WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- To better understand the Nationals transformation from a baseball team in a cocoon, to a free-flowing butterfly, you have to travel back to 2009.
Back then, most considered Washington (59-103) as the cousin of the Montreal Expos, a deteriorating franchise who constantly let talent -- Pedro Martinez, Vladimir Guerrero, Randy Johnson -- leave the team.
Some remnants from the original move to D.C. in 2005 still remained in tact. Cristian Guzman was still playing shortstop. Elijah Dukes was the team's up and coming young talent. And the pitching staff was of course anchored by lefty John Lannan, the same guy who the organization has marinating in AAA-Syracuse all of 2012 in case of any emergency injury.
The MLB headline team in 2009? The New York Yankees (103-59), World Series winners over the Philadelphia Phillies. Laced with veterans, sluggers and nasty sliders, the Bronx Bombers regained their title of being the pinnacle of all sports teams.
And now, here we are today.
Washington's transformation of the roster in just three seasons since -- the cause was aided from years of drowning in the NL East basement, in return for no. 1 overall picks -- has been some of the best sports management baseball has seen in the last 20 years.
The drafting of Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and Drew Storen are only the straightforward reasons on why the Nats are now a full-fledgling ball club rather than a punchline on David Letterman.
In 2009, the team took a chance on a humongous slugger named Michael Morse, who had bounced around the minors since 2005.
In 2010, general manager Mike Rizzo flipped a hot, but inconsistent reviler in Matt Capps for an answer behind home plate, Wilson Ramos.
Later, in the 2010 offseason, Washington followed through on their best Yankees impression and signed Jayson Werth away from the Phillies for a $126 million. Kill the deal all you want, but with that single move that Nationals sent a message to the rest of the MLB: we are serious about winning, and will do or spend whatever it takes.
Hell, you can even talk about the moves the Nationals didn't make, like re-signing Adam Dunn for a ridiculous price. Instead they handpicked Adam LaRoche as a solid piece in the middle of the lineup, with a game-changing glove at first.
Or how about not giving in for 33-year-old Mark Buehrle, and instead "settling" for Edwin Jackson, at a fifth of the cost. Or what about never giving up on shortstop Ian Desmond, who had been plauged by errors in 2010 and a slump filled first half in 2011.
Years of bad losses turned into about a dozen very good prospects, four of which were shipped off to Oakland for lefty Gio Gonzalez, a clear cut Cy Young candidate.
But the final piece to the puzzle is also the most imperative to the teams 38-23 start.
Manager Davey Johnson was brilliantly hired as a team consultant following the 2009 season. The organization knew he still had an itch to manage -- Johnson spent the summers coaching college baseball in Florida -- and knew if their roster came together, he would be the right man to push the buttons. Johnson has a timeless way of enhancing personalities and being as fair as possible. And it proves true, as he's won big in the 80's, 90's and now, the 2010's.
A mid-June showdown with sports' most celebrated franchise in the heart of Southeast D.C., is exactly what baseball obsessed fans in the city have longed for. And exactly what they should expect for the rest of this decade.
Ooh and awe about Strasburg and Harper all you want -- I do it too. But just know, the Washington Nationals other personnel moves are why they are where they are today.