When it comes time to reflect on the Nationals' 2013 season, my thought is that this one will be all about managing expectations. After last night's victory against the San Francisco Giants - the Nats' fifth win in a row - I found myself on the Metro amid the postgame foot traffic. While sitting there, I gathered nuggets from people's conversations and took notice of those who were wearing curly W attire.
The general consensus, as far as I was able to infer, is that the big issue people have with the team this year - despite the losses tallied and being further away from first place in the National League East than anyone would like to admit - is that this team has let down its fans because 2012 had set the bar much higher than before.
Now I can't speak for everyone here, and I'm sure this isn't the way that everybody feels, but it's all about that pesky thing we call perspective. In years prior, between 2005 and 2011, everyone knew where the Nationals stood. They knew the team was new, relatively young player-wise and that they were in the middle of building their own team identity independent of the earlier Nationals, Senators and the Expos who came before them.
Last season changed all of that. Some say the season might have been a fluke, others say it's just that the majority of the 25-man roster (if not all of them) had career years. But whatever it was, it worked out (mostly) and got the Nationals to their first playoff appearance.
There's still about a month and a half left in the regular season. What happens to the Nationals is in both their own hands and the hands of other teams. If others falter and they rise to the occasion, that may be all they need for another run at the playoffs. But if they don't make it there this year, it's time to manage those expectations and take a look at what went right in 2013.
There are definite positives to the 2013 season. For example, the team finally has a quality center fielder in Denard Span. Though his offense may not be where they expected it to be this year, having his glove has proven invaluable on defense. Jayson Werth is stronger than ever and this is evident by his performance on the field and in the batter's box. A fan on the Metro even went as far to tell me that they thought he should start wearing a captain's "C" on his jersey.
Stephen Strasburg tossed his first complete-game shutout. Anthony Rendon stepped up at second base, coming straight out of the minors when Danny Espinosa wasn't getting the job done. General manager Mike Rizzo knew when to move around some of his pieces when they weren't pulling their own weight.
The positives are there, no matter how the season ends, and to me that is good news for a team that's been working its way out of the cellar since its inception.
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.