It's funny what a difference a couple of years can make.
When first baseman Mark Teixiera was a free agent, the Nationals offered him more money than he eventually signed for with the Yankees. The reaction? "Oh, that was just for show," said many cynics. "Washington knew he wouldn't take their money regardless of how much they offered."
This past offseason, it was no secret that the Nationals coveted left-hander Cliff Lee. Before Lee selected the Phillies, however, the Nats inked ex-Phil Jayson Werth to a seven-year, $126 million deal.
Now, as baseball scribes coast-to-coast ponder the future of St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols - who will likely end up staying in St. Louis, in my opinion - a few are pointing to our nation's capital as a player for Pujols when push comes to shove.
Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times writes that, while he believes as I do, that Pujols remains a Cardinal, "if Pujols really is out to get a record-setting deal ... watch out for the Nationals, who have money to spend." It's sentiment others have echoed, and while purely speculative, it seems to indicate that the sport is becoming convinced the Nats aren't fooling around.
I don't believe the Lerner family is out to become Steinbrenner Mid-Atlantic, but neither do I believe they're in it for the sake of impressing their friends. They'd just like to win.
It won't please those critics who are still offended that Washington got another team. But really, who cares?