WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- It is uncommon for a team coming off consecutive division titles to have a case that it is underrated, but that's where Stephen Strasburg sees the Nationals as they begin Spring Training.
Washington enters the year favored to win the National League East once again, but the Nats have not quite garnered the same attention as the other National League division winners, the Cubs and Dodgers.
"I think we're under the radar a little bit," Strasburg said. "I think you get this feeling that this is like our bubble; this is our window."
Washington is bound to face a lot of discussion about its "window" and whether 2018 represents the last chance for this core of players to win the World Series. Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Giovany Gonzalez are set to hit free agency after the season, and Strasburg, Max Scherzer and Ryan Zimmerman aren't getting younger.
Considering those factors, 2018 could be a crucial season for the Nationals.
"You always deal with that. You always have some other storyline or some other narrative every single season," Scherzer said. "Nothing's changed. There's always some other narrative that you can put to it. As a player, you just keep going out there, and your goal is to win the World Series."
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Washington certainly has several pieces in place that make World Series contention possible. Scherzer and Strasburg are one of the best rotation duos in baseball. The Nationals return virtually the same lineup that set a franchise record for runs in 2017. The team also has three veteran relievers with closing experience.
The Nats enter camp with the luxury of having most of their team intact from a year ago. Their most notable offseason acquisitions were re-signing players who had hit free agency, like Brandon Kintzler and Howie Kendrick. Washington did not add much to its roster and has taken a bit of a back seat to teams such as the Cubs, Yankees and Astros, who made splashy offseason acquisitions. And that does not bother Strasburg at all.
"I guess there's just other storylines, and that's fine," Strasburg said. "We don't really need that anyway. We perform better when we sort of stay in our lane and have that tunnel vision throughout the year."