CAN'T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?
[September 28th] -- The Nationals' fourth season in Washington has come and gone. It was to be a season of promise and hope, perhaps the bridge year between a last place team and a contender. Though I took much of the season off from blogging, I watched the team just as closely as in years past. Though it was a difficult season to watch, there was much promise and hope shining through the cracks of the team's foundation.
I have been wondering why, since the first day the team arrived in Washington, that there have been so many writers, bloggers, and fans who seemed to root for the Nationals to fail. While naysayers exist in other baseball towns, they aren't as many, nor as loud. Scribes from the Times and Post seem to revel in kicking the team when they are down, almost proudly proclaiming that the Nationals are a failure and aren't deserving of our time and money.
But they aren't the only ones. Bloggers sound a lot like my wife at times, underscoring the negatives while overlooking the things done well. Many posters at BallPark Guys and other message boards attack with the ferocity of those last 300 Spartans, willing to fight to the death in order to disparage the Nationals for succeeding generations. The attendance is too low. The prices are too high. The players aren't good enough. Certainly, there are kernels of truth in most of what they say, but why do they take delight in saying it?
Because that's how we are in Washington. Virtually every person who lives inside the Beltway is so political that it's not enough for their guy to win, the other guy has to be torn down and embarrassed in the process. If the Nationals aren't playing well, then every part of the Nationals is maliciously attacked. The team loses a game at home and sure enough, someone is complaining that the signage in the new park is lousy. We have learned from all those elected or brought in by those that are elected how best to hurt those we disagree with. Sarah Palin's daughter really gave birth to that Downs Syndrome baby, not Sarah herself. And though Republicans know that Barak Obama isn't a Muslim, that doesn't stop them from unearthing an almost unlimited supply of Indonesian documents that say he is. We just don't go after Jim Bowden; we have to attack his fiance, his drinking habits, etc.
Look, I love the Nationals. I'll agree with the team on somethings and won't agree on others. But all this clap-trap we read every day is baseball's version of negative attack ads, designed to keep the uniformed from coming to the ballpark or watching them on television. I worry that even when the Nationals begin to win and win big, there will still be that large group of naysayers who enjoy hurting that which the rest of us waited 34 years to have, big league baseball in D.C.
Were the Nationals bad in 2008? Sure, they just lost their 102nd game and now have the top pick in next year's amateur draft. But how bad, or good, would they have been if they could just have remained healthy? Lets look at what might have happened, based on the team's starters playing a full season:
1B: Nick Johnson: .260-25-90
2B: Ronnie Belliard: .287-17-65
SS: Cristian Guzman: .310-9-55
3B: Ryan Zimmerman: .283-26-110
LF: Elijah Dukes: .270-26-90 (25 SB)
CF: Lastings Milledge: .270-16-80 (27 SB)
RF: Austin Kearns: .250-13-60 (worst case scenario)
C: Jesus Flores/Paul LoDuca et. al.: .265-14-55
That, plus a healthy pitching staff and the Nationals would have won 75 games, plus or minus.
The Nationals had a tough season, but for justifiable reasons.
Time to look ahead to next season.
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