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Yes, the Nationals choked Friday night. But now's not the time for anger.
I feel you, Washington. I really do. My rat's nest is two hours away in central Virginia and even here I can feel the sad and miserable vibes radiating out of the Nation's Capital. Don't feel bad, I understand.
Your team was one game away, just one win from advancing in the playoffs. They had all the momentum; others were on the beach, but they had the wave to themselves. They came in like a raging Mongol horde. Sure, during the regular season there were bumps and bruises along the way, but they entered the postseason with the best record in the league, an accomplishment not to be ignored. The team played with pride and purpose. Even when their opponents actually gave them enough trouble to push the series to the limit no one was really concerned.
One more game. Just one more against a team that offered little in comparison during the regular season. What made it all seem sweeter was that the broader picture was bright. The other playoff teams seemed like mere traffic cones on the way to the championship. None of them had the strength and pizzazz to offer much opposition on the way to the ultimate prize. Just one more win, one more game and you could literally stencil the team's name in history. Just one more game-and they blew it.
Ladies and gentlemen, your 2009-10 Washington Capitals.
This is the part of the writing procedure where I tell you the similarities between that 2009 Caps team and the 2012 Washington Nationals. I can tell you there are absolutely none except both Washington teams were on the cusp of greatness and A.) during a pivotal game they choked against a team the really had no business being there, and B.) they aren't playing right now when they should be.
Yep, I said it. The Nats CHOKED. Here D.C. fans thought that dirty little word was reserved for the Atlanta Braves. Last Friday they learned differently. Hate me for stating it so bluntly, but the Nats choked. You couldn't call it anything else. What else do you call completely unraveling when there was a 6-0 lead in your home Park? All facets of their game completely broke down until the final and tragic conclusion that was hung on reliever Drew Storen's shoulders. They choked. Simple as that.
Yet, people still seem they are unwilling to accept that. They don't want it to be simple. People seem to be more than happy looking to the skies for excuses and black magic omens. Lord knows I've heard plenty since Friday. I've heard everything from bad umpiring calls to curses involving a team that never played a game in Washington in its existence.
It is understandable that people are upset. It is just part of the theatre of baseball. When there is a high there is always a low to balance it out. But I think I am more upset at all the excuses, stories and fabled curses that people are trying to bring to the forefront. I don't see what all that accomplishes and how that is productive. I think healing and "getting over" this past weekend's events will be a whole lot easier if we just lay the blame where it belongs: the Nats. They choked. Yes, our heroes who stunned us all season, had the best record in the Majors, dethroned the Philadelphia Phillies as N.L. East Champions and finally branded themselves on the hearts of D.C. sports fans choked. Disappointment is expected, but after all the team has accomplished in 2012, technically ahead of schedule, I just don't know how anyone can be truly angry.
We've heard it before, especially from parental units: "I'm not angry with you, just disappointed." And as we all know, for some reason we find that disappointment to be a whole lot worse than any potential anger. Afterwards we usually try to fix whatever we did to avoid any further "disappointment." Well, I am taking that stance when it comes to the 2012 Nats. I'm not angry with you, Nats, I'm just disappointed.
I'm not angry with the umpiring crew. If the game was truly lost on a blown call then the game should never have gotten to that point with a 6-0 lead to begin with. I'm not mad at the St. Louis Cardinals. They came in and did exactly what they were supposed to do. The Nats didn't. I could rant and rage at any multiple of things, but anger is useless. It can be used against you and I think Washington baseball fans are smarter than that.
I've proudly worn my Nats N.L. East Champion hat even after the devastating loss on Friday. Now is not the time to create myths and legends and now is not the time to go off on anger filled tangents full of excuses. This is only the beginning. Now is the time to be introspective. Now is the time to rest and refortify because before you know it, March will be here and Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg will be walking back onto a diamond in Viera to begin the dance all over again.
The Nationals will need all the support they can get in beginning to build upon a legacy that will one day wipe the 2012 postseason from memory.