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Caution: Judge Nationals season on April Expectations, Not July Record

[September 21st] -- The time has finally come. No longer can Frank Robinson look into the cameras of ESPN and Fox and say, "We're going to use the players that got us here. I'm not going to sit down Vinny Castilla so this kid [Zimmerman] can start. He hasn't earned it; Vinny has."

OK, that may have worked when the Nats were 2 games behind the wild-card front runner. But that dog just don't hunt any more. The only "status" goals left for the team to accomplish this year is to finish above .500 and to end the season somewhere other than last place. Well, as of Thursday morning, the team is all of two games over .500 and a game and a half out of the cellar. And that's GOOD.

Moments before the first pitch in Philadelphia earlier this year, the great majority of newly christened Nats fans would have taken 77 wins for the season and a 4th place finish in the very scary National League East. The team is going to end the season in far better shape than most of us had expected. So why all the glum faces? Because of that ridiculously hot start to the season.

When a team sits at the half-way point in the season at 50-31, it's easy to believe that the team will continue to play that style of dominant ball. But any REAL baseball fan, any TRUE Nationals fan could see that the team was playing far better than their ability. Wilkerson was striking out too much. Castilla was already into his second-half slide. Vidro hadn't played since a west coast trip in early May. It was only a matter of time before these problems and others began to catch up with the team.

I'm pleased with the season the team has provided and look forward to a much improved team next year. New owner. Deep pockets. Free agent market. This wasn't the year the team was going to contend, but things will look very good for 2006.

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