Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Ryan Zimmerman's all-around play is just one reason the Nats are 20-15.
"That looks like a pretty good team," one of them said.
We started breaking down the roster and the compliments kept flying. One writer called Ryan Zimmerman "one of the 10 best players in the game right now." Another spoke glowingly of Nyjer Morgan and couldn't understand how the Pirates could have let him go last year. Another guy who has been covering baseball for decades remarked how well-liked and respected Jim Riggleman is around the sport. All agreed Mike Rizzo has done a fantastic job refashioning the roster in his image and ridding the clubhouse of Jim Bowden's underachievers.
All good points, and none of that even included mention of Ivan Rodriguez, Tyler Clippard, Matt Capps, Adam Dunn, Ian Desmond or Stephen Strasburg.
Which got me to thinking: This really is a good team. A great team, no. But a good team, yes.
We're now 35 games into the marathon. By the end of this road trip, the Nationals will have reached the quarter pole of the season. Even if they lose their next five, they'll still come home with a .500 record.
It's time to start thinking of the Nationals as legit. Are there obvious holes and problem areas? Absolutely. The bullpen is still woefully thin. Right field remains a major question mark, Roger Bernadina's recent surge notwithstanding. The rotation is relying on Livan Hernandez, Scott Olsen and Luis Atilano to carry the load, and I'm not sure how long you can realistically continue like that.
But in the grand scheme of things, these are fairly minor quibbles. They may cause members of Red Sox Nation to go into full-blown panic mode. But if this is the worst NatsTown has to worry about right now, life is pretty good.
It's May 14 and the Washington Nationals are leading the NL wild-card race. Their third baseman is one of the best all-around players in the game. Their Hall-of-Fame catcher is batting .367 and before retiring may record his 3,000th career hit while wearing a Nationals uniform. By the end of the night, they may have the league leader in wins (Clippard), saves (Capps) and ERA (Hernandez). And the greatest pitching prospect in a generation will be joining the roster in about three weeks.
Who'd a thunk it?