Any savvy college student knows the best way to maintain a decent grade-point average* isn’t slacking on easy courses and cramming for the hard ones. You spend your time on Intro to Computing because you know you’re getting a C-minus in Quantum Physics, no matter how hard you try. You nail down your As in the jock-heavy classes, and you survive the 600-level stuff.
*I am not speaking from experience.
Baseball is the same way. The best teams dominate the cellar dwellers, and if they play contenders to anything more than a draw, it’s gravy. Before the Nationals’ uprising last year, the Phillies built their NL East dominance on the Nationals’ backs. For years, until Game 162 of last season, anyway, the Red Sox have propped themselves up with the Orioles.
For this season, the Nationals have a scheduling quirk that should benefit them but, ultimately, may end up working against them.
The Nationals’ first 20 games, and first 31 out of 42, will come against teams that finished last season with a losing record. They do not play a 2011 playoff team until May 1. It seems like an ideal schedule for a young team on the rise to get comfortable, build confidence and gather momentum.
But the Nationals will enter the season without their full roster intact. Michael Morse and Drew Storen seem likely to start the year on the disabled list and miss at least a small handful of games. Adam LaRoche will be reduced to a platoon. Bryce Harper will spend April trying to stay warm in Syracuse and resisting the temptation of $2 Everything Night at Faegan’s*.
*I am speaking from experience here.
The Nationals will not be in the best position to dominate what appears to be the softest portion of their schedule. When their pieces figure to start coming together, they’ll run into their stiffest challenge. From May 21 to June 21, the Nationals will play 24 of 27 games against the Phillies, Braves, Marlins, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees and Rays.
Any team, now matter how good, would struggle to stay afloat through that stretch. It’s a C-minus waiting to happen. The Nationals can still come out ahead if they ace the easy, first part of their schedule. Problem is, they may have to do without their best team.
FROM THE POST
Boz talks to Stephen Strasburg about his personality, his pitching philosophy and his mechanics. I never say this, but that’s a must-read.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL