Season Reflection: Nationals on the verge of something special

There you have it, another exciting baseball regular season in the books. The Washington Nationals finished the year in last place in the competitive NL East with a 69-93 record, 28 games behind the Philadelphia Phillies.

Despite the unimpressive record, 2010 was a huge step in the right direction for Nationals baseball, and the organization along with their fans should be satisfied with the strides the team made in recent months thanks to promising performances by Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen, Danny Espinosa, and Roger Bernadina, just to name a few.

The front office has done a great job in putting the pieces in place for a competitive team in coming years. With some additions and subtractions made here and there, several people around the game predict the Nationals to evolve into one of the top teams not just in the Eastern division but the entire National League.

…And why not, with Ryan Zimmerman holding down the hot corner, Wilson Ramos slated as the catcher of the future, Ian Desmond proving he can be an everyday shortstop (with a little work on his fielding), and Bryce Harper waiting in the wings, there is no reason why the Nationals should not be a playoff team.

I have always seen the Nationals as the second coming of the Tampa Bay Rays, who after years of losing, set the foundation for a winner and now give the mighty New York Yankees a fit in the AL East. I am not saying we should expect that great of a turn around from the Nats, because that’s quite the bold statement, but look for a lot more improvement on the field and in the standings.

Unfortunately, with all the bright spots the season gave us, it had its equal balance of the bad. Nyjer Morgan showed us why the Pittsburgh Pirates gave up on him in several instances with his bat, glove, and attitude. Morgan not only put himself in Bud Selig’s doghouse, but lost the respect of Nationals fans with his unprofessional behavior.

Jason Marquis, a respected veteran in his first year with the Nats, just couldn’t get it together in DC making just 13 starts and posting a 2-9 record with a 6.60 ERA. Bone chips in his right elbow shelved Marquis from late April to early August, but that doesn’t excuse him for his poor performance. In the three starts prior to the injury, he went 0-3 with a 20.52 ERA, surprising everyone in the organization as Marquis was coming off a 15 win All-Star season with the Colorado Rockies the year before.

Obviously, the season ending Tommy John surgery to Stephen Strasburg will change the Nats game plan heading into 2011. This will give other young pitchers like Jordan Zimmermann and John Lannan a chance to step up and shine while their brightest star rehabs. The Washington Nationals will be a better team in 2011, its just a matter of how much improvement will be made to prepare themselves for a run in 2012, a year in which there will be no more excuses.

Get on the bandwagon now, the fun is only beginning.