One critical component of a winning baseball team is accountability in the clubhouse by the players themselves.
Veteran teams have leaders that lead by example. Small problems are solved before they become major fissures. The players in the clubhouse police themselves.
When one player is not doing something on the field he should be doing, a veteran goes to him and fixes the problem.
Sometimes when it comes from a teammate instead of a higher figure in the organization, like the manager or a coach, it can carry significant meaning and be easier to take.
Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, still the face of the franchise, says this is an important step taken recently in the Nationals clubhouse.
It's one of those building blocks that wouldn't usually be apparent on the outside, but is a huge part of veteran playoff teams every year.
"You can't be afraid to tell people (when something is wrong). I think we are close enough and our chemistry is good enough that if you see something (you can talk to that person to fix it)," Zimmerman said.
The Nats third baseman says it is an open locker room, where any player can talk to any teammate, regardless of tenure, and be comfortable enough that they will be able to help correct a problem.
"If I have to go up to someone and say something or someone has to come up to me and say it, you don't have to worry that that person is going to be mad or upset," Zimmerman said.
"There is no way you can get better if you have people like that (who get upset)."
Zimmerman feels that it's a crucial step this team has made this season.
"I think we are past that point. The next step is to continue doing that and become even closer as a unit."
Zimmerman says this is something the team has emphasized amongst themselves since the All-Star break and it has worked to improve the team's camaraderie.
"It means a lot more if one of your teammates says something to you than anyone else. That is what we have been working on in the second half and we are going to continue to do that into next year and continue to grow."