Next week, a phenomenon will occur that has not happened in Washington since the Franklin Roosevelt administration. For the first time in several generations, baseball fans from the District, Maryland, and Virginia finally will get to experience watching their hometown team play in the Fall Classic. The Washington Nationals are going to the World Series!
Other baseball teams, like the Yankees or the Cardinals, have a long history of success, as their fans will certainly be happy to tell you. For Washingtonians, our modern baseball history dates back only 14 years ago, when when the Montreal Expos relocated to Washington in 2005. We are the first generation of Washington Nationals fans, and this is the first time that we can say that our team is in the World Series.
For the younger generation of fans, like myself, this win is a coming of age experience. I literally grew up with the team. I was born in the summer of 2004, as the Expos were finishing up their final season north of the border. The first full baseball season I was alive for was the Nats’ inaugural season. My elementary years coincided with the team’s development years.
I went to my first baseball game as a five-year old in 2009. I will always remember that day. It was a game against the New York Mets. Our seats were so high up in the upper deck of Nationals Park you could feel the breeze coming from the Anacostia River. We complacently watched as the Mets scored five runs in the first inning against the Nationals’ starting pitcher, and the game ended in a usual rout for the lowly Washington team. But even on that day, I became a baseball fan for life.
The story of the Nationals franchise is the story of growth and maturation. I was in the ballpark in 2010, when
center fielder Nyjer Morgan had a temper tantrum in the outfield and threw his glove at a missed fly ball, which led to an inside-the-park home run. That was the same year Jason Marquis gave up 10 runs in the first inning without recording an out. I was despondent when closer Drew Storen gave up two go-ahead runs with 2 outs and 2 strikes in the 9th inning of the Nationals’ first playoff series. I remember pitcher Henry Rodriguez throw a 100 mph fastball so wide of the catcher’s glove that it ricocheted off of the backstop and nearly hit Rodriguez, who was standing on the mound, in the head. The Nationals’ 2014 season ended in the playoffs with a wild pitch on an intentional walk, followed by another bases-loaded wild pitch. The Nationals’ 2015 season ended with the closer putting a chokehold on the MVP outfielder in the dugout during a game.
That’s not to say it has all been bad as a Nats fan. We’ve seen more no-hitters thrown in our team’s short history than the New York Mets organization. We even saw Max Scherzer throw a near-perfect game! We had 8 years of Bryce Harper: MLB Rookie of the Year, National League MVP, Home Run Derby Champion. We had Jayson Werth’s 2012 Game 4 walk-off home run. We have seen Hall of Fame caliber play in our ballpark.
But we never made it past the first round of the playoffs.
Expectations were low this season. I remember walking home from school this February when I learned of the news that Bryce Harper had signed with the Phillies. I was crushed. Even though I came to expect Harper to sign elsewhere, the fact he was going to one of our biggest rivals was absolutely devastating. I had lost hope in this team early in the season when they had a 19-31 record through the first 50 games. I thought the team needed new management and would re-enter its building phase. I convinced myself that they were going to focus on developing their young talent like Juan Soto and Victor Robles, but we would not see this team playing in October.
But, they stayed in the fight. They persevered. Now, they are headed to the World Series.
Win or lose, I’m proud of this team for the way they inspired their fans. They showed grit and determination. There is a lesson in showing that hard work and drive pays off even when the odds are stacked against you. Eight year-old “Matt’s Bats” who started this blog would be bouncing off the walls with excitement if he knew that the Nationals would someday, somehow make the World Series and he would be there to see it happen. In truth, 2019 Matt’s Bats is bouncing off the walls with excitement, too. Literal tears of joy and relief were shed on October 5, when the Nationals punched their ticket with a 7-4 win over the Cardinals. (The Cardinals!).
Next week, I will take my seat at Nationals Park to see my favorite team playing in the World Series in Washington.
Before we embark on this journey together, which could bring back the first baseball title to Washington since the invention of sliced bread, I can only think of one thing to say to our new Texas foe:
“Houston, y’all have a problem.”
Memorial Day is supposed to be a special occasion for Americans. It’s the unofficial start of summer, the pool is opened, but most importantly, is a day to remind ourselves and thank the brave service men and women who serve, have served, and sacrificed their lives to protect this country. Some celebrate this day by attending a baseball game on the long weekend, a nice way to spend the day off and honor America’s pastimes, traditions, and values. In Fresno, California, many attended the doubleheader between the Washington Nationals’ triple-A affiliate, the Fresno Grizzlies, and the San Diego Padres triple-A affiliate, the El Paso Chihuahuas. In between games, however, the jumbotron at Chukchansi Park showed a video which completely took away from the true spirit of Memorial Day.
It was a video montage of generic military-related items, played over a speech delivered by former President Ronald Reagan. However, towards the end, the video cut to a segment featuring “enemies of freedom” (which is disrespectful in its own way). They showed pictures of Kim Jong-Un and Fidel Castro, but at the same time, showed a picture of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the firebrand freshman lawmaker from New York who has become a major figure in the Democratic Party. This video, coming from an organization directly linked with the Nationals’ one, is completely and utterly unacceptable and disrespectful. Here’s why.
First – it’s a baseball game. We use sports as a way to connect with one another. It’s how we create alliances and rivalries between cities, but in the end, it’s all in good fun. Now more than ever, people have been using sports as a way to get away from the tiring headlines each and every day. To forget about what he said and what she said about that policy or person, and to just enjoy yourself while taking in the majesty of sports. Why should politics be brought up at a baseball game, when many attendees are there to relax? And even more importantly, why are the Fresno Grizzlies, a minor league baseball team, trying to influence political beliefs of others by airing a clip dehumanizing a sitting congresswoman?
