Told you not to worry about Cincy. They can't hit. Can't. As good as the pitching can be (see Cueto, Jonny) it hardly matters when they can't score more than three runs, which should be the case versus a good pitching team (which the Nats are). Seriously - here are their runs scored since the All-Star break. 3, 1, 2, 2, 3, 1, 1, 1, 2. This is a team that could find itself in last place by the end of August. Most likely not (the Cubs have gotten themselves a great "lead") but I'm not betting against it.
Anyway, the Nats will have to sweep the Marlins to go 7-2, like I demanded they do. Don't they listen to me? They are better than the Marlins. They should win the series. 6-3 is fine. 5-4 is not ok.
The bigger story over the weekend is how the management has treated Bryce Harper and how the fans are turning on him. He has not hit particularly well since coming back (.209 / .329 / .328). He seemed to have something going for a few games there but has gone back to slumping. During that time there was a questionable non-start versus Franklin Morales (not exactly a lefty who dominates lefties), an odd "fake bunt" call in a key point, and a few overly aggressive baserunning moves which everyone loved so much last year, and now everyone hates because... ummm... Well, there's the stated reason why they hate these moves, because they cause outs. But you know what? They caused outs before too. The turn can be caused by a team losing when they should be winning, but the Nats have taken 1st place and don't look to be slowing down. No, the big reason why they hate the moves now, something that has changed from previous years is the team (and the media - Hi, Boz!) have told them they should hate it now.
Now you have people throwing out trades for Bryce, or suggesting he go down to Syracuse for Souza. It's created this weird ironic situation where in order to show that Bryce is not more important than the team, that the team's success is paramount, the Nats are doing things that most likely will hurt the team's success. So I guess send the management down too?
Bryce is arguably the most important piece for the future success of the Nats. Everyone else is either too old, to injury prone, or too unproven to take that title from him. The only possible challenger to Bryce is Rendon, but here's a fun fact; in Bryce's 2nd year (last year), he got on base more and hit for more power than Rendon is doing now in his second year. He was also four years younger than Rendon. Bryce's potential to be a team carrying star cannot be ignored. He doesn't have to be coddled, but he does have to be used properly. Preferably that would be batting higher in the line-up but hey, if they just set-him and forget-him for 2014 in the 6 hole I'd be fine with that. Sit him versus tough lefties, otherwise he plays everyday. Don't ask him to do things you wouldn't ask other players of his talent to do. It's not that difficult.
Sigh. What a stupid thing to be talking about.
In other news - Denard Span. You all know I'm not a big fan of Denard Span. It's pretty much all about him batting leadoff, as I don't think he should be sat and certainly not traded. Recently he's made the leadoff question moot, getting on base at a crazy clip. Of course a lot of that is just luck (please someone tell me his .441 July BABIP is sustainable) which happens with speedy slap hitters, but he did increase his walk totals in each of the past three months. Six in May, eight in June, twelve so far in July. If he keeps it up he might not be terrible leading off when the batting average cools down. That's important because like it or not, he's leading off for this team.
I'm one to think that Span's option year should be picked up. Does that mean Souza (or whoever) doesn't get there chance? Maybe. But the Nats OF D is pretty shaky and Souza is still learning the position. Bryce hasn't been able to turn his athleticism into good OF play and Werth can't get around out there anymore (sorry Werth fans). They need Span in CF. If he happens to hit like crap (or if Souza shows himself to be an unstoppable force in the majors when he plays) then you can bench him - he would make a great 4th OF / defensive replacement / pinch runner in that case.An expensive one yes, but the Nats should be able to afford it without affecting their future plans.