After months of no baseball, COVID-19, Spring, and now Summer Camps, this week, baseball teams from around the league will kick off their seasons and the World Series Champions of 2019. The Washington Nationals will start their title defense.
It’s been a long offseason filled with excitement, heartache, and so much more. Here are five storylines that we are thinking about so far as the season starts this week.
The further development of Juan Soto
From his Wild Card, game-winning hit to opposite field 417 feet moonshot off Gerrit Cole in the fourth inning of Game 1 of the World Series. Playing in his first-ever World Series game just a few days shy of his 21st birthday and his first full season in the big leagues, Soto almost single-handedly carried the Nationals to their first World Series win. Soto’s introduction to the national stage of baseball couldn’t have been more amazing by driving in three runs, had three hits and stole a base. Getting to see Juan Soto on the National scene last fall was incredible.
As Nationals fans, we get the opportunity to see him play every time for the past two seasons, so we know how much of a fantastic player and athlete he is. Watching him play is such a treat day in and day out, and seeing him enjoy the game of baseball and learn the ins and outs and watch him perfect his craft is truly something special to watch.
Nationals fans have seen young stars from time to time up close and personal, but I think that there is something different about Juan Soto, I hope that the Learners don’t let another outfielder walk right out of Nats Park early. I hope that the Learners open the checkbook and sign Juan Soto and make him a Washington National for Life. I know that I will be the first one to buy his jersey if that happens!
The pitching rotation and bullpen
With the Nationals winning the World Series and playing an extra month of baseball at the end of 2019, season, I remember thinking to myself how the shortened offseason will affect the Nationals pitching staff since Davey Martinez only used his starting pitching rotation during the playoffs. Is Max Scherzer’s age of 35 going to change his performance in 2020? Well, I don’t think that we need to worry about that anymore. With COVID and the extended offseason, all of the Nationals pitchers got a chance for some extra rest.
Scherzer’s recent performance against the Phillies wasn’t ahis best, but one could agree that’s a good thing. In an article by MLB’s Washington Nationals beat reporter Jessica Camerato, she quotes Scherzer saying: “Today was the first kind of dry run of going through scouting reports, kind of getting my routine — really more so than any other Spring Training start or exhibition game I’ve thrown because of how fast we’re trying to ramp up here, and the season’s limited,” Scherzer said, before adding: “That really bodes well, to go out there and really compete deep in the game — more so than I even thought I was going to be able to coming into this.”
For the first time in a long time, the Washington Nationals bullpen isn’t a huge question mark. With the addition of former Houston Astro’s closer, Will Harris, and the signing of Game 7 closer Daniel Hudson, Doolittle, Manager Davey Martinez will have options in the late innings on who to pitch. Martinez can also be creative with any crucial matchups.
Carter Kieboom at third base
When Rendon left for the West Coast, and with the Nationals not signing Josh Donaldson, we all knew that the starting third baseman would probably be Carter Kieboom. Last year we saw a glimpse of the future with Kieboom in the Nationals lineup and had some mixed results.
Many were worried about what a long season would look like with Keiboom at the hot corner and batting every game. How would Kieboom handle the pressure of a full Major League season? While we will have to wait to possibly 2021 to get an answer to the question, maybe with just 6o games, no fans in the stands, the weight might have been lifted so that Kieboom can just focus on getting experience under his belt and be able to focus on the fundamentals of fielding, hitting and just life in the big leagues.
What will happen with the contracts of GM Mike Rizzo and Manager Davey Martinez?
Both Davey and Mike Rizzo are waiting for a contract with the Nationals, which has led many to scratch their heads and wonder what are the Learners waiting for?
As much as this is confusing, I think that COVID plays an additional role in the Learners’ decision. I am not saying that I agree, or it should be even a factor. However, one could see that the decreased amount of revenue from ticket in-take this season is something that the Learners now have to deal with, and there is still the ever lingering MASN TV situation.
I do believe that it shouldn’t have gotten to this point and that the Learners should have locked up both Davey and Rizzo right after the Nationals won the World Series and rewarded both of them of doing a fantastic wait an out of this world job, in winning the franchises first World Series after the start the Nationals had in 2019. But we wait, maybe once things get moving and baseball is getting played, the sides will come together and iron out a deal before things get dicey here in DC.
How will COVID-19 impact the Washington Nationals and MLB?
COVID-19 is the biggest story that will have a significant impact on the Washington Nationals and baseball as a whole. Without stating the obvious, we aren’t going to get a chance to see some great matchup this season; we are, however, going to see some great baseball with the Yankees and the Boston Redsox both playing against the Nationals.
Additionally, we are waiting to see where the Nationals are going to play against the Blue Jays in their first road trip as the Candian government recently prohibited the Blue Jays to host baseball at their home field in Toronto. Mark Zuckerman from MASN tweeted out an interesting suggestion for the Nationals, where the Blue Jays would stay in DC after the Nationals play them on July 29 -30. Then, the Blue Jays will be considered the “home team” for the two games right afterward.
The biggest question remains: will MLB finish the 60 game season and the postseason? Will MLB cancel the remaining games and the postseason due to either an increased amount of cases of COVID19 in the country or with players caused MLB to re-think 2020. Either way, buckle up because it’s going to be a wide ride.
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