The midway point through a baseball season can signal arguments concerning one game in 162. Like squirrels know when to start storing nuts for winter, baseball people know when to start picking fights about the All Star Game’s mandated importance. With the feuds come trying baseball-less nights. But the absence of baseball comes with a built in distraction of extra, well, off-field stuff.
The All Star Game has come and gone and the Nationals kick off the second half of the season with an impressive six-game lead in the NL East. There have been a lot of ups and downs getting to that six game lead. Some players have clearly gone above and beyond expectations while others have frustratingly fallen short. Let’s figure out who those under/over performers are so far this Nationals season.
While not necessarily falling at the zenith of the season, this week marks the traditional midway point of the MLB regular season; the All-Star Break. It includes the time-honored tradition of the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, the T-Mobile Home Run Derby, all culminating in the 87th MLB All-Star Game presented by MasterCard. During this four-day-long excruciating hiatus without any meaningful baseball (but this one counts!) the 89.5% of MLB players who aren’t All-Stars take this time to go on vacation while the rest head to San Diego for this “showcase”.
Entering this season, it was seen as a fait accompli that the Nationals would call up Trea Turner to start at shortstop on May 31, when it would be assured that the team would have an extra year of contractual control on the young shortstop. Danny Espinosa “won” the job in the spring, but he was simply a placeholder, intended to keep the six spot warm until the rookie arrived.
It was revealed Friday afternoon that San Diego’s native son Stephen Strasburg will not pitch in the All-Star Game in his hometown as a cautionary step after coming off the disabled list earlier in July. Given that fact, Strasburg simply decided to put on his All-Star show a few days early in a 3-1 win over the New York Mets.
I cannot believe I am asking this question. How far have we come as a fan base where we can even consider missing a player like Jonathan Papelbon? I was at the exhibition game in Nats Park this year. You know the one, the first time Nats fans got to greet Papelbon after choking out the MVP in the dugout last year. It wasn’t all sunshine and roses. A good number of fans cheered to support our closer, and a healthy majority – to put it nicely – let him know how they felt.
Danny Espinosa recorded 15 RBIs against the Cincinnati Reds this week, landing him tied for third most in a four-game series. Espinosa’s feat has as much inspiration and charm as a picture of Joe Biden in aviators eating an ice cream cone. On its good weeks, baseball doesn’t just impart inspiration and charm on the field, but off it too.
After Wilson Ramos was selected to his first All-Star Game on Wednesday night, he took to instagram to thank God, his family, friends, and fans. The post is not only on par with his great-to-excellent instagram game and an indicator that he’s ready to accept a Grammy, but it’s also a reminder that the ASG can mean more than home field advantage.
Quiero darle las gracias primeramente a Dios por esta gran bendición y sueño hecho realidad… A mi abuelo, que desde el cielo se que está muy feliz por este logro alcanzado, también quiero darle las gracias a mi hermosa familia, amigos y fanáticos por todo el apoyo que me brindaron para estar presente en mi “1er Juego de Estrellas”! Dios los bendiga a todos, “El Buffalo”. I want to said thanks god for bless me and help me to make this dream true… To my grandfather who i know he is very happy for this moment And my carreer also to my beautiful family, friends, fans for all the support you give it to me to be in my first “All Star Game” God bless everybody “The Buffalo”
Ramos earned his spot after losing his grandfather, to whom he was close and whose death caused him to take a week long bereavement leave early in the season. Ramos’ career in the big leagues also includes being kidnapped from his home in Venezuela after the 2011 season. Over the years since, the catcher’s playing time has soared and dropped and soared again due to injuries, while his offensive production plummeted in 2015 after a number of seasons near average.
But this year has been different for Willy: Since his pre-season Lasik surgery, his .340/.396/.563 triple-slash line, 155 wRC+, and 2.7 fWAR lead all qualified catchers in the MLB. Accordingly, he’ll play on a stage with the best in baseball, where he belongs. Plus, it’s a chance to possibly hear Ramos drop inspirational quotes that might rival “Willy, you’ve got to do this.”
Michael Taylor’s sometimes promising but largely inconsistent time in the majors was halted on Monday, when the Washington Nationals optioned the outfielder to Triple-A Syracuse. While the move was needed to clear space for reliever Jonathan Papelbon as he returned from the 15-day DL, it does raise some interesting questions about Taylor’s role with the team.
On Tuesday, Major League Baseball will announce the All-Star rosters for this year’s game. A handful of Washington Nationals figure to be locks for selection, while a few others are in the running as well. Here is a quick look at those who will likely represent the Nationals in San Diego on July 12.