It’s the end of September, and the playoff picture is almost set. As the end of the regular season nears, there are four teams that had the potential to have a great season, but essentially fell short.
The Nationals entered the 2018 season with a stacked roster and their sights set on the playoffs. Daniel Murphy started the year on the disabled list, but eventually returned to action. Veteran catcher Matt Wieters started behind the dish, which is certainly nothing for the team to be ashamed of. Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon, and Trea Turner held down the remainder of the Nats’ infield. Bryce Harper, Michael A. Taylor, Adam Eaton, and Brian Goodwin shared the three spots in the outfield, with Victor Robles and Juan Soto ready in the minors when needed.
Their starting rotation had Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, and Tanner Roark in it. Plus, the bullpen included guys like Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, Brandon Kintzler, and Shawn Kelley. A lineup full of proven veterans and all-stars, but all the team could do was bounce around .500 as they neared the August 31st waiver trade deadline. Washington shipped off some of their decent players to other teams, essentially throwing in the towel for the season.
The Angels were heading into the 2018 season with a strong roster. Shohei Ohtani had announced he was signing with the Angels, Mike Trout was finally healthy, and the team was prepared for playing baseball in October. The Halos had acquired Ian Kinsler over the winter, adding him to an infield that included Zack Cozart, Albert Pujols and Andrelton Simmons. Plus, the club had a bunch of solid starters and relievers with a lot of potential. Shohei Ohtani keeps getting injured, and now he has a UCL strain that could result in Tommy John surgery, which would keep him off the mound until 2020. Mike Trout is having a great season, and would definitely win MVP if it weren’t for a wrist injury that kept him sidelined for a few weeks in August.
With Ohtani and Trout, the Angels look like a really good club. But the main reason the Angels haven’t been able to keep up with their division-mates out west is that it’s hard to find a time when they’re both healthy. In addition, the pitching staff has struggled throughout the season, and Albert Pujols has certainly not lived up to his potential, and definitely does not deserve to be a MLB starter. Ian Kinsler was shipped off to Boston, where he has been involved in plenty of late-inning rallies and an intense month of September. Los Angeles trails the Athletics, Mariners, and Astros in the AL West and will have to postpone their playoff run until 2019.
The Twins entered this season with a fully healthy lineup, a bullpen that could certainly save the game when necessary, and a strong starting rotation full of pitchers who could pitch late into any game. Third baseman Miguel Sano was finally returning from his injuries, and veterans Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer would be giving every ounce of effort knowing that both of their contracts would expire following this season. Eduardo Escobar would hold down the fort at shortstop, with Max Kepler, Byron Buxton, and Eddie Rosario in the outfield. Logan Morrison and Jason Castro started the season as the designated hitter and catcher, respectively. Newly-acquired righty Jake Odorizzi, recently-signed righty Lance Lynn, and young righty Jose Berrios held the top three spots in the starting rotation, followed by a bullpen with plenty of talent, and a dominant Fernando Rodney to finish any game with a save.
Things didn’t go as planned, though. Sano ended up getting sent down to Single-A in June, and didn’t make it back up to the majors until the end of July. Dozier has since been traded to the Dodgers, where he could re-sign this offseason. Mauer, a veteran Twin, remained with the team and keeps on producing at the plate, but is mulling over the idea of retiring following this season. Eduardo Escobar was sent to the Diamondbacks, being traded away much like multiple Minnesota pitchers were. The Twins fell apart, unloaded their roster, and will, yet again, have to wait until next year for a legit shot at the postseason.
It was back to being their year again. Entering April, it appeared as if the only real challenge for New York in the NL East was the Nationals. Their starting rotation, which included Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Matt Harvey, was being mentioned repeatedly as one of the MLB favorites. The bullpen looked like it could cause trouble to opposing batters, as it consisted of guys like Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos, Jerry Blevins, and Anthony Swarzak. Travis d’Arnaud would routinely take his crouch behind home plate, while Jay Bruce, Juan Lagares, Brandon Nimmo, and a finally-healthy Yoenis Cespedes would share the three outfield spots. Meanwhile, Asdrubal Cabrera, Wilmer Flores, and Todd Frazier were some of the most promising names in the infield.
It all went south from there, though. Matt Harvey was the first to go, and he was sent to Cincinnati. Then, it was Jeurys Familia, who packed his bags for Oakland. Next, Philadelphia claimed Jose Bautista. The outfield couldn’t stay healthy, with Cespedes, Bruce, and Conforto among the many injuries to New York Mets players this year. And to cap off all of the dreadful news, former NFL star Tim Tebow, who had been playing with the Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies, had season-ending surgery to repair a broken right hand. It’s not your year, Mets fans. You’ll just have to keep waiting.
All four of these teams had a chance at postseason berth this season, but will have to put their plans on hold for at least another year.