MissChatter: Nationals Forecast

MissChatter: Nationals Forecast
December 11, 2010, 5:38 pm
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Saturday, December 11, 2010 12:35 pm

By Miss Chatter

Baseball fans enjoy predicting both the immediate and long-term future of their beloved franchise, much like meteorologists predict the weather. Is a storm brewing off-shore about to blow in and rip the home team to shreds in a path of destruction? Or will fans bask in perfectly sunny skies and mild temperatures ahead? Like in weather, we look at key factors in predicting future patterns and outcomes. We wait for the convergence of multiple factors to bring about the "Perfect Storm". Yet, much like the weather, there is no exact science to predicting future outcomes because "Snowmageddon" can blindside and arrive without much notice or predictability. And that extended forecast? While assumptions can be made based on current conditions and historic trends, the future is often hazy and difficult to nail down. Right now, I'll say it's "Sunny with a chance" (yeah, I ripped off the title of a kid's show, but it seemed apropos).

Odd analogy, right? Weather has been on my mind since I use a scooter to commute to work and as the temperatures dropped drastically this past week, I was left struggling with how to make it to the office or home without getting frostbite or hypothermia. I'm stubborn that way - my thought is that I will continue to scooter unless there is ice or snow on the roads. The key is finding the right component(s) to weather the conditions. This week, I discovered heated gloves and they have been the perfect answer to my numb fingered nightmare! Next I may have to also invest in a heated jacket liner since I see the impending cold front will bring below freezing wind chills. But with the money I've saved on gas and parking, adding these necessities may still push me over budget...

The Nationals made a rarely seen (by them) splash at this year's Winter Meetings, arriving at a seven year126 million dollar deal with Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth. Nobody really saw it coming until the morning the deal was announced. Then, for the few that find great excitement in tracking an oncoming hurricane, exhilaration soared as rumors of the Nationals maintaining a high position in the stratosphere of bidders for pitcher Cliff Lee. Would a Yankee sheer wipe out the Nats' chance, or was their pressure high enough to withstand the force? A bang-bang signing combination of Werth and Lee appeared to represent the perfect storm weather (and baseball) geeks love so much.

Well, nobody knows yet if those conditions will exist. Speculation of a perfect WerthLee storm caused a fantastic morning of breath-holding and anticipatory glee containing contention fantasies for Nats fans not felt for quite some time. The Werth contract alone appeared to boost the franchise's stead among peers at the Winter Meetings, despite also causing some grumbling about the tone the exorbitant contract set for other free agents. It also signaled hope to the fan base that future free agents may not scoff at coming to DC and pass it by. Yet the weather system around Cliff Lee stalled and the future is uncertain (watch something get announced within minutes of this publishing!).

On the other hand, the Werth signing brought about a treasure trove of posts and talk about the most expensive sports mistakes in the DC area, none of which looked unwise in retrospect (Haynesworth, anyone?). There are certainly pros and cons to the deal. The Nats had to go above other teams to lure anyone of consequence here. But will it be worth it in the long run? And what side-effects will the salary have on other franchise players as they enter long-term negotiations to remain here? Face it (ha!) - in my last post I said Ryan Zimmerman was the only franchise player to-date (Strasburg and Harper have not been with the big league team long enough to consider now, but certainly may be in the future). Well, now you likely have to add Jayson Werth as the second bonafide franchise player.

So predictions? How will Werth work out at Nationals Park? Sunny or rainy? He'll be here for seven years and judging by his ever-exploding salary over those seven years ending with him in his late 30s, trading him will never be an option. Is padding the roster with him enough to weather a season or do the Nats still need to find their "heated gloves" to add to the mix for insurance and comfort? I'm definitely in the latter camp, and I do love those gloves so. A jacket would be even more perfect despite the budget.

So, I'm left going back to my last post's phrase - "And then??" Werth can't be the only hot stove move of the offseason for the Nationals. Alone, he doesn't add enough to the mix to vastly improve the forecast for the 2011 season. A hole remains at first base and looking over the existing starting pitchers, I don't feel comfortable predicting smooth sailing. Currently, the upcoming long-range summer forecast still looks like there will be an abundance choppy seas. But the flame isn't extinguished yet and there must be more to come, so conditions could vastly improve. The high-profile options are beginning to dwindle as many teams snatched up their holiday shopping acquisitions quickly. Yet the fact that the Lerner purse strings have opened more than ever before hopefully signifies more sunny days ahead and respect as a real big-city market team in years to come. Sunny with a chance... of anything... is possible.