Rachel Levitin: A look back before NatsTown becomes a ghost town

We’re about halfway through September now, which means baseball in Washington is nearing an end for 2011. Things will start to quiet down around the Navy Yard. Patrons’ use of the Green Line Metro Station near the ballpark will decline. Street vendors won’t be trying to handout hats during the evening hours and no one will be out on Half Street selling cheap water and peanuts. Live music won’t wail from the tiny corridor of The Bullpen beer garden. In short: NatsTown will become a ghost town very soon.

Sunday’s Sept. 11 Day of Remembrance marked the last game of the Nats’ last real homestand of the year. The team does play at home the next two weeks -three games for each weekend series - but those are quickies.

It’s been a year of improvement for the Nationals. A great deal of that improvement spurred from a necessity to survive in an injury -riddled season. If Adam LaRoche wasn’t sidelined with season ending surgery then Michael Morse, though he is a solid ballplayer, might not have gotten his time to put up the numbers he has this year. If Ryan Zimmerman hadn’t been out those few weeks due to his abdomen, he wouldn’t have reworked his throw and brought the midseason excitement that his return provided Washington’s fan base.

The second coming of Stephen Strasburg (or the “Strasurection,” as some have been calling it) proved that recovery from Tommy John surgery is different for everyone. Ivan Rodriguez being on the disabled list has allowed Wilson Ramos to mature in his position and for Jesus Flores to regain his confidence following injury.

Statistics and newspaper boxscores don’t reflect effort; they reflect success, or a lack thereof. The 2011 Nationals had a .500 record at the All-Star break with a lineup minus a few of their franchise’s stars. They’re not a playoff team yet. Their hitting is anemic. They strand men on base. Their starting rotation is hit or miss. But every so often, there’s a game like the one they played against the Houston Astros on Sept. 11, when the entire baseball universe conspires in helping them to achieve want they want the most: to win.

All the bits and pieces that make up this year’s Nationals are kind of like what Tom Hanks’ Forrest Gump says: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

Rachel Levitin blogs about the Nationals for We Love DC, and will be sharing her observations about baseball in the nation’s capital 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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