Washington Nationals: Flatitude

Tom NataliCorrespondent IJune 6, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 04:  Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals watches play from the dugout during a game against the New York Mets at Nationals Park on June 4, 2013 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

I sat in the corner of my bedroom one night. My legs were folded; my back was against the wall as I stared into the dark nothingness on that October evening.

An hour before, I just watched one of the biggest playoff collapses in recent baseball history, as relief pitcher Drew Storen was one strike away from advancing the Washington Nationals to the National League Championship Series.

It was on that night that I realized how incredibly evil baseball can be at times. Unlike other sports, watching your baseball team lose is like taking five shots to the chest. Every waking second is pure agony.

After that dreadful defeat, this was (and still is) considered to be a stepping stone in the Nationals development. Going into the 2013 season, the Nats were labeled as a legitimate contender. Scouts, analysts and fans alike had expectations that were above and beyond repeating as NL East champs.

Two months into the season, this team has been consistently underachieving.

They can’t hit. They can’t stay healthy. They can’t manufacture runs, their pinch hitters aren’t producing, their defense is sloppy and the bullpen is nowhere near as good as it used to be.

To put it bluntly the Nats need to wake up. They’re complacency is no longer acceptable.

A baseball season is a long grind; there are going to be ups and downs, and ballplayers of all caliber understand that the occasional slump will beset them during a 162-game schedule. But after a certain period of time, the talent on a defending division winner needs to play to its potential.

On the other hand, we have to consider the possibility that last year’s 98-win team an anomaly. Is this what we are to expect of the Nationals? Just .500 baseball for the duration of the year?

If that’s the case then that’s extremely disappointing.

So what’s management doing about it? They’ve already set down or waived pitchers (Yunesky Maya, Zach Duke and Henry Rodriguez), Danny Espinosa is back on the disabled list and the franchise’s top prospect Anthony Rendon might be here to stay.

And what happens? They get blown out by an inferior New York Mets team and the batting lineup continues to get dominated by less-than-average pitching.

Now with both Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper on the disabled list, it appears that the Nats are simply snakebit—that they have lost the fire they had last summer.

It goes to show you that talent alone will not win you ballgames; that’s what is both exciting and frustrating about this sport in general.

But the inconsistency needs to stop. The Nationals need to get out of this funk and play up to their potential. Already bumped down to third place (which used to be considered improvement during the Jim Bowden days), 90-plus wins appears farther and farther away.

This couldn’t have happened at a worse time either. Right when the Nats were developing a passionate and loyal fanbase, they test the new faithful with mediocrity. In Washington, if you aren’t good, the general public won’t watch.

Looking good on paper doesn’t mean anything (just ask a Redskins fan), but there are no more excuses for this baseball team. Either improvements are made, or it’s just another poor season in Washington.