How does the most talented team in baseball disappear in four short days? That’s the question Washington Nationals fans are left asking themselves after the team’s latest postseason letdown.
The answer isn’t a simple one. You can blame it on terrible hitting, questionable managerial decisions, or lacking the “it factor” and you would probably be right.
One thing you can’t blame it on, and I have to vent about, is the curse of D.C. sports. Within minutes of the final out #DCSports was trending on Twitter. For those not in the know, #DCSports is synonymous with terrible luck, embarrassment, and disappointment on a national stage.
Our fans have come to expect disappointment and most disturbingly to embrace it. When you chalk things up to a curse you are taking the simple, cowardly way out. Instead of holding anyone accountable for their actions you are idiotically giving in to a loser mentality. Why watch in the first place? We’ll never win if we are truly doomed by some higher power that apparently has nothing better to do with their influence than hold a vendetta against D.C.
If you believe D.C. sports are cursed, you are part of the problem. You are fueling our enemy’s fire. Despite what your newspaper tells you, each D.C. team should be analyzed in a vacuum. If you continue to perpetuate the stereotype and abandon your teams, then you are no better than
Red Sox Orioles fan Jason La Canfora.
The Washington Redskins won’t win a Super Bowl with Dan Snyder as the owner not because he is a Napoleonic snake, but because they are one of the most poorly run organizations in professional sports. The Washington Wizards were a poorly run organization for nearly two decades. In the past year they have gone from basement dwellers to one of the favorites to win the East. The Washington Capitals are the only team with parallels to the Nats; loads of young talent, great regular season records, and early exits from the playoffs. This is probably what scares D.C. fans most about the Nats.
The Capitals have yet to find the winning formula after nearly a decade of promise. We can’t help but be paranoid when experts tell us that the Nationals’ window of opportunity is closing. Mind you these are the same experts who had us winning the World Series last week.
The Nationals’ window is not closing. Of course, 90-win seasons are not easy to come by but there is nothing about our roster, farm system, or budget that lends itself to the theory that this team can’t produce at the same level it did this year for the next few seasons. I trust Mike Rizzo. He will continuously load our roster with enough talent to compete for championships.
Will we ever get over the hump? I don’t know, but a good place to begin to answer that question is by looking at what went wrong last week.
We weren’t outgunned; we were outmaneuvered by the San Francisco Giants. Our bats were impotent yet the final cumulative score of the series was 9-9. Scoring runs was an issue all year for this team. It should have come as no surprise when that weakness reared its ugly head in the playoffs. We didn’t run into a world-class pitching staff, we ran into a team with a strategy and the confidence that it would outlast us when it mattered.
If I knew how to score more runs in playoff baseball I would be coaching right now. Look up and down each roster, the Giants had no more power than we did. Some timely hitting and patience at the plate seemed to be the winning recipe for the bad guys. Besides Bryce Harper’s herculean blasts our best offense came on a defensive error. We had four games to right the ship and we never did. Signs of life were few and far between. The moment was clearly too big for some of our guys (Drew Storen, Aaron Barrett, batters 1, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8 to name a few).
Do we have the wrong guys? I don’t think so. We came out cold after not playing for nearly a week and we never heated up. Our pitching was on point but I don’t think we had an adaptive offensive game plan. That lends itself to the question, is Matt Williams the right guy to lead this team? It’s too small of a sample size to tell, but watching the series it felt like Williams was managing from a handbook and Bochy was managing from his gut.
Williams did nothing to counter those suspicions when he spoke with the Junkies on Friday. For every tough question the Junkies, namely Lurch, posed, Williams countered with a no-regrets “I’d do it again the same way” attitude, at one point he cut Lurch off mid-sentence to defend Aaron Barrett. I love the loyalty but Williams acted as though the second-guessing and criticism were unwarranted. Hopefully, he will quickly learn how little leeway regular season success buys in professional sports.
While it’s unfair to put the Nats’ shortcomings solely on Williams, I would be lying if I denied a creeping fear that his managerial legacy could end up like an iPhone 6 in your grandfather’s hands. Sure it’s a beautiful toy, top-of-the-line, but if he doesn’t know how to use it then it’s $400 rotary phone without the cord.
Perhaps it takes postseason success and confidence for a manager and a team to learn to win big games but that puts us in the chicken and egg situation. How do you win before you are ready to? Perhaps Tim Hudson was right and it’s what’s between your legs that matters. One thing is for sure, this wasn’t a curse, this was defeat at the hands of an opponent who was better prepared and wanted it more. Another story D.C. fans are sick of hearing.
Unfortunately, the only thing that will bury the D.C. sports curse excuse is winning a championship. For better or worse the Nationals remain our best bet to do so.
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