WASHINGTON, D.C. -- [Stream of consciousness from Matt Snyder in Nationals Park]
OK, so I need to sit down here and get plugged in at my press box seat. The first order of business here is to start working through power rankings for tomorrow morning. I need an intro topic.
[Glances up at the field]
Man, the Nationals are horrible right now and easily the biggest disappointment in baseball this season.
Aha! I have a topic.
For real, the thought just came instantly as I looked up at this ballpark in person for the first time. Imagine heading into the season that the Nationals would be hosting this Home Run Derby and All-Star Game in front of their home fans at .500 and 5 1/2 games out of first place.
We can't say something like "everything that could possibly go wrong has gone wrong," because we've seen things like Max Scherzer and Sean Doolittle be outstanding, the Jeremy Hellickson move looking pretty good, Juan Soto has come up and been amazing and Anthony Rendon is still good.
Outside that, though, the pickings are slim.
The situation at catcher is atrocious. Matt Wieters is now well below average and they don't have an acceptable backup. Well, they do with Wieters, actually, but he's the starter.
Ryan Zimmerman hasn't been able to stay healthy, but the best bet on last season was that it was a one-year renaissance anyway.
Daniel Murphy looks like a shell of his former self.
Bryce Harper has been a one-dimensional hitter. Home run or bust is not what great players are supposed to be.
Things could always turn. Hey, the most disappointing team in the first half last year was the Cubs and they were two games under .500. They ended up winning the division without having to sweat in the last 10 or so days. The Nationals have enough talent to see it all come together. They've played in stretches this season that suggest it's possible. We've seen them get really hot with this nucleus before. It's definitely possible to envision this ending up with a World Series title, even.
Man, it sure looks broken, doesn't it? The All-Star break is later than usual in the schedule, too. The Nats have played 96 games, leaving them only 66 to not only get right, but run down two pretty darn good baseball teams.
|The Red Sox hit the break absolutely on fire and are now on pace to win 112 games.||--||44-30|
|The pitching staff could sure use Gary Sanchez and his excellent framing work behind the plate.||--||39-34|
|Alex Bregman has MVP upside, doesn't he?||--||46-28|
|Javier Baez has gotten to the point where he'll be in MVP conversations. We knew he'd be good, but who the hell saw this coming? (No, you really didn't).||1||41-33|
|Most unlikely team in playoff position? Damn right. What a great first half for Seattle. Of course, closing it by losing five of six might be a bad omen for the second half.||1||39-37|
|The A's just finished a 10-game road trip where they won seven games against the Indians, Astros and Giants. Mercy!||4||45-31|
|They haven't seemed right for much of the first half, but the division is basically over. They have time to get on track.||--||40-31|
|They are 10-4, good buddy, in July.||3||44-30|
|Heading to the break in first place: Good. Losing a series to the Marlins: Very bad.||1||34-37|
|If you asked me which team most needed the All-Star break, here's the answer.||4||42-33|
|The Braves sputtered to the break, losing eight of their last 11. At least they won Sunday, though.||2||35-38|
|A five-game winning streak heading to the break capped off by a walk-off home run is, yes, pretty fun.||2||31-44|
|You know, they could sure use an upgrade at catc---ah, screw it: Go get Manny Machado.||1||21-55|
|Just hanging, lingering, lurking in the NL West.||1||48-26|
|It's pretty remarkable to see them above .500, given how ravaged the pitching staff has been by injuries.||2||36-38|
|Getting the Marlins, Pirates and Mets for their last 11 games before the All-Star break was a golden opportunity, and they only went 6-5. I really felt like they needed to get fat before the break and feel good heading in.||--||35-36|
|The Pirates come into the break with eight wins in their last nine games. Against quality competition, no less.||2||26-46|
|Here's my pick for the most unlikely team above .500 at the break. I didn't think they'd be a laughingstock or anything (I believe I had them like 21 in preseason power rankings), but they've done very well in overachieving.||--||44-31|
|They are undefeated since they fired Mike Matheny and Dexter Fowler homered! They fixed everything!||6||36-38|
|I'll keep harping on this until people stop acting like this is a bad team. The Reds since May 7 are 35-26. Only the Cubs and Dodgers among NL teams have a better record since then. The Reds aren't bad, they are just a non-contender.||--||36-36|
|A Brian Dozier walk-off grand slam to close the first half is pretty fun. They've won nine of their last 11 now.||2||31-42|
|I definitely didn't see Marcus Stroman being this much of a disaster, but it's long since been established that I'm an idiot.||1||37-35|
|At 41-57, I have to say I thought they'd be much worse (and I'm not alone here), but it's still a pace of 94 losses.||3||31-42|
|When a player proves he's not a very good starter but a very good reliever, signing him to go back to the rotation is a bad idea. Just saying that could apply here.||2||27-47|
|I just watched Fernando Tatis Jr. play a very good all-around game in the Futures Game. Excited for his eventual promotion.||1||45-32|
|The Tigers beating Justin Verlander on Sunday was pretty fun.||1||32-42|
|It was good to see Noah Syndergaard back on the mound doing Thor things.||1||38-31|
|In his last 12 games before the break, Yoan Moncada hit .356/.453/.689 with three doubles, two triples and two home runs.||1||44-30|
|The Royals are going to have one of the worst seasons in franchise history and not get the No. 1 overall pick because the Orioles exist.||--||33-39|
|It's pretty difficult to enter the All-Star break down 39 1/2 games. My hat is off to you, O's.||--||23-51|