The Washington Nationals may be teenagers in the eyes of MLB’s long standing franchises, but for those of us who have grown up with the team, it’s hard to accept that some of our beloved stars are now part of a team that has the oldest average age in baseball.
When I saw a Washington Post headline on July 15 indicating the Nats are the oldest team in baseball by average, I too began to feel old. I remember many of the current players from their rookie seasons, or even before their debut, and in my mind, many of them are still 20-year old babies, and not the elder veterans the rest of the world sees them as.
Ryan Zimmerman has been around forever. He was drafted and made his debut in 2005, and has been a constant presence since then, he has suffered several injuries and switched positions, but he is a central part of this team. As long as he is around, I will remember those early years where nothing went right but the team was still fun to watch; and appreciate today’s team as they push for another playoff berth and the chance to make it past the NLDS.
Stepehen Strasburg was drafted in 2009, and made his much anticipated debut in June of 2010. Like Zimmerman, he has suffered a major injury, but he is back and having a great season so far. His strikeouts per game are slightly lower than the 14 in his debut, but he still delivers a strong outing almost every time, and all that has changed is he now sports a full beard, as opposed to that goatee he had as a rookie (and his inning’s aren’t limited like they were in 2012, but that is a topic for another day).
Kurt Suzuki is back on the Nats as they chase another playoff spot, so are we sure we all haven’t just gone back to 2012? Suzuki was part of the magical 2012 team that made D.C.’s first baseball playoff appearance since 2012 and got the city on board with having a baseball team. At the time, Suzuki was a veteran addition to help Wilson Ramos behind the plate, not Suzuki and Yan Gomes are platooning at catcher. With Suzuki and Strasburg as the battery every fifth day, it really could be 2012.
The only players reminding us that it is in fact 2019, and making everyone else look old, are Juan Soto and Victor Robles. Both outfielders are 20 years old this season, but do not look like Little Leaguers on the field. Soto played most of last season, and has matured into someone who is ready to play all 162. He is good friends with veterans Howie Kendrick and Gerado Parra, hopefully a relationship that balances out millennial energy with baby boomer lethargy.
These two youngsters serve to balance out 42 year-old Fernando Rodney on the roster, but it takes some youthful energy, and some veteran know-how to put a team back in the playoff conversation after what looked like a rebuilding season in May. Young or old, this version of the Washington Nationals is poised to take on the rest of 2019.