Winter Meetings bring possibility, anxiety

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In D.C., mentioning the Nationals on the street right now would be a crime, with the 5-6 Redskins poised to make a mediocre run into forgettable history. (The Capitals? What Capitals? The Wizards? Is that some new fringe card game like Pokemon? ). But months from now, when the hot summer sun is beating down and the ballpark is alive once again, with fans, music and baseball, this week will be an important one to look back on – in fact, it may be the biggest factor in those summer months. So go ahead, talk about the team. Just don’t be worried when you get some crazy looks. Because, believe it or not, despite the temperature and the date, the Nationals are at a critical junction, possibly more critical than any they’ll face all season, and it’s unclear to everyone, maybe even including the General Manager Mike Rizzo, where they’ll go from here.

The Lerners, who sit up in ownership, have serious decisions to make about how they’ll use their money – whether it’ll be taking on an already bloated contract, trading a fan favorite (yes, your favorite player, be worried) or adding a free agent. Mike Rizzo has some serious decisions to make as well, regarding the cutting and trading of Papelbon and Storen, respectively, adding to the bullpen, and adding offensive pop as well as figuring out who it’s okay to part with. And in all likelihood, if the Nats feel like making a huge splash, it’s going to happen this week, at the Winter Meetings in Nashville.

If there was ever a moment for front office staff to feel like players on the first day of Spring Training, full of belief and hope that they can really go all the way this year, it would be at the Winter Meetings. The Winter Meetings, which for reasons unknown, are run by Minor League Baseball, have no boundaries. For one time, and only one time during the year, everything and everyone seems to be on the table. Rumors fly rampant and only the most elite of the stars are left out of them. Free-agents meet with teams (paging Ben Zobrist…) For the Nationals, they’ve been linked to everyone from O’Day to Chapman, Zobrist to Rollins and everyone in between, including Jonathan Lucroy. Players on the table have ranged from Strasburg to Ramos as well as Espinosa and Escobar. Papelbon and Storen, two players ironically linked, have come up in every conversation. It’s a given that some moves will be made. However, the question of what the right moves are still looms.

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The Panic Button

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This was the team that made D.C. dream. We cheered with them, cried with them, and sung “Take on Me” with them. 2012 was an incredible year for the Nationals.
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The Updater: Bryce Harper all the way

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Is anybody else noticing this? I guess it’s just me. No, I’m kidding, unless you’ve been living under a rock and praying to the football gods lately, you know what I know. Bryce Harper only has 15 hits, and is only batting .246,  but when he hits them – he hits them hard. 9 of his 15 hits are XBH. 2 Home runs in two nights, his only stolen base is (surprise, surprise!!) home plate.

That’s what I like about this game. Bryce is a guy who will run his hardest even if it’s just a ground ball to third base, a guy who gets the best type of revenge, scoring, a guy who always ready to go.

The Nats are 8 and 8 with Bryce in the Major Leagues, but that’s without major contributors Michael Morse, Drew Storen and Jayson Werth. Imagine his true potential with the Nats with Michael, Jayson and Drew – incredibly, nearly scary, so scary that #FearTheNats will be trending on Twitter.

While the Nats do have to pass a very vital test against the Braves, O’s, Red Sox and Rays, it seems likely. Bryce Harper has been another great asset to a great Nationals team this year, with nearly everything – and once injuries are out of the picture, expect Bryce’s RBIs, BA, OBP and slugging to improve with veterans to get on base and mentor him to make him even better.

Welcome to the show, Bryce Harper, and I hope you enjoy your stay – because it looks to be a long one.