And so the marathon begins. The 162-game grind that die-hard baseball fans know all too well. Spring is here, too (for the most part), and the Nationals are back at it again.
While it’s easy to get bogged down in statistics and numbers from seasons past, I prefer looking at the game through a different lens. It’s like Paul Dickson once wrote, “beyond the statistics, there are countless fascinating anthropological aspects of baseball.” Those are the stories that spark my interest most and those are the stories I’ll be looking to tell this season.
In that vein, I’d like to point out that the start of all “the other major sports seasons have no connection with the natural rhythms of life,” which is something I hadn’t truly realized for myself until I read an Sports Illustrated piece by Frank Deford from 1978.
It seems obvious now, after reading that line, but spring and rebirth is a nice association - albeit an often overplayed one - for any ballclub to make in regards of their efforts at the start of the regular season. The symmetry of natural life as opposed to the enclosed microcosm that is Major League Baseball makes for a poetic vantage point for both the fan and player alike.
A cavalry of a starting rotation is one of Nats’ stronger suits in 2014, but the key for Washington will be run support. New manager Matt Williams is at the helm to lead the squad as best as he can, which is a difference from what Davey Johnson previously brought to the table. A decent chunk of the roster has at least one series worth of playoff experience under its belts and that’s not counting veterans who went deep into October with other teams. It’s time to drop the high expectations in the stands and just go with the flow.
The 2012 season was special. The Nats raised their own bar and clawed their way out of the cellar thanks to the guidance of Johnson and an impressive clubhouse chemistry that seemed to never stop jelling until the tail end. Last year was a reminder that Washington was no longer a joke of a team. The Nationals could win games and people started expecting them to. And they did win. They just didn’t take home the big prize at the end of the year.
Disappointments aside, 2014 is here. All these guys, from Ian Desmond to Ryan Zimmerman to Bryce Harper to Stephen Strasburg, are all a year older and - for better or worse - a wee bit wiser about their baseball.
Here’s to the stories that haven’t been told yet. Here’s to watching the Nats as they press on to write the next chapter in their team’s history. Here’s to a new beginning.
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.