Friday, March 02, 2007

Dread and the Uneven Covenant

Oh. Hi! Didn't see you there. How are things? Good? Good. Work going okay? Great. Family doing well? Great. Tell 'em I said hi. Alright, talk to you later.

You may have noticed that I haven't had much to say lately. I'm not a huge fan of small talk, and at this stage in the Nationals (pre)season there is nothing but small talk to be had. Yeah, I know, Screech's Best Friend has talked to all the players, coaches and execs and they all swear that everyone is looking great on the mound and on the field and they are all stoked to play for the Nationals. Manny Acta is an infectiously optimistic leader, dashing from player to player and mike to camera distributing positive vibes across the fanbase and the clubhouse. I'm just not catchin' the groove.

At the risk of digging up old debates, I'm having a hard time getting past the feeling that the 2007 season has been completely and intentionally forsaken, a monumental exercise in futility made necessary by the inexorable reality of time. Basil summed up my current feelings (and presumably his) eloquently during our question exchange last year:

I believe it's more of an attitude that 2007 has been not only been given up, but also waived, in the interest of 2008 and beyond. Re-up the season tickets, and you'll be in good graces for '08 . . . but, by the way, you'll also have to sit through '07. It's an uneven covenant.
This "uneven covenant" may well make for one of the longest, most hideous seasons I've ever experienced as a sports fan. I am a Bengals fan. I've experienced some of the worst seasons in the history of sport, yet I fear that this year's Washington Nationals could be a 100-loss team.

As I read the saturation-level coverage in the trademed and blogosphere I realize that I'm having a really hard time caring about 67% of the players on the roster this year, especially the pitching staff. I skim right over articles and posts detailing the pitchers and their backstories because I find myself unable to get emotionally attached. Most of them are unlikely to be anything more than a footnote in the appendix of a Hindenburg season. Actually, it won't be a Hindenburg season because people actually expected the blimp to land successfully. We approach the 2007 Nationals season as we might attend a hanging, with a sense of dread at the inevitable result. Ray King? Jason Simontacci? I wish all these guys the best of luck but I've got visions of Felix Rodriguez in my head.

Perpetual prospect Larry Broadway is in camp but just when he gets his opportunity to show his stuff Jim Bowden inexplicably tosses him in a competition with Travis Lee, Dmitri Young and Robert Fick. What better season than this one to find out if Broadway is the real deal or not? Again, nothing personal, but I don't give a crap about Travis Lee. Young and Fick are useful platoon players elsewhere, so it doesn't make sense for them to steal reps from Broadway. If the team is going to be horrible let's at least see what the alleged future stars can do.

The same goes for the ridiculous left field position battle, where another perpetual prospect, Kory Casto, is battling it out with Ryan Church and Chris Snelling. What's the point? Either give Casto the shot and trade Church, or give Church the shot and trade Casto. Or platoon Church in center with Nook Logan or...wake me up when this is over.

The whole team, from the front office to the players seem to have the same attitude: we are immune from all reasonable expectations of success until the 2008 season. Until then, we reserve the right to suck, blow, wheeze and gasp our way through a season we don't care about. Don't mind the cast of dozens in camp who will hold down the uniforms until we're ready to take baseball seriously a year from now. Please, pardon our dust.

I realize that this is an incredibly cynical position, but it's one that's been in my head more often than not these last two weeks. I'm still a huge Nationals fan and wish the team well this year. I've got my season ticket package and will almost certainly re-up next year. Even as I write this post I've got another tab open in Firefox- I'm buying opening day tickets on Nationals.com. Despite my feelings of dread and apprehension I'll be there on April 2, yelling my head off. This is what being a fan of a bad baseball team is about: showing up to the games anyway, even if it means wearing a bag over your head by June.