So Long Soto, Bye Bye Bell

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Greetings From The Booth!

Well, the San Diego Padres just got a lot better…and the Washington Nationals just got a lot worse (in the short term). If that’s possible.

In a trade that was expected, the last two Nats who could still put fannies in seats in this lost season, were shipped west for a bundle of prospects, as GM and President of Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo restocks the Nationals’ depleted farm system. Juan Soto, who said no to the Nats’ offer of $440 million over 15 years, and Josh Bell, who was having a solid year in the cleanup spot, were both traded to the Padres, where they will join Manny Machado and company and become instant contenders for a World Series title.

It’s been a tough several years for Nationals fans, who have now lost not one, but two “generational” players to other teams, the other being Bryce Harper. Max Scherzer, my favorite Nat, also exited stage left two seasons ago, and along with Harper, now plays for a division rival. Trea Turner, another bright young star, is now a Dodger. In Juan Soto, the Nationals lose one of the last remaining players from the 2019 World Series team (boy, does that seem like a distant memory). He is a once-in-a-lifetime baseball player who is in the MVP conversation every year. And he wore my team’s jersey.

But even $440 million couldn’t keep Soto in the Nation’s Capital. He wanted to play for a winner, and rebuilding teams rarely win. The prospect of losing 110 games this season was not something Soto was willing to endure. Yes, he could have taken the money and become the core of a young team that could possibly contend in say, 2025, but patience is not a virtue of youth.

As for Bell, he may not have the time or patience. As a veteran player, Bell doesn’t want to linger in the division basement while young players develop in the minors. In truth, he was a hired gun in Washington. As the team continued to be gutted, Bell was a name player who could continue to draw fans to Nationals Park, and was never going to stay in DC long-term. Patience isn’t a virtue of the aging veteran, either.

And, patience certainly isn’t a virtue of sports fans. The Nats’ farm system seems to be getting some very highly-rated prospects from the Soto-Bell trade. But until they get to “The Show” and put on the red and blue jerseys and start getting hits and striking out MLB opponents, that’s all they are–prospects. While the cupboard may not be bare anymore, this Nationals rebuild is a long-term project. Several tough seasons like 2022 are on the way.

Nats’ manager Davey Martinez once said something to the effect of  “rough roads lead to beautiful places.” If you’re a fan of the Washington Nationals, you’d better have 4-wheel drive.

Until the next visit from the Booth…best of luck Juan Soto and Josh Bell…and GO NATS!

RW

A Tale Of Two Cities And The Midsummer Classic

Greetings From The Booth!

It’s great to be back in The Booth after a relaxing week of vaycay at Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. There’s nothing like the slow pace of “lake life” to get one recharged and refreshed. I could get used to hot tubs, reading the latest Grisham novel on the deck, boating and hiking , and of course, good food and drink.

One of my favorite things about the annual week at DCL is talking sports with my nephew TJ, who is a huge UVA and Baltimore Oriole guy, and one of the most knowledgeable sports fans I know. In addition, we both wallow in our misery at being Commanders (Redskins) fans. As I am a suffering Nats fan, we spent some time comparing the situations of our respective teams, the O’s and Nationals.

Unlike the Nats, who, at the All-Star break, are on pace to lose about 110 games, the young Orioles go into the break on a 10-game win streak and are just 2 games out of the final AL Wild Card spot. In reality, the Birds are a few years away from their plan of contending once again, but don’t tell these youngsters that they are not supposed to win NOW. Winning begets winning, and there’s nothing like a 10-game skein to boost a team’s confidence. And, there’s that intangible thing called chemistry. I’ll admit, TJ had me singing the old “Oriole Magic” song all week. It was stuck in my head. The O’s may eventually fade in the dog days of August, but if the front office doesn’t make any greedy moves this year, it looks like this team is headed in the right direction.

40 miles away are the Washington Nationals, who despite players like Josh Bell and Juan Soto, don’t appear to have that chemistry, and almost surely will lose 100-plus games this year. It’s hard to recognize a team that is just 3-years removed from winning a World Series. Granted, most of that group is gone, but it’s hard to see Mike Rizzo’s plan for this club. Injury has certainly played a part, but the Nats look like a rudderless ship that has sunk to the bottom of the NL East, a place usually reserved for the Miami Marlins. Although not his fault, Manager Davey Martinez may take the fall (he recently received the kiss of death–a one-year extension) for another bad year in DC. BTW, there are plenty of seats available at Nationals Park…

Finally, just a few words about (at the time of this post) tonight’s MLB All-Star Game. The Midsummer Classic for me has lost some of it’s luster over the years, and I didn’t even watch last year when the game was politicized and moved away from Atlanta. But thinking of the All-Star Game takes me back to my youth, a time when I kept a scoresheet for the game, players wanted to play, and the teams wanted to win (remember Pete Rose crashing into catcher Ray Fosse to win the 1970 edition?). I don’t think it’s the case anymore, but that being said, the MLB All-Star Game is still sports’ purest: the Pro Bowl is a pillow fight, the NHL version is unrecognizable, and the NBA All-Star Game is a defenseless layup and 3-point exhibition with scores like 173-168.

Enjoy the Midsummer Classic, and until next time from The Booth, GO NATS & O’s!

RW