Prior to the start of 2012, and prior to the Nationals adding Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson to their pitching rotation, it was the generally accepted opinion that the Nats were a year or so from seriously challenging the National League East’s perennial leaders: Philadelphia and Atlanta. But then came Cy Young Finalist starting pitcher Mr. Gonzalez. And then came National League Rookie of the Year Bryce Harper. National League Manager of the Year Davey Johnson built a pitching staff that was superb, and a lineup that hit 194 home runs. The infield defensively and offensively was as good as any. The bench was consistently strong, contributing, again, both at bat and with the glove. The team won 98 regular season games and left fans of the Braves tomahawk-chopping in the wind; Philly Phans crying in their beer and acting stunned instead of dumb; Mets fans Waiting for Godot; and Marlins fans disgusted, but not as disgusted as they would soon be, betrayed by their owner again breaking up the team in another salary dump.

Now, prior to the start of 2013, the National League East-winning Washington Nationals are well-positioned to accomplish something greater. And look for General Manager Mike Rizzo to attempt to do just that. The key is the starting pitching rotation.

I discussed in February of 2012 in my Notes on the Nats column the significance of having a pitching staff with three Aces: Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann. Ross Detwiler has shown potential to join that elite trio, and could certainly make an amazing Number 4 or 5 in the rotation. If Rizzo can pick up another starter of the caliber of the above four, the team would, on paper, have one of the best rotations in the history of the game.

Even without such a free-agent acquisition, this team will be really good. John Lannan or Edwin Jackson, if they stay with the Nationals, are adequate and sometimes excellent pitchers. And there are others with the potential to complete the rotation in-house, such as Craig Stammen, Christian Garcia or Ryan Perry, all relievers in 2012.

But the possibility of an off-season pickup of another Number 1 or 2 type pitcher that would create a Starting Rotation From Hell for opposing team lineups over 162 games is mind-boggling.

From The Wishing Well for 2013:

Bryce Harper is real. I am pinching myself.

Henry Rodriguez controls his wicked fastball and slider.

Danny Espinosa becomes a contact-hitting All-Star.

Michael Morse is healthy, happy, and hits 40 home runs distributed all over the stadium.

Ryan Zimmerman is Ryan Zimmerman.

Ian Desmond really hits like that. Pinching again.

Jayson Werth hits leadoff and keeps working the count and the opposing pitcher’s frustration.

Adam LaRoche returns and repeats.

Steve Lombardozzi plays a lot, wherever and whenever. More of Roger Bernadina and Tyler Moore, as well.

Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler and Whoever It is. Wow.

Bryce Harper is real. One more pinch.

By Zev Feder, a long-time Southwest resident with a life-long passion for baseball as a player, coach and, above all, fan.

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