I realize that's an obvious title for this blog post, and now that I'm typing on a MacBook, you expect more of me. I haven't quite adapted to my new creative powers yet, as you can see. Bear with me. I'll get there.
Anyway, I was looking back at some numbers from the Nationals' month of June, and it wasn't until I compared it to the rest of the team's history that I realized just how bad it was. The Nationals went 8-19, despite getting Stephen Strasburg and despite playing a slate of teams that included the Astros, Indians, Royals and Orioles. They began the month 26-26; they closed it 34-45.
Winning percentage-wise, there have only been two months worse than June's .296 mark since the team came to Washington:
-April 2009 (Nationals start the year 0-7, get swept on Marlins Meltdown weekend): 5-16, .238 winning percentage
-July 2008 (Nats start with a six-game losing streak, end with a nine-gamer, Jim Bowden hangs Chad Cordero out to dry on the radio): 5-19, .208 winning percentage
Neither the Nationals' horrific start in 2007 nor their July of 2009 - during which they fired Manny Acta and lost their first five games under Jim Riggleman - were as bad. And the Nationals were outscored by 32 runs in June, scoring just 91 times despite playing what was supposed to be the softest part of their schedule.
They had a team OPS of .670, and allowed 24 unearned runs in 27 games. Despite having their best pitching month of the season, the Nationals won just eight times, leaving one starter after the next to talk about his praiseworthy effort in a loss.
We'll likely look back on this month as the one that euthanized any dreams the Nationals had of making a playoff run, even though those weren't in great shape by the end of May. But in the long run, this will be known as the Summer of Strasburg, when the Nationals were thrust into the spotlight and bathed in national attention. Despite the losses, they had four games on national TV (June 8 on MLB Network, June 13 on TBS, June 19 on Fox and June 28 on ESPN2), and MLB Network also picked up MASN's feed of Strasburg's June 18 start. And the Nationals will play on Fox on Saturday.
All that attention, in the long run, is a good thing for the team. Just as positive is that most of these mistakes are correctable.
The Nationals didn't play defense anywhere near this poorly in the first month of the season, and their three proven hitters (Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham) all rode through slumps at one point or another in June. Now, there's a good chance some of the defensive play in the first part of the season was the exception, not the rule. But it's probably not anywhere near as bad as it was in the month that just ended.
So, what to expect from the Nationals the rest of the year? Any meaningful September baseball is probably out the window, and there's no telling what this month will bring as we near the trade deadline. But the Nationals will get some pitching reinforcements to help Strasburg, and by August and September, we should have a better idea of what they have there heading into 2011.
Important work still lies ahead for this team, despite what June did to its prospects for this season. That, alone, is worth following.