Posts Tagged ‘Washington Nationals’

How I Became the World’s Biggest Cardinals Fan Overnight

October 19, 2012

It’s not what you think. Nobody actually convinced me to join the Cardinal-colored dark side. I’m not a front-runner, fair weather fan, nor did I only title this blog to score points with my girlfriend, who sees the world through red, white and navy blue lenses.

But the second Sergio Romo struck out Scott Rolen looking in Game 5 of the NLDS to send the Giants to the next round, I knew it would be a toss-up between the Cardinals and Nationals for my undying fandom this week.

When the Cards pulled another rabbit out of their hats in the 9th inning of Game 5 of their series to advance, it was confirmed: Jeremy Dorn, the most devoted Dodgers fan in the world, was briefly going to trade alliegences. That’s what you do in a rivalry; you root for your team until your lungs bleed, and when they are eliminated, you do the same for any team playing against your rival. Only when your rival’s season end, does the fan settle down, relaxed and waiting for another shot next year.

See, in case you didn’t learn anything in school, the Giants and Dodgers are the sports world’s greatest rivalry. Ever. It’s not even close. Sure, the Red Sox and Yankees get the most publicity and Duke versus North Carolina is an annual battle of the beasts…but no rivalry in a professional American sport comes close to matching the clout of Dodgers/Giants.

The two teams first met in 1883, and have since played  over 2,300 games directly against each other. The Giants have a slight edge, about 20 more wins total against the Dodgers. Both teams have won 21 National League pennants and six World Series titles.

And I don’t even need to go into the on-field, off-field and cross-team hatred and violence that has sprung out of this rivalry.

I’m not condoning any violence that has taken place, whether a fight between fans, a bat to the head during a game, or flinging insults at each other through the media. But that is how this rivalry works. And that is how, as a fan of one team involved, we are wired to think.

We want our team to win more than anything. If our team is eliminated, we want the rival team to fail more than anything. The cliched saying “My two favorite teams are the Dodgers and whoever is playing the Giants” is absolutely true.

Hell, even some players think that way. This season, Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong admitted that he was raised through the Giants system hating the Dodgers and would like nothing better than to beat them. The two franchise’s greatest and most celebrated individual players (Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays) refused to sign with the rival team later in their careers. Robinson elected for retirement, Mays accepted a trade to the Mets.

Ask a Giants fan – they took great happiness in helping to knock the Dodgers out of Wild Card contention in the last series of the season. Even though they had clinched the division days before that. 

Ask a Dodgers fan – we are ALL rooting for the Cardinals to kick the Giants in the teeth and send them home. It’s not about winning or losing for us anymore, because it can’t be. It’s about causing as much failure-inflicted misery upon the team and its fans as we can possibly fathom.

Don’t cry foul – it works both ways. Giants fans love the Giants. Dodgers fans love the Dodgers. We despise each other’s teams (though not necessarily each other as fans – a good percentage of my close friends are Giants fans), and root for our team’s success and the other’s ultimate failure.

I tell people that even if the Dodgers miss the playoffs, it’s a good season if we beat the Giants. This season, that clearly didn’t happen. The Giants are three wins away from going to the World Series. The Dodgers are three strokes away from breaking par at Pebble Beach.

But if the Cardinals win tonight, the Giants will join the Dodgers on the golf course, and all was for naught. It means both of us failed. That the Giants are not better than us. And that is a small consolation for Dodgers fans who agonized over a roller coaster season that ended in pure disappointment.

I love the Dodgers. Therefore I hate the Giants. If the Cardinals are playing the Giants, I root for the Cardinals to destroy them, so I can live vicariously through that victory.

The Cardinals are one win away from knocking the Giants out. One good game. It could happen tonight. And as the rivalry goes, that potential win would craft an evil smile along the faces of an entire legion of Dodger fans.

That’s baseball, that’s life, and that is this rivalry.

And THAT is why I became the world’s biggest Cardinals fan overnight.

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Don’t Hate the Game, Hate the Player…Wait…

October 11, 2012

So first Mike was like “Oh my god, we’re totally done.”

And then Stephen was like “Oh, HELL no, Mike.”

And then Mike and Davey teamed up and were like “Dude, you…are…DONE.”

And then Stephen was like “Fine. Ass…

And now some other guy is like “WTF MIKE! YOU’RE AN IDIOT. I HATE YOU FOREVER. BURN IN HELL!”

And I’m like “SHUT UPPPPPPP!”

