“World Series or Bust”
–Davey Johnson, Manager, Washington Nationals
In the beginning of the season, the Nationals were the favorites to win the National League East. Some said 90,95, 100, or even 120. I knew the odds to repeat last year were tough, but they can still win the division. It might get tougher now.
You knew the past few years the Nationals had progression in attitude and wins, from 59 in 2009, 69 in 2010, 80 in 2011, and the big-leap on 98 last year. The odds to exceed win totals from last year was going to be around 25%, but this was a talented team. Talent can only take you so far.
You can read the statistics for the Nationals this year and it is below expectations with the exception of pitching. Statistics prove the Nationals are solid in pitching, mediocre on defense, and terrible at the plate; raking in the bottom five in most offensive categories and have a .500 record (as of today).
People will make excuses for the .500 record from injuries, Rick Eckstein, looking at Steve McCatty’s 1983 Playgirl Magazine cover, the pressure. All of these play a part, but one thing is for certain: this is not the same team as last year. Last year’s team had something to prove and wanted to be part of history. This year’s team seems more business-like and serious.
I mentioned before the season began that Nats fans should enjoy the journey. I never expect the Nationals to recapture last year, but hope they are still in contention for the postseason. As of now, the Nationals are seven games back of Atlanta for the division lead and five games back of the second wild card spot. I’m not upset about the Nats trailing the Braves, but if they learn from their mistakes this year and last year. From the record, the team statistics, and from my naked eye, the Nats still have not learned their lessons to be a competitive, consistent team.
The Nationals can add new players to change the chemistry or fire coaches, but to me, the problem is the front office and coaches set very high expectations for this team. That’s why you see fielding errors, being cute on pitches, and especially terrible situational hitting throughout the season. It is alright to have high expectations, but don’t oversell it to the press and your team. Luckily, the all-star break is here and if I were Mike Rizzo or Davey Johnson, I would say to the players to use their vacation to relax and NOT think about baseball for three days. Frankly, too much baseball led them to a .500 record.
After today, there are 67 games to go, the Nationals are still in the hunt for the postseason, and I’m not going to give up on this team, but I’m worried if this team will ever get a killer instinct of closing games and scoring runs. We are a little over halfway to the baseball marathon and the Nats are trailing. It is time for them to draft behind the Braves, Reds, and Cardinals and make their push to go ahead in September.
We shall see.