“You have already grasped that Sisyphus is the absurd hero. He is, as much through his passions as through his torture. His scorn of the gods, his hatred of death, and his passion for life won him that unspeakable penalty in which the whole being is exerted toward accomplishing nothing. This is the price that must be paid for the passions of this earth.” -Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus
Last weekend, Bryce Harper’s legacy as a Washington National was further cemented, as the Nationals Dream Foundation dedicated Bryce Harper Field in Northwest DC, at the Takoma Community Center. The city was able to open the field with a donation from the Nationals Dream Foundation and Harper himself. The Nationals Dream Foundation plans to donate a field to the community every year, and so far they’ve made good on that promise, with Bryce Harper Field joining Ryan Zimmerman and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez Field.
The Nationals could potentially lose a franchise mainstay this coming offseason. A player who has brought magic to Nats fans, one whose arrival signified a turning point from mediocrity to excellence. A player who has had frustrating moments that make you scratch your head, but also moments of brilliance that make your jaw drop.
No, I’m not talking about Bryce Harper. I’m talking about Gio Gonzalez.
It feels like each starter should have at least two more wins on their record, and for some of them perhaps one less loss or two. The starting pitching has been absolutely phenomenal, though their win-loss records are not as pristine as they could be for one primary reason: the offense isn’t scoring enough runs for them.
The Nationals are currently experiencing a problem they haven’t really had in their years in Washington: Ryan Zimmerman might not be the team’s best player at his position. Sure, there was a time when a prospect named Anthony Rendon was lurking behind Zim on the organizational depth chart at 3rd base, but it was easy enough to relocate Rendon to second for a while. Now, however, they face a situation where backup 1st baseman / injury replacement / homer-robbing outfielder (!!) Matt Adams has really been the best hitter on the team.
My most prized possession in this world is a signed Ryan Zimmerman Nats jersey. I wore it to every home game I attended for a span of years until, two winters ago, I met Zim at an event and he signed it. Now, it holds a special place in my closet until I find the wall space required to hang it on the wall.
About two-and-a-half weeks ago, fellow TNB writer Nathaniel Brose thoroughly detailed Trea Turner’s increased selectiveness at the plate. Like many of us, she was waiting for Turner to start hitting. Trea has been getting on base all year — he has failed to reach base in only six games in 2018. Coming into play on the on April 11, he was slashing a paltry .195/.340/.268. He had just one extra-base hit in that span too, a home run.
It’s no secret that the Nationals have a pretty deadly starting pitching staff. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Tanner Roark, when they’re all on their game, are enough to upset any opposing hitters. And while the Nationals have gotten off to a shaky start, the starting pitching has put them on their backs, and they’re the main reason the Nationals are treading water.
The season started out great, didn’t it? The Nats won their first four games by a combined score of 29-13. Granted, those games came against the lowly Reds and a team that served as the Nats’ doormat the last few years, the Atlanta Braves (who are….probably better than that now). Then came a five-game losing streak, which turned into a 3-7 homestand, which turned into a 7-16 stretch.
Obviously, injuries and bad luck have played a part in their current record (15-16). It’s still very early, and the schedule could be shaping up nicely the rest of the way. Plus, some light has shone through early this week with wins against the Diamondbacks and Pirates.
Let’s dig a little deeper and have a look at the lineup, the starters and the relievers through the first month-plus, including some players who are standing out and some who are struggling. Obviously, sample sizes caveats are in play throughout.
As of Wednesday morning, the Washington Nationals are in fourth place and 4.5 games back of 1st place in the NL East, a division they were supposed to run away with. Though they have dug themselves something of a hole, all is not lost.