After an incredibly disappointing COVID-shortened 2020 campaign, the Nationals are once again gearing up for another season and hopefully another playoff run. Despite losing some key pieces from a successful 2019 squad, the Nationals started Spring Training 2020 with high hopes. Then the COVID-19 Pandemic shut everything down for fourth months. Major League Baseball announced a shortened 60-game season and Spring Training became “Summer Training”.
Baseball players are widely considered creatures of habit and between the weirdness of the shortened regular season and some bad luck, the Nationals never adjusted to these changes and finished fourth in the NL East with a 26-34 record. Not quite the season that the defending World Series Champions and their fan were expecting at all.
What went wrong in 2020?
The Nationals lost star third baseman Anthony Rendon to the Los Angeles Angels after he turned down a contract from Washington with a lot of deferred money. Instead of using this money to replace Rendon, the Nationals opted to give a massive 7-year, $245 million extension to Stephen Strasburg, who ironically could not even pitch more than five innings due to a wrist injury. Opening Night could not have started any worse with star outfielder Juan Soto testing positive for COVID-19. He went on to miss the first eight games of the season, which hurt the Nationals and likely cost him a shot at the National League MVP award.
From there, it was all downhill as the Nats could not replicate the production of the departed Rendon or the injured Strasburg. The loss of these two players combined with other injuries and sub-par performances crushed their hopes of a successful season.