David Huzzard: The Nationals’ place in D.C. baseball history

According to the modern baseball catalog of knowledge, Baseball Reference, the official major league history of Washington baseball began in 1884 with the Washington Nationals and the Washington Statesmen playing that season. The Nationals finished with a record of 47-65 and the Statesmen were 12-51. That would turn out to be a fitting beginning to Washington baseball history. There would be two more defunct franchises and neither of them would have a winning season, and then in 1901 Ban Johnson would form the American League with the Washington Senators as one of its charter clubs.

That history started out much the same. In 1901, with Boileryard Clark at catcher, Pop Foster in the outfield, and Win Mercer on the mound, Jim Manning’s Senators would finish 61-72. That team and the 1902 team would finish sixth in the eight-team American League. It would be the team’s highest finish until they finished second in 1912 and 1913. Before winning the World Series in 1924, the Senators had finished out of the second division just seven times in their first 23 seasons.

After the 1924 Senators won the World Series, they would return in 1925 and again in 1933, losing both. After 1933, there isn’t much to say about the Washington Senators. In their final 27 seasons in D.C., they would finish in the first division just four more times. After that Senators team moved to Minnesota to become the Twins. Washington. D.C., would get an expansion team, and there is even less to say about that team. In nine seasons in the district, they had one winning season. From the official beginning of the major leagues in Washington until the expansion Senators moved to Texas in 1969, Washington baseball had a grand total of 18 winning seasons.

That brings us to the current crop of Washington Nationals, the team that was World Series or bust that has been labeled as a disappointment. The season isn’t over yet and miracles do happen in baseball, but it is unlikely. The Reds are playing good baseball and they would need to absolutely collapse in order for the Nationals to get in. But even if the Nationals don’t get in, it is hard to look at this as a bad season. Disappointment is the emotion most fans felt during the season, and I felt that way along with all of you, but let’s not let our early expectations ignore the fact that if the Nationals go 1-10 in their final 11 games they will be the 20th team in Washington baseball history to finish with a winning record.

To many, that will sound like cheap consolation, but perhaps we should ask our neighbors up Interstate 95 just how it felt to go 14 seasons without a winning record. Our go a little further north and west and ask Pirates fans what it was like to live through Sid Bream and 19 straight losing seasons. Winning in sports is difficult, and having a second winning season when before the team had had none feels like an accomplishment. It isn’t as good of an accomplishment as winning the World Series, but the odds of that before the season began were one in 30.

A lot went wrong for the Nationals this season, and that should highlight how good this team is. For a month and a half stretch, Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos all spent time on the disabled list and the Nationals had Danny Espinosa at second dealing with injuries of his own. This all happened concurrently. All teams have injuries, but the length and timing of the injuries is what harmed the Nationals. These last two months have demonstrated what this team can play like when healthy and together for an extended period of time. Things didn’t go the Nationals’ way this season, but they won’t for every season. That is why it is called a window of opportunity, and for the Nationals it is still open and still at the beginning of what could be many winning seasons.

The core of Harper, Strasburg, Zimmerman, Werth, Ramos, Gio Gonzalez, Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann is as strong as any in baseball. The ancillary pieces faltered this season, and despite all of that, the 2013 Nationals are going to finish with the 20th winning record in Washington baseball history. It is up to you whether you let the disappointment of not living up to expectations be how you view this team, but I am going to view them as a winning team, something that is rare in Washington baseball history.

David Huzzard blogs about the Nationals for Citizens of Natstown, and offers his viewpoints 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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