Awards Week wraps up tonight with the announcement of the two leagues’ MVP winners, and you’re forgiven if you haven’t been paying attention to this stuff. Because, really, why would you this year?
Unless some rogue writer gave Joey Meneses a 10th place MVP vote, the Nationals will have been shut out entirely from discussion about the four major awards handed out annually by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America: Most Valuable Player, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year. Not a single member of the team will have received a vote on anybody’s ballot for any of the awards (unless you want to count Juan Soto or Josh Bell, who spent four months in D.C. before they were traded to San Diego).
That simply hasn’t been the case around here in a very long time.
How long? Not since 2008 have the Nationals failed to receive at least one down-ballot vote for National League MVP. In fact, at least two players had received votes each of the last six years, with three or more players receiving votes in three of those years.
The Nats have had only one actual MVP in their existence: Bryce Harper, the unanimous selection in 2015 despite the team’s disappointing record. But they’ve always found themselves in the discussion, with top-three finishes in several other years and almost always at least one top-10 finisher.
So the complete absence of anybody having a case for a vote this year really underscores just how far the franchise has fallen. And just how much work must be done to get back into the mix.
Even bad teams have one player worthy of inclusion on an MVP ballot. The Nationals proved this way back in the day, when Alfonso Soriano (2006), Ryan Zimmerman (2009, 2010), Adam Dunn (2010) and Michael Morse (2011) received votes despite their team’s losing record.
But the sad truth about the 2022 Nationals season was that nobody came close to meriting consideration. At least, nobody who wasn’t traded Aug. 2.
And that’s not simply for MVP. No pitcher came within screaming distance of the Cy Young ballot. Davey Martinez wasn’t under consideration for Manager of the Year. And no young player did enough for a long enough stretch of time to merit a Rookie of the Year vote. (It would’ve been interesting to see if Meneses might’ve forced his way into the discussion, though, had he been called up a month or two earlier.)
Is there anybody on the potential 2023 roster who could make a case for himself for any of the awards? Cade Cavalli will still qualify as a rookie, but CJ Abrams, MacKenzie Gore, Keibert Ruiz and Meneses will not. Those guys would need to put together such an impressive season that they garner consideration for MVP or Cy Young. Martinez would have to flirt with a .500 record (or better) for anyone to lump him into the Manager of the Year conversation.
You never say never, but the odds are pretty stacked against any of that happening.
Which just leaves you wondering: How long will it be until the Nationals are back in the BBWAA awards discussion again?