The Washington Nationals clinched a post season spot Thursday night. From their attitude the team wants and expects a lot more.
Whether it was manager Davey Johnson or third baseman Ryan Zimmerman every member of the Nationals seems to feel that locking up a playoff spot is nice, but there are other goals to be met. The first is winning the National League East.
At the moment, Washington is 91-58 and 5 1/2 games up on the second place Atlanta Braves. Their magic number for clinching the NL East pennant is eight. The Nationals know that winning the division is important, because it will allow them to avoid a one game wildcard playoff. By winning the East they are guaranteed at least three games in the post season. It doesn’t take a math major to figure out that three games are better than one.
The next thing that Washington would like to do is finish with the number one overall seed. Right now they have the best record in baseball, but the Cincinnati Reds are right on their heels. The Reds have a record of 91-59 and are half a game behind the Nationals. If Washington can finish ahead of Cincinnati they would have home field throughout the playoffs. Since the NL won the all-star game Washington would have home field in the World Series.
There is no sport where home field is more important than baseball. It is the only one in which the home team always decides when the game ends.
Though most of the team is young and has no postseason experience the Nationals feel they can do some damage in October. If the regular season is any indication they may be right. Washington has a winning record in every month. They have only been swept four times. Their second half winning percentage is higher than it was in the first. In a sport where consistency is a key component, the Nationals have been more than up to the task.
Washington is not a team that is just happy to be there. They have high expectations and plenty of confidence. Both have been instilled by Johnson. He has the team believing that they can win the NL pennant and World Series. It is almost similar to the job Johnson did while managing the New York Mets in the early 1980′s. There he got a young team to believe in itself. In Washington Johnson has done the same.
Only time will tell if the young Nationals can reach all of their goals. They have set the bar high, as all good teams should.
The Nationals are happy to be in the 2012 post season, but their attitude speaks to wanting much more.