The landscape of the top teams just changed in the National League, and for today, the Washington Nationals now own the best record in the Wild Card race, the second best record in the NL East, and now have the third best record of all teams in the National League. On the morning of May 24th, the Nationals were 12-games under .500, and the Philadelphia Phillies were in first place. Exactly six weeks later, the Nationals are the hottest team in Major League Baseball with a 26-10 record and a .722 winning percentage since May 24th, and the Nationals have leapfrogged the Phillies in the standings.
Of course we have to keep the proper perspective that the season did not end today, and there is about 3 months remaining in the regular season. There is much work ahead and still have a reason for some cautious optimism. The Nationals first goal is to win the NL East crown while recognizing a Wild Card berth as a fallback position to reach the postseason. With 76 games remaining, the Nationals have a chance to continue to chip away at the Braves six-game lead in the NL East.
Hold up wait a minute, y'all thought the Nats were finished? pic.twitter.com/zlg3ZRviOx
— MLB (@MLB) July 4, 2019
What makes this so satisfying for fans of the Washington Nationals is that there were some in the media that wanted to wave the white flag on the team to surrender on May 23rd. While this finish to the All-Star break has been a historic turnaround, it was the Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga who called it a “lost season” on May 23rd.
A passage from Barry Svrluga’s May 23rd obituary on the Nats’ 2019 season: “The season is lost now, even before Memorial Day, and no veteran manager or fireballing reliever is going to alter that sorry state. The Washington Nationals arrived in New York in position to get the Mets’ manager fired. Instead, they depart Flushing with four odious performances that lead to the conclusion that their own manager is the one who should be removed — and with larger questions afoot. Dave Martinez’s time as an effective leader of the Nats is over, if it ever existed.”
It is easy to give up. It is easier to quit than fight for some. You could find many reasons to be pessimistic. Nobody is going to tell you that the Nationals season was great in mid-May.
“When we were 19-31, it was eye-opening,”catcher Kurt Suzuki said. “With the new players, we knew it was going to take some time for us to click as a group.”
It still is not perfect, and there could be some additional tweaks to the roster. The bullpen continues to be the weak point in the chain with their combined 6.20 ERA. Not all of the off-season moves worked, and general manager Mike Rizzo took a lot of heat for it and finally released the inconsistent Trevor Rosenthal from the team. While Brian Dozier was looking like a bust, Rizzo did not give up on him, and in the month of June, Dozier had an .896 OPS. He is now a key contributor such as Wednesday when he hit the go-ahead two-run home run that ended up the game winning RBI. We put together a list of players the Nationals should consider trading for. There are probably some names on the list that are flying under the radar.
With all of the positivity surrounding the team, leave it the media to find some polarizing topic about the Washington Nationals like Anthony Rendon‘s future with the team. Can’t we just enjoy his first All-Star selection and MVP caliber season? This does not have to be Harper-gate II of will he or won’t he. Nothing you or I say or do will change anything with the negotiations. If our sourced information is close to accurate, Mike Rizzo put together a package worth approximately $180 million. Where that goes from here is it takes two to tango as Mike Rizzo has said. For the next four months, Rendon is a member of the Washington Nationals. Enjoy that.
Enjoy what you have — not what you don’t have. This team still has Justin Miller, Kyle Barraclough, and Koda Glover on the injured list. Rizzo almost certainly will make at least one deal if not more to bolster this 2019 roster.
“When we see opportunities we usually jump on them and take them,” Rizzo said. “We’re aggressive by nature. I don’t think it changes us a whole lot.”
Rizzo has also said he likes his current roster. There is a big difference between “like” and “love” which can lead you to believe that he will be looking to make deals. The Braves and Phillies will be looking to make deals too. The best thing for the Nationals is to control what they can control.
“I think we got that feeling now [of], ‘How are we going to win this game? We’re going to win this game here,’” catcher Kurt Suzuki said. “It’s always about winning, and we feel it. You’ve got to try to keep that feeling as long as you can.”
It’s always about winning.