Dusty Baker got fired after his Washington Nationals won their Eastern Division by 20 games last season. They were knocked out by the Chicago Cubs in the playoffs , hardly a thing to be ashamed of, but now Dave Martinez takes the helm and more will continue to be expected of the Nationals. Realistically, they should repeat as divisional champs but to expect more than that, as former Yankees blowhard George Steinbrenner always did, reveals that one is more of a corporate know nothing executive than one who understands baseball, or life.
The players on the Washington roster are good enough. Do you doubt Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, and company? That’s a clown question, bro. Anthony Rendon doesn’t get all of the ink and air time that those guys do but he is a great third baseman and a consistent offensive threat. There is no pitcher in baseball to make you feel more confident when he starts than Max Scherzer. Before he is through, Trea Turner at shortstop may be their most valuable player over all of those guys, so the Nationals are in good shape. What about the competition?
Last year the New York Mets took a tumble to fourth place, 27 games behind Washington. Some are predicting that, with a new manager who used to be a pitching coach, and with all those starting pitchers with clever nicknames together and healthy, the Mets are bound for contention again. After all, it’s only three years since they were in the World Series. I will venture to say that even if Yoenis Cespedes plays 162 games and the insurance companies shell out less than a billion dollars to keep those guys pitching, the Mets are out of the money. Can you name their infield? That’s what I thought. Well, they have acquired Adrian Gonzalez to play first base after he Wally Pipped himself out of a job in Los Angeles, and he can still do it after all these years but we’ll see how it goes. Todd Frazier took his swing as hard as you can bat across town to play third, journeyman Asdrubal Cabrera is at second, and Amed Rosario, who played in 46 games last season, is the shortstop. Now are we excited? That’s what I thought.
Atlanta and Philadelphia should continue to improve but I doubt that they are scaring Washington yet. It’s considered a cinch that Ronald Acuna will be tearing up the league as left fielder for the Braves some day, and when he does the lineup could be solid. That’s because Ender Inciarte and Freddie Freeman, who are both good defenders, are already producing runs and a healthy mix of veterans like Nick Markakis and Tyler Flowers with youngsters like second sacker Ozzie Albies and third baseman Johan Camargo exists right now. Pitching, always the key, should improve as Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb gain experience. The Phillies made excellent additions in Carlos Santana and Jake Arrieta so their progress may accelerate more than Atlanta’s now.
As for the Marlins, well, it’s understandable that fans would be grousing with the departure of Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Dee Gordon. However, they won just 77 games with those guys last year, so maybe give the new owners a break for a year or so.. Let’s look at the positive. Jeffrey Loria is also gone.