October 18, 2007
The Washington Nationals began their third year with decidedly lower expectations, as the new owners made it clear that they were devoting most of their resources to rebuilding the franchise's decrepit farm system. Yet against all odds, the motley crew of nobodies, has-beens, and wanna-be's finished the 2007 season with a better win-loss record than eight other teams. The biggest surprise was that the pitching rotation performed quite well for the most part, as Jason Bergman, Matt Chico, and even Jason Simontacchi earned plaudits. (Some of the rookies will need more practice in the minors.) Dmitri Young, signed as an (unwanted) free agent to fill in for first baseman Nick Johnson (recovering from a broken leg), was leading in the NL batting race for several weeks, and was the sole National chosen for the 2007 All Star Game. At the end of the season he was named the NL Comeback Player of the Year. It was pretty ugly early in the season, however, as the Nationals lost nine of their first ten games, and then lost the first eight games in May. It appeared that the worst-case scenario was coming to pass, with the Nationals doing even worse than the 2003 Tigers (43-119). But from May 11 on, they played very respectably, for the most part, winning exactly half of their games for the rest of the season (64-64). The high point was in early August, when they had a six-game winning streak. The road trip at the end of that month was brutal, however, as they got swept by the Rockies and then the Dodgers. In late September the Nats played the role of spoiler in several key games with the Mets and Phillies, having the final say in who won the National League East divisional title. It brought them a lot of favorable attention, and for the first time they ended up the season out of the cellar, taking fourth place, three games ahead of the Marlins. All in all, not too shabby.
(Home games unless indicated by "away.") Other moments we would just as soon forget. The following summary table has been included on the new Washington Nationals page, and can also be compared to the table I compiled last year. While I was at it, I also revised the Baseball in D.C. and Baseball in D.C. news chronology pages.
|Month||Wins||Losses||NL East place
SOURCE: My unofficial daily tabulations from MLB Gameday stats and Washington Post.
The Cleveland Indians will try to nail down the AL pennant at home in Jacobs Field this evening, and it's a do-or-die situation for the Red Sox. Is Manny Ramirez worried? Not a bit. In fact, he is acting quite nonchalant about the prospect of elimination. See MLB.com.
Minnesota Twins star Torii Hunter said he wouldn't mind playing for the Washington Nationals next year, partly because Dmitri Young is a good friend of his. The problem is, the Nationals owners would be reluctant to pay him as much as he could get from other teams. See MLB.com.