After adding former Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer to a team that won 96 games last season, the Washington Nationals enter spring training as the prohibitive favorites to win the 2015 World Series. As Thomas Boswell put it last week, “it’s an imaginary, arbitrary distinction that carries burdens but not a single advantage. … Being anointed preseason favorite is like being the least-doomed shipwreck survivor: Don’t worry, there’s one chance in six that a ship will show up.”
After the “World Series or bust” mantra worked out so well for Davey Johnson in 2013, Washington Manager Matt Williams probably won’t use it as one of his inspirational quotes of the day this spring. At least a couple of baseball analysts say the Nationals should adopt that mentality.
“They have to think that way with this starting rotation,” MLB Network’s Dan Plesac said recently on MLB Tonight. “It is time for this team to step up, and take the training wheels off and get to that next level. That next level is the World Series. There is not a starting rotation in baseball that can even compare. They are legitimately six deep. Six deep. Nobody in baseball can say they’re legitimately four deep, and they’re six deep.”
“It will be a complete, colossal failure if they do not win the World Series this year,” Eric Byrnes said.
Co-host Brian Kenny suggested that anything can happen in a five-game playoff series, referencing the Nationals’ 18-inning loss to the Giants en route to an NLDS defeat last October.
“That can’t happen in 2015,” Plesac said. “This is their window.”
“They’re the best team, far and away, on paper,” Byrnes said. “They won  games last year, they laid an egg in the playoffs. The bottom line is now, at this point, it’s World Series or bust.”
Byrnes, Plesac and Kenny all predicted the Nationals to win at least 100 games. Byrnes predicted more than 103 wins.
“They should win over 100 games and they should move on and represent the National League in the World Series,” Plesac said. “Stop being nice to the Nationals. This team needs to start being a difference-maker in October.”
“I already hear people talking about us saying, ‘They should . . . they should . . . it’ll be a disappointing season if they don’t do this or that.’ It makes me crazy,” Nationals vice president of player personnel Bob Boone told Boswell. “Do people actually live their lives like that — setting the highest possible expectation so they give themselves the best chance to feel miserable?”
Plesac would tell you to take the training wheels off, Mr. Boone. And I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you that this is the guy who says it will be a “colossal failure” if the Nationals don’t win the World Series:
UPDATE: Boswell had this to say about Byrnes in Monday’s live chat:
Eric Byrnes, a look-at-me-hustle oops-I-just-ran-into-another-wall showboat as a player took the cake with his comment on MLB network: “It will be a complete colossal failure if (the Nationals) do not win the World Series this year.”
So, that’s why Vegas has 6-to-1 odds on ’em — because they can’t possibly lose? Maybe Eric just got it backwards and thought the line was 1-to-6. THAT would be a colossal failure.