How 'bout them Nats?

Brad Wilkerson

Let me explain one thing before I get into how well the Washington Nationals are doing. I'm originally from Tampa Bay (St. Petersburg), but I've been living in Northern Virginia, right outside of Washington DC, for the past six months. It's been interesting to see how the community has adopted the Nats as their own, embracing the team to a far greater extent than the D-Rays where embraced by Tampa Bay in their first year. Now part of that is because the Nats are playing better than the D-Rays ever have but I think where the team plays is a big factor.

The Nats play at RFK stadium which is right in Washington DC and close to the metro. The D-Rays play in St. Pete, which, with the exception of Bradenton, is the worst possible spot in Tampa Bay to place a professional sports team. Not that many people from Tampa are going to drive half an hour or more across the Bay to see what is essentially a AAA baseball team. If the D-Rays played in Tampa they would have much higher attendance figures and would be able to earn more money to make the team better.

But yet, I digress.

Going back to the Nats, they have exceeded everyone's expectations this season, as they lead the NL East. Part of that is because the team brought in players such as Jose Guillen, Vinny Castilla and Christian Guzman. But the biggest reason is simply because the Nats are now playing for a city that appreciates what they do.

The Nats have united the city in a way that no other team has been able to do. Baseball, more than any other sport, appeals to every type of sports fan. Players of all races and colors play for the Nats, and in a city as diverse as Washington, the Nats appeal to all types of fans. Additionally, baseball plays some 162 games a year. On just about any day you can turn on the T.V. and watch a Nats game. Quite simply, the Nats have become the talk of the town, uniting young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican.

And the Nats appreciate the support they are now receiving from the fans. The players and the coaches no longer have to deal with the stress of traveling 3/4's of the season, or wondering where they will live and work next season. Instead they can finally concentrate on their jobs.

Frank Robinson is the kind of manager who has been able to light the fire in his players, getting them to play at their best. Under Robinson the Nats have become a come from behind team that relies on its middle relief and superb closer, Chad Cordero, to keep them in games. The Nats have won a lot of games this year in the last three innnings. For example, the Nats scored 5 of their 6 runs in the last two innings to come from behind and beat the Angels.

Additionally, the Nats rely on good defense and smart hitting to win games. Typically the teams you see succeed late in the season are teams that rely on solid pitching and good defense. I don't know if the Nats will win the division, but I know they can. And if they do I can guarantee they will be the talk of the town.

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