Nats' lack of award candidates in 2020 was telling

Not that you need any reminders about how disappointing 2020 was for the Nationals, but here's one more just for the sake of it: They didn't have any finalists for any of the four major end-of-season awards.

Nope, nobody from the Nats finished in the top three in voting for National League MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year or Manager of the Year. That's not something that has happened around these parts in quite some time.

The last time the Nationals didn't have a top-three finisher for any of those awards: 2013, another disappointing season on the heels of their first division title the previous year.

Thumbnail image for Trea-Turner-swing-blue-sidebar.jpgIn fact, in each of the last four years the Nats had multiple top three vote-getters for the major awards, with Max Scherzer winning back-to-back Cy Youngs in 2016 and 2017, and Scherzer (2018 Cy Young), Juan Soto (2018 Rookie of the Year), Daniel Murphy (2016 MVP) and Trea Turner (2016 Rookie of the Year) all finishing runner-up.

And all that came after two other former Nationals won major awards: Bryce Harper (2015 MVP) and Matt Williams (2014 Manager of the Year).

Suffice it to say, nobody came close to winning anything this season. No members of the Nats received votes for Cy Young, Rookie of the Year or Manager of the Year. Soto and Turner did get votes for MVP, but finished a distant fifth and seventh, respectively.

Is there anything to draw from all that information? Well, if nothing else it's a reminder just how much star power this organization has had for the better part of the last decade. Since 2012, the Nationals have won six of these awards, had four others finish runner-up and had 11 different individuals earn at least a third-place finish in one category.

That tells you something about the talent that has worn the curly W cap over the years.

It also tells you how much the Nationals have relied on stars performing to the best of their abilities to win as much as they have. This team's best seasons typically have seen the best players perform the best, especially in the biggest moments.

The Nats don't always have the deepest 25-man roster, but they almost always have the most top-heavy roster, with five or more elite players carrying much of the load.

It's a formula that has mostly served them well, though it wasn't necessarily the case this year. Soto and Turner did perform as well as they possibly could have in 2020, and it wasn't close to enough to lift the defending World Series champions back into the postseason.

What happened? Well, one of the Nationals' biggest stars left for Anaheim and was never adequately replaced. And their star-studded rotation fell woefully short of its usual high standard, because of one major injury and two other underperforming arms.

The rest of the roster couldn't make up for it, and the result was the team's first losing record since 2011.

Obviously, general manager Mike Rizzo has his work cut out for him this winter trying to patch up several roster holes, most of those likely to be filled with role players. But if the Nationals are going to return to the top of the pack in 2021, they also need their best players to play at an elite level again, especially their starting pitchers.

For better or worse, the Nationals almost always seem to go as far as their stars take them.

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Soto finishes fifth, Turner is seventh in MVP voti...
 

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