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Embracing expectations

Mar 31, 2013, 9:00 PM EDT

USA Today Sports Images
Davey Johnson started the “World Series or Bust” hysteria in December.

Asked to make their MLB season predictions, four of seven baseball experts from Sports Illustrated picked the Nationals to win the World Series. A fifth picked them to reach the Fall Classic.

Three of four experts from Yahoo! Sports concurred: The Nationals will win the World Series.

And over at ESPN, 16 of 43 experts picked the Nats to win it all, 29 of 43 picked them to reach the Series, 38 of 43 picked them to win the NL East and all 43 picked them to at least reach the playoffs.

Talk about pressure, huh?

“Hey, it’s better than being picked last, isn’t it?” Davey Johnson mused last week from the dugout at Space Coast Stadium when informed how nearly every major publication out there has tabbed his team as the sport’s preseason favorite.

Johnson, of course, has never shied away from the spotlight. If anything, the overly lofty expectations placed on the Nationals this season were ignited by their 70-year-old manager, who at the Winter Meetings in December declared the team’s new mantra: “World Series or Bust.”

Ever since, the Nationals have been the darlings of national media outlets, scouts and Vegas oddsmakers, all of them convinced D.C. will be home to baseball’s best team in 2013. It’s enough to make your head swell and chest puff out, but within the clubhouse, that doesn’t appear to be a problem.
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  1. Steady Eddie - Mar 31, 2013 at 9:07 PM

    No worries — if there's anyone who can get them to focus day to day and not get caught up in the media hoopla, it's Davey.

  2. Steady Eddie - Mar 31, 2013 at 9:08 PM

    No harm intended, Mark — I meant the national media/hype machine, not the knowledgeable Nats beat reporters.

  3. MicheleS - Mar 31, 2013 at 9:10 PM

    Dave.. from the previous thread.. eh.. I had 102 in an earlier thread as well, but we can toast one another after they win the 102 in the regular season and 11 post season wins ;-)Can't wait.

  4. baseballswami - Mar 31, 2013 at 9:41 PM

    Last year there were baseball media types that said the Nats would go to the playoffs. It happened. Of course there are no guarantees. But we see what is right in front of us and we know that it looks pretty darn good.

  5. NatsLady - Mar 31, 2013 at 9:44 PM

    Today's post. Remember this?Second basehttp://ladyandthenats.blogspot.com/2013/03/no-contest.html

  6. NatsLady - Mar 31, 2013 at 10:20 PM

    Off-topic, but in the course of researching, I found this very interesting website, approaching baseball from a physics standpoint.The Trackmanhttp://baseball.physics.illinois.edu/trackman.html

  7. SonnyG10 - Mar 31, 2013 at 10:24 PM

    After reading Boswell's column in the wapo today, I urge the Lerner family to lock up Mike Rizzo long term before some other organization tries to steal him from us. Make no mistake, Rizzo is the glue that holds our "expectations" together. Rizzo is the Nats MVP (Most Valuable Person).

  8. NatsLady - Mar 31, 2013 at 10:29 PM

    Sonny, if I recall, the Cubs did try to steal Rizzo away a couple of years ago. Whew!http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/nationals-journal/post/mike-rizzo-shoots-down-speculation-on-cubs-general-manager-job/2011/09/02/gIQA0wrWxJ_blog.html

  9. LoveDaNats - Mar 31, 2013 at 10:43 PM

    The Washington Nationals are everyone's pick to win the World Series. Thanks for writing it out like that, Mark. I can hardly believe I'm actually reading and comprehending those words. This season will be so much fun. Thank God the offseason is just about over. See you all at the park tomorrow and go Nats!

  10. Another_Sam - Mar 31, 2013 at 11:04 PM

    Curt Schilling isn't my idea of a nice guy but he's okay on baseball tonight. And I like Tim K. – even if I can't spell his name. I'm sick of basketball. Play ball. I like Kruk.

  11. baseballswami - Mar 31, 2013 at 11:11 PM

    Game 1 is on MASN right now, Game 4 tomorrow morning at 9.

  12. Rich P. - Mar 31, 2013 at 11:32 PM

    This was Boswell's annual "The Lerners better not be penny wise and pound foolish, or they'll destroy the franchise" column. Let's review the history.2009: The Lerners better not be too cheap to extend Zimmerman.2009, part 2: The Lerners better not screw up the Strasburg signing.2010: The Lerners better not screw up the Harper signing.2011: If they don't extend Zimmerman NOW, he'll leave as a FA after the 2012 season.2012: Repeat 2011.And how many times did Boswell's assertion that the Lerners would destroy things by being cheap actually come true? None.This year he's worried that the Lerners might let Rizzo get away. It ain't gonna happen. Boswell has never liked the Lerners, and his repeated attempts to manufacture anti-Lerner sentiment out of whole cloth are the Achilles' Heel in his otherwise excellent writing.

