I have watched a pretty good punt of Nationals baseball this spring, because they’ve matched up with the Astros a few times but also because they are one of baseball’s most interesting teams. Not only is there a gooey melting pot of compelling personalities in Washington, but their on-field talent teems with potential in its fecund emergent state.
Here in Houston our soil is dry and quiet, with seeds planted but months or years from showing fruit. The mental exercise implicit in looking at a more successful team feels I would say essential at this moment in time when the average Astros fan has to look much deeper into the team experience than today’s roster and today’s result.
So I look at the Nationals.
The Nationals roster sports the most prospects turned players at the current moment. A few years ago you’d look to the Rays for same. With their two numero uno picks in the draft during two of the best years in history for that first selection, along with a very, very, very savvy choice in Anthony Rendon several years ago, who, let’s recall, was in the chit-chat for number one pick for most of that year before he got banged up. The Nats grabbed him at number 6, so let’s not say that the two number ones were just their luck.
Astros fans look at George Springer, Jonathan Singleton and Carlos Correa, and we want to see in them the root system that grew Strasburg and Harper, and we’ll be good and happy with a crop of Ian Desmonds and Danny Espinosas. The Nats are a vision for the future of the moribund franchise. Their young players are what we want our young players to be, and we look hopefully in that direction without any assurance.
As Charlie Pelillo pointed out on 790 AM the other day, tomorrow is not guarantee. This ingenious rebuilding process comes without insurance.
The second example the Nats set is aggressive player movement once the young studs are clearly on the up. When the time is right in Houston, we better have that same smart, aggressive, and even at times foolish approach to completing a team founded on young talent, or we’re sunk. The vibe seems to hum with that kind of optimism, though we’ll only really see it play out when/if the time comes.
Forgive me if my attention trails away to the Nats this year. I learned long ago not to beat myself up for keeping track of the hottest commodity around, because excellence is the fertilizer in the soil of baseball. The Astros have turned the field and laid the seed, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy an apple from another team’s orchard.