There’s an increasing sense around baseball that the Washington Nationals have to win this year – and by ‘win’ which would include some gray area – people expect them to advance by winning multiple postseason series and getting to the World Series.
Anything less than that will be viewed as an immense disappointment.
Jordan Zimmerman reiterated that in an interview with MLB.com:
“If it’s going to be any year, it’s going to be this year and we all know that,” Zimmermann said after tossing two shutout innings against the Braves on Friday. “We’re all getting ready for a big year.”
Las Vegas oddsmakers love the Nationals, they’re 3 to 1 favorites to win the National League pennant. The Dodgers are second at 9 to 2 odds and the Cardinals and Cubs check in at 6 to 1 and 7 to 1 behind them respectively (listed on Bovada as of this morning).
The Nationals are officially no longer the hunters, they’re going to be the hunted in 2015. They’ll get every team’s best shot and if there’s an evil empire in baseball this season in terms of money spent and allocated for a 25-man roster, it’s no longer the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox. When Max Scherzer signed, Washington became that team. Zach Wheeler of the Mets has made it his personal vendetta to make sure the Nationals miss out on a ring.
It’s tough to deliver in a season when everyone knows you’re the league badasses. All of the talk in Spring Training is about rings, several of the Nationals players have mentioned it themselves in quotes.
I think the Nationals are going to be the best team in the regular season, but they’ve been that before. It’s going to come down to how many times they’re the team that retires the opposition’s final three hitters in an October game. That’s what will define this team. And honestly, while the rotation is all-world and the starting lineup is at worst above average; the Nats may find between now and then that their bullpen needs shoring-up.
We’re personally really rooting on the Nationals. We’ve taken to them since they planted all these seeds as youngsters and would like to see some World Series games played in the Nation’s capital. It would just be good for baseball to have someone other than the Cardinals or Giants playing in the Fall Classic. But the Nationals have not done themselves any favors in making all these brash statements early on. A slow start in April would be a disaster from a PR standpoint, with Matt Williams scrambling for damage control far too early.