In perhaps the least surprising news of the organization's offseason, Davey Johsonson will return to manage the Washington Nationals in 2012. The wait seemed to be mostly a formality while the Nationals satisfied MLB interview requirements and until the end of the World Series festivities. But now, let the expectations for 2012 begin.
According to an AP article, Johnson didn't hold back on preditions for the Nats next season: "Winning the pennant. Winning the division. Winning the National League." Considering the Nationals run to the end of the 2011 season, the team obviously hopes to ride that wave into the near future.
Is that lofty goal possible? Sure, it is. The Nationals finished the 2011 season with 80 wins without their star, Ryan Zimmerman, for more than 2 months, with an injured Adam LaRoche hitting well below .200 before ending up on the DL for the rest of the season, and without Stephen Strasburg. That's just 10 wins short of where the St. Louis Cardinals finished the 2011 regular season (90-72), and that story ended quite nicely for the Cards.
If the Nationals are capable of finding a top-tier pitcher and a high on-base hitter before the season starts, there is no reason to believe that they won't enter the 2012 campaign as contenders for the NL Wild Card, and even for the NL East. All of this is a far cry from the 59 win seasons of the not-so-distant past, and it makes me excited to see what will happen next year. Just 156 more days to wait see some true results, and I can hardly wait.