All winter long fans of the Washington Nationals set huddled in their hovels waiting for news for Spring Training to shake off the chill, but when spring arrived the news was slow. It was no sudden realization that the National roster was mostly set. That was known in January, but to see it play out was the surprise. The games that the Nationals have played have been filled with little to no news or notes. Nothing of interest has happened, but that is not a bad thing. Look at the Yankees camp where they are full of interesting stories as to whether or not Derek Jeter will be ready by Opening Day, and how do they replace Curtis Granderson. The Nats have no interesting stories. It isn’t even March and Spring Training already feels like it has last too long.
No Nats fan is going to long for the days of Brian Bruney fighting for a closer’s role or the 2007 collection of has-beens and never-weres fighting for five out of five spots in the starting rotation. Nobody misses that, but something of news or note would be interesting. Instead what we get are stories of how tightly nit the Washington Nationals are, how much team chemistry they have, and intimate details about what the pitchers are working on. Some of this is more interesting than the other, but none of it is all that entertaining. Less entertainment and drama now only means more later on.
The Nationals right now are a boring Spring Training team because they have no major players injured that they are struggling to replace. The Nationals do not have five or six open spots on the roster with players fighting tooth and nail to grab them. Instead what the Nationals have is a bunch of major league players working to get their bodies in shape for the regular season, and making a story out of that is difficult.
There is some slow news about who the Nationals view as their biggest rival, the Braves or the Phillies. It makes sense that the Nats players would pick the Phillies. It is mostly the same roster and names that beat up on the Nationals from 2007-2011. They still have Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, and Carlos Ruiz. They have a lot of names and if all those players are healthy they should be a good team, but that doesn’t make them better than the Braves. Kris Medlen and Andrelton Simmons were good for part of the year last year and the Nationals players have never seen Julio Teheran perform well, but those three players are going to be the most important to the Braves chances to catch the Nationals. It is youth and players that are unknown to the established major leaguers on the Nationals roster. Zimmerman is right to say the moves for the Uptons were lateral moves, but if the Braves improve it won’t be because of those players. It will be because of Medlen, Simmons, and Teheran.
That was the longest paragraph I wrote. It is somewhat exciting and entertaining to wonder if the Braves or Phillies can chase down the Nats and who is the biggest threat, but the lion doesn’t worry about the feelings of the water buffalo. The more boring Spring Training is for the Nationals the better the regular season will be. Teams have position battles because they don’t have a player they are confident in to play the position. Teams have drama scrambling to find players to replace and injured star because that injury can upset all their plans. The less exciting and entertaining the Nationals are now the better they will be during the regular season.
Spring Training for the Nationals isn’t about finding the 25 guys they will take north. They know who those will be, and Spring Training results aren’t going to do much if anything to alter the decisions Mike Rizzo has probably already reached. Unless the result of a Spring Training game is a pulled hamstring or oblique then it doesn’t matter. There are more missives on social media informing people not to take Spring Training results seriously than their are people taking the results seriously. The fans of the Washington Nationals know what this is, and as long as a line-up of Span, Werth, Harper, Zimmerman, LaRoche, Desmond, Espinosa, Ramzuki, and Strasburg takes the field on Opening Day then it is going to be a good season.