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Jul
26

This Was Like Being Given A Mountain Of Hokie History

It is no secret that the internet can be one of the biggest, most toxic bastions of negativity, rudeness and know-it-all-ism mankind has ever created. Its lack of civility, kindness and grace has driven me to the point that I wonder every morning why I even bother logging in to social media.

But occasionally amidst this giant overgrown colossus of thorns, a rose emerges. Such was the case 12 years ago when a total stranger on Twitter mentioned her children’s enjoyment of bobbleheads. She was in my town and I had a few extra ones of the original Skreech, as well as some other Nationals gear.

We met up at a local coffee shop. I gave her the merchandise. She tweeted to all her friends I wasn’t a stalker (which we laugh about to this day). We’ve been great friends ever since.

Then in 2019, with everybody in this region trying to get tickets to the Nats’ first appearance in the World Series, she texted me she has two extra. My wife and I were there that night the World Series finally returned to DC, and I have a bunch of wonderful memories from that I’ll enjoy the rest of my days.

All because of that bloody thing called Twitter.

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Jul
25

It’s Time for The Washington Nationals to Start Over

It’s never easy to admit that it’s time to hit the reset button.

But the time has come for the Nationals to face reality.

Aside from a spectacular six-month stretch in 2019, Washington has been staring mediocrity in the face for the last four seasons. They’re 45-53 this year, eight games behind the Mets for the division lead, and were just swept by the Orioles – the worst team record-wise in the American League.

An eight-game deficit isn’t impossible to overcome, but it’s still a large hill to climb. Let’s face it; the Nationals were just swept by the Orioles. The Mets look like a clearly better team, and the Phillies also seem to be in a better place than Washington.

Rizzo has stated that he’s open to selling this year, but his track record indicates otherwise. Rizzo likes to fight until there’s nothing left to fight for.

In 2021, considering how dominant the NL West has been, there is no Wild Card to fight for. Washington’s only path to the playoffs is by overcoming the aforementioned eight-game deficit in the NL East.

That’s unlikely enough on its own, but it also probably wouldn’t net the Nationals more than a participation trophy. They were dominated by the NL West trio recently, and if they were lucky enough to face the Brewers, they’d be greeted by arguably the best starting rotation in baseball.

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Jul
16

Buy or Sell: The Unanswerable Question For Washington

At 42-47, you probably wouldn’t think we’d be having a conversation about the Nationals being in the playoff hunt, since for much of this season, they haven’t looked like a particularly good team.

Yet Washington is only six games behind the Mets for the NL East lead, and Ronald Jr.’s ACL injury effectively removes the Braves from the discussion – Thursday night's acquisition of Joc Pederson notwithstanding.

The margin for error is still relatively thin, especially considering that a Wild Card bid seems almost completely out of reach – the Nats are nine games behind the Padres for the No. 5 seed.

Still, this team won the World Series two short years ago, their upside increases tremendously with Stephen Strasburg and Kyle Schwarber, plus Mike Rizzo rarely sells and almost always buys at the Trade Deadline.

Suffice it to say, the Nationals will return from the All-Star break with their eyes on a playoff chase. So, what does that mean for them in the near future?

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Jul
12

Washington Nationals Stars Will Be On Display in Colorado

The Washington Nationals didn’t have a spectacular first half of their season, but a few of their players were rewarded individually, as Juan Soto will compete in the Home Run Derby tonight, and Soto, Trea Turner and Max Scherzer will each participate in the All-Star game tomorrow night.

Home Run Derby

Soto was one of the final players to accept an invite to the derby, which makes sense, considering he’d only hit 10 home runs at the time of the announcement.

There might be a reason why others with similar qualifications decided to not participate, though – and not just the theory that swinging for the fences can negatively impact a hitter’s swing.

Soto will be the No. 8 seed in the tournament-style event. His first opponent will be Japanese two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani, who enters the break with a league-high 33 home runs.

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Jul
11

Brady House Finds New Home In Nationals Organization

With the No. 11 pick in the MLB First-Year Player Draft, the Washington Nationals selected shortstop Brady House from Winder-Barrow High School in Georgia.

House, a University of Tennessee commit, doesn’t fit the description of the typical Mike Rizzo first-round pick – a right-handed college pitcher who throws hard and has tons of upside. Perhaps they made an active effort to steer away from a negative trend with those types of prospects, but regardless, House is an intriguing talent.

In their early years, the Nationals had a lot of picks near the top of the draft, which makes their track record somewhat deceiving. They selected Stephen Strasburg (2009) and Bryce Harper (2010) with No. 1 overall picks, followed by Anthony Rendon at No. 6 ten years ago. Since then, they’ve been unable to draft star players.

Here’s a look at Washington’s first-round selections since Rendon:

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Jul
05

Decision Day Is Rapidly Approaching For DC Teams

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.

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Jul
03

Injuries Highlight Nationals’ Depth, Roster Construction

Even with as well as June went for the Nationals, adversity was bound to strike them at some point.

