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Nats' lineup deserves praise

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Nats' lineup deserves praise

The phrase "one of the best" has been used to describe various aspects of the Nationals all season. They've got one of the best rotations in baseball. They've got one of the best bullpens. They've got one of the best farm systems in the sport, helping them overcome a slew of injuries.

And, of course, they've got the best record in the majors at the moment.

Maybe it's time to start using that designation on another aspect of this organization: The Nationals have one of the best lineups in baseball.

That notion would have sounded ludicrous a few months ago, back when four runs was considered an offensive explosion and everyone accepted the idea this team would win on the strength of its pitching staff and only its pitching staff.

Not anymore. Just look at what the Nationals lineup has done lately, not only during last night's 14-2 shellacking of the Giants but over a longer stretch of games.

As a matter of fact, did you know the Nationals have scored 170 runs since the All-Star break, most in the majors? Yes, you read that correctly. The Nationals have scored more times than any other team over the last month, an average of 5.2 runs per game. They've hit a collective .278 during that span while slugging .421.

And what's most impressive is that the production has come from nearly everyone in that lineup.

Sure, Ryan Zimmerman has been on an absolute tear for the last seven weeks. And Michael Morse and Adam LaRoche have been consistent run producers during that time as well.

But there's also Danny Espinosa, hitting .301 with a .496 slugging percentage over his last 30 games. And there's Steve Lombardozzi, who has 11 hits in his last 22 at-bats. And there's Roger Bernadina, hitting a ridiculous .383 since July 21.

The contributions of all those players, plus many more, have allowed the Nationals to overcome Ian Desmond's oblique tear, Bryce Harper's prolonged slump and fairly tepid production from their catchers (that was, until Kurt Suzuki went 3-for-6 with four RBI last night).

Which also makes you wonder just how much more productive this lineup could actually become once Desmond returns from the DL and Harper gets back on track. It could be a frightening proposition for opposing pitchers.

Just consider the lineup the Nationals could field come October, with their current offensive splits (batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage) included...

1. Jayson Werth (.308.406.459)
2. Bryce Harper (.251.328.405)
3. Ryan Zimmerman (.282.350.468)
4. Michael Morse (.301.324.477)
5. Adam LaRoche (.264.339.500)
6. Ian Desmond (.286.322.503)
7. Danny Espinosa (.250.317.406)
8. Kurt Suzuki (.218.252.287)

Look at the depth of that lineup and the power capabilities 1 through 7. Only three other teams in baseball have seven regular position players with slugging percentages over .400: the Yankees, Rangers and Rockies. That's some select company.

Is this a perfect lineup? Not at all. The Nationals strike out too much, they're getting no significant production from their catchers and they don't boast anything resembling a true leadoff hitter.

But they've still got a lineup capable of exploding at any given moment (just ask the Giants). And they've got a lineup that -- as has been the case all season with their pitching staff -- deserves to be praised as one of baseball's best.

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Ivan Rodriguez becomes first former Nationals player to be voted into Hall of Fame

Ivan Rodriguez becomes first former Nationals player to be voted into Hall of Fame

Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez became the first former Nationals player (2005-present) to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday. He was inducted in his first year of eligibility, marking the 52nd first-ballot hall of famer in history. 

Rodriguez, who was the first free agent signed by current Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, played the final two seasons of his career with Washington in 2010-11. During his time in D.C. he hit .254 six homers and 68 RBI. Pudge's greatest contribution to the Nationals came from his leadership and work ethic. He guided Stephen Strasburg through his rookie season and also helped develop Wilson Ramos so he could pass the torch to him. 

During his 21-year career, Pudge made 14 all-star teams, won 13 gold gloves, won seven silver slugger awards, led his league in caught-steeling percentage nine times, and was named American League MVP in 1999 with the Texas Rangers. He became a World Series champion in 2003 with the Florida Marlins. Pudge's 13 gold gloves are the most ever by a catcher, and his 2,844 career hits are the most ever by a player who appeared in 50 percent or more of their career games as a catcher.  

In addition to Rodriguez, former Montreal Expos great Tim Raines was inducted to the Hall of Fame. Raines is the franchise leader (Expos/Nationals) in walks (793), runs (947), stolen bases (635) and triples (82). Raines was an all-star seven times and he won a silver slugger in 1986 with the Expos. He is the only player in MLB history with at least 100 triples, 150 homers and 600 RBI in a career, and the only player to steal at least 70 bases in six consecutive seasons. 

Related: Bryce Harper wants Nationals to spend money on players, not team store

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Bryce Harper wants Nationals to invest in Matt Wieters, Greg Holland more than facilities

Bryce Harper wants Nationals to invest in Matt Wieters, Greg Holland more than facilities

Bryce Harper isn't one to keep his opinions to himself. The Nationals slugger is outspoken about what he wants, whether that's to "Make Baseball Fun Again" or to make at least $400 million on his next contract

On Wednesday, he gave his take on how the Nats should be investing their money this summer. Here's Harper responding to a tweet from ESPN's Jim Bowden.

Harper's message: Players over everything else. Sorry, gift shop. 

It's plain to see where the 2015 NL MVP is going with this. Obviously, he wants as much talent around him as possible for a chance to win the World Series. 

Matt Wieters, a four-time All-Star catcher, and Greg Holland, a two-time All-Star closer, could be significant additions to Washington's roster. 

Harper is set to become a free agent in 2018, at which point an organization like the New York Yankees will be prepared to offer him both a massive salary and a massive investment in the players around him.

The slugger probably hopes his current team will try to surround him with winning pieces in an effort to keep him. But if a report about the Nationals' reaction to his contract demands proves accurate, they may have another agenda. 

There's Harper drama around the Nationals? Just a regular Wednesday here in Washington.

MORE NATIONALS: Nationals avoid arbitration with Harper, three others