Boring, drama-less camp is fine with Nationals

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Spring training life for the defending champions is a bit different than in previous years. There are questions about trying to repeat. New signs all over the place touting last fall’s achievement. Fingers to be sized for championship rings. Everybody’s in a good mood, for good reason.

But there’s something lacking from Nationals camp so far, something that can be found at other camps across Florida and Arizona, something that could be found around here in many previous camps.

Drama. As in, there isn’t any.

There’s no controversy around here. There are very few jobs up for grabs. Nobody’s dealing with any kind of significant injury. There isn’t a gaping hole that needs to filled, or a major free agent signing or trade that appears to be in the works.

The biggest story at Nats camp to date: Will Carter Kieboom win the third base job? The only contract-related issue: When will Mike Rizzo and Davey Martinez have their deals extended?

All of this has made for a rather boring camp and has most national media outlets staying away aside from a quick pop-in to check on things. The big story, of course, is playing out on the other side of FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, home of the Astros.

Not that the Nationals themselves are complaining at all.

Adam-Eaton-Baby-Shark-Double-White-Sidebar.jpg“Honestly, I kind of like it from our end of the standpoint, because we’re not the focal point,” right fielder Adam Eaton said. “It’s easier for us to put our World Series trophy behind us and look forward to this year. We’re excited for the opportunity to compete for another trophy. To have all the high-ranking media over there half the time, it’s nice for us to have a normal offseason and a normal spring training just trying to get ready for 2020.”

Truth be told, this isn’t such a bad position for the Nationals. Remember all those springs when they were the center of attention? When Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper burst onto the scene? When Max Scherzer signed his mega-deal and prompted Harper to ask “Where’s my ring?” When you couldn’t get through one day without asking somebody if Harper or Anthony Rendon was going to stay in D.C. or leave?

Didn’t things work out much better last year, when the Nats remained under the radar most of the spring and into the regular season? They weren’t heavy favorites to win the division. They weren’t appearing on the cover of any national magazine predicting a World Series title. They just quietly went about their business and prepared for the season.

And once October came around, they relished the underdog role. It suited them well against the Dodgers in the National League Division Series, then again vs. the Astros in the World Series.

This team seemed to perform better when it wasn’t expected to win.

These days, you don’t hear much talk about the Nationals repeating as champions. The Dodgers are the talk of the NL, the Yankees the talk of the American League. Nobody’s being disrespectful to the Nats. People are just pointing out how difficult it is to repeat, something no franchise has done in two decades.

“It’s hard to win the World Series,” Rizzo said. “It’s so difficult, with so many levels of playoffs. And you’re playing 162, then you’re fighting through, in our case, three different levels of playoffs to win. I think that has had a lot to do with not repeating as champions.”

And so the Nationals will just plug along all spring. They’ll try to follow Martinez’s new mantra and focus not on repeating, but on “repeating the process.”

It may sound boring, but it’s exactly what this team wants.

blog comments powered by Disqus