So the Washington Nationals lose two in a row and folks are ready to run Davey Johnson out on a rail? A quick look this morning at different social media indicates just how fickle this fan base is. Comments such as “the old man doesn’t know how to manage a pitching staff” and “I stayed up to watch that?” are prevalent. All of a sudden, the Nats have lost three of four and the walls are crumbling down. People, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
The Nats’ remarkable winning streak over the last two weeks had lots of area baseball fans printing playoff tickets already. But the old baseball adage says you’re never as good as you look during a winning streak. The same holds here, of course, but don’t try telling that to anyone right now; they’ll call you a killjoy. There’s a difference, of course, between being a pessimist and a realist. But any statement of criticism right now just make you a crusty curmudgeon.
This is still the exact same team that was nine games below .500 as recently as 20 days ago. There are only four players on the entire team hitting higher than .250. The home run leaders are a rookie second baseman and a 29-year old getting his first chance to play every day for the first time in his career. The pitching staff is comprised of a 36-year old and 33-year old who both become free agents at the end of the year, a Tommy John survivior who only has about 12 more starts before he reaches his innings limit this year and a soft-tossing lefty who is enjoying an unprecedented run of success.
Realistically, this team is several parts short of being a contender - and that’s if the pieces they have in place are the real deal. But that hasn’t stopped some folks from expecting this team to compete already. The sense of entitlement a certain segment of the fan base in this town is remarkable. Can’t we just appreciate the team playing respectable baseball after being an afterthought the last five years?
I know it’s tempting to see the team win 13 out of 15 and think it’s ready to compete. But it’s just not yet. Over those 15 games, the Nats allowed just 2.67 runs per game. That’s not earned runs per game, but total runs. The Phillies lead the league in fewest runs per game allowed at 3.25. That’s how well the Nats pitched and fielded during that stretch. It’s unsustainable, that’s why they call it a winning streak.
This team is playing well and there’s certainly reason for optimism in NatsTown. But let’s keep some perspective and not put the cart ahead of the horse. If you’re going to react with ultimate dread at every two-game skid the rest of the way, you’ll have an ulcer before Labor Day.
Dave Nichols covers the Washington Nationals for Nats News Network. Read Nichols’ Nationals observations part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. 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.