Hard to Remember we Like this Sport

 

Digging through numbers and searching through the rubble of the Nats season
to find answers to what went so horribly wrong can numb the mind. The reasons
are right there spelled out in bold and painful numbers, but many of them raise
more questions than they do answers. The Nats are awful in high leverage
situations. More than .040 points of OPS worse than the next worst team. This
could simply be a sample size issue or it could be an issue of the players
internalizing all the pressure or it could be that the manager makes the
moments feel more tense. The main issue with trying to find the reason behind the
numbers is that some of the possible explanations are beyond our ability to
know. 

The last 26 games have been some of the
worst baseball the Washington Nationals have played since moving to DC. That
wasn’t supposed to happen this season. The Washington Nationals worst case
scenarios were all still over .500 and none of them predicted the team would
play .300 baseball for an extended stretch of time. In the 26 games the
Nationals have played since sweeping San Diego and being four games over .500
and four games back in the division they’ve gone 8-18 scoring 3.1 runs a game
and allowing 4.2. Well below average offense and below average pitching is a
quick recipe to play .500 baseball.   

As much of a problem as the offense
appears to be consider for a second that the Pittsburgh Pirates have scored 26
more runs than the Washington Nationals but have won 16 more games. The reason
for that is that the Pirates pitching has performed in a manner that the
Washington Nationals was supposed to. The Pirates are the best team in the NL
at preventing runs while the Washington Nationals are basically league average.
A rotation headed by Strasburg, Gonzalez, and Zimmermann shouldn’t lead a
mediocre pitching staff especially when the back of the bullpen has a closer
with a 2.91 ERA and a set-up man with a 1.99 ERA. The players the team wants to
be performing have for the most part performed, and yet everything around the
fringes has gone wrong.  

It is hard at times to fathom how
important those fringes are. How the bottom of the roster can doom a team, but
that is exactly what has happened to the Washington Nationals this season.
Watching this team play. Watching them struggle and fight to score one, two, or
three runs and even end up with the lead at times and then to watch the
pitching collapse in the end or middle of the game is tough. It is a bad brand
of baseball. It isn’t fun to watch and it makes it hard to remember that we
like this sport. That we survived the second half of 2005 all the way until now
with mostly really bad baseball. Expectations and the excitement for something
different have made this year even worse, but it is time to get back to basics.
 

It is time to go to the park and admire
the players that are performing even if those players happen to not be on the
team. Enjoy a walk on a warm summer evening around the park. Take in the sounds
and smells of the game. We go to the ballpark to forget our daytime lives. Do
that still and try hard to find some enjoyment in baseball for the sake of
baseball. It is tough to say that. I haven’t been able to do it at Nationals
Park this season, but I’ve done it plenty of times at the Pfitz. At minor
league games the results don’t matter. All that exists is baseball. Clear away
the veil of perceptions and that is all that exists at a major league park as
well. Pretend that the Nationals are some other team. A random team that draws
no emotional attachment and the suffering will be easier to endure and end
sooner. Really the best suggestion may simply be to relax.   

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