  13. NatsLady - Mar 31, 2013 at 11:33 PM

    They just showed RZ's walkoff at the opening of Nats Park. Ranked it as No. 24 of "Opening Day Moments."

  14. NatsLady - Mar 31, 2013 at 11:36 PM

    Rich P==> I don't know whether Boz's columns that you mention reflectg dislike of the Lerners or attempts to influence them. Nevertheless, it does seem like Boz butting into things that are really not his business. I don't think there is a Nats fan alive who doesn't appreciate the job Mike Rizzo has done, and that includes Mark Lerner.

  15. baseballswami - Mar 31, 2013 at 11:43 PM

    NatsLady- it certainly was my number one! Watching Game one, forgot how bad Gio looked. Walked four in an inning, all over the place, WP a run in. Pulled it together, but….. Drew has gotten so much ink for faltering, but Gio was not exactly consistent. I have apparently blocked out the negative things.

  16. Joe Seamhead - Mar 31, 2013 at 11:44 PM

    "I don't know if better is the word," LaRoche said. "But I think we're more well-rounded now."That says it all.

  17. baseballswami - Mar 31, 2013 at 11:46 PM

    Joe – and hopefully a whole lot healthier.

  18. NatsLady - Mar 31, 2013 at 11:47 PM

    Swami, RZ got my goat after Game 2, being "satisfied" coming home with a .500 record. Win in three (or four)! They won't make that mistake again–NO COMPLACENCY.

  19. baseballswami - Mar 31, 2013 at 11:55 PM

    True!! So much of the discussion centered around Drew, but looking back and watching, it's obvious that many Nats were not at their best. He was just the last man standing.

  20. Candide - Mar 31, 2013 at 11:59 PM

    NatsLady said…Swami, RZ got my goat after Game 2, being "satisfied" coming home with a .500 record.Yeah, that comes perilously close to that favorite phrase of future playoff evictees: "We're just happy to be here."

  21. NatsLady - Apr 1, 2013 at 12:13 AM

    Well, the Stros haven't lost the game yet. 3 up 3 down for Bo's team.

  22. baseballswami - Apr 1, 2013 at 12:17 AM

    And a first pitch base hit!

  23. baseballswami - Apr 1, 2013 at 12:18 AM

    Porter on the ump's case already!!! Altuve was safe.

  24. Steve Hayes - Apr 1, 2013 at 12:49 AM

    Too much hype. If the Nats don't win the World Series their season will be considered a let down or even a failure according to most. Remember the Atlanta team that won, what, 13 straight division but just one W.S. I prefer a little more reality and the season will be that much more enjoyable. If they even win 92 games, that, in my book, is a good year!

  25. Steve Hayes - Apr 1, 2013 at 12:53 AM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  26. Steve Hayes - Apr 1, 2013 at 12:55 AM

    I don't know if better is the word," LaRoche said. "But I think we're more well-rounded now."Wow, what a Dis to Michael Morse.got news for you, LaRoche, you're the one they should have let go; furthermore, when something is more rounded, doesn't mean it's better. One usually has to lose mass in order to 'round'something down. And the Nats lost too much fire power in the Morse/Span thing — the Nats gave up too much for a .265 avg stealing a net 10 bases a year — the Nats will pay the price for that fiasco

  27. sm13 - Apr 1, 2013 at 12:55 AM

    Tomorrow can't come soon enough. Time to put the predictions away and start playing real baseball. Like to see Strasburg throw 7 strong innings and have Drew and Soriano close out the win.Go Nats!!

  28. baseballswami - Apr 1, 2013 at 1:15 AM

    I am excited, but realistic also. Baseball is a game with so very much imperfection. First loss, Zim error, Harper 0-fer, Stras wild pitch and the Legion of Doom version 2.0 will be screaming for Rizzo's blood. May I break out the honorary " It's a marathon , not a sprint."? Go Nats!!!!!!!

  29. Drew - Apr 1, 2013 at 1:23 AM

    Atta way, JMAX!

  30. Candide - Apr 1, 2013 at 1:29 AM

    JMax, admire your shots AFTER they go over the wall.

  31. baseballswami - Apr 1, 2013 at 1:33 AM

    JMax was always able to find a clutch hit, but at times seems a bit empty headed.

  32. baseballswami - Apr 1, 2013 at 1:36 AM

    Game one. Zim throw– his shoulder was not working at all. Had we gone deeper into the playoffs, he would have had to kick the ball to first. Funny how things look months later.

  33. realdealnats - Apr 1, 2013 at 1:40 AM

    I think we've got 99 wins in us this year. Barring major pitching injuries. And I hope we play loose in the playoffs. If we steal a WS this year I truly believe a couple more will quickly follow. If we don't win it this year, pressure ramps up.

