On the MLB Central show on MLB Network, the host Mark DeRosa looked into the camera and said, “There is something special happening in D.C.”. DeRosa continued to say that Bryce Harper needs to get hot, and he is correct as Bryce is batting .233 as of today and nursing a stiff neck that has kept him out of the line-up since the weekend.
The word ‘special’ is hard to define. It is loaded with intangibles. We have the ‘Dusty Baker Effect’ that we wrote about in the off-season. We have two surprise MVP candidates in Daniel Murphy and Wilson Ramos who have been the two consistent position players in the line-up. We have three starting pitchers who will get Cy Young votes led by Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, and Tanner Roark. They rank respectively in ERA as #7, #8, and #11.
There is now a bullpen order that was not there two weeks ago. Mark Melancon was added at the trade deadline and as F.P. Santangelo said yesterday, and to paraphrase, “There is no more drama in the 9th inning. If you want drama, watch the Kardashians”. Spot on F.P. Santangelo.
Now to the one void that was missing since the beginning of the season, and now has been a big piece of the team where this player has been winning games since June 15th. It is Jayson Werth. He was the man behind the walk-off against the Cubs way back on June 15th when Werth yelled in the post-game to the doubters, “Those people can kiss my ass!”.
The Nationals were 40-25 before that game against the Cubs, and easily could have been 40-26. Instead they finished that day 41-25, and have been building on that lead ever since. Fast forward 7 games from that Cubs win, and Jayson Werth started that 40 game streak where he has reached base safely in each of those games.
Could Jayson Werth be the special intangible? Werth spoke to Alex Putterman of MLB.com after Wednesday’s game to figure out the secret sauce. It turned out that Werth just went back to his old recipe of success.
“Everybody that’s anybody always told me, ‘You need to be more aggressive, you need to swing at the first pitch, you need to do this, you need to do that.'” Werth said. “That’s just not really been my game, but for whatever reason, I thought this was the year I was going to do that. And I think I’ve silenced all those people that have told me over the years that that’s the way I should hit.”
“Just getting back to being myself, I think that’s what it comes down to,” Werth said. “I’ve been a pretty good player over the course of my career, and I think it was a product of having good at-bats. It is what it is, whether it’s a streak or it’s not a streak, I feel like myself up there. I’m the same player I’ve been since I got to the league.”
There is something special going on in Washington, D.C. and hopefully the rest of the Washingtonians will figure it out. Dan Steinberg of the D.C. Sports Bog wrote about it in a column this week, and spoke to it on the radio that the Washington Capitals have caused a healthy dose of skepticism after their year-in and year-out failures to be the odds on favorites and fail miserably in the post-season. “Hate to say this, but Nats suffer from angst of Caps’ fans,” one wrote. “Regular season excellence drowned in post season failure.” You can read Steinberg’s piece here.
The Capitals this year drew an average of only 18,510 fans per game which is 57% less than what the Nationals are drawing this summer. It is hard to compare the two sports and two teams to each other. The Nats are drawing in their 24 home games this summer in Nationals Park an average of 32,668 fans per game, and these are mostly the die-hard fans that don’t necessarily include the bandwagon fans. TV viewership is up, blog traffic is up, and winning is up. The fans are there. There is something special happening in D.C.!