Secondly – it’s Memorial Day. The holiday isn’t just the time we use to sell cars or mattresses, rather to really reflect on our nation’s heroes and veterans. We don’t use Memorial Day to give our disdain to those whom we have fought against in our history – we use it to honor the lives lost as a result of said conflict. We visit the graves of fallen soldiers at Arlington Cemetery, we hold moments of silence to honor those we have lost, and we take the time to reflect on and cherish the values we hold true to as Americans. In no way should Memorial Day be used as yet another time where we break ourselves collectively into political factions; it should be one day a year where we settle our differences and honor active military servicemembers and veterans.
But lastly, and I feel as if this is the most important takeaway from the ordeal, is the lasting divisiveness we currently face in our politics. The current divide between Democrat and Republican in this country is so vast, that there are publications and videos calling a sitting congresswoman an “enemy of freedom,” and that there are people who have the audacity to play the video in front of a large crowd of people at a minor league baseball game ON MEMORIAL DAY. These claims are not just unique to Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, too. Many Democrats and Republicans are constantly called such names on a normal basis, and it’s not okay to have that in any civil political discourse. The person who made the decision to play that video is a victim of this vile political atmosphere in which we live in, as are all of us. Obviously, since she was featured in this clip, the far-right organization that created or doctored this video to have it played in Fresno has a grievance with Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. But what these people do not realize is that the people of New York’s 14th Congressional District elected her to serve them in office as their congresswoman. What she does in Congress is what she believes is in the best interest
of her constituents, the people whom she represents. I had the honor and opportunity of speaking with her recently, and she seems genuinely concerned about making the quality of life better for the people in her district, one which has a median income of just above $50,000. Any elected official in any part of the country is the same way. While there will always be dissenters to what any elected official says or does, the official is acting in what he or she sees as the most pragmatic and effective way to stimulate the economy, increase jobs, and promote social equality for the people in their district.
This political divisiveness can actually be analogized to as a baseball game. We’re supposed to cheer for one team and boo the other one. If you look back at some of the most important parts of American history like slavery, Jim Crow laws, or the Cold War, this analogy can be applied there. This principle can explain some of the creations during the 21st century, including extreme partisan gerrymandering in states like Pennsylvania and Maryland, the refusal to not hold Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court justice nominee Merrick Garland in 2016, and, yes, this video played in Fresno. It’s absurd that we have to live in such a time where respect for a member of Congress who hasn’t even passed a single piece of legislation yet is seldom rare to come by. I identify as a Democrat, and although I am unable to vote until 2022, my parents and extended family also identify as Democrats. Although the current President gets an exception for very possibly conspiring with a foreign entity to win an election (as evidenced in the Special Counsel’s report), I or no one in my family would ever call a Republican congressman an “enemy of freedom” for simply having a difference of opinion on some issues.
I’ve never known a political landscape unlike this. I was born in 2004, right in the midst of the Presidential campaign of that year. But just four years earlier, the 2000 election took place, as did the complete chaos that followed it. I’ve seen pictures of George Bush supporters holding signs reading “Sore Loserman” in reference to the Democratic ticket of Al Gore and Joe Lieberman, countered by Al Gore supporters holding signs reading “count every vote” while clashing in the streets. I wish that for my future, and for the future of a safe and healthy nation, we stop with all of this fighting. With all of this name-calling and slander. I want to be a politician one day because I feel strongly on many issues and want a platform to make the quality of life better for every American rather than the pockets of corporations. If I were to ever become a politician, than I would try to emulate people like John McCain (once they remove the banner covering his name) and Joe Biden – people who aren’t or weren’t afraid to compromise and have discussions with the other side of the political aisle. I hope that anyone reading this feels the same way, as will the Fresno Grizzlies once they fire the person who played the video on the Jumbotron.
Because in the end, we’re all on the same team. As Americans.
Let’s take a flashback to January 2019. The St. Louis Blues, touted before the season to be a Stanley Cup contender, are struggling mightily and hovering towards the cellar of the league, even reaching dead last in the entire NHL at a certain point. They were dead – fans were calling for their coach, Mike Yeo, to be fired, and rumors were abuzz of potential trades for their top players.
As fans of the Washington Nationals, does this situation sound familiar?
The Blues, after making the necessary moves, ended up going on a hot streak. That St. Louis team, in last place halfway through the season, is now playing in their first Stanley Cup final
since 1970. They overcame all the odds to turn their season around from being another disappointment for St. Louis hockey fans to one which could potentially bring Missouri it’s first ever Stanley Cup.
The truth is that the Nationals are in a very similar situation to that of the Blues in January. Although not dead last in the MLB or in their division (thanks, Marlins), the Nationals have not been good at all. Their bullpen ERA ranks last in the league, and even on days where aces like Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin have outstanding performances, the offense doesn’t pick up the slack. Plenty of Nationals fans are ready for manager Davey Martinez to be fired, and we were collectively disappointed when the MLB app gave us an alert of potential trade destinations for Anthony Rendon last week. The Blues and Nats also have unique post-win traditions, as the Blues play the 1982 song “Gloria” by Laura Branigan following each win, and the Nationals celebrate wins by smashing cabbage in the locker room. Although being in a similar situation as the Blues were doesn’t automatically spell future success, the circumstances are eerily similar. So what can the Nationals do to mimic the success of the St. Louis Blues and flip the script on the season?
