Promising season ahead for the Nationals


Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg should be a big part of a very good starting rotation for the team. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

The Washington Nationals begin their 2014 baseball season in New York against the Mets on Monday. The big word for the Nats’ season is “expectations.” Washington players and fans expect the team to be very good. They think Washington should at least make it to the playoffs this season.

Of course, the Nats were expected to be good last year. Davey Johnson, who was the team’s manager, said it would be a disappointment if the Nats did not make the World Series in 2013. The Nationals stumbled at the beginning of the season and did not make the playoffs last year.

It can be tough when everyone expects you to do well. Of course, it’s also not easy when everyone thinks you are going to be terrible.

But let’s say you’re a whiz at math. Chances are your parents and teachers expect you to get A’s in math. They won’t be happy with a B, even though that might be a good grade for someone else.

It’s the same with the Nats. Many fans and experts expect the team to win the National League East division and make the playoffs, and there are plenty of reasons to think so.

The Nats should have terrific starting pitching with Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and newcomer Doug Fister, whom they snapped up in a trade with Detroit. The Nats should be set in the bullpen, where Tyler Clippard has been one of the most effective relievers in baseball for the last few seasons.

Their everyday lineup is filled with solid veteran players such as third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, shortstop Ian Desmond and right fielder Jayson Werth. And everyone expects 21-year-old outfielder Bryce Harper to blossom into a true superstar.

If infielder Anthony Rendon and catcher Wilson Ramos improve, the Nats should be loaded at almost every position. And the Washington bench looks improved from last year’s substitutes. So everything appears to be set for a very good — perhaps championship — season.

But every season is full of surprises. Injuries happen. Remember that Harper’s season was derailed last year when he ran into an outfield wall and hurt his knee.

Players disappoint. I wonder whether Adam LaRoche, the Nats’ first baseman, is going downhill. He batted only .237 with 62 runs batted in (RBI) last season.

And who knows? Maybe the Nationals’ new manager, Matt Williams, will not be a good fit for the team. Williams, after all, is just learning to be a big-league manager.

Of course, that’s why we watch the games: to see what’s going to happen.

Still, Nats fans should be excited about the season. I know I am. I expect the Nats to do very well indeed.

Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author of 19 sports books for kids, including nine baseball books.

Show Comments