Did you get all that? If not, it’s okay. I purposely made it as cryptic as possible. You have to closely monitor the shut down of Stephen Strasburg to understand all the drama surrounding the decision. It hasn’t stopped. Ever.

This is what broke today.

And I’m here to tell you why it’s absolutely ridiculous of Mr. Anonymous GM to root against the Nationals simply for an executive decision based on the health of the franchise’s long-term future.

You might want to sit down for this. First of all, there is a 100 percent chance that Mr. Anonymous GM has no right to hate because he is not nearly as good at his job as Rizzo.

I can guarantee that because nobody is better than Rizzo. In only three full seasons at the helm, Rizzo has turned a 69-93, last-place team in 2010 to a 98-64, best record in the Major Leagues, NL-East division-winning team this year.

He hired Davey Johnson to oversee the team, one of the best managers in the game and front-runner for Manager of the Year in 2012. It was a perfect hire for the type of team he had built.

Speaking of building teams, he helped draft Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Drew Storen, Danny Espinosa…the list of impact players on the current team goes on and on. He also used some of his best prospects to pull a few trades. No matter the cost, getting Gio Gonzalez (MLB leader in wins, by the way) this off-season was sheer artistry.

Now that I’ve appropriately pimped Rizzo’s resumé, let’s examine two more reasons why Mr. Anonymous GM is trippin’. Fool.

I can understand disagreeing with fellow executives’ decisions. That probably happens on a daily basis. I could throw a rock at the Winter Meetings and hit two or three GM’s who sat at home and laughed their butts off when Ned Colletti of the Dodgers dropped over $200 million on trades at the deadline this year.

But it’s one thing to question a decision and another to actively root against a team simply because of a decision made. Not to mention that it’s a question of health. In this day and age, we see on a weekly basis what bad mechanics or throwing too hard or too often can do to a pitcher’s arm.

Considering the Nats are paying Strasburg a boatload of money and the hopes and dreams of their future rotation rests on his right arm, I believe the boss man has the final say on how he is used. Strasburg is one of the better pitchers in baseball, but the Nationals are built to contend for the next half decade, if not longer. And they need him to stay healthy if they expect to continue down that path.

I get it – I really do. When Strasburg is on the hill, the Nationals have a very good chance to win. When he’s not on it…wait. What’s that? They STILL have a very good chance to win. 

The man who replaced Strasburg in the playoff rotation is Ross Detwiler, who had a good season in his own right. Aside from him, you have your choice of Gonzalez or Jordan Zimmermann, who are Cy Young candidates. That is why the Nationals had the best team ERA in the Majors. They have DEPTH.

And then there’s the lock down bullpen and opportunistic offense. Yes, the Nats lost a key piece by shutting down Strasburg. They also guaranteed that they have their star pitcher for another run at the playoffs in 2013, regardless of how this season turns out. They are also still the team to beat in the playoffs.

Straight from the article itself:

“If we don’t win the World Series, I don’t care who does,” one general manager told USA TODAY Sports, “as long as it’s not those guys.

“They don’t deserve to win it. Not after what they did.”

Said a National League GM: “I hope they go down in flames. I hope it takes another 79 years before they get back to the playoffs. That’s how strongly I feel about it.”

Wait, wait, wait. I’d argue that the Nationals don’t really have a natural rival in the National League. So who is so pissed off that they made the Strasburg decision that the Nats “don’t deserve to win?” Is it because they already won so many games in the regular season? They’ve reached their limit?

Because I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed the resurgence of the Nationals in 2012. It was one of the best stories in baseball and truly remarkable that they made such a large turnaround in just two seasons. They don’t have any players that most would consider to be “thugs” or something similar.

There are no Nyjer Morgan’s (anymore) or Alex Rodriguez’s on the Nationals. No Vicente Padilla’s or Jose Valverde’s. So, I just don’t get it. It’s a likable, impressive team that deserves to win games.

The Nationals deserve to be rooted for. But no matter who you are, don’t hate on a decision that was made to benefit the team long-term by the best GM in baseball. That is like telling the Parent of the Year that his decision to make his son wait until he’s 17 to take a driver’s test is so wrong that you hope he dies and shrivels in the pits of hell (yes, that’s the equivalent feeling to not winning for 79 years…just ask the Cubs).

Stephen Strasburg will not pitch in the playoffs. Mike Rizzo is totally fine with it. You should be too, because it’s the right move. Mr. Anonymous GM is probably watching this game from his couch, eating Ruffles and drinking a martini. So there’s that.

