The Washington Nationals are not going to the playoffs. There will be no magical comeback a la 2011 Tampa Bay Rays or 2012 Oakland Athletics. There will be no back to back playoff appearances to take people’s minds off of their currently futile football team, there will be a final day of the season for the Nationals, and it is Sunday, September 29.
Now it has become time for the naysayers and revisionist historians to come out of the woodwork to criticize the Nationals. There has already been one, all too easy to write column by the Washington Post‘s John Feinstein, who claims the 2012 shutdown of Stephen Strasburg still haunts Washington today. In the column, Feinstein points to the signings of Dan Haren and Rafael Soriano as not a means of improving the team to win a World Series, but as a means of justification for shutting down Strasburg.
That confusing concept aside, expect more of these columns to pop up. It’s all too easy to look to the past and claim that this down year for the Nationals could have been seen coming. There will be many more columns written about what went wrong for Washington this season; some of them will be true, and some of them will be like this column. If you have read my posts, you know where I look to as a means of understanding this season: 2012 NLDS Game 5. That gut wrenching loss has been really tough for Washington to get past.
Washington went out this past winter and answered questions they believed adequately. Haren was considered a major upgrade over Edwin Jackson and Soriano provided a means of allowing Drew Storen to get more postseason appearances under his belt and gain more experience. Soriano has turned in 42 saves this season, albeit with a 3.15 ERA — a little high for a closer — but a solid season for a guy Washington is paying top dollar to finish games all around. Haren, as we know, has been a nightmare regardless of his post DL turnaround and will probably not be back. Now, with all this in mind, Washington’s problems were all around the diamond. They suffered from poor defense, an inconsistent offense, pitching injuries combined with an inconsistent bullpen.
All of these problems are fixable.
First off, there is no way that Washington has this much bad luck in 2014 with injuries. Wilson Ramos and Jayson Werth were both on the DL twice with the same injury, Bryce Harper will most likely have offseason knee surgery and will probably be back at 100 percent in 2014, and they will not suffer through too much time of Danny Espinosa and his refusal to have shoulder surgery. In fact, there is a chance Espinosa does not even make the roster in 2014 or is even on the roster for that matter. Their bench will be better because Mike Rizzo will go out and address that issue, bringing in some veterans to help out the younger players that were on the bench this season.
One thing we know about Rizzo and the Nationals is that they are always looking to improve. I mean, did anyone see Soriano closing games for Washington this season? Washington’s problems are fixable: We know this, as does Rizzo and the rest of Washington’s front office, and they will fix the problems; bank on it.