Thom Loverro: With division in hand, time to look at how the Nationals did it

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There have been many moves and moments that led to the Washington Nationals' 2012 National League East title. Here are 10 dates that helped get them to the postseason:

June 7, 2004 » By this point, Montreal Expos general manager Omar Minaya had ripped the foundation out of the franchise that would move to Washington at the end of the 2004 season. But he leaves one gift behind: a skinny, 18-year-old shortstop drafted in the third round named Ian Desmond.

June 7, 2005 » The Washington Nationals select Virginia third baseman Ryan Zimmerman with the fourth pick in the 2005 baseball amateur draft. Zimmerman turns out to be the right player with whom to start building a franchise.

Dec. 8, 2005 » Washington trades Terrmel Sledge, Brad Wilkerson and Armando Galarraga to the Texas Rangers for Alfonso Soriano. General manager Jim Bowden gambles that Soriano would have a good season and leave as a Type A free agent, which leads to the Nationals getting two draft picks for compensation. One of them turns out to be Jordan Zimmermann.

July 2, 2006 » The Nationals announce they have agreed to terms with a switch-hitting 16-year-old shortstop who claims to be Esmailyn "Smiley" Gonzalez, giving the kid who is not quite as young as they think $1.4 million. This, of course, would be the scandal that forces Bowden to resign in the spring of 2009 and puts Mike Rizzo in charge. Speaking of which ...

July 24, 2006 » Rizzo is hired by Stan Kasten as assistant general manager and vice president of baseball operations. In other words, Kasten hires Bowden's replacement.

Dec. 4, 2007 » Bowden steals one from the Yankees, acquiring Tyler Clippard for Jonathan Albaladejo. Rizzo winds up developing him exclusively out of the bullpen, and he becomes an All-Star eighth-inning reliever.

Sept. 26, 2008 » The Seattle Mariners enter the final weekend of the season with a record of 58-101. The Nationals have a 59-99 record. Washington loses its final three games and finishes with a record of 59-102. Seattle wins its final three, finishing with a record of 61-101. The Nationals get the No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft, which they use to take Stephen Strasburg.

June 28, 2009 »

Rizzo makes what appears to be a swap of journeymen when he deals Ryan Langerhans to the Seattle Mariners for Michael Morse. Morse becomes part of the identity of the Nationals and blasts 67 home runs and drives in 208 runs in 378 games in a Washington uniform.

Nov. 20, 2009 » Bryce Harper, 17, passes his GED test, allowing him to bypass his senior year and jump to junior college. That makes him eligible for the 2010 player draft, in which he is selected first overall by the Nationals.

June 23, 2011 » Manager Jim Riggleman suddenly quits in a contract dispute, creating a crisis situation. Rizzo responds by pulling Davey Johnson out of his pocket -- the soon-to-be 2012 National League manager of the year.

Examiner columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at tloverro@washingtonexaminer.com.

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Thom Loverro

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The Washington Examiner