On Christmas, we are taught to believe. The angelic benediction on this day is supposed to refer to everyone’s good will towards humanity. Love each other. May these times bring peace and happiness. Sure, you are here to talk baseball. Believe. That’s all we can do in situations we cannot control.
Every offseason we debate which team had the best roster in Washington Nationals history. Most would say 2015-to-2018 had the best rosters. Yet, none them won a World Series like that 2019 team. A group of humans who believed in each other more than others did. Their time was angelic. Going from a 19-31 record to a Wild Card berth then hitting a sprinkler head in that Wild Card game were modern miracles. In baseball terms, they were miracles of biblical proportions like David beating Goliath, and Jesus stretching a board that was short for his carpentry.
Look back at that 2015 season. It could be summed up as a disaster for the Washington Nationals after they did not make the postseason. In January of 2015, Ted Lerner bagged the prize of free agency when he agreed to sign Max Scherzer to a record-setting $210 million in free agency that year. In Spring Training of 2015, the team was too cocky. The infamous line was uttered, “Where’s my ring” by a giddy Bryce Harper. The reigning NL East champs looked like they would win 100+ games that year, but the only thing they won was the 17th slot in the 2016 draft because of their 83-79 disappointing record that signaled the exit of that season’s manager Matt Williams. The team also lost Denard Span, Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond to free agency and shifted Danny Espinosa to shortstop. It was no secret that filling second base was a top priority for the 2016 season as well as signing a centerfielder.
In early December of 2015, there was the nixed trade for Brandon Phillips because he would not waive his no-trade clause. Phillips, an Expos minor leaguer, had his second chance at the Nationals and blew it. Nats fans were clamoring for some action and disappointment was felt again when Ben Zobrist reportedly signed with the Cubs for less money than the Nats offered and questioned the “toxic” clubhouse which was on public display for all to see when Jonathan Papelbon grabbed Harper by the throat in the dugout just three months earlier.
On Christmas eve of 2015, the news broke that the Nationals signed Daniel Murphy to a three-year deal, but it was the circuitous path to that deal which was general manager Mike Rizzo’s Plan C or Plan D. Rizzo finally was able to get Murphy, but it came with a steep price as the Nats had to forfeit their first round draft pick. Who was picked 17th in the draft? Forrest Whitley by the Astros and Gavin Lux was drafted 3 picks later before Carter Kieboom and Dane Dunning were picked up by the Nats as comp picks for JZim and Desi. That was the same draft that Nick Senzel was selected second overall.
What could have been you wonder if the Nats just stayed righty and signed Howie Kendrick who the Dodgers re-signed, and the Nats retained their 17th pick in the draft. It is hard to believe that Kendrick was available and coming off of a very good season at 31 years old.
“Some things are just destined to happen,” Kendrick said about his path back to Dodgers that year. “I truly believe that. A lot of things lead up to moments like this. For some reason, you just can’t explain them. It’s almost like it was meant to be.”
Ah, that divine line of destiny. Rizzo had many choices out there, and Murphy it would be. After New Years, he traded for Ben Revere in a deal that sent Drew Storen to Toronto. This 2016-2018 roster would look very different, and every move sends you in a future direction on a course that becomes your destiny.
If you believe in the Michael Jordan theory of failure, you have to take your shots to succeed. As World Series manager Dave Martinez would tell you is that you can learn a lot from failing. Perseverance is a key to winning, and “Bumpy roads lead to beautiful places” as Martinez told an appreciative crowd of Nats fans. Yes indeed. Rizzo will take his shots. He will fill every roster spot and endure the bumps in the road. This all leads to another offseason where we are all scratching our heads. Don’t forget, what happened three years ago on this day with Josh Bell.
So here we are wondering if a Murphy signing or Bell trade could happen on this Christmas Eve. We wonder about the future. Enjoy your journey.