Washington Nationals: No easy fix for flaws on display

rjuckett
May 9, 2017; Baltimore, MD, USA; Washington Nationals rightfielder Bryce Harper (34) and center fielder Brian Goodwin (8) collide and drop the ball as the attempt to make a catch against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
May 9, 2017; Baltimore, MD, USA; Washington Nationals rightfielder Bryce Harper (34) and center fielder Brian Goodwin (8) collide and drop the ball as the attempt to make a catch against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports /
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The on-field problems for the Washington Nationals are public. Getting them under control, however, takes time. Here is why we need patience.

The flaws on display every night for the Washington Nationals carry no easy fixes.

From a bullpen that cannot hold leads to center fielders who cannot perform on offense, Washington faces the same problem as last year; a team good enough to make the playoffs but zero chance to advance.

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We can play the blame game.

The Lerner family takes some for not spending smart money. General Manager Mike Rizzo for not negotiating well with players and his bosses. Dusty Baker earns some too for overextending starters, goofy pinch-hitting acts and not managing the bullpen well.

The bigger problems come with injuries.

We told you coming in the season the Nats carried little depth. With Adam Eaton gone, Michael Taylor and Brian Goodwin are the choices in center. Like last year, you have Trea Turner in one position with a Danny Espinosa-clone in the other. They won with Espinosa in 2016.

Although the bullpen is a collection of zombies and over-achieving non-roster invitees, injuries to Koda Glover, Shawn Kelley and Sammy Solis have scrapped the bottom of the depth chart at Triple-A Syracuse to fill spots. Add the horrible start by Joe Ross and you have A.J. Cole as the fifth starter. A move testing the best of pens.

As sloppy as Washington looks, until the pitchers come off the disabled list, the Nats cannot get a true sense of how big of a problem they have. This goes deeper than the closer although closing-by-committee never works.

An immediate trade is a panic move. Scoring a Kelvin Herrera or David Robertson looks good in The Washington Post, but weakens the farm system. With nightly meltdowns on display across the country, no trading partner will take pity. The price for whatever direction the Nats go in is high and getting higher.

Again, these issues needed addressing before the season started, but no one expected Joe Blanton to be a dud. The fall of Blake Treinen is a shock and Enny Romero remains an unfinished product. Mark Melancon, for the record, landed on the disabled list Tuesday for the San Francisco Giants.

Last year, the Nats dominated the National League East and played average ball elsewhere. That formula continues into 2017. If form holds, Washington repeats as division champions.

The hard part is patience.

We have yet to reach the quarter-point of 2017. The offense, even with no established centerfielder, scores at will. The starting pitching—at least the first four—is fantastic.

Finding a proper bullpen may not happen this year. Sure, you can plug a new closer in and hope. The cracks are deeper than the ninth inning and, when healthy, the Nats have pitchers who can close. It comes down to trust in their abilities and confidence to do the job.

For Treinen, it destroyed him. Kelley and Glover will perform better.

Next: Nats after David Robertson again

The best remedy is the worst. Wait and hope.

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