For the first time, probably ever, I can say that this year’s Spring Training for the Washington Nationals is painfully, unquestionably, absolutely, boring.
The team’s opening day roster is all but set. There are no serious injuries, no silly over-performing or underperforming overreactions, not even a last chancer or two sprinkled around camp. The starters are not being rushed, they’re getting ready in their own time to prepare for Opening Day, April 1. The pitchers are tinkering with pitches but there is no doubt who will be where in the rotation once the team heads north.
Quite simply, this looks like a polished, ready to ship, get them on the truck pennant contender. This is what happens when a team returns from being the best in baseball the year before, with an even stronger and healthier roster than they brought to the postseason. This is what it looks like to have a front office that has dotted all the I’s and crossed all the T’s. This is what it looks like to have a manager who has instilled so much trust in his players, that they are not focusing on any lineup competition, merely their own readiness.
This spring, the Nationals look like they are primed to be the best team in baseball, and its both amazing and maddening at the same time. Do not get me wrong, I’d much rather have the team that will compete in October than a team of wash ups competing for a spot in March. But I’m nostalgic. Spring Training, as a Washington Nationals fan, has always meant needing to bring your Who’s Who in Baseball to the stadium to figure out half of the lineup by the fifth inning. It meant having no idea who would make up three fifths of a rotation until about a week before the season, and watching 36-year-olds from all across baseball mosey over to Washington for one last chance.
In years past, Spring Training gave you an opportunity to see and completely overrate the team’s young prospects. Last season you wondered if Bryce Harper would make the team out of camp. The year before that, you wondered what Stephen Strasburg would look like in a full season. Hell, I remember going to camp wishing I could catch a glimpse of Smiley Gonzalez, or even Michael Burgess.
I’m just so unused to viewing Spring Training as what it actually is, a chance for teams to warm up for the regular season. For Nationals fans, it has been one of the main shows since 2005. This is where we were able to see change happen in real time. Decisions were made on small sample sizes, and we got to witness every moment of it.
Now, the Nationals are showing us something different. This is how a top-level team prepares for the season, and its certainly going to be an interesting one here in Washington.