During their current flame-hot stretch, the Nationals have not only become one of Major League Baseball’s most compelling stories, they’ve also climbed among the game’s best ballclubs. And for the team, that’s not close to being good enough.
- Jason Reid
Washington Nationals face off with the New York Yankees, their measuring stick
After taking a bat to their former laughingstock label, the Nationals strive to chase down history. They can reach out and touch their target: The New York Yankees.
Friday’s interleague series opener between the streaking teams provided Nationals players with an up-close reminder of management’s top-of-the-list goal. Winning today is now expected; winning forever is what’s wanted.
Straight-talking General Manager Mike Rizzo has made it clear: The next step is for the Nationals to become consistently good. But it’s a small one along a road to potentially becoming great.
The Yankees routed the Nationals, 7-2, to extend their winning streak to seven games and end the Nationals’ at six. The matchup, however, is not a referendum on the Nationals’ standing. In fact, the only series between the teams that truly matters would have “World” in front of it.
“It’s not a secret: Ownership is on board with building a franchise that has long, long-term success here in D.C.,” Clippard, the do-it-all reliever, said before Friday’s game. It’s definitely the right way to think. ”
Most organizations have similar championship aspirations. In the abstract, it’s easy to want to emulate the Yankees.
But actually approaching their record-setting success is even tougher than hitting a Stephen Strasburg fastball. Many are still trying. No team has found the formula. The Yankees have 27 World Series titles. They’ve lost more World Series (13) than the St. Louis Cardinals, who rank second with 11 championships, have won.
The perception is the Yankees have merely outspent the competition. Although it’s true their annual league-high payroll exceeds the operating budget of some municipalities, the Yankees also have had many tremendous home-grown players. To suggest otherwise is simply false.
They’ve had so many iconic players throughout their history that they’re still filling Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park. The Nationals are as much a finished product as a half-baked cake.
It seems, though, they’re in position to keep rising – if their second-to-none pitching holds up and their farm system produces as envisioned – to at least pull closer to the Yankees. To hear Rizzo tell it, he won’t be satisfied until they’re pushed aside.
“They’re the dynasty, and we respect the pinstripes tremendously,” Rizzo said. “They’re at where we want to be and right now they’re in the way, so we’re trying to get them out of the way.”
With emerging superstars Strasburg and 19-year-old Bryce Harper, the club has two players with foundation-laying ability. On their shoulders, the Nationals could enjoy a decade-or-so run of challenging for a pennant.There’s no way of knowing whether Strasburg and Harper will continue to climb so well. It’s just that they have the look of difference-makers on a historic level.