Washington Nationals Update


Bergen Romness

The Washington Nationals this year has endless potential, with arguably the best starting pitching rotation and a star-studded battling lineup that includes Bryce Harper and Trea Turner.

Aidan Stroup, Sentry Staff Reporter

The Washington Nationals are off to a slow, but acceptable start this season after the devastating game five loss to the Chicago Cubs in the 2017 NLDS(National League Division Series). They started the season 4-0 but have been cooling off recently. Through adapting to a new manager and injuries to key players like Daniel Murphy, the team is now 9-10. The team this year has endless potential, with arguably the best starting pitching rotation and a star-studded battling lineup that includes Bryce Harper, who has been off to one of the fastest starts of his career, and the devastatingly speedy Trea Turner.

One of the hottest topics regarding the Nationals and Bryce Harper is where he will end up in 2019. With a league-leading eight home runs through nineteen games, Nationals fans are sitting closer to the edge of their seat every day. The continuous fear for National fans of Harper leaving has steadily grown since he was called up in 2012. In a press conference at the start of the 2018 spring training, Harper threatened to leave if asked any questions on his destination for the 2019 season. The 2015 MVP and five-time all-star has sparked the fire of the Nationals and made large impacts on the team for the duration of his career. He is the MLB (Major League Baseball) leader in home runs, walks, co-leader in runs batted in, and is at the top of many other statistics. As he is building towards National League player of the month it becomes more and more likely he will be the first player in the history to receive a five hundred million dollar contract.

Sophomores Quinlan Montgomery and Emily Gould both see Harper leaving next season as a likely situation. With a rumored contract amount that’s almost outlandish to think about, it is not unlikely Harper will sign with another club.

“I do think Bryce will leave because the Nats don’t have enough money to pay him what he wants,” Montgomery said.

“I think Bryce will sign elsewhere because he has played for the Nats for a good amount of time and will want to explore other options,” Gould said.

The Nationals have been adapting to first-time manager Dave Martinez. Although he has experience working with the Cubs as their pitching coach when they won the 2016 World Series, the adjustment may still be difficult for the players. The Nationals are going from a veteran manager with many years of experience in Dusty Baker to a manager with no true experience. The ambition of Martinez has been visible in many ways through the early season. One prime example of this is putting Adam Eaton lead off and placing the usual leadoff hitter Turner sixth. This has generated very mixed results and opinions because it has worked sometimes, but when Turner gets on base he often struggles to score with weaker hitters behind him to drive him in. Recently, with Eaton recently being placed on the ten-day disabled list, Martinez has been placing Turner leadoff. Turner currently leads the National League in stolen bases with eight and hasn’t been caught stealing once. With Turner being incredibly successful in the leadoff spot it will be interesting to see what Martinez does when Eaton is healthy.

Nineteen games into the season Montgomery expressed good first impressions towards Martinez and how he has handled the team so far. As a member of the varsity baseball team and longtime fan of the Nationals, he believes the new skipper has held his own.

“I think he’s done a good job of not trying to change the culture of a team that was already good,” Montgomery said.

As for sophomore softball player Gould, she is not so sure she fully trusts him yet. With a bumpy start to the season, she wants to see how he handles his new position over time.

“He has been okay so far, but he still has a lot to prove,” Gould said.

Although the Nationals have much to look forward to the remaining one hundred and fifty games, their Achilles heel remains the bullpen. In the young season, the bullpen has allowed many runs and has been the least impressive aspect of the team by far. The bullpen problem has continuously haunted the Nationals since the 2012 NLDS when they blew a two-run lead in the last inning. The most recent disappointing outing for the bullpen was on April 18th against the New York Mets. The Nationals were up 4-2 going into the bottom of the eighth. At this point, everything was looking towards a key series sweep for the Nationals after falling behind in the division to the Mets. By the end of this inning, the score was 11-4 Mets. For a team like the Nationals that is looking to make a run for a World Series, the bullpen is crucial. As the Nationals progress throughout the season, it is vital for them to strengthen their bullpen and close out games.

Even with it being incredibly early in the season, Montgomery sees the Mets as a powerhouse in the division. At 13-4 the Mets have the best record in the National League and have a steady mix of young players and knowledgeable veterans. It seems likely that they will continue to be an all too real threat to the Nationals making the postseason.  

“I don’t think they [the Nats] will win the division because the Mets look very strong,” Montgomery said.

Gould also sees the threat of the red-hot Mets and overall improved division as a setback for the Nationals winning the division.

“I don’t think the Nats will win the NL East this year [because] the division harbors some fierce competition,” Gould said.

In the youthful season, the potential of the Nationals is crystal clear, and it will be a lot of fun to watch the team grow and develop together. Facing barriers like injuries to star players and a struggling bullpen the Nationals could end up out of the playoffs, but they may also be a World Series contender with one of best pitching rotations and a powerful lineup.