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Washington Nationals Year in Review: FBB’s Top 5 Stories of 2016

On New Year’s Eve, we take a look back at FBB’s Top 5 stories from 2016 in terms of page views. Clicks. Traffic. Whatever. Happy New Year.

Washington Nationals v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

As we wrap up another year covering the Washington Nationals, who won the NL East but lost in the NLDS again, we decided to celebrate 2016 by collecting the top stories of the year in terms of traffic (or more accurately page views).

For one reason or another, these ended up being the Top 5 stories we produced in terms of traffic over the last year.

One is from the Division Series with the LA Dodgers, one discusses the rumors of how much it might cost the Nationals to keep Bryce Harper in D.C.; another was a story of how one former manager tried to get in an opposing pitcher’s head; and there was a triple play that got the baseball world’s attention.

It was another fun year covering baseball in the nation’s capital. Thanks for your support over the last year and we’ll see you in 2017... tomorrow.

Here are the Top 5 stories from the last season:

5. USA TODAY's 2016 MLB standings projections have Washington Nationals winning NL East: Were you optimistic at the start of the 2016 campaign? Nationals fans were apparently thinking positively from the start, because they flocked to this story from USA Today which projected, in a “semi-scientific” poll, that the Nationals would win a total of 91 games and take the NL East. They did, of course, win the division, with 95 wins though:

“USA TODAY's projections have the Nationals winning the NL East with a total of 89 wins (to the Mets' 87 projected wins).

“After the obligatory political reference (since he's writing about Washington, D.C. — he goes topical with a SCOTUS joke), [Gabe] Lacques writes that USA TODAY's writers think, "... it all comes together for [Stephen] Strasburg just in time for free agency, Anthony Rendon stays healthy, Dusty Baker keeps everyone sane and the Nationals (89 wins) fulfill their destiny a year later than imagined."

It did all come together for Stephen Strasburg, before another injury ended his season prematurely. He never did get to test the free agent market, however, opting to work out what ended up being a 7-year/$175M extension. Rendon did stay healthy and put up solid numbers in a bounce-back campaign, Dusty Baker did keep everybody sane.... as far as the Nationals fulling their density (or destiny)... well if their density (or, you know, destiny) involved winning it all, they fell short. LINK.

4. Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker on NLDS Game 4 loss; Bryce Harper’s fight; Game 5 in D.C.: The Nationals had two opportunities to win their NLDS matchup with the Dodgers after they split the first two games in Washington and took the first game in LA, but a loss in Game 4 sent both teams back across the country for the series finale.

“Talking about Washington’s 6-5 loss to Los Angeles in Game 4 of the NLDS, in an instant classic of a game that featured Clayton Kershaw playing hero, Nationals’ MVP Daniel Murphy continuing to crush Dodgers’ pitching, and even Chase Utley coming up big in the twilight of his storied and at-times controversial career, Dusty Baker praised the play he saw from both teams.

“‘That's what baseball is all about right there, a matter of will,’ Dusty Baker said.”

Baker also talked about what he saw from Bryce Harper, who’d struggled offensively for most of the season and had just gone 0 for 3 against Clayton Kershaw.

“‘I'm liking the fight we're seeing from him,’ Baker told reporters.

“‘During playoff time is when he's at his best. I'm liking it a lot, because Kershaw, he's been hard on him his whole career, and he knows it and Kershaw knows it and you guys know it, everybody knows it. I like what I'm seeing, the fight in him.’”

Harper went 1 for 3 with two walks in Game 5 to finish the series 4 for 17 with six walks and six Ks in five games. Harper’s name being the title is probably the main reason this story got a lot of traffic. LINK.

3. $400-$450M for Nationals' slugger Bryce Harper? Don't sell him short... $750 million?: Speaking of Bryce Harper: Starting (in earnest) last winter, there was chatter about what it was going to take for the Nats to keep the left-handed hitting slugger in Washington, D.C. beyond 2018. Before this winter’s reports (which were dismissed by the Nationals and Harper’s agent, Scott Boras) quoting an anonymous source who said the Nationals scoffed at Harper’s request for something like $400 over 10 years, Jon Heyman wrote that there were, “... concerns about the Nats’ limited local TV revenues and Harper’s likely asking price," and whether an extension could be worked out.

