When people are settling down from the Christmas festivities, the Washington Nationals are accepting the lump of cole they received in their stocking this year. Trust me, this isn’t the first time for them.
If you were to look back on the past 4 seasons for the Nationals, the records don’t really help my case as to why I think this team has a lot of work to do. They have won the N.L. East crown 2 out of the past 4 seasons (2012 and 2014) and in those seasons, they won an impressive 98 wins in 2012 and 96 in 2014. In 2013 and 2015, they finished just above .500 but finished second in the division and failed to make the playoffs. But when the Nats went into the 2012 and 2014 playoffs as the favorites to win the Pennant, they were eliminated in the first round both years.
The word “favorites” really represent the Washington Nationals well the past few years. They haven’t just been favorites going into the playoffs, but before the season starts as well. Before the 2015 season began, the Nationals signed all-star pitcher, Max Scherzer, to a seven year mega deal worth 210 million dollars. With that acquisition alone, the Nationals had one of the scariest pitching rotations (on paper) people have seen in awhile. With the five man rotation being Scherzer, Jordan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, and Doug Fister, you wouldn’t be looked at as stupid if you thought this team was going make a push to the title.
The offense can’t be left alone either. People were ready to see former Rookie of Year, Bryce Harper, stay healthy and have a stand out year. To be honest, Harper was the only good thing that happened for the Nationals in 2015. His .330 batting average, 42 home runs, and 99 RBI’s got him a Silver Slugger award and the elusive MVP trophy for the National League.
…but that’s about it if you’re looking at positives for the Nationals.
Throughout the 2015 season, there wasn’t really anyone else in the lineup to help Harper. Whether it was Ryan Zimmerman’s hamstring snapping every time he tried to beat out a ground ball and then being out for 2 months, or Ian Desmond (if he gets resigned) playing the entire season but finishing with a mediocre .233 batting average, this team has to make some changes. Changes that will not give Harper the responsibility to carry the line-up night in and night out.
Let’s go back to the rotation. At first, Scherzer was living up to the hype. After joining an elite club by throwing 2 no hitters last season, fans knew that it was worth spending big bucks for this guy. Scherzer’s 10-7 record with a 2.11 ERA in the first half of the season earned him a trip to the All Star game. But when the All Star festivities began to simmer down, Scherzer’s ERA began to rise up. While going 0-3 with an ERA of 6.43, the team began to head south in the division because no one else in the rotation was showing hope to carry the load. Both Jordan Zimmerman and Gio Gonzalez’s subpar second half performances didn’t help the cause. Also, having Strasburg and Fister on the DL throughout May and June wasn’t what National fans were expecting.
Come on, when you have mid-season acquisition, Jonathan Papelbon, going after your only offensive weapon and arguable the face of the franchise in Bryce Harper, you know you have hit rock bottom.
So here we are in late December, the Nationals have a new skipper in Dusty Baker, and they just agreed to terms with second basemen, Daniel Murphy, who was a playoff hero last season for the New York Mets. But don’t think he’s the answer to all of Washington’s problems. He is a player that can help out Harper drive in some runs, but they need to get another power bat. Maybe free agent outfielder, Yoenis Céspedes? He has shown great success against N.L. East teams last season with a batting average around .300 against them. Him and Harper would be a great duo to have in the lineup, and could give pitchers nightmares. Let’s face it folks, if Harper is having a bad day at the plate, chances are that the Nationals will probably lose that game. Which is said because this team has so much potential but in the end, they will just break all of their fans hearts…again.
Also, with having Jordan Zimmerman agreeing to terms with the Detroit Tigers, Scherzer has a little bit more responsibility in carrying this rotation. People can be thinking that Strasburg will have a bounce back year but looking at his history and having Tommy John surgery on his résumé, I don’t know if he will be the lights out prospect he once was. With Fister, he is a ground ball pitcher. He doesn’t have the stuff to blow batters away and if they resign Ian Desmond, him averaging over 20 errors the past 3 seasons won’t help Fister’s cause.
The Nationals have some work to do, to say the least. I have to admit, I was one of many that hopped right on the Nationals bandwagon prior to the 2015 season. But as usual, they made not just me, but many people, look stupid. With just under 100 days left until Opening Day is here, the Nationals better figure it out because if not, they may be finding themselves much lower than just a second place finish.