There are plenty of gut punches when times are good, and when times are bad, it’s insult to injury. When you heard that your best pitching prospect, Cade Cavalli, needed “Tommy John” surgery to his damaged UCL in his pitching arm, that injury pushed some over the edge. It also does not help that the Washington Nationals are 5-13 in this early 2023 season with an offense that has less horsepower than mom’s minivan. Rebuilds aren’t for everybody, and especially the faint of heart who can’t stomach the process.
Yes, it is frustrating to lose winnable games. No doubt about it. Add to that any exasperation you might feel on the daily managerial decisions if you do the part-time armchair manager thing. But then remember, this team wasn’t going to compete for the NL East pennant this year, and every analyst had the Nats finishing in last place in the NL East.
During general manager Mike Rizzo’s annual Hot Stove event, he was very open about the current team and what he saw. He talked about the current MLB roster and how the rebuild was going along with the good news on the state of the farm system. With less than three weeks into the minor league schedule, the news is fairly good overall. Maybe you are more concerned about Elijah Green‘s K% or Robert Hassell III’s slow start on his rehab assignment, but the rest of the top prospects are doing good out of the gates. And maybe some are better than expected like Sammy Infante, Jake Bennett, and Jackson Rutledge.
“I’m optimistic. I’m excited about this time in our developmental curve with the organization. When you guys do get out there on the [Minor League side of camp], those prospects — it’s an exciting time. It’s the best group of upside players we’ve ever had here. I’ve been here since ‘day one’, and I’ve never seen it like this before.”
“You filter in — there’s 22, 23 and 24 year-olds [on the MLB roster], I think you see what we’re trying to accomplish here. That’s the first rung on the ladder to get back to a championship.”— Mike Rizzo said at the start to the season
In January, Rizzo used the word ‘lush’ to describe his farm system, and said it was the best prospect group the team has ‘ever’ had.
“This is the most lush and successful prospect list that we’ve ever had. It’s the most talented players we’ve ever had in the farm system at one time.”— Rizzo said at the Hot Stove event
If the core on the MLB roster is MacKenzie Gore, CJ Abrams, Keibert Ruiz, Luis Garcia, and Josiah Gray, then you certainly have a mixed bag of results there. Gore up, Abrams down, Ruiz neutral, Garcia neutral, and Gray up. But it’s early, and we need time to really see what we have. You have the luxury of doing that in a rebuild.
Watch this Rizzo interview:
Rizzo, for the first time that we’ve heard, went back to the future to compare this rebuild to mirroring the period of 2009-2011. He talked about having Ryan Zimmerman, Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, and Bryce Harper through the draft and adding Gio Gonzalez through a trade. He spoke about having a strategically low payroll so they could add payroll in the future — but did not name Jayson Werth and Max Scherzer specifically. But that is what Rizzo sees in the future. That is all part of that developmental curve.
Watch this Rizzo interview:
Nats’ manager Dave Martinez has his thoughts too.
“We got a lot of guys that we brought in that we feel can help our young players. And we got a lot of young players that I think are ready to step-up to be leaders.”— Martinez said before the season
But is Martinez really doing enough from his perch in the dugout and back in his office in the pre-game to win every game they can?
“I’ve sent that message at the end of the season, and I want them to understand that, ‘Hey, losing 100 games is not acceptable.’ It’s not. We’re going to get better. So I want them to come to Spring Training knowing we’re going to compete and compete to win every day.”— Davey Martinez said before the season
Best laid plans of mice and men. Yes, this team wasn’t expected to be good, but they have to be better than 5-13 at this point in the season. The “Fire Davey” crowd is getting ignited again. Who knows what happens going forward. He has to get the most out of what he has. That goes for any manager. You play who you have.
And for those trying to work themselves up over the Lerner ownership situation, they spent money in the offseason. Maybe they didn’t get who you wanted, but again, this is a rebuild. This isn’t much different than the plan back in 2010. What will count is what happens moving forward with the young core, the prospects, the draft, and into the offseason.
“We are all in and we feel great about it. We feel Mike’s plan for this team has got it covered.”— Mark Lerner to Dan Kolko on MASN
Take it a day at a time and try to find your level of joy in this current team and in the organization, and if you can see the forest for the trees, you should be happy with the saplings.