Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and the awards odds

brushback_harperAs we steam toward opening day, the evidence stacks higher and higher that the optimism surrounding the Nationals stretches beyond Viera and Washington, across every swath of the baseball realm. The other day, a scout in the stands, unsolicited, said the Nationals were “the most talented team I’ve seen” this spring. In the latest issue of ESPN The Magazine, the Nationals are tabbed as the World Series pick. On the betting website Bovada.com, Stephen Strasburg is the favorite, at 11-2, to win the Cy Young and Bryce Harper is 10-1 to win the MVP, behind only Joey Votto and Ryan Braun.

That last fact reinforces the astounding reality of Strasburg and Harper lining up together on opening day. They are 24 and 20 years old, and they have, according to folks who stake their livelihood on these things, a relatively good chance to sweep the major National League awards.

Since they started handing out the Cy Young in 1956, excluding seasons in which the same player hoisted both trophies, 16 teams have claimed both a Cy Young and MVP. The last team to pull it off was the 2006 Twins, who boasted Justin Morneau and Johan Santana.

Morneau and Santana, as far as I could gather, also tied for the youngest combined age for a pair of teammates who won the Cy Young and MVP. Morneau was 25 and Santana was 27, for a combined age 52. Four others have matched that: Miguel Tejada (28) and Barry Zito (24) for the 2002 A’s; Frank Thomas (25) and Roger McDowell (27) for the 1993 White Sox; Barry Bonds (25) and Doug Drabek (27) for the 1990 Pirates; Ryne Sandberg (24) and Rick Sutcliffe (28) for the 1984 Cubs.

There is a big difference between being considered among the favorites in March and actually winning the awards, but Strasburg and Harper, at a combined age of 44, would shatter that mark. If they sweep the MVP and Cy Young between now and 2016, they would become the youngest pair of teammates to turn the feat. It exists only as possibility, but the possibilities are pretty heady.

Harper and Strasburg have company on Bovada’s odd sheet. Gio Gonzalez (10-1) ranks third on the NL Cy Young list, behind Strasburg and Clayton Kershaw, and Jordan Zimmermann checks in at 25-1. Closer Rafael Soriano comes in as a 50-1 longshot.

Strasburg himself is a 15-1 favorite to win the MVP, second on the Nationals and seventh overall. Ryan Zimmerman, at 25-1, is the only other National listed.

One last item: You can get Harper at 30-1 to lead the majors in homers, while old friend Michael Morse is at 66-1. I would list all of the odds, but the NCAA Tournament will probably incinerate enough work hours today as it is.

FROM THE POST

The Nationals are not only training in the spring; they are learning, Boz writes.

FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL

Young’s opt out draws near

Suzuki goes the distance

Davey still content with one lefty reliever

Bernadina returns

Soriano hurting

Catching up with Giolito

TODAY’S GAME

The Nationals will travel to Orlando for a 6:05 p.m. start against the Braves. Dan Haren will start. There was no lineup posted in the Nationals’ clubhouse yesterday. When asked Wednesday morning if he would bring a full squad to Orlando, Davey Johnson replied, “Does a cat have an ass?”

DAYS UNTIL OPENING DAY

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