When the 2013 season began back in April, the Washington Nationals, for good reason, were considered the World Series favorites. Since they didn’t win the championship, however, many are calling this season a failure. Based on the past successes of the Nationals, or lack thereof, it was a pretty successful failure.
All offseason long, bloggers and experts will look back on the season and try to figure out what went wrong. The Nationals, on paper, were one of the most talented teams in baseball; some could even call them a juggernaut. At the plate, they had the likes of Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth, with newcomers Denard Span and Anthony Rendon having solid seasons, as well. On the mound, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg all showed that they had the goods to be considered for the NL Cy Young award.
In the end, for whatever reason, this team of highly talented and very young super stars fell well short of the “World Series or bust” mark proclaimed by now former manager Davey Johnson. They finished 10 games back of the Atlanta Braves in the NL East, and four games back of the Cincinnati Reds for the remaining NL Wild Card spot. They were struggling to stay close to the .500 mark at one point, before going 18-8 in the month of September to finish 10 games above .500 at 86-76.
Two years ago, the 2013 season would have been something to celebrate. Instead, it’s left Washington fans scratching their heads and wanting more. Since coming to D.C. in 2005, the Nationals had only had one season where they finished at or above the .500 mark prior to 2012, and that was the inaugural 2005 season where they finished 81-81. In 2008 and 2009, the team struggled to just 59 wins and finished last in the NL East in five of their first six seasons in D.C.
In 2012, the squad really took off, with Davey Johnson in his first full season at the helm. They finished the regular season with the MLB‘s best record, and made their first playoff appearance. In the end, they were eliminated by the St. Louis Cardinals in one of the most emotional night’s in D.C. sports history.
If you compare the 2013 season to the Nationals’ past, there’s a lot of to be proud of and happy about. Their 86 wins rank them at second only to 2012 since they moved to D.C. They finished second in the NL East and gave fans something to cheer about in the last two months of the season, even if in the grand scheme of things the wins were meaningless.
Before we criticize and point fingers, let’s take a moment to appreciate and recognize what the Nationals were able to accomplish. After the All Star break, most of baseball wrote them out of the playoff picture, but they had hope, and eventually took D.C. on quite a ride in their quest for a playoff berth.
There will be a time to play the blame game, but that is not right now. Tomorrow, we’ll get down to the nitty gritty and dig into the season to find all the flaws. Tonight, let’s celebrate the successful failure that was the 2013 season for the Washington Nationals.
See you in the Spring, fellas.