For the first two months of the 2019 season, the Nationals were bad.
There was no way around it. Fifty games into the year, the team was 12 games under .500 with a record that more closely resembled that of a rebuilding club rather than one with World Series aspirations.
As a result, many members of both the local and national media—ourselves included—threw out some ideas for what the Nationals should do given that they looked out of the playoff race. Fire Davey Martinez? Trade Max Scherzer? Blow up the roster and start a full-scale rebuild? It was all out there.
The Nationals didn’t listen to the critics, however. After starting out 19-31, they transformed into the hottest team in baseball by going 74-38 the rest of the way. Washington then rode a series of comebacks through the playoffs before winning their first World Series title in franchise history.
With hindsight always providing a different perspective, here are some of the best freezing cold takes from when the Nationals were playing like one of the worst teams in baseball.
ESPN (5/8/2019) – Real or not? The Nationals are in trouble, and so is Dave Martinez
“From what I've seen from Nationals fans on Twitter, they are not impressed with his year-plus on the job. Mostly, of course, it's on the players. But you can't fire them.”
This was only the beginning. Just a little over a month into Davey Martinez’s second season, the skipper was already considered to be on the hot seat.
WUSA9 (5/8/2019) – Davey Martinez should be fired as manager of Washington Nationals
“These are lean times. The Nationals need to get back in contention. And though it may be knee-jerk this early in the season -- and calling for someone's job is not something I endorse as an instant fix for a team -- there's no time to waste. Davey Martinez must go. The sooner the better.”
On the same day ESPN speculated that Martinez was on the hot seat, the first call was made for the Nationals to can their skipper.
The Ringer (5/10/2019) – How the Nationals Went From Ewing Theory Contender to Early-Season Disaster
“Maybe the Nationals’ luck will change about the same time they fire Martinez, and he’ll make for a convenient scapegoat. But they’ve wasted their margin for error. The Nationals have to turn things around soon, and drastically, or else they’ll be stuck watching Harper on TV this October.”
Many members of the media considered the loss of Bryce Harper to be a major factor in the Nationals’ early struggles—even those who initially thought his decision to sign elsewhere could be a good thing for Washington.
New York Post (5/15/2019) – Why Max Scherzer should be centerpiece in Nationals’ firesale
“They must…recognize that selling does not mean rebuilding, and swallow hard and appreciate their versions of [Aroldis] Chapman (who was in his walk year) and [Andrew] Miller (who had 2 1/2 seasons left on his contract) are Anthony Rendon (in his walk year) and — turn your eyes away here Nats fans — Max Scherzer, who has 2 1/2 seasons left.”
This stirred up Yankees fans pretty good. Max Scherzer would’ve made for a valuable trade piece had the Nationals decided to sell. It was only a matter of time before someone tossed out the idea.
The Washington Post (5/22/2019) – Dave Martinez is a good man. But he probably shouldn’t be managing the Nationals.
“When you’re just one more bad skid from a dozen-game deficit and a 90 percent chance of ‘wait till next year,’ then it’s probably time to get Joe Girardi, Buck Showalter, Mike Scioscia or ‘other’ on the horn. Watching bad things happen to nice people is sad. But so is watching these Nats under Martinez.”
Another call for Martinez to be fired, this time just days before the season began to turn around.
NBC Sports Washington (5/23/2019) – If the Nationals’ season isn’t over, it’s close
“New day, different reliever, same ear-bleeding outcome. Which again made talking about tomorrow the only way to deal with the grotesqueness of today. Trouble is tomorrow may not matter anymore.”
Of course, NBCSW was not exempt from preparing to give up on the Nationals.
The Washington Post (5/23/2019) – Who cares about Dave Martinez? In a lost season, Nationals face tougher decisions.
“It doesn’t really matter who’s managing this bunch. Keep Davey or dump Davey. Meh. The problems here are more fundamental. The important decisions are about rosters in coming years, not the roster that’s imploding in front of us.”
If the Nationals were going to sell, then it was worth exploring which players would generate interest on the trade market.
Federal Baseball (5/24/2019) – The Washington Nationals should explore a retool, not a rebuild...
“This has been a tough season for the Nationals and their fans. It’s hard to imagine this is how ownership hoped things would go after Bryce Harper departed for Philadelphia. But while it would take swallowing a bit of pride, a retool might be the best thing to keep Washington afloat in the National League moving forward.”
Even this reporter, who wrote for SB Nation’s Federal Baseball at the time, considered the idea of the Nationals retooling their roster.
Sports Illustrated (5/24/2019) - D.C. Disaster: The Case for and Against the Nationals Punting on 2019
“The Nationals’ 2019 season is a plane nose-diving into a nuclear power plant. It’s a flaming cruise ship hitting an iceberg in the middle of a hurricane. It’s a man jumping out of a plane only to realize that he forgot a parachute who’s then hit by lightning. It’s a sixth Pirates of the Caribbean movie.”
A sweep at the hands of the lowly New York Mets was enough to convince anyone that the Nationals were the NL East team in the most trouble by the end of May.
ESPN (5/27/2019) – Where do the Nationals and Davey Martinez go from here?
“Last year, in Martinez's first season as a manager, the Nats went 82-80 and were considered the most disappointing team in baseball. Impossible though it may seem, they've been even more disappointing this season. Given that data, and given how sloppy his team has been in the field and on the base paths, how could you not blame Martinez for the Nationals' failures?”
Their first three-game winning streak of the year wasn’t enough just yet to quell all the talk of moving on from Martinez.
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