First Day of the Rest of the Nats Season

Being a fan of the Washington Nationals has been tough this season. It is tough anytime you are told you're getting something good and end up with something not as good. Imagine if someone walked into a Fuddruckers actually believing they were going to get the world's greatest hamburger. That is about how it feels to be a Nationals fan. We were told, and all experts believed, that this team was going to be very good, that this was one of the most complete rosters they have ever seen, and what we got was a team hovering around .500. What we got were the 2010 Nationals. Except that that team had a lot of players over performing to get to .500. Early that season both Pudge Rodriguez and Cristian Guzman hit over .300 and looked like world beaters. Eventually they turned back into themselves and everything went south.  

If the negative aspect of over performance is true what about the positive aspect of underperformance? The Nationals are currently 7.0 games back of the Atlanta Braves and it looks like an enviable task to catch them. The best thing for the Nationals to do is to not think about catching the Atlanta Braves, or the Pirates, or the Diamondbacks, or the Rockies, or the Reds. What the Washington Nationals need to think about is playing baseball. The numbers can be recited and rehashed and gone over again and again. The Nationals are in the lower half of the league in every meaningful offensive category, bullpen ERA, team errors, and so on and so on. Even four months of fantastic play won't erase those numbers. There is a strong likelihood that even if the Nationals play their best ball from here on out those numbers are so bad right now that there is no chance they will look good when the season ends.    

Look at Ian Desmond and his error total. He has seven errors. He made those errors and those seven errors will stick with him until the end of the season, but he has been stuck on seven errors since the second week of the season. Or look at Adam LaRoche who hit .330/.416/.608 in May but because of such a poor April his season numbers are a disappointing .243/.329/.454 when compared to what he did in 2012. Early bad numbers can hide good late numbers, and in order for the Nationals need to get on track they need to act like nothing happened. They need to pretend that they are entering today at 0-0 instead of 28-29. Ignore the record, ignore the stats, simply relax and play baseball. No matter the overall record every day resets to 0-0.  

The Nationals aren't going to go from one of the worst offensive teams in baseball to one of the best in one game or in one month. They are going to have to play as expected for the rest of the season to even have a chance at the Wild Card. Last season the 88 win Cardinals took the second Wild Card, but several teams are on pace to best that record and it is looking like a mid-90s win total is what is needed to make it to October. If the Nationals need to win 92 games they have to play .610 baseball over their remaining 105. That shouldn't be difficult for a team that was expected to play .635 baseball over the course of the season, but they have to start playing like that team.  

There are roster moves coming. Jayson Werth is returning today and with any hope it will mean the end to one of the underperforming relievers, Zach Duke or Henry Rodriguez, or one of the lackluster bench bats. Even if the Nats do decide to send Kobernus or Davis back down it isn't the end of the world. Werth's bat in right field is a great improvement over the .195/.286/.350 the Nats got from the position in May. Werth is the first of many injured players returning. Bryce Harper will be close to follow, Ross Detwiler is getting ready to come back, Christian Garcia is on a rehab assignment, Stephen Strasburg may miss a couple starts with his lat strain but it isn't a long term thing, and not a return from injury but Anthony Rendon is in AAA playing second base every day. By the middle of this month the Nationals are going to be a very different looking team.  

In order for that team to play up to expectations they need to forget the pre-season expectations. They need to act like April and May never existed and that today starts the first day of the rest of the Washington Nationals season. Everything that has transpired until now is meaningless. All that has meaning is now, and it is time for the Nationals to take advantage of the now and move the season in a positive direction. If they win tonight they will be 1-0 and a win tomorrow 1-0. From here on out every day is its own season and the Nats can only end the day 1-0 or 0-1, and it all resets to 0 when the sun rises on the next day.

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