Buying into the Nats
Call it a guilty pleasure or masochism. It doesn't matter. For some reason I can't stop listening to DC sports talk radio. I know I should and with hundreds of XM channels that I pay for every month I really should, but I can't. I want to hear the dozens of minutes they spend talking about the Washington Nationals each day and the callers they have on the airwaves. Don't ask me why. These aren't even the Phil Wood callers who have at least spent the last three hours watching baseball. They may see something completely different from me in the game but at least they've watched. The biggest topic of conversation this entire season is how disappointing the Nationals are in one way or another. For a reminder the Washington Nationals have the third best winning percentage in the NL, the best run differential, have scored the fifth most runs per game, have allowed the fewest, and since June 1 have played .611 baseball. And by the way they've done this while being completely healthy for nine games and seven innings. The Washington Nationals are a very good baseball team that has overcome a lot to be a very good baseball team. A story that plays well in the traditional media, but for whatever reason isn't.
One of the big complaints about the Nationals is they aren't consistent. I have no idea what this means. They score just over four runs a game and allow just under 3.5 so I guess true consistency would be to win every single game 4-3. The real reason is baseball is still a new thing to most sports fans in the DC area. Sure they've watched it and been aware of it their entire lives, but follow the daily workings of a baseball team is far different than being a casual fan. Buying into the team comes with the understanding that baseball as a whole is a sport of inconsistency. As the movie says, "Some days you win, some days you lose, and some days it rains."
"Momentum is tomorrow's starting pitcher," Another old saying you'll hear quite often if you watch the game for around 15 minutes, and it's true. No baseball team is going to win every day or score against Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright the way they could against Josh Fogg or Bruce Chen. Expecting consistency from baseball is like expecting Miller Lite to actually taste great. It isn't going to happen.
The real reason people won't buy in fully to baseball is it is difficult. Watching baseball is a nightly ritual during the summer months. It demands three hours of our attention every evening and for the truly dedicated there is no escape. We may go out to dinner or try to go on a walk through the woods, but modern technology will always remind us with periodic beeps of any scoring change. Baseball is a 162 days a year chore. It is sometimes enjoyable, but even when your team is good there are 60-70 times a year it is utter misery. That is difficult for the casual sports fan to buy into.
With the investment of time that baseball demands the casual sports fan demands to be shown their investment will be rewarded, and not just with watching a team win more games than they lose. They want a championship, and baseball is the toughest sport to do that in. The St. Louis Cardinals have had 19 winning seasons over their previous 25. In that span they've made the post-season eleven times, been to the World Series four, and won two. Two World Series Championships out of 19 winning seasons and eleven post-season berths over the last 25 years. The St. Louis Cardinals are one of the best run and most successful organizations in baseball and they've won two championships in the past 25 years.
Baseball is not a sport where you can wait for the team to prove they can win it all. If you do that then they'll win it all, you'll hop on the bandwagon, and never get the reward you were seeking in the first place. Baseball is a sport that rewards you for being along for the ride.