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What Do You Expect From The Washington Nationals In 2009?

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The Kids Call Him Zim! The Bigger Wilkerson? The Top Chef? And Some Candor From Team President Stan Kasten.

Ahh, even Zim's against me...Ryan Zimmerman told MASN Sports writer Pete McElroy, in an article entitled, "Zimmerman on the team's progress, contract talks and Adam Dunn", that though free agent outfielder (1B?) Adam Dunn remains unsigned:

"Obviously it's a business and that stuff has to work itself out, but he loves it here and a lot of the guys on this team. He's told me he'd like to play here, but I'm sure he's told people in Milwaukee or whoever else is going after him that he'd like to play there too."

Fine. If Zimmerman wants Washington to sign Adam Dunn, then I will, (if the Nationals can actually sign him), fully embrace our new K-leader. The other thing I've noted, from Zimmerman, DC outfielder Willie Harris and Nationals' Team President Stan Kasten, as they were quoted in separate articles published yesterday, is that the Nationals themselves think they've improved the team since last season's 102-loss campaign. As quoted in Mr. McElroy's article, Zimmerman, at one point says, "I think we're definitely better," and later qualifies, "I think the team's way better." (ed. note - "I'll teach him to advocate Dunn's signing.")

Willie Harris (Top Chef?) tells MLB.com's Bill Ladson, in an article entitled, "Harris thinks Nats have the right pieces", that, "...the acquisitions of pitchers Daniel Cabrera and Scott Olsen and outfielder Josh Willingham this offseason made the team better," and he goes on to say that he stayed in DC because there's something to prove, and if Nick Johnson can stay healthy, and he (an ambitious Harris) can help Elijah Dukes and Lastings Milledge meet their potential, Harris believes, "I think we are going to surprise a lot of folks."

And in keeping with the positive tone of the weekend's public relations blitz, Nationals' President Stan Kasten told the crowd gathered for the panel discussion about the Nationals' future at Washington's NatsFest, as quoted in Washington Post writer Chico Harlan's Nationals Journal post entitled, "The Stanifesto", in response to a question about what the team's payroll would be in 2009:

"I get that question a lot. I've always had it for all of the years I've been in sports, any of the sports I've been in, and I am bewildered why fans ask me that. Because first of all, I don't know. Second of all, if I knew I wouldn't tell you -- because I've never talked about payroll, and you know why? It's because you really don't care. You think you care. I know you don't care. And here's why: You don't care about payroll."

Alright, I took that quote (well, all of the quotes really) somewhat out of context for comedic effect, but I agree with Mr. Kasten, and what he continues to say in his response. I don't care how much the team's spending, as long as they're winning. If they can win with a $44 million dollar payroll like the Tampa Bay Rays did last season, or like the Phillies did with $98 million, no one would care about the payroll at all, and since as we all know, and Mr. Kasten points out, spending is no guarantee of winning, (Just ask the Yankees about their return on the $209 million they spent last season, or the $138 million the Tigers and Mets spent...for them all to not make the playoffs), it doesn't matter how much payroll the Nationals add...what matters is whether or not they've assembled a competitive squad, I agree.

But, as everyone quoted here notes, the Nationals' success in '09 depends upon what else they're able to do to improve in the two months before the season begins, (though Mr. Kasten is also quoted in Mr. Harlan's article stating that the Nationals' roster might not change before Opening Day), what they can get out of signed or acquired players like Cabrera, Willingham and Olsen, and injury-plagued holdovers like Nick Johnson, Dmitri Young or Shawn Hill, and what contributions their drafted or acquired prospects will make to the Major League roster in 2009 with Dukes, Milledge, Jesus Flores, Anderson Hernandez, Collin Balester, Jordan Zimmermann (and possibly even Ross Detwiler) all being asked to learn on the job. That's a lot of questions. Here are some more...

Will any of the preseason prognosticators pick the Nationals to finish above fifth place in the NL East? Will any singificant free agents choose to give the Washington Nationals a try? ("What Can The Pirates Learn From The Nationals?" - from the SBN's Pirates blog, Buc's Dugout) Will the Nationals add anyone to the roster before Spring Training begins? Are the Nationals headed in the right direction? Who is projected to go #1 overall in the 2010 Draft? (I'm kidding.) What do you expect the Washington Nationals to do in 2009?