If I were a Washington National, the ever-changing daily lineup would start to bother me after a while. It’s not because I don’t trust manager Jim Riggleman to do his job. I do. He’s had his eyes and ears inside Major League Baseball for longer than a decent chunk of the roster.
The issue to be taken here isn’t with Riggleman but rather with a lack of consistency. Imagine being a kid again and playing in a summer league or school league for any sport. In those days, it wasn’t about personal victory or professional success. It was about learning to craft a skill set and work as a team - this is what could save this year’s Nationals.
Since the lineup doesn’t appear to stay the same for more than (maybe) two days at a time, it’s got to be taking some sort of mental toll on the players, whether they admit it or not. Not knowing whether or not you’re going to play tomorrow can shake a young guy’s confidence if they haven’t built it up yet, or throw off a veteran’s momentum if they’ve gotten to that point.
Again, it’s nothing against Riggleman, it’s just that as an ex-team athlete I can see why the team might not be as cohesive as it could be if the same guys were put out there every day to start things off (with exceptions due to injury and days of rest, of course).
Here’s what I propose: I know these spiffy new uniforms came to Washington in the offseason, but there’s one slight modification that could benefit the team - taking the player’s last names off the back of the home jerseys.
In his book “Baseball Miscellany,” author Matthew Silverman writes: “Some teams apparently like to keep their fans guessing by testing their loyalty or roster knowledge. Aspirin should be freely distributed at their parks when rosters expand in September.”
According to Silverman, the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and San Francisco Giants played the 2010 season with only numbers on the backs of their home uniforms while the other 27 teams also wore names on the back.
“(The) combination of tradition and the old-school admonition to ‘play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back’ (is) much easier to do if you don’t put a name on that back to begin with,” Uni Watch blog founder Paul Lukas told Silverman.
Did you know that during the first six decades of professional baseball, there weren’t even numbers on the back of uniforms?
The game is supposed to be played as a unit for the name that’s on the front of the jersey, on the ticket stub and on the scoreboard. It’s not an individual sport for hotshots to shine every few minutes like LeBron James driving down the lane for a layup on a fast break or Alex Ovechkin sliding the puck across the ice for an assist to win it.
Maybe, by taking the names off the back of their home jerseys, the Nationals could flash back to the days where they first fell in love with the sport and remember - this is supposed to be fun and we’re in it together, so it’ll probably all work out just fine.
Rachel Levitin blogs about the Nationals for We Love DC, and will be sharing her observations about baseball in the nation’s capital 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.