We all saw it last year, the season all Nationals, and hell, all baseball fans were waiting for and excited to see: a playoff bound Nationals team. The team was led by an upbeat new crew of stars to include Gio Gonzalez, Michael Morse, and a youthful duo of top prospects Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. The Nationals unfortunately went out in terrible style, blowing a solid 6 run lead to lose Game 5 against the St Louis Cardinals on an unforgettable 9th inning rally. This year, Davey said it, most sports experts said it, and Nats fans want it, the Washington Nationals in the World Series.
Now it is the end of April, the Nationals are now 13-13 after yet another loss to their Atlanta rivals, the Braves, and the Nationals have question marks. Yes, teams have started slower and still rebounded from a rough first month, players start in a slump and rebound, but most those teams are playoff veteran clubs. The Nationals biggest question mark for me remains in the club house...WHERE IS ALL THE FUN AND EXCITEMENT WE SAW LAST YEAR?!
No more talk of the "Goon Squad" on the bench led by Chad Tracy, no more Michael Morse and his goofy antics as the crowd chimed in to his walk up song "Take on me", everyone "Fearing the beard" that Jayson Werth sported, and Stephen Strasburg being held back, but fighting through an outstanding year. This year, it has been strictly business, the bench looks sullen, the team is lacking the spark they had last year, and worst of all, the Nationals are letting the experts choice get to them. The team is playing to win, rather than for the fun of the game. A great example is up the street off 95 in Baltimore. The team up there is still having fun after being eliminated by big time AL East the New York Yankees last season. Baltimore is going up there, swinging the bats, pitching hard, and goofing off, enjoying playing the game they love.
With this said, the Nationals have been beating themselves by not upholding the philosophy they had last season and let the attention of being a new juggernaut cripple them from making strides towards a repeat. If Strasburg would shake off everyones fear of "letting him loose" and the picks of being the Cy Young winner for the season while being the ace, then he would return to last years "go out and pitch" character he was. Harper shouldn't fret that people are worried about him having a so called sophomore slump, and just go out and play, which he has done so well. As well, the team needs to hit better with runners in scoring position and quit striking out in pivotal moments in the game and the bullpen needs to find the upbeat adrenaline rush they had last year. The biggest fear is whether Adam LaRoche can start hitting and live up to the contract he signed that made the fun loving Michael Morse expendable.
Shake it off Washington! Start May off anew and "Play Ball!"
Overall, this isn't the end of the world Nats fans, merely an observation that the jubilant Nats of last season need to regain their form of playing the game for the love of it, not for the curly W's that fans love to see. If they can focus on the love of the game, then the wins will come.