Monday, September 13, 2010

Nationals: What Are They Playing For?

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.


  1. Based on what I saw yesterday at the stadium, I don't see a whole lot of winning in theie immediate future. There they were, bottom of the 5th, two outs, bases loaded, a run already in and Morgan, who presumably has a score to settle with the Marlins, at the plate.

    So does Nyjer get the go ahead base hit? Of course not. He fails, as do the next 12 batters in succession the rest of the game.

    As a fan, tt was infuriating to see them just roll over against a mediocre team than has beaten on them repeatedly the past few years. If Riggleman couldn't get them fired up against the Marlins at home after all that went on between the two clubs last week, he should be fired.

  2. I'd hardly consider the Marlins "mediocre" though. Not great, but certainly above average. At least since the All-Star Break. Since the ASB the Marlins have a .574 winning % and have a ton of outstanding young talent.

    That said, the Nationals should never have been swept by them. Even with some of the games close, I never felt like the Nats had a chance to win. That's unacceptable.

    Only 3 more weeks of Nyjer, though; don't you worry. He'll be gone before next spring.

  3. I guess I was thinking of the Marlins' overall record in the three years that they have gone, what is it? 39-14 against the Nats. Before the Nats can even THINK about contending, they need to beat the Marlins.