The common refrain emanating from the Nationals clubhouse over the last several weeks has been one of optimism. As bad as things have gone, they to a man insist there’s still time to salvage this season.
Really, what else are they supposed to say? Nobody’s going to publicly give up on Memorial Day weekend. And if you’re a professional athlete, you have to believe anything is possible. It’s the only way to be successful in that line of work.
But we try to deal in facts here, and the simple fact is that the Nationals have dug themselves into such a deep hole, it’s going to be nearly impossible to turn the entire season around. At least that’s what recent history has proven.
The Nats, as you know by now, are 19-31. It’s the first time they’ve been 12 games under .500 since the final day of the 2010 season, in which they went 69-93. They haven’t been this many games under .500 this early in a season since 2009, when they opened up a paltry 14-36 and finished an major league-worst 59-103.
This is not the kind of company they wanted to keep, not after seven consecutive winning seasons, four of those ending with division championships.
“We’re down right now,” second baseman Brian Dozier said. “We got our backs against the wall. But I know I have been in these types of situations before in my career. It’s a long season. You can put a lot of good stuff together down the stretch.”
Dozier hasn’t been part of a team that has pulled off the kind of comeback the Nationals need to make it to October. Few have.
Forty-four major league clubs have gone 19-31 or worse over their first 50 games since 2005. Only 10 of those clubs even finished with 70 wins. Only two of those topped 80. Only one of those - the 2005 Astros - made the postseason.
Those 2005 Astros pulled off something of a miracle. After coming within one game of the 2004 World Series, a star-studded lineup featuring Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman and a big-name rotation featuring Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Roy Oswalt started 18-32 but finished 71-41 to get to 89 wins and the National League wild card. They beat the Braves in the National League Division Series, beat the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series and reached the World Series for the first time in franchise history before getting swept by the White Sox.
That, of course, was the exception to the rule. No other team in the 21st century can claim to have bounced back so well from such a bad start.
In other words, for the Nationals to turn this season around, they’ll not only have to do something they’ve never before done in club history. They’ll have to do something nobody in baseball has done in 14 years.