So we have 23 games left and barring intervention from St. Al* - the patron saint of comebacks born of true baseball collapses - the Nats season is over. If not actual baseball results, what can we talk about? Plenty!
The short goodbye: Barry Svrluga brought this up a week ago on the radio but the Nats team we've grown to love (and sometimes hate) is going to be very different next year. They've lost pieces here and there over time; Morse, LaRoche, Clippard, but have had a substantial core that has been the same for the entire 2012-2015 period. This offseason the exodus truly begins as Jordan Zimmermann (most starts 2012-2015) and Ian Desmond (most games played 2012-2015) likely say goodbye. Both have been Nats since 2009, meaning they were here for the lows before the highs, and for Nats fans truly represent the franchise in some ways. Since the Nats like to deal guys they aren't going to re-sign we could also see the loss of other key pieces of this run. Strasburg, Storen, Ramos, and Stammen all hit FA in 2016, and Gio has an option for that year (likely to be picked up but it doesn't have to be). Anyone of them could be dealt. Good or bad, it is the end of an era.
The MVP "debate" : I'm not going to begrudge anyone that thinks some one other than Bryce Harper should be MVP. The fact is if you ask people to vote on it, you are asking their opinion. Who do you think is the "most valuable"? If you want to take it to mean "most valuable to a playoff team" that's fine. If you want to take it to mean "most valuable to a playoff team solely during the post All-Star break pennant race time"... well I'll disagree with your mind set, but you have that choice.** However, the statistics Bryce Harper have put up are hard to ignore. He basically leads the NL in all offensive categories and seasons like that, playoffs or not, are hard not to commemorate. He'll almost certainly be the first non-playoff MVP since Albert Pujols in 2008.
Playing time : So the season effectively, but not officially, is over. Do we see more Trea Turner? He hasn't gotten a lot of opportunities since being called up and he also hasn't really come through (one IF single). Do we shutdown Joe Ross? What about scaling back Strasburg? Do we see them try to work out Storen's issues now - either for next year or for trade bait? Or do we see the working of arms like Solis and Rivero more? What about Cole? It's likely the answer is - none of this will happen. The Nats will play as if they have a chance until they almost mathematically do not. But should they?
Filling out the 2016 roster : The Nats have plans for all the starting roles. Roark and Ross for ZNN and Fister. Taylor for Span. Some combo of Escobar/Espinosa/Turner for what is now Escobar's and Desmond's spots. But do you like that rotation? Do you like Taylor? And what about the deep bench and more importantly the pen? Do the Nats offer a QO to Span and cross fingers? Do they try to re-sign the under utilized but probably second best reliever all season Matt Thornton? How to best fix a pen knowing money may be an issue? This is more offseason talk than in-season. I'd say start ruminating about it but we'll hold off on discussion till closer to October.
Who's the manager : Another off-season topic, but one that's far more likely to hit the Nats as a question as soon as the season ends. If Matt Williams goes who replaces him? A hot name is Cal Ripken but that would be another "no experience" guy coming in. MW didn't work. Brad Ausmus didn't work. It's a small sample size and the results are questionable but generally you try to go away from what wasn't working, if only to try a new approach. Bud Black might be the best "former manager, not old" out there. There are always plenty of coaches people seem to like, for instance the former Yankees crew over in SF (Dave Righetti, Roberto Kelly, Hensley Muelens). And there's Bo Porter out there, a former Nats coach that was highly sought after as a manager for a couple years. He didn't win but no one blames him for that and he was mainly fired because he didn't mesh with the Astros GM. That shouldn't be an issue with his pal, Mike Rizzo.
*Most baseball collapses are a combination of one team playing below average and one team playing above. Say 7-13 and 13-7 in a 20 game stretch to make up six games. The 1962 Giants, managed by Al Dark, however ended the season with a middling 7-6 run. Unfortunately for Dodgers fans, they were still able to catch LA who went 3-10 during that time to blow a 4 game lead.
** I said this in the comments yesterday but I feel like Mets fans saying Cespedes should win the MVP are kind of saying "Thanks deGrom for keeping us with the lead pack in the marathon for 20 miles. But did you see the way Cespedes ran the last 5 miles to get us the lead? He's the real hero!" Personally I think a deGrom argument is stronger as he did the most rotation work to carry a limp offense until everyone got healthy and Alderson got the Mets real major leaguers to fill in the gaps.