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Nationals talking a good game, but NL East still belongs to Phillies

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At least the Washington Nationals are talking a good game so far this Spring. The latest vocal offering however, comes from an unlikely source

Just a few days after Nats skipper and former Phillie Davey Johnson claimed his staff matched up against the Phillies, former Phils closer Brad Lidge chimed in with some words of his own on Monday.Brad Lidge photo: natsinsider.com

“Probably the most talented team I’ve ever been on, and I’ve been on some great teams,” Lidge said in regards to his new team in Washington.

I’m not real sure if that was supposed to be a slight jab at his old team Phillies or possibly their front office, but keep in mind Lidge has played on a World Championship team, two World Series second place finishers, two NLCS teams, and a team last year in Philadelphia that won 102 games. Who knows? Maybe Lidge is that confident about the Nationals' chances in 2012. Go figure.

As far as Johnson’s quote goes, Cliff Lee’s response sums it up: "He should [take those pitchers], because that's his only option. It's what he's got to do."

It seems the Nationals are coming into Spring Training with a pretty big chip on their shoulder, and the thinly veiled shots all seem to be headed the Phillies’ way. We didn’t even get into Washington’s lame “Take Back The Park” campaign.  It’s great to be optimistic about your team, and I must admit, the Nationals are definitely an up and coming ball club. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they manage to sneak into one of the Wild Card spots this season.

That is, if all goes according to plan. As some of you may recall, our Phillies lost a lot of heartbreakers before they became the five-time defending NL East Champs that stand before you today. You have to lose to tough ones before you win the big ones.

As far as the National’s staff is concerned, Gio Gonzalez and our old friend Edwin Jackson have the most experience. Stephen Strasburg seems healthy in the early going, but he hasn’t pitched a full season in the majors leagues. Furthermore, Jordan Zimmermann has to prove he's better than his career 12-18 record. The only two things that favor the Nationals in the pitching department are age and cost. Their top three (Strasburg, Gonzalez, and Zimmermann) are obviously younger than Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels, and on paper they’re about $50 million cheaper.

However, it stops right there for now. A few years down the line, I might give the nod to the Nats as the ‘Team to Beat.’  But the Phillies’ veteran experience wins out, and the NL East still belongs to them.


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Lidge photo: natsinsider.com