Expectation is word that has never been so closely associated with the Nationals prior to this season.
After eight years in the nation’s capital and coming off a 98-win season in 2012, that’s exactly what the Nats are up against.
Fans, media – local and national – and players alike, all expect this team to contend for a World Series in 2013.
And with 22 home runs and 59 RBI to equal a .270 batting average in his rookie campaign, Bryce Harper is the sun to this franchise – to which all the hype of the Nationals revolves around.
“I don’t put anything past this kid,” F. P. Santangelo told 106.7 The Fan’s Lavar and Dukes Tuesday. “We’ve had some conversations that I really don’t want to make public, but let’s just put it this way: he’s on a mission. He wants to be better than everybody or anybody that’s ever played the game.
The Nats will need to see a marked improvement in his first full season to give Washington the offensive bump it will take to stack wins early in NL east play. But the team as a whole – with much improved depth after the offseason – will also rely heavily on its pitching staff to get them through the long summer months.
“The one thing I know Mike Rizzo wanted to do is make his ballclub playoff tough this year, and I think when you get a guy like Soriano – a guy who’s been there, done that in the heat of battle – and now all the Nationals players that were so young and maybe inexperienced in October baseball last year have that experience and know what it’s like.”
At last look, the Nationals were given 8-1 odds by Vegas to win the World Series, only trailing the Angels, Dodgers and Tigers, all favored with 7-1 odds.
“Now you’re talking about a team that if they stay healthy, can really do something special this year,” Santangelo said. “I don’t think anything’s out of the question with this ballclub.”
Manager Davey Johnson, who’s on record as saying this season is “World Series or bust” for his Nationals, will retire at the end of the year, regardless of its outcome.
“When Davey Johnson says something he means it and he’s usually true to his word,” Santangelo said. “What did he say last year in Spring Training? Anything but the playoffs is a bad season and what did he do? He won the division.”
Heading into last season, Washington – a team that had finished last in the NL East five times and never with a winning record in each of its previous seven seasons – truly did surprise baseball fans by winning the division.
And now that the Nats have their first playoff series under their belts, they’ll have to live up to the lofty expectations of 2013.
Otherwise this time next year, those same expectations – World Series or bust – could be but a distant memory.
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