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The Week Ahead: Nats at 'center of the universe'

Jun 6, 2010, 11:40 PM EDT

harper-bryce-100606.jpgThis is a pretty good time to be a Washington Nationals fan. Yes, they are currently sitting in their customary position at the bottom of the NL East, but if you’re a follower of the artists formerly known as Les Expos, you’ve got to be brimming with optimism this week.

On Monday, the Nats will pick first in the First-Year Player Draft, and all indications are that they will select catcher Bryce Harper (pictured), a record-setting junior college slugger who would have just finished his junior year of high school had he not enrolled in college to become eligible for the draft a year early.

There have been some questions about Harper’s attitude, as well as thoughts that he should be moved to a different position (courtesy of his agent, you know who). But there is no denying his talent.

Then before the Harper hype even gets a chance to die down, the Nats will grab the attention of the baseball world again on Tuesday when they unveil their No. 1 pick from last year’s draft, pitcher Stephen Strasburg, who will make his first big league start against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Strasburg never really looked like he belonged in the minors, going 7-2 with a 1.30 ERA in 55 1/3 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A, and even the Nationals brass is having a hard time keeping their expectations in check. Here is team president Stan Kasten talking to MLB.com:

As we have been building, we have been a very low-profile team, which is a frustration when you are in a big and important market as we are in D.C. Strasburg has certainly changed that dynamic. We are now the center of the universe in terms of attention in the world of baseball. We will be the center of attention on Monday night with the first pick of the Draft. We’ll be the center of attention again Tuesday. And we hope, soon thereafter, we’ll become a team that is worthy of constant attention as we become more competitive.

Center of the universe? Sure why not? Let the man enjoy the moment. And maybe, just maybe, his team will feature the most dynamic battery in baseball in years to come. Now, Washington probably won’t be able to afford any other decent players after paying for their two wunderkind, but let’s not worry about that right now.

Instead, let the Nationals be the center of the universe. We can always let things get back to normal next week.

FIVE SERIES TO WATCH
Cardinals at Dodgers, June 7-9:
The last time these two teams met, Matt Holliday was dropping fly balls in the playoffs to help L.A. reach the NLCS. The Cardinals enter the week on a three-game winning streak, and the Dodgers have been on the rise as well.

Blue Jays at Rays, June 8-10: The Blue Jays made it through a difficult week with a 3-3 record and sit only four games back in the AL East entering the week. It’s another rough week ahead, but it’s getting harder to doubt this Toronto club.

Phillies at Red Sox, June 11-13: The second-place Phillies vs. the third-place Red Sox? What happened here? Not to worry, both teams will remain in the thick of their division races all season long.

Braves at Twins, June 11-13: A couple of quiet, unheralded division leaders lock horns in Minnesota. Should be some good baseball, folks.

Angels at Dodgers; A’s at Giants, June 11-13: It’s time for some California dreamin’ as the L.A. and Bay Area rivals meet up. None of these teams are great, but they’re all competent. Yes, even the A’s.

ON THE TUBE
Monday, 7:05 p.m. ET: Padres at Phillies (ESPN)
Wednesday, 8:10 p.m.: Cubs at Brewers (ESPN)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Phillies at Red Sox (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: White Sox at Cubs (FOX)
Sunday, 1:35 p.m.: Phillies at Red Sox (TBS)
Sunday, 8:05 p.m.: White Sox at Cubs (ESPN)
*Check local listings

And for those of you who have asked for a schedule of MLB Network games, you may find that here.

Are you on Twitter? You can follow Bob here, and get all your HBT updates here.

  1. APBA Guy - Jun 7, 2010 at 1:21 AM

    Bob, it’s June, and the A’s are playing competently. Not only did you notice, but the weekend crowds for the A’s and Minnesota averaged slightly above last year’s attendance, 20,000+ v. 18,000. There was actually noise in the park for a change. Still, the Angels are hot right now. Let’s see what the A’s can do for the next 4 games.

  2. Moses Green - Jun 7, 2010 at 5:03 AM

    Huh, by “center of universe” I thought you meant Yankee fans get to start the countdown on when they’ll sign Strasburg and Harper to FA deals.

  3. Curious George - Jun 7, 2010 at 6:56 AM

    Bryce Harper needs better mascara. He looks like A Clockwork Orange meets Call of Duty.

  4. Brad - Jun 7, 2010 at 7:45 AM

    Dear Washington,
    Thanks for getting these players reday for us.
    Love,
    the Steinbrenners

  5. Evan - Jun 7, 2010 at 9:20 AM

    Brad and Moses(and Bob)
    I really think you guys are underestimating Washington’s future potential as a “have” team as opposed to a “have-not” in terms of cash to spend for players down the road. They have partial ownership of a regional network (MASN), the wealthiest owner in the league, the 6th largest market in the major leagues in a city and stadium that players enjoy playing in and a front-running fan base that will jump on the bandwagon once success occurs. I think you are really going to see Philly, the Mets and Nats start having hardcore battles for players creating an arms race not unlike the Yankees/Red Sox.

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