The first order of business that the Blues took care of was axing their head coach, Mike Yeo. Yeo was a top coaching commodity, and was picked up by the Blues after he was fired by the
Minnesota Wild. But in St. Louis, Yeo never lived up to the expectations set by management and he had a year and a half of disappointing results. In the Nationals’ case, Davey Martinez was a highly touted managerial prospect who was signed to a three year contract after serving as Joe Maddon’s second-in-command in both Tampa and Chicago. But as in Yeo’s situation, it never panned out for him in Washington and the hire looks like a failed venture. It’s time to fire the head coach, just as the Blues did. Yeo was replaced by Craig Berube, an assistant coach for the Blues who struggled at first but ended up leading St. Louis to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Nationals could make a similar move after firing Martinez by promoting Randy Knorr, a figure who has been with the organization since its founding in 2005 and currently the manager of the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies, to the helm of the Nationals. He is seen as a likely interim manager if and when Martinez is fired by the Nationals, so it isn’t too outlandish to call for Knorr to take over the Nationals.
By the January benchmark when the Blues started to turn their season around, calls were being made to trade their better players – it was looking like the solid core created by St. Louis’s management was going to be disassembled after two disappointing seasons. However, after the coaching change sparked the team, the Blues team stayed the same, no one got traded, and look where they are now. Trading-wise, baseball and hockey are very different sports. Hockey teams have less extensive prospect pools to tap into, and baseball does not allow the trading of draft picks. However, if the Nationals replace Martinez with Knorr, maybe it’s worth leaving the team as it is today to see if the deep core can turn it around. On paper, like the Blues, the Nats should have started this season (and finished last season) as an elite team. The hitting core and starting rotation needs no introduction, with former All-Stars and award winners at almost every position. Even the bullpen shouldn’t be this bad – Sean Doolittle, Kyle Barraclough, Trevor Rosenthal, and Koda Glover have all had stellar seasons in the past. If the Nationals were to follow the Blues’ lead, they should keep the team as is, and maybe the Nats will heat up and have a successful 2019 season.
In the end, will the Nationals’ season turn out like the Blues’ one? Likely not. That being said, the Blues’ Stanley Cup odds were at +6900 in January, and look at them now. Although some would take this season as unsalvageable, if the Nationals take some of the steps outlined here, they might be able to right the ship and go on to succeed for the rest of the season and bring a title back home to Washington.
Editor Note- This post is the second post written by a MattsBats.com kid correspondent. I created this program to allow kids interested in sportswriting learn from the experiences I gained by starting Matt’s Bats. This is an opportunity for them to gain writing experience and show off their impressive work. If you, your child, a family member, or anyone you know may be interested, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s post comes from Ben B-P of Maryland! He is in sixth grade, and is a HUGE baseball fan who loves the Washington Nationals. He loves playing all sports but especially enjoys baseball and soccer.
Dear Bryce Harper,
You were only 17 when you signed a contract with the Nationals in 2010. I was just 4 years old then, discovering baseball and becoming a Nationals fan. I was learning math by learning the stats of players. I was curious to learn about players and understand the stats.
I remember your first game with the Nationals against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 28, 2012 when you were just 19. You played amazing and your first hit was a double. You also had an RBI that game. I was 6 years old, and I remember yelling #Natitude all the time.
Since 2012, there have been so many exhilarating moments watching you play. I was at Nationals Park on Opening Day in 2013 when you hit two home runs. I was sitting in the left field stands screaming for you.
Every winter, I went to Nats Winterfest and would try to find you. One year I got to do the baseball clinic with you. I had a great hit and ran the bases. When I crossed home plate, I was so happy. I tipped my hat at you and you smiled at me.
I definitely wasn’t there for every moment and big game you had but I would watch highlight videos in slow motion to study your technique. I read sports stories about you. I went to as many games as I could and always tried to sit near you in the outfield and yell for you during the game.
One of my favorite moments was rooting for you at the Home Run Derby last summer. I left my summer camp in North Carolina for 36 hours to be able to go to the Home Run Derby. I was standing as close as I could to the left field. You were down 18-9 with a minute left. My heart was racing and I was stressed. You needed 10 home runs in that minute. I knew you could do it but I was still nervous. You did it! Everyone was shouting. I was so happy that you won the Home Run Derby. You were my favorite player and were playing in your home stadium. I was so lucky to be there for that moment. I will never forget it.
A lot of articles have been written about how you are really disciplined about training and practice. Your dedication and focus is something that can inspire kids to work hard and always practice. In 2012, you were the youngest position player selected for the All-Star Game and you were the NL Rookie of the Year.
Pitchers and teams sometimes are afraid you are going to have big hits to drive in runs or crushing home runs. They don’t always want to face you. In 2016, after being walked and hit by a pitch, you were the first MLB player to get on base 7 times without a single at-bat when the Nats lost to the Cubs 4-3 in 13 innings. That must have been really, really frustrating, but you stayed focused and you knew you had to do what it takes and what your team needs and not just what is most fun. That season alone, you were intentionally walked 20 times. In 7 years, you were intentionally walked 70 times!
Bryce, you have meant so much to me. Whenever I was been afraid I would remind myself that if Bryce Harper were here he could get through it no problem. So I did. If someone doubted me or that I could doing something I would say to myself, “Bryce Harper could do this and he would ignore people who are doubting him so I should also.”
I remember being asked, “Who is someone you look up to? Who motivates you?” I would always say “Bryce Harper.” My teachers, camp counselors, coaches, family, and friends have always known that you have meant so much to me.
I love baseball. There are a lot of chances in a game. Anything can happen at any time. There is strategy in each game and the season is really long. I love a lot of things about baseball. Since I started loving the game you have been my favorite player. I really wished you stayed in DC. Until Thursday afternoon, I believed you would stay. I know you picked the Phillies for a reason, specifically 330 million of them. Most of my friends are really upset and some are calling you a traitor. Other fans, like me, feel good for you and for baseball. I really want to see you play in Philly and I will definitely be at Nationals Park cheering for you when you play.
