1. It's not whether you win or lose, it's not how you play the game, it's whether your under-24 talent is showing progressIf you really take this to heart, the Nationals are doing pretty well this year. Ryan Zimmerman is off to his long-anticipated major breakout, Elijah Dukes is hitting and maintaining a clean rap sheet, Jordan Zimmermann is dealing, Jesus Flores isn't looking overmatched anymore, and Shairon Martis is in the process of once again forcing everyone to recalibrate expectations. Down on the farm, Chris Marrero is healthy and hitting again. Craig Stammen is having a breakthrough season. Derek Norris is showing last year was no fluke. Danny Espinoza is getting some deserved hyping. Even Ross Detwiler's strung together a few good starts.
Really, the bullpen is the easiest part of the team to build up quickly (or see fall apart in an instant). Daniel Cabrera and Scott Olsen don't belong in a winning team's rotation. But so what? This year doesn't matter. It's about the future. Keep telling yourself that every day.
The trick here is that you have to keep this in mind not only when the Scats lose, but also when they win. If you let yourself get excited about wins, you will get bummed about losses. But try to think of it like an NFL pre-season game. You don't really celebrate the wins or mourn the losses, but if that 4th round back shows some explosiveness you've never seen before or your 31-year-old cornerback is proving that he can still keep up, then you're happy.
2. Root for nice weatherI know, we haven't really had that yet either, but I really promise there will be some nice days at the ballpark.
3. Pick a favorite player, and only pay attention to himI strongly discourage choosing anyone other than Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, Nick Johnson or Elijah Dukes.
4. Pick a scapegoat, and focus your frustrations on himI know, my therapist wouldn't like this one. But really, there are so many people associated with this team that are surely to be out of baseball in no time. For me it was Bowden. For Needham it was Lenny Harris. JayB has Lastings Milledge. Wily Mo Painful was a popular choice last year, as were Felipe Lopez and Paul Lo Duca. Then when those guys all were put out to pasture, you felt good all day.
Bottom line, if you pick out a little part of this team that you are actively rooting against, then your odds of getting what you want are dramatically improved. The risk here is that less obsessives around you may not quite understand the importance of having coping strategies and might just find your schadenfreude off-putting.
5. Get back at the guys up topLook, there's plenty of blame to go around, but we all understand who's fault this is. It's Mark Lerner. He picked Bowden. He's bottom line on the payroll. He's the boss, and the buck stops there.
So hit him where it hurts. Now, I would never condone stealing, per se. But it can feel good to circumvent their efforts to lighten your wallet. As fun and poetic as it sounds in a Don Delillo novel, I don't really recommend old-school turnstile-jumping, especially when you can buy $5-10 seats and then sit right behind the Nationals dugout (ticket discipline--the term of art in the industry, I'm told--is almost non-existent these days). Smuggle beer into the stadium (I could fit a whole six-pack into the bottom of a diaper bag and never get caught in 81 games). Never ever buy food at the stadium (carrying in food is officially ok by Nationals Park policy, and I really can't understand why anyone ever shows up at the game without stopping at Five Guys first). Slingbox MLB.tv. Buy from a scalper (that's the only way to make sure your baseball spending will get reinvested in the local economy anyway). Or, my favorite, make a special point of taking the train to see the Scats play in Philly once or twice a year just to spite Stan. And make sure that you spend a bundle at Citizen's Bank--that'll really show 'em!
Hey, I don't have any special love for David Montgomery or the Phillies' owners, but if the Scats want my money, then they need to spend it on getting first round picks signed. That's the deal. If they want to hoard their vast loot, I can hoard my little bit. When they provide a product worth what they're charging, I'll happily pay full fare.