Thoughts on a terrible weekend for the Nationals

Well, the worst case scenario is upon us. We are one game away from a relatively dominating 96 win season being relegated to a footnote. Baseball is unfair. A six-month season can be rendered irrelevant in three games. But that’s the system we have, and nobody would be complaining about it if the Nationals were up 2-0 instead of down 0-2.

Here are a couple of other thoughts before we move on to Doug Fister and Game 3:

It’s not over. Not even close. With Doug Fister in Game 3, Gio in Game 4, and Strasburg and/or Jordan Zimmermann in Game 5, the psychological hole for fans is far greater than the actual hole this team is in. If Doug Fister wins tonight, the narrative completely shifts and the pressure is on the Giants to close out the series at home. This thing isn’t over. It’s a five game series for a reason.

Matt Williams made the right call. This has already been debated to death and probably will be even more so if the Nationals lose this series, but Matt Williams made the right decision putting in Drew Storen in the ninth inning Saturday night. I tweeted my approval at the time and I did so for a reason. Too often we base our decisions on the outcome, when really it’s the thought process before the decision that really matters. On Saturday night, I think the odds favored Storen facing Buster Posey with a man on first base. It’s that simple. I could provide a long explanation for why, but at this point it feels like the battle lines are already drawn. I just think it’s unfortunate that Matt Williams will continue to get killed for this decision, when it probably was the right one. He’s made plenty of mistakes this season, but this wasn’t one of them. He put his guys in the best position to win the game, and they didn’t do it.

The relay. If the Nationals had won in extra innings, that Bryce Harper to Ian Desmond to Wilson Ramos relay in the ninth inning would have become legendary.

The uniforms. I’m disappointed the Nationals wore their red jerseys Friday and Saturday. In every way, the home white jersey is a superior look. A team should always wear it’s best uniform on the biggest stage.

The crowd. It’s unfortunate that a six-hour baseball game gave birth to or–more accurately–reinforced the tired narrative that this city doesn’t care about baseball. For years, people used lack of fan support as a reason to keep baseball away from DC. When the Expos finally arrived in 2004, the fan support given to the Nationals shattered that myth. This fan base continues to grow and the crowds this weekend, just like in the 2012 playoffs, were impressive. It’s a shame, then, to see so many people take shots at the Nationals fan base when empty seats started to become visible on the TV as Saturday’s game went into a 5th and 6th hour. I will note that many of the empty seats were in the Diamond Club and President’s Club, where fans had a place to warm up. And many of the empty seats were in the high upper deck, where many fans presumably retreated to the lower deck to escape the wind. I can tell you that while there were plenty of empty seats in the late extra innings, the concourses were full of people–many of whom were waiting in line at the bathroom. The narrative that 50% of the fans went home is wrong. Yes, some fans left early, but considering the circumstances, the Nats fans showed some pretty good loyalty on Saturday, sitting through terrible weather (and terrible baseball) for six hours, only to watch their team lose a heartbreaker.

It should also be noted that I don’t judge the fans who did leave. As a general rule in life, I don’t judge anyone’s decisions without knowing their life situation. Nobody planned for a six-hour game. If someone had child care issues, does that make them a bad fan for leaving the game? What about people who brought little kids? Are they supposed to make their child sit in the cold for six hours? A lot of the uneducated criticism in this case, particularly coming from people sitting in a press box being paid to attend the game, is pretty distasteful.

The players. If the Nationals don’t show some fortitude in San Francisco, it’s possible we’ve seen the last game in DC for some very prominent and well-liked Nationals. There’s a presumption that Mike Rizzo will bring back the 2014 team largely intact, but that’s simply not his style. I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of the following Nationals in another uniform next season: Adam LaRoche (free agent), Denard Span (free agent w/ one-year team option), Ian Desmond (one season until free agency), Jordan Zimmermann (one season until free agency), and Tyler Clippard (one season until free agency). All of the above players could easily be brought back on a one year basis, but Mike Rizzo thinks long-term and isn’t afraid to trade a small short-term gain for a larger long-term benefit (example: the Mike Morse trade in 2013). Other players who are almost definitely gone next season: Scott Hairston, Ross Detwiler, Rafael Soriano, and maybe Kevin Frandsen.

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