Unfortunately, the doubt will only end if the Nationals win the World Series. Guess they better do that, then.

Eating My Words: It Tastes Like Victory!

July 15, 2012

I must bite my tongue. Hard. I must offer all apologies to the Oakland A’s and Bryce Harper. Separately, of course. Or is it too late to apologize?

Either way, it takes a real man to admit he was wrong. And I think I qualify. *Looks down.* Yup. Let’s go:

A long time ago, I made a couple of not-so-bold proclamations. First, I told the world via podcast that the A’s would lose 100 games. As of today, they sit just a game out of the second Wild Card position, three games over .500.

Luckily, I’m a fair weather A’s fan so the sting is taken out of this admission. But…*shudder*…I was so, so incorrect.

Don’t get me wrong; the Green and Gold are not a 2012 playoff team. But they are certainly going to play spoiler down the stretch. The young pitching has been incredible (cheers to Tommy Milone, Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin especially – if you’re even old enough to drink).

And the offense has really surprised me. After a decade of Billy Beane trading away top talent for high-potential minor league players and then flipping those players for other prospects of similar rank, we may finally be settled with a lineup he likes.

It became a revolving door in Oakland for a while, but it seems like Beane really struck gold by trading away Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill last season. From the Diamondbacks, the A’s received Parker, outfielder Collin Cowgill, and new All-Star closer Ryan Cook.

And Milone, catcher Derek Norris and two high-level pitching prospects came from the Nationals for Gonzalez. The A’s splurged to get Yoenis Cespedes from Cuba, then went out and snagged power hitters Seth Smith, Jonny Gomes and Josh Reddick through free agency and trades.

Just like that, the formerly punchless A’s had four batters capable of hitting 25 home runs. Add in long-time top prospect Chris Carter (who Beane would not trade away over the years) being recalled from Triple-A and absolutely mashing in his third big league stint, and you have the makings of a pretty solid lineup.

If Jemile Weeks, Coco Crisp and Norris can hit for decent numbers, the A’s actually might contend for a Wild Card spot. It seems that Beane has finally put together a team that could make a deep run into the playoffs again.

So I hereby formally apologize to the Oakland A’s. I know you’re all reading this, so please accept my sincerest mea culpa.

Now to part II of my apology extravaganza. Bryce Harper…I’m sorry. You really are a (very young) man among boys. And I’ve been impressed with your savvy, respectful presence thus far.

Forget the fact that you ripped your own helmet off rounding first base like a 10-year-old at recess. Or that you said your number “isn’t 34 – it’s 3+4=7 like Mickey Mantle.” Or even that you smashed a bat against a wall and injured yourself. 

Because all I was expecting out of your personality was prima donna whiny bull shit. Instead, we’ve gotten an immensely talented player on both sides of the ball who has handled nearly every road block with class. You made Ozzie Guillen look like an absolute fool last night for cussing at you, and you just stood there and took it with a smile.

Harper has continued to prove me wrong this season – not on the field, because I was sure he’d tear it up. But off the field. For example, when asked about which National League candidate he’d vote for in the Final Vote (he was up against Chipper Jones and three others), he told the reporter, “definitely Chipper. He’s a Hall of Famer.”

That poor journalist’s smear campaign story on Harper was probably ruined. Poor guy. And Harper even showed up all other rich athletes by adding a useful, awesome trunk accessory to his car, instead of a TV/xBox/turntable/nightclub-in-a-box get up.

So, Bryce. Keep mashing. Keep proving me wrong. Keep being a class act who is being way too good for his age at life in general. And if you could maybe give me the contact information of whoever installed the bat rack in your trunk? Thanks, buddy.

We are buddies now…right?

Bryce Gets a Timeout

May 11, 2012

If you don’t knowwww, now ya know! That Bryce Harper is still a little punk bitch.

Have ya heard? Harper smashed his own face with a bat! Seriously? And to think I had started to like the kid.

I had gotten past the fact that he pulled his helmet off while running to 2nd base against the Dodgers. Yes, like a middle school girl does in softball.

And I had even learned to live with Harper openly rooting for the Yankees, Lakers, Cowboys and Duke. Or that he says his jersey number isn’t actually 34, it’s 3 + 4 = 7, “like Mickey Mantle.” Douche.

It was easy enough to ignore such shortcomings because he had been relatively, quietly humble so far in the Majors. And his talent is way too much to ignore.

