Newsflash: The Nationals will not contend for a playoff spot in 2010.
But you likely already knew that.
My point is, it's pretty clear they'll be a whole lot more competitive when the bell rings in April than they were a year ago.
Holy smoke, the bullpen they broke camp with last year wasn't going to scare anyone. Bringing in Joe Beimel and Ron Villone helped some, but there was no reliable closer from day one, and retreads like Julian Tavarez and Kip Wells were bandaids, at best. The "tick-tick-tick" was audible from the cheap seats.
This year they've added more proven talent like Brian Bruney, Matt Capps, and Doug Slaten to complement some of the younger guys who made strong cases for themselves like Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard. Jason Bergmann also figures into the picture for 2010, and their more recent signing of Tyler Walker means there will be plenty of competition in Viera in a few weeks.
Walker turns 34 in May, and the righthander is coming off a solid year with the Phillies. In 32 appearances - 35.1 innings of work - he fanned 27 en route to a 3.06 ERA.
Even the minor league signings are notable: Eddie Guardado, Chuck James, and Ryan Speier on the pitching side, and position players Eric Bruntlett and Chris Duncan.
It's what the old timers call "deep depth."
The Nationals have never really had the kind of talent - veterans with big league experience - at their AAA club who could be relied upon to be credible performers should they get the call to DC. It's patently clear that Mike Rizzo - along with his new hand-picked staff - have concentrated on some details his predecessor missed.
Speaking of Rizzo's staff, check out Chico Harlan's piece in the Post about how that staff evolved. It's what I've been saying for the past couple of months.
One more thing: Please stop by and see us at the masnsports.com area at Nats Fest on Sunday. We can talk about the Nats, or we can talk about why the P-90 pickup is superior to a humbucker.