NL East Update: Washington Nationals and Fans Waiting to See the Invisible

Matthew P. ParkerContributor IJune 20, 2011

Jayson Werth looks on from right field on Sunday June 19 as the Nationals fell short of winning 9 in a row.
Jayson Werth looks on from right field on Sunday June 19 as the Nationals fell short of winning 9 in a row.Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Monday, June 20, 2011

Yesterday I wrote an article on how the Washington Nationals are playing for a future above .500. 

And yesterday their eight-game win streak ended, and they failed to break even.

The Nationals took two of three from the Baltimore Orioles, but lost yesterday’s Father’s Day game 7-4. The Nationals had 3 errors and only recorded one strikeout. 

Every ball club has those days, and the Nationals most recent mulligan came when they had a break-even opportunity.

I say that not to get down on the Nationals. If you read the article I wrote yesterday, you will see that I am optimistic about the Nationals' 2011 season and beyond. 

Let us take a look at where the team was three weeks ago and get a taste of the Nationals fan base.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Tonight, not yet June, I sit in my living room listening to the Washington Nationals against the San Diego Padres, time 7:07 pm. 

I don’t have to be at the game, but in section 311, I know exactly what just took place.

Just before the first pitch—with emotions high because it’s a holiday weekend in the nation’s capital; not because the Nationals are 9.5 games behind the NL East-leading Phillies and 7 games below .500—a middle-aged man with weathered skin and missing teeth stood up. He was likely wearing a Redskin’s hat and a nondescript t-shirt.

His glasses are odd, from the '70s, and his appearance atypical to the niche of Nationals fans.

This man stood up just after the Nationals rushed the field, right before the first pitch was thrown, score card in hand where he scribbles minutiae stats when he yelled out with a growling voice, “And now, pitching for your Washington Nationals, Number 31, Johhhhn Lannan!”

The man likely received odd looks from those around him because the subdued crowd in section 311 was taken off guard. And then as I have seen him do before, he scuttled slowly back to his seat and watched the game with an ever-moving pen filling his ruled page, lines and scratch marks making up a score book.

As the game goes on, this man goes unnoticed until he stands again to announce a pitching change. And if he is lucky there will be a few people that cheer him when he proclaims his announcement and urges an inappropriate joke hoping for a laugh.

But most likely, on an ominous looking night with the wind picking up, he is an invisible fan in a drone-like crowd.

This night the Nationals win, 2-1 with a walk-off shot from Mike Morse to quell the stolid storm and outlast the Marlins, for surely the rain delay did not last long enough had you asked one of the fins.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Nationals enter the day just two games below .500, making up some good ground on their path to .500 since May 27th when I wrote of the Nationals struggling woes being seven games below .500, but despite their surge they are still 9.5 games back from the still-leading NL East Philadelphia Phillies.

Last year there was an article in the Washington Post regarding the lack of performance by the Nationals and the concurrent complacency and grace-giving attitude of the Nationals' fan base. 

Many may surmise that the under performance and complacency and grace giving attitude go hand in hand.

But To this point in the brief Nationals history their fan base has been comprised of fans that simply enjoy baseball; they do not go to games solely for wins.  

Maybe someday soon that will change. It will take winning, though, to expect winning.    

I beg you that the Nationals are on their way up, to over .500 ball just as I stated yesterday in my article “Washington Nationals Playing for a Future Above .500?”; that Mike Rizzo knows how to build an organization; and even though one cannot see it now, it is coming. 

So until we see Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg on the field at the same time, along with a few key veterans surrounding Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Mike Morse, Danny Espinosa, and company, the Nationals will have a hard time even dreaming of the letters “o-f-f-s” behind the word play.

Maybe 2013, maybe later, but until then the Nationals fans will remain complacent and grace-giving, simply enjoying baseball.

However, there is man in Section 311 that will be keeping score and announcing the game for all who care to listen, and all who want to see the invisibility in the world.