“They’re as good as their numbers suggest,” Tim Kurkjian of ESPN recently said about the Chicago Cubs, and their record-setting pace for wins in a season.
There is no arguing that this morning the Chicago Cubs are the best team in baseball, and the debate would be to who is the second best team between the Washington Nationals and Texas Rangers who have identical 39-24 records. The edge should be given to the Nationals as they got beat 4 times at the hands of the best team in the Majors and the Rangers have not had to face the Chicago Cubs yet, although they will on July 15th in a 3 game inter-league series.
There is much irony in mentioning the Texas Rangers who were once the Washington Senators and wore the ‘Curly W’ while owned by Bob Short. ‘Those’ Washington Senators defected after the 1971 season in Washington, D.C. For more irony, the Rangers best positional player is ex-Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond. Desi leads the Rangers in positional WAR, RBIs, Slugging, and tied for the team lead in OPS.
There should be no argument in saying the two best teams in the National League will face off tonight in Washington D.C. for a 3 game series.
Dusty Baker is not the same manager he was in Chicago on May 5, 2016, when he arrived in Wrigley Field with just 27 games of Nats history behind him in a small sample size. Joe Maddon used what he called ‘trends’ in managing against the Nationals and swept the Nats in 4 games. The Nats held leads in three of the four games, and saw games squandered by lack of execution. Who could forget watching Bryce Harper walked 6 times in one game to go along with one hit-by-pitch, and Ryan Zimmerman seemingly picked on by Maddon to produce or perish as Zim was a combined 2-19 in the series and left over a dozen runners on base.
This time, it needs to be Dusty Baker turning the tables on Joe Maddon in a game of chess. Both managers know how baseball evens things out. Ryan Zimmerman this time around will not be batting directly after Bryce Harper. Dusty Baker will not have a single position player starting tonight hitting under .200 like he had on May 5th when he had his lead-off man at .184 in Michael Taylor and Danny Espinosa at .185 and a bench that was in a combined batting slump.
Things are different today. Joe Maddon might do all of the talking about trend analysis and Respect90, but Dusty Baker has been to the same number of World Series as Joe Maddon and Dusty is not backing down from anything. The best team in the regular season does not guarantee anything come October except homefield advantage. This 3 game series that starts tonight might feel important, and it is, and both teams no matter what happens will still be guaranteed to be in 1st place in their respective divisions at the conclusion of Wednesday evening’s game.
Nats/Cubs series Mon. to Wed. Nationals won't face Jake Arrieta.
Here's the matchups:
— TALK NATS Blog (@TalkNats2) June 12, 2016