  34. Steady Eddie - Apr 1, 2013 at 1:41 AM

    Gio's playoff performances were representative of why the Nats lost the series. Their rotation was their most consistent strength throughout the season and apart from Det, it was their weakest feature in the playoffs. All about inexperience and falling below their standard from the regular season, why there's no point in picking "if only" X hadn't happened, and why it should be different next time around.

  35. baseballswami - Apr 1, 2013 at 1:48 AM

    Experience is the best teacher.

  36. NCNatsie - Apr 1, 2013 at 2:12 AM

    Nats Lady, one other interesting thing on your OPS table is the BABIP column, where Espi is not 8th best, but at .333 first among all the players listed. That certainly says that if he can cut down on the strikeouts (without compromising anything else, of course) he can be tremenduly productive.

  37. Drew - Apr 1, 2013 at 2:25 AM

    Ankiel! Ex-Nats rule. Go get 'em, Bo!

  38. Oldguy - Apr 1, 2013 at 2:32 AM

    Good for Rick! Young 'Stros starting well!

  39. NatsLady - Apr 1, 2013 at 2:33 AM

    NCNatsie, good point on the BABIP. Not only speed, but also if Espy can spray in all directions they can't use a shift on him.

  40. 5c3cd06e-cef8-11e1-abe6-000bcdcb2996 - Apr 1, 2013 at 2:34 AM

    God I hope the Nat's look better than they played vs NY at the exhibition game. Zimms dirtball throws during the preseason and Denards weak tosses from the OF concern me

  41. NatsLady - Apr 1, 2013 at 2:56 AM

    Texas is not fielding well. You have to feel Espy would have got that.

  42. Ratiocinational - Apr 1, 2013 at 2:57 AM

    2 trips for J-Max!

  43. John C. - Apr 1, 2013 at 3:00 AM

    Trolls gotta troll, but they can't fight Opening day. The day counter is down to zero, and I'll be in section 116 tomorrow afternoon rooting for the Nationals. Let's Geaux, Nats!

  44. Drew - Apr 1, 2013 at 3:08 AM

    Congratulations Bo Porter!

  45. SonnyG10 - Apr 1, 2013 at 3:10 AM

    Congrats to Bo Porter, JMax, and Rick Ankiel on their first win.

  46. Unknown - Apr 1, 2013 at 5:07 AM

    Here's the problem when your team is the frontrunner. Tomorrow Stephen Strasburg gives up 4 runs in 5 innings and the Nationals lose 7-1 to possibly the worst team in baseball.The world will seem like it's coming to an end.But it was in 2009 that the Marlins last played the Nationals on Opening Day and smoked them 12-6 with Emilio Bonafacio going 4-5 with 2 RBI.I came away from that game telling me wife, "Cool, Adam Dunn hit his first homer as a National!"When your team is expected to lose, the game internals are what makes you happy. Wow, Lannan looked good. Hey, Dukes is showing some power.But today, all that matters is the win. And if the Astros can win then the Nationals can lose. Man …. I was far more comfortable against the Cubs on Opening Day last year.My prediction (I obviously got over my week-kneed willies):Stephen Strasburg pitched six shutout innings, allowing three hits and a walk while striking out 8 as the Nationals beat the Marlins 5-1 as Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman each drove in a pair of runs. Drew Storen came in the 8th inning and struggled, but allowed no runs. Rafael Soriano pitched a perfect 9th for his first save as a National.Good luck Nationals. Don't screw this up!Farid @ Idaho

  47. Scooter - Apr 1, 2013 at 5:17 AM

    Farid, I can't see myself ever getting to where I can only enjoy a game if the Nats win.I'm not sure that's really what you're saying. Even if it is, that's cool, because it takes all kinds.Either way, we're gonna have a heck of a run, and I'll be glad to watch it with you.

  48. Scooter - Apr 1, 2013 at 5:25 AM

    By the way, let's all take a moment to appreciate your Major League leaders in runs, triples, homers, and RBIs.

  49. tayo - Apr 1, 2013 at 6:07 AM

    @ Steve HayesLaroche's comment was NOTa diss to Michael Morse at all. If anything, he was consciously doing his best to acknowledge Morse's talent hence him saying that we are well rounded rather than saying we are better this year.

  50. Mark P - Apr 1, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    To quote Davey, "Bring 'em on!"He's taught this club not to be afraid of high expectations. He "boldly" predicted that this club would go to the playoffs prior to last season.

  51. natsfan1a - Apr 1, 2013 at 11:41 AM

    New month, new post. See y'all over there. :-)

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB MN
WASHINGTON 78 58 -- 19
ATLANTA 72 66 7.0
MIAMI 67 69 11.0
NEW YORK 64 74 15.0
PHILADELPHIA 63 74 15.5
Through Monday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
TUE: Nats at Dodgers, 10:10 p.m.
WED: Nats at Dodgers, 3:10 p.m.
THU: OFF
FRI: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Phillies at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Phillies at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
MON: Braves 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.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

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