Friday, August 26, 2005

The Time of Your Life

Redlegs 5, Nationals 3

Sure, they're still in it. Two and half games out of the Wild Card is not an overwhelming obstacle, not by any means.

But when you fail to win the series you are supposed to win, like this week's against the Reds, realistically your chances don't look very good.

The Nats will spend the next week playing against the two best teams in the National League, St. Louis and Atlanta. At the end of the next week, what is now a fear could be turned into a cold, harsh reality. The Nats could be dead and buried. Unless they can dig deep and find something that's been missing for the past two months, stick a fork in 'em.

After a 100-win pace to the first half of the season, the Nats are now looking at a .500 record (81 wins) as a possibility. That would entail a 15-20 finish to the season. The way they're playing now, it's possible they won't manage even that. Here's hoping they keep playing for pride, long after playoff chances have flown by.

So what should we be pleased with? Before the season, every single last one of us would have been thrilled (or at least satisfied) with 81 wins. But after a 50-win first half of the season, our expectations skyrocketed. Was that unreasonable? Maybe, but personally I don't think so. Half a season is a large sample of games. Not even Mr. Superfan thought a 100-win season was possible. But 90 wins wasn't out of the question. And that should have been enough to challenge strongly for the Wild Card.

Some fans might tell you that we should be happy that baseball is back in DC and not worry too much about how the team is doing, especially given the circumstances. That's very true, at least to a degree.

But there's nothing wrong with wanting your team to do well. There's nothing wrong with being upset with a loss, and there certainly is nothing wrong with second-guessing the moves of a manager or GM. That's part of being a fan.

Being grateful for having a team and criticizing them are not two mutually exclusive sentiments. Both can be done. In fact, both should be done. Satisfaction with the status quo are how medicore sports franchises perpetuate themselves. Lack of fan involvement and passion in the fate of the team is why owners neglect their franchises. Then the team is caught in a vicious cycle of losing, which can drive away fans. Then, if worse comes to worse, the franchise moves. Like maybe to Minnesota or Texas.

So let's be grateful for the Nationals and remember this season fondly. But let's not be satisfied with a few months of winning. We can do better. Either way, we're in for the long haul.


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