The Haren bet also was a kind of double-down for the Nats. By giving him so much cash, they crossed their fingers and hoped their lack of starting pitching depth wouldn’t be exposed. It has been. Zach Duke and Yunesky Maya (both released), Chris Young (fizzle) and Nate Karns (not ready yet, back to minors) have added up to zero. By the trade deadline, if not sooner, the Nats probably will have to pay heavily for another starter.
The Nats also expected they had enough bats that they could sacrifice offense by trading for a slap-hitting leadoff man and center fielder in Span while moving Harper to left field and trading Michael Morse. On Sunday, Span got an important RBI triple and Ian Desmond said, “Welcome to the team.” That’s not good. It took Span 62 games to have an impact moment.
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GM Mike Rizzo miscalculated. This is one time both the scouts and stat nerds were wrong. Scouts love the security of a gliding center fielder with a good arm and a leadoff who looks like he can run, slap hit and foul off pitches. That’s eye candy, not production. The geeks thought Span was worth a 5.1 WAR last season, close to superstar. This guy? With the .325 on-base percentage that’s almost identical to his .334 the previous three years? Don’t wait for Span to get better. It’s not his fault. This is just him.
The Nats also expected their reserves to duplicate ’12. That implied Roger Bernadina’s improvement was real, Tyler Moore wouldn’t slump, Goon Squader Chad Tracy was valuable and Steve Lombardozzi’s on-base-plus slugging wouldn’t drop 155 points. Wrong again.
Rizzo got one offseason move very correct. Nobody asked him to get a last-second $24 million free agent. But he did, and Soriano has saved a staggering bullpen with 16 saves and is probably an all-star.
Baseball seems to exist to expand our imaginations every summer. Whatever we anticipate proves to be far too tame for the sport’s reality. It’s too cheerful, too glum or just not outlandish enough, not enough fun.
In Sunday’s doubleheader, the Nats’ new second baseman, who has played fewer than a dozen games at the position since Little League but soon might be entrenched at the position for years, muffed a popup because he forgot to wear sunglasses and made an error on a ground ball. He also made a brilliant leaping catch, started a double play, made a cannon relay throw, walked, cracked two singles, doubled and drove in three runs as he raised his average to .367 in his last nine games.
He’s rookie Anthony Rendon, far, far ahead of schedule. Just as nobody expected.
For previous columns by Thomas Boswell, visit washingtonpost.com/