Expect Nothing Less Than NLCS From Washington Nationals in 2014

By Brian Skinnell
Washington Nationals' Season Preview
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On Wednesday afternoon, Bovada released its initial odds for teams to win the World Series and their respective pennants. For the Washington Nationals, the website predicted them to finished with 86 wins, and they are a 12-1 favorite to win the World Series and 11-2 favorite to win the NL Pennant.

This got me thinking, what can we really expect from the Nationals this year? Vegas certainly has high hopes for them. Could those hopes be too high? Could those hopes be too low? I think that they are right on the money.

Forget about 2013. Blow it up, baby. That season is a thing of the past. Something weird happened last season — something unexplainable. One of the most talented teams in baseball was injury-plagued and just had a sluggish season. Over the offseason, however, they rearmed.

GM Mike Rizzo went to work picking up the pieces and filling the holes. He traded for Doug Fister and Jerry Blevins, while also signing Nate McLouth. Once the season had ended and Davey Johnson officially became the “former” manager, he hired Matt Williams. Washington is locked, loaded and ready to redeem themselves.

Looking past who they brought in, look who they have back. Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond, just to name a few. This team is loaded with talent and any one of the players in the starting lineup could find their way to the All-Star Game this year. They boast the best rotation in baseball, and I expect their offense to improve over last season.

It’s going to really be a three-horse race in the NL. The St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers and Nationals all seem to be primed for good seasons. However, I see no reason why Washington can’t beat one or both in a seven-game series.

So what can we possibly expect out of them this year? The nice thing is that the pressure is fairly minimal. While missing the postseason would be a failure, I’m sure Nats fans are cautious about this season after the way 2013 unfolded. Also, the fact that a lofty goal or mantra like “World Series or Bust” has yet to be proclaimed takes some of the pressure off as well.

However, I think that expectations and goals are supposed to be set. While we haven’t gotten the strong proclamations from Spring Training this year, I think being confident enough in your squad to make bold statements is a good thing. I am confident enough in the Nationals to be able to make the following bold predictions.

Anything even remotely close to 2013 would be an absolute failure for the Nationals. If anything, they need to shoot for a regular season like 2012, in which they won 96 games, but go further than the NL Wild Card round. They should win the NL East and get to the postseason. Ultimately, I think expecting this team to make it to (at least) the NLCS is reasonable.

While it’s okay to be cautiously optimistic, it’s also okay to be confident enough in your favorite team to make bold preseason statements. For the Nationals, they are good enough to deep into the postseason, and the fanbase should expect nothing less this year. A berth in the NLCS is something the Nationals are capable of doing. They shouldn’t settle for anything less than that.

Brian Skinnell is a freelance sports writer for RantSports.com and contributor at Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter and add him to your network on Google.


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