Owning the NL East Can Hurt the Nationals in October

by Clayton Richer | Posted on Wednesday, May 31st, 2017
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The Nationals already seem set to cruise to the National League East title, which makes ease their greatest opponent for the rest of the season.

Despite their comfortable lead, the Nationals do have worries and their front office studies the team from top to bottom to realize what short and long-term options can help them cover their roster holes, especially in the bullpen. But at the end of the day, the issues that this team is facing are first-place problems, nothing more, nothing less.

Not having real concerns is concerning, not having a National League East team to push them can be a huge problem.

Sure, their nerves don’t suffer, but the value of facing adversity in a competitive season can’t be ignored. A regular season with 162 games will always provide difficulty and test the limits of any team, even if they seem to cruise through the games like the Nationals this year, but it can’t be denied that any team benefits from having a challenging road to the postseason.

Baseball is a sport based on discomfort. Baseball exemplifies physical grind and mental fatigue. In baseball, there’s always something to fight through, to overcome against all odds, and the more teams are forced to rise above adversity, the stronger they will be intense postseason series.

That’s what the Nationals will lack because of their huge division lead. Sure, they’re blessed because they can solve their bullpen problem freely but not having a consistent opponent doesn’t help their World Series chances.

The Mets were supposed to put pressure on them and become their biggest obstacle to another NL East title. New York left Washington behind in the second half of the 2015 season, winning the division and reaching the World Series and last season they made the postseason as a wild card but there was no division race between the two teams.

The Mets won the NL East by seven games in 2015 and the Nationals won it by eight games last season and this year the Mets are in second place but they have a losing record and they’re struggling with injuries, which have prevented them from having Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey in their starting rotation at the same time.

Unless something changes, the Nationals might win the division by 10 to 15 games and have such a level of comfort is dangerous and should make them uncomfortable. Baseball can be a bit unfair because excellence during the 162 games of the regular season means nothing if you can’t get the job done in the postseason and over the years we have seen many wild card teams get hot in October and win the World Series.

Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo has built a team that can coast in the regular season and try to make a postseason run for years to come, but there’s a reason why the Nationals haven’t won a postseason series in three appearances and if they don’t advance to at least the National League Championship Series this season, they will be considered a disappointment. That’s why Washington needs to feel constant pressure, they need to create urgency right now so they can make a World Series run.

It’s not the Nationals’ fault though. Washington can’t control which teams are good and bad and I know they want a tougher path to the postseason. Trying to prepare for the pressure of postseason baseball by facing six months of limited pressure won’t help them reach their ultimate goal.

Before you make a bet on MLB, read 5Dimes’ review plus their site for odds. Winning their division and making the postseason for the second straight year is nothing short of impressive, but like the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls team that went 72-10 in the NBA regular season said, it “don’t mean a thing without the ring” and as mentioned before, ease is Washington’s greatest opponent right now.

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Clayton Richer
About the Author

Clayton Richer is an MLB scribe from north of the border with a slight bias for the Toronto Blue Jays. Clayton has also been the shop-keeper at Baseball Hot Corner since the sites inception in 2012. Follow and interact with Clayton on Twitter @MLBHotCorner or @ClaytonRicher

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