- - Tuesday, August 1, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Doolittle, Madson and Kintzler — sounds like a law firm.

“Having trouble saving games? Are the seventh, eighth and ninth innings giving you an ulcer? Do you see Drew Storen in your nightmares? Call Doolittle, Madson and Kintzler for all your bullpen needs.”

This is the trio the Washington Nationals will be looking to, come October, when — in a perverted twist of the game — relief pitchers, not starters, take center stage and hold World Series championships in the palms of their hands.

Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson arrived two weeks ago, courtesy of the Oakland Athletics, who sent the two relievers to Washington in exchange for the man with the live arm and shaky knees, reliever Blake Treinen and two minor leaguers.

Then, as the baseball trading deadline came to a close at 4 p.m. Monday, the Nationals got Brandon Kintzler and his 28 saves — 28 saves! — from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for minor league pitcher Tyler Watson (I wonder if this exhausts the Tylers in the Nationals organization) and the new monopoly money in baseball, international bonus pool money.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo did his job — and did it well. He got three quality arms in the bullpen without sacrificing any major future parts of the organization.

Granted, none of them will strike fear into the hearts of opposing batters.

However, the sight of them walking in from the bullpen also won’t strike fear in the hearts of Nationals fans who have suffered through a season of blown saves by the battered and beleaguered bullpen.

Then again, Rizzo did his job — handcuffed by ownership payroll limitations —during the winter, when he put together a bullpen that, according to accounts from the media that covers the team day in and day out, was going to be a strength for this team.

But either through failure or injuries, guys like Treinen, Shawn Kelley, Sammy Solis and others didn’t perform as expected — as per their track records (which is the measure for determining future performances).

Now, like then, it is up to the players to perform based on their track records. It is up to the firm of Doolittle, Madson and Kintzler to win in the court of the bullpen.

It is a court where the Nationals have not won many cases. It seems like they have been searching forever for the stud coming out of the pen — that pitcher who does strike fear in the hearts of opposing hitters.

Everyone thought it was Storen, but that was a mistake from Day 1 — when they drafted him with the 10th pick of the first round in 2009. He was drafted too high, picked there only because, after the Lerners were faced with shelling out first-round money to Stephen Strasburg, the No. 1 selection in that draft, they wanted someone drafted in that 10 spot that they knew they could sign. He wasn’t picked because he was the 10th best player in the draft.

Storen, despite his early regular season success, failed to do his job in the most important postseason opportunities presented to him in 2012 and 2014, and they have been searching for their bullpen savior ever since — Rafael Soriano, Jonathan Papelbon, Mark Melancon and now the firm of Doolittle, Madson and Kintzler.

The search this winter came up short. Reports were that the Nationals’ offer to Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen was hamstrung by deferred payments. So here they are, with a brand new trio that they hope add up to one savior.

If it doesn’t happen, the Nationals can trace their pitching woes back to February.

You still can’t examine Washington’s bullpen construction and dysfunction this season without looking at February’s signing, driven by sports agent Scott Boras, of catcher Matt Wieters to a two-year, $21 million contract — money that was not available when Mike Rizzo was building his bullpen during the winter.

Wieters is batting .247 with seven home runs, and has been average at best behind the plate — certainly not worth the money that could have been spent on the bullpen.

Now it is up to the firm of Doolittle, Madson and Kintzler to see if they can overcome the damage of the partnership of Ted Lerner and Scott Boras that took place before this team ever played a game this season.

Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.

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