Gio Gonzalez of the Washington Nationals.
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
In anticipation of the upcoming series with the Washington Nationals, I e-mailed Pablo Roa the Co-Editor of District on Deck to ask him a few questions. I have added some extra tid bits in italics. Here are my 5 questions with Pablo:
SA: Out of all the trades the Nationals and A’s have made in recent years, is there one that you wish the Nationals could have back?
DoD: I think the great part about the trades general managers Mike Rizzo and Billy Beane have made is that they have, at least for now, been beneficial for both teams. While there’s no denying that the Nationals have given up some great talent in these trades, all of those players (Milone, Peacock, Norris) probably would never have broken into an already-crowded Nationals major league roster.
I guess the one trade I was originally skeptical of was the Gio Gonzalez trade in 2011, not because of Gonzalez, Peacock, Milone or Norris, but because of A.J. Cole. Ever since the Nationals drafted Cole in 2010, he was heavily regarded as a potential ace of the future and it was tough to watch him go before we got to see what he was capable of. Fortunately, the Nationals got him back last winter and he could make his big league debut as early as this season.
As A’s fans know, Milone and Norris are with the team, but Brad Peacock was traded to the Astros with Chris Carter to get Jed Lowrie. A.J. Cole was acquired in the Gio Gonzalez trade, and traded back to the Nationals in the three-team deal that sent Morse to the Mariners, Cole to the Nationals and John Jaso to the A’s. Jaso is now rumored to be on the trading block to acquire more pitching.
SA: The Nationals were favored heavily to win the World Series and failed to make the playoffs in 2013. This season they are playing much better through the first month. What is the biggest difference in the club between 2013 and 2014?
DoD: I think the biggest difference this year is the offense. While the Nationals are still failing to hit with RISP, several players have stepped up and drastically improved from last year. Danny Espinosa and Adam LaRoche, both of whom struggled mightily with the bat last season, have been key pieces for the Nationals lineup in 2014. Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth have also been huge for the Nationals, with Rendon being the MVP of the ball club through the first month of the season.
Another big difference is first year manager Matt Williams. While he certainly hasn’t been perfect, Williams brings a level of energy and intensity that differs vastly from what Davey Johnson offered the last couple of season. He’s already shown that he has what it takes to make tough decisions and I think he’s a big reason why the Nationals are playing every game like it’s their last and why the team never seems to be out of a ball game late.
SA: Tanner Roark had a terrible start his last time out, giving up 7 runs in just 4 innings at Philadelphia. The start before that, he was magnificent in a complete game 3 hitter. What can the A’s expect from him?
DoD: Tanner Roark has been the story of the rotation so far for the Nationals. After spending all of spring training competing for a rotation spot, Roark has stepped up and he’s been, for the most part, extremely effective for the Nationals. I expect him to bounce back from his rough outing and put on a strong performance against the A’s.
SA: Do you foresee the injury to Bryce Harper significantly hurting the team, or will the Nats be able to tread water until he returns?
DoD: I don’t think it will. If the injury had happened in early April, I think it would’ve been a crushing blow for a team that was already without two of its best hitters in Wilson Ramos and Ryan Zimmerman and it’s prized offseason acquisition in Doug Fister. Now with Ramos and Fister expected back later this week and Zimmerman in a couple of weeks, the injury situation should improve dramatically for the Nationals.
While Harper is certainly a key part of the Nationals lineup, the fact that his injury comes at a time when the rest of the team is starting to get healthy makes me believe that they’ll be OK without him for the next six weeks or so. That being said, there’s no telling what the Nationals will be able to accomplish the second half of the season with a healthy Bryce Harper back in the lineup.
SA: Let’s say the A’s and Nats meet in the World Series. I assume you’ll pick the Nats to win, but in how many games, and why?
DoD: If the Nationals made it to the World Series, it would probably be because of the team’s stacked rotation. For this reason, I think the Nationals would sweep the Athletics in four games. Assuming that they’ll be armed with a rotation of Strasburg, J. Zimmermann, Gonzalez and Fister, and assuming that all four players pitched extremely well to finish out the season and in the playoffs, I see them stepping up and leading Washington to its first ever World Series trophy.
While I may not agree that the Nationals would sweep the Athletics, it was a pleasure having Pablo talk some baseball with us here at Swingin’ A’s. With Milone, Gray and Kazmir set to take the mound, the Nationals may be in for a rude awakening with how good this team can be. That is of course, if they wake up a little offensively before Friday night.