With the 2011 holiday season coming to a close (I hope everyone had a great Christmas, Hanukkah, or whatever your family celebrates), it’d be a nice gesture to see what the Washington Nationals and this fan would like to see down the road. After all, everyone deserves to get a little something this time of year and this rising baseball team is no different. These wishes aren’t going to be out of the ordinary, like hoping for a World Series win, but they are attainable in some way.
1. Sign Roy Oswalt: Once the Philadelphia Phillies declined their 2012 option on the former Astros All-Star, I said that the Nats should take advantage of the situation and sign a player that would instantly make their rotation better. One team’s garbage could be another team’s treasure and it’s not like Oswalt forgot how to pitch. Yes, he’s had two bad seasons in the last three years and his back can be thrown out at any second, but it’ll be a high-reward signing if he could semi-return to his 3.21 career ERA with excellent control. Now, this signing isn’t really necessary anymore with the acquisition of Gio Gonzalez, but general managers everywhere know that a team can never have enough pitching. Oswalt’s agent has said that he and his client are willing to accept a one-year offer, so it would be one with performance-based incentives and Roy knows a little something about Philly, doesn’t he? Plus, I’m a huge fan of Oswalt because he plays the game for the right reasons; he loves to compete and money isn’t an issue.
2. Improve consistency on offense: If you look at the Nationals’ lineup, it’s one that could inflict a lot of damage on opposing pitchers. The problem is that certain players on the team weren’t consistent with their approach at the plate and the team wasn’t hot at the same time. Specifically, Jayson Werth had an awful 2011 campaign and I attribute that to partially pressing and trying to live up to a contract that he shouldn’t have gotten in the first place. But the biggest problem is that he was making too many adjustments at the plate and couldn’t get into a rhythm. This led to too many strikeouts, a lower line-drive percentage, and stranding the entire population of the D.C. area on base. Danny Espinosa looked like a Double-A player during the season’s second half and Ian Desmond needed a hot final two weeks to make his stat line respectable. The pieces are there, but the team needs to show up more often than they don’t.
3. Stay healthy: Every team goes through injuries and the best ones overcome those hardships during the duration of a season. The Nats aren’t at that point yet and it all starts with third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who’s missed more than 50 games in two of the past four campaigns. His offensive absence in the lineup was evident, but even when he returned, his Gold Glove defense suffered because of a change in throwing motion. We can talk all day about Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, but Z-Pack is the face of this franchise. Strasburg will be pitching in his first full season in the majors and how will Jordan Zimmermann hold up throwing 200 innings? No team in the NL East has more injury questions right now and things could get bad in a hurry.
There really isn’t a whole lot to ask for out of this organization because it’s heading in the right direction and there isn’t a whole lot more to do in my mind except play better. There was talk the other day on MLB Network that this team could potentially contend for a Wild Card berth and with the addition of another one starting this season, it’s not out of the question. This shows just how highly the media and opposing general managers and coaches think about the Nats. They aren’t a laughing stock anymore and if opponents don’t take them seriously, they’ll be the ones being laughed at.