WASHINGTON – Some people say the decade ended last year and others say that will be the case in a few days.
Either way, here is one person’s look at the Nationals’ team of the decade – or at least the last 10 seasons, from 2011 to 2020.
The easy way out would be to say the starting lineup for Game 7 of the World Series in Houston in 2019 would be the team of the decade, no matter the position. Granted, they provided what every Nationals fan wanted – a title.
But we didn’t take the easy way out. And to show we value sustained excellence over a one-season flash, our criteria is a player had to spend at least part of three seasons with the Nationals from 2011 to 2020 to make the all-decade squad:
Catcher – Kurt Suzuki (2012-13 and 2019-20 with the Nats)
This may have been the hardest decision. You couldn’t go wrong with Wilson Ramos, who was with the Nationals from 2011-16. While Suzuki didn’t hit for power in his first stint in Washington, he did 17 homers in 2019 and, of course, was part of the World Series-winning tandem with Yan Gomes.
First base – Ryan Zimmerman (2011-19)
This is one of the easiest decisions, both due to production and longevity. A first-round pick of the Nationals out of Virginia in 2005, his 270 homers are the most by any major leaguer born in North Carolina. He moved to the Tidewater area of Virginia at an early age.
Second base – Daniel Murphy (2016-18)
Howie Kendrick would be a good, and sentimental, choice. But Murphy was clearly one of the best hitters in the majors during his time in Washington. Yes, fielding was a problem – but the same goes for Kendrick.
Murphy led the league in 2016 with 47 doubles and also paced the National League in slugging and OPS. The Florida native had 43 doubles to lead the league in 2017 as well.
Shortstop – Trea Turner (2015-20)
Turner made his Major League debut on Aug. 21, 2015, as a reserve. The starting shortstop that day for Washington was Ian Desmond, a fan favorite who also wouldn’t be a bad pick here. But again, Turner helped win a World Series and the Nats are looking smart for not signing Desmond to a long-term deal. Turner led the league in steals with 43 in 2018.
Third base – Anthony Rendon
Drafted by the Nationals out of Rice, Rendon led the league in doubles with 44 in both 2018 and 2019. He also paced the league in RBIs with 126 in 2019 and was clutch personified as the Nationals won the World Series. Rendon went to the Angels as a free agent before the 2020 season.
Left field – Juan Soto (2018-20)
Soto was called up from Double-A Harrisburg in May 2018 to Washington and the National League has not been the same since. The left-handed hitter from the Dominican Republic has had his name mentioned alongside Mel Ott and others for accomplishing so much at such an early age.
Center field – Denard Span (2013-15)
Yes, Victor Robles was the starting center fielder for the world champs and his ceiling may be higher than Span – if Robles can bounce back from a down 2020 season.
But Span was adept in the field and at the plate in his three seasons in Washington. He led the league in hits with 184 in 2014 and he batted better than .300 in two of his three years with the Nationals.
Right field – Bryce Harper (2012-18)
Sure, an easy target now that he is in Philadelphia. But the No. 1 overall pick was Rookie of the Year in 2012 and had one of the best seasons ever in 2015 with an OPS of 1.109. Harper had six seasons of least 20 homers while with the Nationals.
Utility – Jayson Werth (2011-17)
Yes, a huge free agent signing to help the club become more relevant and of course Werth hit the most dramatic postseason homer in club history – until 2019. You could make a case for putting him in center fielder on this team but I will go with Harper and Soto on the corners.
Utility – Howie Kendrick (2017-20)
Starting pitcher – Max Scherzer (2015-20)
Two no-hitters. Cy Young in 2016 and 2017.
Starting pitcher – Stephen Strasburg (2011-20)
The only person on this list that played in each of part of the last 10 seasons. He was the MVP of the 2019 World Series.
Starting pitcher – Jordan Zimmermann (2011-15)
He gets the nod for the No. 3 spot in the rotation. Again, however, another smart move by Mike Rizzo and company to not give the right-hander a long-term deal before he went to the Tigers in 2016. He has an ERA of at least 4.52 every season in the Motor City. He had the first no-hitter in Nationals’ history and was working on another gem before Matt Williams pulled him in the ninth against the Giants in the playoffs.
Closer – Sean Doolittle (2017-2020)
His regular-season ERA isn’t so pretty in two of his four years with the Nationals. But when healthy he gave the Nationals a dependable closer who doesn’t walk batters and throws hard – not always something easy to find with a lefty. A solid combination with Daniel Hudson in 2019.