October 2019 feels like that was ages ago, although, in reality, it has only been three years. Three years ago, the Washington Nationals completed an epic run that put the team on top of the baseball world and now they are looking up.
We all know the story; hey, we all lived it. Every pitch, strike out, Curly W leading up to that cold October night back in 2019. We saw the Nationals overcome an 18-31 start that season. We saw Trea Turner hurt his finger during the opening series against the Phillies to the horrible call during Game 6 in Houston. But that feels like ages ago.
This team has changed so much over the past three years. Only three remaining players on the current roster were with the team back in 2019: Victor Robles, Patrick Corbin, and Stephen Strasburg. Since that night, Strasburg, who was rewarded with a pretty hefty new contract, has yet to pitch a full season, or even half of a season, or even a handful of starts; Patrick Corbin hasn’t been the same, and Victor Robles is hanging on to his roster spot.
The era or “window” effectively closed this summer on the Nationals when the front office made an organizational altering trade when they moved Juan Soto and Josh Bell for a handful of prospects who are now tasked to bring the team back to the top. The task is going to be hard. Do these players have what it takes to lead the team to another NL East title? With the Mets, Braves, and Phillies making serious strides forward and not taking their feet off the pedal, even the Marlins seem to be hitting their stride. The NL East could be the best division in Major League Baseball.
Sounds depressing, right? It kind of is.
Who would have thought that the season after the Nationals won the World Series, we all would experience a major pandemic that the Nationals weren’t able to capitalize on so much? Who would have thought that even two years after the Nationals won the World Series, fans and vital parts of the Nationals would be traded to the LA Dodgers for a handful of prospects? Were their signs written on the wall somewhere that were ignored?
We all know of all the hard work it must have been to come back from a dismal start of the 2019 season, make it to the last game of the MLB season, and even win it all against a powerful Houston Astros team. Was the strategy of investing in older players while “selling the farm” to get to the top worth winning it all?
Looking back over the past three years, one could conclude that it wasn’t. Even for me, I am not even sure anymore. Winning is great, but being a contender yearly might be a bit better. Who knows. Ask me again in a couple of years if it is worth it, and I might have a different answer.
A New Hope
Maybe there is hope for the team to return quickly to the top of the Baseball world. Will the new Washington Nationals and its impressive handful of prospects around the baseball diamond impact this upcoming season, or will we see another franchise-breaking losing record? It might be early, but the Nationals have a solid core of players to start the building process. One thing is for sure; the Nationals should always have top prospects in the pipeline so that a rebuild shouldn’t be as painful as this one has already been.
While the likes of CJ Abrams, Josiah Gray, Keibert Ruiz, and Luis García, maybe the rebuild isn’t as painful as one thinks. Hopefully, whoever purchases the Nationals will have a long-term plan to return this young franchise back into the conversation of top teams in Major League Baseball.
The road back to the top will be full of “bumps,” but hopefully, soon, we will return to that “beautiful place” on top of the MLB mountain.
In the meantime, the next time you go to Nats Park, look at the Center field and look to the sky and see the 2019 World Series Banner. Think to yourself that no matter what, that 2019 season was special and that, in fact, “Flags Fly Forever,” let’s hope there will be room for some more flags to fly.