At the beginning of last season, I looked at the Nats’ hitters and bullpen and proclaimed the team a non-challenger. I felt they would probably lose the division to Atlanta and might not make the playoffs. And that all turned out to be true.
As the 2014 season begins, I feel mildly — only mildly — better. For one thing, Atlanta has taken a step back because of injuries. For another,the Nats are very, very healthy for once (or they were until Wilson Ramos got hurt on Day One), and their starting pitching looks even better than it did at the beginning of last year. But I still have questions about where the runs will come from and I’m still not a big believer in the bullpen. Those are the very problems I spotlighted at the beginning of last year.
The East does not look tough, but every trailing team from last year has at least a chance to rally. Philly might put it together one more time; the Mets have some real talent at some spots; and even the lowly Marlins look to be loaded with young talent now. One of those teams could challenge for the division if the cards fall properly.
I’ll go nuts: I’ll predict Atlanta will still win the division, the Marlins (!) will finish second but miss the playoffs and the Nats will finish third. And if that happens, there is going to be some serious soul-searching in this town.