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Mar
10

Play Ball! The Washington Nationals Will Be Back in 2022

After months of labor negotiations – enough to delay the season – Major League Baseball and the Players Association finally reached an agreement Thursday. With terms agreed upon, baseball is back and we’ll get to see the Washington Nationals again this year.

Considering how uncertain the fate of the league was, it’s easy to forget how much has changed since the Nats won the World Series in 2019, especially over the last year.

Of course, All-Star third baseman Anthony Rendon left in free agency after winning a ring, but that wasn’t the organization’s biggest recent blow. Superstars Max Scherzer and Trea Turner were traded to the Dodgers last season, Stephen Strasburg suffered yet another significant injury, and Ryan Zimmerman – the face of the franchise – officially retired earlier this offseason.

Following all of these departures, the Nationals are entering their first full season of a likely multi-year rebuild. They made major strides to replenish their farm system last year, but there’s still plenty of work to do, and the fruits of their labor won’t be seen immediately.

Before the season begins, it’s only right to refresh everyone’s minds on how the roster looks entering Spring Training – yes, we will have one before the regular season begins.

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Feb
15

There Will Never Be Another National Like Ryan Zimmerman

With the news of Ryan Zimmerman’s retirement, there will undoubtedly be dozens of stories told about his exploits over a very memorable 17-year career, ranging from dramatic game-winning walkoff hits, to his home run in the 2019 World Series.

But the story I’ll never forget – and when No. 11 became my favorite Nationals’ player for all time – came back in the early days. It was a warm Sunday back in 2006, and was Father’s Day.

It was June 18th, and Ryan’s first full season in the majors. He had been called up to the Nationals at the end of the previous inaugural season, playing the last 20 games of the 2005 season, so he was a player the fan base was still getting to know. He was from Virginia Beach and played at UVA, so having also grown up and gone to college in the Commonwealth, I immediately liked him since he was a local.

He was the kind of player I wanted to see do well with the Nats.

A neighbor had called that morning with two tickets to the Nats game, saying the friend he was going to go with backed out. My wife, noting it was Father’s Day, said “it’s your day, go have a good time.”

When we got there, everything seemed perfect. It was at old RFK, which while not being a cosmetic beauty, had this air of DC sports history that helped any longtime area sports enthusiast overlook the flaws and effects of age. You remembered seeing the Redskins from certain seats. The really older guys remembered the Senators. And we all knew a new stadium was on the way.

But while it seemed perfect, seated right in front of us were three fans of the opposing team that day, the New York Yankees. If you’ve spent any time around Yankees fans, they’re a confident lot and not given to keeping their opinions to themselves. Much like traveling in the South and encountering an Alabama fan (don’t know how many national titles they’ve won? Just wait 3 minutes. They’ll bring it up in conversation) these fans started talking from the first pitch about their great baseball history and Washington’s lack thereof.

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Oct
05

It's Hard To Believe It Was Only Two Years Ago...

As major league baseball begins its playoffs tonight, I can’t help but feel a pang of sadness.

It was only two years ago we were all on top of the world. We all knew the Washington Nationals weren’t that great a team, as they got off to a 19-31 the old-fashioned way – they earned it – but they somehow found lightning in a bottle. A cast of characters melded into a band of miracle workers who found a way to hit timely run-scoring hits at the most opportune times, and when you finally thought “this is the end”, you opened your eyes and it wasn’t.

They never really fixed their problems, but they somehow always found a workaround. Their bullpen was like a bad placekicker in football, where you held your breath every time they were employed, only when the playoffs came, they just went for two every time, using starters out of the bullpen.

It worked. They won. And none of us knew it at the time, but we were given the chance to enjoy paradise before the storm hit.

The celebration of winning Oct. 31 spilled over into Thanksgiving, and led to a lot of Nationals merchandise under the Christmas tree. Nationals hats, golf shirts, polar fleece jackets, coffee mugs…if you could put a World Series logo on it, somebody sold it. And I – like many of you – bought just about all of it.

