Will the Washington Nationals Be the Next Baseball Dynasty? — BERKON’S BEANBALLS
In 2012, the Washington Nationals advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 1981. Just to give you a sense of how long ago that was, Ronald Reagan was in the ninth month of his first term as President, ‘Endless Love’ by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie was blowing up the airwaves, and the Nationals were still the Montreal Expos.
Yet, the team’s 98 win season last year was no fluke. While the Nats made a big off-season acquisition by trading for Gio Gonzalez, one can really attribute their success to the big contributions by former first round picks Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.
Strasburg, who had required Tommy John surgery in late-August 2010, hurled a dominant 3.16 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 4.10 K/BB over 159.3 innings. His incredible 11.13 K/9 clip also bested any other starting pitcher in the major leagues.
The 19-year-old Harper looked like a veteran All-Star in his rookie debut, posting a .270/.340/.477 line with 22 HR and 18 SB, while gloving a 1.4 dWAR. In addition, his 5.2 WAR ranked just outside the top twenty.
With a homegrown core of Strasburg, Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Jordan Zimmermann, Drew Storen, and Ross Detwiler, as well as trade and free agent acquisitions like Gonzalez, Denard Span, Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche, Dan Haren, Rafael Soriano, and Tyler Clippard, the organization has the makings of a dynasty.
Take the New York Yankees, by comparison. After getting a quick boot from the playoffs in 1995, the Yankees decided to lean more heavily on their homegrown players. Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera were all handed important roles, and responded accordingly. Jeter won Rookie of the Year behind a .314/.370/.430 line with 10 HR, 14 SB, 78 RBI, and 104 R. Pettitte led the league with 21 Wins while sporting a 3.87 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, and 2.25 K/BB. Rivera, despite setting up for John Wetteland, hurled a 2.09 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 3.82 K/BB over 107.6 IP. Even Bernie Williams, who had previously averaged only 14 HR between 1993 and 1995, emerged as an elite power source, smacking 29 HR with a .305/.391/.535 line to boot. And a few years later, Jorge Posada would too join this elite inner-circle of homegrown, productive Yankees stars.
As great as the Yankees core of Jeter, Pettitte, Rivera, Williams, and Posada were and became, it’s possible the Nationals version is greater in overall production and just shear volume. Also, like the Yankees, the Nationals have done a terrific job supplementing their homegrown nucleus with outside the organization contributors. And even though acquiring Gonzalez and Span, most notably, cost young talent like Tommy Milone, Derek Norris, Brad Peacock, and Alex Meyer, the productive pair will be under contract through 2017 and 2015, respectively.
What’s also exciting (or scary, as a New York Mets fan) is that the Nationals have prospects like Anthony Rendon, Brian Goodwin, A.J. Cole, Lucas Giolito, and Matt Skole waiting in the wings. If even a few of these farmhands pan out, the Nats will either have fantastic assets to dangle, or cheap, formidable replacements for LaRoche, Haren, and other short-term, high-cost veterans.
Assuming the Nationals can eventually sign Harper and Strasburg to long-term deals, it’s not unreasonable to think that the Washington Nationals could be a perennial playoff–or World Series–competitor for the next decade-plus.
Ben Berkon’s writing has been featured on Huffington Post, The Onion, Yahoo! Sports, Rising Apple, and Baseball News Source. He was born and raised in New York.