The Washington Nationals, Playoffs, and Fun


Momentarily this season I forgot I liked baseball. Part of that is the Nats
had such high expectations and another is they spent a large part of the middle
of the season playing such dreadful baseball. They couldn’t score, they could
prevent scoring, and they were sloppy overall. They made too many errors in the
field and the bullpen let too many games slip away late. All in all it was not
enjoyable to watch, but without the expectations it may have been slightly
tolerable while we waited for the good times to come, because in baseball the
good times always come. Even the Marlins have gotten the pleasure of watching
Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton this season. There is always a reason to
go out to the park.   

Every team is close to guaranteed to have a six game winning streak and the
Nats finally have their’s. They are playing their best brand of baseball to
close out the season. It might be too late for it to matter. A lot has to go
right, but the Reds and Pirates play each other six more times. If those series
go the way that they should then it will end 3-3. If the Nationals can do
something special and win on all those days then they can chop off another
three games. That is asking a lot. That is asking for things to line-up, but the
Nationals put themselves in a position where things have to line up. The injury
stretch from the end of April to the beginning of June hurt the Nationals; but
not as much as some think. They were four games under .500 during that stretch
with a line-up that at times was missing Zimmerman, Harper, Werth, and Ramos
all while playing with a severely diminished Danny Espinosa.    

Injuries are a big reason for why the
Nationals are where they are. Perhaps they can ask the Reds to stop playing
with Votto, Bruce, Phillips, and Choo for the last couple weeks to make up for
those earlier months. But the Reds won’t do that. Baseball doesn’t have to be
fair. The Nationals are in this position for a variety of reasons. Some are of
their own making and others are because of circumstances out of their control,
but they are here and they are playing well. They need luck on their side and
they need to keep playing well so that it matters.  

Don’t get caught up in the game of hope
or in the game of I told you so. After the Nationals won yesterday, completing
a four game sweep, and pulling within 5.5 a few of us, myself included, were
almost mocking the team. Mocking the joy they had at winning and the hope they
felt that they could catch the Reds. That isn’t the right response. I realized
that and corrected myself. They right response is to leave fate to the hands of
fate and to enjoy what is happening. Earlier in the season, when the Braves got
off to a fast start, it felt like the Nationals weren’t as concerned with their
own games as they were with what the Braves were doing, and quickly that caused
them to fall too far behind in that race. Teams can’t play concerned about what
other teams are doing, and it would be for the benefit of the Nationals to only
concentrate on what they can control. If the Reds start to worry about the
Nationals, then that plays into their hands, but 5.5 games is a lot to make up
in three weeks. It isn’t impossible by any stretch, but it is highly improbable.

Let’s say the Reds go 7-8 in their final
15 games to win 90. In order for the Nats to tie them they have to go 13-3. It
isn’t easy, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibilities, but even if the
Nats go 13-3 all the Reds have to do is go 8-7. For a team that has played .565
ball this season that is one of the more likely outcomes. It is sobering to
look at that and to understand that the Nationals can play as well as they
won’t and it still in most realities won’t be enough, but none of this means
that fans shouldn’t have fun. It is the end of the season. We are about to
endure six months without baseball, and right now the Nats are playing the best
they have all season. There is no better time to watch them, and maybe just
maybe if heaven and earth and all the stars line up and something magical
happens you can say you were there when. Never forget that sometimes in
baseball the improbable happens. Remember what Dave Jageler said after Wilson
Ramos hit a walk-off homerun in a game the Nats had a 0.5% chance of winning,
“If you left early, you blew it.”  



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