But this is just pathetic. I don’t think Harper realizes how many times some players (I’m looking at you, Adam Dunn) have gone 0-for-5 with 3 strikeouts. Get over it, kid. Shit happens. No need to bust your own face over it.

That’s a sure sign of startling immaturity from Harper. I know he’s young, but I didn’t stab a No. 2 pencil through my eye every time I failed a test when I was 19.

Manager Davey Johnson needs to reel Harper in now, because it’s a slippery slope with guys who have bad attitudes. Exhibit A: Milton Bradley.

The Nationals have a golden opportunity to shock the baseball world in 2012, but they will need the kid to chill out and hit baseballs instead of his own ugly face.

At least Harper’s teammates are having fun with the whole incident. Apparently, shortstop Ian Desmond has bestowed the nickname “Bam Bam” upon the hot headed rookie.

Ah, yes. Bryce Harper. The rookie who hazes himself!

Thanks for reading another edition of Jam Shots and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @Jamblinman! Until tomorrow, watch out for that wall.

Wrigley and Wrivalries

May 7, 2012

Like that impressive spelling? Let’s just call it klever. So this weekend I was in Chicago (that’s why Jam Shots took Saturday and Sunday off). Among bars, pizza, sightseeing and all that jazz, I went to the Dodgers vs. Cubs game at Wrigley Field.

This was a milestone for me. First of all, it was the tenth ball park I’ve visited. That puts me in double digits! Just 20 more to go. Besides Wrigley Field, I’ve gone to games in Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, New York (Yankees), Boston, Tampa Bay and St. Louis.

And let me tell you, Wrigley was one of the best so far. It’s a classic stadium with wide open seating, and one of the better post-game atmospheres. I guess if you’ve lost for 103 and a half years (and counting), every day better be a party.

Way to be optimistic, Cubs fans. Anyway, the game was absolutely fantastic, especially because the Dodgers won 5-1. There isn’t a ton to see at the actual stadium, but the bleacher boys in left field sure put on a drinking show, and I felt like I was sitting in a ball park for a game in the 1950’s.

And yes, the ivy is exceptionally luscious.

Now on to a little more baseball news. I hear there were a couple little tiffs? I’ll give my take on the two young guys and the two old guys feuding and who is in the wrong.

So apparently Chipper Jones, he of the 2012 victory lap, and 49-year-0ld Colorado staff ace Jamie Moyer (now that Jeremy Guthrie went down) are upset at each other. Apparently, Chipper cheated at shuffleboard the other day and Jamie is not happy about it.

Or something to that effect. More like Chipper was accused of stealing signs by Moyer. Well, I hate to break it to the old(er) man, but that’s part of the game. It’s not like he was in center field with binoculars, picking off the catcher’s signals. This is something everyone tries to do, and rarely succeeds at. When the runner IS successful, it’s often the catcher’s fault.Winner: Chipper

And then there are a couple of guys who don’t even combine to equal Moyer’s age. Cole Hamels beaned teen phenom Bryce Harper the other day, and then admitted he did it on purpose. He said it was “old school” and welcomed the rook to the bigs. Hamels wins this argument (five-game suspension resulting be damned) for multiple reasons.

First of all, he’s right. It IS old school. When a young kid like Harper comes up and displays over-swaggage, he is taught a lesson by opposing pitchers. Bud Selig is a huge, wet, sopping…nevermind. Because a five-game suspension hardly affects a starting pitcher. But suspending him anyway was just stupid. Two decades ago, it was accepted. No. Expected, for Harper to get beaned. I’m surprised it took that long. Winner: Hamels

Thanks for reading, and tune in again tomorrow! Follow me on Twitter @Jamblinman.

 

 

Hating on Haters: Myself

May 1, 2012

Three games is a small amount. But damn if I shouldn’t hate on myself for my hating on Bryce Harper. Sure, the kid’s haircut is douchey, he roots for front-runners, and he may or may not have an attitude problem (hint: he does). But I just can’t bring myself to hate him.

Have you seen Harper play yet?

Against the Dodgers, he absolutely crushed the ball, made laser-like throws from the outfield and hustled his ass off. When he’s off the field, I hate him. On the field, he’s incredible. So far.

But as it stands now, Harper pretty much hits everything within a ten foot radius of home plate, chases down every ball in the outfield, and scores from second base on any play he wishes.

It hurts to say, but Harper may just be the real deal. If he keeps this up, he’ll be the hands-down choice for NL Rookie of the Year. The Natural is real, just be sure to turn off the TV whenever he does a post-game interview.