For the city of DC, I bet most Nationals fans will miss going to Nationals games and cheering for you and trying to get your attention during the game. I even think some Nationals fans are going to miss people heckling you at the ballpark. Whenever someone asks if I am still going to root for you I say, “ That’s a clown question bro!” Good luck with the season… but I am just saying I hope that the Nationals win the division and the Phillies get the wildcard.
After months and months of waiting and anticipation, the inevitable has happened. Yes, finally, after months of speculation, cryptic tweets, and seemingly new rumors every single day, Bryce Harper is a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. The 26-year old who has known no other team but Washington in his six-year career, is now moving to a fierce division rival up I-95 in the Phillies. On Thursday afternoon, it was reported that Philadelphia had signed Bryce Harper to a whopping contract of 13 years and $330 million, without any opt-outs and a full no-trade clause. In this piece, I’ll offer my dissection of the monster deal Bryce just signed and what it means for the Nationals for the future.
Bryce Harper, by signing this contract with the Phillies, became the highest-paid player in the history of American sports, getting $5 million more than Giancarlo Stanton did when he signed his extension with the Miami Marlins in the 2014 offseason. As mentioned before, he will be a Philadelphia Phillie for the next 13 years at a $25 million dollar AAV, or average annual value. In my personal opinion, for the Phillies financially, this is a terrible contract to offer. In thirteen years, Bryce Harper will be 39 years old. I will be 27 years old, and when Bryce Harper made his debut for the Nationals in 2012, I was just 7. 13 years ago, Bryce Harper was 13 years old. Could this contract end up being a waste of John Middleton’s “stupid money”, where he acquires a player who has suffered from inconsistency and rocky patches in the duration of his career? Could this end up becoming another albatross, Bobby Bonilla style contract where the Phillies pay Bryce Harper to underperform in his late thirties? Look at players today like Felix Hernandez and Jordan Zimmermann, who make upwards of $20 million per year to be their respective teams’ #3 starters. The Phillies also have upcoming contracts to give to important players like J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins, and are almost certainly going to make a run for Mike Trout, a southern New Jersey native and an avid Philadelphia Eagles fan. Is giving north of $300 million a good investment when you have these contracts to potentially sign in the next few years? Also, the Phillies don’t have a deep prospect pool, having only two prospects on the top 100 list, even though they had the first overall selection just a few years prior. Is making a “win now” move worth it when your aging players will have weaker replacements? These questions would obviously be best answered by Phillies owner John Middleton or GM Matt Klentak, but I personally believe that it’s too much of a boom-bust contract without any way out for the team. If this gamble doesn’t work out, the Phillies are in an awful situation, paying Bryce Harper almost $25 million with the inability to trade him or have an opt-out option exercised.
But secondly, and most importantly for folks this side of the Mason-Dixon Line, where does this
leave the Nationals? Many fans, including myself, had picked up the notion that Bryce Harper was leaving and came to view it as inevitable. However, once it becomes real, there’s a sense of sentimentality that comes with the signing. Really? The Philadelphia Phillies? The team whose fans used to flock and flood Nationals Park before you came around, leading to our ballpark earning the moniker “Citizens Bank Park South”? The team whose best pitcher beaned you in the back during your rookie season in an attempt to get you to “show some class”? The fans, who on the dawn of your signing with the team you will don the colors of for the next thirteen years, were making promises to spit in his face the first time he visited Citizens Bank Park as a member of the Giants or Dodgers? That’s a clown move, bro. But while Bryce is getting booed in his brand new home ballpark for the next thirteen years, the Nationals still have a formidable team going into the new season. This will allow Victor Robles to have a starting position in center field to start the season. He will join 20-year old Juan Soto and Adam Eaton in the outfield, which is an exceptional outfield, especially after the loss of a perennial all-star. A Nationals lineup without Bryce Harper will probably look like this-
1- Trea Turner (SS)
2- Juan Soto (LF)
3- Anthony Rendon (3B)
4- Yan Gomes (C)
5- Victor Robles (CF)
6- Brian Dozier (2B)
7- Adam Eaton (RF)
8- Ryan Zimmerman (1B)
9- Pitcher (Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Anibal Sanchez, or Joe Ross/Erick Fedde)
Although it is still strange to imagine a Harper-less Nationals team, the team Mike Rizzo was able to create this offseason is pretty impressive. They were able to get Yan Gomes, Brian Dozier, and reliever Kyle Barraclough for very cheap. Some MLB insiders say that the Nationals could also go after Craig Kimbrel, who remains a free agent. That would allow the Nationals to have a bullpen with Kimbrel and Barraclough acting alongside Trevor Rosenthal, Sean Doolittle, and Koda Glover. Imagine going from the last few years of having the bullpen be a liability to the best in baseball in just one year. Nevertheless, although the Phillies and Braves remain threats in the division, the Nationals are incredibly well-rounded and have set up shop as a team which is poised to win its’ first title without its’ former franchise face this year.
The Harper signing sucks. It will be bizarre to see Bryce Harper in a jersey other than a Nationals one, especially a Phillies jersey. It will be bizarre to hear the PA announcer at Nationals Park announce Bryce Harper’s name without the enthusiasm we’ve heard him announce it with for the past 6 years. Everything will take some getting used to. But Bryce Harper is now a Philadelphia Phillie, and the world will keep spinning. In Washington, we will not boo you when you step up to the plate on April 2, we will give you a standing ovation to commemorate your incredible efforts to turn around Washington from a city with a baseball team consistently in the basement of the division into a perennial winner. We love you, Bryce Harper. But, to put it mildly, we just don’t love the Phillies, or Philadelphia.
Editor’s Note- This is the first post written by a MattsBats.com Kid Correspondent. I developed this program to help kids interested in sportswriting learn from the experiences I gained from starting Matt’s Bats. This is a forum for them to gain writing experience and show off their work. If you, your child, or anyone you know may be interested in becoming a Kid Correspondent, email me at email@example.com!
