2012 Washington Nationals Season in Review
October 18, 2012 in Uncategorized
By DC Staff Writer John Manuel:
Even with last Friday's game 5 devastating loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, I still see the Nationals 2012 season as a success. Yes, it was disastrous how it ended and yes the team expected to still be playing this week but winning the National League East has to be a major accomplishment for the organization. And at least Robert Griffin III helped DC fans start to move on and forget with his performance on Sunday. Sorry I had to tie RG3 into this.
So where do the Washington Nationals go from here? They have laid a solid foundation which will have them starting the 2013 season once again as a contender to win the National League. So what questions have the Nats left us with this winter?
The Nationals biggest decision stands with who will manage the team in 2013. The obvious situation is for Davey Johnson to return to the dugout but he doesn't have a contract yet and it’s been pretty quiet. If the Lerners weren't willing to splurge to keep the metro open, will they to keep Davey around? And it wouldn't be the first time Johnson didn't come back to a team after having success as he left the Orioles after winning AL Manager of the Year. The team has already lost Bo Porter to the Astros so losing Johnson would put them into a tough spot. Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre are around, but so is Manny Acta. I think that the Lerners, Rizzo and Davey Johnson know too much is at stake to blow this and it gets worked out in the end.
The Nationals have many positives lined up for the future and it has to start with the starting pitching staff. The Stephen Strasburg shutdown debate hopefully is over, but I doubt it as the "league's most hated team" will have to answer questions if they fail to make the playoffs. With Strasburg ready to fully go, the staff should be as good as anyone in the majors. Gio and Zimmerman will need to bounce back from tough playoff starts and Ross Detweiler could be ready to join the big 3 at the top. The Nats are in a situation where they know they have four legit starters but will they be able to keep the five intact and bring back Edwin Jackson? Jackson has said he wants back but do the Nationals make the investment in him? Most likely coming down to a dollars game here between the two sides. John Lannan could also be back in the rotation if Jackson doesn't come back. All in all, the starting staff looks to be in great shape for a few years to come. Not sure they need to mess around right now with what they have.
So where do you go when it comes with the position players? Wilson Ramos will be back and if it takes some time, Kurt Suzuki could return to cover at catcher. Ian Desmond may have been a question mark at shortstop before the season, but he is no longer after 2012. Desmond arguably was the team’s MVP in 2012 and at only 27 puts the Nats in a solid spot at short. Ryan Zimmerman is at third, no more commentary needed.
As for the outfield, Bryce Harper should explode in 2013 much like the Angels saw in Mike Trout this year. Jayson Werth's contract is always a point to discuss but his magical home run in game four should have quieted some critics.
Question comes in three spots with this team. Does the team work to resign Adam LaRoche? If they do, then the other team MVP candidate returns and a solid lineup is set with Michael Morse in the outfield. Or do they let LaRoche walk, put Morse at first and finally look for a true centerfielder like a BJ Upton? I have a feeling that Upton could be the call in center and that LaRoche unfortunately is the odd man out.
Finally, they have to decide what to do at second base. Danny Espinoza struggled in the playoffs when many felt that Steve Lombardozzi should have been at second. Are either these guys the answer right now at second or they just holding the spot for potentially Anthony Rendon to one day take over? My guess is they start the season with what they currently have at second and see where it goes, no drastic moves.
And finally the bullpen, which looked to be solid for most of the season, minus the Henry Rodriguez days. But then everything unraveled last Friday. The true question is where is Drew Storen's head after the game 5 implosion? Does the organization still have confidence in Storen as the closer? Do they have still have confidence in Clippard as a setup man or potential closer? Does the team have more confidence Storen can put the game behind him or do they have more confidence in going after a veteran like Francisco Rodriguez? I wouldn't expect them to give up on Drew Storen as the team’s closer but it’s a real important spot you need to be sure of come playoff time, so it could get interesting.
So as the fall and winter moves forward the key questions are Davey, Edwin, LaRoche, 2nd Base and who closes? It should be an interesting off season in DC.