I have been on the verge of writing this Nationals post a few times the last few weeks as I try to have the NL posts catch up with the AL. As I have kept going back to look at the Nats I keep seeing different interesting things with their team, and they are a franchise that has always been interesting to me, going back to their Expos days.
The one time I was able to see the Nationals was in 2010 as they played the Diamondbacks at Chase Field. I was able to see batting practice for at least one of the games in the series where I was mostly trying to catch Adam Dunn home runs in right field. I had hurt my foot earlier in the year and wasn't able to really run around but Dunn hit one deep enough that I was able to get over to it before anyone else.
At that same BP I was surprised to see Mike Morse hitting with some power because I had only known of him as a shortstop that couldn't start with the Mariners a few years before. I was so impressed I picked him up in fantasy. It was about the only time I had a player pan out for my team based on what I saw in batting practice. Soon after that, Morse became much more of a big name power hitter who would play 1B/OF, renouncing his middle infielder ways.
Batting practices at Chase field could be a little scary because it's the second highest altitude stadium in the majors and when a ball hits the metal bleachers it gives a loud bang, adding a sense of danger of home run balls. On a few occasions I would hold my hands out to catch a home run ball before pulling them back in fear. I almost got to an Ike Davis home run in 2012, but I think it was either too high for me or just plain hit too hard. You can actually see me running over to it in a gray tee shirt. I swear I wasn't as close to it as it appears in the video.
I know that for Bryce Harper's first season in the Arizona Fall League I didn't make it to a game to see him. I can't quite remember if I made it to any AFL games in 2010, my first year in law school, and it's a shame based I didn't see that year's incarnation of the Scottsdale Scorpions. That fall, Harper was in the same outfield as Charlie Blackmon and A.J. Pollock. Also on that team were Brandon Belt and Derek Norris. At 17, Harper was the only teenager on the team.
The next year Harper was back with Scottsdale and I was able to see him playing alongside Mike Trout, the two rookies of the year for 2012. That team also sported Brandon Crawford, Derek Norris (again), Joe Panik and Jean Segura. And with all of those great players pretty much no one was going to AFL games that I was sitting next to the on deck circle with my general admission ticket to see Bryce Harper and Mike Trout.
Who's Your All-Star?
This isn't much of a mystery for a few of the top players on the Nats. Harper (13 HR's, .415 OBP), Murphy (.394 avg) and Strasburg (9-0, 2.69 ERA, and 90 K's in 11 starts). The rest of the positions on the team have a bit more uncertainty. Wilson Ramos has the best stats for NL catchers (.338, 7 HRs, 29 RBIs) but he faces Buster Posey and Yadier Molina in voting, who, even though they are not having as hot of starts to their season as Ramos, aren't having as bad of starts as other catchers and they have name and team recognition.
A few weeks ago Max Scherzer had the fifth 20 strikeout game in MLB history but his 3.87 ERA is a little high after a couple of bad outings. He has 101 strikeouts in 12 starts but four losses. Tanner Roark and Joe Ross also have four losses but they both have ERA's under 3.00 but they don't have Scherzer's name recognition. Scherzer's name recognition and the success of the Nationals means he has an outside shot to get an All-Star nod, and Roark and Ross will probably miss out.
Year after year has been THE year for the Nationals to make an impact in the postseason. This year the Cubs are the team that looks like is their year. But this is the first year Strasburg is pitching like an ace and Harper has another player, Murphy, who is an offensive threat in the lineup. This could be a year that is THE year, but this is also the year that seems to be THE year for the most teams in a single season that I can recall. I'm sure they won't have their year until there is another team in Montreal because sometimes it just works that way.