The rebuilding of the Washington Nationals has not exactly been smooth sailing.Â The plan was presented to the public, much like Ted Leonsis did to Caps fans: we are going to suck.Â We are going to be really, really bad so that we can get better.Â It will take a few years, but then when we are good, we’ll be young and good, meaning we’ll be good for a long time.
It took three years for the Caps to accomplish said plan (though they still haven’t won a championship), but for the Nationals it has taken the better part of six years.Â And they still aren’t quite a steady .500 team.
According to management, “Phase One” of the rebuild was collecting and developing young players through draft and trade.Â “Phase Two” would be acquiring established talent to complement the youngsters and having a winning teamÂ The problem was, Jim Bowden didn’t really commit to the plan.Â That’s understandable, these are all really competitive guys who want to win, and it’s hard to adjust to a mindset of “we are going to lose.”
Bowden did okay in the draft, but it took a very long time to it to formulate.Â He also didn’t do much in terms of trade to bring in more young players, and his work kept the Nats in a holding pattern of losing instead of taking them to that next level.
When Mike Rizzo took over, he made strides to take the team to the next phase.Â He traded away (or let walk) good players for prospects.Â Not many GMs would trade away their team’s only All-Star for a prospect, but that’s exactly what he did last year.Â Not many GMs would let Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham walk, but he did, allowing for players like Rodger Bernadina and Michael Morse to have regular starting time.
Under Rizzo, the team really has taken on Phase Two.Â The younger guys are coming up, and as much flack as Rizzo gets for the Werth deal, the fact is Werth is going to be under contract with the Nats at the same time as Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon.Â That could be quite the middle order once Jayson Werth remembers who he is and how to hit a baseball.
Phase Two won’t end until the Nats win on a regular basis, but that time is closer than ever now that Mike Rizzo is at the head of the ship.Â Key players are coming up through the ranks, and once they are in place, the Nats can really make their playoff push.Â This still isn’t the year, but it certainly feels a lot closer than it has for any of the last six seasons.Â Phase Two: commence.