Breakups hurt. Any Washington Nationals fan reading this would know. Less than three years after leading the Nats to the first World Series title in franchise history, 23-year-old superstar Juan Soto no longer wears the curly W.
After declining the Nationals 15-year, $440M extension at the beginning of July, Washington became resigned to the fact that many dreaded. Soto would have to be dealt, and his time as a National was coming to an end.
We could go on and on about if trading Soto was the right decision, but some things are certain. One being. the Soto shuffle, the infectious smile, and most importantly, his on-field performance, will all be missed. In such a short time as a National, Soto accomplished so much and left a lasting legacy while cementing himself as a Washington sports legend.
Now, on a talented and competitive team with fellow superstars Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado, Soto will go on to do great things in San Diego. The 23-year-old will probably win an MVP or two, and maybe help the Padres win their first ever World Series, just like he did in Washington.
It’s going to hurt watching Soto flourish in San Diego, but it’s supposed to. The superstar will make his mark and have legendary moments just like he did in D.C., and it will leave Nationals fans dreaming about all the highest of highs he had as a Nat.
It’s never easy to move on from something great. Again, it’s not supposed to be. But you know what, last night a funny thing happened. The Soto/Bell-less Nationals, as a +320 underdog, went out and beat the first-place New York Mets. In the grand scheme of things, this win will mean nothing, but it didn’t feel that way last night.
After one of the toughest days in franchise history, the Nationals and their fans needed something, even if just for a couple of hours, to feel good about. Whether it was Luis García continuing to show his potential with a bomb of a two-run homer, or seeing Joey Meneses, after 10 long years in the minors, hit a home run for his first Major League hit, it felt good to see a positive energy at Nationals Park. As Kevin Malone once said, ‘It’s just nice to win one.”
This morning, as Juan Soto delivered a heartful thank you and goodbye to Nationals fans, and every Major League Baseball outlet continued to discuss the trade, some different thoughts crossed my mind. The prospects acquired looked a little better, and thoughts of their future started to surface.
What if C.J. Abrams does become a perineal All-Star shortstop? What if Mackenzie Gore, Josiah Gray, and Cade Cavalli become the next Scherzer/Strasburg/Corbin? What if Robert Hassell III and James Wood lock down each corner of the outfield in D.C. from 2025-2030?
Look, I know, the odds that all these things come true aren’t great. It’s probably far more likely the combination of prospects doesn’t pan out than all of the above things coming true, but the point is this. After you get hurt, you heal. It takes time, and the scar may still show, but someday, eventually, you will heal.
The Nationals metaphorically ripped a bandaid off their giant wound yesterday. Losing Juan Soto will leave a bigger scar than any player that has departed in the history of the franchise has left, but the healing process has already begun.
Every hit C.J. Abrams gets, every win Mackenzie Gore notches, and every home run Robert Hassell and James Wood hit will make the wound heal even more. And if we’re lucky in 7-8 years there will be another parade in our Nation’s Capital and the thoughts of the Soto deal will be just a distant memory.
Former National Ian Desmond used to say, “The rain always brings the sun.” It’s not going to be an easy next year or two Nationals fans, and it’s certainly raining right now, but thankfully, the hardest part is over.
As Mike Rizzo said yesterday, the Nationals are in a bumpy place right now. But hey, maybe it will lead somewhere beautiful in the long run.