 

Busch, Bryce and Beer Pong

April 28, 2012

I just got back from my first trip ever to Busch Stadium, courtesy of my lovely girlfriend (@KelseyShea11). The Cardinals pulled out a 7-3 win over the rival Milwaukee Brewers in a day filled with home runs, sunshine and lots of Game 6 replays.

St. Louis is doing a good job trying to prove to me why it’s known as Baseball Heaven. The fans clearly are in LOVE with their Cardinals, and the stadium and atmosphere were really fantastic. One of the better ones I’ve been to. It didn’t hurt that we sat 14 rows behind the first base line, just off from the home team’s dugout.

Kelsey’s boy Yadi Molina went 4-for-4 with a two-run homer, and David Freese hit a solo shot on his birthday. One of my favorite things on the day was seeing Molina get his Gold Glove award presented to him before the game started. There is no better defensive catcher in baseball right now.

Speaking of baseball, there’s a tiny little story developing in Los Angeles. It’s just this little, baby, teensy-weensy story about some dude named Bryce Harper making his Major League debut for the Washington Nationals against my Dodgers tonight. How will he fare? I don’t know.

But I hope, as a Dodger fan and hater of douchebags (yes, Harper is one), that he goes 0-for-4 with four strikeouts, and misses so badly on one of them that he falls to his ass in the batter’s box. That’s what he gets for rooting for (yes, this is true…Google it) the Yankees, Lakers, Cowboys and Duke. *RAGE*

Thanks for reading…now leave me alone, I have to beat Kelsey’s family at beer pong with her. Ciao.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @Jamblinman!

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

April 27, 2012

If you give a mouse a cookie…

…the Nationals will call up a rookie.

If you give that rookie a chance…

…he’ll get a kick in the pants.

If you kick him in the pants…

…the rookie will go on a rant.

If he rants like a little bitch…

…he’ll get hit in the head by a pitch.

If that pitch is thrown by a Dodger…

…the Nats may as well not bother.

If they bother to retaliate…

…Matt Kemp will make them pay.

If Matt makes them pay…

…it’ll ruin the Nats’ big day.

If you haven’t yet figured out…

…who the hell I’m talking about.

It’s that little punk ass Harper, Bryce…

…getting called up to play tomorrow night.

If Harper thinks he is here to stay…

…he’ll get a reality check in L.A.

Go Dodgers. Screw Bryce Harper. Thanks for reading.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @Jamblinman for more awful poetry!

1st-Place Teams So Far

April 20, 2012

Well, folks…we’re 13 games into the 2012 regular season. If you didn’t notice, some crazy things are happening. For example, the Orioles are doing it again – leading the AL East early. And there’s anarchy in L.A. – The Dodgers are in first by three games and the Angels…well, the Angels are paying Albert Pujols nine figures; one for each loss.

There are six divisions, so six first place teams, so six things for me to talk about:

AL East:

Really? The Baltimore Orioles? One of four teams I figured would have a legitimate shot at losing 95 games this year?

I know what you’re thinking. Is it for real? Well, put simply, no. Expect this division to be flipped by next month. It’s just one of those random hot streaks paired with some poor play by division favorites. Four of the five teams are within 1.5 games already, and the Red Sox being in dead last will change soon.

The A.L. East will still finish Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles.

AL Central:

Detroit Tigers…obviously, bro. They haven’t disappointed, coming out of the gates hot and laying the smack down on the Red Sox to open the season.

One team I’m disappointed with so far is the Kansas City Royals. I am very bromantic about guys like Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer and Luke Hochevar. I’m not too worried about the Royals climbing back into contention, but will it be too late?

The Tigers are leading the Central and that won’t change anytime soon. The order will be: Tigers, Royals, Indians, Twins, White Sox.

AL West:

The Rangers are 11-2, have a 4.5 game lead in the division and the best record in baseball. Where have we seen this story before? Texas might be even better than the last two seasons. That’s terrifying.

The A’s and Mariners are both 7-7 and have played each other about 14 times in 2012. Or so it seems. How about the poor A’s having to face Felix Hernandez THRICE already? Ouch. Am I worried about the Angels? No, but thanks for asking. Let them figure it out and talk to me in a month when they are alone in second place, hot on the Rangers trail.

Despite how incredible Bartolo Colon is, the A’s are still a last-place team. They could lose 100 games. So, the division order will still be Angels, Rangers, Mariners, A’s.

