Monday, July 12, 2010

Yep, I'm a Grinch

I have lived in Washington, DC for most of the last seven years. I arrived with a car full of things in April 2003 and spent the first two baseball seasons watching the Baltimore Orioles. They were still semi-respectable then, as a decade had yet to pass without a post-season appearance. Camden Yards is still a great park today, though it echos sad songs of past glory among the empty green seats.

One fine March Saturday in 2005 I set my alarm clock for 6am and traveled to RFK Stadium for the first time to stand in line for Opening Day tickets. Baseball had returned to Washington. It was 7am, but I was wide awake, listening to stories told by old men who spoke of the Senators with a gleam in their eyes as if standing in that line had made them 30 years younger.

Was that a fun season, or what? No one expected that team to compete, yet there they were, sitting on top of the NL East at the end of June after losing only 6 games all month. Too bad July had to arrive. By the time the Cincinnati Reds rolled into Washington at the beginning of August, the Nats situation was so dire that I found myself rooting against my beloved Reds, for they had long since succumbed to their own mediocrity and were no longer in the race. Desperation filled RFK. The NL East lead had slipped away, and the Wild Card chances were unraveling, but the games were still meaningful. They haven't been since.

With the exception of 2008 when I was not in DC, I've gone to about 15-20 Nats games every season. In 2007, I had a partial season ticket plan that I received as a birthday present. I would call myself a Nationals fan.

But I feel that slipping away.

Why? Because I am so thoroughly annoyed by the Stephen Strasburg hype that I can hardly stand to read anything Nationals. Bill Ladsen, the Nationals beat writer for, even tweeted to me that Strasburg was the second coming of Christ. They call Strasburg's starts "Strasmas." Half the city walks around in Strasburg jerseys. And they feel they were slighted that a pitcher who only had four big league starts was not chosen for the All Star game.

Guess what? The Nationals are still awful, and they will be for quite awhile.

I suppose I'm a bit spoiled because I was born a fan of the first professional baseball team. The Braves may lay claim to the "oldest continuous franchise" title, but that spans 3 cities. With the exception of 1871-1875 and 1880-1881 (we got kicked out of the National League for selling beer and playing games on Sundays), Cincinnati has had a professional baseball team since 1869. There's a reason we get to start every Opening Day at home. We've been around, and we know how to be baseball fans.

Were we pumped to see Jay Bruce's first game? Yes. Homer Bailey's? Yes. Johnny Cueto's? Yes. Mike Leake's? yes. Did I travel five hours in standstill traffic in 90 degree heat and no air conditioner to see Jay Bruce and Joey Votto play in Richmond a few years ago? Yes. Are we pumped to see Aroldis Chapman's Major League Debut sometime in the near future? Heck yes, oh heck yes.

But we also have perspective. When Jay or Homer or Johnny came up, we knew we weren't going to win in those seasons. Granted, they aren't of the same stock as Strasburg, but both Jay and Homer were the best prospects in baseball, hitting and pitching-wise.

Do Nationals fans have something to look forward to in the future? Yes. With young guys like Strasburg, Clippard, Storen, Zimmerman, and Desmond, it seems there is a light at the end of the tunnel of the misery of the last five years. At last there is something to be excited about. But come on. On Friday, there was a Strasburg press conference after the game. A meaningless game. A meaningless game in which he only went 6 innings.

Don't get me wrong. I know Strasburg is a rare talent. But perspective is needed, and that's something Natstown seems to be lacking. It's pushing longtime baseball fans like me AWAY from the team while attracting casual fans who are always willing to jump on the bandwagon of the trendy thing. All I ask is for a little perspective. And to resign Dunn.

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