Nationals Baseball: Stream of Nonsenseouss

Friday, September 05, 2014

Stream of Nonsenseouss

I looked into Ian Desmonds's eyes as he stood in the batters box.  DRIVE.

I looked into Jordan Zimmermann's eyes as he leaned forward on the mound. FOCUS.

I looked into Anthony Rendon's eyes as he inched in, waiting for the bunt.  DETERMINATION.

I remember the last time I stared into this team's soul to gauge whether they were ready to take the next step.  It was October of 2012 and what I saw left me somewhere between frightened and revolted. Gio Gonzalez's eyes? APATHY.  Ryan Zimmerman's? DOUBT. Jayson Werth's? FEAR. Despite leading the majors with 98 wins, and taking Game 1 of the NLDS I not only knew they were going to lose, I knew that they SHOULD lose. They didn't deserve to win anything. They weren't a team. They were a collection of cowards who happened to get lucky over and over and over and over and over again.

I was proven right the next year when they failed to make the playoffs, a clear indication of a team that couldn't play the right way when they had the weight of a target on their back, something that all true winners need to be able to do. Not only was this bunch feeling the pressure of being the lead dog and trying too hard, they were thinking winning would just come to them and they weren't trying hard enough. It takes a special team of failures to manage that double.

It continued into 2014 when they sputtered around for the first half of the season just because they had a couple of boo-boos. They would go on to take 1st place soon after and my feeling for them started to turn a little. Still, I could tell they still wouldn't fit in the World Series. They might end up winning a lot of games and making it, but it wouldn't be right, you know? Even if they could find success through talent, this wasn't a championship TEAM. They might earn it on the field, but they hadn't earned it yet in their hearts.

It wasn't until they started winning ALOT did I see the change in their demeanor, in their manner, in their very essence. Shows of anger after big outs no longer meant the players were letting emotions get the best of them, they now meant the the players cared. Fun celebrations and smiles in the clubhouse were no longer displays of being content with minor successes, they were signs of looseness on the big stage. It takes a trained baseball mind who has spent years watching the sport to notice those changes, but they were apparent to anyone that knows this wonderful game.

It was then after that big 10-0 run that I saw that they were finally a team that if they ended up in the World Series I wouldn't retch with disgust at their good fortune. Teams don't luck into winning a lot. You don't just bring together your roster healthy for the first time all year, expectedly play better in every aspect of the game, and wins follow as if the baseball gods sprinkled fairy dust on you.  No, winning like the Nats have recently... that's a sign of something bigger, something your fancy WARS and BOBOPs can't measure. It's a sign that this group of dirt dogs and red asses is utterly and completely, in the depths of its very being, A World Series Team.

Unless they start losing a bunch or get swept in that first playoff series. Then they are losers who tricked me.


Vdub said...

Did Boz steal your account and make a post?

Jimmy said...

Jesus It's like you have absorbed Bosworth except you didn't gain his exceptional writing ability and traded yours for a 9th grade English student. I did enjoy the shtick though. Although you forgot how Strasburg will fold like a chair and Harper is a punk kid who needs to be benched.

JWLumley said...

Clap......clap......clap.....clap....clap...clap..clap. Well played sir, well played. Excellent article Mr. Boswell, excellent article.

cass said...

BOBOP needs to be a stat.

Although I liked your overall conclusions, I'm going to have to make one nitpick with your analysis. You need to cite more stats to back up your conclusions, preferably using arbitrary endpoints to ensure they back up what you are saying no matter what. Split up the team's head-to-head record against its rival in the exact way that it will be a losing record and then just barely a winning record, even if you have to make the cut in the middle of a series. Be sure to use lots of "in the last X number of games" when using different numbers for X would all generate different conclusions.

If you sprinkled in some of these highly refined stats liberally, then it'd take your column to the next level and you too could be a respected baseball man.

(Women can't be respected as baseball thinkers. We all know they're just talking about shopping when they attend games, thanks to esteemed broadcaster Rob Dibble.)

Harper said...

Jimmy - Strasburg used to fold like a chair and Bryce did need to be benched. But Now Strasburg is rounding into the rotation leader he always should have been and Bryce is once again back on the cusp of being a superstar. Do you even watch the games?!?

Harper said...

cass - you're right the editor made me make some cuts for length. I was going to bring up how the Nats were first in P sacrifice bunts, and how they started 2-8 in extra innings games but purposely started trying and have won the last 6.

I don't agree with your take on women though. They are even less likely to get caught up in the stats and they are better at looking at teams like families.

A Fly Moses said...

My favorite part of this is that (after leading MLB in wins and run differential--now suddenly Boz's favorite indicator), the two playoff wins of that imposter 2012 team were a late inning comeback and a 2-1 walkoff--also known as the exact type of win that got Boz on the 2014 bandwagon.

A Fly Moses said...

