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HELLER: Nationals have foundation to win now — and later

- The Washington Times - Monday, August 27, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Dy-nas-ty — 1, a group that maintains power for several generations.

If you take the meaning literally, the only such entity in sports is the New York Yankees, who have won 40 pennants and 27 World Series in 91 seasons. Yet the word is often applied to teams that dominate over shorter periods — think Celtics, Islanders, UCLA, etc.

Such a term obviously is premature when applied to the Nationals, who haven't won anything yet except respect from opponents and applause from long-suffering Washington baseball fans. But the potential definitely is there for the Nats to rule the National League East for a significant period, as the Braves and Phillies used to.

Forget the weekend's unlikely sweep by the formerly Phutile Phils of 2012. Such things happen to every team during the long season. I remember spending much of a vacation trip from Miami in 1983 watching the Orioles lose seven of eight games. As you may recall, they went on to win the World Series.

Mostly under the radar, Nats general manager Mike Rizzo has assembled enough talented horseflesh to fill a Kentucky Derby field. And though free agency makes it harder to predict a franchise's long-term future, nearly all the key parts are young enough to stick around D.C. longer than some politicians.

Check out these ages, starting with Bryce Harper at 19. Steve Lombardozzi is 23, Stephen Strasburg 24, Danny Espinosa and Drew Storen 25, Jordan Zimmermann 26, Ryan Zimmerman, Ross Detwiler, Gio Gonzalez, Tyler Clippard and Ian Desmond 27, Roger Bernadina, 28.

The only 30-somethings are Michael Morse, 30; Adam LaRoche, 32; and old pappy guy Jayson Werth, 33. Would someone please help them to a chair?

It remains to be seen, of course, how all these kids react to the enormous pressures of a late-season pennant race. Unfortunately, those pesky Braves ain't fading away as they did so dramatically last September. The teams meet again for three games at Turner Field from Sept. 14-16, and by then the race could be closerthanthis.

For most previous teams with a curly or uncurly "W" on their chests, April was a time for dreaming — usually that the new season wouldn't be as bad as the old. Now these endearing Nats have moved their timetable to September and their ambitions to unrestricted. And for that, we give thanks.

And when it comes to dreaming, why be shy? I can imagine the Nats storming through the Division Series and the LCS and then winning the World Series in seven games against — who else? — the Yankees.

Young people and young athletes often have big dreams, so why not join them?

For more of the author's columns, go to dickheller.wordpress.com

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