minor-league contract with invite to Major League Spring Training.Not bad as a lefty-specialist when he isn't hurt. His OPS+ vs. lefties is 80, whereas vs. righties it's 119 (100 = average, below 100 is good).

  37. NatsLady - Feb 11, 2013 at 4:49 PM

    Sofa, nice. Was able to skip the ad after 5 seconds, so I don't even know what was advertised (always my goal on YouTube).

  38. Sec. 3, My Sofa - Feb 11, 2013 at 4:56 PM

    The one unknown is "HEALTHY". The 3 question marks going into Spring Training are on health issues:1. Dan Haren2. Danny Espinosa3. Wilson RamosYou wouldn't include Zim? He's arguably the one who'd be hardest to replace of the four. But of course, the other question is "Who else is going to get hurt?" Because it's odds-on someone else will. The three guys you mentioned, Rizzo has a credible backup for, but add one other injury to a starter not on the list, and maybe throw in a slow start or prolonged slump from somebody else, and it gets interesting.

  39. MicheleS - Feb 11, 2013 at 4:58 PM

    Mark just got to Viera! YEA!!!

  40. NatsLady - Feb 11, 2013 at 5:00 PM

    According to the Boston Globe, Javier Vazquez, RHP, free agent — The Nationals and others continue to monitor Vazquez, who is recovering from minor knee surgery.Not sure exactly what "continuing to monitor" means, and there's no source for this info, but it's not surprising.

  41. Sec. 3, My Sofa - Feb 11, 2013 at 5:02 PM

    NIDO spreadsheet, Viera schedule, corrected date to tomorrow.

  42. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 11, 2013 at 5:09 PM

    Sec3, I'm including the banged up guys. RZim is healthy.

  43. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 11, 2013 at 5:10 PM

    Bray and Ohman become 2 to watch as lefties for the pen.

  44. Sec. 3, My Sofa - Feb 11, 2013 at 5:10 PM

    Refresh my memory, Vazquez is pitching in the WBC, or no?

  45. NatsLady - Feb 11, 2013 at 5:14 PM

    James Wagner ‏@JamesWagnerWPRoger Bernadina leaves for Taiwan to play for the Netherlands in the WBC, his first one, on Feb. 24. Will wear his new No. 33 there, too.This makes me suspect Gio won't spend a lot of time in Viera being a "distraction" either. I expect he'll ship himself off to the USA WBC camp (wherever that is) as soon as possible.

  46. Sec. 3, My Sofa - Feb 11, 2013 at 5:14 PM

    teh Google Answered my own question, yes.

  47. Sec. 3, My Sofa - Feb 11, 2013 at 5:16 PM

    I'm including the banged up guys. RZim is healthy.Then I'm confused. Haren says he's 100%, and did pitch well at the end of last season, I understand.

  48. NatsLady - Feb 11, 2013 at 5:16 PM

    Sofa, last I know, he planned to before the knee thing. Now it's up in the air. Puerto Rico’s pitching staff might also suffer a loss. Javier Vasquez, who didn’t pitch in 2012 and who is contemplating to return to Major League Baseball, is getting his right meniscus repaired on Wednesday by a Miami Marlins physician. After the procedure he is expected to resume throwing after two to three weeks. If this is enough to be in shape to pitch for Team PR in the first round of the 2013 World Baseball Classic remains to be seen. They will face Spain, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela in the first round in San Juan.—from the WBC site

  49. NatsLady - Feb 11, 2013 at 5:18 PM

    Strasburg talking to Buster Olney.200+ innings a goal for mehttp://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=8936215

  50. MicheleS - Feb 11, 2013 at 5:22 PM

    NatsLady. US WBC games are in Phoenix, first one is on 3/8.

  51. NatsLady - Feb 11, 2013 at 5:31 PM

    MicheleS, right. But presumably players and coaches will get together before that in some sort of camp.

  52. NatsLady - Feb 11, 2013 at 5:33 PM

    Verlander not pitching in the WBC. Apparently he is behind schedule in his readiness for the season–but he had time to play in the Pro-Am Golf Tournament. Hmmmm…

  53. Sec. 3, My Sofa - Feb 11, 2013 at 5:33 PM

    NL, thanks for the Vazquez update.

  54. Sec. 3, My Sofa - Feb 11, 2013 at 5:40 PM

    One other point that occurs to me, watching Mark's video–Yes, they have veterans who've been on teams with high expectations, and that helps. But they also have Harper, who doesn't know anything else BUT over-the-moon expectations, and Strasburg, who could probably stand to dial it back a bit. I think they'll be fine. This is why Davey gets the big bucks.

  55. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 11, 2013 at 5:47 PM

    Sec3, you're right, Haren says he's 100%. I also look forward to when Werth says his wrist is 100%

  56. SCNatsFan - Feb 11, 2013 at 6:14 PM

    NatsLady in Verlander's defense playing in the pro am at Pebble Beach would rank pretty high on lifetime awesome events if you were a golfer.

  57. Section 222 - Feb 11, 2013 at 6:15 PM

    Thanks for the WBC link Sofa. Carlos Rivera is playing for Puerto Rico. Venezuela is stacked, even without Ramos. King Felix, Annibal Sachez, Miguel Cabrera, Sandoval, CarGo, Prado. Yikes.But Shawn Hill is playing for Canada. So is Pete Orr. So there's that.

  58. Sec. 3, My Sofa - Feb 11, 2013 at 6:18 PM

    As I understand it, Werth is just rebuilding his strength in the wrist, just a matter of time, yes? Like Zimm's hamate surgery, it takes a while to get back, but it's not as if he'll re-break the wrist. Although he might be rehabbing tendons, too–I forget what the injury included, now. So there's reason for optimism. And then there's this from Grantland. Werth is #4, but balance that against all the ones listed here the Nats didn't sign.

  59. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 11, 2013 at 6:24 PM

    Sec3, yes on Werth's wrist.

  60. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 11, 2013 at 6:35 PM

    Sec222, I think King Felix pulled out of the WBC

  61. peric - Feb 11, 2013 at 6:51 PM

    Given Werth's age and multiple serious injuries to that wrist you can't expect him to produce for power for the remainder of his career. If he even approaches 20 homers with 20+ doubles that'll be a bonus … gravy. The guy you depend on for power production at this point is named Tyler Moore, the Magnolia Muscle. He's the guy who is expected to replace Morse's bat. Brown has some power that might find its way into the lineup. Hopefully, Zim can avoid injury and produce along with Harper. And Desmond will now produce at a consistent pace like last year. But I believe it will end up hinging on Moore and the continual progression of Bryce Harper in the heart of the order.

  62. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 11, 2013 at 6:57 PM

    NEW POST

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB MN
WASHINGTON 85 63 -- 4
ATLANTA 75 74 10.5
MIAMI 72 76 13.0
NEW YORK 72 78 14.0
PHILADELPHIA 69 80 16.5
Through Sunday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
MON: Nats at Braves, 7:10 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Braves, 7:10 p.m.
WED: Nats at Braves, 7:10 p.m.
THU: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
FRI: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
SAT: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
SUN: Nats at Marlins, 1:10 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.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.

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