Mark Zuckerman, Washington Nationals Insider for CSN Mid-Atlantic, watched the Bryce Harper–Jonathan Papelbon thing and, for that matter, the Nationals’ entire season-long breakdown. And he diagnoses the problem.
It’s not Jonathan Papelbon or Bryce Harper. It’s not Matt Williams. It’s not Mike Rizzo. It’s not the owners. It’s everyone, as a group. A total systemic failure. And at the root root of that failure is one quality: arrogance. Arrogance on behalf of ownership and management, mostly, in the manner in which they approach the game and the manner in which they built the team. And an arrogance they have to drop if they want to move forward as an organization.
Whether that’s the sole problem or even the biggest problem is certainly a matter for debate. After all, it is a talented team that has underperformed. If they had performed better or the Mets not as well, we’d likely not be having this conversation right now. But it’s impossible to read this paragraph from Zuckerman and not say “well, yep,” even if one disagrees with whether it’s the root cause of anything:
Yet this organization, from top to bottom, too often acts like it has accomplished far more than it really has. The Nationals fly the largest division championship banner in baseball, high above the scoreboard in right-center field . . . They boast no fewer than three highly visible reminders to the world that they’ll be hosting the 2018 All-Star Game, an event that won’t take place for another 34 months. They spent the entire first half of this season playing intentionally annoying slow-jams over the PA system when the opposing team took batting practice, for no reason other than to thumb their noses at the rest of the league. They continue to show replay after replay after replay of Jayson Werth’s walk-off homer in Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS — an admittedly wonderful baseball moment — while completely ignoring what happened only 24 hours later to render that moment a mere footnote.
After establishing that the Nats haven’t done as much as they think they have and need to do more, Zuckerman talks about what they need to do. And wonders whether or not they have the fortitude to do it.
It’s a good read and gives Nats fans a lot to think about as they watch the club enter the offseason.