Thursday, May 7, 2009

How to Root for the Scats and not Lose your Will to Live

This less of a blog post and more of a therapy session. Here are my tips for how to follow the Nationals and still have fun. I'm sure you have your own; feel free to share in the comments.
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 progress
If 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 weather
I 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 him
I strongly discourage choosing anyone other than Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, Nick Johnson or Elijah Dukes.
4. Pick a scapegoat, and focus your frustrations on him
I 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 top
Look, 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 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.


King Cranium said...

Did you just hide the beer under the usual assortment of baby stuff? And they never looked past it the top layer? Did you bring a child with you? (Not like they're going to ask if you have one.)

Steven said...

Yeah pretty much. I have a particularly good little pocket that looks like the bottom of the bag but isn't. For sure having a cute 16-month-old helps. But really if you're just trying to get a beer or two into the stadium any half-wit 7-year-old could figure it out. Those ushers aren't exactly deeply committed to their mission.

Rob B said...

It's good to see Zim living up to expectations, but the player I've enjoyed watching progress the most has to be Flores.
I thought he should have been platooning with Schneider long before the trade. He is going to be a top-5 catcher within a couple of years. That position is overlooked so often because it is a defensive afterthought on many clubs, but it is a huge asset to have a backstop who can contribute and drive in runs, instead of being automatically plugged into the #8 spot.

An Briosca Mor said...

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).I agree that putting your six under a batch of stinky dirty diapers is a good deterrent against a search, but don't you worry about putting yor lips to the cans once you get them inside the park?

James Bjork said...

Thanks, Steven. I just put my handgun down from my temple.

The final image I saw on MASN last nite was Hinckley's air-mail pitch.

It helps to know that really, the Nats had NO chance of the playoffs this year. Any wins are really just gravy with this crew. I only grew fond of the Nats because of how MLB tried to kill them (a la "Major League" with Puerto Rico "home" games and contraction), but they pluckily stayed in first much of 2005. My enthusiasm is waning.

Anonymous said...

"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 when you do, make sure you deck yourself out in full Nats regalia like Stan', Screech's Best Friend. Just so you won't miss out on all that Philly has to offer, of course.

JayB said...


You are correct that Mark Lerner is the one who has the most to answer for here! Such a waste.....

Steven said...

Make sure that you hide your beers under clean diapers. Although if you're a parent of a one-year-old, the idea of drinking a beer that's come in contact with a little baby poopie isn't so crazy. You come in contact with a lot of baby poopie.

Elan said...

I think our game tonight just got a little easier.

flippin said...

Julian Tavarez will be my object of scorn. I brought two subway sandwiches (for me and my wife) to Tuesday's nooner which solicited a snarky comment from the usher about me eating for two... he seemed unaware that I was apparently drinking for six.

Doc Funk said...

Are we still allowed to make Lastings Milledge a scapegoat?