Will Davey Johnson be smiling in late October? (USA TODAY SPORTS IMAGES)
WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- The 2013 Washington Nationals season will be considered a failure if the team doesn't reach the World Series, or better yet, win the whole enchilada.
A 98-win ball club from last season, the Nationals upgraded their outfield, bullpen and their young pitching staff now has a heart wrenching playoff series under their belt.
But unlike the 2010 and 2012 World Series winning San Francisco Giants, or the 2011 St Louis Cardinals, or the vast majority of professional sports champions, the Nationals have openly discussed how disappointed they'd be if they didn't advance to the promise land.
"'World Series or bust,' that's probably the slogan this year. But I'm comfortable with that," Davey Johnson told reporters earlier this winter.
There are four problems with a slogan like 'World Series or bust.'
1) If the team starts out slow, they began to panic. Look at last years Los Angeles Angels. Or this years Los Angeles Lakers. Sometimes the hole is impossible to climb out of.
2) It makes you one of the most hated teams in the league. The Nationals weren't going to catch anyone by surprise this year anyway, but now they've essentially gone out and said with their tongues sticking out "Na-na-na-na boo-boo. We are the best team. Try and stop us." It puts a humongous target on their backs. Lesser teams will use everything and the kitchen sink to try and defeat the Nats.
3) It invites the national media to slam your team when things don't pan out. I remember how sick the Nationals players were of being asked about Stephen Strasburg's shutdown. If the team isn't performing at a high level, the scrutiny will be five times heavier.
4) In recent memory, the 'Championship or bust' motto has worked only once -- for the 2008 Boston Celtics.
As much confidence as I have in Johnson's managing abilities, and the Nationals talented roster, the 'title or bust' slogan should have some fans feeling a little cautious. Three recent examples will show why.
2010 New York Jets
"This team has no excuses. Our team knows it; we're chasing a Super Bowl," said Jets head coach Rex Ryan to the USA Today prior to the 2010 season.
The result: The Jets actually had quite the season, finishing 11-5 and beating the Colts and Patriots on the road in the playoffs. But after the emotional high of beating Tom Brady in New England, the Jets play suffered in the AFC Championship at Pittsburgh. The team has sputtered in the two seasons since.
2010 Miami Heat
"Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven," described LeBron James about how many titles Heat fans could expect now that he was in the fold.
The result: The Heat became the most scrutinized sports franchise of all-time and the mounting pressure eventually caved in on LeBron James. The Dallas Mavericks shocked the basketball world by defeating the Heat four games to two. Miami would eventually win a title the following season, with less of an arrogant attitude towards winning.
2008 Dallas Cowboys
There are too many quotes to put down here from the Cowboys roster, who were featured on HBO's Hard Knocks in the summer of 2008. The team returned 13 pro bowler from a 2007 squad which went 13-3. It was supposed to be the Cowboys time to finally get that monkey off of Jerry Jones' back.
The result: Dallas missed the playoffs in the final game of the season, falling 44-6 to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Pac-man Jones distraction, Tony Romo's love life and a sobbing Terrell Owens murmuring "That's my quarterback," are the lasting images from a disastrous 'Super Bowl or bust season.'
This list could include several New York Yankee teams of the past decade, a few Boston Red Sox squads and even some Atlanta Braves seasons from the 1990's.
I understand why Davey Johnson proclaimed the slogan for the Nats. He believes it to be true and isn't one of those typical managers who take it one-day-at-a-time. He's probably thinking why should we hide our goal?
But judging by the information presented above, the Nationals will have to buck recent history to make their season a successful one. The pressure is on.