Sep 28

Nationals’ season sinks to unthinkable low

How did it come to this?

Six months after after Bryce Harper essentially called out a World Series championship in the preseason, the Washington Nationals were eliminated from postseason contention with more than a week to play.

Despite Harper’s MVP-caliber season and Max Scherzer‘s Cy Young-caliber first half, the defending National curly wLeague East champions haven’€™t even clinched a winning record with seven games to play.

After supposedly trading to shore up their bullpen weakness, the Nationals stood by as that bullpen failed spectacularly over the past month, then saw the player they traded for, Jonathan Papelbon, fight with Harper in the dugout.

The Nationals’€™ season is in shambles, and the reigning NL Manager of the Year, Matt Williams, has lost control of his clubhouse.

Before you start blaming injuries and bad luck for the Nats’ woes this season, consider the following about the newly crowned NL East champion New York Mets. (Hat tip here to my friend and former colleague Dave Ferry, author of “Total Mets.”€)

  • Team captain David Wright missed more than half the season.
  • Starting catcher Travis d’Arnard missed more than half the season.
  • Regular second baseman Daniel Murphy sat out four weeks.
  • The Mets’ major offseason acquisition, Michael Cuddyer, came up lame in July.
  • Reliever Jerry Mejia completed an 80-game drug suspension, worked 7 1/3 innings of scoreless ball and received a one-year drug suspension.
  • Reliever Jerry Blevins opened the season by allowing zero baserunners in seven appearances before breaking his arm. Twice.

There’€™s something more at work here.

The Mets overcame their injuries, acquired players who not only shored up the team’€™s weaknesses, but turned them into strengths, and made the most of their opportunities by dominating the Nationals in head-to-head competition.

The Nationals failed in all those areas.

That’€™s not on just one pitcher or position player. It’€™s a failure of leadership on every level.

It starts with a general manager who apparently failed to recognize his team’s weaknesses and then failed to address them when they became obvious.

It continues with a manager who failed to understand his team’€™s assets or properly handle them and continually fails to be accountable for the club’s shortcomings.

It includes relief pitchers who constantly failed to protect leads or contain small deficits and starting pitchers who failed to take the heat of an overtaxed bullpen.

It includes a hitting lineup that consistently failed to score enough runs to support an underperforming pitching staff.

Some of us might choose to remember the Nationals’€™ 2015 season as a fun chase for a postseason berth that came up short.

But for those of us who had high expectations for this team – expectations fueled by the team’€™s own bravado and often spectacular play during the first half – it has been a major disappointment.

And after Papelbon attacked Harper in the dugout on Sunday, it sank to a new low.

The Nationals need to show their fans that they won’€™t put up with these kinds of failures any longer.

Jayson Werth said on Saturday that it’s hard to play when there’€™s nothing to play for. It’€™s even harder for us fans to watch when there’€™s nothing to play for.