September 30, 2007

A Salute to the Nats...

How often can you say that a team who only wins 73 games and loses 89 has overachieved? Answer... not very often.

That's the case with your 2007 Washington Nationals. This was a team that pundits had picked to be "historically bad" and to challenge the expansion Mets for worst record ever. In this very space in late April I predicted at best a 105-loss season for the Nats. Not only did the Nats avoid losing 100 games, they avoided losing 90 games, and further avoided the cellar in their division finishing in 4th place. After starting the season in a total tailspin, they played .500 baseball since May 11.

The Nats finished with a better record than the Giants, Pirates, Reds, Marlins, Royals, White Sox, Devil Rays, and Orioles. They tied records with the Astros. That's tied for 24th in the league. And yes, if you're counting, this team that J-Red has called AAAA (or worse) finished with a better record than the Orioles for the third straight year, or in other words, in all three years the Nats have been in D.C. The O's did outdraw the Nats by 2,000 fans a game, but that's not too hard to imagine the reason for that when 20 home dates draw 40,000 Yankee and Red Sox fans to Camden Yards.

The Nats spoiled the season for the Mets, going 5-1 against them down the stretch, including a series sweep on the road at Shea. And who will ever forget the series sweep at Camden Yards when the "Let's Go Nats" chant echoed off all the empty green seats and reverberated in the ears of all those in the warehouse who tried to keep DC from getting a team.

Manna Acta and Randy St. Claire basically used duct tape to cobble together a pitching staff this season. By May, four out of five of the original pitchers in the starting rotation were shelved with injuries. The Nats dug deep, found castoffs and called up unproven talent, and had guys who could get the team into the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings.

The team is going to spend in the offseason, and I would be more surprised if Aaron Rowand is not in a Nats jersey in April 2008 than if he is.

Now what is troubling for the Nats?

1) Attendance of 1.9 million this year at RFK. I have no doubt that attendance will skyrocket at the new stadium, which is going to be gorgeous. However, will these people keep coming if the Nats don't win after a few seasons? And how will these people get to and from the stadium?

2) The area around the new stadium... it MUST develop. Because it's going to be a logjam getting to and from the stadium on one subway line, the new stadium has to be in a neighborhood where people hang out at before and after the game (i.e. Camden Yards). It's not going to happen by next season. Hopefully by '09.

All in all though, it's been a hell of a season, it's been fun to root for the underdog, and the Nats have given me a lot of enjoyment. I have my worries about their future, but let's celebrate a great season that surpassed all expectations. GO NATS!

9 Responses:

J-Red said...

In related news, the Nats have executed Manny Acta's option, keeping him under contract through 2009. See here

Jeremy said...

Yeah, I saw that. And given that the Mets will be looking for a new manager by tomorrow, this is fantastic news. Acta is a wonderful manager.

I also forgot to add another concern and that is the fact that the Nats ranked 32nd in MLB in runs scored. That puts a lot of pressure on your pitching staff.

J-Red said...

I thought that was because no one in the Nationals organization can competently operate a tape measure or a laser distance finder, and RFK really measures 1632 feet in the power alleys.

"ben" said...

"...this team...finished with a better record than the Orioles for the third straight year, or in other words, in all three years the Nats have been in D.C."


J-Red, regarding the incorrect measurments, was it not Mussina who pulled out a measuring tape once to attack the O's?

We should get his Stanford educated measuring abilities over to the new stadium.

J-Red said...

Actually, Mussina pulled out the measuring tape to settle a different dispute with Angelos.

"ben" said...

I know you like how I set that one up on a tee for you.

J-Red said...

The thing is, I couldn't decide who I wanted to "win" between Moose and Angelos. Moose pitched (harhar) one of those Power of Living (through Christ) books. Angelos didn't pitch any books, though he'll tell anyone that Thank You for Smoking is the greatest film every created by man.

Russell said...

Another impressive year by the Nats. I hope they're able to stay healthy next week, and with a little more talent, who knows?

The real issue will be whether the Lerner group will spend enough to make the Nats competitive with the Mets, Phillies, and Braves, all of which have substantial payrolls.

"ben" said...

I hope they can stay healthy next week, too. It'd be sad if they all came down with the flu while watching the playoffs on T.V.

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