Fear the Nationals

The Nats have money to spend, a good team, and should get a full season of Stephen Strasburg. Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Nobody would argue that the Washington Nationals had a storybook ending to their 2012 season. Washington burst out to a six-run lead in the early going of Game 5 of the NLDS, only to watch the St. Louis Cardinals chip away at that margin and Drew Storen pick a rather unfortunate time to have a rare meltdown on the mound.

Despite the weak end, 2012 as a whole should be considered a roaring success for the Nationals. Their 98 wins set a new franchise record, and whether in D.C. or Montreal, it was the first time the team finished a completed season as the division champs. Washington residents got to see the city's first taste of baseball playoffs since the Senators lost the 1933 World Series to the New York Giants.

The good news is that the tale of these Nationals isn't finished and there are more sequels to come. Volume 1 didn't end with Gio Gonzalez and the rest showering with champagne, but the team enters the offseason in perhaps the strongest position of any team in the National League for the next few years.