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[October 1st] -- The season is over, and Nationals' fans are now preparing for their third off-season since baseball returned to Washington.

Some fans put away their "curly-W" hats and turn their attention to the goings on at FedEx Field, giving the Nationals nary a thought until late February.

Others - like me - believe the off-season is the best part of the year. It is now that we can make predictions and prognostications without reality deviating our dreams. What we think will happen next year won't be proved wrong for another nine months or so.

Some blogs go on hiatus. Others will keep the hot stove burning.

This off-season will be far more interesting than the past two. In 2004, we didn't even know the names on the roster. Last year, we knew that the team was going to be gutted, and that there was few players in the minors who could take their place. No free agents and no one to trade. But this year, well, things are different. The minor leagues are no longer the worst in the business, at least according to Baseball America. Most believe that when the new list comes out in December, the Nationals will be somewhere in the 14-17 range, quite a jump in a single year. And though Stan Kasten says he's not going to pursue "name" free agents, he is still going to increase the payroll. Trades. Big trades, or so it would seem.

Many are predicting - Manny Acta included - that next year's team will be .500 or better. Be careful now, boys and girls. We're just as apt to take a step backward next year as we are to reach that magical .500 plateau. And remember, teams don't go from 73 win to pennant contenders in a year or two. In 2003, Cleveland won 68 games, then 80, then 93 in 2005. In 2006, the year they were supposed to break out, then won just 78. They rebounded to win 96 this year. Building a team is more art than science. We just don't know what's going to happen.

We'll cover all of this, plus take a hard look at all the players who took the field with the Nationals this year and try to figure who's coming and who's going and who's staying. That will start tomorrow.

For now, I'm going to enjoy time with my children and my foster children and grandchildren

Oh, and my wife.

Good things she doesn't read my blog....

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