DC Sports were on top of the world for a year after being seemingly cursed for decades.
There was the Summer of Leonsis, which began in June 2018 with the Capitals winning the Stanley Cup. Then two more Monumental Sports & Entertainment franchises won: the Washington Valor became Arena Bowl champions in late July and the Washington Mystics won the WNBA title in September. The next fall the Washington Nationals improbably went on to win the World Series featuring big performances by Juan Soto, Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, Howie Kendrick, Anthony Rendon, and Ryan Zimmerman.
The Nationals celebrated their World Series title at Capital One Arena with the Capitals days later on November 3, 2019. Jakub Vrana scored a hat trick that night. After the game, Nationals players came down onto the ice and many tried out hockey for the first time — some nearly injuring themselves.
Soto, the Nationals’ budding superstar, found the hero from the game, Vrana, and the team’s legendary goaltender, Braden Holtby, for an iconic photo.
Now, less than three years later, all of these players no longer play in DC.
NOW THEY'RE ALL GONE????? pic.twitter.com/p58vw0CAou
— jo (@notafan_jo) August 2, 2022
Tuesday before the MLB’s 6 pm trade deadline, the Washington Nationals traded Juan Soto and Josh Bell to the San Diego Padres for what amounts to the largest prospect haul in MLB history: LHP MacKenzie Gore, OF Robert Hassell III, SS C.J. Abrams, OF James Wood, 1B Luke Voit, and RHP Jarlin Susana. Veteran first baseman Eric Hosmer was originally a part of the deal too, but he nixed it due to the Nationals being on his no-trade list.
The trade comes a month after a leak that revealed Soto rejected a 15-year, $440 million extension from the Nationals to stay with the team for the rest of his career.
Since that Capitals-Nationals game in ’19, the fortunes for both franchises have changed greatly.
The Capitals have not won a single playoff series since winning their championship. The Nationals have not advanced to the playoffs at all, losing 200 of 326 regular season games.
During that time, the Nationals lost stars Anthony Rendon (free agent), Max Scherzer (trade), Trea Turner (trade), Howie Kendrick (retirement), Ryan Zimmerman (retirement), and now Soto (via trade). The one star the team was actually able to retain, Stephen Strasburg (7-year, $245 million deal), has only made eight starts over the last three seasons due to thoracic outlet syndrome symptoms.
The Capitals only have eight players remaining from their Stanley Cup team after Michal Kempny became the latest veteran to sign with a new team. It could be seven depending on Nicklas Backstrom’s recovery from hip surgery.
As for the Soto Photo Guys, the Capitals traded Vrana in 2021 to the Red Wings after Vrana and Peter Laviolette did not seem like they could work together productively anymore. (Vrana has scored 21 goals in 37 games for Detroit since.) Holtby left the Capitals the offseason after the 2019-20 season. Holtby spent one year in Vancouver and another in Dallas. His career now may be over due to injury. The only good news there is that Holtby bought a new home in the DC area and recently went to a Nationals game… wearing a Soto jersey.
All this change reminds me of this quote from The Office’s Andy Bernard. “I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them.”
p a i n
Good luck in San Diego, Juan.
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