Friday, May 21, 2010 10:55 a.m.
By Holden KushnerCSNwashington.com
I was leaning on the Nats dugout 90 Minutes before the Nationals hosted the Mets this week, and Drew Storen was being fawned over by fans and media alike. Not by me, Ive known the kid a little bit since he was 16.
Storen was called up a little ahead of schedule. I believe the driving force behind the early promotion is because the team is playing .500 baseball a quarter of the way into the season.
Yes, its only seven weeks into the 2010 campaign, but things are different at Nats Park these days.
I initially felt that this team should be expected to win 74 or 75 games. Ryan Zimmerman gave the guarantee that, No way we lose 100 games this year. I was all over that lofty expectation. Not in a good way. It was slightly embarrassing because it verbalized just how bad things had gotten around these parts.
Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo told me that his expectations for this team have not changed. We expect to win every day. Ive felt like that since day one.
While that doesnt mean that theyll win every game, the difference between this years team and Nats clubs of years past is that they do have a CHANCE to win every day. Thats every day excluding the ones that Roy Halladay pitches. Who knows, maybe theyll get to him a time or two this year.
Third Base coach Pat Listach says his expectations for the team have changed since Opening Day. Hes adjusted his perspective because, We have Matt Capps. The bullpen let us down too many times last season.
That leads us back to Storen. He takes pressure off of the overtaxed arms in the bullpen. The fresher arms are in the late innings, the better chance of holding onto a lead.
Ultimately, a few things need to happen for the Nationals to heighten my own expectations for this years ball club.
Stephen Strasburg must be effective when hes called up in a couple of weeks. Theres no way Livan Hernandez continues to pitch like Cy Young, so The Savior needs to give six solid innings every fifth day once he arrives to the majors next month.
Chien-Ming Wang will have to throw 75 effective innings in the second half, so that John Lannan, Craig Stammen and Livo arent relied upon to be anything more than they actually are: back-end of the rotation starters.
More offense from right field would help too.
A .500 team after 42 games? Im pleasantly surprised.
Have I changed my expectations for this team? Not in terms of wins and losses, but Ive come to realize that this team will battle game in and game out. Theres something to be said for that and I wasnt sure that would happen.
74 or 75 wins? Maybe. 81 wins and a .500 record? Not out of the realm of possibility.