Will the Nationals rely on new faces to make a run at the playoffs?
In fact, the one deadline deal the Nationals have to make does not exist.
I am not saying the Nationals have more than one trade-deadline deal to make.
What I am telling you is that the Nationals are in no position to be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline. Therefore, this team does not have any trade deadline deals to make.
Am I being too harsh, Nats fans?
Good. That's the idea. You need a dose of reality, even if it ruins your high from Bryce Harper's walk-off home run on Thursday afternoon. So here it comes.
It is now July 26, and there are only 60 games remaining on the Nationals' 2013 schedule. It's time to face facts:
- The Nats have lost six of seven games since the All-Star break.
- Their current record is 49-53, four games below .500.
- Washington trails the Atlanta Braves by eight games for first place in the NL East standings.
- The mediocre Philadelphia Phillies have drawn even with the Nats and are now tied for second in the NL East.
- The rebuilding New York Mets are making things even more interesting, as they are only two games behind the Nats and Phillies.
- Finally, Washington trails the Cincinnati Reds by 9.5 games for the final spot in the NL wild-card standings.
Perhaps these facts are not sharp enough to cut through the density of your denial. The delusions of grandeur could be rooted so deep that your dreams of World Series glory have failed to come crashing back down to earth, despite preseason expectations that are clearly rotting on each and every branch.
Let Thomas Boswell of The Washington Post wield the chain saw then. Read what Boswell wrote on July 21, after the Nationals were swept by the streaking Los Angeles Dodgers, capped by a 9-2 loss with All-Star Jordan Zimmermann on the mound:
That crash you heard this weekend was the smashing of a specific fantasy — that the Nats were fated, entitled, virtually ensured by dint of self-certified talent to rip off a winning streak before they sank their season. Just 10 games ago, that seemed likely. Now, after being swept by the Dodgers and scoring only five runs in three games, the burden of proof has shifted...They deserved all the praise they got last season and much of the syrup that was ladled on them this preseason. All that fun was real. Their talent is not a mirage. They still have enough ability on hand to redeem their season — if they can. But they haven’t shown enough poise, maturity or offensive punch to trade long-term assets to help their postseason chances now.
This Nationals team is good on paper. So, one can conclude that it is underachieving. But the Nats are also young, and still very inexperienced. Case in point: Six of eight position players who started in Game 1 of the 2012 NLDS for Washington were making their postseason debuts. The same was true for three of the four starting pitchers in that series.
That group was not expected to be so good, so soon. As a result, this year's group has had to deal with even greater expectations, some of which may have been unrealistic.
Clearly, the Nats have struggled with this burden of expectation.
But Nationals fans must let their beloved team struggle through this learning experience. They cannot look towards the superficial solution of a trade-deadline deal, which would hurt the team's future without guaranteeing the present.
The Nationals—and their fans—must suffer through this period of famine, no matter how bleak it gets.
If the team is allowed to grow healthy and strong and without being pruned, the dream of postseason glory that has taken root in the nation's capital can grow during the summer until it is ready to bear fruit come October, even if not this October.
However, in the coming weeks, Washington may watch in amazement as its postseason dream undergoes a miraculous growth, thus causing the long-awaited October harvest to occur this year. After toiling in the fields all summer, the resulting feast would be especially satisfying for these Nationals.
Note: All statistics updated through July 25 courtesy of MLB.com.