The Washington Nationals defeated the Philadelphia Phillies last night 10-4. That however belied what was going on beneath the surface of the Nationals: they had given up.
After a passionate letter to start the month saying that the Nationals did not want to give up on their roster- the tone had changed in a few weeks that saw the Nationals fall 9 games back from the NL East leader. Principal owner Tom Lerner admitted that it was time to give up:
When something isn’t working, you evaluate the situation and take the necessary steps to improve it. You don’t just stand by, cross your fingers, and hope for the best. Unfortunately, in this case, that means making very tough decisions about our roster.
We’ve already covered here at DDDT about Daniel Murphy leaving along with Matt Adams and possibly more on the way. In fact – Bryce Harper was put on waivers and claimed by the Dodgers – but a trade could not be worked out. Harper was quoted as saying this about the situation:
The Nationals are certainly a tough team to figure out. By all accounts – they should’ve buzzed through the National League East and be the top team along with the Dodgers. Yet – baseball is baseball – and over 162 games you have to more than just one or two top players. The Nationals have Harper who though having a “bad” year for him will still likely get him some MVP votes. Max Scherzer is on track to win another Cy Young Award not to mention Rookie of the Year candidate Juan Soto.
Lerner also made it clear that this is not signalling a rebuild:
The good news is this is not a rebuilding effort. We have a lot of talent on our roster — from seasoned veterans to enthusiastic young guys. And Mike Rizzo and his team will be busy during the offseason making sure we have all of the pieces necessary to come back and be competitive next year.
Most importantly — our goal has not changed — we want to bring a World Series trophy home to Washington, D.C. I truly believe the actions we are taking now will strengthen the franchise and keep us in the position of being a perennial contender.
As discussed – this team should be winning. Rookie Manager Dave Martinez is not seeing the success that fellow new managers like Aaron Boone and Alex Cora are seeing in the American League. Somewhere Dusty Baker might be saying, “See, it wasn’t me.”.
The Nationals have about $79M on the books already for 2019 – about $38M each in Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg – and of course the team dynamic will change dramatically if they do or do not sign impending free agent Bryce Harper.
Right now the 2019 NL East race is looking to be a tight one between the Phillies, Braves, and Nationals once again with the Mets hoping some health will turn around. The Phillies and Braves are ahead of schedule in their planned rebuilds – with 2019 being the planned year of full effect. Will someone in the East pick up Bryce Harper or Manny Machado?
The Nationals clearly struggled with this decision, but at least shedding a few players adds even more intrigue to this National League playoff hunt. They themselves still sit just 7.5 GB of the NL East and 6.5 out of the Wild Card. With still 40 games left…who knows? The Cardinals were left for dead just a few weeks ago when they fired manager Mike Matheny but have stormed back to be in the wild card spot and just 2.5 back from the Cubs in the NL Central.
The Nationals have gien up for this year – but watch out for a reload in 2019.