About 25 years ago, before sabermetrics and the Internet turned so many individuals from baseball disinterest to instant seamhead, my wife and I went out to dinner with several other couples who had some connection with my wife's workplace. I ended up sitting across from a guy we'll call "Bob," since that actually was his name.
I was working at WCBM Radio in Baltimore at the time, and Orioles' first baseman Eddie Murray had just signed a new contract worth roughly three times his previous deal. Bob wasn't happy about that. "All that money to play a kid's game," he said. "It's ridiculous."
I explained to Bob that Murray's deal was essentially the going rate for an everyday player who put up those kind of numbers, but he would have none of it. "If they're going to pay him three times as much, they have every right to expect he'll put up three times the numbers he did last year."
"Really?," I said. I knew that Eddie had just hit 30 home runs. "You expect him to hit 90 homers next year?" He nodded. "Absolutely. If my boss tripled my pay, I'd expect to give him three times the productivity," he said.
"But Bob, no one is going to pay to watch you work," I replied. "It's not even close to the same thing." Bob would not be deterred, despite the fact that he could get no one else at the table to agree with him. Eddie, by the way, hit 28 home runs the following year, and I doubt he gave any of the money back.
I bring up Bob's story because it's still pretty apparent that some fans tend to base their expectations on things like salary. Sure, Jayson Werth got huge dollars from the Nationals, but they weren't expecting him to do any more than what he'd done for the Phillies: bring a positive attitude to the clubhouse, play hard and be a complementary player to the younger guys who figure to be around a while. You know, teach 'em how to win.
They were not expecting him to turn the franchise around in half a season.
With the imminent return of Ryan Zimmerman, I have to believe the offense will improve; it can't get any more inconsistent. A couple of guys on the current big league roster are running out of time to produce, and Mike Rizzo's patience must be running on thin side with some of the bullpen failures as of late.
The 2011 schedule did Washington no favors; the Nationals have played the toughest schedule in the major leagues so far, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. They've struggled, and perhaps their record is indicative of nothing more than facing better players, a situation that management is doing what it can to resolve.
If you want to complain, that's fine. But don't think for a second that things will change on your timetable.