The Washington Times - September 28, 2011, 08:38PM

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The Nationals walked off the field at Sun Life Stadium (for the last time there) on an extremely positive note. They ended their 2011 season with a 3-1 win over the Florida Marlins, a win that gave them 80 victories and made it the second most successful season in the team’s brief history. 

It also set them up to make 2012 a year filled with possibilities for a team stocked with talented youth. 


The Nationals went into the offseason feeling very good about themselves. As well they should. They finished September on a 14-4 tear and ended the year in third place for the first time in Nationals history. 

But to be sure, there is plenty left for the Nationals to improve upon. As Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said following Wednesday evening’s game “We start thinking about 2012 on the plane ride home.”

And there’s a solid chance that high on their list will be upgrading an offense that ranked in the bottom half of the league in almost every major category. Their pitching staff finished the year with 3.58 ERA, the lowest mark in team history — yet they allowed 19 more runs than they scored all year. 

The offseason is going to be an interesting one for Washington. They seemingly have fewer needs than they ever have but are in an advantageous position to put a few more pieces together. 

Tops on their list, most likely, will be deciding on a manager for the 2012 season. Unless something absolutely shocking goes down in the next few days and weeks, there’s a good chance that will be Davey Johnson. But once that is settled, the Nationals can go about filling out their roster for next season. 

This year was a good one, next year, they know will have to be better.

“(Finishing in third place with 80 wins) shows how far these guys have come,” Johnson said. “I had a wonderful day talking to all of them and all of them have their sights set higher. As it should be. I want them going through the winter thinking we’ve got to be better than this.”