PHILADELPHIA — The Nationals have spent a lot of time listening to their 2013 team be compared to last year’s version. With much of the talent the same, people wonder, why is their record so different. Why is their play so much more inconsistent?
One reason may be that they’re not playing as relaxed as they were in 2012.
On Tuesday, shortstop Ian Desmond brought that question to manager Davey Johnson.
“He felt like the club is not as loose as it was last year,” Johnson said. “It’s trying to be loose, but it’s not. I said ‘We’re awfully young.’ They have to go through the experience. That’s part of it. I think we’ll be fine. We’ll learn to just play loose. Play free and easy. Our offense will pick up. We’re showing signs of getting close.
“I talk to Ian a lot. I told him it’s good. We’ve struggled, but there’s a whole lot of the season ahead of us… Desi likes to lead by example and sometimes what you do is you try to do too much. You have to stay within yourself. I think he knows that. Other guys try to do the same thing. The focus is always on doing the things that got you here and stay within that. Sometimes it’s hard.”
This winter, Johnson dubbed the Nationals’ slogan “World Series or bust,” and they were the pre-season World Series favorites. The expectations, to this point, have only served to make their struggles look all the more glaring.
Their manager wants them to just relax.
“I don’t think I’m putting too much pressure on ‘em,” Johnson said. “When you get to the top of the hill, it’s a lot of times tougher to stay there. you have to go through struggles. That’s what they’re going through. As a group I think we’ll be fine.”