It’s finally over.
The Nationals’ nightmare season ended Wednesday with another loss — the team’s 107th of the year. No Nationals team has ever lost that many games before, and the 2022 club tied for the second-most losses in franchise history dating back to Montreal.
Losing 107 games isn’t historic. In a sport that’s been around as long as baseball — all the way back to the 1899 Cleveland Spiders team that went 20-134 — it’s hard to set infamous records. And in today’s MLB, with more teams choosing to tank, most years now feature a few teams that are wholly uncompetitive. This season, the Athletics, Pirates and Cubs also lost 100-plus games. In 2019, the Tigers lost 114 games. The year before that, the Orioles lost 115.
More than the 55-107 record, it was how the rebuilding Nationals lost all those games that made the season one that D.C. fans will soon hope to forget. The Juan Soto trade. The historic struggles against division opponents. The starting pitcher winless streak. The list could go on and on.
“I look at the season as a disappointment,” general manager Mike Rizzo told reporters Tuesday. “I’ve always said that you are what your record says you are, and our record says we’re the worst team in the league right now. And it’s hard to argue with that.”
The Nationals’ 107 losses are tied for the ninth most of any MLB club this century. Since 1961 — when the American League moved to a 162-game schedule, which the National League would follow a year later — only 18 teams have lost more games than Washington did this season.
“Suffice to say that we’re not comfortable with losing 100-plus games,” Rizzo said. “That’s something that I want to avoid again in the near future.”
The first year of a rebuild, this season was expected to be a tough one, but it quickly became clear that the projected win total of 71.5 from sportsbooks was generous. The team ended April with an eight-game losing streak — the first of seven skids of five-plus games the Nationals would endure. Washington didn’t have a single winning streak of four or more games and only won three straight five times.
Then came the most painful part of the year: the Soto trade.
The rumors began early in the campaign, as opposing executives were telling reporters off the record that Soto could be off the market. “You wish” was the response from most, but it came to fruition in July when Nationals Rizzo began shopping Soto after the 23-year-old superstar turned down a would-be record-breaking $440 million contract.
The trade became arguably the biggest blockbuster of its kind in MLB history, with a handful of prospects going to Washington in exchange for Soto and first baseman Josh Bell. A few of those youngsters made their Nationals debuts during the final two months, and the future of the organization rests, in part, on those players’ shoulders.
“After this trade deadline, it accelerated our process a little bit. We added a lot of talent to our system,” Rizzo said. “We’re excited about what’s to come in the future and I think the blueprint to win in a timely fashion is in place.”
A few weeks later, the Nationals were back in the headlines, not for a controversial trade but instead for setting a record that may stand for quite some time. The club went 43 games without one of their starting pitchers getting a win — the longest streak in MLB history, more than the previous record of 35 set by the 1949 Washington Senators.
Starting pitching was the team’s greatest weakness all season, as the Nationals’ rotation finished last in the big leagues with a 5.97 earned-run average. Patrick Corbin, the expensive southpaw who once earned the win in Game 7 of the 2019 World Series, was the main culprit. The 33-year-old became only the fifth MLB pitcher since 1900 to lose 19 games and have an ERA north of 6.00.
Paolo Espino, meanwhile, was much better than Corbin and almost every other starter on the team, but he didn’t get the run support to back him up. He ended with an 0-9 win-loss mark in 113 1/3 innings — finishing four frames away from the MLB record for most innings without recording a win.
“Our starting pitching needs to get better, that’s for sure,” manager Dave Martinez told reporters Wednesday.
The Nationals’ 2022 campaign ended Wednesday just like it began — with a loss to the New York Mets — in a final defeat that set one last unwelcome record as a cherry on top.
Washington went 17-59 against NL East opponents (5-14 versus the Mets and Braves, 4-15 against the Marlins, 3-16 versus the Phillies) for a .224 winning percentage — now the worst mark for any team since 1969, when divisional play started. Three of those teams (the Mets, Braves and Phillies) are in the playoffs, which could make the Nationals’ climb out of the cellar even more difficult.
“Our season’s over right now, for the players,” Martinez said. “But the work is just beginning for myself, [Rizzo] and the front office. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”