In spite of the fact that the Washington Nationals took the NL East for the third time in five years, and won 95 games, after their NLDS loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the season will be remembered by most as a disappointment.
If you don’t believe that’s the case, ask a Baltimore Orioles fan, who will surely tell you not to talk about anything until the “Gnats win a playoff series.”
Over the next weeks and months, plenty of people will offer advice on what GM Mike Rizzo, manager Dusty Baker and members of the Nationals’ front office need to do to improve the team’s chances of taking the next step in 2017.
In fact, it’s already started. At the risk of having this discussion turn political, which I think we all can agree would be a bad idea, especially at this time of year, Democratic Senator Harry Reid of Nevada offered some advice for the Nationals during a campaign stop in his home state.
The following observations come from a report on Reid’s comments on Roll Call by Niels Lesniewski.
Senator Harry Reid on Nationals’ center fielder Trea Turner moving to short:
“It’s obvious the Nationals have to have a center fielder. Trea Turner’s a shortstop or — he’s an infielder. He has no arm. You’ve heard all the pundits that he doesn’t play center field very well. He heads in the wrong direction, which, if it weren’t for his blinding speed, it would be a lot worse than it has been.”
Turner, 23, put up a .342/.370/.567 line with 14 doubles, eight triples, 13 home runs and 33 stolen bases in 39 attempts over 73 games and 324 plate appearances this season, finishing the year at 3.3 fWAR as the fifth-most valuable player on the Nats’ roster.
He was, however, learning on the job in center this season, and he did misplay a few balls hit his way. We’ll agree to disagree with Senator Reid on Turner’s arm.
Reid is not the only one who thinks Turner should move to short full time next season though.
Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell suggested the same in a look at the big questions facing the Nationals this winter which was published earlier this week.
Nevada’s representative in the Senate said he didn’t know Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker as well as he knew Carson, Nevada native and former Nationals’ bench boss Matt Williams, but he said he did like Baker, and thinks the manager, “... knows he has to get a center fielder,” and, “... would suggest he get one and put Trea Turner at shortstop.”
Like Boswell at the Washington Post, Reid seemed to endorse the idea of having Pedro Severino take over behind the plate in the nation’s capital next season, though he did so while he was taking a shot at Stephen Strasburg, whose 2016 campaign ended early with Strasburg suffering a flexor mass strain and partially torn pronator tendon in his right arm.
“This new catcher may be OK,” Reid said, “but he can’t win anything with two pitchers. That’s all he has now. Strasburg’s hurt all the time.”
Ouch. Sorry, Stras. But much like the season overall will be viewed as a disappointment, everyone has apparently forgotten how good the 28-year-old right-hander was at the start of the 2016 campaign, when he went (13-0) in his first 17 starts and put up a 2.51 ERA and a .195/.258/.307 line against in 114 2⁄3 innings pitched before the injury issues did once again crop up and limit him in August and keep him out of action for most of September and all of October.
While Reid had lots of advice for the Nationals, and is a fan of fellow Nevadan Bryce Harper, however, he also noted that he’s been a fan of the Cleveland Indians his entire life.
Cleveland is currently leading their ALCS matchup with the Toronto Blue Jays, and are trying to win their first World Series since 1948.
Next season, with Reid’s helpful suggestions, maybe the Nationals can win the first by a D.C.-based team since 1924.