Pre-Game: Know Your Enemy (Washington Nationals)

The Mets begin a three-game series against the Nationals in Citi Field tonight at 7:10 pm.

Earlier this week, MetsBlog.com’s Vinny Cartiglia talked with Ted Youngling of the Nats Blog to get a sense of what Nationals fans are feeling at the start of this season:

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Vinny Cartiglia: The Mets are scheduled to face Stephen Strasburg during this three game set, who I am very excited to see up close. Do Nationals fans believe he can live up to the hype that has surrounded him since being the first overall selection just two years ago?

Ted Youngling: Strasburg continues to impress me with each outing. It amazes me that despite undergoing Tommy John surgery over a year ago he still made it back in time to make five starts last September. In a weird way, I feel the hype surrounding Bryce Harper has taken much of the pressure off Strasburg. By no means have Nationals fans lowered the bar for him. I mean, who isn’t expecting a few twenty win seasons somewhere down the road, but with all the attention directed toward and generated by Harper, who we all know gravitates towards the spotlight, it seems we never hear a word about Strasburg unless it has to do with his pitching. So far, Strasburg has lived up to the billing of being a first overall pick, if he can put together a strong 2012 campaign we may be hearing his name in the same discussion as guys like Verlander, Kershaw, and Halladay.

Vinny Cartiglia: The Nats are the sexy pick for some reporters, who have them battling for that second Wild Card this year.  As a fan of the club, what are your 2012 expectations?

Ted Youngling: If 2011 taught me anything, it’s that nothing surprises me anymore. I feel like a 75 win season is just as plausible as a 90 win season. There is no reason the Nationals shouldn’t be considered a contender to win one of those two Wild Card spots. The talent is there, its just a matter of actually doing it. The Phillies don’t look as dominant and overwhelming as they have in the past, maybe that has something to do with Ryan Howards absence, but it looks like the NL East could be an open race, and Yes I’m including the Mets. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say the Nationals win somewhere around 80 to 85 games and are out of the playoff discussion by the final week. That isn’t to say it’d be a failure of a season, but I still think they’re a couple years away from being “favorites” not “sexy picks.” When people think about the Nationals they think about guys like Strasburg, who hasn’t yet gone through the grind of a full season and they think about Harper, who will likely make his debut sometime this summer. So the core group of Nationals we expect to carry the team to multiple division titles haven’t even scratched the surface of their potential. Also, lets not forget about manager Davey Johnson, who was brought down from his front office job to clean up the mess left behind by Jim Riggleman. The front office, along with Johnson, know that he is not the long term solution, so once they figure that out we’ll have a much better idea about the identity of this team.

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In this video, Ted Berg talks with SNY.tv’s Ted Berg Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com, in the first Know Your Enemy of the season: