Thursday, May 17, 2007

Unwilling to Be Doormats

We've touched on this before, but let's for a moment revisit a piece written in the spring by New York Post columnist Joel Sherman. In his little blog posting from spring training, he makes a number of disparaging comments about the Nationals, and who could really blame him. At the time, and still even now, it was more than fashionable to pile on the team, to make the ever-popular and utterly hilarious and original comparisons to the '62 Mets. He starts out with the obligatory shots at the Nats' pitching rotation, calling it "bad" and "dreadful." He further goes on to state that the crowning of an NL East champion could come down to whoever beats up on the Nats the most. Here are a bunch of gimme games, contenders. Whoever grabs the most easy wins takes it all.

One quarter of the way through the season, let's look at the numbers, and Mr. Sherman's predictions. The Nats have the worst record in the NL, that is undeniable. But, thanks to a recent resurgence, they find themselves within five games of eight other teams. They have a better record than the Royals in the AL, and are not too far behind a number of other teams there, including the darling Twins. As far as pitching, Shawn Hill and Jason Bergmann, two of the guys Sherman singled out as part of "...a rotation so bad that the Long Island Ducks laugh at it", have respective ERAs of 2.70 and 2.76.

Looking at the "who can beat up on the Nats the most?" question, ask the shell-shocked Braves how that's working out. They rolled into DC in first place, doubtlessly looking for some easy wins to pad their lead a little. Three losses in four games later, the Braves are lagging 1.5 behind the Mets. Today's impressive 4-3 win against Atlanta levels Washington's record against the NL East at 14-14, hardly the type of cakewalk the division was expected to have. In fact, the Marlilns and Phillies have worse division records. The Nats are secure in their .500 division record for a while, too, as they begin a long stretch against non-division foes.

Yes, at 15-26 there is still a long way to climb, and there may be a few more prolonged non-winning streaks, but it is (again) clear that these Nationals and the inimitable Man-Act will not simply roll over and fulfill everyone's prophesies of doom, much less give them an open road to the division title.

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