Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Washington Nationals: From bad to inconceivably bad

Since there has been so, so much going on, within the realm of this blog as well as outside of it, I wanted to quickly preface this post. Between JJ's jet-setting between France and Hungary, and now to Texas, and Nick's computer crashing, I myself lost internet service at my house for about nine days. This, coupled with the fact that I started a new internship at a publishing company last week, explains my lack of posts as of late. Thankfully, I got my internet connection back today and I wanted to get a post in before JJ's Netroots Nation coverage (by the way, congrats homie!).

With all that out of the way, I had been planning to write about the Nats for quite some time but while I had been planning exactly what angle I wanted to explore on the subject, the team's fortunes have continued to take an unbelievable plunge. At this, the All-Star break, eight of the Nationals' nine opening day starters are on the disabled list (the one player who isn't is actually Cristian Guzman, Washington's lone All-Star representative). The Nats have the worst record in baseball, and really that wasn't expected to be the case this season. The team greatly overachieved last year when it won 73 games and improved on its 2006 win total (71), despite some people ridiculously predicting that the Nats would break the all-time record for single-season losses. But this year? After picking up a few young bats on the cheap and with '07's surprisingly-successful young pitching staff returning, things were never supposed to be this bad.

Yet somehow, this year's struggles have gone beyond simply losing games on the field. Last week, the DC Sports Bog sparked an internet and talk radio firestorm, reporting that the Nats' TV averages were appallingly-low. This kicked off a week in which the Lerner family entered a dispute with the D.C. government over $3.5 million of rent money, GM Jim Bowden was implicated in an FBI investigation looking into illegal signing practices of players in Central America, and two fans were killed in an accident involving the team's free shuttle from the RFK lots to Nationals Park, all of which was detailed by Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell yesterday. Seriously.

Even as write this, I don't believe it. I was originally going to write something about how important it was to stand by the Nats through thick and thin, or how better times would be on the horizon... or something. However, opening the paper to news like this every day is enough to make you think that some sort of hex has been put on the team. I guess my point is still the same though; try not to judge this team by wins and losses this year. Instead, 2009 will tell baseball fans in D.C. whether or not this franchise intends to make a go at being a contender anytime in the near future, or if they will continue the long, rich tradition of losing baseball teams set forth by its predecessors, the Washington Senators (customary cool old school logo to follow). This year's silver lining remains the new stadium and if you haven't been yet, it is definitely worth checking out. But this year, as hard as it may be to do, the Nats still need local support.

I'm not the biggest baseball fan to begin with, but it was still very exciting to see the sport return to my hometown after growing up without one. Since the District had been without baseball from 1972 until 2005, there have been obvious growing pains as the city re-adjusts to the sport, the team adjusts to us as a new region and simultaneously tries to become relevant in a sports scene dominated by the Redskins, Wizards, Capitals, D.C. United and multiple college sports teams. It is only fitting though for baseball to thrive in the nation's capital, not because it the so-called "national pastime," because that's football now, but because D.C. is one of the greatest cities in the world, as well as an important sports town. Only time can tell us where the Nats go from here, but at least it can't be much lower than it is right now.

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