So before getting into my list, I thought I'd comment on Harlan's. I certainly agree that the opening of Nationals Park and losing Aaron Crow were both key developments in 2008 that will be remembered for years to come. Getting the #1 pick should be a development of lasting significance, but losing 102 games itself I don't think is all that different from losing 95 games or 90. The Nationals are awful, and that's a story that's a 4-year story, not a 2008 story. And I would agree that the ongoing growth (or lack thereof) of the young talent is a key story, but really it was less one big story and more several smaller ones, some happy and some not.
Harlan's other six "stories of the year" probably wouldn't make my list. Several of these stories were a big deal in the short term but will have little lasting significance--the injuries, Cristian Guzman's solid season, the team bidding on Teixeira, the relatively small sums wasted on the likes of Lo Duca and Young, and the firing of the coaching staff are all events that will soon be forgotten. According to Harlan Manny Acta lost his "halo," but I kinda doubt that he's perceived all that differently now than he was a year ago. He's a respected young manager coaching a terrible team.
So in addition to losing Crow and opening the new park, here are the other "stories of 2008" that I think will have the most lasting significance in the long-run.
- Balance of power shifts from Kasten back to Bowden
Then, Kasten came in and things started to change. It was widely believed that Kasten wanted Bowden out, but Mark Lerner kept him on. Still Kasten was able to install a team including Mike Rizzo that helped rein in Jim's worst excesses and focus him on a solid long-term plan. Over the last year, however, it seems that Jim's relationship with the owners has allowed him to regain the upper hand. When the whole world expected Jim to get the boot after his team bottomed out in his fourth year on the job, he seems to have emerged stronger than ever, and this year's off-season has seen a trend back towards more Jim-like thinking. Rumors have started to circulate about Kasten wanting out, and he's been linked to a job in Toronto.
True or not, anyone following the team can see that this is once again more Jim's team than it's been at any time since the end of the era of Jim Unplugged. To me, that's the #1 story of the year, and it ain't a happy one.
- Elijah Dukes stays out of trouble
- Terrible Attendance
- The continued decline of the Natmosphere
Think back to 2005-06. Capitol Punishment was the flagship, but there was Banks of the Anacostia, Curly W, Nats Blog, The District of Baseball, Basil Tsimpris writing at the old Nationals Inquirer and then Federal Baseball (which of course is still running under new ownership), Nationals Report, Ball Wonk... all have come and gone. Others, including Nats Triple Play, Distinguished Senators, Miss Chatter, and The Beltway Boys, seem to be fading out (though I hope it's just an off-season lull for each). The size, variety, and quality of the blogging about the Nationals was a sign of the strength of the base of Nationals fans. It was inevitable that a number of those inital bloggers would drop out, and yes there are some newbies that have started up, including Dave at Nats News Network, We've Got Heart, Nats Fanboy Looser, Nationals Review, and yours truly. And of course we still have Nationals Farm Authority, Nats 320, Oleanders and Morning Glories, Nationals Pride, and Nationals Enquirer, who have all been in it since more or less the beginning and are going strong.
This year the crowd thinned to the point that the Nationals are now one of the more poorly covered teams in the blogosphere. It's just another sign of how enthusiasm has waned.
- Jordan Zimmermann emerges
- Lastings Milledge fails in centerfield
- Ryan Zimmerman doesn't re-sign
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So there you have it--the most important stories of 2008, measured by long-term significance. There were a few other stories that I decided didn't merit inclusion on this list because of their lack of staying power. Feel free to interpret these as predictions if you wish: John Lannan's breakout, Chris Marrero's inability to stay healthy, Ross Detwiler's slippage, Armando Galarraga as a #2 starter, Leonard Davis, and the seeming end of Nick Johnson's career.