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While fissures spread through the pitching staff, the bench that helped stabilize the 2012 squad fell apart. Johnson’s hell-bent reliance on veterans kept an unproductive Roger Bernadina around until late August while, at the same time, Steve Lombardozzi had 295 plate appearances despite an anemic .621 on-base plus slugging percentage.

Johnson’s same affinity for veterans clung to Zach Duke and Henry Rodriguez for 29 combined disastrous early season appearances before they were let go.

Bryce Harper, Wilson Ramos, Jayson Werth and Mattheus were among those who fought injuries that ranged from bad luck about hamstrings to to bad decisions about running into walls or slugging lockers. But postseason-bound organizations find ways around season’s inevitable potholes. The Nationals fell into them.

They got Tyler Clippard lashing out at the organization after Storen was demoted to Triple-A in July. They got one-time building block Danny Espinosa’s 167 hideous plate appearances with his torn rotator cuff before he, too, was exiled to Triple-A (and proceeded to strike out in almost a third of his at-bats). They got hitting coach Rick Eckstein fired in July, the go-to stop for a team spiraling out of contention without easy fixes.

But, perhaps more worrisome, they received seasons at the plate from veterans that were close to their career norms. The slump-ridden Adam LaRoche, on the books for $12 million next season, is the exception. Otherwise, Ian Desmond, Denard Span, Werth and Ryan Zimmerman all approximated or exceeded their career OPS marks. There isn’t one obvious problem to solve, one obvious hole to fill in a lineup that frustrated Johnson with its inconsistency and, really, epitomized the entire mismatched team.

During the 2012 run, Johnson simply had to fill out a lineup card and the concoction worked for the Nationals. Success came with deceptive ease. So did the trap of believing that it would always be that way. The busted season proved otherwise.