Nationals Park

Florida Marlins @ Washington Nationals

2011 Regular Season at Nationals Park; home of the Washington Nationals since 2009.  The smoke from the grill in the restaurant beyond the outfield rolled across the field with the rich smell of barbecue, a huge distraction. Phenom right-handed pitcher Stephen Strasburg was starting. He had recently returned from Tommy John Surgery and rehabbing to pitch 24 innings in 2011. Wilson Ramos was the starting catcher. He would be kidnaped in his home country of Venezuela the following November and later rescued alive and well. Alex Cora played his final season here with the Nationals. He came in to pinch hit in the bottom of the 13th. If that at-bat were today, there would have been a runner at second base at the start of the inning Nationals lost to Marlins 4-1. Right Fielder Jaysen Werth, who signed for $126 million with the Nationals, was playing the first of seven years in his contract, leaving the still relevant Philadelphia Phillies raised eyebrows in baseball. Aside from making him the 14th richest player, there was a real push for the World Championship in Washington D.C. The 2010 first round draftee Bryce Harper was at the Arizona Fall League and would debut the next year.

GM Mike Rizzo continued his push to rebuild when he drafted Rice University 3rd baseman Anthony Rendon in June of 2011. Perhaps the team was too careful with their ace when they ultimately shut-down Stephen Strasburg in mid-September of 2012 and excluded him from the post season roster. Reasoning for the decision came partially from his doctor who suggested it, in lieu of the short amount of innings he pitched in 2011. The team went on to a series of disappointments in the post season; 2012, 2014, 2016, & 2017. Their adversity ended last year when they beat the Houston Astros to win the World Series. Anthony Rendon had a great seat on that tour from the beginning while Bryce Harper mirrored Jaysen Werth’s move by signing with the Philadelphia Phillies for $330 million over 13 years in 2019.

Originally the Montreal Expos, the Washington Nationals landed in Washington D.C. in 2006. There have been four MLB teams that called Washington D.C. home.

  • Washington Senators, Washington Statesmen (1891-1899)
  • Washington Senators (1901-1960) moved to Minneapolis to become the Minnesota Twins
  • Washington Senators (1961-1970) moved to Arlington to become the Texas Rangers
  • Montreal Expos (1969-2005) moved in 2006 to become the Washington Nationals

RFK Stadium, where games were played between 1961 and 2008, is scheduled for demolition in 2022. Nationals Park is in south-east Washington D.C., minutes from the monuments. The dome of the Capital is visible behind Left Field. Although it’s a year like none other, the fan-base is enjoying a renaissance period as the 2019 World Champions.

Steinbrenner Field

Washington Nationals @ New York Yankees.

Was able to catch a game before the rain, and before COVID-19. New York Yankees celebrate their 25th Spring Training at Steinbrenner Field here in Tampa, Florida. For the most part, 4-5 weeks of Spring Training go by really fast. Chances of rain in Florida make it a hit-or-miss if you decide to take the road trip. In this case, it worked out. The New York Yankees hosted the Washington Nationals and played 5 innings before the downpour. That’s a complete game on any scorecard, success! Yankee Masahiro Tanaka pitched the first two innings and the New York Yankees out hit the Washington Nationals. News broke later the same day. Yankees Pitcher Luis Severino had a torn ligament in his right elbow that would require Tommy John surgery. He would be out for the 2020 season. 

Little did we know that there were bigger problems, of the pandemic kind, around the corner. Recent additions to the 2019 World Champion Washington Nationals, free agents Starlin Castro and Emilio Bonifacio, were in the line up. Just the week before, the team had a second victory parade for their fans in downtown West Palm Beach near their Spring Training facilities, a complex they share with the scandal affected Houston Astros organization. 

Speaking of second chances, MLB announced this week that the 2020 regular season is set to begin July 23 or 24. Schedule is pending. 1800 Players will report in the coming days to Spring Training (2.0). That said, the strained labor relations between owners and players is yet another obstacle in the challenges ahead, something that will linger in the business of baseball for the next 18 months. It’s still unclear what the season will look like or how the protocol for the pandemic will play out. But, the game seems to be getting past the stalemate of issues. 

There will be a 60-game schedule or 2 months of baseball this year. Every team will have a universal designated hitter. Team rosters will start with 30 players instead of the normal 25 players. Each team will also hold an additional 20 players on reserve. They can be called upon for depth as the season goes. That would open doors for those fortunate minor league players who have been at the highest risk of career death. 

This game belongs to the fan. The billionaires and millionaires tend to forget that. The beauty of Baseball is being able to sit down to watch a game and to totally forget the problems outside the lines. And, when you get up from that seat, you somehow find the handles to the thing that was stressing you out. What to look for this year? Who knows? Moving forward, it will be fluid. There will be pent up frustration from months of quarantine, possible issues of cheating in the air, venomous offers from the owners, career uncertainty will give an ever present sense of urgency from players in different stages of their shelf life. In a 162-game schedule, August represents the dog days of summer. With a 60-game schedule which virtually starts in August, everyone is expected to play with fresh legs and with less concerns for fatigue. It will be a 200-yard dash to the postseason with no time for slumps. The fluidity may be explosive. It could be a season like none other, COVID-19 permitting.