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Are the Washington Nationals choices for MLB's Franchise Four a slap in the face to Nats fans?

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MLB.com recently began a contest where they're having fans vote for the top four players in franchise history for each team. The Nationals' page has eight players listed. Seven of them are players who played for the Montreal Expos, but were long gone by the time the Nats moved to D.C.

Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

MLB plans to honor a few players from each franchise's history at the All Star Game in Cincinnati this July.  In order to determine which players they honor, they've set up polls that include eight of the greatest players in franchise history for each team.  They're calling it "The Franchise Four."  We're being asked to vote for four of these eight players to represent the Washington Nationals.  Unfortunately, most of the choices that are available to Nats fans won't appeal to many of you.  Let's have a look at the list.....

  • Gary Carter
  • Tim Raines
  • Andre Dawson
  • Steve Rogers
  • Vladimir Guerrero
  • Rusty Staub
  • Dennis Martinez
  • Ryan Zimmerman

Yes.  Seven of those players played for the Montreal Expos.  Just one of those players has played for the Washington Nationals.  As you might expect, this has caused a bit of a stir on Twitter.

The Nats aren't the only team that has a player from a previous incantation of its franchise represented.  Walter Johnson appears on the Twins page.  Frank Howard appears on the Rangers page.  Warren Spahn, who pitched for the Boston and Milwaukee Braves (but never in Atlanta) appears on the Braves page.  Still, those teams have just one player from a previous version of the franchise listed.  The Nats have seven, with just one member of the current version of the franchise to choose from.

Most of you know I'm a former Expos fan, but I'll bring it up again for anyone reading here for the first time.  In spite of that, even I think that the Nats should probably be better represented here than they have been.  I do believe that the franchise's existence in Washington is still in its relative infancy, so I do think that the Expos should have been fairly well represented here.  However, I think it should have been closer to 50/50 than 87.5/12.5.  Simply put, many of the best and most iconic Nationals just haven't been around long enough to be considered all-time franchise greats in my eyes....

  • Neither Ian Desmond nor Jordan Zimmermann have officially accrued enough service time to hit free agency.  If I were limited to putting eight Nats (and no Expos) on the list, they would almost certainly be among the top eight.  That's not a real long track record, though.
  • The same goes for Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper
  • Jayson Werth is entering his fifth season in DC and thirteenth overall.  I do think he probably should have been on the list
  • Do we include Mr. National Livan Hernandez (who did pitch for the Expos as well) on this list?  I loved Livo, but he had a 4.40 career ERA and 1.44 WHIP.  Is that considered to be an all-time great?
  • Should we consider Alfonso Soriano for his one (albeit amazing) season with the Nats?
  • Do we use Adam Dunn, Adam LaRoche, or Josh Willingham as options?  Mike Morse?
  • Could the Nationals actually include a setup man like Tyler Clippard for being the best bullpen arm that they've had in the organization for most of the franchise's existence in DC?

Judging off of team success, you could argue that the Nationals have already achieved more than the Expos did.  The Expos won just one division title (excluding the 1994 strike season, when they had the best record in baseball).  The Nats have won two division titles in the past three seasons.  To me, though, deciding on a franchise's icons requires a bit of longevity.  The biggest advantage that the former Expos players have in making this list is that we have an entire career's worth of play to judge them on, while most of the best players in Nats history don't have an entire career's worth of numbers to look back on.

The fact of the matter is that while the Nats are entering their eleventh season in D.C., the first six or seven of those years saw an awful lot of roster turnover with an awful lot of players who simply haven't had much in the way of sustained success over the course of their careers.  While players like Carter, Dawson, and Raines also had quite a bit of success after leaving the Expos, those are guys who were great in Montreal and had tremendous overall careers.  There aren't very many Nats players with a thirteen or fourteen year history to fall back on.

Let's revisit the question in the title.  Is this a slap in the face to Nats fans?  A little. The Washington Nationals should probably be a bit better represented on this list, while the Expos should have fewer players on there.  If I had to go with eight players, it'd probably look something like this......

  • Gary Carter
  • Andre Dawson
  • Vladimir Guerrero
  • Tim Raines
  • Ian Desmond
  • Jayson Werth
  • Ryan Zimmerman
  • Jordan Zimmermann

I'd love to fit Pedro Martinez on there, but I'm sure he's on the Red Sox page.  I'd love to put Bryce Harper or Stephen Strasburg on there, but I don't think they've played long enough to be included.  I don't think that Adam Dunn, Adam LaRoche, or Josh Willingham were quite good enough to make this list.  I feel that the four Expos are either Hall of Famers or guys with excellent shots (no Steve Rogers, El Presidente, or Le Grande Orange), and I don't feel that any Nationals players have done enough to achieve their level of career excellence to this point.  I do think that it's insane to have seven Expos on the actual list, though.

I did vote for Raines, Carter, Zimmerman, and Vladdy.  To be honest, it was tough to not vote for Dawson, one of the two Hall of Famers on the list, but I believe that both Raines and Vladdy were better players than Dawson.  At least one Nat has to be on this list, so Zimmerman gets the bump above Dawson as well.