It now has. The surprising aspect, however, is how quickly it came.

In addition to a quartet of high-leverage relief pitchers who are already on the Injured List, Trea Turner (finger) and Kyle Schwarber (hamstring) are currently day-to-day, and Jordy Mercer (quadriceps) will be sidelined for a longer period. Although injuries of such magnitude are difficult to withstand, they also raise questions about roster construction – specifically, whether the Nats have the right types of players on their team.

For most of this season, Washington has been carrying 14 pitchers (nine relievers) and 12 position players (four bench bats). That’s one more pitcher and one fewer hitter than most teams keep at a given time.

Although that probably seems negligible, it’s compounded by some other variables. For example, the Nationals also have two players (Josh Bell and Ryan Zimmerman) who can only play one position (first base), and obviously catchers are catchers. That leaves two bench players (Mercer and the fourth outfielder – a rotation of Andrew Stevenson, Yadiel Hernandez and Gerardo Parra) who can provide some degree of versatility, although Josh Harrison can also play in the outfield if needed.

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Jun
29

Schwarber, Starting Staff, And The Status Of The System

Not long ago, the Nationals’ offense was starving for production from anyone other than Trea Turner and Juan Soto. The pro-Max Scherzer trade crowd was also gaining some legitimacy, and even the minor league system was barely treading water – providing no contingency plans for big league ballplayers that seemed to keep getting injured.

The season was slowly slipping away from them.

But all of a sudden, seemingly out of nowhere, Washington starting winning games left and right – 12 of their last 15, to be precise. In a lot of ways, it makes no sense, but in others, it’s exactly like it always goes: predictably unpredictable.

Clearly, the Nationals have transformed themselves into a different team recently. Is it sustainable, though?

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Jun
23

Max Scherzer Gives Joe Girardi The Treatment He Deserves

Tuesday night was a fun sports night.

Besides the Orioles blowing another decent pitching performance from Jorge Lopez, there was a lot going on that caught my attention, and all of these topics relate in some way to Washington D.C. sports teams: 

Girardi Makes A Mockery of Baseball, Gets Mocked by Scherzer

At first, all I saw was Nationals star Max Scherzer mocking the hell out of Phillies manager Joe Girardi, which would amuse me in any situation as it is.

But once I found it was after Girardi had Scherzer checked three times for banned sticky substances on the pitching mound, it was even better.

Scherzer gave Girardi the treatment he deserved. If somebody accused me of cheating the game on three separate occasions, then I’d give them the death stare walking back to the mound as well. And for Girardi to take offense to it shows what kind of coward he is. If you’re going to wrongfully accuse someone three separate times of cheating, own it and sit down when you’re wrong.

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Jun
21

Have the Nationals Rediscovered the Magic?

After we’ve all experienced a global pandemic, this year is undeniably much different than 2019. However, things on the baseball diamond are beginning to look much like they did two years ago for the Washington Nationals.

Following a series-opening loss to the San Francisco Giants on June 11, the Nationals found themselves sitting nine games below .500. Stephen Strasburg was on the IL, Max Scherzer and Daniel Hudson had suffered injuries and were also heading to the IL, and the Nationals appeared to have a very difficult road ahead of them.

Miraculously, Washington won eight of its next 10 games, its starting rotation looked like one of the best in the league, and they began to add reinforcements to their roster.

Much like 2019, it’s difficult to understand exactly what sparked this turnaround, but with players suddenly firing on all cylinders, the future looks much brighter than it did less than two weeks ago.

The Pitchers Are Performing

Erick Fedde hasn’t allowed a run since Scherzer went down. In fact, dating back to mid-May, Fedde has thrown 20 consecutive scoreless innings. He’s lowered his ERA to 3.33, and it’s as low as 2.54 if you exclude his first start of the season.

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Jun
15

The Time is Now for Cade Cavalli, Nationals

There might not be a hotter prospect in professional baseball right now than right-handed pitcher Cade Cavalli, and it comes at a very opportune moment for himself and the Washington Nationals.

As everyone knows by now, the 22-year-old righty was Washington’s first round selection in the 2020 MLB Draft, and through seven starts in High-A Wilmington this year, he’s been nothing short of filthy.

Saturday, his dominance was on full display, as he tossed seven no-hit innings and struck out a whopping 15 batters. That outing dropped his ERA to 1.77 and his hits allowed per nine innings to just over five, while his strikeouts per nine innings rose to just below 16. For context, the highest season-season rate of Max Scherzer’s big league career is only 12.7.

Just over a week ago, in their most recent round of updates, Cavalli was upgraded to Baseball America’s No. 33 overall prospect – a leap of 49 spots since their preseason rankings. Following his most masterful performance yet on Saturday, he was named to MLB Pipeline’s Prospect Team of the Week and – more importantly – was promoted to Double-A Harrisburg.

While his promotion was certainly deserved based on his performance, it was also necessary for the immediate well being of the Nationals.

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