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Top 5 Reasons For Washington Nationals' Fans To Be Thankful...

Whenever any fan of the Washington Nationals expresses optimism about the future, it's met with skepticism from the rest of the baseball world, and as a fan of the Montreal Expos, who's followed along for over 30 years with no return on the investment of time and patience, I think it's understandable that others should wonder where any sort of enthusiasm originates...With that in mind, and for all those who casually laugh off any hope of a postseason or Wild Card berth for the nation's capital's favorite baseball team, I present....

The Top 5 Reasons For Washington Nationals' Fans To Be Thankful...

5. Ryan Zimmerman Is Locked Up Long Term...

5. Ryan Zimmerman Is Locked Up Long Term...

After much deliberation and several attempts at negotiations, the Washington Nationals and their first 1st Round pick, third baseman and Face of the Franchise™, Ryan Zimmerman, agreed on a contract extension last April that will keep the 25-year-old Virginia Beach, Virginia native in a Curly-W through 2013. The 5-year/$45 million dollar deal was agreed up in early April, and the initial response, as recorded in MLB.com's Bill Ladson's article entitled, "Nats, Zimmerman agree to extension", when Zimmerman was told of the deal that had been worked out between his agent Brodie Van Wagenen and DC team President Stan Kasten, tells you all you need to know about the man who mans the hot corner in DC...
"'Talk to Stan and Brodie -- maybe they are doing something, but I'm playing baseball.' Zimmerman said. 'I haven't heard anything.'"
Zimmerman, after agreeing to stay with Washington, went on to complete a 30-game hit streak, earn his first All-Star appearance and win his first Gold Glove and Silver Slugger while posting the highest HR total (33), AVG. (.292), OBP. (.364), SLG. (525), and by extension, OPS. (.888), best UZR/150 rating (20.1) and best WAR mark (7.1); with his second-highest RBI total and second-most doubles of his 5-year MLB career...Asked by an ESPN announcer after receiving the Gold Glove why he decided to stay in DC, the FoF™ responded:

"Ryan Zimmerman: Uh, I like it there. I think, uh, you know, obviously things aren't going like we want it to go now, I think, but part of the cool thing I think, is that you know, I'm gonna be there when times are bad, and, you know, in a couple years I'm going to be there when times are good, so I kinda see everything full circle, and can be a part of everything, you know, the good, the bad, and kind of grow up there and it's uh, it's a good fit for me?"

4. The Nationals Came Through For The DC Faithful And Inked Stephen Strasburg.

He wanted $60 million dollars. His agent Scott "Maximum" Boras was determined to destroy the slotting system. There was no way a pitcher as good as Stephen Strasburg would agree on a deal with the Nationals. Heck, even Aaron Crow had decided to take his chances, taking a year off competitive baseball to avoid becoming a National, and he was no Strasburg...and yet, on deadline day to sign draft picks, with just minutes left, then-Interim GM Mike Rizzo and the Nationals got Strasburg to sign, inking a record-breaking 4-year/$15.1 million dollar deal that included a $7.5 million dollar signing bonus. The #1 prospect, the best pitcher to come through the draft in recent memory, the flame-throwing 100mph+ fastballer, the kid with a change so good he couldn't use it in college, saw something he liked, (even it was an opportunity to play out his first contract as quickly as possible) and decided to don the Curly-W...The Washington Nationals said they would take the best available player, they did and then the team went out and got the deal done. This is new, and this is something to be thankful for...

3. Mike Rizzo As DC GM.

It took former DC GM Jim Bowden's decision to (using a tired phrase) fall on his own sword and resign following several scandals, and it took a too-long interim period before it was made official, but the Washington Nationals made the right move, and after a few weeks of baseless rumors and false reports, named Mike Rizzo their full-time GM. Before becoming the permanent GM, Rizzo had managed to reshape the Nationals' bullpen, replace the team's skipper (ed. note - "Not my favorite move."), pull off a trade (Morgan/Burnett for Milledge/Hanrahan) that was the envy of GM's everywhere, sign Stephen Strasburg and oversee the entire '09 draft; which also brought 1st Round pick Drew Storen into the fold (amongst others), and instill a sense of stability and purpose that had been sorely lacking under the previous regime. Rizzo's reward was the full-time gig, a chance to pick his own Front Office and field manager, and the respect of the DC Faithful, who are waiting to see what he can pull off this winter...

2. The Adam Dunn Example.

Why would any free agent agree to come to a team that's suffered back-to-back 100-loss seasons? That's what I asked DC Skipper Jim Riggleman when given the opportunity to speak to him a few weeks back, and his answer caught me off guard, not just because he gave a good answer to an off-the-cuff and admittedly confrontational question, but because I actually sort-of-agreed with his answer:

"For some guys it’s where they're going to fit on the ball club? How bad you need that position that they play or pitch. If they are a closer, if they can come in and be the closer, instead of being a set-up guy. There are different reasons for guys to go places. They may want to be the closer, like I said...they may want to know they are coming in as the regular shortstop...or you're offering them the chance to be our catcher rather than go somewhere else and not be the regular guy, they can come here and be the regular catcher..."

The reason this inspired me, and the reason it is something for fans to be thankful for? Because it shows that the Nationals know the score...they know that the struggles the team has suffered through don't place them too high on most player's lists of potential destinations, and they recognize that they are going to have to try another approach to appeal to free agents looking for a new home...What the Nationals need to do now, in my not-so-humble opinion, is go out and find a player who expected more out of free agency, a pitcher, perhaps who thought this was his year to cash in...a shortstop who believes he's undervalued in the current market, someone who will take the best offer out there and commit themselves to being a part of the emergence of the DC franchise...in short, the next Adam Dunn. 

1. We Aren't New York Mets' Fans!!!!!.

Happy Thanksgiving!!! Alright, the real No. 1 reason was going to be that no team in DC baseball history had suffered back-to-back-to-back 100-loss campaigns, but I had only looked at the Expos' past of the current franchise and the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins' franchise history in DC, forgetting for a moment while I put together this list, about the Second-Senators, (who replaced the Sens/Twins and then left to become the Texas Rangers) who lost over 100 games in their first four seasons of existence (1961-1964) after they replaced the original Senators...

Happy Thanksgiving...