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Legends On Deck

Why I’m Not Sold On The 2015 Nationals

washington Nationals

Photo courtesy of USA Today

 

This upcoming baseball season, I legitimately expected a lot of focus on the National League East division and what the Mets had put together. With the incredible amount of youth and immense talent from their pitching rotation and everyday players, I was honestly believing in the “Mets Winning the NL East” predictions and how with the removal of the “Met Killers” from the division (Adam LaRoche, Justin Upton, Jimmy Rollins), the Mets would be odds on favorites.

Sadly, thanks to my eternal optimism and general positive nature regarding the Blue and Orange Brigade, that did not take place. Instead, it’s been all about the Washington Nationals repeating as NL East Champions.

After witnessing a LOT of the Nationals last year in person at Citi Field, Washington really had the complete package. The rotation, especially Doug Fister, really clicked. Jayson Werth started to finally show that he was worth the $126 million contract he received in December of 2010. Adam LaRoche, in his contract year, performed phenomenal at the plate, hitting over 25 home runs and over 90 RBIs. Denard Span played great in center and hit over .300 for the season. And most of all, the bullpen were lights out and helped the Nats get to 96 wins and the NL East title.

You can’t hate on it.  Davey Johnson helped build the foundation of the team over the early 2010s. Davey’s hard push of then-19 year old Bryce Harper, in particular, to the big league roster in 2012 demonstrated the eye for talent and what the franchise needed at the time. The draft picks of Harper in 2010 and Stephen Strasburg in 2009 (back-to-back #1 picks in the MLB Draft) were a blessing in disguise.

Once Matt Williams came in for the retiring Johnson in 2014, the Nationals were set. Washington was SO good that Williams, within the first year of managing the ballclub, became Manager of the Year! Of course, Harper ran his mouth a little bit, but as a 21 year old, it’s BOUND to happen. (Trust me; I thought I was ALWAYS right at 21.)

Looking at the 2015 Nationals off-season maneuvers, the signing of Max Schrezer for 7 years, $210 million was BIG. The $50 million signing bonus was BIGGER. That one signing of the 2013 Cy Young Winner meant the Nationals just didn’t add a gem to their already stellar pitching rotation, but they became the TEAM to beat. On paper, the Nats look unstoppable.

And yet, I’m not sold on the Washington Nationals being the National League East champions in 2015.

I’ve noticed on Twitter that plenty of people believe that the Nationals pitching rotation is UNSTOPPABLE. Another term I noticed was “filthy”.

In Terence Moore’s piece on MLB.com, he states how the Nationals have a “Super Six” rotation. Strasburg, Tanner Roark, Fister, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, and now Schrezer are young, hungry, and are in the prime of their careers. Without blatantly stating they might have the greatest rotation in baseball history, it was implied.

I cannot buy it until the season starts. What reason, you ask, do I have for stating that? The answer is simple: the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies starting rotation.

When Roy Oswalt came to the Phillies in mid-2010 and Cliff Lee signed BACK with the Phillies before the 2011 season, the commentators and the media dubbed Oswalt, Lee, Roy Halladay, and Cole Hamels as the “Phantastic Phour”. They were dubbed by countless magazines and news outlets as one of the greatest rotations of all time.

Here’s the controversy that I’m going to lay out: although Halladay and Hamels finished in the Top 10 in the Cy Young voting, Lee had 6 complete game shutouts, and the Phillies won 100 games, they didn’t win it all. When you get a whole lot of hype regarding a rotation and throw the GREATEST label, you have to win the World Series. They got eliminated in the National League Division Series by the Cardinals and never lived up to the hype, in my opinion. Plus, Oswalt had some serious issues with his back and personally dealt with issues early on in the year. The GREATEST on paper hype is costly when the risk of that doesn’t meet the reward. I guess you can call it “World Series or Bust”.

Even as a Mets fan, I hope the deep rotation of what the Nationals have on paper dominates. It would great for baseball. But for all that hype, the rotation needs to live up to it.

Also, I am not sold on Washington offensively. The loss of Adam LaRoche’s power has downgraded the Nats in the hitting level. LaRoche’s leadership and fine play at 1st base was a major reason behind the dominance the Nats had in the NL East.

Looking up the 2015 projected Nationals lineup at Rotochamp.com, Ryan Zimmerman will be switched to 1st, combined with Anthony Rendon moving to 3rd. The key to this is Zimmerman’s health. Missing half the year with shoulder injuries, the switch of position from 3rd to 1st might benefit Zimmerman, but it could also be a major debacle, especially if Zimmerman can’t stay healthy. Letting LaRoche might be a negative, especially if he has a solid year in Chicago for the White Sox.

Baseball is a LONG season. In the game of strategy, anything is possible. Look at the Royals last year and how they shocked the baseball world coming within one game of winning the World Series. I really hope that the Nationals continue their excellent play in 2015. However, with the extreme youth with the Mets, the never-say-die Braves, and the Giancarlo Stanton-backed Miami Marlins, the NL East is wide open. I’m just not sold on an easy Nationals division win just yet. There are a lot of variables to this. I hope the Nats prove they can overcome and thrive.

Jon Harder

Editor at Legends On Deck
Jon was born in Queens and now resides in New Jersey. He is a die-hard Mets fan and believes HoJo should be in the Mets Hall of Fame. Not only is Jon a contributing writer on Legends On Deck, but he also is the founder of @HardwayHQ, host of the #TheHardwayPodcast and somewhat plays Air Hockey on http://HardwayHQ.com. You can follow Jon on Twitter @TheJonHarder