Game Seven of the World Series which concluded earlier in the week, was entirely pitched for the winning Washington Nationals team by former Arizona Diamondbacks. Max Scherzer started the game, before turning the ball over to Patrick Corbin for three innings of relief, before Daniel Hudson closed out the game by getting the final trio of outs. They weren’t the only Diamondbacks to appear there, with Adam Eaton, Gerardo Parra (do do do-do do-do) and Fernando Rodney also on the Nats’ World Series roster. It certainly seems like quite a lot, and perhaps ties to Washington GM Mike Rizzo having cut his teeth in Arizona.
But is it just the bias of familiarity? After all, Rodney played for more than one-third of the other teams in the majors, before ending in with the Nationals, so can be claimed as an alumni by all of them. There’s only one way to know. Go through all 25 members of the Washington World Series roster, and chart all the teams they have played for, over the course of their major-league careers. You can see the results below.
You can see that the large majority of teams in the majors can say they have some connection to the latest World Series champions. Only four teams do not have any alumni on the 2019 Nationals - amusingly, one of those was their opponents in the series, the Houston Astros (the others being the Red Sox, Royals and Mets). However, the D-backs have a connection to more players as any other team. Los Angeles are next, with four former Dodgers: Javy Guerra, Hudson, Brian Dozier and Howie Kendrick (famously responsible for burning them in the NL Division Series). The rest of the NL West can muster only three between them, Parra counting for both the Giants and Rockies, and Rodney for the Padres.
Obviously, Rodney is the most-traveled member of the Nationals, they being the 11th organization for which he has played since making his debut in May 2002. At that point, there WERE no Washington Nationals, since the team was still in Montreal, through the end of 2004. There aren’t many active players left from the Expos era, after C.C. Sabathia and Ichiro retiring this year. Save Rodney, there’s Albert Pujols and (just) Curtis Granderson, and I’m not sure if there are many others. Behind Rodney, there’s a long drop-off: the next most nomadic Nationals are Asdrúbal Cabrera, Hudson and Parra, each of whom have appeared with six different teams.
What’s amazing is that all four were released this season. Hudson went unsigned almost until pitchers and catchers reported this spring, then was let go by the Angels on March 22. To go from that - and after two Tommy John surgeries, of course - to getting the final outs in Game 7 of the World Series is such a ludicrous and completely implausible story, Rian Johnson probably wants to turn it into a Star Wars film. Similarly, Parra was released by the Giants in May, Rodney by the A’s the same month, and Cabrera by the Rangers in August. The quartet then signed for Washington, as the Nationals clawed their way back from the abyss of a 19-31 start, and went 5-0 in elimination games, on the way to the World Series.
But let’s not forget about their home-grown talent too. Nine of the twenty-five players have never appeared for anyone else but Washington. Ryan Zimmerman is the most well-known example, being the franchise’s first-ever draft pick after they moved to the capital, being sele in the first round of the 2005 draft. But Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg and Michael Taylor were also drafted by the Nationals. Don’t underestimate the importance of international scouting either, which brought to Washington the likes of Wander Suero and Victor Robles, in addition to Juan Soto. And Joe Ross and Trea Turner were acquired while still prospects, in the same three-team deal, back in June 2015.
So, it’s probably not quite true to say that it’s just about Ken Kendrick opening his wallet, as some have suggested. There’s no doubt they did spend, but of the four most well-paid Nationals this year, only Scherzer was a free-agent signing. I’d say the key is to build a strong foundation from within, drafting and signing smartly, then use your financial resources to fill the gaps as necessary with proven talent. It’s a process, and one in which the D-backs are likely still in the early stages. We need to be patient, and wait for the farm system to bear fruit, because spending for the sake of spending, merely to appease fans, is not the way to proceed.