Jayson Werth is being inducted into the Ring of Honor on September 8th, when the Nationals will be holding Jayson Werth Night. Werth is a Nationals darling, and rightly so. From the very get-go, his signing was somewhat controversial as the Nationals offered him a 7-year, $126 million contract, making him one of the most highly paid baseball players in history. His first couple of years were crowded with low batting averages and injuries, but that quickly changed as he found his groove and made his mark with a walk-off home run in Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS.
All season long, we’ve been patient. We’ve been waiting for the Nationals to click and get everyone going on all cylinders. A few times, it looked like it was going to happen, but then they’d fall flat again. But I haven’t worried, and I’ve been waiting for them to get it going, to really hit their stride, that they’d come around eventually, they had time.
The All-Star Game has come and gone, Bryce Harper is the Home Run Derby champ, the tyranny of the American League is still ongoing, and the second half has officially begun. Will the Nationals reset, finally find themselves, and make that second-half push they’re going to need?
What should the Nats do with Bryce Harper? Coming into his walk year, he is posting some unusual numbers: .214/.365/.468. The OBP and SLG are good, if not a bit low for him, but that BA … wow. Is this the player teams are lining up to throw 10 years and $400m at? With the emergence of The Truth (aka La Verdad) Juan Soto, the off-season discussion is rather complicated. Before we throw Bryce out with the bathwater, how bad has he been, really? Is it just that he’s 2016 Ryan Zimmerman, waiting to blow up next year?
The MLB All-Star Game and its corresponding festivities have hit the nation’s capital, a fitting sign that DC is as prominent as it has ever been in the baseball landscape. The Washington Nationals are now one of the most stable and successful franchises in the Major Leagues, backed by a city that has only shown increased support since the club started trending upwards in 2011.
So, due to the fact that the current Nationals team is hiccupping their way to the midseason break and I’m in the All-Star spirit, I decided to put together an all-time Nationals All-Star team, showcasing the franchise’s best players and best individual seasons. My totally random criteria is below.
Figuring out what has gone wrong with the 2018 Nationals is a multi-pronged study in disappointment. Few of the stars are starring, injuries have riddled the lineup and rotation and a certain swagger seems to be missing. Whether or not that’s because a certain bearded guy and a certain well-seasoned manager are both not around anymore, I’m not sure. But I’ve talked to numerous other Nats fans over the last few weeks and each one has mentioned how the boys don’t really seem to be enjoying themselves. Now, obviously, it’s a lot easier to have fun when you’re winning than when you’re losing, but there’s a malaise settling over this team that we never saw from the Dusty Baker-led group of 2017. Hopefully, that changes after Thursday night’s thrilling comeback victory over the Marlins.
But let’s not fool ourselves. The Nats are still just 45-44 and in a tight spot in the playoff race. The margin for error is gone already, a situation the team never even came close to facing last season. I decided to look back at the 2017 squad to try and figure out what the hell has happened this year.
A players’ meeting the night before. Very quickly getting out to a daunting nine-run deficit. It seemed like the same old story, and the Nationals were going to lose badly yet again, and to a bad team, no less. The same old Nats, and it looked like things weren’t going to get better.
On Monday, in a meaningless display of athleticism that was witnessed by a select few, Bryce Harper took ground balls at first base, a position he does not, and has never, played.
Harper, in the short clip MASN showed before Monday’s game, looked fine playing the position one of my high school coaches once claimed could be manned by a trained monkey, but the fact that he’s taking ground balls there at all is exciting.