It’s not too difficult to remember how we all felt this time last year.
Nationals fans expected a stellar season following the team’s division title in 2012. I expected the Nats to win over 100 games. Davey Johnson, well, he had such high expectations that he entered the season thinking, “World Series or bust.”
Things will probably be a little different this year, after the Nats delivered a surprisingly low 86 wins in 2013 and failed to make the postseason.
Nats fans will likely be more reserved when it comes to their optimism. I won’t predict a triple-digit win total. Matt Williams, well, there’s a pretty good chance he won’t be making any “World Series or bust” claims anytime soon.
Still, despite all that happened last season there are very high expectations around this Nationals team this season.
In a piece that ran the other day, ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield ranked all 30 major league teams going into spring training, and he had the Nationals as his No. 3 team at this point.
Schoenfield projected 93 wins for the Nats (three more than the Braves, who he has ranked at No. 8) and said that “on paper, the Nationals have no obvious weakness, except maybe first baseman Adam LaRoche”.
In comments to the Washington Post yesterday, MLB commissioner Bud Selig even said he expects big things from the Nats this season, to the point that he seemingly predicted they’d win the World Series.
“I don’t want to put a jinx on them because a lot of people are picking them to win this year,” Selig said. “I am. I picked them and like my decision better today than I did six years ago.”
When the commissioner is picking you to take home the title, you’ve probably done something right.
The Nats probably won’t feel the same level of pressure that they might have last season, when Johnson’s claim seemed to hover over them in spring and into the regular season.
A handful of players admit now that the expectations might have affected the team’s play in a negative way, and that they might not have been prepared to have the target on their back as many people’s World Series pick.
This year, the proverbial target won’t be as big. The Nats aren’t the defending National League East champions, they aren’t coming off a 98-win season and they aren’t going to have their manager tossing around “World Series or bust” anytime soon.
That said, the Nats are still a very talented team, to the point that many people feel they’ll be playoff-bound this season. The hype might not be there like it was entering the 2013 season, but expectations for the Nationals are still pretty darn high.