Two teams in Washington find themselves reaching a critical point toward the future of their organizations.
The Nationals are in the midst of a tough seven-game West Coast road trip, after having lost four straight home games to the Dodgers. And of course, they’re also riddled with injuries.
As for the Wizards, the NBA Draft is drawing near, but they haven’t hired a new head coach yet. It’s tough to imagine they’ll let this drag out much longer, but it isn’t entirely clear what direction they’re leaning.
The National Disaster
Let’s start with some quick good news: Kyle Schwarber, Trea Turner and Juan Soto were each named first-time All-Stars earlier this weekend. Max Scherzer was a noticeable omission, despite posting a 7-4 record, 2.10 ERA and 127 strikeouts through his first 16 starts of this season. Keep in mind there is a rule that grants every team in the league at least one All-Star, and the benefactors from that stipulation were disproportionally pitchers. Taking them (particularly German Marquez of the Rockies) out of the equation, Scherzer’s “snub” isn’t egregious, and he’ll certainly make his way onto the roster – as either an injury replacement or a substitute for someone who pitches the day before the All-Star break, which a couple guys always do.
Now for the on-field stuff: As discussed late last week, the injury rat – as Scherzer so eloquently described it – has struck the Nationals, and it feels like it’s still hiding somewhere in the attic. Schwarber and backup catcher Alex Avila were both placed on the 10-day Injured List, and Washington was forced to turn to Yadiel Hernandez, Tres Barrera and journeyman shortstop Alcides Escobar – who started in place of Trea Turner (finger) after being acquired from the Kansas City Royals and replacing Humberto Arteaga (designated for assignment) on the active roster.
Injured players like Andrew Stevenson, Daniel Hudson and Kyle Finnegan are getting closer to returning, but the roster is still quite bare currently. Now that they trail the Mets by four games for the NL East lead and are two games below .500, it’s worthwhile to consider whether they need to make a roster addition (via trade or signee off the streets) to fortify their depth, if not join the starting lineup.
Somewhat strangely, the MLB At Bat app lists tonight’s starter as “TBD”, even though Jon Lester is on his scheduled day to pitch and anyone else would be on short rest. It’s unclear at this point whether this signifies a potential change in the starting rotation – and I’m not sure who would replace him, anyway – but a demotion wouldn’t necessarily be out of line. Lester’s ERA through 12 starts, most of which have lasted shorter than desired, stands at 5.34, which definitely isn’t what the Nationals paid for.
In any event, this seven-game stretch appears to be almost make or break for Washington. Going 4-3 or 5-2 would give them considerable positive momentum entering the All-Star break. Dropping five or six games, however, would feel like a near-death punch.
What Are You Doing, Wizards?
Shifting gears to Capital One Arena, Tommy Sheppard and the Wizards have an even bigger decision staring at them. I don’t mean to say they’re dragging their feet, but the interview process for their next head coach has been thorough and deliberate.
Up until Monday, these were the only men – yes, they’re all men – that the Wizards had reportedly interviewed:
Dallas Mavericks assistant Jamahl Mosley had also reportedly been requested to be interviewed, but no interview had been confirmed. Wizards reporter Quinton Mayo had also stated that, despite being interviewed, Cassell was considered unlikely to be the hire – although Mayo noted a position as associate head coach had been discussed.
Then seemingly out of nowhere, ESPN Senior NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Washington’s search had been narrowed to Ham, Unseld, Mosley and Charles Lee (photo above)– an assistant with the Bucks, alongside Ham. “Woj” also noted that these four men will be interviewed again this week, and that Mosley and Unseld are also serious candidates for the Orlando Magic vacancy.
In addition to the aforementioned Orlando candidates, Lee has been rumored as a frontrunner with the New Orleans Pelicans, whose head position is also vacant. While Ham is not in any other active searches, he was a finalist for the Boston Celtics position and had interviewed for multiple other head positions in the past. In other words, all four candidates are strong and hot commodities.
Considering that the NBA Draft is on July 29, it would be ideal to hire a new head coach within the next week or so – likely no later than July 15. The last two weeks of the draft process seems nearly impossible to conduct without a head coach.