The new way to make sport of the Washington Nationals is to note that they have not had a starting pitcher get a win since July 6, a record 40 games that goes back to 1901. Why that is a better barometer of why they suck than their actual record or their -211 run differential is one of those analytic mysteries that help kill those slow days in August when the despair of the season meets the bottle of Old Galoshes in your computer bag, but what the hell—it’s a slow day here, too.
It is reasonable to conclude that something that has not been done since the Cleveland Spiders roamed the earth is worth mentioning if not outright torturing, and as the Torquemada of sporting websites, it is our duty to point out shipworms, the Nicosia family, and Dan Campbell, so why not Patrick Corbin and Paolo Espino?
The Nationals have used eight pitchers in these 40 games, so it’s not like they’re emptying the minor league system top look for candidates for the team’s glorious future. It’s Josiah Gray, Erick Fedde, Corbin, Espino and Anibal (not to be confused with Aaron) Sanchez, over and over. Oh, there’s a Cory Abbott and an Erasmo Ramirez and even a Joan Adon dropped in here and there, but mostly its those five guys, walking toward the gun emplacements across the field day after monotonous and monstrous day. Corbin in particular is 0-7 with a 9.25 ERA in his eight starts, and while those are both relatively uninformative statistics when taken alone, they are valuable comparison tools, as in, Jesus Christmas, 9.25? How can that be? Well, they are 0-23 with a 6.78 ERA and a 2.10 WHIP, which actually isn’t that much worse than their overall record of 23-67 with a 5.93 ERA. Make of that what you will.
But it can definitely be, to answer the rhetorical question above, because the franchise is in semi-deliberate freefall. The Lerners want to sell, the management gave up wanting to win long before they ditched Juan Soto, and the general atmosphere flirts on a daily basis with capitulation. All that said, we all know the Nationals as a concept have fully packed it in. What fascinates us is the desire to find new ways of saying the same thing.
The Nationals are 11-29 in these 40 games, but they are also 12-35 in the last 47; Gray’s win on July 6 broke a six-game losing streak before the lads started a nine-game losing streak the next day. The 2022 Nationals have been a work in regress since Opening Day, and we all understood that. They have adhered to a strict win-one-lose-two strategy all year, and other than the Soto trade have been entirely unnoticed by the baseball world. Other than this starting pitcher stat, they’re the Tigers with better hitters, the A’s with better attendance, and the Pirates with blander uniforms. This starting pitching stat is the one thing that separates them from the other woefuls.
And maybe that’s the reason it exists—so we can discuss the otherwise undiscussable. If there is a thing worse than being bad, it is being bland and bad. Like the Cubs, or the Royals. Maybe the real task here is to find the hook that makes it worth the bait. The Angels are famous for wasting Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, and now they are famous for Arte Moreno wanting to sell the team because his kids don’t want it. The Pirates are famous for owner Bob Nutting posing for a picture with a fan wearing a “SELL THE TEAM” shirt, and if he isn’t blissfully unaware of it, he is a comedic genius. The Rangers are famous for firing manager Chris Woodward and then two days later firing head of baseball operations Jon Daniels and leaving general manager Chris Young to figure out which one was worse.
See? It’s like your mother always told you—if you can’t find something nice to say about someone, find something about him, her, or them that is uniquely awful and separates them from the usual stubbornness of rhinos that congregate wherever you happen to be any given time. This is the Nationals’ claim to fame now that they have already spent the Soto chip. It may not be much by comparison with Ohtani, but it will simply have to do.