NL East:

Told ya so, told ya so, told ya so, told ya so, told ya so, told ya so, told ya so, told ya so, told ya so, told ya so, TOLD YA SO. Suck it. The Nationals are in first place with a 10-4 record. And Mike Morse hasn’t even played one game yet.

You have to love seeing the Phillies in last place, a game under .500, despite the ridiculous pitching staff. They are really hurting for offense. When are Ryan Howard and Chase Utley coming back again? The Braves have bounced back impressively from an opening weekend sweep at the hands of the Mets. Speaking of the other New York team, they have started to fall back down to Earth a little bit.

Expect the result to stick: Nationals in first, then Philly, Miami, Atlanta, and New York.

NL Central:

Isn’t it cliche these days to say the Cardinals are in first? Well the word “cliche” makes me feel fancy. And I like that. So, the Cardinals are in first. Again.

They have a three-game lead and have by far looked like the most complete team in the division. I still think it’s going to be Cincinnati at the end, but the more I see Milwaukee and Pittsburgh play, the less impressed I’ve been. Ryan Braun just went 0-12 with a ton of strikeouts in three games against the Dodgers. But one guy who IS having success if Carlos Beltran in St. Louis. He has five more home runs than Albert Pujols in L.A. Oh, and Beltran has five homers total. Sooo…do the math.

This division will eventually be: Reds, Cardinals, Brewers, Pirates, Cubs, Astros

NL West:

*Coughs*. *Makes throat sounds suggesting “hey look at this”*. *Winks*. Allllll that nonsense can only mean one thing. My Los Angeles Dodgers are sitting pretty atop the NL West. And it feels so good.

Is it real? Well, biases aside…this is one of the greatest rosters ever assembled in any sport in the history of the universe. And yes, they can continue this success into the postseason. It’s not just Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw this season. In fact, Kershaw hasn’t even gotten warmed up yet. But Andre Ethier is raking, Juan Rivera is driving in runs like nobody’s business, and the rest of the rotation has done wonders. Oh, right. There are four other teams in the West. But…whatever.

The only division I’ll change my order in: Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Giants, Rockies, Padres

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @Jamblinman!

National Treasure

March 1, 2012

I hate myself for that title. Cool movie, but anything with Nicolas Cage in it is going to piss me off. Anyway, it has nothing to do with the actual film. This is more a matter of sports, as a post of mine should be. If you missed it, I’ve already locked in my predictions for the 2012 Major League Baseball season. This isn’t what I think will happen, this IS what will happen. Wait and see.

My boldest prediction is that the annual N.L. East doormats in D.C. are going to win the division this year, after getting healthy and stacking their rotation with the likes of Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson this winter. Call me crazy, but they are the overall most talented team in the division. Yes, better than the new-look Miami Marlins, the powerhouse Phillies and the consistent Atlanta Braves.

You’ve got to love this offense – young guys at shortstop, second base and catcher that can absolutely rake. They’ve got Michael Morse and Ryan Zimmerman to beef up the middle of the order, and potential game-changing guys in AAA in Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon. And if Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche or Rick Ankiel put it together for a full season…watch out.

So the news today is this: Nationals manager Davey Johnson says ‘Fire me’ if Washington misses the playoffs. And I love it.

Swag is a good thing. You want your players to have confidence on the diamond, why not the guy directing them? And why not say it? First of all, Davey Johnson isn’t getting fired no matter what happens. So it’s an empty offer. But secondly, this team has a legitimate chance to contend.

The fact that these young Nationals are so set on making the playoffs and their manager is so confident in their abilities is setting the table for a special season in the nation’s capital, methinks. Looking at the National League, I see nine serious contenders: Arizona, San Francisco, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Philly, Miami, Atlanta and Washington.

By a mile, the Nats would be the biggest surprise team out of those nine to make the playoffs. But beating four of them should be very do-able for such a talented roster. Their pitching is as good or better than the D’Backs, Reds and Marlins. And their offense definitely matches up or dominates teams like the Giants, Phillies and Brewers.

All I’m saying is this team has the makings of something special in 2012. I think people underestimate how good their rotation will be with Stephen Strasburg, Gonzalez, Jackson, Jordan Zimmerman and John Lannan. It’s going to be young and they will have their struggles, but if the Nats aren’t at LEAST in Wild Card contention in the last week of the season, I will be shocked.

And apparently, so will Davey Johnson. Long live the dark horse!


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