I wonder whether it's in the interests of the team to be raising expectations so high now. It's possible that the team is trying to change their "cheapskate" reputation by at least making noises about how they're trying. Maybe this'll help by juicing season ticket renewals a bit or by sending a message to guys like Ryan Zimmerman, who has (very diplomatically) expressed worries about the team's commitment to winning and willingness to spend.
But let's consider the question OMG posed: what if we come away with nothing? Won't fans be left even more cynical about the team's intentions? Won't people feel teased? And at that point you can't go back and argue that you have a "plan."
It's quite startling how different this off-season has been from past off-seasons, when the team really seemed to work to lower expectations. Now, this wasn't a popular strategy in all quarters either. Some of my friends were ready to label the Lerners among the worst skinflint owners in the history of baseball within about ten minutes of buying the team.
But let's go back in time and remember the way this team was talking around this time two years ago. Kasten was out front making the most pro-active pitch he could for passing on big-money free agents who might be good for a few years but will likely stink by the time the rest of the team is ready to contend. Here's Stan in November 2006:
"I don't want to rule anything out, but [signing big-name free agents] is not my current game plan," Kasten said. "I have said that when you sign free agents I actually think you take yourself farther away from your goal, if you are not ready to take advantage of the money you spend."I'm not really interested in this post in debating the merits of this or that approach to team-building, but that's about the strongest argument that can be made for what the Nationals have been doing, that committing long-term to a Zito or a Jones or a Sexson *might* bring some fun for a year or three but will in the end move you further from having a contender because you're saddled with a crappy player later. Whether you buy it or not, that's the case for passing on big money free agents.
If you want, click the link and read the rest of that article, and it's amazing how different things are now. I guess you could say that 9,000 people watching on TV was a verdict on Stan's marketing approach and now they're going for more flash. You can't say the team is any better, that's for sure.
But what if we don't get Tex or Dunn? How will that be better for PR, fan enthusiasm?
By the way, if there was ever a clear indication that Kasten is on the outs, this might be it. Aside from one brief--and predictable--statement a few weeks ago about how everyone needs to cool their jets, Stan's been almost totally silent. And the messages coming out of the team seem obviously not his.
I mean, when the bloggers are the ones left to caution fans not to get their hopes too high, we've really moved through the looking glass.