It’s a whole new world for baseball. Four of the remaining playoff teams in the Tigers, Brewers, Rangers and the Cardinals have a modest budget.
The Red Sox did not qualify for the playoffs this season, and they lost the wild-card spot to the Rays, whose payroll was $41 million. That is remarkable when looking at the fact the Red Sox payroll was $160 million this season. Two of the highest payroll teams were eliminated last week in the Yankees and the Phillies.
This should send a message to the Nationals. They can play and win in October with the right management getting the right players. It has nothing to do with how much money they spend to get free agents. It’s about investing the money with the draft picks, developing players and making the right trades, and that’s what the Nationals have done under Mike Rizzo’s administration.
The Nationals are primed to have a winning season next year. They have a good starting rotation in Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Chien-Ming Wang and John Lannan. Their young players have developed into good hitters. The bullpen should be in tact next year with Ryan Mattheus, Henry Rodriguez, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen continuing to build off from this season.
Of course, health is going to be a factor, especially with Strasburg and Zimmermann trying to avoid the disabled list after coming off Tommy John surgery.
Still, there is hope. That’s something the Nationals could not say for most of the failed Jim Bowden era.
The Nationals are not far off from what the Tigers, Rangers, Brewers and Cardinals are doing. The talent level is the same. Like all four teams, the Nationals have home run hitters in Ryan Zimmerman and Mike Morse, which is what a team needs to get to the playoffs. One can make a case the Nationals starters are as good as the starters from the current playoff teams.
Plus, baseball offers surprises ever year. Who would’ve thought the Rays would make the playoffs this year? This was an organization that lost Carl Crawford, Matt Garza, Joaquin Benoit, Dan Wheeler, Rafael Soriano and Carlos Pena to either free agency or trade. That’s what happens when the organization is run properly. This should inspire the Nationals to say why not them next year.
This year is a steppingstone for success next year. There’s no question about it. The Nationals learned a lot from winning and losing, and they should be better for it. Already, most of their players are talking about playoffs next season. That’s a great goal to have.
With goals, come expectations. The fans are going to expect a winning season next year after getting a taste of what the Nationals can do in beating the Phillies and the Braves all season long. It will be interesting how everything works out.
To the Nationals’ credit, they embrace high expectations. They know they can meet it. After beating the Phillies and the Braves this year, it’s going to give them confidence they can beat them in the next few season. They should with better talent.
It will be interesting what moves the Nationals make in the offseason. If they can get Price Fielder to sign with them, that will be a boon. They can get another home run hitter to join Zimmerman and Morse, and that makes the offense even better.
Couple of good offseason moves and the Nationals could be postseason bound.
Watching the four playoff teams currently, the Nationals know they can be in their position soon. There’s no question the Nationals fans feel the same way.
It shows how far this franchise has come when playoffs and the Nationals are in the same sentence. It wasn’t long ago when they were a laughing stock. Now, they are going to be everyone’s darkhorse to make the playoffs after this year’s results.
When a team makes the playoffs, anything can happen. The Nationals have the pitching to win playoff games, so they could be next year’s Tigers, Rangers, Brewers or the Cardinals. Why not? They are only going to go up with the young players playing at their prime.
Watching the Nationals play postseason baseball is good to imagine now, and next year, it could be a reality.