Ted Leavengood: It's going to be a long and bumpy ride

Chad Tracy could be a poster child for this season. He has been down so long, that any kind of up looks awfully good. One wonders if the high expectations for a team still lost in the desert, are weighing this whole enterprise down. Would that Tracy home run have been enough last season?

Tracy took out Jonathan Papelbon, which is no mean feat. It was Papelbon's first blown save of the season. But only scoring two runs against John Lannan, that is a mean feat. It is hard to watch Lannan pitching for the Phillies. One wishes Lannan well, but against someone else, not against Washington.

Watching him pitch well for Philadelphia, watching him coerce the same double play grounders when he really needed them, it was tough to take. Watching other teams dogpile after their walk-off hit, that was downright depressing.

Davey Johnson has even found it frustrating. Watching him hurl his cap to the ground in disgust Sunday in Cleveland was cleansing. Maybe not for him, but for the many fans who had been throwing their hats all afternoon at the television screen, it provided a collective exclamation point. Someone else is having trouble watching this. It is not just me.

Away games are in some ways a blessing. One cannot fling a baseball cap across the room at Nationals Park. There is no television set to take the abuse that has become all too familiar in TV rooms across the Washington, D.C., region. There are still fans who are watching and what they see confounds them.

They are the same fans gladdened by Tracy's two recent home runs. They have been watching and waiting, hoping for a portent of change in every small gesture of success. But every time the answer is ultimately a negative one. There is a long sigh and then the hat flies across the room.

Nick Swisher, Mark Reynolds and Jason Kipnis tried to serve us the final game of the series in Cleveland in Sunday on a platter. Four runs would have been more than enough Sunday, but that sort of kindness is hard to find in Philadelphia.

The source of frustration comes so much more clearly into focus on the road. There is just the unforgiving eye of the center field camera boring into the most basic and fundamental moment of the game: the confrontation between pitcher and batter. And that is where the Nationals are failing. You can see it so much more clearly watching from that singular vantage point.

Can't Ryan Zimmerman get a longer bat? Didn't he swing and miss at the same three pitches two innings ago? Why does Adam LaRoche swing at every inside pitch off the plate when the entire 25-man roster for the other team is standing on the right side of the diamond? Do the Nationals ever watch this stuff?

When the Nationals return at the end of the week, fans will be asked to wave their caps. Let it be known that these same caps have seen, for some, hard to wear in the past few weeks. These caps are not so much red as tattered and blue. They have been the instrument of frustration far too often.

Nothing worth winning is easy. Frustration is part of the game. So buckle in and get a chin strap for the hat. It is going to be a long and bumpy ride.

Ted Leavengood is author of "Clark Griffith, The Old Fox of Washington Baseball," released in June 2011. He serves as managing editor of the popular Seamheads.com national baseball blog and co-hosts with Chip Greene the "Outta the Parkway" Internet radio show. His work appears here as part of MASNsports.com's effort to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of the Internet. 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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