More seriously, though, I don't really begrudge people trying to talk themselves into this obviously silly narrative so as to convince themselves that 2014 won't end the same way as 2012; I'll probably end up doing it too. #narrativegrit: the opiate of the masses! (and hack columnists)

Unknown said...

Nice pick me up article. I predict these extra inning/walk off wins we have been seeing these last couple weeks has really brought the team together and will give them much needed confidence next month.

Carl said...

Obligatory link to the Hyperbole and a Half "alot" post. Glad to hear the Nats won one. I hope they can take good care of it.

Bryan said...

As others have said, this was excellent.

You did miss how these guys, who have been facing big moments all through HS, college, the minors and then the majors, might for some reason not be able to handle big moments all of sudden, just because, you know ... recent.

JE34 said...

So great! Delicious lemonade made from Boz's latest lemon.

But the validity of the Nats’ case is now clear. Having eight top players sent to the disabled list didn’t derail but merely steeled them.

Ah, journalism!

Bjd1207 said...

Soooo good. Those introductory lines are like what you'd hear in the voiceover for the commercials..."GRIT. It's why you love the Nationals"

John C. said...

Nicely done! I was really irritated after reading the first full paragraph. It wasn't until the third paragraph that I started to suspect satire, which the fourth paragraph confirmed. Well played.

And I say that as someone who enjoys reading Boswell. Even though his columns often irritate me, I am aware that having to produce so much material so regularly makes some quality variation almost inevitable. And he can write.

Yes, he's often accused of being full of himself. But since I can fairly be charged with the same trait from time to time, I don't point fingers for that sort of thing :)

Zimmerman11 said...

Still killing it in the comments. This was Harper's best blog entry ever!

"They are even less likely to get caught up in the stats and they are better at looking at teams like families."


Anonymous said...

Line of the season: "They might earn it on the field, but they hadn't earned it yet in their hearts."

Well done sir

a m s said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
a m s said...

Love the satire. Bos asks all the great questions. WHAT ABOUT THE CLAW?

"But like a Koufax or Johnson in the past, Kershaw is the toughest task of all. How does The Claw fit into Washington’s future?"

Anonymous said...

OH no! Except one thing: Boz is right. OH (other Harper) hates to admit it, but this team is not the 2012 crew that peaked a little too early and did not quite exude confidence they knew how to win the close ones. Harper is peaking now. LaRoche is peaking. The much maligned (on this page anyway) Span continues an all star second half with no sign of cooling. The always great Zimm is in the wings. And Straus finally seems to be pulling up his britches. Etc. And hey what about that Matt Williams? It feels right, admit it.

Froggy said...

They absolutely must get rid of Sorryano!

I have been right all season about this guy...he is NOT a closer. He should pitch the 7th and never see the 9th inning for the rest of the season.

Richard Parker said...

I looked into Rafael Sorriano's eyes and I saw:

Froggy said...

July: 8.1IP 10h 4bb ERA 5.40
Aug: 12.1IP 14h 2bb ERA 4.38
Sep: 2.2IP 5h 2bb ERA 13.50 2BS out of three chances

How much sample size do you need before you call it...Sorryano is not a closer.

Anonymous said... your wish :-)

Chas R said...

OMG... I just returned from 2 weeks out of the country and started to catch up on my Nats reading when I ran across this! Thank god for the comments, I thought Harper had LOST IT. Very funny!

Zimmerman11 said...

So if the Nats win 11 of the last 21, then the Braves would have to win 17 of their last 19... or .894.. My magic number is two... using the Nats go .500/ Braves go 1.000 method. And in Harper's language, that's two unlikely things... so as long as the Nats don't get swept by Atlanta, then it's time to rate the superhunks... so Werth, please hit three homers on Monday and we can start talking about the postseason rotation and lineup :)

Anonymous said...


Boswell is someone who has written beautifully about baseball for decades. He is an articulate and intelligent observer and student of the game.

Armed with the knowledge he has gained through his close association with the game over the years, he writes columns that go far beyond the mathematical probabilities measuring whether this team or that individual is accomplishing this or that goal.

He is not afraid to try to find insights that are linked to the human aspects of the game -- and he's not afraid to use quotes from baseball people (you know, the stupid people) to drive home the point he is trying to make.

In doing so, he overreaches at times. But he has provided countless insights, along with wonderful anecdotes and quotes. He is brilliant at taking baseball beyond the stats to places that make the game a much more enjoyable experience for its fans.

I've read some very illuminating articles by you, and you clearly know your stuff. But this compulsion to put down Boswell, in as snarky a manner as possible, that so many in Washington feel the need to do, is, as I wrote at the top, pathetic.

Besides which, do you really think this is funny? Is there anything in here that most of your commenters couldn't have come up with? For that matter, don't you think most of them could have written a piece mocking your approach to the game with about the same amount of true humor?

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