But how successful an organization becomes depends on the players, and the best in any clubhouse “have to keep priorities straight,” Jeter said. “You have to know what you need to do to do your job. You have to understand the sacrifices you have to make for the team to win. A lot of teams have talent, but that’s all of what goes into really winning and trying to win year after year.”
The Nationals used to have a loser’s mentality. Very recently, not enough of their players followed the all-in approach by which Jeter and other Yankees have lived.
“We were used to losing,” Rizzo said. “We were comfortable with losing. We had to get out of that mind-set where the first thing that went wrong . . . we crumbled.”
That’s behind them now. Under Rizzo, the Nationals have improved the roster by every means possible (the amateur draft, free agency and trades) and expect to win now. “We look for reasons why we didn’t [win] instead of excuses why we didn’t,” Rizzo said.
That’s a winner’s approach. Rizzo and Manager Davey Johnson won’t tolerate any other kind.
Apparently, the change has been apparent to fans as well: The Nationals’ attendance has increased about 30 percent this season. If the District truly becomes a baseball town, the Lerner family should be further motivated to support Rizzo’s vision with their bank account.
Rizzo intends to do his part to continue the momentum. After his aggressive decisions to trade for starter Gio Gonzalez and promoting Harper to the big leagues this season, players expect it. “From the moves he makes, you can see where he wants us to go,” Clippard said.
The likelihood is, the Nationals will never make it to the Yankees’ level. But the good news for their fans is that they now seem determined to keep trying.
For previous Jason Reid columns, visit washingtonpost.com/reid.