Heyman was hearing that $400M-ish might be selling Harper short:

"Word going around is that it may 'begin with a 5' as in $500 million, or perhaps even more than that – [and that] may severely limit [the Nationals’] chances to keep the relationship going past 2018.”

GM Mike Rizzo, as he has whenever this topic has come up, told Heyman he’s interested in working something out if the right deal can be reached.

“We have not to this point had any substantive negotiations about a long-term deal,” [Rizzo said].

“He still has two years of arbitration to go. I think they’ll be open to discussions in a broad view. He knows what our interests will be. We certainly want him to be a National for a long time.

After a “down year” at the plate, Harper’s unlikely to sign an extension now, right?

Will he sign one next winter when he (and Boras) are just one year away from testing the free agent market? Stephen Strasburg signed before free agency... though that was reportedly player-driven. LINK.

2. That time former Nationals' skipper Davey Johnson talked about Jake Arrieta's "spitter"...: Any story involving the Chicago Cubs (who were clearly a team of density — or, um, destiny — from the start this season, right?) got a lot of traffic, but oddly this one from May, when the Nats were in Wrigley Field getting swept, got a ton of traffic in spite of the fact that it was a bit of a rehash of a Davey Johnson story about the former Nationals’ manager giving the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta the business a few years back, when Arrieta was still in Baltimore.

After Arrieta held the Nationals to a run on six hits in an Orioles’ win, Johnson decided to play some mind games:

"[Arrieta] made some good pitches," Johnson told reporters after the loss.

"At certain times we took fastballs ‘right there’. He had a little slider and decent curve ball.

"I complained early on because he'd go to his mouth two or three times and I didn't see a real good wipe.

"I wasn't accusing him of throwing a spitter, but I said I'd like to see a better wipe. I didn't realize he was that fidgety, he's got all kinds of moves out there..."

A few days later, Arrieta tweeted that he was in the bullpen working on his “spitter”.

While Johnson's initial comment barely garnered attention, Arrieta clearly heard it, or got wind of what he said, but somehow, word got back to him and annoyed/humored him enough that he responded to Johnson's snipe. Well played, Davey. And thanks for the traffic, Cubs fans. LINK.

1. Washington Nationals turn first 3-3-5 triple play in MLB history... seriously: Nothing brings the page views like a triple play... especially when it’s the first one in franchise history (2005-present) and the first 3-3-5 triple play in MLB history. No seriously. That’s why we said that in the title above.

On a random late July night in San Francisco, the Nationals worked their way out of a bit of a jam with a triple play that had Dusty Baker excited as he got this season.

Sammy Solis was on the mound. The bases were loaded with no outs, thus, you know, the need for a triple play... and it happened:

Here’s what Dusty Baker had to say about the play... and another triple play he missed earlier in his career:

"We're just trying to figure out through positive thoughts how we're going to get out of it. We always holler 'Triple play!' or 'Double play!' or something, but it actually happened. We moved [Ryan Zimmerman] back before the pitch and you know like I saw it go in his glove, and I saw him touch first base, and then I saw Denard Span coming down the line, evidently from his vantage point he thought it hit the ground. And so, next thing you know that was a triple play. That's only the -- well that's really the first triple play that I've seen in my forty years or something in the game. There was one other one, but I went to the bathroom and ... [laughter]... and then I missed it. And then I came out I'm like, 'What happened?', everybody was getting their gloves and they said, 'Triple play.' So, tonight I was happy to see my first real triple play in a baseball game."

Dusty Baker loved it. The people loved it. They clicked on it to see the first triple play in Nationals franchise history. LINK.

Well, that’s it. Enjoy your New Year’s Eve. We’re going to do the same... Here’s to 2016 finally coming to an end. Will the 2017 Nationals finally fulfill their density... (or, um, destiny?).