With the Nationals visiting the Cubs Monday night, Nationals Park opened its doors to Lady Gaga, continuing her Chromatica Ball Summer Stadium Tour with upcoming stops in New York, Chicago, Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco. While attending Monday’s concert in D.C., Chris Towers of CBS Sports noted a pair of banners hanging outside the stadium, one featuring former World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg (who has made all of eight starts since landing a mammoth, seven-year, $245-million contract in 2019) with the other displaying All-Star outfielder Juan Soto, now of the San Diego Padres.
It's surprising the Nats haven’t gotten around to removing Soto’s signage a week after trading him in one of the biggest in-season swaps in recent memory. While many industry voices praised the Nats’ return package (headlined by former third overall pick MacKenzie Gore, among other top prospects), the trade still represents a sad chapter in team history, with Soto becoming the latest casualty of a multi-year rebuild, reducing a star-studded roster to a skeleton crew of fringe big-leaguers and aging journeymen well past their prime.
You have to appreciate the rich symbolism of Soto, perhaps the most talented homegrown player Washington has ever produced (though you could also argue on behalf of two-time MVP Bryce Harper), literally hovering outside the stadium, a haunting reminder of what the Nats could have been. Instead, gutted by trades (Soto, Max Scherzer, Trea Turner) and free-agent departures (Harper, Anthony Rendon), the Nationals loom over baseball as a cautionary tale, illustrating the dangers of front-office penny-pinching and what happens when a team overplays its hand. There’s also a certain irony in the Nationals, losers of six straight following Monday’s defeat at Wrigley, not being attentive or organized enough to swap Soto’s likeness out for someone who actually plays on the team.
If it’s any solace to Nats fans—no doubt bitter from the team’s never-ending teardown—the Padres have struggled mightily since acquiring Soto, losing five in a row including three straight at Dodger Stadium this past weekend.