Some accomplishments are Bryceless

No Bryce, No Problem

Matthew Rago, Editor-in-Chief

When the Washington Nationals failed to resign Bryce Harper, they were written off by the baseball community. Encumbered by the stigma that they couldn’t advance past the National League Division Series (NLDS)–the team had lost their four previous playoff series dating back to 2012–the Nationals looked destined to embark on a painful and extended rebuild, particularly after beginning the season 12 games under .500.  Instead, the Nationals head to their first World Series in franchise history, including their time in Montreal under the Expos moniker, where they will await the American League champion. So how exactly did they do it?

Losing a superstar in free agency is not easy. When Harper opted to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies, the Nationals lost a former National League Most Valuable Player, a former Rookie of the Year and a six time all-star. Instead of attempting to replace such a significant portion of their offense via free agency, the Nationals’ general manager Mike Rizzo instead opted to allocate his salary cap space toward signing all-star starting pitcher Patrick Corbin away from the Arizona Diamondbacks, thus creating a super-rotation headlined by Corbin, Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer.

However, a stellar starting rotation most likely would not have been enough to salvage a staggered team that started off ice cold. The emergence of Anthony Rendon from complementary star to bonafide MVP candidate proved imperative for the Nationals.  36-year-old Howie Kendrick’s age-defying, career year–his .344 batting average is a full 50 points above his career average–was an unexpected-yet-crucial development. Trea Turner and Adam Eaton (the latter whom the Nationals acquired in the critically lambasted transaction with the White Sox that sent Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo López and Dane Dunning to the South Side) anchored the top of the lineup, providing stellar baserunning and defense. Finally, the maturation of Juan Soto from a top prospect into a 34 home run, 110 RBI man provided a steadying presence in the middle of the order. All that offense supplemented a pitching rotation that featured four starters with a sub-4.00 Earned Runs Against average, highlighted by Scherzer’s 2.81 ERA/1.01 WHIP and Strasburg’s 3.16 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 21 wins.

Rizzo deserves all the credit in the world for taking a shot directly on the chin and exhibiting enough fortitude to construct a roster worthy of a World Series berth. Not to detract from the individual talent of the Washington Nationals’ players, but this group of players epitomizes the phrase “a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.” The Washington Nationals were left for dead. They were abandoned by Harper, whose Phillies were originally considered World Series favorites after a hellacious offseason. The Nationals stole that from him. Actually, scratch that. The Nationals earned their place, absent of him. This day is theirs. 

As for Harper? Well, at least he can feel sorry for himself atop $330 million dollars. For his sake, let’s hope that money can indeed buy happiness.