Finding something to be thankful about the Washington Nationals this year? Seriously?
Maybe it wasn’t the best year in Nationals history. OK, actually it was officially the worst season in Nationals history, with not only a club record 107 losses but the trade of Juan Soto, the continued injury woes of Stephen Strasburg and the pending sale of the franchise by the Lerner family.
But even with all that negativity, there are still some things to be thankful for right now, if you look hard enough.
Like a restocked farm system that no longer ranks among the worst in baseball. In particular, there’s some legitimate outfield depth in the organization now, from Robert Hassell III to James Wood to Elijah Green to Cristhian Vaquero to Jeremy De La Rosa.
Like a growing core group of young major leaguers who could set the foundation for future success, with CJ Abrams at shortstop, Keibert Ruiz behind the plate, Luis García at second base, Lane Thomas in the outfield and a rotation that, hopefully, will be anchored by MacKenzie Gore, Cade Cavalli and Josiah Gray for years to come.
Like actual bullpen depth for the first time in forever, with Kyle Finnegan, Carl Edwards Jr., Hunter Harvey, Andres Machado and Mason Thompson set to return, Tanner Rainey on track to record sometime next summer and perhaps Sean Doolittle and Erasmo Ramirez also returning before it’s all said and done.
Like a legitimate feel-good story in Joey Meneses, the only major leaguer with at least 72 hits, 14 doubles and 13 homers after Aug. 1.
Like the opportunity to emerge from next month’s inaugural draft lottery with the No. 1 pick in the nation for the first time since 2009-10, when the Nationals selected a couple of guys named Strasburg and Harper.
Like Major League Baseball’s new schedule, set to be implemented in 2023, in which the Nats will only have to face their National League East opponents a total of 52 times instead of a whopping 76. (Related: They went 17-59 in the division this season, a .224 winning percentage that was the worst ever posted by a club since division play began in 1969.)
Like the forthcoming ban on shifts that should produce more hits and more action, and the institution of the pitch clock that should dramatically reduce the average time of game. More action and less dead time? That’s something we can look forward to.
OK, so maybe we’re grasping at some straws here. There wasn’t a whole lot to be happy about this year. The Nationals have devolved from World Series champion to worst franchise in baseball in the span of three years. The only guys playing in October anymore are the guys who used to play for this team. The never-ending ownership saga is dragging everything down and leaving everybody in a state of limbo.
But you know what? It’s still a whole lot better than the way baseball fans in D.C. felt every Thanksgiving from 1971-2003, isn’t it?
There’s still reason to care. Reason to recall the details of October 2019 whenever you need a pick-me-up. Reason to believe this franchise could get back there again if it makes some smart decisions in the coming months and years.
Bad baseball is still way better than no baseball. On this late-November morning, let’s all be thankful for that.