I’ve had a few days to stew on the Nats Game 5 loss to the Cubs…enough to see the Cubs completely tank against the Dodgers, who are now headed to the World Series. All “Joe Maddon is a genius” comments have to be walked back a bit after some of the ways his team played in the NLCS.
Nonetheless, the Cubs were there and the Nats weren’t.
Let’s get to a few things about the Nats and that Game 5 loss, and then I’ll turn to thinking a bit about the games this week (and the games ahead).
First, if you want to read sharp commentary on the Nationals, go to the blog Nationals Baseball. Harper regularly provides the best clear-eyed and unsentimental analysis of this ball club (so much better than the Washington Post crew), and the comments are first-rate (how often do you read that on the internet?). Read his Game 5 analysis at the link above when you get the chance. Much of what I’d say, especially about how bad Matt Wieters was in that series (and much of the year), can be found there.
Second, Dusty really did get out-managed again in the playoffs. Using the same line-up for five games…who does that in the playoffs? Winning managers maximize their team’s strengths game-by-game. Jayson Werth is old, you don’t play him out of loyalty. Matt Wieters was terrible. Gio is a head case and should NEVER start a critical game. Michael A. Taylor was the only player tearing the hide off the ball all series, and you leave him batting 8th! Zimmerman, who had a great year, is a head case when batting 4th behind Harper against the Cubs. Why would you bat him there? I could go on-and-on…but go to the blog above. Harper has a longer and better list.
I’m now okay with Dusty not being rehired for 2018, but when are we going to start talking about Mike Rizzo’s role in this “can’t get out of the first round” mess? Who gave this club the absolutely worst bullpen in baseball for the first half of the year and tried to talk as if it was no problem? How many games were lost and how many starters lost sure-fire wins because of that crew? We’re supposed to cheer Rizzo’s trade-deadline acquisitions, but remember who got us into this mess in the first place. Who keeps making bad decisions with his managers? Who never got a decent starter after Joe Ross went down? And yes, I think the Lerners bear blame for low-balling the salaries of their managers.
And can the Nationals get a hitting coach next year who can teach situational hitting. Trea Turner was so overmatched, but all the Nats were swinging for the fences and hitting into the teeth of shifts when the situation called for a different approach.
For some good things, this was Strasburg’s year and he had a stellar playoff series. Game 4 was about as good as one can pitch in an elimination game. Watching the Nats for the first half of the season (except for the bullpen explosions) was great fun, especially after Anthony Rendon took off. The second half was too much coasting, as the N.L. East is so bad, and that may have hurt them in the playoffs. It would be nice to come in hot.
Enough of this rambling. Now for the three (for one more day) teams left.
Jose Altuve is great. Last night, after taking the series to 3-3 against the Yankees, he goes on national television and says, “I freaking LOVE Justin Verlander.” With Altuve and Curry, short guys are taking over the world!
Aaron Judge is a freak…but he seems like a nice freak. I really don’t like the Yankees and I hope they lose tonight, but this kid is having such an amazing rookie season that you just have to root for him. All rise, indeed!
The Dodgers look very much like the real deal, and I’ll be surprised if anyone can beat them in the World Series. Stranger things have happened, but they’re my team now. I’m going over to the Dark Side with my Claire!
More to come…