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Mark DeRosa reminisces on 2012 Nationals, thinks they could have won the World Series

Mark DeRosa reminisces on 2012 Nationals, thinks they could have won the World Series

Former Washington utility player Mark DeRosa believes the 2012 Nationals could have won the World Series if they had stuck with the status quo and kept Stephen Strasburg in the rotation. 

DeRosa, who currently works as an analyst for MLB Network and co-host of MLB Central, joined Tim Shovers and Chase Hughes on the latest edition of the Nationals Talk podcast, where he looked back on the historic 2012 Washington team and season.

LISTEN BELOW TO THE INTERVIEW ON THE NATIONALS TALK PODCAST:

During spring training, DeRosa knew the Nationals were going to be special that year. He saw how talented the roster was after the first few practices when he saw the likes of Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, a just-drafted Anthony Rendon and a rookie Bryce Harper. Between the veteran leaders and the youngsters, DeRosa knew the team Mike Rizzo crafted could be something special. 

"The way Mike Rizzo built that roster," DeRosa said, "We were going to be able to sustain, because...some of the [older] guys were going to be able to kind of embrace the younger guys and tell them how good they were and...hopefully that would lead them to some more confidence." 

Their hot start to the season also helped boost the Nationals' confidence that year and allowed young players and veterans alike to relax. They won 14 of their first 18 games to start the 2012 season and finished with a 98-64 record.

So, when Game 5 of the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals came around, the sting from that loss hurt all the more. Even for DeRosa, who described his role on the team as something akin to a "glorified bench coach," the loss was the worst and most devastating of his 16 years in the majors. 

DeRosa was adamant that there wasn't a cloud hanging over the team because they pulled Strasburg. That plan had been in action since Spring Training, and the team and organization were going to stick to it no matter what. 

"I do think we win the World Series with [Strasburg] in the starting rotation," DeRosa said. "He was the best pitcher in the National League that year in my opinion. He was dominant. He was untouchable. When you take that away from a team going into the postseason, it can't help but hurt a little bit."

DeRosa also had some key words about Harper, who he felt lucky to have gotten to know was a rookie. 

"There wasn't a point in time during the 2012 season of me being around [Harper] that he ever acted like he deserved any different treatment from anyone on that roster," DeRosa said.

Oh, and about Werth's Game 4 walk-off: it meant as much to the team as it did to the fans, if not more.

"For [Werth] to have that moment...it justified a lot of things," DeRosa said. "It was his moment to have." 

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One year later, Bryce Harper is in a very different spring training atmosphere

One year later, Bryce Harper is in a very different spring training atmosphere

When Bryce Harper signed his then-record 13-year, $330 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies last March, the stands at Spectrum Field in Clearwater were filled to the brim on a daily basis while the media scrums in the home locker room had twice as many reporters firing questions.

That’s what happens when the most polarizing player in baseball, a former MVP and No. 1 overall pick who’s drawn his fair share of both fans and critics, joins a big-market organization looking to jump back into contention for the first time in almost a decade.

But a year later, with the Phillies having missed the playoffs entirely and much bigger storylines dominating the sport, things have been calmer in Clearwater this spring.

"It's definitely different coming into camp," Harper said Tuesday, per NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury. "It's good knowing I'll be here the next 12 years, a lot more calm, not as crazy, not as many cameras. I'll enjoy that and just get ready for the season."

Harper made his spring season debut Tuesday, going 0-1 with a walk and sacrifice fly while playing five innings in right field. With a month to go before the start of the regular season, Harper’s goal for the rest of spring isn’t too complicated.

"Just be healthy," he said. "Take good routes in the outfield, throw the ball well out there, have good at-bats."

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Max Scherzer not pleased with new playoff format proposal

Max Scherzer not pleased with new playoff format proposal

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Here is a summation on Max Scherzer’s thoughts about the proposed playoff format changes: No.

Is he willing to talk about it? Yes. Does his voice matter as a member of the MLBPA executive board? Yes. Would he consider alterations in the future? Yes.

However, the idea of adding teams to the postseason -- expanding the total number of entrants to 14 which would be almost half the league -- is not something which appeals to Scherzer at this point. 

“For me, it’s really hard to sit there and say our playoffs are broken,” Scherzer told NBC Sports Washington. “When we look at how we won the World Series, we made it as a wild-card team and we won the World Series, we’ve also seen the best team in baseball go out there and win the World Series as well. To me, as we sit here today, the playoffs are functioning as they should because the second wild-card spot and the teams behind it are typically only a few games behind, so really adding those teams, those teams should already be in the hunt and finding a way to make the playoffs already.”

If the proposal was law last season, here’s how the National League playoffs would have looked (number of wins in parentheses):

Division winners

Atlanta Braves (97)

St. Louis Cardinals (91)

Los Angeles Dodgers (106)

Wild-cards

Washington (93)

Milwaukee (89)

New York (86)

Arizona (85)

The 84-win Cubs would have finished a game out of the final wild-card spot.

The Dodgers would receive a first-round bye. The Braves would get to choose their opponent from the bottom three wild-card teams (Presumably, it would be Arizona in order to avoid Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg or Jacob deGrom in a one-game playoff). So, the 97-win Braves would be playing the 85-win Diamondbacks for the chance to advance. If the Diamondbacks know they have the same shot as a 97-win team, what’s to prompt their investment in the offseason or trade deadline? 

“When you start talking about increasing the teams that make the playoffs, I have a huge concern over the competition that resides in the regular season,” Scherzer said. “In this format that is proposed, really the team that finishes in second place is really in the same field as the team that finishes in seventh place. We’ve seen trades in the past where good teams have unloaded players for a number of reasons and maybe not necessarily put the best product on the field, and they don’t feel they would have to compete as strongly if there is a very, very strong team in the league. 

“So, there’s significant concerns for me moving forward with their proposal. Something I think we can work through, something we can talk about. But I think there’s other issues at play with our system, with the CBA and the way the economic structure of the game is working that I think are more pertinent issues we need to address as a whole to increase competition throughout the game. Without addressing those concerns, I think it’s pointless to start talking about the playoffs.”

Those concerns are?

“Those are concerns that will be addressed when the time is right in the CBA talks,” Scherzer said. “Those talks will [begin] after [the] 2021 [season]. I look forward to having those talks. We need to have those talks about what the game needs to look like going forward, how teams can compete -- small-market teams, large-market teams and what the game needs to move to as we continue to see how fans experience the game.”

But, for now, it’s a no on the playoff expansion.

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