IT IS OPENING DAY!!! Sorry for my excitement there
but in all my boredom of Spring Training I forgot that when it ends the
baseball season begins. For the Nationals the 2013 season looks to be the Dark
Knight to 2012’s Batman Begins, or Godfather II to Godfather.
In other words, not just a worthy sequel but one
that surpasses the brilliance of the original. And here is where my
danger lies. To delve deep into the tangent I have begun or get back on track? Without
any further introduction, here are a few story lines to watch for in
The Bryce Harper/Stephen Strasburg Dynamic
As of right now there might not be two
more interesting teammates in sports who are this polarly opposite. Bryce
Harper is one of the best young position players in the sport and many scouts
would label him as having the highest upside. Stephen Strasburg was an innings
limit away from being in Cy Young consideration last year and admitted
several times that he was still learning how to pitch. Many pre-season
predictions have Harper for MVP and Strasburg for Cy Young. It is rare that the
most talented hitter and most talented pitcher of a generation end up on the
same team, but that could be the case here in Washington.
What makes them so interesting isn’t
their talent, but their personalities, and how strikingly different they are.
Bryce Harper is the outgoing, monster truck driving, dog named Swag owning,
Under Armour commercial starring, most electrifying player in baseball, and
that is who Harper wants to be. He wants to be the cover boy getting all the
attention. Bryce Harper wakes up every day willing and wanting to prove his
greatness. Strasburg is simply great. He wants to go about his work and if no
one ever noticed or paid attention he would be happy. Strasburg doesn’t want
nor like the media attention; he wants to be a pitcher and that is all. There
couldn’t be two more opposite personalities on the planet than those of Bryce
Harper and Stephen Strasburg, and yet here they are the most talented young
position player in the game and the most talented young pitcher, and they
happen to play for the same team.
The Return of Wilson Ramos
If we were to rank human beings that had
the worst years in 2012 Ramos would be near the top. After being kidnapped in
2011 and wanting his life to return to normal through the playing of baseball
that was taken away from him in May when he tore his ACL chasing down a passed
ball against the Reds. Without Ramos the Nationals’ catching situation went
from ok with Jesus Flores performing well as a back-up to bad with Flores
getting exposed as a starter and then every prospect the Nationals
brought up promptly getting injured. Nothing was settled with the Nationals’
catching situation until August when they acquired Kurt Suzuki from the A’s.
How Wilson Ramos performs and how he
returns from the ACL tear will be interesting to watch. In 2012 Nationals
catchers amassed a paltry OPS of .659 and with any luck Ramos will be able to
improve that greatly. He is already ahead of schedule as few thought he would
even be the Opening Day catcher or begin the season with a 50/50 split of
catching duties with Kurt Suzuki, but that is how it will begin and by late May
or early June Ramos could be the primary catcher.
The Expected World Series
Remember that great Tigers/Marlins World Series this past October or the
Phillies/Red Sox the year before that or in 2010 when the Yankees squared off
with the Phillies, and who can forget the 2009 World Series of the curse
breaking Red Sox against the still cursed Cubs. Not a single one of those World
Series happened, but those were the “experts” picks, or at least the
majority of them. The point is what is expected to happen in baseball rarely
does and now, with the Washington Nationals season only hours away, they are
expected to be in the World Series against the Tigers.
If that does end up being the World
Series, few baseball fans will complain. Who doesn’t want to see Strasburg vs.
Verlander with it all on the line? Or the bulldog Ace in Jordan Zimmermann
taking on the likes of Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera. Then there is that
entire Fielder/LaRoche drama from before the 2012 season. The Nationals vs. the
Tigers would be a great baseball match-up, but if history tells us anything it
is that there is a big chance that neither of those team are even in the World
Series and one of them may miss the playoffs entirely. Perhaps this is the year
that beats the odds because the odds come true.
There are a few other story lines I
could write about, but I wrote about the redemption of the Nats and this being
Davey Johnson’s last season for The Citizens of Natstown Washington Baseball
Annual. This year looks to be one rich in story lines and great baseball for
the Washington Nationals, and the best thing to do is what I say to do every
year no matter the expectations: Sit back relax and enjoy the 162 game roller
coaster that is the baseball season. This one certainly looks like it is going
to be fun.
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