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Let's face it, this youth-laden squad simply wasn't prepared for October baseball in 2012.
Sure, it took a late collapse in a do-or-die moment to keep the Nationals from competing for the ALCS, so, not by any stretch of the imagination am I saying they had no business being there. But there were several youngsters deprived of any previous postseason experience that just didn't quite seem prepared for the big stage.
Harper had just three hits and struck out eight times in 23 playoff at-bats. Espinosa was even worse, with one hit and seven strikeouts in 15 at-bats throughout the five-game series.
On the mound, Gonzalez walked a stunning 11 batters in his first 10 innings of postseason pitching. Zimmerman struggled, too, and Storen's historic collapse in the ninth inning of Game 5 against the Cardinals ultimately cost the Nats the series.
Let the past be the past, though. A sour ending to such a promising season is often a blessing in disguise. The Nationals know they have the talent to not only hang with, but defeat the big boys in Major League Baseball. They just lacked the big-game experience to get the job done when it mattered most.
2012 was an invaluable experience for this young squad on several accounts. You don't come two games shy of a 100-win season without learning a few things along the way.
Heading into 2013 and beyond, manager Davey Johnson will have a much better feel for his players, and his players will have a much better feel for themselves as well as their teammates.
Leaders are emerging, chemistry is building and winning habits are developing in the Nats' clubhouse. The heartache of 2012 will last through the winter, but once the snow melts and spring training gets underway, endless amounts of baseball optimism will flow through the nation's capital once again.