The MLB Rookie of the Year races are starting to take shape [url=http://www.royalsfanproshop.com/authentic-michael-saunders-jersey]Michael Saunders Jersey[/url] , asMiguel Andujar andRonald Acuna Jr. have established themselves as favorites as the season hits its stretch run.Oddsshark posted the latest odds, withAndujar coming in at -110 (bet $110 to win $100) to win AL honors whileAcuna sits at-225 in the NL race.Shohei Ohtani, who recently reinjured his UCL making a start Sunday, is in second place in the AL at +200.Juan Soto is the only other NL contender at +160.OddsShark OddsSharkOdds to win AL Rookie of the Year (BovadaOfficial):Miguel Andujar -110Shohei Ohtani +200Gleyber Torres +225Ryan Yarbrough +2500Andujar should be a lock for the AL award after Ohtani's injury. The Angelsannouncedon Wednesday their two-way star has suffered further injury to his UCL and Tommy John surgery has been recommended to repair his injury.Andujar is hitting .297/.331/.523 with 23 home runs and 76 runs batted in. He is second behind Acuna among rookies in home runs, and his RBI total is an MLB-high among first-year players. TeammateGleyber Torres is +225 odds and probably would have put up better stats over a full season but missed time and will likely fall short in voting.Acuna is hitting .289/.335/.563 with 24 home runs and 51 runs batted in for the Braves. The 20-year-old has put up those numbers in only 88 games played and has been one of the best all-around players in baseball since being called up.Soto, 19, has been just as big of a breakout candidate. He's hit .299/.419/.512 with 16 home runs and 54 runs batted in since being called up. His performance is among the best by a teenager in MLB history. Bryce Harper has held up his end of the bargain since the Washington Nationals drafted him No. 1 overall in 2010.He was only 19 years old when he debuted in 2012, and that season he also made his first National League All-Star team and captured the NL Rookie of the Year Award. He's since won an NL MVP Award and made five more All-Star teams.But when Harper waltzes into free agency this offseason, the Nationals will be left to wonder how the hell they couldn't win even a single postseason series with him.Washington entered 2018 with hopes that this would be the year it got over the hump. And while the Nats haven't been eliminated from playoff contention yet, they sent up a white flag in August. They're 69-69, and the only question is whether they'll top .500.Despite this year's flop, the Nationals have more regular-season wins (624) since 2012 than every team except the Los Angeles Dodgers (634). And as their ever-increasing payrolls show, it's not for lack of trying that they did not push their success into October:In addition to Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto are cornerstones who came up through the Washington system. Moreover, general manager Mike Rizzo's free-agent and trade success stories include Max Scherzer, Daniel Murphy, Gio Gonzalez, Trea Turner, Adam Eaton, Doug Fister [url=http://www.royalsfanproshop.com/authentic-ryan-goins-jersey]http://www.royalsfanproshop.com/authentic-ryan-goins-jersey[/url] , Denard Span, Tanner Roark and Wilson Ramos.The Harper-era Nats aren't simply the National League's answer to Mike Trout's Los Angeles Angels, who've cursed themselves with poor additions (namely Albert Pujols) and a slow trickle of homegrown talent.If anything, the Nationals have often seemed cursed by outside forces. They've had years in which they've been overwhelmed by injuries. They've also run in to cruel and unusual fates in October, particularly in Game 5 of the 2012, 2016 and 2017 National League Division Series.Still, this is no time to let Washington escape judgment. The second guessing starts with... The Strasburg ShutdownAlex Brandon/Associated PressPartially at the behest of superagent Scott Boras, the Nationals ended Strasburg's 2012 in early September after 159.1 innings. They reasoned they had pushed him hard enough in his first full season since his 2010 Tommy John operation.But alongside an abundance of caution, there was also an element of hubris to the decision. Maybe Strasburg couldn't help in the 2012 playoffs, but what would it matter if they succeeded without him and rode his good health to further success in the future?As it happened, the Nationals did miss Strasburg in the 2012 playoffs. Though he didn't blow a ninth-inning lead to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5, things may not have gotten to that point if he'd been permitted to start a game.As former manager Davey Johnson wrote in his autobiography, per Rick Maese of the Washington Post: "I felt we would have gone to the World Series with Strasburg in the rotation during the playoffs. I really don't know how the team doctors came to the conclusion to keep Stephen under a given number of 160 innings. That was their deal, not mine."Strasburg's shutdown may have also loomed over a 2013 season in which the Nationals regressed to 86 wins and missed the playoffs. As John Feinstein of the Post argued, an overwhelming need to justify the decision created a tension within the team that manifested itself on the field.After that came... The Williams YearsAlex Brandon/Associated PressThe Nationals' return to earth in 2013 cost Johnson his job. To replace him, the organization settled on former slugger Matt Williams.Though the job was Williams' first as a