Today’s post comes from Daniel W. of Maryland. Daniel is an eighth grader and has a lifelong love for sports, and for the Yankees in particular.
Recapping the Yankees’ Offseason- By Daniel
The New York Yankees had a busy offseason, but less busy than what was expected. The Yankees are the richest baseball franchise, and are also valued the highest by Forbes. Many media pundits thought the Yankees were going to make a pursuit for big name free agents such as Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, or even improve their pitching by getting Patrick Corbin. However, that didn’t end up happening. Manny Machado recently signed a ten-year contract with the San Diego Padres. Patrick Corbin is one of the newest members of the Washington Nationals. And although the baseball world is awaiting news from Bryce Harper, his name is not being linked to New York.
Although they didn’t get any of the biggest names this offseason, here’s the additions the Yankees made to their roster this winter:
The first big move that they made was on October 31, when outfielder Brett Gardner re-signed a contract for one year, $7.5 million. A couple days later, they re-signed veteran pitcher CC Sabathia to a one year, $8 million contract. This was a good PR move, in my opinion, rather than a good signing move, because they wanted CC to retire as a Yankee.
On November 19, they acquired pitcher James Paxton from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Justus Sheffield (their #1 pitching prospect), Erik Swanson, and Dom Thompson-Williams. I think this was a good trade for the Yankees because they got there clear number two starter, and now have a much better “starting three” pitching rotation if they should make it to the postseason.
Next, in December, they resigned pitcher J.A. Happ to a two-year, $34 million dollar contract.
January was the biggest month for the Yankees. It started out by signing shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to a one-year, $555,000 contract. This is considered a very low contract for someone who was once one of the best players in baseball and a five time All-Star, a two time Gold Glover, and a two time Silver Slugger winner. However, he is very much past his prime, and has been dealing with injuries for a while now. He is more of a rental since the Yankees star shortstop Didi Gregorius is dealing with an injury.
Next, they re-signed reliever Zach Britton to a three-year, $39 million contract. A couple days later, they signed second basemen DJ LeMahieu to a two year, $24 million contract. Signing LeMahieu ended up putting the Yankees out of the mix for Manny Machado, who waited until Spring Training started to sign with the Padres.
Their final move of the offseason was singing reliever Adam Ottavino to a three-year, $27 million contract, adding to their bullpen depth, which arguably has the best closer in baseball, Aroldis Chapman. Chapman had 32 saves last year, while posting a 1.05 WHIP, and a 2.45 ERA. The Yankees’ bullpen also has Zach Britton, how is a two time All Star, who also was the American League Reliever of the Year and saves leader in 2016. Another key player in their bullpen is Dellin Betances, who had 115 strikeouts in 66 games last year. If you add former first round draft pick Adam Ottavino to that mix, you have yourself a dangerously good bullpen.
Overall, I think that the Yankees offseason went well. It didn’t go as well as some would have wanted, as star reliever Dellin Betances noted, but they now arguably have the best bullpen rotation in the league, and they have much better starting pitching, which they desperately needed. For those Yankees fans upset the team didn’t sign Manny Machado as their star third baseman, remember that Nolan Arenado is going to be a free agent next year!
I started Matt’s Bats in July 2012. I was an eight year old super-fan of the Washington Nationals. My mom offered to let me stay up later on Nationals game days if I would write her a paragraph about what happened in the game. To incentivize me to give my best effort, we started a website and social media account to publish my posts and called it Matt’s Bats. As my love for both journalism and baseball continued to grow, I got a larger audience and more credibility as a reporter and pundit. Major League Baseball anointed me their youngest Pro Blogger and gave me space for a column on their website, as did MASN Sports. I was invited to do live TV appearances on Fox 5, Washington DC’s local Fox affiliate. I’ve interviewed dozens of baseball players, Hall of Famers, and other celebrities (including the baseball journalists and broadcasters who I admired and tried to emulate). I was invited to cover games at numerous ballparks across the country (17 of them, to be exact), and have enjoyed learning about baseball from the perspective of a fan in the stands, a credentialed reporter in the press box and clubhouse, and an insider in the cinder block bowels of the stadiums. I was a guest and reporter at some pretty cool events, including the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Sports Awards in Los Angeles. Perhaps the greatest honors were invitations to join the press pool covering several amazing events at The White House, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony and several World Series and NBA Finals team visits. Maybe it was raising tens of thousands of dollars for charity and raising awareness for causes like lung cancer and Type 1 Diabetes. All this while I was in elementary and middle school! Nevertheless, it is absolutely incredible to look back on the incredible opportunities I have experienced at such a young age. I have been privileged to share these experiences with the thousands of readers who I have written for an interacted with over the past six and a half years.
You may have noticed that the frequency of my posts have declined now that I am in high school. (No, I can’t believe it either!) I have homework and extracurricular activities competing for my time. I have also developed new passions, including a deep interest in politics, law and civic engagement. I will always be a baseball fan, in addition to pursuing my other ambitions.
This is NOT an announcement of the end of Matt’s Bats. It is the announcement of a new chapter. I hope the site grows as I take on the new role of Executive Editor. I want to use the platform I developed to give a voice to other kids who are interested in sports journalism. Therefore, I am very excited to debut the all-new MattsBats.com Kid Correspondent Program.
I will be offering space on MattsBats.com and my social media platforms to a new generation of kid sports writers. I want to teach other children what I have learned, including how to write engaging posts, how to prepare for and interview subjects, how to responsibly use social media, and how to give an interview. These are things I learned on my own and now want to share with other kids. I need my readers’ help to find me talented and ambitious new writers.
