With the Nationals shoring up what could be a very talented pitching staff and the extension given to the "face of the franchise" third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, it's been a pretty good week for the team from South Capitol Street (the loss of No. 6 prospect Sammy Solis to Tommy John surgery, notwithstanding).
As recent as 2009, it was difficult to find positive national recognition for what the Washington Nationals were doing, but another indication came down the World Wide Web pike this week as Jayson Stark wrote in his ESPN blog that the Nationals are one of 14 teams with a legitimate shot at playing in the World Series this season.
As a matter of fact, Stark said that "every team in the NL East" has a legitimate shot at making the Fall Classic, "except for the Mets."
Of course, every team has a shot of making the World Series, but this is more interesting prediction because Stark asked five general managers, two from the American League and three from the National League, and they came up with similar lists. Stark whittled it down to 14 teams.
There are questions with every team about whether or not they can put it all together for that run to a title. The Nationals have questions about their offense, center fielder, leadoff hitter and a healthy pitching staff, but so do several other teams.
This prognostication from Stark is at least an indication of how good the NL East is becoming if these general managers believe that the Phillies, Braves, Marlins and Nationals all have a better chance of making the World Series. It is obvious the division is stocked with some of the best pitching in the Senior Circuit, plus its share of quality hitters and, ultimately, wild card contenders.
Which is where this all starts, I believe, for the Nationals. You just need a ticket to the dance. That entry can be stamped "wild card." Just ask the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals. Maybe Edwin Jackson can share those stories of how it can happen with the men this month in Viera, Fla.