We all know how that turned out.
However, what about the 2014 version? Can they win the first World Series in franchise history, and the first for the city of Washington since 1924?
Here are three reasons why the Washington Nationals can win it all in 2014.
Note: All statistics courtesy of ESPN unless noted otherwise.
The 2013 season was a painful one for the Washington Nationals, but it can be a learning experience for a young and relatively inexperienced roster.
However, a closer look shows just how young the team really was.
The following table splits the team up into pitchers and position players, and focuses on the members of the team younger than the average age as well as those younger than the age of 30:
|POSITION||NUMBER||BELOW 27||%||BELOW 30||%|
For such a young team, the experience gained from even one additional season in the big leagues is invaluable. Furthermore, the exact circumstances of the 2013 season cannot be understated. As the old saying goes, "You have to learn how to lose before you can learn how to win."
The Nationals are ready for their next lesson.
After the 2013 regular season ended, the Nationals took care of some important medical matters.
Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington tweeted about three key players in particular during the last week of October:
#Nats announce Stephen Strasburg had surgery yesterday to remove bone chips from R elbow. Will resume throwing in 4-6 weeks.— Mark Zuckerman (@ZuckermanCSN) October 26, 2013
#Nats also announce Bryce Harper had surgery Wednesday to denture and repair bursa sac in L knee. 4-6 week recovery time.— Mark Zuckerman (@ZuckermanCSN) October 26, 2013
And one more from #Nats: Adam LaRoche had surgery Wednesday to remove loose bodies from his L elbow. Also 4-6 weeks recovery.— Mark Zuckerman (@ZuckermanCSN) October 26, 2013
This is excellent news for the Nationals and their fans. Not only will each of these players be recovered before spring training begins, but this trio represents three of the most important players on the team:
- Strasburg is the ace of the staff, and cannot afford nagging injuries. Plus, if his recovery from Tommy John surgery follows the same pattern as that of Jordan Zimmermann, Strasburg should be dominant in 2014. It will be his third season since the injury.
- Harper is the team's most important player and the Nats are just not the same without him in the lineup. He is bound to get injured here and there during the season based on the way he plays, so it's best for him to be 100 percent healthy when the season starts.
- LaRoche is the anchor for a good defensive infield. At the plate, he is a major run producer. The Nats cannot succeed unless he is healthy enough to fill both roles.
With these three cornerstones in place, the Nats can build a successful season the right way by getting off to a good start. Failing to do so in 2013 cost them a trip to the postseason, and you can't win the World Series unless you qualify for the postseason in the first place.
The 2013 Nationals lacked competitive fire.
They got off to a slow start that persisted throughout the summer. It wasn't until late in the season that they decided to play with some intensity and turn the season around. Washington went 32-16 after Aug. 8, but by then it was too late.
Plus, the Nats let the rival Atlanta Braves bully them all season long. Atlanta posted a 13-6 record against Washington during the regular season. That dominance included two sweeps at Nationals Park.
Then there was the bit about Braves pitchers hitting Bryce Harper not once, not twice but three times before any sort of retribution. The Braves had thrown the gauntlet down, and the Nationals had refused to answer until it was too late.
A fiery manager like Matt Williams would not allow this to continue. Williams may be just what the Nationals need to get off the mat against the division champion Braves and get back into the playoffs. He may even lead them to the World Series title in his first season as an MLB manager.