Nationals: A Terrible Season But Reasons For Optimism
“Muddy” Ruel tags out a Philadelphia Athletics player at Home Plate in 1925. These Senators went 96-55 to win the American League and make their second straight World Series. A far cry from today’s Nats.
So in the height of Redskins football madness, you may have missed that the Washington Nationals ended their season with the same whimper of loss that could be heard through most of their games- 102 games in fact. Along with the distinction of being this year’s worst team in baseball (not the only 100 game loser, but the only team to not break 60 wins) comes the dismal news of 6 coaches getting fired and the continued beating the team takes over having disappointing numbers in attendance and ratings.
Everyone seems to have lost hope for the Nats-even our very own Patrick.
But not me. Call me nutty. Call me an optimist. Call me completely out of touch with the real world and how baseball works. All three do apply-but I do think there are good things to take away from this season.
It could have (and has) been worse
First-you think this is the worst team in Washington Baseball history? Think again my friend-the 1898, 1904, 1907, 1909, 1949 and 1955 Senators/Nationals (who would become the Twins) all lost 100+ games (with 1904 losing a whopping 113 and 1898 only playing 152)-and the expansion Senators placed here solely to make up for sending the last team to Minnesota (who stayed just a few years before going to Texas) started their first four seasons (from 1961-1964) with 100, 101, 106 and 100 losses.
Imagine being a fan of those teams-all without the benefit of the Red Porch, Scoreboard Bar or Five Guys at the stadium. Basically baseball here isn’t as bad as you think it is. Not yet anyway.
Room to Grow (and the Picks to Grow With)
Each of those teams, by the way, didn’t have the #1 pick in the upcoming 2009 draft.
Sure it was unfortunate that we couldn’t sign Crow-but now we have two first round picks going into next year. Steve Strasburg, the presumed #1 pick on everyone’s board, could start tomorrow for the Nationals pitching staff and might be the type of booster shot this young team needs.
Couple that with a Farm system (that was completely pillaged during it’s Expos years) that I think many have underrated (Potomac won their division and championship, The GCL Nationals won their division and we just signed the Syracuse Sky Chiefs) and the Nationals might not be as talentless as reported.
Plus-let’s cut this team some slack-the injury bug did everything except suit up for the team this year. Zimmerman, Young and Johnson all spent significant time on IR(along with Belliard, Pena, Cordero-you name it they were on the list). Healthy players don’t make a good team necessarily, but a better team for sure.
Not Unpopular-just still ahead of the “Cool Curve.”
I think when you read articles that are upset over attendance and the team not performing it shows a lack of patience for sports fans in the area more than an actual problem with the Nationals. Sure they are terrible-but this isn’t football. You can’t just buy a bunch of players and go from worst to first overnight. You can buy players to go from a mid-level team to a great team, but you need that base first and that takes time.
Washington is not a patient town-on any level. Congress never moves fast enough and neither does Metro-most of us are only here for a little while and we miss the great things about this city and how it develops. Baseball is much the same way.
So 19th in attendance for a 102 loss team-ahead of playoff bound Minnesota, AL East Champions Tampa Bay (who get the Sox and Yanks a few times a year btw) hated Baltimore (who also get attendance boost from Boston and New York a few times a year) and eight other teams? Not too bad actually.
When the Lerners put a winner on that field the DC area will show up. There aren’t a lot of baseball fans here because the area hasn’t really grown up with baseball. A winner will a.) build that fan base and b.) make baseball the hot/hip/cool thing to do. Ask the Capitals if their attendance woes subsided a bit during that playoff push last year. Rule #1 of attendance in DC-unless you’re the Redskins you better win in this town.
Always Next Year
What about the 2009 Nationals? Probably still a pretty terrible team. I’m optimistic, but I’m not an idiot (arguably). But 2010? I think we could be in for our first decent looking team since the hot streak of 2005. Right now is a buyers market for Nats tickets by the way and with an All-Star Game most likely coming up in the next few years and (IMHO) a better team not too far off in the horizon it might be the time to buy.
Even if I’m wrong though I certainly don’t think it’s time to hit the panic button. So let’s all just store our gloves in the closet, shake off the stink of a bad year and watch a little football. Nationals Park and the home team will be here for a while-so let’s not rush to judgment.