Washington Nationals: 5 Moves That Shaped 2013
5 Moves That Made The Nationals In 2013
The year 2013 began with high expectations and fanfare for the Washington Nationals and rightfully so, as the team was coming off their most wins in team history, an NL East title and a flat-out dominant year all around. Their bench produced in the wake of major injuries to Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos, and their rotation was as dominant as GM Mike Rizzo expected them to be. Of course, not everything was sunshine and smiles as Washington was also coming off of a gut-wrenching loss in Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals that saw the team slowly but surely blow a six-run lead.
Needless to say, this was alarming as the Nationals bullpen that was a lock all year blew a big lead, and the offense did what it had done much of 2012: come alive with a roar, throw up a crooked number, then basically die out as Washington scored one run after the third inning. Washington had extended their lead to 6-0. Not only was Washington poised to overcome a horrid loss, but the Atlanta Braves were making serious moves, signing B.J. Upton to be their everyday center fielder as well as acquiring his brother Justin Upton from the Arizona Diamondbacks. With their rotation, infuriatingly fantastic bullpen and now improved offense, the Braves were poised to make a move after their playoff disappointment.
With that in mind, Washington went into 2013 with high expectations and fans were excited to finally have a team people all around the country had expectations for, and here are five moves that shaped 2013 for the Nationals.
5. Davey Johnson: World Series Or Bust
Sure, Johnson said this with a little tongue in cheek, as well as with the knowledge this would be his final season filling out a lineup card. Johnson will probably go down as the best manager in Nationals history, but this swansong season could be seen as placing unnecessary pressure on a mostly young team. The statement didn't help, either.
4. The Rafael Soriano Signing
Soriano was seen a lock to sign somewhere like the Detroit Tigers, who desperately needed a closer after wandering through the 2012 season with Jose Valverde, who steadily declined and only saved 35 games for the Tigers. Of course, that did not happen, as Soriano signed a two-year, $28 million deal with the Nationals on January 5 of 2013. The ripple effect of this signing could be the down year Drew Storen had, which included a demotion to Triple-A, though it could be argued Storen was due for a down year.
3. It's Roark, Not Roark
As we now know, 2013 was nothing like what fans and analysts alike thought it would be for the Nationals. They finished 86-76, 10 games behind Atlanta, and if not for a blistering hot September, may have finished below .500 just one year after almost eclipsing 100 wins. One of the few positives for the Nationals, however, was emergence of their minor league pitchers again, namely Tanner Roark. Many believed the Nationals' system was tapped out after deals that brought in Denard Span and Gio Gonzalez, but this was not the case. Roark had a 1.74 ERA as a starter, and is seen as a front-runner for Washington's 2014 rotation.
2. The Hiring of Matt Williams
As Johnson walked off into the sunset, Matt Williams walked in not long after Johnson left, being hired on Halloween of 2013. Williams was long seen the front-runner to succeed Johnson, and this was one of Rizzo's more predictable moves. Williams, by all vocal indications, seems more than ready to manage, spending the last few years as Kirk Gibson's third base coach. Williams marks a new era for the Nationals, one of continuity and stability, and it begins in 2014.
1. The Doug Fister Acquisition
The Nationals did need some rotation help, but they also needed the conversation to change about them. Many assumed 2012 was just a fluke and the NL East was quickly going to be Atlanta's division to lose for years to come. Enter Doug Fister, who was acquired from Detroit for, well ... nothing of any importance. Though if you listen to some Nationals, they parted with team god Steve Lombardozzi, which the more realistic fans know is not true. Regardless, Fister comes to the Nationals with a proven postseason pedigree, two years of control and a perfect pitching style for Washington's infield. Happy New Year, Nationals fans, and here's to an exciting 2014!