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Ted Leavengood

About Ted Leavengood on Baseball

Ted Leavengood is a baseball writer who is the managing editor for Seamheads.com a national baseball blog and writes a weekly column for MASN.com. He is co-host of a weekly podcast, “Outta the Parkway,” that airs every Friday night at 7 pm on the Seamheads Podcast Network and a member... Read more

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Ted Leavengood

Have Nationals Launched a Death Star?

Raphael Soriano became one of the elite late inning pitchers with Tampa Bay in 2010 when he posted 42 saves and a 1.73 ERA. At the end of that season, the Yankees signed him for two years as the ostensible heir to Mariano Rivera–no small complement.

Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel might be the best and Fernando Rodney had the best season for any closer in 2012, but Soriano is about as dependable in the ninth inning when the game is on the line as anyone. But who saw him becoming a National for 2013? Owner Ted Lerner evidently did. Now Soriano is on-board as Washington’s closer heading into 2013.

A pitching staff headed by Stephen Strasburg and deep in talent now has one of the best closers in the game at the back end. It is as if the Nationals have launched the ultimate Death Star with no defensive vulnerability.

After the signing of Adam LaRoche there did not seem to be much drama left. A trade of Michael Morse seemed in the offing, but he would not bring back any big names and so it seemed like time to make reservations for Spring Training in Florida.

But Ted Lerner, apparently even more than Mike Rizzo, was troubled by the recurring nightmare of Drew Storen’s late inning meltdown in Game Five of the LDS. It was an exploitable flaw that ate at him until Scott Boras called about Raphael Soriano and the Nationals jumped to seal off their most obvious weakness.

Since being drafted in 2009 there has been no reason not to like Drew Storen. He signed almost the day after he was drafted that year and twelve months later he was in the majors with an eye on the closer’s job that he landed before by August of the 2010 season. ¬†And since taking over that role, he has gotten better every year.

Still, he will start the 2013 season as a 25-year old and while Storen has been very, very good as a late inning reliever, asking him to close for a team that is hungry for a World Championship may be ambitious beyond reason. That appears to be the thinking of the Nationals brain trust.

Does Drew Storen become a set-up man for Soriano along with Tyler Clippard? It would be a dream bullpen, one worthy of a Death Star. But as a betting man, I believe that the chances are that he will close for someone else in 2013. If Raphael Soriano’s contract were a one-year deal, then sure, this is a stop gap measure for Storen to learn from a master. Soriano’s deal however, could extend his stay here in DC through the 2015

The Nationals have been willing to trade Storen previously as well. He was widely sought after his break through season in 2011 and rumored to be part of a deal with Minnesota for Denard Span. That deal never happened. Yet it signals that Washington is willing to consider trading Storen.

So put Michael Morse and Drew Storen in similar positions of limbo. Storen has considerable value to a team looking for a late inning reliever who could mature into a dominant closer.

Will it be a mega deal? Will Storen go with Michael Morse to restock the Nationals minor league organization or does he become a key part of a Death Star defense that is without weakness? Just when the off-season looked like a ho-hum deal, now there are questions to tantalize. Just when things get quiet, boom!! There is a sudden change that re-writes the 2013 script in ways no one saw coming.

The one thing that has become a dead cinch certainty is that the Nationals will surprise and excite. The 2013 season looks like the launch of something important. Death Star or not, Washington is shaping up as a tough foe for which National League teams will need an Obi-wan to search its weaknesses.


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About Ted Leavengood

Ted Leavengood is a baseball writer who is the managing editor for Seamheads.com a national baseball blog and writes a weekly column for MASN.com. He is co-host of a weekly podcast, "Outta the Parkway," that airs every Friday night at 7 pm on the Seamheads Podcast Network and a member of the Society For American Baseball Research. He has written three books on the history of baseball in Washington: Clark Griffith, The Old Fox of Washington Baseball; Ted Williams and the 1969 Senators, and The 2005 Nationals, Baseball Returns to Washington, DC, a journal of that season. Ted lives in North Chevy Chase with his wife Donna.


2 Responses to “Have Nationals Launched a Death Star?”

  1. Frank McCaffrey
    On January 16, 2013 at 11:26 am responded with... #

    I hope you’re right. if these guys can gel as a team and focus on winning, they might well be World Series champs this year!

  2. On January 16, 2013 at 2:44 pm responded with... #

    Other than the guys from last year, the only additions are pros like Haren and Soriano on the pitching side. So I believe they will gel, but the Braves are going to be a fine team again this year with Beachy back and the Dodgers have spent a ton, so they should be a powerful rival for the NL title. But Boswell said it this morning somewhere in his column. The ability of Rizzo to continually surprise should make fans proud. The World Series takes luck as any read of the history in ’24 and ’25 illustrates. But with some lucky bounces, these guys could go all the way.

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