Drew Kinback: With Nats, there’s simply no margin for error

It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen on a Monday night.

I was reading over the standard Nationals news from the usual rogue’s gallery of sources when I decided to take a break and take in something non-baseball related. I find a quick dose of tabloid entertainment, a music video off YouTube or a random news story usually cleans out the colon of your baseball mind. Man cannot survive on baseball alone - unless you are Pete Rose at a sporting memorabilia convention.

Somehow, someway I got put onto an article about a guy who snuck his Miata convertible under an 18-wheeler while both were in motion. You’ve seen this stunt before, usually in movies. Chevy Chase (or his stunt double) pulled this off within the first 10 minutes of “Christmas Vacation.” In the flicks, it looks cool; but in reality, it is the stupidest thing you can do in a moving vehicle. It is in fact, idiotic to even attempt for so many things could go wrong and the end result is the same: a world of pain. The car can misjudge before getting under the trailer and instead bounce off the big machine or go under its tires. If the car or truck brakes, we are talking asphalt pancakes. It takes incredible nerve and skills to pull this off and frankly, not many can do it.

As I am reading the article I begin to realize that as stupid as this move is, I have seen it before and not on the highway. In fact, I’ve seen this maneuver done on 21 separate occasions - and all on a baseball diamond, of all places. This bit of insanity perfectly describes the Washington Nationals and their 2011 season thus far. The Nationals are a Miata that is being driven under an 18-wheeler where one wrong move has dire consequences.

That is a metaphor, of course. No one is trying to run the Nationals over with a truck. But the Nats are in a position (under a truck) where they don’t have room for mistakes. They are playing a brand of baseball where they have to be nearly perfect in order to be successful. Anything less than perfection equals defeat and no baseball team can truly survive a 162-game season like that.

This last series with the Pittsburgh Pirates made it painfully obvious the Nationals are trying to pull a stunt they are incapable of pulling off. In the one game they won at PNC Park, they committed no errors, starter Jason Marquis went deep into the game and the offense scored six runs on 15 hits. In their two losses at Pittsburgh, the Nationals committed five errors with serious breakdowns in pitching and the offense all but disappeared from the field.

In other words, the Nationals need everything to work and come together all at once in order to win games. Unfortunately, very few games work out to perfection for any team. The Nats need to learn to win imperfectly, but that is easier said than done with the personnel they have.

All it takes is for Livan Hernandez to have one bad inning or Rick Ankiel to strike out at an improper time or Ian Desmond to bobble a ball in a key inning and the whole machine comes apart.

It is just the way the team is built. General manager Mike Rizzo has gotten behind the steering wheel of a vehicle that has duct tape in the engine and Brian Bixler at third, and is intent on pulling it right under a truck.

Drew Kinback blogs about the Nats at Nationals Inquisition, and gives his take this week as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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