Can the Nats Improve Too Much?

Winning could hurt draft position

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A million monkeys typing might not be able to produce "The Divine Comedy" in Gaelic, but if you send Austin Kearns up to the plate a couple of hundred times, eventually he'll get a big hit.

Yesterday's 10th-inning single gave the Nats a 3-2 win gave the Nats a series victory over the equally lowly San Diego Padres.  After dropping the first game of the series, the Nats pounded the Fathers into submission, 13-1 on Saturday.

The win makes the Nats 4-7 in the Riggleman era.  Terrible, yes, but that's a .364 winning percentage -- a huge improvement over how the team played under the emotionless Manny Acta.

If you pretend that they're a .364 team, they'd finish at 53-109.  That's definitely bad, but not historically so.

But there's a bit of a danger here, of sorts.  When Riggleman took over an equally terrible Mariners team last season, he improved the team right out of contention for the number one draft pick, and the chance to draft Stephen Strasburg.  (The Nats edged them by one game.)

Could the same happen this season?

The more the Nats improve, the more competition they're going to have from some other teams -- including this very same Padres team they lost ground to.  They still have an eight-game lead in the win column, but Kansas City and Cleveland are sinking fast, too.

Say for a moment that it's the Padres who catch up or play close.  Let's say, too, that you're Stephen Strasburg, a San Diego boy.  Rather than playing for a dysfunctional team that's about to remake itself for the fourth time in five years in the offseason, isn't it possible that he'd be willing to take a year off, and reenter the draft to play with a team he actually cares for?

Worse, what if the Padres or some other team blows past the Nats for worst overall.  If the Nats can't come to agreement with Strasburg, and that number one team takes boy wonder Bryce Harper -- the early consensus best pick next year -- the Nats won't be able to re-draft Strassy, and they'd lose out on the two top talents in consecutive drafts.

Gulp.

No, it's not likely that those will happen, but with the way things work with this team, you have to always expect the worst.

So, while it's nice to finally beat up on another team, keep in mind that long-term, these short-term pleasures can have a heavy price.  Win now?  Win later?

Of course, thanks to Acta and that eight-game "lead", doing both on occasion is certainly possible.

Chris Needham used to write Capitol Punishmet.  Now, he occasionally tweets about the team.

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