A season of franchise firsts and exceedingly surpassed expectations came to a sudden halt for the Nationals in 2012 when they were ousted by the Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLDS.

Without rehashing their horrid collapse, it’s safe to say General Manager Mike Rizzo has gone to great lengths this offseason to ensure his team has the depth to endure a long playoff run and avoid a similar fate in 2013.

With the signing of Dan Haren, he shored up the back end of the rotation, solidifying it as perhaps the best in the bigs. The unexpected acquisition of veteran closer Rafael Soriano beefed up the back of the bullpen, so Storen won’t be in the position to relive the nightmare that was his 9th inning NLDS collapse.

And a player he’d been chasing for almost two years, when Rizzo traded for Denard Span, he finally found his leadoff hitter and center fielder of the future, in a move that bumps Harper over to a corner outfield position, allowing the 20-year-old to focus on growing into the offensive juggernaut he’s expected to be.

Reliever Craig Stammen says the expectations of the team heading into this season couldn’t be higher, and for good reason.

“Our manager has definitely already came out and popped off saying that if we don’t go to the World Series it’s going to be a disappointing season,” Stammen told 106.7 The Fan’s Holden and Danny Tuesday. “I guess we gotta follow our leader and that’s probably true; because we won the National League East last year and we pretty much have a lot of the same guys back. We made a few changes in the offseason that hopefully improves our team.”

“Our goal is the same as every other team’s should be and that’s to win the World Series,” Stammen added.

Stammen said the first goal for the team will be to defend the NL East title and earn home field advantage, hopefully putting them in the best position to make a World Series run.

“You just need a seat at the table,” Stammen said. “And we’ll see what happens from there.”

Although pitchers and catchers have officially reported to Spring Training, Stammen and his fastball-hurling brethren haven’t been told what their new roles will be in the bullpen, but they kind of have an idea what’s around the corner based on the team’s offseason moves.

“We kind of know going in,” Stammen said. “Soriano’s got obviously the most experience and he just saved 40-some games last year for the Yankees, so I’m sure he’s going to be the first crack to closer. But we also got Drew and Tyler who did a great job last year and years past finishing games, so they’ll fit right there at the end of the bullpen, and guys like me and [Ryan] Mattheus and whoever else we have in the bullpen, we’ll be doing all the other stuff.”

Follow Craig Stammen on Twitter.


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