Despite a disappointing series loss to the Colorado Rockies this weekend, the Washington Nationals have officially wrapped up the first half of their season with the best record in the National League. At 49-34, the club finds themselves with a commanding lead in the hyper-competitive National League east, leading the second place Atlanta Braves by four games, and the upstart New York Mets by 4.5.
Winning has brought a new energy both to the guys in the dugout, as well as the fans who have began to flock to the Navy Yard even on the hottest of D.C. summer days. The city is excited to watch this team play, and the team is determined to go out every day and compete. It's a dynamic that any baseball fan who has rooted for a winner at some point in their lives has experienced. I remember rooting for the Mets alongside my dad as Bobby Valentine led a group of rag tags to the World Series, and who can forget the Orioles in the mid 1990's going wire-to-wire to earn the AL East Crown. But now, for the first time, that dynamic has found itself in Nats Park, and finally the city is starting to fall in love with what baseball has to offer.
Sometimes I feel like the excitement of 2012 makes us forget just how different being a Nationals fan was in recent years. The club has had six starting pitchers this season, and outside of an early outfield shuffle, the team's management has found themselves in the situation of figuring out how to find their players playing time, and have not been left scratching their head trying to figure out how to field a team.
One major theme in previous seasons was the hype, promotion, and often eventual failure of players from Triple-A. Players often failed to get it done at the MLB level in Washington, which had fans keeping a close eye on Syracuse for the even a slight bit of hope. That's just not happening this year, which of course makes sense. Today though, I took a look at the Chiefs stat sheet just to see what players we might be going crazy about were this 2007 or 2008.
Zach Duke - 10-3, 3.68 ERA in 110 IP - The Argument: He's a former All-Star! He's ready to return to big league dominance.
Yunesky Maya - 6-7, 3.68 ERA in 107 IP - The Argument: The investment has finally paid off. Maya has finally returned to the form he showed in Cuba and is ready to join the Nats starting rotation.
John Lannan - 6-8, 4.60 ERA in 101 IP - The Argument: Has allowed one or fewer earned runs in five of his past eight starts. He's a former opening day starter!
Xavier Paul - .318/.379/.517 8 HR, 44 RBI in 59 G - The Argument: Career .246/.288/.341 line in 188 MLB games is irrelevant, he's going to be a star for Washington.
Corey Brown - .296/.382/.561 19 HR, 52 RBI in 84 G - The Argument: He's the next Jayson Werth.