It’s arrived - my favorite holiday of the year.
Thanksgiving is a time for me to meet up with old friends, spend time with family, lay around watching football all day and smell the fantastic food my mom is cooking up in the kitchen. And then later on, I get to demolish said food.
It’s also a time, of course, to realize what we’re thankful for.
We’ll save the heartfelt stuff for later on today when we’re sitting around the dinner table, but here’s a list of some of the things that Nationals fans have to be thankful for this year:
Two National League East titles in three years
Yes, the 2012 and 2014 seasons ultimately ended in disappointment, with the Nats falling in the National League Division Series after having the best record in the NL both years. But let’s not lose sight of how many teams would love to have made the postseason in two of the last three seasons, with two division titles leading to exciting playoff baseball.
The most wins in the majors in the last three seasons
This is somewhat along the same lines as my last point, but those who followed this organization from the beginning, when baseball returned to D.C. in 2005, have seen lots of losing baseball. The Nats won a total of just 187 games over the 2008-10 seasons. In the last three years, they’ve won a total of 280, the most in the majors in that time. Don’t take that for granted.
An abundance of starting pitching
Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark. Need I say more? Calling this group the best rotation in baseball is not hyperbole. It’s been a joy to watch the Nats rotation operate on a day-in, day-out basis. Enjoy it while this group is still together.
The Fister trade
Yes, I know a lot of fans liked watching hometown boy Steve Lombardozzi play. But the trade that Nats general manager Mike Rizzo was able to pull off last winter, getting Fister from the Tigers in exchange for Lombardozzi, Ian Krol and Robbie Ray, was one of the more lopsided deals we’ve seen in some time. Ray could still become a nice starter for Detroit, but the Nats got two years of control of Fister for three players who weren’t integral to their plans. And Fister made a major impact in his first season in D.C. He won a team-high 16 games despite missing the first month of the season with a lat injury, and finished eighth in the NL Cy Young Award voting. He also made an impact off the field, with his professionalism and experience rubbing off on his fellow starters.
A talented coaching staff
One of the more underrated moves that I think Matt Williams made in his first year as a big league manager was bringing back many of the coaches who worked under Davey Johnson. Bench coach Randy Knorr, pitching coach Steve McCatty and hitting coach Rick Schu are all very well-respected by the players, as was first base coach Tony Tarasco. Williams could’ve cleaned house and brought in his own coaches when he took over as Nats manager, but he kept Knorr, McCatty, Schu and Tarasco in their roles, and was good with in-house promotions of Bobby Henley (to third base coach) and Matt LeCroy (to bullpen coach). These moves allowed players to feel comfortable with the coaching staff, even when they had a brand new skipper.
Many baseball fans go their whole lives without seeing a no-hitter in person or even live on TV. We saw one on the final day of the 2014 season, when Zimmermann pitched a gem and Souza chipped in with what might’ve been the catch of the year in the majors, given the circumstances. What a special day it was, and one I won’t forget anytime soon.
A returning core of position players
Adam LaRoche has left via free agency, and there might be a couple of new faces on the bench or at second base next season. But the Nats will almost certainly return their full starting outfield next season, their third baseman, their shortstop and their catcher. They’ll have a new face at first base, but Ryan Zimmerman is as familiar as a “new face” can get. The bulk of the lineup for 2015 is already in place, and it’s a talented lineup, with a proven leadoff hitter in Denard Span and multiple middle-of-the-order type hitters in Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth, Zimmerman, Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond and Wilson Ramos.
A new wave of young talent approaching
Blake Treinen could soon end up in the Nats rotation or in a key role in the bullpen. Michael A. Taylor and Souza got their first taste of the big leagues in 2014 and might make a more significant impact next year. A.J. Cole is getting close to being major league ready. Lucas Giolito is bringing gas in the minors, so far living up to the hype, and is slowly moving up the organizational ladder. The Nats have a good bit of young talent in their system, and we should see more of these guys contributing at Nats Park in the next year or two.
As for me, I’m also thankful for my terrific job, and the support of Nationals fans everywhere. This last year was a very exciting one for me, as I took on new on-air responsibilities, and I’m incredibly grateful that the Nationals organization and this fan base has been so kind to me along the way. I’m also thankful for our MASN and MASNsports.com staff, who are just terrific.
Thanks to you all for reading and following along, and have a very joyous Thanksgiving.