Last season the Nationals
won 98 games, the most in the major leagues. In the postseason, however, they fell in the first round to the Cardinals
, losing a deciding game 5 at home in brutal fashion. After blowing game 5 there was a lot of panic talk about how the Nats were chokers, and needed to shake things up. I, for one, thought this was crazy. In baseball, crazy endings happen all the time, it’s a part of the game, not a sign that a team doesn’t have the "it" factor or "clutch gene". To blow up the roster of a young team that had won nearly 100 games and was poised to only get better seemed ridiculous.
Mike Rizzo went for broke this offseason, making major changes to a defending division champ. The Nationals were already good enough; there was no reason to scramble for more pieces. Rizzo made moves that potentially harmed his player’s morale and confidence beyond repair. Of the 25 men who made the Nationals postseason roster, only 14 of those players suited up for last night’s game against the Braves
. Now, some of those players are not on the current roster due to injury but 6 are not even with the organization and three more are in the minors with murky futures with Washington. To lose almost half the players on your postseason roster for good is a big deal, and that is without evaluating several other Nationals role changes. If I were managing the Nats I would have kept every single player from last years team except Jesus Flores
and Edwin Jackson
The effect these moves have had on the Nationals this year is clear. Drew Storen
was so shaken by the Rafael Soriano
signing that it screwed up his whole year, and now he is in the minor leagues for an undefined period of time. Now, I realize it is on Drew Storen to perform no matter what role he is put in but why would Mike Rizzo want to even risk changing the atmosphere of the bullpen that produced the seventh best bullpen in the major leagues? Drew Storen had already proven he could be a 40 save guy in the big leagues and Mike Rizzo gave up on him because one bad game. The general thinking about Drew Storen was that he was extremely unclutch but he had already pitched 3 scoreless innings in the NLDS including two ninth inning performances with the game tied or the Nats leading by a run. He had one bad game; maybe he was tired. Plus, it wasn’t only Storen who pitched badly that game; the whole pitching staff blew it. Bottom line, it was really, really dumb to give up on Storen after he did what hundreds of major leaguers have done before him, blew a postseason game. Hell, Mariano Riviera blew a World Series
didn’t quit on him. Furthermore, Rizzo let Mike Gonzalez, Sean Burnett
, and Tom Gorzelanny
go as well, all were valuable contributors in the pen the year before.
This year the Nats have struggled, and while it may not be as a result of Rizzo’s moves, it leaves them in a difficult situation. Do they blow things up or not? This decision would be a lot easier if Mike Rizzo stuck with his guns from last year. If that were the case then the Nats would have seen the same players perform for two years and maybe they decide to go in a new direction and get rid of some players. Or they could continue to have faith. In 2010 both the Reds
won their divisions and the Giants went on to win the World Series. The next year, they struggled, missing the playoffs. The Reds finished with less than 80 wins. However, neither team blew it up, they stayed patient and both were back in the 2012 postseason, San Francisco won the World Series again. If the Nats had not gone for it all last offseason, then maybe they could have done the same. However, now they are stuck in the middle. They have no 98-win base to go back to and trust and their best bet may be to once again rent big name players this winter. Maybe it will turn out well, but if it doesn’t then Washington will have completely transformed a potential dynasty into nothing more than potential that keeps falling short of expectations.