Earlier this week it occurred to me that I didn't know the Nationals' record. It felt like we were a bit under .500, but before looking it up, I couldn't tell you if we were two games under .500, five games under, or worse. I also didn't know if the team was again in last place in the National League East, or instead in next-to-last or maybe even within sight of third place behind the Phillies and the Braves.
It's not a good sign when I don't know where my Nationals stand because it means I've checked out a bit. Although I've attended more than 40 games in-person and I listen to or watch most of the rest, my attention is diminished.
With 162 regular-season games, major league baseball is a marathon. It's clichÃ© in interviews to hear players and coaches talk about how it's important to avoid getting too high or too low as individual and team performance ebbs and flows throughout the season. Just work hard, stay focused, stick with the plan and success will come.
All of that is fine and nice, I guess, but being a fan is an emotional thing for me. I cheer for the team and its players at the top of my lungs, and the flip side of that can be frustration or worseâ€•indifference. My baseball moods can vary day-to-day, but they're also relatively stable in the sense that I can be more or less enthusiastic about my team over weeks or months at a time.
Right now I'm less enthusiastic, but why?
Is it starting pitching? I don't think so. As a group, the Nationals' starting pitchers have exceeded my expectations. A few weeks ago, I wrote about why Jordan Zimmermann is awesome and a very favorite player of mine. John Lannan has had a great year, and despite a bunch of poor outings from LivÃ¡n HernÃ¡ndez, I still look forward to watching him pitch. Livo's pokey curve ball and love of the game are pure entertainment for me. And the future is hopeful with Chien-Ming Wang maybe finding his groove, Stephen Strasburg on his way back, and a bunch of interesting arms on the horizon.
Is it the bullpen? No, it's not that either. Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen have been terrific, Ryan Mattheus is a nice surprise, and the rest as a group are pretty solid. Sure, they have their moments, but it's not like it's 2009, when no lead was big enough and the end of many games was like death by a thousand paper cuts.
What about hitting? Hitting has been more frustrating. At times, getting on base has seemed as rare as below 90-degree temperatures. And when players get on base, too many have been left there. But Michael Morse's success has been a joy to watch, Ryan Zimmerman is on a roll, and even Jayson Werth is starting to come around. There's definitely room for improvement, but hitting doesn't explain my waning interest.
Then it must be fielding, right? I haven't analyzed changes in fielding percentage or the number of errors over the season, but it feels like fielding has been less crisp during the second half of the season. Are the players worn down? Has the change in field manager been part of the reason?
I want Davey Johnson to be successful because he's the manager of my team, but he hasn't captured my heart or been granted the somewhat unconditional love that most players and coaches get. Given Johnson's past accomplishments, it should be easy for me to give him the benefit of the doubt, but my mind is full of nitpicks, and that's sort-of-unusual for a fangirl who tends to cheer for the success of everyone wearing a Nationals uniform.
I don't think the problem is Johnson as much as it is a nagging concern about the Nationals organization. When Jim Riggleman walked away from what should have been his dream job, I understood why people called him a quitter, but I also thought that judgment was too simplistic. Based on what I read and observe from my seats in the stands, I saw a Nationals organization that bungled basic employee management and still, after years of on-the-field and off-the-field failure, doesn't really have it together. At some level, I want to be wrong about the Nationals, but that's my perception and it affects my enthusiasm.
Or maybe it's just that a 162-game season is also grind for fans and I need to avoid getting too high or too low as individual and team performance ebbs and flows, and as the Nationals' organization evolves, hopefully in ways that will someday allow me to cheer both for my team and for the organization.
Jenn Jenson blogs about the Nationals at Nationals Fangirl and has joined MASNsports.com's initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. 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.