Folks, it’s that time of year again. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and I’m getting a sunburn every time I step outside; summer is (almost) officially here. Of course with the beginning of summer comes the beginning of short-season baseball, the obscure and sometimes mysterious proving ground for draftees and international signings alike. Modest baseball fields from Missoula to West Palm Beach are firing up their lights for the first times all season, ready to watch young men take their first steps towards their major league dreams or fight to keep that dream a reality. Alright that’s enough of me trying to sound poetic about short-season baseball; the low minors are fun, they’re weird, and most importantly they give many fans a chance to see their team’s newly drafted players and international free agents for the very first time. For the Nationals, several high-upside prospects are set to make their much anticipated professional debuts after the Nats splurged on international prospects last summer. When you add in the incoming draft class, Nats fans will have plenty to watch for between Auburn, West Palm Beach, and Boca Chica this summer.
Tag Archives: Mike Rizzo
By all accounts, the Nationals had a good draft. In the part that really matters — Day 1, which is composed of the first two rounds — they did what has worked so well for them in the past: Pick players (usually pitchers) who fall for reasons other than ability. The selections of lefty Seth Romero and righty Wil Crowe meet those criteria to a T, as Romero fell due to character concerns and Crowe fell due to medical concerns after his return from Tommy John surgery. In the part that matters least — Day 3, which is rounds 11-40 — they did what every team does: Select enough players to fill out your minor league teams, with a few unsignable high schoolers and your executives’ grandkids thrown in.
There are two major takeaways from the Nationals this week: 1. They are very good at playing baseball on the western half of the United States. And 2. They are very good at keeping things interesting off the field.
Pain. As we reach the quarter point of the season, the Nationals have hit their first real rough patch, losing four of six to teams that are a combined 12 games under .500. The Pirates, who have the second-worst offense in MLB, scored 20 runs over the three-game series. The Braves were one of the most power deficient offenses in the league—especially so without Nat-killer extraordinaire Freddie Freeman. Atlanta hit six home runs in their two victories before Strasburg dealt them the Ace of Spades and shut them down over 7.2 IP. For all the good the Nationals have, there are some cracks in the foundation. For the starting pitching, the bullpen, lineup, and bench, we will look at the areas of concern, and how significant they are.
The first quarter of the 2017 season has been quite the ride; full of walk offs, bullpen atrocities, and battles for tiny resin humans. With the Washington Nationals 39 games into the season (roughly 24%), holding a record of 25-14, now is a good time to look at how the rest of the season should shape up.
The Nats avoided 2018 arbitration with Bryce Harper by settling his 2018 contract early. The timing seems weird and when asked, Mike Rizzo offered up “cost certainty” as an explanation. Knowing now what is on the books for 2018 will reduce the variables Rizzo will need to consider as he looks into trades to upgrade the roster.
The chance to see adorable letters written by small baseball fans in hopes of persuading their favorite teams’ general managers to do their bidding is one of the best things about the advent of social media. (Though, it was not as cute when a kid asked the Giants to sign Mark Melancon. Never forget.) It’s a modern day Dear Abigail, but with more desperation.
Saturday afternoon, little Natalie spoke for all Nats fans when her mom posted a picture of a letter she sent to Nationals GM Mike Rizzo, asking him to pull out all the stops to sign Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth. She even slipped him a 20 (plus one) to make it happen.
Like good Washington sports fans, Nationals faithful are panicking. This week, like most weeks this season, the hot takes, angry tweets, and general unrest centers around the much-maligned bullpen. But take heart, folks! I’m here to tell you that the bullpen is not actually the Nationals biggest hindrance in making a playoff, but in fact, there’s something else to lose sleep over: Centerfield!