clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Know Your Enemy: Washington Nationals

The Nats are becoming known as the talented team that just can't win.

Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

Dusty Baker and Jonathan Papelbon in the same clubhouse.

I mean... how is this not going to end badly?

Here's a recent Washington Post article about Papelbon and his clubhouse persona. It contains this sentence:

But on a team that new Manager Dusty Baker says needs to have more fun, as it did in 2012, and rediscover its swagger, it’s conceivable that Papelbon could also be part of a cure.

We all know Dusty very well. He's a players' manager and pretty much lets the clubhouse police itself. With strong personalities like Papelbon and Bryce Harper... well, let's just say this might not be the best idea. We'll see how it all shakes out.

Regarding Harper, incidentally, don't take that comment as a slam on him, because it's not. Harper plays the game hard and is immensely talented. He actually seemed to mature quite a bit last year at age 22, and he and Papelbon have supposedly settled the spat they had last September. I like Harper a lot and he and Mike Trout are going to be battling for the "best player in baseball" title for the next several seasons.

The Nats have lost one key part of their rotation as Jordan Zimmermann departed for the Tigers via free agency. But they really had six capable starters last year; Tanner Roark, who'd be a No. 3 starter for most teams, had to spend 2015 mostly in the bullpen. He'll easily slot back into the rotation. The key for the Nats' rotation to be strong is Stephen Strasburg, who missed part of last year with injuries, although he was very good (1.90 ERA in 10 starts) after he returned in August.

Offensively, Washington's cast has two newcomers: Ben Revere replaces Denard Span in center field, and Daniel Murphy will be at second base, with Danny Espinosa moving to short to replace Ian Desmond. The Nats took a big chance on Murphy, who cashed in on having two huge months in September and October, but before that was about a 1.5 bWAR player. Good, but nothing special.

The Nats do have a couple of top prospects in Trea Turner and Lucas Giolito, but their impact on the team more likely has an ETA of 2017 than this year. Plus, we all know how Dusty usually feels about young players.

The Nationals are always expected to do well and something happens. Last year the "something" might have been manager Matt Williams, who seemed completely overwhelmed in the job. Dusty Baker certainly has managerial experience, but the game might have passed him by a decade ago. He and Terry Collins (Mets) are the oldest managers in baseball in an era when some front offices seem to be leaning toward younger men.

It's an interesting experiment. We'll see if it works.

The Cubs and Nationals meet at Wrigley Field May 5-6-7-8 and in Washington June 13-14-15.