The Nationals finally have an owner, a GM without the temporary tag (although the choice for the permanent GM, Jim Bowden, turned out to be the guy the temp agency sent over in the first place), and a shot at planning something beyond what they're going to have for lunch. But the last four years have taken a toll on the franchise, which is currently in a condition as bad as just about any in the game.
The Nationals' main problem is that for years they operated under one of two scenarios -- as a contraction candidate in Montreal, meaning that all moves were made for the short term over the long term; or by a GM who knew the job was only temporary and was thus a means to demonstrate his skills for his next job, meaning again that all moves were made for the short term over the long term.
Through that entire time, the team was also run on a relatively small payroll. This left the franchise with the game's worst farm system and with very little young talent on its big league roster. Trades like the Bartolo Colon, Jose Guillen, and Alfonso Soriano deals gutted the system of its potential building blocks in the name of abortive playoff runs, although at least the Colon deal came at a time when the then-Expos had a realistic shot at contending.