WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – With the Nats 13.5 games back in the NL East and only 50 games remaining, national columnists are stumbling all over themselves to beat each other to predictable headlines, like “National problem” or “looking more like bust,” but now that it’s nearly irrefutable the team will fall far short of expectations, can you blame them?
Returning to the diamond following a 98-win season and the franchise’s first playoff berth in 2012, Washington was not only almost unanimously predicted to return to the playoffs, but also repeat as NL East division champs, and now they’ve all but assured those predictions to be misguided.
“It’s definitely not going to happen,” USA Today columnist Bob Nightengale told the Junkies on 106.7 The Fan Tuesday.
But contrary to preseason groupthink, Nightengale didn’t have the Nats returning to playoff form from the start.
“I did not pick them to win the division,” he told the Junkies. “The reason why, I thought ‘Okay, they did it once. Let’s see how they play with a target on their backs, and expectations and a lot of pressure.’ And these guys couldn’t do it.”
“I think they thought things were so easy for them last year, they said ‘Okay, piece of cake. No problem,’” Nightengale continued. “They even thought when they shut down Strasburg ‘Hey, we’ll be fine. We’re going to be in the playoffs year after year’ and it doesn’t work that way.”
“You guys aren’t the Atlanta Braves of the 90’s,” he added, further condemning the Nats.
Perhaps it was the remaining high from the hysteria of playoff baseball in the nation’s capital, but from within the confines of the metropolitan area, it was difficult to envision the Nationals’ season going the way it has.
It seems Nightengale’s perspective, while leaning in the direction overly cynical, is perhaps closer to the perspective from outside the D.C. vacuum, and sheds valuable light on why other baseball markets were so vocal in criticizing the Strasburg shutdown.
Nightengale would go on to identify the type of manager Mike Rizzo will likely target to replace Davey Johnson, which you can hear about below, along with how great Yasiel Puig is, and how terrible a person A-Rod has become.