But when you make it to the top, tucked inside all this euphoria is the implied knowledge that you’re going to at least have some time to enjoy this beyond a 90-day window. As we’ve seen with the professional football team in DC back in the glory days, it usually goes like this: Unless you’ve created a dynasty (which the Nationals clearly had not done), there’s a gradual slide back to the norm.

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Sep
12

What I Learned From Watching AA Harrisburg Senators

After being forced to cancel plans a couple times this season, I finally made a trip to Harrisburg, the home of the Nationals’ Double-A affiliate.

I attended Friday and Saturday’s games. Although I missed many top prospects – such as Cade Cavalli and Donovan Casey – and shortstop Yasel Antuna has not been promoted from Wilmington, there were still interesting things to see, including my good friend Eric (he’ll love how I phrased that sentence).

The Pitchers

The starting pitchers were right-hander Jackson Tetreault and lefty Tim Cate (MLB Pipeline’s No. 14 prospect in the organization), respectively.

That’s the area where the Senators are the strongest. Their starting rotation boasts three of the organization’s top 30 prospects, including Cate, Gerardo Carrillo (No. 7) and Joan Adon (No. 23). Aside from that trio, however, baseball scouts don’t view many other players very favorably.

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Aug
24

Nationals Promote Patrick Murphy, Cade Cavalli and Others

Highly-touted prospect Cade Cavalli is officially one step away from the big leagues.

Tuesday morning it was announced that the big right-hander, along with lefty Seth Romero, had been promoted to Triple-A Rochester.

Various other promotions were announced throughout the day, including a big league call-up for right-hander Patrick Murphy.

You may be asking yourself what the point of a minor league promotion is so late in the season. Most years, the minor league regular season concludes at the end of August or beginning of September. This year, however, it extends until September 19 as the minor league season didn’t begin until May, so the late finish partially compensates for it.

Nevertheless, numerous key prospects will be playing at new levels in the organization for approximately the next month. Here are the specific players who earned promotions:

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Aug
21

The New Washington Nationals Are Not Disappointing

It's been just a little over three weeks since many Nationals fans had their hearts broken, as Mike Rizzo tried to sell fans on the idea that starting over was best for the organization.

Since sending many of their top veterans at the Trade Deadline to other teams, Washington has lost 14 of its 20 games. But despite that losing record, many of the team’s top young assets – including some of whom were acquired at the deadline – have made great impressions.

Plenty of Gray Area On The Mound

No one in their right mind will try to convince anyone that the Nationals’ starting pitching has been good this year. Prior to the deadline, the trio of Patrick Corbin, Jon Lester and Erick Fedde were among the five worst starting pitchers in the National League, in terms of ERA. Addition by subtraction is typically a convenient myth, but could it actually be true in this case?

The success of Josiah Gray has been often chronicled. In his first four starts since leaving the Dodgers, the 23-year-old right-hander is sporting a 2.86 ERA with as many strikeouts as innings pitched (22), compared to only five walks. His batting average against is .225 (17 points better than the league-wide rate), and he’s lasted six innings in each of his last two starts.

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Aug
09

Is Jordy Mercer Beginning a New Chapter in Baseball?

No matter what people tell you, Jordy Mercer knows baseball.

Admittedly, I’m in the minority who has consistently believed that Mercer belongs on Washington’s roster. He’s similar to the team’s backup infielders in past seasons. Stephen Drew’s presence from 2016–17 immediately comes to mind.

While he shouldn’t be asked to play much, Mercer is a dependable option off the bench or as a starter once or twice per week – not to mention as a leader in the dugout.

Nonetheless, it’s clear that Mercer (who turns 35 years old later this month) no longer merits much playing time in the big leagues, which puts him at a crossroad. Does he want to be a clubhouse presence off the bench, or is it time to acknowledge that he has no real future as a player?

Mercer was a nearly forgotten member of the Nationals roster earlier this summer. However, as the organization has battled COVID-19 during the last couple weeks, and since the departure of Kyle Schwarber at the Trade Deadline, Mercer has been serving as manager Dave Martinez’s unofficial bench coach.

