Nats' Hall of Fame moment will come some day

The Hall of Fame’s 2024 ballot was revealed Monday, with 12 new candidates joining 14 returning candidates up for this year’s election by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

The list includes several first-timers with compelling cases: Adrián Beltré, Chase Utley, Joe Mauer. Headlining the group of returning candidates are Todd Helton, Billy Wagner and Andruw Jones, plus some all-time greats whose chances have been marred by connections to performance enhancing drugs (Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield) or other off-the-field controversies (Carlos Beltrán, Omar Vizquel).

Here’s what the list does not include, though: Anybody with any Nationals connection.

Not that the Nats typically are well-represented in these matters. Only one person who played for them since 2005 has been elected to the Hall: Iván Rodríguez. Only a few others who made any kind of real impression in D.C. (Adam Dunn, Liván Hernández, Jayson Werth, Jonathan Papelbon, Alfonso Soriano) have appeared on a ballot, and none of those came anywhere close to getting elected.

But it’s kind of unfortunate to look at a Hall of Fame ballot some 19 years after the Nationals debuted and see nobody who wore a curly W cap included.

That, of course, won’t be the case in the relatively near future, you would think. Some of the key figures of the Nats’ seven-year run of contention from 2012-19 will become eligible soon enough, once they’ve been retired for five years.

Howie Kendrick and Gio Gonzalez could appear on the 2026 ballot. Ryan Zimmerman will be on the 2027 ballot, as will Jon Lester. And Stephen Strasburg … well, he could show up in 2028, depending on how and when his official retirement finally takes place.

We’ll have to wait even longer, though, for the first Hall of Fame inductee whose plaque should include one of those curly W caps.

At this point, it feels safe to say Max Scherzer will hold that distinct honor. We don’t know how many more pitches he’s got left in him, but the finish line is starting to feel within reach for the great right-hander.

Scherzer, who is under contract with the Rangers for one more year, turns 40 next summer. Injuries limited him to 19 starts this season between the Mets and Rangers, his lowest total (excluding the shortened COVID 2020 season) since he debuted for the Diamondbacks way back in 2008. He surely believes he can keep going for several more years, but his body may not ultimately agree.

When Scherzer was traded by the Nationals in July 2021, there was some fear he might wind up doing well enough for another team (at that point, the Dodgers) to make him consider going into the Hall wearing a different cap, or a blank one. More than two years later, that seems like less of a concern.

Though he did perform well for the Dodgers (1.98 ERA in 11 starts), Mets (3.02 ERA in 42 starts) and Rangers (3.20 ERA in eight starts), Scherzer hasn’t delivered his signature iconic moments in any of those uniforms. His recent postseason starts have been brief and the opposite of dominant. And though he did earn his second career World Series ring last month, he was something of a bit player during Texas’ championship run, hardly the center of attention like he was here in Washington.

Whenever he retires, Scherzer will have pitched more seasons (seven), won more games (92) and delivered more iconic moments (two no-hitters, a 20-strikeout game, three postseason wins) for the Nationals than any other franchise. His plaque will list at least six teams, but none will stand out as much as “Washington, N.L.”

It’ll be many more years before we know if the same will apply to the likes of Bryce Harper, Juan Soto or Trea Turner. None has secured a Hall-of-Fame case yet, and each could do so on the strength of performances for other organizations.

So, for now just sit back and watch Scherzer close out his career in another uniform before he’s ultimately enshrined forever in baseball lore for what he did while wearing the only uniform that matters around here.

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