Why the Nationals could benefit from a late start to the season


There is no good way of looking at the MLB season being delayed.

It was the right decision to suspend play while the coronavirus outbreak is contained, but that doesn’t mean losing baseball hurts any less. On the Thursday that should’ve been Opening Day, no amount of throwback games on TV or MLB The Show tournaments can replace that baseball-sized hole in the hearts of those who love the game.

But if any team is receiving a residual benefit from Opening Day being pushed back, it’s the Nationals. The reigning World Series champions played deeper into October than any other team in baseball—aside from the Astros, of course. They then spent their offseason conducting media tours, giving out speeches and, if nothing else, resting from a long campaign.

The long postseason meant several players, particularly pitchers, had to push their offseason training programs back in order to give their bodies a break. Sean Doolittle and Aníbal Sánchez were among the Nationals’ pitchers who said at WinterFest in January they had to push things back to account for the late end of the season.

Normally, the ramifications of that shorter offseason are called a World Series hangover. That won’t be a problem in D.C., as the Nationals will be the first team since the Toronto Blue Jays in 1995 to enter a delayed season as the reigning champions.

The Nationals won’t be the only team to benefit, however. Perhaps no team has been more ravaged by injuries this spring than the New York Yankees, who would’ve started the season Thursday with an entire starting outfield on the shelf in Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks. They could get all three back by the time MLB picks up again.

Before spring training was suspended, Washington wasn’t dealing with any serious injuries that threatened the status of any of their players for Opening Day. The bigger question was whether the Nationals, a noted veteran-heavy team, could stay healthy throughout an entire 162-game season.

A late start coupled with fewer games on the schedule could help Washington stay fresh for another postseason run. For a team that rides its starting rotation to success, one or two key injuries could put an end to their hopes of contending. A shorter season reduces the chances of that happening.

So while there isn’t a player, coach or executive on South Capitol Street who would tell you they’re glad the season is delayed, there will certainly be a few positives for the Nationals.

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