Dave Nichols: Strange weekend answers some questions, leaves others open

With the major league trade deadline at 4 p.m. Sunday, fans and media were already on the edges of their seats even before Sunday’s game with the New York Mets started. So of course it would turn out to be a tense, nerve-wracking affair - scoreless until the fifth inning - adding to what was an already drama-filled day. When the dust settled, the Washington Nationals had earned their 51st victory of the season and everyone that started the game on the roster remained there. The Nats might be making some adjustments to that roster as soon as Monday, but those adjustments won’t include Drew Storen.

Storen, the 23-year-old closer, allowed a home run to Scott Hairston to tie the game in the top of the ninth inning, mere minutes after realizing that he would not be traded by the Nats. It was just his fourth blown save of the season against 26 successful ones. But his teammates bailed him out in the bottom of the frame, scoring on a bouncing ball in the infield that just barely eluded the pitcher’s grasp.

Thus ended one of the stranger weekends in Nationals baseball history.

Friday night saw the debut of Taiwan’s Michael Jordan after missing two years recovering from injury, with all the Taiwanese media scrutiny that went with it. On Saturday, the Nats traded a veteran utility guy in the morning and then their starting pitcher for that night’s game about an hour before first pitch, so that he was giving his farewell interview to media as his replacement was warming up. And all weekend, culminating with Sunday’s 4 p.m. deadline, national and local media drove speculation about the status of a deal that ended up not happening.

So Jason Marquis and Jerry Hairston Jr. are out. Jonny Gomes is in. Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard stay. Roger Bernadina was banished to the minors. Yunesky Maya was recalled for a start then sent packing. Atuahalpa Severino even made a brief appearance on the roster, but is expected to be returned to the minors promptly.

As if all that weren’t enough, manager Davey Johnson announced that Ross Detwiler will start Thursday, Tom Gorzelanny will be in the bullpen “for now” and the skipper has mentioned on several occasions in the last few days that we might see Brad Peacock or Tom Milone from the minors soon.

And still, general manager Mike Rizzo does not have that everyday center fielder or leadoff hitter he so covets. The Nationals are in a state of flux right now. Once having designs on the Wild Card, then changing their sights to the ever-elusive .500 mark, they now must be content in playing hard and finding pieces that will stick around for next season. It’s been a familiar pattern for a franchise that hasn’t finished within shouting distance of break even since its inaugural season in D.C.

But this season, the process is fueled with legitimate optimism. The Nats envision a pitching staff next season led by Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, their twin Tommy John survivors. They have Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmond, Wilson Ramos and Michael Morse to build around and hope to get Adam LaRoche back from injury. And they retained the highly regarded services of Tyler Clippard and Storen to form the nucleus of a solid bullpen.

What’s more, there are players in the minors that project to be legitimate big league players, not just toolsy projects or standouts in an otherwise barren farm system. And, of course, there’s Bryce Harper.

This trade deadline provided an opportunity for the Nationals to fill some of the holes in their roster. It didn’t work out for Rizzo this time. He was dealing from a position of strength though, not forced to make a deal. He was willing to listen, but not eager to move valuable assets unless he believed the return satisfactory. We will never know the real deal on the table, regardless of how pundits or cynics try to place blame. Rizzo has the rest of this season and the whole offseason to find his leadoff hitter and center fielder. Maybe they are the same person, maybe not.

This time it didn’t work out. Maybe next time it will.

Dave Nichols covers the Washington Nationals for Nationals News Network. Read Nichols’ Nationals observations as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

blog comments powered by Disqus