From worst to first to worst again; the rise and fall of the Washington Nationals
The Washington Nationals just got swept by the rival Philadelphia Phillies in a four-game series to fall to 12-23. The Nationals have been exceptionally bad this season as they are last in their division and have one of the worst records in the Major Leagues. This is mind-baffling considering that the Nationals won the World Series last season. One has to wonder how they turned into one of the worst teams in baseball and why they aren't able to replicate the magic of last season.
We know about the magic that happened last season, who doesn't? Their top player, Bryce Harper, left in free agency to the rival Phillies. The team was poised to finish in last and started out the season looking like they would do just that. Around the halfway point, the National turned a corner and became one of the best teams in baseball. They were led by a pitching staff that was great one through five and had a deep lineup featuring a mix of veterans and young rising stars.
The Nationals entered the playoffs as a wildcard team and in the game itself, were down three runs and came back on one swing from Juan Soto. The Nationals rolled all the way through to the World Series and beat the Astros in seven games. With this in mind, one can think that it is only natural for a team that overachieved last season to regress to the mean this season. The Nationals weren't expected to be great this year but they have completely fallen apart. What is different this year?
For starters, they have been dealing with injuries. Juan Soto was out early on and the Nationals couldn't kick off the ground running. Stephen Strasburg is lost for the season as he will undergo season-ending surgery and he was an integral piece of the Nationals run last year. One of the few free agents they signed in Starlin Castro has recently been shut down for the season.
This season has brought with it more injuries since the season is shortened and there wasn't a spring training to prepare for. Most teams are trying to overcome injury woes but the Nationals have taken a worse toll regarding star players going down. Moreover, the Nationals didn't win on depth last year and in a season that requires depth, we are seeing the struggles of the team.
Injuries shouldn't make the Nationals as bad in the division and in National League. What ultimately has caused the Nationals to fall apart has been the off-season. The Nationals lost one of their most valuable players and leaders in Anthony Rendon, Rendon had a breakout year at the right time and after helping the Nationals win the World Series, he cashed in during free agency and signed with the Los Angeles Angels. Aside from losing Rendon, the Nationals didn't improve much in the off-season.
They didn't make any big signings and didn't trade for any stars or even prospects. The rest of the division either made moves or developed their prospects. In a league that is constantly improving, if you don't improve, you will fail. The Nationals stayed in place throughout the off-season and the season and the rest of their division passed them by.
The Nationals might be rebuilding this year
This year they have injuries (Soto out of the gate, Strasburg), losing Rendon is more obvious then losing Harper.