Nats’ long run of MVP contenders is nothing to scoff at

This week of announcements of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America annual awards was a disappointing one for the Nationals and their fans. They saw Juan Soto finish runner-up to Bryce Harper for the National League MVP Award, and they saw Max Scherzer finished third behind Corbin Burnes and Zack Wheeler for the NL Cy Young Award.

It would’ve been nice had either Soto or Scherzer won, even nicer if both won. It would’ve helped make this otherwise miserable season for the Nats feel a little more rewarding.

Then again, that the Nationals were even in the discussion for these awards was a reminder that this franchise still remains relevant, even as the roster has been dismantled. Sure, part of that dismantlement included the trades of Scherzer and Trea Turner to the Dodgers, but both players were in the running for major awards not strictly because of what they accomplished in two months in L.A. but very much because of what they accomplished the previous four months in D.C.

And this was nothing new. The Nationals have been smack dab in the middle of BBWAA awards week for a long time now. It’s an annual tradition.

Did you realize a Nationals player has finished in the top 10 in MVP voting in each of the last eight years, and in the top five in six of those eight years?

And did you realize at least two Nationals players have finished in the top 11 in MVP voting in each of the last six seasons?

Or that at least one Nationals player has received votes on each of the last 13 MVP ballots?

No matter how any particular season has gone around here, whether it ended with a division title or a disappointing finish out of the pennant race, the Nats have pretty much always had at least one outstanding individual performance, and usually more than one.

Go all the way back to 2009, when a 103-loss team still had a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger-winning third baseman named Ryan Zimmerman who finished 25th in MVP voting. The streak has been in place ever since ...

2010: Zimmerman (16th place), Adam Dunn (21st)
2011: Michael Morse (19th)
2012: Adam LaRoche (sixth), Ian Desmond (16th), Gio Gonzalez (20th)
2013: Jayson Werth (13th)
2014: Anthony Rendon (fifth), Werth (18th), Denard Span (19th)
2015: Harper (unanimous MVP winner)
2016: Daniel Murphy (second), Scherzer (10th), Wilson Ramos (17th)
2017: Rendon (sixth), Scherzer (10th), Harper (12th), Murphy (19th), Zimmerman (20th)
2018: Scherzer (10th), Rendon (11th)
2019: Rendon (third), Soto (ninth), Stephen Strasburg (15th), Scherzer (22nd)
2020: Soto (fifth), Turner (seventh)
2021: Soto (second), Turner (fifth), Scherzer (14th)

Strasburg-Throws-Blue-WS-G2-Sidebar.jpgThat’s no small feat. For a team to consistently have one - and usually more than one - outstanding individual performer in each of the last 13 seasons, it had to have done something right.

Which brings us to the future. Will this continue to be the case for the Nationals moving forward? The good news: Soto is still here, and there’s every reason to believe he’ll continue to be an annual MVP contender.

The bad news: Any other contenders will have to be newcomers to the scene. Could it be Keibert Ruiz, or Josh Bell, or Luis Garcia, or Lane Thomas, or Victor Robles, or maybe at some point Cade Cavalli or Josiah Gray?

We don’t know yet. But if the Nationals are going to pull this rebuilding project off in the manner they and their fans hope, they’re going to have to prove they can continue to put elite performers on the field every season and not let this impressive run end with the great sell-off of July 2021.

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