This is normally the time of year where I start to realize that I won’t be able to watch baseball again for five or six months, depending on how you count the postseason and spring training. This season, the Nationals have failed to live up to expectations to a degree that has me glad the season is going to end. It isn’t a feeling I am proud of, want to embrace or hope others feel.
There was a clinical study recently that said sports can have a profound impact on our moods. It makes sense, to some degree. All states of being are essentially chemical reaction in the brain and when you’re emotionally tied to something that is when those reactions are at their strongest. It isn’t like the Nationals can sleep with the milkman or pool boy, but they can cause plenty of other triggers that can send us into a mild depression.
Perhaps that is all this feeling is. Back in 2008-2009, I thought a season like this would be fun. Not the same fun as winning the division, but being disappointing and playing around .500 has to be better than losing 100 games in back-to-back years. After experiencing both, I can’t say which is worse. It is like the question of the blowout loss being worse than the tight loss. Both hurt in different ways, but the close loss, especially a blown save loss, feels that much worse, because there was a chance for something.
That is how this season has felt. Like there have been chances and opportunity, but just like the 2013 Nats offense, many of those chances ended in disaster. There are a few stretches of the 2013 season that are going to be discussed when the season is over. One will be the injury period. Lots of people say this is an excuse, that all teams deal with injuries - and they do. The degree and timing of the injuries was what did in the Nats. Think back to 2012 and how the injuries seemed to be timed just right so that just as one player was coming back another would go down. In 2013, it happened differently. There was a long period of time where Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos were all out of the line-up at the same time, all while the Nationals were still giving Danny Espinosa plenty of leash.
Start with the Mets series on April 19 when Ryan Zimmerman went joined Ramos on the disabled list and Werth was out with a groin injury that would only get worse and go to the end of the Braves series on June 2, the series before Werth came off the DL and Anthony Rendon was called up to replace Espinosa. In the timeframe, the Nats offense average 3.2 runs a game and hit .218/.274/.345. The team went 19-23 in that span. Four games under .500, which doesn’t seem that bad. The Nats couldn’t score at all in that stretch and yet, to some degree, their lackluster bench players held the fort to a moderate degree. As bad as that stretch was offensively, it wasn’t the stretch that doomed the Nats.
It might be hard to remember back this far, but on July 7, the Nationals had just finished sweeping the Padres. They were four games over .500 and four games back of a playoff spot, and had seven games against the Phillies and Marlins heading into the All-Star break. The Nats went 2-5 in those games and then came out of the break to a six-game losing streak.
That wasn’t how that was supposed to go. The Nationals had their full complement of players and even if they couldn’t take care of the Pirates and Dodgers, they should have been able to take care of the Phillies and Marlins. But they didn’t. During those games, the offense scored 2.9 runs a game and the pitching allowed 4.3. That is the recipe for a 3-11 stretch, but the question remains why. It is easy to see what went wrong from the end of April until the beginning of June: the offense couldn’t score. But for this 14-game stretch, the Nats not only couldn’t score, they also couldn’t keep the other team from scoring. And maybe it is as simple as it being a bad 14 games, but it was a bad 14 games the Nats couldn’t afford, and it will be remembered as the stretch that doomed the 2013 season.
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.