Whether someone you know wants to improve their writing skills, loves sports, or wants a platform to have their voice heard, I want to help. If you know any kid who fits under any of the criteria above, I’d love to mentor and eventually feature their work on MattsBats.com. Obviously, kids of different ages and experiences will have different abilities, but everyone has the ability to improve through hard work and perseverance. It doesn’t matter what sport or team they want to write about, what’s important is their enthusiasm and desire to report, write, learn and improve.
While I hope to focus on mentoring and editing, you can be sure that when something big happens in the baseball world, I will still be writing and reporting. But I want to give other kids a chance to share their voices on the platform I created. Please get in contact with me if you are interested!
This offseason’s hot stove of free agency is hot and burning, and before the biggest names of the offseason have decided where to play for the 2019 season and likely beyond, the one team which most baseball analysts are keeping their eyes on the most has been the most active early. The Washington Nationals have issued some of their biggest needs early, by acquiring reliever Kyle Barraclough from the Marlins, signing Trevor Rosenthal to a one year deal, and signing old friend, catcher Kurt Suzuki, to a two year contract. Coming off of a disappointing 2018 season, it is clear that the Nationals are not done quite yet. When considering the next move for the Nationals, you have to consider whether Mike Rizzo will try and re-sign Bryce Harper, or stick with an outfield of Juan Soto, Victor Robles, and Adam Eaton. Based on these recent early signings, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Rizzo decides to go after Bryce in a last-ditch attempt to keep him, especially with Victor Robles more than ready to take on an MLB starter’s role. So what should the Nationals do from here?
For this scenario, I will assume that Bryce Harper, unfortunately, will not re-sign with the Washington Nationals. To eliminate some of the pain from that last sentence, he will sign with the Chicago White Sox. The first need that the Nationals should take care of is starting pitching. Aside from Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, the starting pitching core was pretty much a dumpster fire. Gio Gonzalez had the worst start to a season as he’s ever had as a National, and was flipped to Milwaukee for two prospects at the waiver trade deadline, to naturally become 2012 Gio again to help lead Milwaukee to Game 7 of the NLCS. Tanner Roark finished the 2018 season with a 4.34 ERA, and Jeremy Hellickson had a good season, but nothing spectacular. The Nationals desperately need a starting pitcher from the free agency class of 2018. I would have suggested the Nats flip Luis Garcia and Michael A. Taylor to Seattle for James Paxton, but he was already flipped to the Yankees, in exchange for a hefty payment including former #1 prospect Justus Sheffield. And since the Yankees seem to be the personal choice of top free agent starter Patrick Corbin, I think that Mike Rizzo should sign Dallas Keuchel. The 2015 AL Cy Young winner didn’t have a season quite up to his standards in 2018, but he has a proven past and was very similar statistically to Stephen Strasburg. Keuchel is also entering his age 31 season, meaning that he is right in his prime and is ready to take on the challenge of being a starting pitcher in the National League. That means the Nationals would have a rotation of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Dallas Keuchel, Joe Ross, and Tanner Roark.
Roark, after his disappointing 2018 campaign, may be best fit for the bullpen, and the Nationals potentially would want to explore a fifth starter in the free agent market. The Nationals may want to pursue, dare I say, Matt Harvey for that fifth starter role should they decide to turn Roark into a long man out of the pen. Other alternatives to the off-field mess that is Matt Harvey could include Brett Anderson, Tyson Ross, Matt Moore, or old friends Doug Fister, Edwin Jackson, Marco Estrada, or Bartolo Colon, who started his career as a Montreal Expo. I, for sure, would love to see Big Sexy in a Nationals uniform, and I’m sure baseball fans collectively want to see him back in the National League for more at-bat yuks. Most likely, however, the Nats will keep the rotation as is, and if necessary, acquire a starting pitcher during Spring Training or during the beginning months of the season.
Mike Rizzo has said that he is not looking to acquire a second baseman this offseason, staying put with the tandem of
Wilmer Difo and Howie Kendrick. Kendrick was out for most of 2018 with a serious leg injury, and Wilmer had another fine season at second base. I, however, see Kendrick as more of a Kevin Frandsen-type versatile utility player, and Wilmer Difo is still strengthening his skills for a starter role in the future. Carter Kieboom isn’t quite ready for the Majors this year, and he should be sent to Fresno for the season. So with that being said, a veteran infielder who can be signed for just a one year deal would be ideal in this scenario. I think that the Nationals should then go after another old friend, Asdrubal Cabrera. Although only with the Nationals for half of the 2014 season, Asdrubal may be a perfect fit to fit into a half-and-half combination with Difo. Signing a player like Cabrera also allows for him to fill in at other infield positions when a player needs a day off, and allows Difo to get his starts as well.
Now, the catcher position. Mike Rizzo may be done with his catcher acquisition after signing Kurt Suzuki for the next two years. However, Matt Wieters is a free agent, and I’d be absolutely stunned if Rizzo decided to bring him back. So the way things are set up now, the MLB catchers for the Nationals next year will be Kurt Suzuki and Pedro Severino/Spencer Kieboom, with Raudy Read starting the year in Fresno. No, the Nationals will not be acquiring J.T. Realmuto, as much of a perfect fit he may be. Brian Samson, GM of the Marlins, is reportedly asking for a Soto/Robles PLUS Kieboom for his catcher, which is a definitive no from the Nationals. Of course, it is rumored that the Nationals have considered taking another chance on Wilson Ramos, the catcher who was a Nationals stalwart from 2011-2016. Frankly, I was surprised by the signing of Kurt Suzuki, because I was expecting the Nationals to go after Ramos. But now that they have a potential starting catcher who started in 83 games for Atlanta last season, do they recreate the 2012 battery by acquiring Ramos? I’d say no. While the catching spot needs a desperate upgrade, Spencer Kieboom showed signs of promise when he was up last season, and it would save money to do what I think that Nats’ next priority should be.
