Philosophical questions irk me. Philosophers, in general, annoy me. Don’t get me wrong, I admire somebody making a living by asking questions about life without having to answer them with any tangible evidence. It seems like a pretty fun way to get people pondering about your whimsical, half-cooked theories. With the upcoming series between the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals, one such question does arise in my mind concerning the latter team: is it worse to fail at something or to never attempt it in the first place?
The 2013 Nationals season was supposed to be a continuation of their 98-win campaign from 2012. Although they couldn’t get past the St. Louis Cardinals, most pundits tabbed this team as the second coming of the 1927 New York Yankees. The World Series was a foregone conclusion, especially in D.C. The city became interested in baseball again. Their “fans” packed Nationals’ Park with all the Natitude of a frontrunner. However, by June, those same supporters were back to treating them as they have since the team moved to the city in 2005: as an afterthought.
I’ll admit, I was a bit worried about those Nats. After this disappointing season, however, it is evident that they never seemed comfortable handling expectations. Did they overachieve or did they peak last year? Did the preseason “‘World Series or bust” chatter ultimately doom this team? Or did they simply underestimate the Braves? I believe each of these questions hold some truths to them; this was — after all — their first time making the playoffs since moving to Washington. But as Braves fans know all too well, expectations do not always equate to on-field success.
Was it better to shoot for the moon this season or should expectations have been tempered a bit? For a young team new to winning, there could have been a more gradual approach to becoming a yearly threat to win it all. That is not saying a World Series title should have been out of the question; I’m merely suggesting that taking a more earthly view might have helped to keep the Braves from having their way in the National League East.
This team will be strong next year; I have no doubt about that. For now, though, let us reflect and celebrate the division being dominated by its more traditional powerhouse. As for the Nationals, philosopher Ludwig Borne may have summed up your season perfectly: “Losing an illusion makes you wiser than finding a truth.” I hope statements like that annoy you just as much as they rankle me.