I was recently asked by someone in the Washington Nationals organization to express in 140 characters what I thought of the upcoming 2012 Spring Training season.
This was bizarre for two reasons. First, most of the time when someone in the Nationals organization asks me anything they are usually asking me to leave or to "get that [expletive] camera out of my face." The second reason it was strange was because I just couldn't possibly tell you how excited I am about the 2012 Spring Training season in only 140 characters.
The answer I gave fit into the parameters. It was something about how I looked forward to the new season and that though a lot has to swing the Nats way in order for the team to be successful, it should definitely be one of the more interesting seasons to date. I know, I know. That is a pretty standard conservative answer. If I had more than a certain number of characters I would have said I am stoked. I feel like a Marine about to drop ship to LV-426. I feel like I successfully completed a Steven Raichlen recipe. I am so excited I can't wait to run a blitzkrieg on Viera, FL just so I can watch the beefiest Nationals team to ever hit Brevard County. There hasn't been this much U.S. Prime Grade-A stock in Viera since they leveled half the cow pastures in the area.
Pitchers and catchers reported on Sunday, the first workout for them is Monday followed by position players reporting on February 24th with the first full team workouts the day after. Take a whiff of the air, Washington. You smell that citric tinge to the air? Baseball is back, baby and it is a great time and perhaps the most important time ever being a Washington Nationals fan. Why? Because the Nationals now have something that looks like, could be, should be a real major league team.
No longer do the Nats seem like an Island of Misfit Toys. Gone are the spotted elephants and water pistols that shoot jelly. In their place is a strong rotation of Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson. Exciting new blood rookies like Bryce Harper and Steve Lombardozzi are now mingling about with salty veterans like Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth while players like Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmond, Michael Morse and Wilson Ramos look to make great strides in 2012. If you are a Nationals fan (or just baseball fan in general) and aren't even slightly curious about this season then you are either suffering from a chronic case of not liking to have fun or you are a corpse.
If you are anything like me, you've already read the numerous "Spring Training Storyline Preview" type articles that have swamped the Natosphere. They have ranged from deep poetry to borderline VCR instruction manuals. Really, there is probably little I could add that hasn't been already said and I don't want to pollute your bandwidth-- but since we are here together for a brief 1000 words or less, here are a couple oddball things to watch for you might or might not have thought about yet as the Nationals attempt to give fans a Spring to remember:
The Slow Starters - I would keep your eye on the team's "slow starters." These guys include Adam LaRoche and Zimmerman with Jayson Werth trying to break into the Slow Club. It is essential to success these guys do not have their annual slow starts to the season and there is no better place to warm up and get the irons hot than in Spring Training. All three will be on the Opening Day roster barring disaster and if two of them can't hit a lick to start off the season, the Nationals line-up will be in danger of imploding early. Also, LaRoche needs to have totally rebounded from labrum surgery.
The Strasburg/Harper Show - It is no secret the two most watched players this Spring will be the Nationals duo phenoms, Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. Strasburg is a lock for the rotation (though only on a 160-innings limit) and Harper will be attempting to make the big club right out of Spring Training. This Spring will also be the first time both powerhouses will be on an active baseball field together in the act of playing baseball. Should be like when Batman and Superman teamed up for the first time.
Rooting For Ramos - Let me just say this: this will be the greatest season in catcher Wilson Ramos' life. He could hang at the Mendoza Line and miss every throw to second and it still would be the greatest season of his life. How is Ramos going to respond to his life and playing time post-kidnapping? All signs say there is nothing to worry about but keep watch on him and give him a standing ovation when you first see him on the field.
Feel For Viera - The Viera area has lost the space program, a lot of jobs and industry and now there is a threat they will lose Spring Training baseball as the Nationals are looking for a new Spring Training home. The loss of the Nationals would be absolutely devastating to Spring Training baseball on the Florida Atlantic Coast. The Nats probably won't move until after the 2013 season, but it will be interesting to see how the Nats and Viera respond to each other this year and next.
The Fifth Man - Crazy as it is, the hottest position battle this season will be the fifth starter position between John Lannan, Chien-Ming Wang and Ross Detwiler. That is insane actually, considering past rotations. My prediction: I love me some Wang.
Spring Training has arrived and most baseball fans are in ecstasy. Some say Spring Training is a waste of time and they are entitled to their opinion, but I think these people wouldn't make good husbands or wives.