That would be to extend Anthony Rendon. He very well may be the most underrated player in all of Major League Baseball, and still has not an All-Star Game appearance to show for it (how?). Rendon was a bright spot on a rather dreary Nationals team last season, and he has been since he broke onto the scene in 2013. He deserves every penny he will get from the organization, and plays a key position where the Nationals don’t have any blue chip prospects, and is at the tender age of 28. He definitely should be extended for the next 8-11 years.
I think the Nats should also claim Justin Bour off of waivers, because he is a left-handed backup first baseman who can hit for power, like a Clint Robinson who hits a little better. He’s also from Centreville, so he would be coming back to play for his hometown team if he joined the Nationals. With that being said, here’s what I expect the Nationals’ Opening Day roster to look like–
C- Kurt Suzuki
1B- Ryan Zimmerman
2B- Asdrubal Cabrera
3B- Anthony Rendon (Extended in offseason)
SS- Trea Turner
OF- Juan Soto
OF- Victor Robles
OF- Adam Eaton
SP- Max Scherzer
SP- Stephen Strasburg
SP- Dallas Keuchel
SP- Joe Ross
SP- Tanner Roark
RP- Jefry Rodriguez
RP- Koda Glover
RP- Trevor Gott
RP- Justin Miller
RP- Trevor Rosenthal
RP- Kyle Barraclough
RP- Sean Doolittle
BN- Spencer Kieboom
BN- Wilmer Difo
BN- Howie Kendrick
BN- Michael A. Taylor
BN- Justin Bour
Although we all want Bryce Harper to re-up with the Nationals and remain the face of the Nationals for his entire career, the team the Nationals would be able to field would be arguably more well-rounded than the 2018 iteration, and are poised to take back the division crown in 2019, even without Bryce Harper. The team above could definitely beat the Braves in a battle for first place in the National League East, just a matter of injuries. Let me know @MattsBats on Twitter how you think the Nationals should address their biggest needs this offseason!
And just like that, the rollercoaster of emotion known as 2018 MLB Free Agency has officially begun, with the Boston Red Sox being crowned world champions over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Some teams have gotten a head start with their offseason ; the Miami Marlins made a huge splash signing Cuban phenoms Victor Victor Mesa and Victor Mesa, Jr, two names that are sure to terrorize NL pitching for years to come. The Washington Nationals also made a trade in October, addressing one of their biggest needs by acquiring relief pitcher Kyle Barraclough from the aforementioned Marlins in exchange for international bonus pool money, which the Marlins used to sign the Mesa brothers, and taking a gamble by also signing menacing relief arm Trevor Rosenthal in free agency. But for the Nationals, more work needs to be done to make up for a disappointing 2018 season. The Nationals’ main job this offseason will be to try and lure free agent Bryce Harper back to the Nation’s Capital.
Harper has been the face of this franchise since he was drafted first overall by the Nationals back in 2010, after he had graced the cover of an issue of Sports Illustrated magazine. He burst out onto the scene in 2012, the same year in which the Nationals made it to the playoffs for the first time since the team moved from Montreal, and the first time the franchise had made the playoffs since 1981. He has since turned into a bonafide superstar, taking home the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year award and the 2015 NL MVP award. He now faces his first free agency experience, and will likely be greeted with hundreds of millions of dollars from the biggest market teams, like the Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers, Phillies, and Giants, along with Washington. So, Bryce, if you are reading this, let us tell you why staying right here, in Washington, D.C., is the best choice for your career.
Dear Bryce Harper,
As Dorothy says in the Wizard Of Oz, there is no place like home. And even though you were born, spent your childhood years, and played high school and collegiate baseball on the other side of the country in Las Vegas, Nevada, you grew up in Washington D.C. Since you made your MLB debut in Los Angeles in April of 2012, Washington has been your home. You helped lift us out of a very rough time in Washington baseball history, when the Nats were consistently under .500 and had not made it to the playoffs in 30 years, the longest postseason drought in MLB history. The city of Washington, D.C. finally had a winning baseball team for the first time since the Great Depression.
Also, no fan base is as loving, kind, and supportive as the one in Washington. If I were a baseball player, there is no way I’d leave this city for a city like Philadelphia, where fans greet opposing players and fans with batteries and beers, or New York, where, I mean, does New York really need an explanation? We Nats fans cherish the great moments you gave to our city. I remember watching the Nationals play the San Diego Padres on a wet May 14th day on my television, with my eyes lighting up the second that your bat made contact with Tim Stauffer’s pitch and watching it sail over the “402” sign in center field for your first big league home run. Who could forget the absolute dinger that you hit off of Carl Edwards in Game 2 against the Cubs to tie the game? And what about the 2018 Home Run Derby, when you won the whole thing (fair and square, pipe down Chicago) while wearing a DC flag headband, and you praised the fans at your home ballpark for giving you the extra motivation you needed to win the Home Run Derby. People wear your name on the back of their shirt all around the DMV. People have named pets after you. Your name is as synonymous to Washington D.C. sports as peanut butter is to jelly.
But there has to be a time where we stop looking at the sentimental value of you coming back to play for the Nationals and look at the benefit that you bring to the baseball field. If you stay, the “Top Flight” outfield would be the best in all of baseball. Bryce, you had another great season for the Nationals this year, starting in the 2018 MLB All-Star Game and having an excellent second half. Your two fellow potential Opening Day outfielders in Washington, Juan Soto and Victor Robles, had breakout 2018 seasons. Soto is, in the opinion of many, the surefire NL Rookie of the Year, and Robles could vie for the award in the 2019 season. The three of you would compose the most energetic, lively, and sheerly talented outfields baseball has ever seen. And the truth is that this team is still very much in contention for a World Series. Your chances of winning in San Francisco or Philadelphia are significantly lower than they are in Washington. Plus, you have openly said that you want to play under Davey Martinez for the next 10 to 12 years. Mike Rizzo has said that Martinez isn’t going anywhere, so your opportunity to play under him is right here in the Nation’s Capital.
