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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 03/ 2/2011

How important is the Nationals' strong start?

By Adam Kilgore
Morning roundup

Last year at this time, the Nationals were losing badly and swearing it didn't matter. After they lost their first 10 games, Adam Dunn asked, "Who cares?" Then they lost once more before their first victory. Those were ugly games, too, chocked with walks, errors and a bundle of home runs by opposing teams.

So, did it matter? It's dangerous, and probably foolish, to put any stock into spring training results. We know that much. The Nationals' best baseball last regular season came in the first six weeks, which would suggest their abysmal spring start had little impact on their season.

This year, the Nationals have played two excellent games. Base runners are going first-to-third. Pitchers are pumping strikes. The Nationals have 25 hits in two games. The only player with a rough start, really, has been Nyjer Morgan, who is 0 for 6, though he did make a slick diving catch on a sinking liner yesterday. And, again, six at-bats isn't the time to start judging. The bottom line is, Nationals have played quite well.

So, does that matter?

"You have to set a tempo now, I believe," second baseman Danny Espinosa said. "You can't just go through the motions here and expect to, when you get out there in the season, turn a switch on and expect to play at a level that you're not used to."

There are no conclusions to be drawn from two games, let alone two spring training games, but this is basically irrefutable: If you have to play, you might as well play the right way. In a scant 18 innings, for what that's worth, the Nationals are.

FROM THE POST

The Nationals have improved the once-atrocious bottom of their roster, and it's a making a difference this spring.

By Adam Kilgore  | March 2, 2011; 7:00 AM ET
 
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Next: Today's Nationals lineup

Comments

At least 79 wins worth!

UNTERP

Posted by: asdfghj1 | March 2, 2011 7:14 AM | Report abuse

It will be interesting to see what happens with our outfield.

I am starting to warm to a group that consists of 126M, Bernie, and MM

Posted by: alex35332 | March 2, 2011 8:06 AM | Report abuse

Spring Training can mean more to teams that have been losing for several seasons. Gaining confidence by winning, even meaningless exhibition games, can only help.

For teams that are perennial contenders, Spring Training is just a time to get the kinks out and results hardly matter.

Posted by: Dougmacintyre | March 2, 2011 8:08 AM | Report abuse

They have to be fundamentally sound and pay attention to what's going on in the game. Sounds basic, but they haven't done it for a few years now. There's nothing they can do about the rotation, but they at least need to give themselves a shot at winning, and it starts in spring training. Riggleman needs to send a message and quit trying to make his players happy. They're supposed to make him happy, not the other way around.

Posted by: Brue | March 2, 2011 8:13 AM | Report abuse

To give them a fighting chance (bad enough Riggleman and Corrales are there) let's move on from this Not-on-base Morgan guy. This team will never improve if they keep guys like him and over-the-hill Steroid-HOF'ERs like I-Roid (4 homers.. Really???).

With Werth and the infield and Ramos-Flores we've got something to cheer for. Let's move forward here!!!

Posted by: Dog-1 | March 2, 2011 8:22 AM | Report abuse

I know that the 11 straight losses made me miserable last year. Two good games to start ST have me a whole lot happier.

+1/2St.

Posted by: kevincostello | March 2, 2011 8:33 AM | Report abuse

Hope springs eternal. The early messages out of Viera are a lot better than any year I can recall. Yes, its only spring training, but it seems to have more meaning this time around than ever before. Could Mike Rizzo be contemplating a move similar to last years jettison of E.D. with N. M.? That scenario (should it happen) wouldn't catch me off guard as the competition for the outfield spots seems to be ramping up. GO NATS

Posted by: cokedispatch | March 2, 2011 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Hope springs eternal. The early messages out of Viera are a lot better than any year I can recall. Yes, its only spring training, but it seems to have more meaning this time around than ever before. Could Mike Rizzo be contemplating a move similar to last years jettison of E.D. with N. M.? That scenario (should it happen) wouldn't catch me off guard as the competition for the outfield spots seems to be ramping up. GO NATS

Posted by: cokedispatch | March 2, 2011 8:43 AM | Report abuse

how a club looks in spring training is pretty meaningless

Posted by: dfh21 | March 2, 2011 8:59 AM | Report abuse

The score is meaningless.

If the games were meaningless, they wouldn't be played.

What is meaningful is HOW the players play. That's what the coaches and scouts are watching. So there is a big difference this year. Hustle, bunting, baserunning... All much better this year than the last two.

Posted by: nattydread1 | March 2, 2011 9:33 AM | Report abuse

@dfh21 - it's more meaningless to perinneal powerhouses such as New York, Philly and Boston because they are not rebuilding - merely checking out the occasional new prospect and making sure everyone is in baseball shape. I think a good ST can be more powerful and infectious to basement dwellers such as the Nationals - ST is where the team needs to start their new beginning and where they get inspiration from.

Posted by: bsdman | March 2, 2011 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Yes!!!! Winning is important and how you go about winning is very important; like i said in a post yesterday hustle,smart play,and knowing game situation's will keep you in a lot of contest , of course talent doesn't hurt.

Posted by: dargregmag | March 2, 2011 10:26 AM | Report abuse

The score is meaningless.

If the games were meaningless, they wouldn't be played.

What is meaningful is HOW the players play. That's what the coaches and scouts are watching. So there is a big difference this year. Hustle, bunting, baserunning... All much better this year than the last two.

Posted by: nattydread1 |

----------------------------------------

Bingo! The team's won/loss record in ST is pretty meaningless...but how they're winning or losing is important. Last year, they looked like the Bad News Bears Breaking Training. The pitchers couldn't throw a strike, fielders couldn't make a play, base runners looked hopelessly lost. Losing those games didn't matter, but the losses did highlight the flaws that plagued the Nats all season.

So far this year, it's a whole different ballgame. Again, the record doesn't mean anything and it's only two games, but these guys are doing all the little things right so far, and that's a big improvement that should translate into the regular season.

Posted by: js_edit | March 2, 2011 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Doesn't someone out there want to beat up Riggsy for risking injuries in meaningless games? For burning up the rotation and/or bullpen? Or just for not being someone else? What's the man got to do to?

Posted by: trebor0012 | March 2, 2011 10:34 AM | Report abuse

A Note to trebor0012; I'm not a fan of "Double Switch" as some like to call him but this isn't a playoff roster so all bet's are off let the pitcher's pitch and the player's play. The most important thing about ST is to find out who can get you to the next level.

Posted by: dargregmag | March 2, 2011 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Leave it to Natinal fans to get excited over the first 2 games of Spring Training.

Nevermind that the Natinals are playing against players who will be working the deli at Publix in 2 weeks.

Posted by: P00PY_MCP00P | March 2, 2011 1:36 PM | Report abuse

It's only preparation.

Posted by: shanks1 | March 2, 2011 3:37 PM | Report abuse

I really wish they had just dumped that self-centered Nyjer Morgan during the off-season. He is still a lousy lead-off guy, evidently: not taking pitches, not helping out his team-mates by letting them see what the pitcher's got; not getting on base. This guy only cares about himself & making the highlight reels. Put Bernadina in Center, Morse in left and the 126MM in right. Get rid of that spoiled brat.

Posted by: PostIDJYP | March 2, 2011 5:48 PM | Report abuse

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