Things look a little different this year as the Washington Nationals open spring training. There’s a new man steering the ship, as Dusty Baker, a player’s manager if ever there was one, takes over for decidedly Old School Matt Williams. The chemistry narrative is often overplayed in the media, but it was clear last season that the Nationals were not meshing with Williams’ abrasive style of managing. Baker should serve as a breath of fresh air to a clubhouse that turned very toxic by the end of last season.
There are other new faces, as well as some missing faces in Viera, Florida. The Nationals are not the same team that went 83-79 last year, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. This remains a team that is very much still a contender, especially in a watered-down National League East. Even if the Nationals play to a .500 record against the rival New York Mets, there are still more than enough games against the bottom-feeding Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, and Miami Marlins to puff up the record to at least wild-card status.
The 2016 season marks a minor transition for the Nationals. With Opening Day roughly six weeks away, here are the five storylines to keep an eye on as preparation begins in earnest for the beginning of Dusty Baker’s tenure in Washington.