The chance for disappointment is great.
“It just tells you you’re doing something right,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. “I like it. … I certainly like the fact that what we’ve done hasn’t gone unnoticed.”
There may be just one problem.
According to Bovada, the last odds-on favorite to win the World Series that ultimately did it was the 2009 New York Yankees. And they’re relatively alone in that class.
Perhaps it is the mere nature of the playoffs that has brought those results, the “luck” that so many players, coaches and officials refer to. A glance back at just the past three World Series winners, and no doubt several others, would certainly support that idea.
Or perhaps it was the expectations that crushed those teams before they could reach their ultimate goal. The losses that weighed so much heavier on them — because they weren’t supposed to suffer them — perhaps helped them pile up.
Present the idea that outside expectations can affect the play of those inside the clubhouse and the question hangs there like coconut swaying in the wind, before it’s promptly swatted away.
“Pressure is just self-imposed,” Johnson said.
“I think losing is what should bring teams together, really,” said Dan Haren, whose 2012 Angels had 7-1 preseason odds to win the World Series and missed the playoffs entirely.
“Those are other people’s projections,” Werth added. “What goes on in here, and what we have, is something you can’t really calculate. You can’t really put a finger on it. Everything else is other people’s thoughts and projections. And they don’t really matter.”The consensus is that the focus must remain on the smaller goals, even if their manager spent all winter telling anyone who would listen that the slogan for the season was “World Series or bust.”
When the 2012 version of the Nationals was at its best, the players were able to float from one game to the next without carrying the results from the previous one with them, good or bad. They blew a nine-run lead to the Atlanta Braves last July and dropped the opener of the next day’s doubleheader to shrink their division lead to 1 games. They won eight of their next nine games.
Win the game. Win the series. Reach the All-Star break in a favorable position in the division. Win the game. Win the series. Clinch the division.
The ability to maintain that pragmatic approach was paramount to their consistency last season, just as it will be paramount now to brushing off the accelerated expectations.
“I don’t think anything’s changed,” LaRoche said. “If anything, now when we are winning, we expect it, whereas last year we kind of felt our way out. It was probably three months out before we started expecting to win.