Let’s not be too polite about it. The team every expert on earth picked in spring to win the National League East, with no few of them picking them to go all the way to a World Series ring, is doing its level best to make chumps out of every one of those experts. That’s because manager Matt Williams seems to be doing his level best to make sure they don’t even get to the wild card play-in game.
I said it last October, when the Washington Nationals imploded in a division series Game Five they had practically in the bank. And I’ll say it again, John Feinstein be damned. (Only kidding, sir.) The Strasburg Plan had nothing to do with the Nats going no further than the division series last year. And it had nothing to do with them going nowhere but home when the regular season ends this weekend.
Mark DeRosa, inactive for the division series but still regarded as one of their team’s leaders, should have spoken the final word on whether the Strasburg Plan ended up costing the Washington Nationals a trip to the National League Championship Series at minimum. The Plan, he tells the Washington Post, is now “irrelevant.”
Describing the performance of 37-year-old Sal Maglie—longtime New York Giants nemesis turned Brooklyn Dodgers pennant-race saviour—on the rear end of Don Larsen’s World Series perfect game, Peter Golenbock (in Bums) wrote, “It was a special performance by a great pitcher in the twilight of his career.” On Thursday afternoon, New York Mets fans, who’ve had little enough to cheer since the All-Star break, got to cheer a special performance by a pitcher who taught himself how to be great when he was approaching Maglie’s 1956 Series age.
Let’s try this again.
Assume the Washington Nationals will stick to the script and implement, some time in September, the exclamation point of the Strasburg Plan. Period dot period. Assume, too, that there’ll be enough blue murder screaming over the Nats torpedoing their own postseason chances. Maybe even some conspiracy theorists demanding a formal investigation, perhaps into whether someone isn’t buying the Nats off bigtime to tank. (Would the conspiracy theorists surprise you, really?)
Now, shove all that to one side and look at the Nats’ rotation without Stephen Strasburg.
Apparently, the Phillies have ramped up their bid to keep Cole Hamels. That’s the word from Jayson Stark of ESPN, anyway.
[C]lubs that have been speaking with the Phillies say the team has essentially put trade talks on hold and have been much more focused on signing the 28-year-old left-hander than on dealing him before the deadline.
“They want to sign him, and that’s their priority,” said an official of one club who spoke with the Phillies’ brass this week. “They’re really not even entertaining (trade) offers at this point.”