When most teams win three division titles in five years, one would expect the rest of the league to give them a certain degree of respect.
Failing to advance past the NLDS in all three years, however, has the Washington Nationals underdogs in the National League playoff picture.
ESPN gives them 89 wins (four more than the Mets) and the sixth spot in their preseason power rankings.
All in all, the common consensus appears to be that the Nats will finish the season at the top of the division.
The Mets are the only team that poses a serious threat, but their injury questions likely keep them in the Wild Card discussion.
Once the postseason rolls around, however, the writers’ confidence begins to waver.
Most see the Cubs and Dodgers as superior clubs that will see a rematch for the ages in the NLCS.
The biggest knock against the Nats is that they’re championship contenders only if certain things break their way.
Most analysts expect Daniel Murphy to regress after his MVP-worthy campaign and not many have Max Scherzer as their pick to win back-to-back Cy Young awards.
Will Bryce Harper have a bounce back year?
Will Trea Turner stay hot after a stellar rookie season?
Will Stephen Strasburg make 30 starts?
Will the bullpen hold its ground with no clear-cut closer?
These are all valid questions — ones that would put the Nats in a difficult spot if the answers to them aren’t in their favor.
Neither the Cubs nor Dodgers have as many uncertainties surrounding their current rosters.
Despite the amount of stock readers place in preseason power rankings, high expectations haven’t done much to help the Nationals in the past.
After being atop most outlets’ rankings ahead of the 2013 and 2015 seasons, Washington failed to make the playoffs both times.
Projecting teams on paper is one thing, but playing out the season is a whole different ballgame.
For once, the Nats have to go out and prove themselves during an odd-numbered year. Will they be able to defy expectations?