Following last night’s victory over the Baltimore/Washington/Pennsylvania/Delaware/Maryland/West Virginia/North Carolina Orioles (right, Pete?), the Nationals' record at mid-season is 32-49. This represents but a dropoff of one game from last season’s non-historical terribleness. The win, propelled by the ever-gelling lineup heart of Dukes-Milledge-Flores, puts the Nats not on pace for 100 losses! It’s quite the achievement, when you think about it.
Given last year’s annihilated-by-inuury pitching staff and this year’s annihilated every position conceivable, it’s really something the team will not be combining to lose 140 games in the two inaugural years of the Epoch of Manny. Someday, Manny and the World Champion Nats, powered by MVP Elijah Dukes, will look back fondly on such early and midsummer travails as the basis for an NL East dynasty. They’ll see such bad-at-the-time events as Austin Kearns and Paul Lo Duca missing substantial time (those “opportunities” Man Act waxed about telepathically) that opened the door for non-rotation in every outfield spot not occupied by Willy Mo Pena, securing Milledge and Dukes in their starting roles and providing the spark for the growing 2-3 threat in the lineup.
Likewise with $5 million man Lo Duca, whose injury gave away his job to Jesus Flores, who should have had it all along. The true steal from the Mets, Flores is aptly filling the 4th or 5th spot on a nightly basis.
So with 81 games down, there is no appreciable step back to be found. Some may note, perhaps legitimately, that no true steps are being taken forward, but as ChariManny said, how can he/we evaluate this team until he has his guys back? Put an improving-when-he-was-hurt Ryan Zimmerman back in the lineup, along with a fully healthy Nick Johnson (possibly still only a theoretical being), and the team could be well on its way to improving upon last season's history-defying pace. All things considered, this team is showing the same resilience it did last year, going through an almost identical chronological order of struggle-excel-struggle-tread water….as its predecessor. All that’s left now is to keep the losses under 100 (or 90), ruin another team’s postseason dreams again in September, and continue to look to that bright future.
Boz detailed the coming magnificence nicely in his latest column. Ignore the stuff about the non-Washington team (except the part that mentions a score of 30-3) and it’s a great read.