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."
MORE NATIONALS NEWS: