With Spring Training here, it’s a great time for baseball, and one of the most compelling stories in the game is happening in Washington, where the team in our nation’s capital threw money at its problems.
The Nationals have had the best record in the National League two of the past three years but have not won a playoff series. So they spent $210 million for Max Scherzer to complete an impossibly great pitching rotation. Scherzer joins Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez to give Washington the best rotation in the past few years. It is, in fact, the best rotation since the last time a team tried this — that would be the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies. Remember them?
The Phillies decided to leave the National League behind, so they brought back Cliff Lee to join Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. Many were calling that the best pitching rotation ever assembled. Did it work? Sort of. The Phillies won 102 games that year, most in franchise history and five games better than any team in baseball. But did it work? No. The Phillies lost in the Division Series to a St. Louis team that barely sneaked into the playoffs, and that was it.
This is the new baseball paradigm: It just doesn’t matter how many games you win until October. The Nationals no doubt hope that Scherzer can be 2015’s version of Madison Bumgarner and single-handedly carry Washington to playoff wins. It’s a big gamble. The Nationals no doubt will win a lot of games, but their whole season will rely on October.
And that, unfortunately, is just not for sale.
— Joe Posnanski