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Tim Kurkjian says there’s no replacing Anthony Rendon in the Nationals’ lineup

Tim Kurkjian says there’s no replacing Anthony Rendon in the Nationals’ lineup

For the first time in their history, the Nationals are gearing up for a title defense. The reigning World Series champions spent the offseason re-signing several key contributors from their playoff run while making the media tour required of Commissioner’s Trophy hoisters.

One player who won’t be returning to D.C. in 2020, however, is third baseman Anthony Rendon. After finishing third in NL MVP voting last season and leading the majors in RBIs with 126, he inked a seven-year, $245 million with the Los Angeles Angels at the Winter Meetings and left behind a hole in the Nationals’ lineup that has yet to be filled.

Free agents Josh Donaldson and Mike Moustakas signed elsewhere. There has been reported to be little traction between the Nationals and either the Chicago Cubs or Colorado Rockies for Kris Bryant or Nolan Arenado, respectively. Instead, Washington is giving top prospect Carter Kieboom a shot at earning the starting job at third out of spring training.

ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian sat down with NBC Sports Washington’s Todd Dybas for the Nationals Talk podcast and discussed just how much the team is going to miss Rendon’s bat.

“They’re not going to replace him,” Kurkjian said. “He’s way too good of a hitter. But what they’re trying to do makes some sense. If Carter Kieboom is ready, and I’m not sure he is, but if he’s ready and they put him out there every day, they got a chance to have a really good young third baseman on their team.

“If it doesn’t work, they have Asdrúbal Cabrera, they have Howie Kendrick, they have other options even Starlin Castro. But none of those guys together are going to be as good as Anthony Rendon was and none of those is going to be able to help protect [Juan] Soto in the order.”

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General manager Mike Rizzo said at the Nationals’ annual WinterFest event in January that the team wants to “score runs in other ways.” He spent the winter building their infield depth, signing Starlin Castro, Asdrúbal Cabrera and Howie Kendrick to play multiple positions.

But even so, the Nationals’ lineup lacks the thump that Anthony Rendon and, in years past, Bryce Harper provided. Yet Rizzo made another area of the roster a priority: the bullpen. He inked Houston Astros set-up man Will Harris to a three-year deal and brought back playoff hero Daniel Hudson to form a formidable reliever trio alongside Sean Doolittle.

“Their bullpen is way better than it was last year, it has to be,” Kurkjian said. “Their starting rotation is still great and even though they won’t be the same team offensively—they can’t be without Anthony Rendon—I think they’re still a solid contender to win the division, solid contender to make the playoffs again.”

The Nationals figure to be in the thick of the NL East race once again, but they’d like to do so without digging themselves into the 19-31 hole that they got into last season. While the string of comebacks and miracle performances made for an unbelievable championship effort and a legacy that will endure for generations, Kurkjian believes Washington is going to need to play more like a legitimate contender all season if it’s going to return to the World Series.

“Will they repeat last year? That’s never happening again,” Kurkjian said. “It’s not that they can’t win another championship. The way they won it, that’s a once-in-a-lifetime story and we’re never gonna see that again. From them or very many other teams, either.”

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On this date: The Nationals played their first game ever

On this date: The Nationals played their first game ever

It seems like eons ago that the Washington Nationals played in their first game after departing from Montreal.

Saturday marks the 15th anniversary of their inaugural game as they brought professional baseball back to the District of Columbia.

The Nationals opened up the 2005 season on the road at Citizens Bank Park with a matchup against their future rival in the Phillies.

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The game didn't go as planned for Nats manager Frank Robinson, with his squad dropping the first game of their 162-game slate with a defeat, but it was a return to normalcy for baseball fans in the nation's capital who had longed for a team to root for since the Senators left town 34 years prior.

The Phillies beat the Nats 8-4 on Opening Day, but for fans in the District, there was now a team to cheer on when they returned home a few days later for the home opener at RFK Stadium.

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Nats GM Mike Rizzo displays Commissioner's Trophy in neighborhood during quarantine

Nats GM Mike Rizzo displays Commissioner's Trophy in neighborhood during quarantine

Now this is the type of content we love to see. 

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo found a pretty cool yet responsible way to bring some cheer to his neighborhood in the midst of social distancing on Thursday. 

On the day that should have been the Nats’ 2020 home opener Washington’s GM Mike Rizzo displayed the World Series trophy in the window of his home in Navy Yard.

According to The Washington Post’s reporter Barry Svrluga, Rizzo’s gesture was “in honor of Opening Day!” 

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Of course, fans loved this idea. I mean who wouldn’t? 

Fans passing by even stopped to take a picture with the trophy. 

Although we were all thrilled to return to Nationals Park to celebrate the defending World Champions, Rizzo’s trophy display was a way to spread some joy until we can reunite again. 

On a recent conference call Rizzo told reporters, “This is going to be a very, very special Opening Day for us when it happens, so we still have that to look forward to... On the brighter side, the glass half full view is that we’re the reigning world champions and we still are clutching hard to that trophy. We’ve got ourselves a banner-raising ceremony coming, we’ve got ourselves some beautiful rings that we’re going to be able to wear around D.C. in the very near future, so although we’re thinking daily and hourly about the humanity of what’s going on right now, we also have that to look forward to when we get through this thing and we come out the other side and baseball begins again.”

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