Let’s get some housekeeping items out of the way this first day of August (and even though it’s not the end of summer, we can see the finish line from where we stand).  Monday’s “trading deadline” really isn’t the last day you can make deals;  after today’s 4pm deadline teams can still swap players but they have to do so through the waiver wire.  Making it tougher for contenders to make major moves.  Trades will still be made–just more of the stocking stuffer variety as opposed to that big box under the tree (I’m hoping it’s Intellivision).  Just like last year, the Nats have brought in bullpen hope from the state of Pennsylvania while deposing the guy who expected to be the closer all season.  Just like revenge is a dish best served cold, Deja Vu is a dish best served on recyclable plates.

Marc Melancon comes to DC having saved 30 games in 33 chances for Pittsburgh, posting a record of 1-1 and an ERA of 1.51…presumably moving Jonathan Papelbon to a setup role.  Papelbon arrived on South Capitol Street last year at this time with an ERA of 1.59 and 17 saves in 17 chances…nudging then-closer Drew Storen into the eighth inning.  We all know how that move ended:  one was witnessed exploding in the dugout while the other was seen imploding on the mound (2016 isn’t much better for Storen, who was traded by Toronto to Seattle with an era over six).  Melancon at 31 is three years younger than Papelbon was when he joined the Nats and is coming off an NL-best 51 save season with the Pirates.  He’s also pitched in higher stakes games a lot more over the last few seasons than Papelbon had during his stay in Philly (none of his five teams had winning records).  The Nats part with reliever Felipe Rivero and pitching prospect Taylor Hearn (are we sure it wasn’t Taylor Jordan or Taylor Hill?) and at this moment it doesn’t look like the move will haunt them.  Yes, Aroldis Chapman would have been an A+ move while Andrew Miller would have been the B+ maneuver;  but Melancon appears to be a strong B and GM Mike Rizzo didn’t have to sell the farm to get him.  Famous last words…

Are the Nats now done as far as deadline deals are concerned?  They could use a bat as the team’s lineup appears to be a case of the whole being less than the sum of its parts.  There’s also always the chance they kick the tires on a starting pitcher or two as one of their spots in the rotation has turned into “audition prospect until Joe Ross gets healthy” time.  Will they risk cracking a few organizational eggs in order to secure one incredible 2016 playoff omelet?  And with Jay Bruce likely landing with the Mets is there newfound pressure to respond with a shot across the deadline bow?

Dissecting the Division- while the Mets are making moves, it’s Miami that is the team directly behind the Nationals- now four games out.  The Marlins are the only team in the division not to have a losing record over their last ten games and have the feel of last year’s Mets, only in a cut-rate version.  They also currently hold down the number two wildcard spot in the NL.  The defending division champs are 6.5 games out in the division and are 6-10 since the All Star Break…will their apparent trade for Jay Bruce yield the same results as last year’s swap for Yoenis Cespedes?  Philadelphia and Atlanta are in the final stages of their “Wheel of Fortune” sale.  “I’ll take the porcelein duck, Pat…”

Division to Digest- is there anything to one team sparking a region?  Some credit the Patriots Super Bowl XXXVI win over the Rams as the moment that jump-started a 14-year stretch resulting in three World Series titles plus NBA & NHL championships (not to mention three more SB wins).  Philadelphia had that run in 1980-81 where the Flyers, Sixers, Phillies and Eagles played in the championship game/rounds of their sports.  There are even though who credit the ABA’s Pittsburgh Pipers of 1968 for ushering in the 1970’s where the Steelers and Pirates combined for six championships and 12 division titles.  Cleveland is now “Believeland”–and at least until the Browns begin the season 0-7 with RG3 on a stretcher this is a city of winners.  The Indians parted with everything but the re-scripting rights to “Major League” in trading for Yankee reliever Andrew Miller.  The Tribe currently owns the best record in the AL and is four and a half games clear of second-place Detroit in the Central.  The lineup (6th in the majors in runs scored) is led by 20-somethings Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin while veterans Mike Napoli (he’s there, now?) and Carlos Santana (cue “Black Magic Woman” riff) are both playing well. The pitching (5th best ERA in MLB) is grounded by the fact that each of Cleveland’s five starters have at least 10 quality starts thus far in 2016.  Believeland?  Wake me when they bring the Barons back to the NHL…

Last Week’s Heroes- Trea Turner hit .381 with 3 stolen bases, 2 runs and 4 RBI while asserting himself as a leadoff option to consider moving forward (he’s hitting .306 batting 1st while the rest of the team is hitting .210 in that spot).  Anthony Rendon batted .364 with 6 RBI as the former #2 hitter is working his way back up the lineup card while quietly tying Daniel Murphy for the team lead in runs scored.  Tanner Roark not only went 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA, his .333 batting average was the third best on the team.  Is that really a good thing?

Last Week’s Humbled- Woe is centerfield for the Nats in 2016:  Ben Revere hit .150 last week while scoring just one run.  Michael A. Taylor is in Triple A Syracuse.  Bryce Harper endured a 2-for-21 week with 7 strikeouts.  Jonathan Papelbon posted an ERA of 81.00 in his last week as the team’s closer.  Daniel Murphy’s left leg tightness is robbing the team of their best hitter and most versatile fielder.  When applying sunscreen at the beach, I missed a spot that resembles the rectangular state of Wyoming on my back.  Red state, indeed.

Game to Watch- Sunday against San Francisco Stephen Strasburg (14-1, 2.68 ERA) squares off against Madison Bumgarner (10-6, 2.09 and the uncanny ability to belt homers) in the matchup we missed by the Bay because each pitched on the 27th.  This is one of those showdowns that should feel like October-or at least late September.

Game to Miss- Tuesday’s 9:40 gametime doesn’t do Tanner Roark’s fans any favors…and his opponent Robbie Ray (5-10, 4.70 ERA) appears to be an amalgamation of Robbie Rist (cousin Oliver from the Brady Bunch) and Jimmy Ray (one-hit wonder from the 90’s who’s hit “Are You Jimmy Ray?” made listeners ask, “why would anyone want to be?”).  Take an early bedtime-especially with Strasburg pitching Monday and Scherzer on the hill Wednesday.  Who wants to know?

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