By Mark F. Gray,
Special to the AFRO
On the way to the 2019 world championship, the Washington Nationals seemed to be a franchise set to become a dynastic organization with a championship pedigree.
“Bumpy roads lead to beautiful places” was the mantra that carried them to a seven-game victory over the Houston Astros in the 2019 World Series.
It seemed to be their organizational focus before this latest pothole, which saw their best player traded to the San Diego Padres last week.
In less than 36 months they’ve gone from being the worst in the District to a last-place team in the National League’s East Division.
At the 2021 Major League Baseball trade deadline, they shipped future hall of fame pitcher Max Scherzer to the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitcher Josiah Gray who appears to be a front-line starter.
“Mr. National” Ryan Zimmerman retired and Anthony Rendon took the free agent payday and signed with Anaheim Angels in Southern California.
Stephen Strasburg was re-signed for seven years and $245 million to be the ace of the pitching staff but has spent most of the first two years of his deal injured and unavailable. They invested six years and $140 million into Patrick Corbin who has taken a step backward after earning a $2.5 million signing bonus.
Three years ago, Washington, D.C. was a destination for players who wanted to compete for contending teams. However, when they traded Juan Soto and Josh Bell last week for several highly touted prospects, the signal to the fans was that the full makeover of the team was on. The remaining six weeks of the season are a full-price audition for athletes that they hope will make an impact in the future.
There is no guarantee that fans in the District will suffer the indignity of supporting a franchise that could lose close to 100 games over the next two seasons– despite being a team that is three years removed from a World Series title.
The irony is that Washington had control over Soto’s movement through 2024 and would’ve given them a marquee everyday talent that was worth paying to watch during the process.
Soto was a generational talent who was outed by the organization for not taking a 15-year $430 million deal– which will be well below fair market value for a player of his stature before he is eligible for free agency after the 2024 season. They burned the bridges with Soto and have caused many raised eyebrows around Major League Baseball with how this business decision played out. MLB sources have said they were “shocked” and “amazed” that a player of status would have been jettisoned at this time.
Soto and Bell returned to D.C. this weekend playing for a contender with the San Diego Padres. The Nationals are playing out the string after disrespecting one of the players who brought them a world championship on a day where they gave fans a likeness of Soto as Han Solo from Star Wars.
When it comes to rebuilding, may the force be with them.
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