Mensch Tracht Und Gad Lacht: The 2023 Nationals Edition

Part 1: The Max Scherzer trade, and the 2021 trading deadline

Some background, I don’t speak Yiddish, but one of the joys of being unapologetically Jewish and respectful of the older generation is a proximity to Yiddish culture from pre-World War II Europe. The Yiddish language is full of alliterative witticisms and understated humor that sometimes cannot be directly translated, sometimes can be, but always meaning so much more than the words themselves. I have numerous favorites, as do a few of you, I imagine, and might not realize the root of the word you are using goes back to Yiddish.

One of those guides my Happy Warrior engagement of life (and love of Nats) and the many stresses I encounter every day, joys and sorrows as well. “Mensch Tracht und Gad Lacht – Man Plans and G-d Laughs.” It is an expression that is cautionary and yet life affirming at the same time.

While I’ve been watching the 2023 Nats edition, I have had that idea running through my head time and again. So even though it is still early September, and there are over twenty games left on the major league schedule and more in the minors, I had a few minutes to inaugurate this year’s edition, albeit early, perhaps to salve your last place angst as it does mine. There is a better way than being a dyspeptic Frank Fleming, hilarious though Mets Schadenfeude is, or “Fabissen” which is another Yiddish word that means “toxically embittered” like Brit Ghiroli. Because sometimes you just have to realize, Mensch tracht und Gad lacht.

Part 1: The Max Scherzer trade, and the 2021 trading deadline

It was abrupt, it was seismic, but the Nationals went from a first place team on the back of Kyle Schwarbombs to a breathtaking fire sale in 2021 with the labels, “(almost) Everything Must Go.” By the way, general manager Mike Rizzo just said on the radio that is when the rebuild began in July 2021. But here we are at the end of 2023, and the Nationals and their road ahead are defined, in part, by the 2021 trading deadline. Sacred cows like Max Scherzer were jettisoned, but when the Nationals included Trea Turner, it felt as traumatic as baseball fandom can feel* (*since the days of the Expos, of course, which will always be unmatched for their torment).

Well, here we are two years later. Keibert Ruiz looks like the rising star we had hoped for, and controllable. Josiah Gray is iffy but a current rotation fixture who is smart enough and young enough to respond to the right pitching coach and hold down a long-term starting job. His fate is uncertain, but he’s still ours and apparently healthy (which is more than was destined for Strasburg). The Dodgers, on the other hand, neither won it all with Scherzer and Turner or with two years of Turner. Scherzer has turned into a far more expensive version of the peripatetic David Cone, an agent of crushing Mets frustration in 2022 and this year, and Trea has had his downs and ups from the level of superstardom of his production with the Dodgers – all the while holding down a contract that will run out two years AFTER that of Bryce Harper.

Jon Lester was of little use going forward, and went to the Cardinals in a trade for a seeming AAAA backup who became the current starting right fielder Lane Thomas, arguably the 2023 team’s best player. More on that in a later chapter. Daniel Hudson went to the Padres in a trade that netted the rising, unproven, and still inconsistent Mason Thompson, who has graduated to the majors and is still developing as a late inning option. Hudson’s resurgence in the bullpen gave way to his injuries that are now part of the Dodgers payroll. Brad Hand’s fizzle brought Riley Adams from Toronto. Adams may not even be in DC next year, but he is a major leaguer who has steadily established a place and has delivered big hits and a decent run as a backup catcher. An injured Kyle Schwarber was packed off to Boston for “(Where’s) Aldo” Ramirez, who is in extended convalescence. Yan Gomes and Josh Harrison were sent to Oakland for two minor league pitchers now making it back from arm injuries, and Drew Millas – who is finally seeing major league time and is a good-looking catcher. Harrison is all but done, and Gomes is enjoying a late career flicker with a good Cubbies team. Two years later, the Nationals have three key starting players netted from those trades, two backup pieces, and still prospects not yet ripened. That’s 20 percent of the everyday team and an even larger percentage of the starting lineup from a matter of days in 2021. But most importantly for this franchise, the best is yet to come from the 2021 yield. But then again, Mensch Tracht und Gad Lacht!

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