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Would a team of ex-Nats be any good?

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Would a team of ex-Nats be any good?

Sometimes when teams get good they have to let good players go. The 2007 Philadelphia Phillies, for instance, had Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse on their roster and neither were major contributors. Jayson Werth was of course also on Philly before coming to Washington. 

It took a lot of roster turnover to transform the Nats into what they are today, a playoff team and division champion. Just look at the 2010 squad, nine different pitchers who made appearances with that team have yet to pitch again in the majors. (Luis Atilano, Scott Olsen, J.D. Martin, Tyler Walker, Jesse English, Matt Chico, Joe Bisenius, Garrett Mock, and Jason Bergmann)

The Nationals over the past few years have traded players away and let others go via free agency, some simply because it was time they switched to the American League. But looking at who has left and where they are now, the talent pool of ex-Nationals players really isn’t that bad.

Here is how I see a team of former Nationals players (still active in the majors) stacking up. The stats included are those from their 2012 seasons.

BATTERS

C – Derek Norris (.201 BA, 7 HR, 34 RBI)
1B – Adam Dunn (.204 BA, 41 HR, 96 RBI)
2B – Emilio Bonifacio (.258 BA, 30 R, 30 SB)
SS – Jerry Hairston (.273 BA, 4 HR, 26 RBI)
3B – Alfonso Soriano (.262 BA, 32 HR, 108 RBI)
LF – Josh Willingham (.260 BA, 35 HR, 110 RBI)
CF – Justin Maxwell (.229 BA, 18 HR, 53 RBI)
RF – Jonny Gomes (.262 BA, 18 HR, 47 RBI)

BN – Wil Nieves (32 G, .301 BA, 8 RBI)
BN – Marlon Byrd (47 G, .210 BA, 10 R)
BN – Laynce Nix (.256 BA, 3 HR, 16 RBI)
BN – Pete Orr (35 G, .315 BA, 7 RBI)
BN – Austin Kearns (.245 BA, 21 R, 16 RBI)

A lineup of former Nationals looks a lot better after 2012 than it did a year before. Adam Dunn had a huge comeback from his awful 2011 with 41 home runs and a league-best 105 walks. He made his second career All-Star appearance and would be the centerpiece of this hypothetical batting order. Dunn along with Soriano, Willingham, Maxwell, Gomes, and even Norris would pack a ton of power.

The ex-Nationals lineup overall would be quite lopsided. Their infield in general would be old and ineffective. Hairston and Orr would likely platoon at shortstop given their age. And Alfonso Soriano would have to move back to the infield given the outfield depth. Willingham, Maxwell, Gomes, and Byrd would combine to man the outfield.

The Nats would be okay at catcher with Norris and Nieves. Norris is a decent starter having blocked the plate for the division champion Oakland Athletics. The bench would also be serviceable with Nix and the fourth outfielder ready to go. 

PITCHERS

SP – Tommy Milone (13-10, 3.74 ERA, 190.0 IP)
SP – Jason Marquis (8-11, 5.22 ERA, 127.2 IP)
SP – Livan Hernandez (4-1, 6.42 ERA, 67.1 IP)
SP – Brad Peacock (played in minors)
SP – Miguel Batista (1-3, 4.61 ERA, 52.2 IP)

The starting rotation of an ex-Nationals team would be its biggest weakness. The Nats themselves were poor in this department before getting Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, so this could be expected. Milone turned into a quality starting pitcher after being traded to Oakland and led the A.L. West champions in wins and innings pitched. The rest of the rotation, with the exception of Peacock, saw their best years a long time ago. Peacock had promise when he was traded to the A’s, but never made it out of the Pacific Coast League in 2012. He had an ugly 6.01 ERA through 134 2/3 innings in the minors.

CL – Joel Hanrahan (2.72 ERA, 36 SV, 59.2 IP)
RP – Joel Peralta (3.63 ERA, 0.985 WHIP, 67.0 IP)
RP – Jon Rauch (3.59 ERA, 0.988 WHIP, 57.2 IP)
RP – Matt Capps (3.68 ERA, 1.091 WHIP, 14 SV)
RP – Doug Slaten (2.77 ERA, 13.0 IP)
RP – Todd Coffey (4.66 ERA, 19.1 IP)
RP – Chad Gaudin (4-2, 4.54 ERA, 69.1 IP)

The bullpen of the ex-Nationals would be quite decent. Hanrahan is probably the posterboy of former Nats players as even general manager Mike Rizzo has expressed regret for trading him. Peralta, Rauch, and Capps are quality relievers and the overall depth is good. Slaten would be the only left-hander which would pose a problem.

OVERALL

All in all, the group of former Nationals still active in the major isn’t that bad. Making the playoffs would be unlikely, but there is certainly more talent there than the current Miami Marlins.

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If the Nationals’ season isn’t over, it’s close

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If the Nationals’ season isn’t over, it’s close

NEW YORK -- Dealing with tomorrow has often become the only palatable way for the Nationals to forget yesterday.

They lose in eye-gouging fashion, roll in the next day to reset, and, at least in New York, find a topper. That formula has them on a train home from what could have been a series for re-emergence, but instead placed them in a worse place than they started. Washington is 19-31 following a sweep in Flushing. It would have to go 71-41 (a .634 winning percentage) to reach 90 wins. If it’s not already, the season is on the verge of being over. Manager Davey Martinez disputed that idea.

“I mean we're not out of it that's for sure, I can tell you that right now," Martinez said after Thursday’s 6-4 loss. “Like I said, everyday we're close, we compete, we're in every game. Now we just got to finish games.”

