The 2013 Washington Nationals will make news whether they are a success or failure. Expectations coming off of an NL Eastern Division title are so high that the Nationals have set themselves up for a season of scrutiny.
Washington may not be a prohibitive favorite to win the East again in 2013, but is considered to be better than their main challengers, the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies. There are some who predict that the Nationals will win 100 games and easily cruise into post season play. Washington surprised everyone by winning 98 in 2012. With a nucleus of good young talent reaching its prime, there seems no limit on what the Nationals can do.
Now that Washington has put itself on the big stage, it is time for them to put up or shut up. If the Nationals play up to their potential, they will be headline news throughout the summer. Every series against the Braves and Phillies will draw national attention. So will those against last years NL playoff teams the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and defending worlds champion San Francisco Giants. Fans and media will want to know if Washington can beat the best to be the best.
If the Nationals stink up the joint, they will be hailed as major underachievers and laughed at from Philadelphia to Atlanta and beyond. No one should think for a minute that the Phillies and Braves do not want to beat the crap out of Washington. Philadelphia and Atlanta have long ruled the East and aren’t looking for company from a young team that they are used to smacking around. The national media will stomp on the Nationals also if they fail to compete. They will have every right to as Washington has no business not making the playoffs.
Not only the team, but individuals will be watched closely. Pitcher Stephen Strasburg will be trying to complete a full season for the first time in his career. After 32 months of recovering from 2010 Tommy John surgery, Strasburg will have no restrictions and be allowed to go full bore. His development will be watched closely as Nationals management has been criticized in their handling of him since the injury. If Strasburg pitches well he will silence those critics. If he does not they will hammer Washington even more.
If it was at all possible, outfielder Bryce Harper raised the bar on his expectations by winning the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year Award. He has been moved from center field to left and all eyes will be on his development there. If Harper improves on last season he will be hailed as a true superstar at age 20. If he struggles there will be talk of a sophomore jinx.
Everything that the Nationals do in 2013 will be watched closely. They have gone from irrelevant losers to newsworthy World Series challengers with potential superstar players. Every day, every game, every series story lines will emerge.
The Washington Nationals will make news in 2013 whether they succeed or fail.