Washington Nationals’ Season Resembles Game of Thrones Tragedy
Fans of the popular HBO show Game of Thrones, or the George R.R. Martin books on which the show is based, will likely recognize those words. It’s an adage in the fictional tongue of High Valyrian that translates to “All men must die.” It’s a simple phrase, yet still profound, forcing one to confront their own mortality and the inevitability of death.
That’s exactly what Washington Nationals fans must do now with regard to the 2015 season. Turn out the lights, folks; the party’s over. Pay your respects and say your goodbyes. Stick a fork in it, because this season is done.
To be honest, it’s probably for the best. This season contained more tragedy than in all of Martin’s books combined. Grab a thesaurus and look up the word “disaster,” and you’ll find that every single word listed there aptly describes this year, a train wreck that at times made you want to avert your gaze, to look at anything else other than what was happening on the field.
This, ladies and gentlemen, was a total failure, a failure in all phases, not just in bits and pieces. Ian Desmond still struck out a thousand times but couldn’t remember how to play defense. Max Scherzer got kidnapped by aliens halfway through the season and was replaced by a cheap knockoff. Stephen Strasburg pulled a muscle every time he sneezed. Doug Fister must have spent the offseason vacationing on an Indian burial ground because that’s the only explanation for what happened to him. Jayson Werth needs a moped just to field his position…
And the cherry on top of all of this was the piece that was on display in the horrific loss to the Mets: the bullpen.
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Watching the Nationals bullpen work the seventh inning has been emotionally draining. It’s like watching the final trial of Lord Eddard Stark on repeat. At some point, you realize that, no matter how many times you watch it, it’s always going to end the same way: Joffrey will go rogue, Ser Ilyn Payne will rush to obey, and you’ll be forced to watch Lord Stark have his head lopped off by his own sword once again. At some point, you have to realize that you are better off changing the channel rather than having your heart ripped out of your chest ad nauseum.
Can you really blame Nats fans for leaving early? Why would you want to stay at the park just to watch a meltdown? At some point you have to think of your own mental sanity.
Over the course of the season, I, like most people in Nats Land, have been critical of Matt Williams’ managing acumen and his handling of the bullpen. But the way things have transpired lately proves that Williams isn’t the only one at fault. No, there’s plenty more blame to go around.
For starters, every single person currently in this bullpen deserves to be fired.
Fired from their jobs? Sure. Fired from a cannon into the sun? Even better.
Talk about how Williams doesn’t define the roles of his closers all you want, but at some point someone has to walk out onto the mound and record an out. These are Major League pitchers. That’s your job. Get someone out. Don’t stand there and tell me that you’re a sixth inning left-handed specialist and then use that an excuse when you can’t get the ball over the plate.
I don’t ever want to see half of these people ever throw a pitch in a game again. Casey Janssen? Get lost. Blake Treinen? I don’t care how many times F.P. tells me about how great this guy’s stuff is, I want him gone. And don’t even get me started on Drew Storen. Listen, I don’t care if he’s mad about the Nationals going out and getting Papelbon. If his psyche can’t survive bringing in someone else to close games, he probably doesn’t have the mental toughness that you really want in a closer. At this point, we know what Drew Storen is: a habitual choker.
But the blame game doesn’t end there! No, there’s plenty more to go around.
Let’s talk about Mike Rizzo. What I’ve found amazing during this meltdown is that Matt Williams has received the lion’s share of the criticism while Mike Rizzo’s reputation has remained largely unblemished, which doesn’t make any sense. Rizzo is the one who assembled this bullpen. He’s the one whose only move at the deadline was to trade for Jonathan Papelbon while letting the Mets get Tyler Clippard. To borrow a phrase from Bill Parcells, it’s the General Manager’s job to “shop for the groceries.” Putting this entire mess at the feet of Williams is the equivalent of screaming at a chef for not serving you Beef Wellington when all you’ve given him to work with is a shopping cart full of pork rinds and cottage cheese. It’s absurd.
I know a lot of people also want to talk about the injuries to this team, but come on. Give me a break. This Nationals aren’t even the team that’s been most impacted by injuries in their own division. You know who is? The Mets. That excuse no longer holds water. Even more telling, the Nationals have been mostly healthy for their series this week, and they still got swept in their home stadium. The “injury bug” excuse is about as valid now as “the dog ate my homework.” Stop using that to explain away the reason this roster massively underperformed.
The simple fact is, except for a single fleeting moment in May, this team hasn’t been anywhere near good enough to merit a spot in the postseason and there isn’t a single culprit. Matt Williams has largely served as the scapegoat, but holding him solely responsible is a mistake and an oversimplification. There’s so many more who’ve let this team down, and even the examples that I’ve listed are no means an exhaustive list.
If you wanted to vilify and eviscerate every single person who had a hand in this disaster of a season, you’d end up with an All-American Red Wedding, with Matt Williams playing the part of Robb Stark. Almost no one, short of, perhaps, Bryce Harper, hasn’t played at least some part in this disaster of a season. Look up and down the roster, and you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t contributed to the downfall of the Nationals.
The good news? There are only a few more games remaining before this season comes to a merciful close. The suffering will finally end, and we can get on with our lives instead of being subjected to watching this team and waiting for them to fail.
Thankfully, winter is coming.
Next: Reaction: Nats Swept In Soul Crushing Fashion