Washington, DC Sports Franchises: What’s happening today with the Washington Nationals?
February 10, 2011 1 Comment
In light of the 2009 bonus scandal involving prospects from the Dominican Republic, Mike Rizzo launched a rebuilding campaign (Rebuilding? In Washington? Does that sound familiar?) with the intent of revamping the roster by attracting high-profile players. This quest has been relatively successful, as evident by the signing of phenom Stephen Strasburg and catcher/outfielder Bryce Harper out of Southern Nevada.
Strasburg signed a record $15.1 million contract with the Nationals on August 17, 2009, breaking a record previously held by Mark Prior, who had signed for $10.5 million in 2001. He was called the “most-hyped pick in draft history” by ESPN and the “most hyped and closely watched pitching prospect in the history of baseball” by Sports Illustrated. This is no coincidence, as on June 8, 2010 he had his major league debut, attracting a sellout crowd of 40,315. Strasburg struck out 14 batters in 7 innings, giving up just 2 earned runs in a win over the Pirates. The 14 K’s were a record for the Nationals—the most in a single game by a National since the franchise moved to D.C.
Although the sun is always shining in Strasburg’s hometown of San Diego, things were not as peachy for his career in the nation’s capital. In July 2010, Strasburg was placed on the disabled list with an inflamed right shoulder. He returned to action on August 10, but in his third game back, on August 21, he was removed with an apparent injury. On August 27, the Nationals announced that Strasburg had a torn ulnar collateral ligament, requiring Tommy John surgery, and about 12 to 18 months of rehabilitation. Strasburg’s imminent return this season has brought a sense of hope and hype back to Nationals Park, although many fans are not holding their breath for a 100 percent turnaround right away. Fans displayed their discontent quite clearly through shockingly low attendance levels in the latter half of the 2010 season. On September 20, 2010, the Nationals recorded their lowest attendance ever since they came to Washington, with just 10,999 in attendance for a game against the Astros. The poor attendance continued during the whole series, and the rest of the season.
Attendance issues aside, these high-priced, high-profile contracts of Strasburg and Harper are just the tip of the iceberg that is the attempt at reformation in the capital city. In November 2010, the Nationals unveiled a new logo and uniforms. If the swagger from the new look isn’t enough, the Nats have bolstered their roster once again for the upcoming season. In December 2010, the Nationals signed Jayson Werth to a 7 year deal. Werth, coming straight from loads of success in Philly, aims to be a strong presence in right field, but also a powerful force at the plate. Werth’s…um, worth… will be brought to a new level in Washington, as he has the opportunity to step into a leadership role on offense, as his fantastic percentages have unfortunately often been overshadowed by the likes of the formidable Phillies lineup he was formerly a part of.
The big arm is recovering. The outfield gets a world champ. There’s a new vibe and a new look in Washington. Let’s see where this goes!