The Washington Nationals closed up RFK Stadium with some hope. First year manager Manny Acta seemed to over-achieve with that 2007 team that lost 89 games, and that was considered progress as the team was looking to increase payroll going into the opening of the $600+ million Nationals Park for the 2008 season. The stadium opened a dozen years ago today to mixed reviews on the architecture and ambience. It was a design done by MLB and signed off by the DC government that was footing the bulk of the bill which meant it was going to be done with corners cut. The Lerner family purchased the team in 2006 from MLB on May 3rd of 2006, and the groundbreaking for Nationals Park was set for the next day. With the Lerner’s expertise in construction, they would have liked to have been more involved in the design, but as they say it was before their time. Over the years, Nats Park feels like home with the postseason banners, signage, and the Ring of Honor. The Navy Yard district is built up with restaurants, bars, and hotels and is now a destination spot anchored by the World Series champs!
It has been said that one of the few highlights from the 2008 season was on March 30th when Ryan Zimmerman walked-off the Atlanta Braves to win the game. It was a cold night and worth every minute as Zim celebrated in front of 39,389 fans. Unfortunately that team would only win 58 more games the rest of that season. In hindsight, this was all a blessing in disguise. Being the biggest loser in 2008 yielded Stephen Strasburg to the Nationals as the number overall pick in the amateur draft. The Nats beat out the Mariners by one loss and the Padres by three losses. In San Diego it was “Crash for Stras” but they could not even do that right. The Padres completed the sweep of the Nats in the final week of the season changing the courses for both teams. The Mariners chose Dustin Ackley with their No. 1 pick and the Padres took Donavan Tate. How did that work out? A kid named Mike Trout was taken 25th in that draft if you forgot.
Yes, hindsight tells just how that 2008 season would go down in Nationals history, and the prize was Strasburg. Those excruciating 102 losses in the first year of Nats Park were absolutely worth it. There were so many busts in that draft that Stras was the only one who made it from those Top 5 picks unless you think Ackley was not a bust.