In the Atlanta Braves 2012 link I posted the message below about why there weren't more Nats fans from central NC:
General question: In the central North Carolina/Durham area, what is the favorite MLB team?
It seems to me that the Nationals, who almost put their stadium in the state of Virginia after all, are the closest - at about 250mi/4hrs - vs Braves at closer to 400 mi/6hrs. Especially with Atlanta having pulled their AAA franchise out of Richmond, it would seem that more fans would gravitate to the closest team. Also, the Nats are pretty clearly "up and coming" with a locked-in core of young studs like Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Jordan Zimmermann, Ryan Zimmerman, Morse, Werth, and now Gio Gonzalez. Regardless of whether they sign Fielder, this is a squad whose future is looking extremely bright over the coming 5 years.
I realize that a decade ago the Braves were the only "southern" team to root for. But do y'all see the fan-following pendulum swinging in NC these days? This discussion could be colored by what the Braves do in the next few years. Neither team made the playoffs last year. And predictions seem mixed for 2012 in the very tough NL East, after Philly at number 1 in all likelihood.
I have received enough private messages to think it might be worth a string on the Nats, which, after all, is the closest MLB franchise to Durham and is clearly up-and-coming... even w/o getting their Prince. But one extra reason to think Duke fans might want to follow the Nats - per the attached link, their up-and-coming superstar, 19-year-old #1 overall draft pick from last year, BRYCE HARPER is a Duke Blue Devils fan.
The Nats have a very strong bullpen, today bolstered with the addition of Brad Lidge. They also have a stud young closer in former first-rounder and Stanford (almost-) grad, Drew Storen. All-Star set-up man, Tyler-Clippard, and some other strong, young BP guys (Burnett, Gorzelanny, Detwiler, Henry Rodriguez).
Their starting rotation, has a top-three that can arguably go toe-to-toe with any in the game - Strassburg (R), Gio Gonzalez (L), and Jordan Zimmermann (R). All three are signed for 4+ years. The starting rotation has solid 4-5 candidates in (any two of the following): righty Chein Ming Wang (former Yankee, finally healthy), John Lannan (L), and Detwiler (L), plus Gorzelanny or Maya). The SP's will be helped by this being a good defensive team too (with possible exception of Morse in LF).
The offense is still developing, and PF certainly would have helped. But it was good enough, despite an awful lot of things going wrong last year, to finish one game below .500 , and having improved record-wise three years running (and expecting to do so again in 2012). The biggest obvious need is at CF/lead-off hitter. Expect the nats to go all-in for a top-flight Free-Agent CF/lead-off guy a year from now, as GM Rizzo has said that he thinks next year's FA class is going to be vastly superior to this one. And they have all of that non-Fielder money to spend... Sorry Brave fans, but your CF is one who gets a lot of play on Nats blogs as repeatedly mentioned among those strong 2012/13 CF FA's (along with Upton and others).
I'm expecting a April 1 starting line-up along these lines:
SS Ian Desmond (I'm looking for a real breakout year in 2012)
CF Mike Cameron/Roger Bernadina (platooning, until Harper comes up in June and takes over RF, moving Werth to CF)
3B Ryan Zimmerman
LF/1B Mike Morse
1B LaRoche (strong defender, average hitter, healthy now after a injury-plagued 2011)
2B Espinosa (could flip up to the #2 spot depending)
Utility - DeRosa
The future's bright in DC for baseball fans....finally! Even the farm system is rated by BA as top-10.
I keep hoping the Nats will establish their AAA locally in Richmond some day to help with building their fanbase southward. What I read is that Richmond's stadium/facillities are a bit antiquated, which contributed to the departure of the AAA Braves franchise. For now, however, Nats are apparently happy with their AAA in a newish Syracuse stadium.
Any other Nats, or potential future Nats fans among the Devil faithful???