Being a guy that focuses mostly on the rule 4 draft and prospects, I assumed my first entry would dig right in on that. There is so much to write about that I couldn't decide where to start, with all of the spending in the draft the past couple seasons and the excitement building in DC. Then I took a step back and realized maybe I should write about my personal view on the Nats first, since I am probably the exact demographic the team is looking for. I live about 10 miles from the White House, I have been a major student of the game, have played, and been following the Orioles closely since the early 90's.
Once rumors started flying that an MLB team was thinking about moving to DC and so close to home, you would think you would get excited to have a more true hometown team (Baltimore is 40 miles away). However, I actually cringed at the idea. This is not, and will never be a baseball town. DC is a football city first, and always will be, but it is a sports town, so there will always be some people to show up to games with the tag still on the team t-shirt they are wearing to pretend loyalty for a sport they don't even like. This group of people generally makes up 80% of all attendance for the Nationals right now. If you go to a game, there are more people in the stands in work clothes on their laptops, or their smart phones doing work than watching the game. This comes from a large corporate sponsorship in the DC area with companies that give free tickets to employees. While it puts people in the seats who may or may not actually be watching the game, it creates a very indifferent crowd which usually isn't sure when to cheer or jeer.
The stadium, while built in what us locals referred to a "don't ever go there" area is nice, there isn't a really bad seat in the house and much like New York, famous 3rd party eateries have been brought in to spice things up. Getting to and from can be an adventure because of the lack of parking at the stadium, but the metro that Baltimore lacks helps out with that.
As for the team itself, major strides in the right direction have been made for a couple years now. Young talent has been stockpiled: Strasburg, Harper, Zimmerman, Zimmermann, Rendon, Cole, Bernadina etc. and is beginning to be supplemented with big-name free agents: Werth, and rumors abound about Fielder and Wilson this offseason.
While there has been a stagnation in Baltimore that has gone on for 14 years, the Nationals seem to have gotten the memo and are building excitement. There are players worth buying a ticket to see, and hope that the team can win the division realistically. While I've never personally had any interest in the Nats up til now, my will to support the Orioles is growing weaker each horrible season, and the Nationals seem to know this and are trying to lure me away with promises of exciting players and playing for something after June.
While it is still a work in progress, at least there is real progress, enough to where 2012 or 2013 could be the year the Nationals emerge as a contending force. While a lot of the talk centers around the AL East and the spending that occurs, making it tough for rebuilding teams to ever get a foothold, one could say the same thing about the NL East. The Phillies are one of the top spending teams in baseball right now, with a rotation built to win. The Mets are starting a rebuilding phase, but they are one of the largest market teams in baseball, and will spend the money to get back in the race sooner than later. The Braves always seem to be in the hunt, through player development, even when you think they are going to be terrible they find a way into the wild-card race. Even the Marlins, the major-league feeder team for the rest of the league has a new stadium opening and is showing they want to spend money and get in the race.
I have no animosity towards the Nationals, and as the quality of product improves on the Anacostia, I find myself more and more interested.