First was the column which can be summed up as "The Nats are awesome!" The conceit of the article was as follows:
The Nats were basically an expansion team when they came to DC and the fact they got good so quickly is amazing. And they have a bright future which is even more amazing.It's true... mostly. But it's the "Where's the sunnyside? Here? You call this bright? Paint everything glossy white and bring in some mirrors!" take that Boz can put out there sometimes.
First off the Nats were not an expansion team. That seems like a silly distinction to make, but it isn't. (Boz himself makes it - then says "ehhhh best I can do" which really isn't the case but hey) Yes, the year before the Nats had middling major legaue talent and a terrible farm system. But an an expansion team has no major league talent and no farm system. They build it all from scratch. It's not fair to compare the Nats to that. For example, Baseball America ranked the Nats minor league talent at 26th coming into 2005. That's bad, but certainly not the worst. What were the Nats then? A bad team with a bad farm system. There are a handful of these types of teams out there each year. They had special circumstances with the gutting of minor league system guys, not players, but workers, but still not an expansion. Doesn't compare. Don't do it.
But let's say you can overcome the sanity that would keep you from making that comparison. What exactly does Boz say?
"14 expansion teams. Five took forever to get to 90 wins" PAUSE
That's true but is it a case of arbitrary endpoints? ... Nope! Took them all a long time to get to around a 90 win team. Now you can make the case that a team like the Angels were actually good very quickly but not 90 win good, more like .500 good, but that's not what Boz was saying so we'll give him this. You win this round Boz!
"Two were pretty much terrible for 7 years" PAUSE
Ok I'm sure that's true too. Where are the other 7 though? You can't say
"the history of expansion teams is, with few exceptions, an utter horror show"using only 50% of expansion teams. Let's look into the other 7
Washington Senators/Texas Rangers : Bad for a long time. Why not bring them up? Probably thinks it would be bad luck.
NY Mets : Suddenly became a very good team around year 8 and remained pretty good for 5+ years.
Milwaukee : 90 wins in year 10, were a pretty successful team for 6 years, and didn't crater again for about 15 years.
Royals : Gold Standard. decent by year 3, division challenging by year 7, dominant 5 year run, wouldn't really start to get bad until 20+ years after getting good.
Blue Jays : got decent around year 6/7, would go 11 years with 86+ wins (9 with 89+)
Marlins : would buy their way to a WS in year 7, luck into one in year 11 but mostly built up to middling around 2000 and stayed there for a decade
Diamondbacks : bought a decent team immediately. Would win their division in year 2, WS in year 4. Odd times in the 12 seasons since then. In six they had from 76-84 wins, three seasons 51-65 wins, two 90+, with little rhyme or reasons on where the good and bad appear.
What would this tell us? Well it would tell us that four TRUE expansion teams (Mets, Royals, Brewers, Blue Jays) got good and stayed good for a while within 10 years of appearing. Two more (Dbacks and Marlins) proved you could win quickly. So at the very least about 30% of all expansion teams did something like the Nats, who again are not an expansion team, have done.
What's the real take away then? What the Nats have done is impressive, but it's far from obliteratively remarkable.
The second column was about the inevitable departures of ZNN and Strasburg and why that's a good thing. You see it's good because "some in baseball" believe that a TJ elbow lasts around 8 years. This would put ZNN and Strasburg done around 2017 and 2018 respectively, smack in the early part of their next contracts. Second Tommy Johns are also much less successful than firsts. Let them walk!
Of course this doesn't make that much sense if you think about their drafting plans. Lucas Giolito and Erick Fedde underwent the surgery too. If you really believe in that rough 8 year time table than Giolito should be done around 2020, and he bounced back to elite levels quickly. Essentially you are drafting guys who will give you not 6-7 years but 3-4 years. The cost is cheap for three to four great years sure but you have to factor in the draft pick not made. What's the opportunity cost for not drafting another player who might give you that longer period of play under team control?
So how do to reconcile this? It's is probably one part "these guys are younger maybe they'll give us more years after the first surgery" and eighty hundred parts "we really have little idea how long an elbow lasts after TJ, but we'll say 8 years because that fits with our plans of not re-signing these guys"
Both these columns, when you get down to it, are coming from the same place. "Don't worry about the Nats and the decisions they make, and potentially the drop in wins to come. They are in good hands and know what they are doing." Perhaps that's true. It feels true, even to a doubter like me. But it's also possible that they've reached the end point with the money they are willing to spend and are now trying to justify not signing guys. They are also trying to keep costs down by gambling on injury prone type players who may spend their careers failing to live up to expectations. Matt Purke isn't walking through that door and right now Anthony Rendon is limping through it.
We don't know. We won't know until it happens. To be positive is fine. To be only positive is sort of delusional.