If you join the Yankees, you create an incredible outfield with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. But the Yankees have some real shotty starting pitching and have not been able to garner postseason success with the current core. The Cubs would reunite you with childhood buddy Kris Bryant, but the Cubs have a statistically worse rotation than the Nationals. You’d be a few hundred miles from Las Vegas on the Dodgers, but that’s a team with budgetary constraints and has intense media pressure, and, although this is blatantly hypocritical, hasn’t had so much postseason success with the core they sport today. If you were to become a Philadelphia Phillie, you’d be joining a real young team with a lack of showcase talent, and you’d also be entering the endless abyss of criticism that is Philadelphia sports fans. And the Giants don’t seem so intriguing, as a team on the decline. A team which checks all of your boxes to further your career success and to realize your ultimate goal of winning the World Series is the Washington Nationals. And although we will support you wherever you decide to take your career, we, collectively, as fans of the Washington Nationals, all encourage you to re sign with the Nationals.
Washington, D.C. Sports Fans
As John Walton, the Washington Capitals’ radio play-by-play announcer put it after the Capitals defeated their bitter rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in the second round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, “the demons have been exorcised.”
After more than 26 years of waiting since the Redskins won the Lombardi Trophy in 1992 (9,629 days, if you want to be precise), a Washington team has won one of the “big four” national sports championships! Our beloved Washington Capitals have won a Stanley Cup!
The news that the Caps finally got to hoist Lord Stanley is, by now, two days old. That feeling of newness, however, feels just as fresh as it did when the celebration began at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. For the people living in D.C. and our expats all around the world, this Cup is a moment far too overdue. For me, this is a first-in-a-lifetime event. Consider that the city of Washington, D.C., has won a world title six times: a World Series in 1924, three Super Bowls in the 1980s and 1990s, an NBA Finals in 1978, and, now, a Stanley Cup. Boston, in comparison, has won six championships, as well…since 2004. Finally, finally, Washington has done it!
I have only been on this planet for the last fourteen years, and have up to now only experienced sports heartbreak. I have watched my first love, the Washington Nationals, get their championship dreams crushed in 2012 with 2 outs and 2 strikes in the 9th inning. The Nats then went on to lose in playoff series in 2014, 2016 and 2017, and missed the playoffs altogether in the 2013 and 2015 seasons.
I have watched the Washington Wizards lose to the Eastern Conference powerhouses of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors, and New York Knicks of years past. I have watched the Washington Redskins get thrown around in the Wild Card games to the likes of bitter rivals Dallas, Green Bay, and Philadelphia. I have watched the Washington Capitals have their dreams crushed by the Rangers, by the Canadiens, by the Lightning, and by the Penguins when they’ve been able to field President’s Trophy winning teams.
So, this Caps win means something to everyone. Not just the long-suffering fans who have followed this team from 1974, or the fortunate season ticket holders who take in 41 games at Capital One Arena, or the basement dwellers who watch each and every game. It’s the also my generation of D.C. sports fans who has grown up with the likes of Bryce Harper, Alex Ovechkin, John Wall, and RGIII. We are as ecstatic at the Caps win as the fans that grew up with Dale Hunter, Wes Unseld, John Riggins, and without an MLB team for all of those years. Everyone in the city seems energized. Look around you and notice how many people are wearing red and beaming with city pride. That’s why Capital One Arena and the streets surrounding Gallery Place were jammed with literally thousands of fans to watch games that were occurring thousands of miles away.
What made this year different for the Capitals? Going into the 2018 season, fan favorites Marcus Johansson, Karl Alzner, Justin Williams, and others were no longer rocking the red. Experts picked teams like the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes to finish ahead of these Capitals, and some people even predicted that the Caps would miss the playoffs altogether. General manager Brian MacLellan made great free agent signings this offseason of Alex Chiasson and Devante Smith-Pelly. He traded midseason for promising defenseman Michal Kempny, who proved his value by having a breakout playoffs. Even the acquisitions by the Caps’ former general manager George McPhee paid off these playoffs, though McPhee was on the other side of the ice as the GM of the Vegas Golden Knights in their debut season. The role players like Smith-Pelly, Jay Beagle, Chandler Stephenson, Lars Eller, and others meshed with the franchise players of Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, John Carlson, and Braden Holtby to create an unstoppable force that rammed their way through these playoffs. The new fans created during this playoff run have learned to not just get behind Ovi and Backy, but to love Smith-Pelly and Eller.
After being down 2-0 versus Columbus in the first round, on the brink of elimination against the Lightning, and then as the obvious foils in the fairytale about the Golden Knights winning the Cup in their debut season, the Caps prevailed. Now
Nicklas Backstrom is a Stanley Cup champion. Lars Eller is a Stanley Cup champion. T.J. Oshie is a Stanley Cup champion. Evgeny Kuznetsov is a Stanley Cup champion. Devante Smith-Pelly is a Stanley Cup champion. John Carlson is a Stanley Cup champion. Brooks Orpik is a *two-time* Stanley Cup champion. Braden Holtby is a Stanley Cup champion. Barry Trotz is a Stanley Cup champion.
And last, but definitely not least, Alexander Ovechkin is a Stanley Cup champion.
This is NOT a dream. Embrace it. Believe it. They’ve done it.
We will savor his championship through October, when the Capitals and their loyal fans will re-enter the arena as defending Stanley Cup Champions. See you then at Capitals Won Arena!