A dose of optimism and Nationals links
It says something about where an organization is when the big story on the first day of workouts is that management tells the players it expects them to win. I didn't want to overcook the idea that the Nationals are changing their attitude, raising their expectations, preparing for a breakout year, etc. Lots of bad teams say similar things every year in late February. (Heck, last year Manny Acta said, "This is, I would say, the best team we've had the three years I've been here.") But, for all the reasons stated in the story linked above, it seems like this team's belief that they deserve raised expectations is both genuine and justified.
First, improvement over last season is pretty low-hanging fruit. Second, the new players charged with changing things aren't with the Nationals based on what they might do. They're here based on what they have done, and that has clearly excited the players who endured last season.
"I think there's just more optimism than there ever has been with this organization before," starter Scott Olsen said. "The players see the work the front office has done and the talent they've brought in here. The optimism comes from that. This is arguably the best collection of talent that this organization has put together in spring training. Everybody from the top to the bottom sees that."
Jim Riggleman expressed sincere and deep appreciation for the 2009 team. He believes if they did not play hard for him -- and that team finished the year winning seven straight with jack to play for -- he would not be with the team now. But, while praising them for their effort, he also recognized how little the players who did not transition from 2009 to 2010 brought to the table.
"With all due respect to everybody who was here last year, the guys who aren't here, it just didn't come to fruition in '09 for them," Riggleman said. "Not a lot of home runs and RBIs that were here last year are missing. But we do have an addition of some guys in there."
Elsewhere, Nats Insider shares some keen insights from Day 1 of live batting practice. Some are contemplating a Stephen Strasburg debut in Woodbridge. Fire Jim Bowden asks if the Lerners are loosening the proverbial belt. Ryan Zimmerman told "Baseball Tonight" that Stephen Strasburg "walks on water, he doesn't shower, never smells..."
Finally, I dare you not to click to read a story that begins, "The most expensive two pounds in baseball reside in the general vicinity of Ronnie Belliard's waistline."
February 27, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
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