- Rep. Henry Cuellar on border crisis: ‘Playing defense on the one-yard line’
- Activists vow to occupy fast-food restaurants to get higher pay
- Rep. Luis Gutierrez: Senate Dems wary of immigration politics
- Summer camp for 1 percenters: Sushi, limos and shopping at FAO Schwarz
- Colorado gun crackdown law found to be built on faulty data
- Hank Aaron steps to fundraising plate for Democrat Michelle Nunn
- ISIL terrorists blow up burial site of Jonah, vow more of same
- Impeach Obama, say 35 percent in new poll
- Taliban yank 14 Shiites off bus, bind and shoot them on Afghan road
- Obama takes aim at ‘corporate deserters’
View from the top is a rare one for Nationals in April
Slow starts have been the norm
Question of the Day
Late Thursday afternoon, Tyler Clippard stood a few inches from a big-screen television in back of the Washington Nationals’ clubhouse.
The MLB Network’s live shot was from a few dozen feet away at Nationals Park, as sun lit up the deep red dirt in foul territory.
“These guys have been amazing,” the television blared. “I knew they would be good, but …”
Clippard crossed his arms. The setup man didn’t say anything. No one else paid attention to the television hollering like a used-car salesman.
Off to the best 13-game start since moving to Washington in 2005, the Nationals are taking a longer-term view. Players shrug off April standings.
The clubhouse culture has changed. Manager Davey Johnson spent the spring telling anyone who would listen he expects to contend. The clubhouse believed him. They expect to be here. That’s no small thing from a team that compiled a .395 winning percentage over the first 13 games in each of the past seven seasons.
“Back then was different,” said Roger Bernadina, the longest-tenured member of the organization who signed in 2001. “This is definitely an attitude like you can win every day.”
Nearby, Adam LaRoche preached patience. He knows how quickly standings change. The veteran is part of the culture shift. In previous seasons, he noted, the Nationals were “used to being around” the bottom of the standings.” No more.
In his fourth season with the team, Sean Burnett credits Jayson Werth’s signing with sparking the clubhouse shift.
“It’s a different atmosphere this year,” Burnett said. “You’ve seen it slowly change. … Expectations changed with that signing. Losing wasnt acceptable anymore. There was more accountability.”
Those standings don’t matter much to LaRoche, for one, until the All-Star break passes. But the sizzling start, even against scuffling teams such as the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs, serves a broader purpose for a team with an average age of 28.8 years. Its something new-age statistics such as WAR and BABIP and wRC+ cant quantify.
“We’re not the Yankees, we’re not the Red Sox, we’re not the Phillies, but we’re there now,” LaRoche said. “As far as the track record, those guys are up there. They don’t panic early in the season. They know they’re good. They’re been there and done that. … It’s crucial to get that mentality from we think we’re good to we know we’re good and let that carry over to the 25 guys and see what happens.”
The flurry of wins (the best start by a Washington baseball team since the Senators in 1951) have come without cleanup hitter Michael Morse. Hes a week into a month-and-a-half of “total shutdown” to try and heal a strained lat. Closer Drew Storen is after surgery to remove a bone chip from his right elbow, too. Same for fifth-starter Chien-Ming Wang, recovering from a pulled hamstring.
Offensive stalwarts such as Danny Espinosa, Wilson Ramos and Ryan Zimmerman havent come untracked.
Still, the Nationals find ways to win, helped by a pitching staff - the third-youngest in baseball - with the games best earned-run average.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
- Declassified cables from Berlin Wall tell tale of drama, dare,
- Judge denies settlement motion in NFL concussion lawsuit
- Jay Gruden's long and winding road to Washington
- FENNO: Championship game provides an opportunity to listen to those who play
- FENNO: For Redskins, nonsensical is the new normal
Latest Blog Entries
Second- and third-stringers eye 2016 if front-runner stumbles
- 'We're coming for you, Barack Obama': Top U.S. official discloses threat from ISIL terrorists
- Obama orders Pentagon advisers to Ukraine
- NAPOLITANO: What if our democracy is a fraud?
- Michelle Obama says money in politics is bad, asks donors for 'big, fat check'
- Hamas rejects Kerry's call for cease-fire; Fears grow others could join fight against Israel
- Presidents of Honduras, Guatemala blame U.S. for border children crisis
- PRUDEN: The Democratic-wannabe mice under Hillary Clinton's feet
- Crime-ridden U.S. cities differ on ways to fight gun violence
- Let it roll: D.C. Council hits Las Vegas on taxpayer's dime, leaves $14,000 tab
- Obama takes aim at 'corporate deserters'
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq