The Washington Nationals 2012 season was a huge success. But its importance for the District of Columbia is far more than the pleasure it has brought to the region.
Yes, the team was a credit to the city and a steady source of excitement, joy and fun. Even love. Blah, blah, blah. I won’t dwell on all that. I will leave that to The Washington Post sports section that has finally, if a little late, been doing a fine job of celebrating the achievements of our beloved home team. (The only “home” Major League baseball team in the Washington Metropolitan Region, guys).
Yes, next year brings a starting pitching rotation of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler, and Surprise-Sure-To-Come, whether in-house or out (of) house. That rotation, on paper, is more promising than the amazing five we had this year, but with another year’s maturity and experience that the four named young hurlers will benefit from. I expect every team throughout the league will be attempting to keep pace, but we are setting the pace and welcome the competition.
Yes, I expect great improvement in our lineup, as well. Wilson Ramos will be back and the competition with Kurt Suzuki and Jesus Flores at catcher can only upgrade the position. Adam LaRoche, hopefully, will return and bring 30 more home runs and bunches of runs-batted-in. Power bat Danny Espinosa, possibly the most athletic infielder we have, will spend the off-season learning a short, compact swing and come back an all-star second baseman. But slap-hitting Steve Lombardozi, who is a fan-favorite and has earned a chance at more playing time, may get it if Espi doesn’t grow into the hitter he should be. Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond? Good to go. Just show up healthy and let’s do it again.
The outfield? Jayson Werth is – I didn’t think I would say this – worth the money we are paying him. He is a good outfielder and has pretty good power, but boy can he lead off and work the count. The guy is the most fun lead-off hitter I have rooted for since Maury Wills of the 1960s LA Dodgers. Bryce Harper will be even better next year than he was in the fine rookie year he just had. Imagine what that will look like. And Michael Morse healthy all season and back to his 30 home-run form?
From this season’s bench, Roger Bernadina, with his speed, hitting ability and athletic talent in the outfield will be back, as well. First baseman and converted outfielder Tyler Moore could be ready to do in the Major Leagues on a full-time basis, if given the chance, what he has done on a part-time basis in the majors. A 30-home run potential is not a stretch here. Ditto for power-hitting lefthanded speedy outfielder Corey Brown.
Yes, all that leads to the best “Wait ‘till next year” scenario I can remember in my lifetime. But for the District of Columbia, the team’s success is ushering in something far more significant.
The neighborhood around Nationals Park is blooming. Apartment buildings, condominiums, office tenants, restaurants, parks, city life. Tax revenues to repay ballpark construction loans, invest in schools, infrastructure, health care.
Particularly exciting for Southwest is the expectation that the 1.6 to 2.0 billion dollar Southwest Waterfront will be breaking ground in the spring of 2013, as spring training begins for the Nationals in Viera, Florida. Added to the hugely popular Arena Stage, the development will transform Maine/M Street and the Waterfront, itself, into a World Class Waterfront neighborhood and another great source of prosperity for the District of Columbia.
By Zev Feder, a long-time Southwest resident with a life-long passion for baseball as a player, coach and, above all, fan.