A slog-filled drive from midtown to Queens delivered the tired team back to its baseball quarters Thursday morning. Sean Doolittle changed then pulled his red hood up, sitting at his locker 10 hours after he stated he was “disgusted” with himself for Wednesday’s crash. Such a devastating night has been common for the 2019 Nationals. It was not for Doolittle. He hit a batter for the first time since May 29, 2018. He allowed four earned runs in an outing for the fifth time in 348 career appearances (1.4 percent of the time he pitches). In keeping with the season, the worst-possible outcome arrived at the worst-possible time, then another terrible one followed.

Martinez remained upbeat, sipping a morning drink concoction common in his native Puerto Rico. He rewatched Wednesday's game -- a masochist’s errand this season -- as he regularly does, went to sleep around 2 a.m., awoke at 7, arrived at Citi Field around 9:45. The leash on his future has been shortened greatly by the four failing days in New York.

The Nationals wandered out for stretch and light throwing in front of an oddball scene. Thursday was “Weather Day” at Citi Field with the Big Apple-famous Mr. G hosting in his Mets jersey. Mr. G  -- known to his friends as Irv Gikofsy, New York City’s most popular weatherman -- kicked up a “Let’s go Mets!” chant down the third base line while the Nationals relievers ran routes and caught a foam football to get loose in the same part of the park. The recently re-emerged Mrs. Met, who popped back up in 2013 after decades of dormancy, used her giant noggin to nod along.

The game was another compilation of missed opportunities, bullpen disasters and bad luck. Washington left eight runners on base through the first six innings alone. The Mets’ path to runs was aided by slop and basics. Carlos Gomez single in the fifth. He ran to steal second, Yan Gomes’ throw went into center field, Gomez went on to third base. A sacrifice fly scored him.

J.D. Davis singled in the sixth. Todd Frazier was hit by a pitch. Stephen Strasburg’s wild pitch moved them both over. Another sacrifice fly scored one, a Wilson Ramos infield single scored the other. The Mets led, 3-1.

The Nationals didn’t score with runners on first and third and one out in the first. They did not score after Juan Soto’s leadoff triple in the second inning. They did not score after a one-out double in the third. They did not score with runners on second and third and one out in the fourth. They did not score with a runner on second and one out in the fifth. This is not hyperbole for effect. It’s facts. Sigh-worthy ones.

The only effective offseason signings are Kurt Suzuki and Patrick Corbin. The others have not just resided below expectations, they have been among the worst in the league at their position.

Gomes, acquired in a trade, leads the league in passed balls. He’s committed three errors in his 29 starts. Coming into Thursday, he had a 65 OPS-plus (100 is average).

Brian Dozier started the afternoon with a 73 OPS-plus and -0.5 WAR. Those two numbers would be worse if not for a recent uptick both in the field and plate from him.

And, the most egregious failure of the offseason has been Trevor Rosenthal’s saga. Martinez was asked directly Wednesday if Rosenthal simply has the “yips”. He said they still believe Rosenthal’s problems are mechanics, not thoughts, despite him throwing baseballs to the backstop in central Pennsylvania. The luxury-tax averse Nationals are paying him $6 million to do so.

Finally, Thursday was enough for Martinez to shed his tranquility. After Howie Kendrick was ejected in the top of the eighth, Martinez ran to home plate to start an argument of his own. He half-circled home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman, yelled, pointed and carried on in a manner that begged Dreckman to throw him out. He did. Martinez went from rankled to furious. He spiked his hat, kicked the dirt, and yelled some more. The event provided his third career ejection and looked to be among the final moves of a manager on the verge of returning to private life.

A strange thing followed: his team rallied for three runs to take a 4-3 lead. No matter. There’s no goodness Washington’s bullpen can’t undermine. Wander Suero gave up a three-run homer in the eighth to Gomez. 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.

“Things are going to change,” Martinez said. “Things are going to change. And I know that. So we just got to keep pounding away, keep playing baseball. There's good players in that clubhouse, really good players. We'll turn things around.”

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An irate Davey Martinez ejected in 8th inning as Nats swept by Mets

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An irate Davey Martinez ejected in 8th inning as Nats swept by Mets

Perhaps Davey Martinez senses his job security is in serious jeopardy as the team continues to underperform and slip its way down the competitive NL East division. 

The second-year Nationals manager, who's gone 101-111 since accepting the job, reached a boiling point Thursday when he was ejected in the 8th for arguing a called strike three on a Howie Kendrick check swing. 

“I just didn’t think he [Kendrick] swung. And we just got into it. All I did was tell him to ask for help. That’s why the first base umpire’s there. And he didn’t like it. I did what I had to do.”

"Things are going to change. Things are going to change. And I know that. So we just got to keep pounding away, keep playing baseball. there's good players in that clubhouse, really good players. We'll turn things around," Martinez reiterated postgame, as he so often has this season. 

Martinez, typically mild-mannered in the dugout, tied Matt Williams on the all-time career ejections as a manager list with his third Thursday. 

First-year National and MLB veteran second baseman Brian Dozier stood behind his manager after the crushing loss. 

“Davey does a really, really good job of always defending his players. Whether that be on the field to an umpire, to you guys, in the media, in the clubhouse, wherever it is, he does a really good job of that.”

The Nationals' 6-4 loss to New York marked the team's fifth straight as it falls to 19-31 on the season. They return home Friday night for a four-game set at Nationals Park against the Miami Marlins. 

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