The Washington Nationals season comes to an end in just three short weeks. It seems like just yesterday, Capitol Baseball was starting up Year One of this operation, and now the end of the season has almost arrived. (Yes, we will be back next year. Yes, we will continue to post in the offseason. Yes, we are going to go for bigger and better things next year, including some coverage from Viera in Spring 2011.) Back to baseball.
This Monday morning, the Nationals stand at 60-83. They were swept by the underrated Florida Marlins, but in ugly fashion. They've lost their last 5 games. They haven't looked like a team that's playing to win. And to some extent, who can blame them?
The team has gone through some crazy stuff over the course of this season.:
- They had the high of the Strasburg debut, only to discover the low of the Strasburg Tommy John surgery.
- They had the high of Adam Dunn's 3 home run game and eventual tie for the NL home run lead, only to still be wondering if he'll be the team's first baseman next year... or even if he's worth the money.
- They've seen glimpses of brilliance in Ian Desmond with his batting average soaring all the way to .289, only to be disgusted by even more fielding errors by the rookie shortstop.
So where does that leave the Nats with just 19 games left? With 60 wins, it seems like the Nats have said "well, we won more than last year." But for Jim Riggleman, for Mike Rizzo, and most importantly, for the fans, that's not enough.
If the Nationals win just 3 more games, they will avoid triple digit losses for the first time since 2007. A reasonable goal? Sure. A laudable goal? No. What the Nationals should strive for is to finish above .500 (10-9) between now and October 3rd. If they do that, they will secure 70 wins. A realistic finish for a team that started 20-15 and created lofty goals for the organization.
But what the team must do over the next three weeks, most importantly, is to create a culture of winning in the clubhouse. Most of the players on the field this weekend for the 5-game losing streak (Zimmerman, Desmond, Espinosa, Bernadina, Ramos, and countless pitchers) will be on the 25-man roster come April 2011. If these young men start to believe that the team will continuously give up at the end of the year, it's going to be difficult for the organization to turn that mindset around in future years.
The team needs to win for the mindset of the rookies, for the young players, for the future of the young talent. The Nats need some big wins for the rest of the year, not for this season, but for the years to come.