“The Washington Nationals have a window to win, and it’s right now”. Raise your hand if you’ve heard that before.
Baseball talking heads have been throwing this narrative around a lot this past off-season, and the chatter about it has only revved up as we’ve approached the start of the 2017 season. Even the largest newspaper in Washington, D.C. wrote about this.
The “window to win” conversation generally goes as follows: Bryce Harper is a free agent after 2018… You can’t win without him….! You have to figure out how to win RIGHT NOW because if he leaves after signing what is likely going to be the biggest contract in baseball history, the window will be closed. CLOSED….! So figure it out, Nationals….!
Funny thing is, the same narrative was being thrown around prior to the 2015 season, only the flavor of the conversation was a little different. The Nationals have to win now! The window is closing, because after this year, they lose Ian Desmond, Denard Span, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Matt Thornton, and possibly Casey Janssen and Nate McLouth if their options aren’t picked up. The Nationals have got to figure it out this year, or that’s it! The Nats went on to win their 3rd NL East title in 5 years the year after Desi, DSpan, JZimm, and Fister all left for other clubhouses.
The window didn’t shut after the 2015 season, so why should we believe it will close on us after 2018?
Look, I’m not minimizing what Harper brings to the table. He’s a great player, with the potential to be phenomenal on a level that isn’t often seen. One player doesn’t win you a ring, though. Just ask the LA Angels, who haven’t managed to do squat but one ALDS appearance with Mike Trout, who has finished either 1st or 2nd in MVP voting every year since 2012, and Trout is unquestionably the best player in baseball since Barry Bonds.
Harper is an important piece of this team, but he is just one piece of a talented group of players, many of whom will still be around in 2019. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Tanner Roark, and Joe Ross will still be in the rotation, and the Nationals will have likely added prospect Erick Fedde. Rising star Koda Glover will be a strong reliever coming out of the bullpen. Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon will still be the left side of our infield, and Ryan Zimmerman will still be in our clubhouse, regardless of if he’s regularly standing at 1st base or not. Say what you will about Zimmerman’s struggles at the plate, his veteran presence and quiet leadership are important to the team.
Mike Rizzo could still re-sign Daniel Murphy to play 2nd base, or we could see prospect Wilmer Difo take his place. Young Pedro Severino will probably be behind the plate. Newly acquired Adam Eaton will still be roaming the Nationals outfield, and top prospect Victor Robles will likely be joining him. Even without Harper as the third outfielder, I’d say that’s a pretty strong team that on paper is a contender. Scherzer is a two-time Cy Young winner, and Strasburg has Cy Young stuff. Roark is amazing and highly undervalued by the baseball world. Trea Turner has future MVP written all over him. Fedde and Robles are both top prospects. These guys are nothing to sneeze at.
Would it be fabulous for Harper to be wearing a curly W in 2019? Of course. Are we slamming into a closed window without him? No. Let’s not forget that the Nationals didn’t make the post-season the year Harper won his MVP title in 2015. Harper had a down-year in 2016, and the Nats had a 95-win season and won the NL East crown and fought hard in their NLDS series against the Dodgers.
FP Santangelo brought up the controversial notion of the “window to win” at this year’s Hot Stove event, and the Nationals General Manager, Mike Rizzo, indicated that he thinks that’s total horse manure. Rizzo said he operates with a 1, 3, and 5-year plan, so he’s always looking to the future while gathering the ingredients for a winning product right now. His dealings over his tenure as the Nationals GM have proven that this is how he thinks, and I believe that he continues to have the team set-up to contend for a title today and tomorrow.
The “window to win” conversation can really only be directed at specific pieces of this team, not at the team as a whole. Jayson Werth wants a title with the Nationals – he says that if he doesn’t get one, he can’t consider his time with the team to be successful. Entering the last year of his current contract, 2017 is his personal window to win. If Harper wants a title with the Nationals, his personal window to win is potentially closing. If Murphy chooses to move on after his contract ends in 2018, his personal window to win with the Nationals is closing. Personal windows to win do not equal team windows, and fans should stop buying into that negative hype.
So the next time you hear someone yell about the “window to win” for the Nationals is closing, throw your BS flag at them and tell them they’re full of malarkey. Because this team is built to contend today, next year, and the year after that. This season looks bright, but the future looks bright as well. Let’s shatter all this window babble and grab ourselves a ring. I want to blow off work for a freaking parade, and I know you do also.