Welcome to DC Tortured Sports fan, a blog that will chronicle the soul-crushingly tragic life of being a fan of DC teams. Whether it’s an ACL, a season-ending inning, a bad trade, or a Kwame, it’s just plain hard to root for most of these teams. But we’ll start off by looking at a bright spot in our city, the Washington Nationals, fresh off a season that was a bigger letdown than the end of the Sopranos. And bros, let’s save the clown questions for the end.
Following a magical, fairy tale-esque 2012, the Nationals had somewhat of a collapse during the 2013 season. Everything that went right for us in ’12 seemed to go equally wrong last year–most notably, a dramatic drop in success of the bullpen and bench. However, this year, GM Mike Rizzo & co. have once again showed their incredible talent by making several additions since the season ended.
The most notable addition that Rizzo made was to trade for Tigers pitcher Doug “my last name is mildly obscene” Fister. In a deal that sent utilityman Steve Lombardozzi, reliever Ian Krol, and minor league starting pitcher Robbie Ray to Detroit for the 29-year-old righty, the Nationals pulled off what many are seeing as the steal of the offseason. Fister’s flown a bit under the radar with the Tigers, as he’s pitching behind Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, who’ve taken home 2 of the last 3 AL Cy Young Awards (and Verlander finished second in the 2012 voting for the award). But his numbers have been steady and solid: since 2011, he’s averaged 30 starts and a 3.30 ERA, which is well above average for any team’s fourth starting pitcher. With this addition, the Nats will have what should be an absolutely dominant pitching rotation: Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Fister, and likely Ross Detwiler (although there are other in-house guys who might compete for that fifth slot–and we can never count out Livan Hernandez). And, while Lombardozzi is a great player and fan favorite, with a last name so long that it barely fits on his uniform, the emergence of Anthony Rendon and the hopeful comeback of Danny Espinosa rendered Lombo somewhat expendable.
Washington also avoided arbitration with shortstop Ian Desmond and Zimmermann by signing each to a two-year deal. Hopefully, both guys, along with fellow players to avoid arb Strasburg, Fister, and catcher Wilson Ramos, will get a long-term extension to stay with the Nats for the foreseeable future.
The team also made a handful of moves that should serve to bolster their bullpen and bench, which were the two areas where the team struggled the most in ’13. Rizzo brought in veteran infielder and former National Jamey Carroll on a minor league deal, outfielder and veteran Nate McLouth on a two-year deal, lefty reliever Jerry Blevins via trade with Oakland for a prospect, and hired Matt Williams as manager to replace the retiring Davey Johnson. In Carroll and McLouth, the Nats receive two versatile bench options who have a lot of combined MLB experience and can mentor the team’s young core of players (with the exceptions of Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche, Scott Hairston, and a few relievers, every player on the team is 30 or younger). And Blevins fills a hole at lefty in the bullpen. I like the hire of Matt Williams, but you never know with first-time managers (Manny Acta was kind of a fail). There has been, however, one major failing so far: Rizzo continues to be unable to find any prospects with the last name Zimmermannn.
Overall, I think the Nationals made a lot of excellent moves this offseason, and they should return to their 2012 form (and hopefully not put Drew Storen in to close out any more playoff games). I know it was a tough season last year, but remember that time Cristian Guzman was our all-star? Yeah. Things are better now.