I think the story of the Nationals’ 2011 season could very well be one person:
Michael Morse. Now he might not be that much of a household name, but as a person that went to Nationals Park pretty frequently last season I can say the dude is a monster. Just look at his spray chart,
For that reason he was a bittersweet person to have in the cage during bp. You knew he was going to hit the ball a ways, but deciding whether to play him as a lefty or a righty was a whole other frustrating deal.
Gio Gonzalez, Mike Cameron, Mark DeRosa, Chad Durbin, Edwin Jackson, Brad Lidge, and Ryan Perry.
Laynce Nix, Collin Balester, Todd Coffey, Alex Cora, Jonny Gomes, Livan Hernandez, Tom Milone, and Brad Peacock.
Why?: With this past offseason, it may seem like the Nationals did really well. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been around the Nationals so much, but it seems to me that they lost a bunch of players that, yes, were not starters, but they are just below that cusp. Mind you, a B is still improving the team a bit, but I think most everyone christened their ship to a much improved season because of the additions. For me, they will improve if those that were already in the organization improve, because I am a little bit skeptical about whether Gio Gonzalez can stay healthy after building up such an innings count for the first time.
All that said, it still can be a great season in that the talent on the team surpasses the record they had last year if they can just *solidify* their rotation. I’m not talking about making it a strength of the team, but if they can just not lose games because of their starters, their lineup could win them 85 games. I kid you not, the only offensively deficient spot in that lineup is the Short Stop position with Ian Desmond. The next closest position to being offensively below-average is the Catcher position with Wilson Ramos (aka the guy every Twins fan wishes had never been traded in order to get Matt Capps).
Predicted Record Range: 85-90 wins. I say this tentatively, though. For whatever reason, I have this strange feeling in my gut that SOMEthing will go wrong with the Nationals this year. My first thought was that Gio Gonzalez will be injured, but now I’m starting to think that it might be Strasburg again. Whatever, enough of my crazy feelings, that’s it for this entry except that you need to vote on the poll below.
Next Up: Atlanta Braves, then the NL West
First team in NL West:
First of all, let me wish you a happy Leap Day. It is always nice to have an extra day in the year, no. Is it just me, or is it weird to see them as the Miami Marlins? I typed in Florida in the title but then had to erase it, and this coming from a person that saw the preliminary sketches of what is now the Marlins logo in the Summer of 2010 (it’s sort of a longish story, but I met the “Director of Creative Services”, Alfred Hernández, or at least that is what it say on his card,and he was/is in charge of the Marlins logo and authorizing its use anywhere. It was through a program I’ll mention later on in the entry.) So why am I writing the Marlins’ entry on this day? That would be because March is National Optimism Month and I want to get all my pessimism out before then. Most of it surrounds this $650 million beaut:
Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, Mark Buehrle, Cahd Gaudin, Wade LeBlanc, Aaron Rowand, and Carlos Zambrano.
Chris Volstad, Burke Badenhop, John Baker, Mike Cameron, Clay Hensley, Jose Lopez, and Brian Sanches.
Why?: Yeah, yeah, I know that the Marlins gained a bunch of talent and lost essentially nothing. I agree that based just off of talent, their grade should be higher. Let me also set the records straight that I have nothing against the Marlins they are one of the middle-of-the-pack to front-of-the-pack teams when it comes to favorite teams with me. Now that we’ve gotten these things established, here is the real reason why I gave them the grade I did.
The Marlins’ plan as I interpret it is: get a bunch of players and hope it attracts a big crowd. There is some merit to this. First of all, Dolphins Stadium or whatever the heck you want to call it, is the equivalent of the Medowlands to New York in that it is fine to get to for a weekly event such as a football game, but it is 35 miles north of downtown Miami, so it was a pain in the neck to get to. Secondly, the new stadium is a much nicer one from what I saw while I was in Miami and the location also has the side effect of playing more towards the baseball-oriented Cuban residents that reside in the City closer to the new stadium (which happens to be the old Orange Bowl site).
However, the Marlins have a couple things that could mess this whole experiment up. First, the Marlins ticked a LOT of people off when they asked for public funding for the stadium. I personally know a couple Miami natives that just refused to go to games the last two seasons for this simple fact. Second, the Marlins got a lot of money from Miami-Dade County to fund their stadium (the total cost of the stadium was around $650 million and Miami-Dade raised about $500 million by selling bonds to help pay for the stadium. That’s almost 80% (76.9 is close enough, right?). I was in Miami for a three week course in Sports Administration a the University of Miami right when it was announced most of the stadium would be publicly funded. So, in addition to looking at how people in South Florida fudge the numbers to convince committees to let them hold the Super Bowl there so often, we also looked at how skewed the numbers the Marlins were using to convince the county to help fund the stadium. Now of course we weren’t using the real numbers, but we were estimating using numbers we did now, and if those number held any truth, the numbers were fudged quite a bit to convince people they needed help with the funding. Interestingly enough, it was announced December 3rd that the SEC would be investigating the Marlins’ use of public funding to build their new stadium. Unless the Marlins can come up with some clever way around this, they will in all likelihood be punished. How much? I have no idea, but the numbers do not stack up well in their favor, let’s put it that way. Lastly, the Marlins are assuming their newfound players will result in a winning team. However, they did only win 72 games last season good for dead last in the NL East, so I don’t know if they are as automatically in contention as everyone thinks. They may very well be, but the Nationals are also on the rise, the Braves have a good young foundation that will probably get better, and the Phillies are the Phillies. So it might not be the case that they win for the foreseeable future (and have high attendance figures) like they are expecting.
Predicted Record Range: 85-90 wins Let’s see, this would mean they added 13-18 wins in the offseason. This is a big jump. I’m not so sure about this prediction.