As the Washington Nationals play their final game on Sunday against the Arizona Diamondbacks, they know their season will go no further. However, a strong finish to the season has given the Nationals and their fans a chance to head into the offseason with their heads held high.
At six games below .500 and seemingly out of the wild card race it would have been easy for the Nationals to pack it in and call it a year. Fortunately, they dug a little deeper, fought hard, and played solid baseball down the stretch. It showed the character of the 2013 Nationals, a group who clearly planned on achieving more than “just missing out on the playoffs” but also could have been eliminated with three weeks left in the season. The desire to play to the end should give Nats fans hope regarding the future of this team.
Leading into the offseason, General Manager Mike Rizzo knows he has some crucial decisions to make over the coming weeks. First of all, he needs to hire a new manager to replace the retiring Davey Johnson. This will be the first decision Rizzo makes as any free agent acquisitions will depend on the new manager’s style of play. Preferably, the new manager will use the speed of Denard Span and the bunting abilities of players like Steve Lombardozzi more than Johnson did this season.
Two key players that Rizzo wants to sign longterm are Starting Pitcher Jordan Zimmermann and Shortstop Ian Desmond. Zimmermann is one of the best pitchers in the National League and has become a crucial piece to the team’s pitching success over the last couple of years. Desmond, is one of the team leaders and is quickly becoming one of the best hitting shortstops in the NL.
Though the season as a whole can be looked upon as a disappointment for Washington, the last month has brought a positive energy for the future. This offseason will be critical for the future of the franchise as multiple critical decisions must be made. However, the core of this team has Nationals fans feeling much better than they did just one month earlier.