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Freezing Cold Takes: What pundits were saying about the 19-31 Nationals

Freezing Cold Takes: What pundits were saying about the 19-31 Nationals

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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How will MLB's new extra inning with a runner on second rule work strategically?

How will MLB's new extra inning with a runner on second rule work strategically?

Major League Baseball is going to be bizarre in 2020. A 60-game schedule. The designated hitter in the National League. No fans.

But the change a lot of baseball fans might have the toughest getting used to is the tweak to extra innings. Each team will begin each extra inning with a man on second base. The crew from the Nationals Talk podcast had differing opinions on the new rule.

“I absolutely love it,” NBC Sports Washington's Nick Ashooh said.

Team reporter Todd Dybas did not agree.

“The rule is dumb. It goes against everything that baseball is about.”


Chase Hughes broke the tie. “I’m a no on the rule too. I’m with Todd.”

What about the strategy of starting with a man on second base? Could team's exploit or alter the ending of the previous frame to set up a new inning? 

The rule states: “The runner placed on second base at the start of each half-inning shall be the player (or a substitute for such player) in the batting order immediately preceding that half-inning’s leadoff hitter.”

Dybas wondered if it would be wise to end the previous inning on purpose if a speedster is at the plate with two outs.

“Would it behoove [Giants'] Billy Hamilton to make the final out? So the next inning he would start at second base?” Hamilton is a career .242 hitting but has 299 stolen bases in 809 games played. 


Frustration will also be inevitable. “I can’t wait to hear from the players on the first team to lose by that rule,” Hughes said. “What are they going to say?” 

2020 has already thrown us plenty of curveballs, the changes to baseball will just be a couple more the sports world will have to adjust to. 

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Report: 6 Nationals among players MLB didn't test for COVID-19 before flight from Dominican Republic

Report: 6 Nationals among players MLB didn't test for COVID-19 before flight from Dominican Republic

One of two flights chartered by Major League Baseball from the Dominican Republic to Miami carried multiple players that tested positive for the coronavirus after arriving in the U.S., The Washington Post reported Thursday evening. None of the more than 160 players and staff members were tested by MLB for the disease prior to flying.

Among the passengers on those flights—which flew out of Santo Domingo on July 1—were Nationals players Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Wander Suero and Fernando Abad as well as two of their prospects in Luis Garcia and Joan Adon. All six players are isolating in D.C. and one of them, The Post reported, tested positive for the coronavirus during intake screening July 2.

The Nationals announced Sunday that two players had tested positive upon arriving to D.C. and were in isolation. In addition to the six players who flew from the D.R., Howie Kendrick, Starlin Castro and Roenis Elías were absent from practice at Nationals Park this week. Although Castro returned to the field Thursday, Washington has yet to give any updates on the remaining players not cleared for play.


“We’re still waiting to hear about those other guys,” manager Davey Martinez said in a Zoom press conference Thursday. “But they’re working diligently, MLB and our medical staff, to get those guys cleared. Hopefully, we’ll get them soon.”

The lack of testing prior to those flights was a result of insufficient resources in the D.R. to accommodate the number of people who were to board, The Post reported. The news comes three days after the Nationals opted to cancel practice due to test results taking over 72 hours to come in. General manager Mike Rizzo issued a strong statement that afternoon stressing the importance of quick testing.


“We cannot have our players and staff work at risk,” Rizzo wrote. “We will not sacrifice the health and safety of our players, staff and their families.  Without accurate and timely testing it is simply not safe for us to continue with Summer Camp.  Major League Baseball needs to work quickly to resolve issues with their process and their lab.  Otherwise, Summer Camp and the 2020 Season are at risk.”

MLB’s 2020 season is scheduled to begin July 23, when the Nationals are set to host the New York Yankees on Opening Night.

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