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Sometimes, A Crystal Ball Is Just A Large Chunk Of Glass

[January 25th] - It was an interesting "on-line" chat yesterday. Barry Svrluga, the Washington Post's baseball super-scribe, hithered and dithered throughout the Q & A, offering answers that were both tepidly vague and overly specific. He did his usual great job.

Three of his responses caught my eye, however, and not in a particularly good way. He sounded "down" and "blue" when describing the team's chances for 2006:

The first:

Vienna, Va.: Your NL East predictions?

Barry Svrluga: All right, I'll take the bait provided by Omar Minaya:
1. Mets (although I'll probably be proven a sucker by September)
2. Braves
3. Phillies
4. Marlins
5. Nationals

And the second:

Washington, D.C.: Come on the Nats aren't going to be that bad. Look how bad things looked last year. The Marlins? Please. The Nats will win 70+ games easy.

Barry Svrluga: Someone is seeing sunny skies here in DC.

And this:

Washington, D.C.: Are we going to finish ahead of the Marlins??

Barry Svrluga: It will be a compelling battle. First one to 70 victories wins?

It looks like Barry has once again gazed into his crystal ball and have found the Nationals "wanting." He sees the Marlins, a rag-tag bag of Class 'A' prospects as somehow equal to, or even better than, the Washington Nationals.


Here is the Marlins starting lineup as of right now:

In what universe is this lineup in any way comparable to the one the Washington Nationals will trot onto the field on opening day in New York next March? True, there are some quality prospects in that lineup, but they haven't come close to proving their abilities at the major league level yet.

If Nick Johnson is hurt, if Cristian Guzman continues his downward spiral, if Marlon Byrd reverts to his slap-happy ways, if Jose Vidro's knee is still gimpy, if Ryan Zimmerman's three weeks in the spotlight late last season was luck and not ability, if Jose Guillen stops taking his medication, if, if, if, then sure, the Nationals might finish in last place.

But really, what's the chance? Doesn't the previous paragraph sound very much like the 2005 Washington Nationals? In my many, many (many) years of being a baseball fan, I have never seen disaster strike a team two years in a row (unless the team brought it on themselves, of course). That's why I think Johnson will be healthy, Vidro will return to form, Byrd will continue to improve and Jose Guillen won't kill anybody.

My guess is, unless the baseball gods favor the Marlins (and if he did, they'd have a new stadium), that Florida will win 67 games, 16 fewer than they did last year. In real talent, the Nationals are 5-7 games worse then they were in 2005, but those games should be made up in head-to-head competition with the Marlins.

If the Nats' have the league average number of injuries (the team used a league record 57 players last year) and only one or two players with career worst seasons, then I believe they can win 79-83 games.

And considering what the team has gone through since October of 2004, that will be an amazing feet.

I also thought that was a completely crazy belief by Barry. I think the Marlins have potential to be a good offesive team but even if that pans out (and it's a fairly big 'if') that pitching staff is going to be awful. You start that pitching staff with the Yankees or Mets lineups and people question whether they will even compete for a playoff spot. Team it with a promising Triple A lineup and it's as good as the Nats? I just don't buy it.

The Nats are solidly the 4th best team in the NL east talent wise.
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