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Aug
08

Gray And Adams Are A Reminder Of What Matters In 2021

Having witnessed a game in which young players like Josiah Gray and Riley Adams stole the show, the DC community should also be reminded of what’s important for the next two months.

Don’t let the potentially poor production of Gerardo Parra and Alcides Escobar cloud your opinion of the Nationals. The young players are who matter, whether they produce enough to win games or not.

Whenever he’s on the mound, that starts with Josiah Gray.

The second start the 23-year-old made for the Nationals was better than his first – which was impressive in its own right. Against a Braves team that features some intimidating hitters (even with Ronald Acuña Jr. on the Injured List), Gray struck out 10 batters and allowed only four hits over five innings.

Sure, we can all argue that Dave Martinez should let Gray pitch into the sixth inning, but that’s not the point. Any double-digit strikeout performance from a rookie pitcher is worth getting excited about.

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Aug
02

Gray Makes Nationals Look Like Trade Deadline Winners

If you want to learn about the new, young additions the Nationals made at the Trade Deadline, keep reading.

Right-handed pitcher Josiah Gray made his debut for Washington Monday night, and while it wasn’t spectacular, it was nonetheless impressive, and it could be a sign of things to come for the franchise.

Gray’s outing was inarguably a success. He didn’t go particularly deep into the game (71 pitches over five innings), but he was very effective and “looked the part.”

His first strikeout came against Jean Segura, who entered the night batting .308 with the No. 15 lowest strikeout rate in the majors.

The lone true blemish he suffered was a home run off the bat of Odubel Herrera to lead off the fifth inning. It was one of four hits “Jojo” surrendered – and the only run he allowed to score

Gray’s fastball frequently reached 95 miles per hour, and he seemed to have clear command of his pitches for most of the night – which is always key for young pitchers. He only walked two batters, and he kept his pitch count below 15 per inning.

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Jul
30

The Washington Nationals Are Officially Rebuilding

It’s a four-letter word in sports, but dressing up what Washington did at the Trade Deadline any other way doesn’t negate the truth.

The team is officially rebuilding, as between Thursday and Friday, the Nationals traded away eight veteran contributors for a bevvy of minor league prospects.

That doesn’t mean the future isn’t still bright, but there will be growing pains. Juan Soto and Josh Bell are their top hitters by a considerable margin now, they don’t have a true frontline starting pitcher, and there are multiple holes in the back of the bullpen.

How Did We Get Here?

When teams are 47-55 with lots of contracts that are due to expire in the offseason, they trade the impending free agents away. They don’t hold onto the veterans simply because the franchise won a World Series two years ago. They evaluate the present and future, forget about the sentimental ties they have to players who may have been valuable to them in the past, and make trades that ensure the team will be better in the near future.

That’s what the Nationals did, regardless of how jarring each individual deal may have felt.

Ahead of Friday’s game against the Cubs (who also emptied the big-league cupboard at the deadline), Mike Rizzo called Friday “as tough a day as I’ve ever had as a general manager.” He’s not wrong for saying that, but it was also a necessary process.

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Jul
29

Thanks For The Memories Max, Trea...Until We Meet Again

When you follow a team that has a run of great years, and even wins a championship during that time, you know it isn’t going to last forever.

But that doesn’t make you feel any better when that day arrives.

As a kid who marveled at this guy the Virginia Squires had from the University of Massachusetts named Julius Erving, I still remember the sting of picking up the Virginian-Pilot in my hometown of Norfolk to read that the Squires had basically given Erving away to the then-named New York Nets. They weren’t going to be able to re-sign him, the story said, so they got what they could. Which was very little.

The sting wasn’t so much the team traded away Erving. It was the realization that the good times were over, and not for just a year or two. It would be a long time, everyone understood, before the team would be this good again, if ever.

Fast forward to 1981 when Joe Gibbs took over the then-named Washington Redskins. From 0-5 to 8-8 to playing in Super Bowls, it was intoxicating to know that every year Joe Jackson Gibbs was at the helm, there was a chance the team could be one of the last two playing each year. Every Sunday was a party as we turned on the television, turned the sound down, and listed to Sonny, Sam and Frank on the radio usher us through these heady times.

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