Today is the day! The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the baseball players are no longer claiming to be in the best shapes of their lives. It’s Opening Day part two, which is kind of like when Parks and Rec released after The Office. We’re in the moments before starting a glass of lemonade, when you have the whole cup left to enjoy. There are 162 games to consume, and there are a few themes to follow that might enhance your appreciation of them.
Opening Day is here, and the Nationals will hand the ball to Stephen Strasburg to kick off the 2017 season. After a series of starts and stops in his career, Strasburg is hoping 2017 is the year it all comes together.
After a solid career as an Oriole, Matt Wieters made the (usually not so) quick drive 95 to DC and will be donning the curly W in 2017. Wieters has some big shoes to fill as he steps in to take the place of Wilson Ramos. While Wieters is a consistent ball player, he won’t be able to replicate Ramos’ success.
The Nationals announced today that Blake Treinen will start the season as the closer, ending months of speculation that began right as the Nationals were eliminated in the NLDS last October. Their failed runs at the elite free agent closers showed a commitment to shoring up what has been a weak spot in the franchise’s history, but they came up empty.
Of the three reported finalists for the spot — Treinen, Koda Glover, and Shawn Kelley — all had their flaws. Glover is a rookie with a career 5.09 MLB ERA. Kelley has had two Tommy John surgeries and may not pitch back-to-back days. Treinen has had struggles with lefties and command, though he made strides in both areas last year. But the fact that this decision was so close implies something else: These players are not far apart, talent-wise. And because of that, it doesn’t really matter who the closer is.
Have you ever wanted to write for a press-credentialed Nationals blog? Here’s your opportunity.
The Nats Blog is recruiting! We’re looking for writers who can commit to writing at least once a week during the 2017 season. We’re looking for skilled, thoughtful writers who can contribute original content. In-depth knowledge of baseball is a must, as is a dedication to writing.
The Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes wrote a nice piece yesterday about the difficult bullpen choice the Nationals will have to make as Spring Training winds down. She notes that the team already has five spots locked down for guys on MLB contracts (Joe Blanton, Oliver Perez, Shawn Kelley) or established contributors (Blake Treinen, Sammy Solis). That means if the Nats want a long man, either hotshot rookie Koda Glover or fireballing lefty Enny Romero will be left out — which would almost surely mean a new team for Romero, who is out of options. Janes also quotes Dusty Baker as saying the Nationals need a long man and Mike Rizzo as saying they don’t.
It’s an informative article, but it fails to answer its titular question: Do the Nats need a long man?
Ryan Zimmerman was one of the worst everyday players in baseball in 2016. As a proud owner of a vintage Zimmerman “Natinals”-era shirsey, it pains me to admit that. But it was true. Yet 2016 is over and the 2017 season is right around the corner. Is there any hope that Zimmerman can turn things around?
MASN’s Dan Kolko’s interviews in West Palm Beach are probably the performances that can be assigned the most meaning during Spring Training. March 20th’s broadcast was featured player interviews from Sammy Solis, Chris Heisey, and Joe Ross.
Trea Turner might have been the most exciting story coming out of the 2016 season. Sure, Max Scherzer won a Cy Young award, but he’s expected to be one of the best pitchers in baseball year in and year out. The Nationals did make the playoffs, but by coming up short in the NLDS yet again, it’s not something many fans are celebrating. Turner, though, made a huge impact on the field in only 73 games in 2016 and incited a wave of enthusiasm for his upcoming 2017 season. But MLB history is full of one-year wonders, so is Turner destined for greatness in 2017 or has the bar been set too high?
While most players go through slumps and hot streaks during the season, Daniel Murphy just plain hit in 2016. He hit for average. He hit for power. He set the table. He was clutch. Though he was the Nats’ backup plan at second base before the 2016 season, he ended up being in the conversation for the National League MVP at its conclusion.