In the coming days you’ll be reading a lot of pop psychology horseshit. In fact, in his bayside manse, Tom Boswell is already donning his overalls.
By almost any measure this team stunk. Oh, sure. There were some fun moments. And this torrid stretch that filled all us jaded old bastards with a glimmer of hope was fun — a call-back to last season where every game felt like a likely win.
But they came up short.
You’ll hear a bunch of horseshit reasons. They couldn’t manage expectations. They felt too much pressure. They needed more swagger. It was just dumb fucking luck.
I’m not going to say it wasn’t any of those things.
But it wasn’t.
Here’s what it was. Here’s what we leaned.
* Patience is a virtue, but stubbornness isn’t. Rizzo’s patience is an admirable trait. But if he had made some of those moves to shore up the pen three or four weeks earlier… Or if he had improved the bench two months earlier…
* Who’s on your depth chart matters. Players, even good ones, get injured. A championship calibre team cannot have a backup second baseman playing outfield regularly.
* Trust modern medicine. How many games did Bryce Harper fritter away on the bench afraid of cortisone for his knee? Then late in the season he rand around with a gimpy hip for weeks before getting another boost and returning to normal. He probably wasted 30 games either unavailable or hitting like a backup second baseman.
* Trust your lyin’ eyes. I can understand Danny Espinosa not wanting to cut first and ask questions later. But the way he, a player obviously degraded by injury, was jerked around and jerked himself around reflects poorly on everyone. Rizzo. Espi. The doctors. The trainers. The agents. Everyone handled that as poorly. And the Nats lost 2-4 more games than they should have because of it.
* We missed the Gorz. Who your fifth and sixth arms are matters. When you have a pretty good offense as the Nats do at times, there’s value in having a guy who can keep the door slightly ajar when your SP leaves in the 6th down 4-2. Too often someone like Mattheus or Abad or whoever turned that 4-2 game into a 7-2 game. Obviously you can’t have a lockdown reliever for every situation but the quality of those performances matters. They’re small. But in aggregate they can make a big difference.
* Championship clubs have little room for error. There’s a bigger downside to experiments. They reduce your margin for winning. See: Rodriguez, Henry. And what about Morse? Great trade on paper. But they sacrificed depth and certainty for a pretty good prospect. That’s Rizzo: 2013 is in the bag, so let’s see about 2017.
* Different managers are appropriate for different situations. We should have learned this with Manny. But Davey was the right guy for last year. He’s a good sorter, figuring out who’s useful and not and inspiring confidence. Was he the right manager this year? It didn’t feel that way. Especially with his constant retirement talk and increasingly bizarre in-game moves.
* Health matters. Aside from Bryce, look at how Zimmerman’s season turned around. He started the season fielding like Edgar Martinez. By the end he was hitting like him. Same for Werth. His power wasn’t there last year presumably from the wrist injury. That came back and bang!
There are others we can draw. The importance of walks in sustaining rallies and tiring pitchers, which we didn’t do the first half. How schedules can and do affect your perception of streakiness. How July taught us that even when everything is in place, nothing is guaranteed.
But that’s enough for now. The season isn’t quite over yet. Some baseball is better than no baseball. And there’s five glorious days of it left. Enjoy it.