Sigh! It's still painful as a Nationals fan to watch playoff baseball. It's no fun knowing that your team, with the best record in baseball, didn't make it to the NLCS. But in order to prevent spending the next six months in a deep depression, it's good to look back on the 2012 season and focus on the many memorable and exciting moments that helped the 98-64 Nationals to be in first place in the NL East. Here are some highlights and defining moments of the 2012 season:
Led by Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, the Nationals' pitching staff led the Major Leagues in ERA. Gio became a Cy Young award candidate, leading the Major Leagues with 21 victories. Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson, and Ross Dettwiler rounded out the Nats' solid starting rotation, which managed to stay healthy all year long. The Nationals' bullpen was also strong, with pitchers like Tyler Clippard, Ryan Mattheus, and Drew Storen (who returned from injury in the second half of the season) finishing games.
Last offseason, it looked like the Nationals were going to trade first baseman Adam LaRoche, because they were trying to sign free agent Prince Fielder. Fielder took a better offer from Detroit, but the Nats still had LaRoche, who carried the team the first month-and-a-half of the season despite having missed most of the 2011 season with a shoulder injury (a labral tear, for all you athletic trainers out there!). LaRoche led Washington in almost every offensive category and is one of the best defensive first basemen in baseball. Now if he could only work on having a personality, he would be a complete package.
Shortstop Ian Desmond had a career year and credited manager Davey Johnson for his success. Johnson told Desmond that he would be his shortstop, no matter what happened. Desmond ended up with 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases for the season, despite missing some time (and the All-Star Game) because of injuries. Desmond improved tremendously in his position at shortstop, reducing the amount of errors from 23 in 2011 to 15 this year.
Bryce Harper made his Major League debut in late April and was productive, hitting .270 with 22 homers, 59 RBIs, and an impressive .340 on-base percentage. It appears the Nationals have a center fielder for years to come, as well as a player with hustle and speed. Watching him steal home against the Phillies was one of my favorite moments of the season. I started out thinking he was a punky teenager and ended up rooting for him to get the Rookie of the Year award.
Other memorable moments include the amazing game-ending catch that Roger Bernadina made in Houston, Jayson Werth's walk-off home run in game 4 of the NLDS, and Michael Morse's grand slam that wasn't and then was. And if you want to see a video of the year-in-review, check this out:
See? Don't you feel better now? Spring Training will be here before you know it (pitchers and catchers report in only 4 months), and Opening Day will soon follow. In the meantime, try and watch some post-season baseball (I'm rooting for the Tigers) and keep up with your NATTITUDE!