This "getting a life" project seems to be working......
Wednesday evening, I took great pleasure in watching the Washington Nationals come from 5 runs back and beat the New York Mets.
The Nats are nowhere NEAR making the playoffs. And yet these boys have embraced the "spoiler" role to glorious effect. They've swept the best team in the National League, have 14 wins thus far in September and closed out RFK with a win.
What impresses me most about the Nats - their attitude.
Interviews tend to focus on how their strategies for improvement. The guys on the team seem genuinely likeable. And when you watch the game in person, it is apparent that these folks genuinely enjoy playing together and trust each other implicitly.
There are 2 other things about the Nats that has me impressed with the job Manny Acta did this season (despite the under .500 record):
- He gave Dmitri Young a chance to salvage his career. A case study in how to appropriately provide second chances....
- He built a culture that quickly absorbs acquired players and call ups(Hanrahan - I hope you stay in the majors!).
And he did it in less than a year....
This bodes well for next season.
Let's look at the alternative - the Baltimore Orioles.
I have rooted for the Orioles since I was a little girl growing up in Northern Virginia. I lived in Baltimore for 7 years as an adult. I bleed Orange and Black.
But it's hard for me to root for them any longer. And it's not about a losing season (or 2, or 10). It's the ugly grey cloud that hangs over that entire organization.
So what are the symptoms of a team gone bad?
- Individuals try to "cheat" the system: The O's have the most players (past and present) cited in various steroid scandals (Which, sadly, tars them, even if they are innocent). Players that immediately come to mind (remember, these are just folks who have been linked - they are not necessarily guilty): Gibbons, Palmero, Tejada, Sosa, Roberts, Grimsley, Segui, Tatis, Hairston. They have been talking to lawyers and getting their medical records subpoenaed. Not a good sign....(Interesting blog post on the topic from The Grand National Championships)
- Regular displays of temper: Daniel Cabrerra just came back from a 6 game suspension - not for accidentally throwing the ball at the batter's head, but for attempting to "confront his opponents." He's just the most recent example....
- Team members start fighting with each other: See Payton v. Mora. If folks are fighting in the dugout in full view, imagine what is actually happening in the clubhouse behind closed doors. I'm certain it is NOT pretty.....
- The focus is on "getting through this" rather than on how to improve right now: Compare this article and David Trembly's comments about the season (Uh, Trembley - I think a little stress might be a good thing) and this article with Manny Acta's comments about Felipe Lopez' slump. See the difference?
- Individuals outside the team stop caring: Brian Roberts is absolutely right to be upset that the fans have quit caring. And, from what I've been able to tell over the years, he's been a pretty mild-mannered guy. To have a respected player call out the FANS (as misguided as that sounds) tells me that this is one frustrated person.
Looking from the outside - if I were a ball player, it strikes me that the Nats, losing record and all, would be a more fun and productive place to work than the O's.
As a fan - I can sense that something is rotten inside the O's organization. Tough to support that....
I hope that Acta's work and positive influence pays off next year.
Mr. Trembley - It may be a good idea to drive down I-95 and pay Mr. Acta a social call this winter....