There are two more exhibition games to wrap up the preseason games in Summer Camp for the Washington Nationals, and both are against the Baltimore Orioles. Opening Day is just 3-days away! The game tonight is a road game in Camden Yards. Tomorrow’s game is at Nationals Park. That seems simple enough. But it never is. With the Orioles losing over 100-games again last year, and the Nats winning the World Series you can bet this time there will be many former Baltimore fans cheering on the Nats from their homes as allegiances have shifted. From 1966-1992, the Orioles “Magic” was a thing that became Orioles “Tragic” when Peter Angelos bought the team in 1993.
Many envisioned a harmonious baseball landscape in the Baltimore-Washington corridor with an American League team in Baltimore and just down the road a shiny new Washington team with a National League presence. It just was not meant to be. There were too many differences. D.C. immediately drew away much of the Orioles crowds, and it changed their demographics as the affluent D.C. fans spent money in Camden Yards.
“They didn’t like each other from jump street and that’s the truth,” said former Nationals executive Tony Tavares to The Athletic about Angelos and Ted Lerner, patriarchs of their respective ownership families. “As soon as the Lerners bought the team, I don’t think there were three days of a good relationship. They were going at it right from the get-go. The best way to look at it is an arranged marriage or a forced marriage. How often do those work out?”
Obviously Tavares was correct. The forced marriage was this MASN contract that joined the teams where the Orioles will always have majority control. Not only is there a decade’s long lawsuit still hanging over both teams, but Angelos controls things like Spring Training broadcasts and now the Summer Camp exhibition TV rights for the Nationals.
It was reported by Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post that MASN would not be broadcasting any of the Nats exhibition games which totaled three in all. With no official statement on any of this, news broke that MASN would cover Monday’s game with Baltimore’s crew, meaning no F.P. Santangelo and Bob Carpenter; however, the game tomorrow night is supposed to have F.P. and Carp together for another season. Remember, the Nats first two games of the regular season are ESPN and FOX games.
According to Dan Connolly from the Orioles beat, MASN has changed up all of their Orioles broadcasting crews for 2020. Yes, they have a rather large cast on their broadcasts. Out is Jim Palmer, Gary Thorne, Rick Dempsey and Tom Davis. Ben McDonald and Mike Bordick will be their main analysts and Scott Garceau & Kevin N. Brown are doing the play-by-play. For die-hard Nats fans, they probably remember Kevin N. Brown as the play-by-play for the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs doing games from 2011-2017 and covering so many of the Nats stars who were on the 2019 World Championship team.
Any time we think of Gary Thorne, it takes us back to his calling of a Mariners/Orioles game in September of 2012 when he went off on an unusual tangent to bash the Washington Nationals on the Stephen Strasburg shutdown. Thorne wasn’t doing this as a national baseball analyst, rather on MASN calling an Orioles game. Frankly, it was unprofessional.
— Talk Nats ⚾ (@TalkNats2) July 18, 2020
That tirade was not the only time Thorne would go out of his way to bash the Nationals. His comments would not age well. While there were no guarantees that the Washington Nationals would get back to the postseason again as Thorne probably hoped, within those next 7 years the Nats would get back to the postseason four more times and win the World Series with Strasburg becoming the second greatest postseason pitcher only behind Sandy Koufax, statistically speaking in terms of ERA. So put that in your pipe and smoke it Thorne!
With the MASN lawsuit still hanging over these two teams like a bitter pill, it is a constant reminder of how much animosity there is between the sides. Do you think if Santangelo or Carpenter ever would go off on the Orioles like Thorne did on the Nats, they would probably be fired. Right? It just goes to show you how much acrimony continues to flow from the O’s side. Plus, with the Nationals winning the World Series during a season that the Orioles lost over 100 games again, fans from the Baltimore side are converting to Nats fans by the thousands.
By mid-August, the schedulers have the Nats and Orioles facing-off for a total of six games, and that was enough of an edge to convince Fangraphs as well as Jim Bowden to project the Nationals to win the NL East in this 60-game season.
NL East Predictions
1. #Nationals (rotation and 6g vs Orioles).
2. #Braves (Wild Card)
3. #Phillies (Girardi makes a difference)
4. Mets (Best lineup since ‘06)
5. Marlins (most difficult schedule in MLB).
Note: Any of top 4 teams can make playoffs either as division champs or WC
— Jim Bowden (@JimBowdenGM) July 20, 2020
Of course projections mean little as you have to play the games. Health is of utmost importance to the success of teams in short-season. Finally as we sourced, Victor Robles arrived at Nationals Park on Saturday and should be playing in this game. The Nats finally have the team they projected back in February before the COVID shutdown, sort of, as the team is minus Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross who both opted-out. Neither player was replaced by a player outside of the organization. Both Brian Dozier and Matt Adams have become available via free agency in the last week. With all teams playing with the DH, does either player make sense for this team now?
The two biggest roster stories is who will be the starting 3rd baseman for the bulk of the season as well as the 5th starter in the rotation. For 3rd base, it is coming down to Carter Kieboom and Asdrubal Cabrera. According to manager Dave Martinez, both will see playing time at the hot corner. If Cabrera gets time at 3rd base, it really creates an opening for Matt Adams as additional left-handed bat as a DH for days when a lefty would matchup better than Howie Kendrick or when the 37-year-old needs a day-off.
There are now 40-players in big league camp after Fernando Abad was released, although Roenis Elias and Wander Suero are both still technically on the 10-day IL. Wil Crowe was assigned to the Alternate Training Site, and he returned to the team and his story can be found on this link as he told his 16-year-old interviewer, Eli Fishman, that both he and his wife had COVID, and he never made it to camp initially. If all reports are correct, Crowe would not be part of the two positive tests at in-take exams for COVID-19.
The 60-man player pool still has an open spot at 59 players when Elias and Suero are activated. There will be at least 10-cuts coming in the next few days leading up to Opening Day on Thursday when teams will need to submit their final rosters by noon EDT.
Updates to follow as we have additional information and line-ups. As of now, we are planning to photograph tonight’s game from a helicopter weather permitting. Our photographer, Sol Tucker, got an air permit. He was perched high above Nationals Park for the first game and got some spectacular images.
Washington Nationals at Baltimore Orioles
Stadium: Orioles Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland
1st Pitch: 6:05 pm EDT
Line-up subject to change (without notice):
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) July 20, 2020
Back home and ready to go. pic.twitter.com/fnlwUKoqhE
— Baltimore Orioles 😷 (@Orioles) July 20, 2020