How about a little respect for the Nationals?
Clearly Harper's emergence, along with phenom pitcher Stephen Strasburg, are 2 major reasons for the newly found success of this franchise. However, 2 players don't make a team. The off-season acquisition of Gio Gonzalez has given the rotation arguably the best 1-2 combination in baseball. Adam LaRoche is back to swinging the bat the way he did for Arizona 2 years ago. The Nationals continue to get contribution from unlikely sources.
What makes the Nationals start even more impressive is they've endured their fair share of injuries. Jayson Werth, who was a major disappointment last year after signing a 7 year, $126 million deal, is currently on the DL with a broken wrist. Mike Morse, who had a breakout year in 2011, missed the first 50 games this year with a lat strain. And last year's closer Drew Storen, has yet to play in 2012 and isn't due back until the all-star break.
At 38-23, the Nationals haven't achieved such a record at any point during a season since 2005, when at one point that team had a record of 50-31 before finishing at .500. The question is, will this Nats team suffer the same fate? Or do they have enough to make a serious playoff push? The key to potential long-term success is being able to spend money. The Nationals overpaid for Jayson Werth only due to other free agents opting to play elsewhere. The Nationals have shown they have money and are willing to spend it. They are more likely to be buyers come the trading deadline; They definitely won't be selling. They may be content with what they have and not make any transactions.
I get a good laugh from people who already have Bryce Harper on the Yankees in 5 years. The Nationals payroll currently sits around 80 million, which is 20th in baseball. I think it will be a matter of Harper wanting to stay with the Nationals; it won't be about them offering less money. Same can be said about Strasburg. Now I'm not sure how high they are willing to go with their payroll. The good news is this won't be a Royals, Pirates or Marlins from a few years ago situation. The Nationals will be competitive for years to come.
The Nationals are a feel good story that baseball needs. Harper and Strasburg are becoming must-see TV. I think people should start paying attention to the Washington Nationals.