major league manager, Washington was less concerned with his strategy skills than the culture he would foster. He was an old-school type who, in Rizzo's words, would bring "fire," "desire" and a "team-first attitude."Things were fine at first. Though Harper endured a career-worst season, everyone else played well enough to boost the team back to 96 wins. Williams was named the NL Manager of the Year.However, Williams' shine wore off when the Nationals were defeated in four games in the NLDS by the San Francisco Giants. His decision to pull Zimmermann from a shutout in the ninth inning of Game 2 led to an 18-inning defeat. Three days later [url=http://www.royalsfanproshop.com/authentic-wily-peralta-jersey]Wily Peralta Jersey[/url] , his decision to rely strictly on his "seventh-inning guys" allowed Game 4 to slip away.In 2015鈥攄espite Harper's best efforts en route to his unanimous NL MVP triumph鈥擶illiams' shine stayed worn off as the Nationals amassed only 83 wins. He continued to make bizarre strategic decisions, and he couldn't keep the clubhouse together as the losses piled up."It's a terrible environment," one player told Barry Svrluga of the Post that September. "And the amazing part is everybody feels that way."The final nail in Williams' coffin probably came courtesy of then-closer Jonathan Papelbon, who got into a nasty physical altercation with Harper with a week to go in the season. Harper left that game. Papelbon, meanwhile, went back to work the subsequent inning."That decision should be the final one he makes as Washington's manager," Tyler Kepner of the New York Times wrote.It pretty much was, as Williams was fired the day after the season ended.The Nationals' troubles with managers didn't end there, however... The Baker FiringJonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesIn the wake of Williams' firing, Washington initially wanted former San Diego Padres skipper Bud Black to take over. But after it neglected to make him a reasonable offer, it turned to Dusty Baker instead.If nothing else, Baker figured to be the anti-Williams. He came to the Nationals with 20 years of managerial experience, through which he'd garnered a reputation as a players' manager.Baker more than earned his keep in two years. The Nationals won 95 games in 2016 and 97 in 2017. And while they once again fell short in the postseason, it's hard to pin those failures squarely on Baker.The Nats went into October with injury red flags in '16 (i.e., Harper's shoulder) and '17 (Harper's knee and Scherzer's hamstring). In Game 5 of the '16 NLDS, Scherzer and a parade of relievers couldn't shield the Nats from a decisive four-run seventh inning. In Game 5 of the '17 NLDS, all hell broke loose, and the Nats happened to be on the wrong side of it.Baker lost his job anyway. According to Jon Heyman, then of FanRag Sports (via Chris Chavez of SI.com), Nationals players weren't too thrilled about it. For that matter, neither was Rizzo."[Rizzo] sounded like it was one of the hardest things he had to do," Baker told Dave Sheinin of the Post.It appears Baker lost his job only because principal owner Ted Lerner and his family wanted him gone. It seems they were still sour about Baker's openly pining for an extension in the middle of the 2017 season. Or maybe they just like cycling through managers.Baker's firing might have become water under the bridge if Dave Martinez had made a strong impression as his replacement this season. Martinez is another first-year manager [url=http://www.royalsfanproshop.com/authentic-lucas-duda-jersey]http://www.royalsfanproshop.com/authentic-lucas-duda-jersey[/url] , but his years as an understudy to Joe Maddon promised to bring a missing dynamic to the team."As we went through this process," Rizzo told reporters, "it became clear the type of manager we were looking for: someone who is progressive, someone who can connect with and communicate well with our players and someone who embraces the analytical side of the game."It's not all Martinez's fault he's failed to live up to the hype. Well before the team was broken up by waiver trades of Murphy, Gonzalez, Matt Adams, Ryan Madson and Shawn Kelley, it had already been broken by the injury bug. According to Roster Resource, only two teams have been hit harder by injuries.And yet, he can't escape blame. Complaints have been filed about his bullpen management and his tendency to send mixed messages. Even if he does have a good analytical mind, such issues raise questions about whether he has the same ability as Dave Roberts, AJ Hinch, Alex Cora or Aaron Boone to implement his vision.G Fiume/Getty ImagesThere are certainly other criticisms about how the Nationals have handled the Harper era. Their transactional record is mighty good but not spotless. To wit, it's beyond the pale that their catching situation has been the worst in the game in 2017 and 2018.But all told, the story of Washington's failure in the Harper years has less to do with the pieces and more to do with the glue that's held them together. It too easily didn't stick.Granted, the Harper years might not be over yet. Money won't be the only thing they can offer him as a free agent. Missteps aside, they're still one of MLB's strongest franchises, and Harper may not find a better place to chase a ring.But if the end is indeed nigh, there's really only one thing to say.What a waste. Stats accurate through Monday and courtesy of Baseball Reference.