The Nationals' first half of the season should be something to build on. The team is at the .500 mark with a 46-46 record. When you consider the abundance of injuries and the lack of offense in the first half you have to think the second half of the season could be something special for the Nats.
The makeup of this 2011 team is the best I have seen since I first began covering the club back in 2007. The team's slogan is "Expect It," which is fitting since the players expect to win every night. Their 17 first-half come-from-behind wins came with a lot of exciting finishes but we came to expect them rather than be surprised by them.
Mike Rizzo wanted more leadership on the ballclub and he brought in quality athletic veterans. When you consider the way guys stepped up defensively, the first half was very successful. Michael Morse played outstanding defense at first base and Laynce Nix and Matt Stairs didn't miss a beat while filling in over there, too. With Ryan Zimmerman out for a significant part of the first half, Alex Cora and Jerry Hairston Jr. filled in nicely.
The outfield has been strong, too. Of course the anchor of the Nats defense has been the stellar play up the middle. Both Wilson Ramos and Ivan Rodriguez along with Jesus Flores have been rock solid behind the plate. But, what really makes this team special is the young double play combo of Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa. Mark my words, they will determine how good this team will be if the pitching is as good or better than it was in the first half.
On his first day on the job in Anaheim, Davey Johnson told his players he believed in them and he thought they were a playoff team. This team is one that has a legitimate chance of making a run at the Wild Card. If you ask the guys in the clubhouse they'll probably say, "Who's thinking Wild Card?" Let's get hot and pass the Phillies!