It's hard to ignore what's happening down Interstate 95. The Nationals are going to be good in 2012. With Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman topping the rotation, Drew Storen closing it out and a possible Prince Fielder signing, they've made some serious noise this offseason.
Since coming to Washington D.C., in 2005, I've always seen the Nationals as that "other" team in the mid-Atlantic region. Perhaps that's because I grew up an Orioles fan and never thought of D.C. as a true baseball town, despite my parents being Senators fans.
Maybe I've covered too many mid-Atlantic rivalry games for MASN and seen more orange and black in the stands at Nationals Park than red and navy. To be fair, that was more prevalent in the franchise's first two or three years in D.C. than it is now.
Or perhaps the Orioles' history and fan base are so rich, I found it difficult to ever see D.C., a city that lost two professional baseball teams, rival that.
Apparently, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo disagrees, and there's no doubt he's building a contender in Washington. Meanwhile, to date, the Orioles haven't acquired one new player this offseason to really get excited about. Right now, Japanese pitcher Tsyoshi Wada is their biggest acquisition.
The hope is Wada will find the same type of success in the major leagues that he had in Japan. That's a big question mark. It's safe to say his signing, while promising, is not one to do back flips over.
Gonzalez, on the other hand, is a proven top-of-the-rotation starter, valuable enough for the Oakland A's to command four players in exchange. That's someone to get excited about. He'll be topping the Nats rotation in April.
As a baseball fan, I'm pumped to see what Davey Johnson's club will do in 2012. With the Phillies and new-look Marlins, the National League East is going to be a strong division - and the Nats will be right in the mix.
You have to wonder how Orioles fans feel about what the Nationals are doing 35 miles away.
Taking off my journalistic hat for a moment, I'll be honest. As an O's fan, I feel extremely envious.
If Rizzo signs Prince Fielder in the next few weeks, it's hard to deny just how good the Nats can be.
Why can't the Orioles take a similar approach to building a winner? Rizzo seems aggressive and always in the mix. Meanwhile, O's executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette doesn't seem to believe the timing is right to go after big free agents.
I disagree. If the Birds have this solid core of young players we always hear about (Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, J.J. Hardy), then they shouldn't be in rebuilding mode. They should be finding the final pieces to the puzzle. Throw a Fielder in the Birds' lineup or a top-of-the-rotation pitcher and I truly believe the O's could finally begin to compete in the American League East. Their lineup is pretty solid as it is.
Financially, it's no secret the Lerner family has deep pockets in D.C. They obviously have given Rizzo the green light to open the wallet.
I'm not sure what Duquette's limitations are financially, but I do know Andy MacPhail offered Mark Teixeira a $140 million deal a few years ago. We can assume the Orioles are in a position to do it again.
I never thought the Orioles would be in a position to use the Nationals as a blueprint for success, but Washington's ability to build a solid team through the draft, trades and free agent signings is admirable and worth emulating.