Friday, September 11, 2009

Dibble accentuates the positive

Dibble: Plenty of progress is possible in only a short time

As the season winds down, try and stay positive and build for tomorrow.

Sounds like we're in for another lesson in how to be a fan from a newly-arrived carpetbagger who acts like the team didn't even exist before his tattooed ass rolled into the Shirley Povich Media Center.

I know it sounds cliche, and maybe it is; but it's how we deal with failure and stay grounded in this game.

As Debbie Taylor likes to remind us, Nats fans need to have "Paaaaaaatience."

No matter how the season ends in DC, there will be some who wish to break down the season into numbers and how the team finished.

In fact, I'm going to do the very thing I said not to do when I compare the Nats to other teams.

Once again, I will remind people that it only takes a year to turn a negative into a positive.

Sales agents are standing by to take your 2010 season ticket deposits.

Let's take Tampa in 2007. They finished the year with 66 wins and 96 losses and finished 30 games back in last place. But they didn't let 2007 stand in the way of 2008, and they went out, stuck together, improved 31 games and won 97 en route to winning the toughest division in Baseball, the AL East.

Yes, let's take Tampa Bay. After having the first overall pick in the amateur draft 10 years in a row, getting new ownership, firing Chuck LaMar, bringing in Andrew Friedman and an entirely new management team, making some good trades, and changing the team name, logo, and uniforms, the Rays finally realized their potential. So, no, technically speaking, they didn't "stick together." And while it's true that the Rays didn't let 2007 stand in their way, that was mostly due to the team's inability to stop time.

This year's great story has to be the Texas Rangers: 79-83 in 2008 and they finished in second place in the AL West, 21 games back of the AL West winning Los Angeles Angels. They had the best offense in 2008 and the worst pitching staff in the American League.

79-83 isn't really that bad, not competitive but not as bad as the 2007 Rays or the 2008-9 Nats, but OK . . .

They hired pitching coach Mike Maddux from Milwaukee and now they are ranked fourth in the AL in pitching. They have one veteran starter, Kevin Millwood (371 starts), and four young starters with around 140 starts combined. One of the best of the Young Bucks, Scott Feldman is 16-4 and has 51 career starts.

Nope, the improvement has nothing to do with going from dead last in the AL in team UZR in 2008 (-51.7) to a very respectable 3rd in the AL in 2009 (41.1). Pssst, hey Rob, the same thing happened to the Rays from 2007 (-57.7, dead last) to 2008 (74.2, first).

The offense is fifth this year. The Texas Rangers of 2009 and the Tampa Bay Rays of 2008 learned a lot from failure and chose to be positive and focused the following year.

As the saying goes, nothing breeds success like failure.

It's not just adding talent to rosters that helps winning (although it can't hurt); it's learning every day, being prepared for every obstacle, applying tough lessons to future games and not letting a few rough patches get in the way.

Bad attitudes like Felipe Lopez and the 1992 Mets aside, it's still mostly about adding talent. All the positivity and preparation in the world won't take the suck out of Pete Orr, Wil Nieves, and Logan Kensing.

I like a lot of what I've seen this year, but it's not up to me.

Thank God for that.

It's up to everyone involved with the team - the coaches, the media, the organization, and most of all the fans. If everyone stays positive, it can be done.

Lemme guess, the best way to stay positive is to make a 2010 season ticket deposit, right?

Other than the superficial similarity of a lousy record, the Nats have very little in common with the 2007-8 Rays or the 2008-9 Rangers. The 2003/6 Tigers, who used some pricey free agents to complement homegrown position players and pitchers, is a more relevant example.

All the broadcasters do when they make these comparisons is create false expectations. The turnaround in the fortune of the Rays, and maybe the Rangers, has as much to do with changes in the front office as it does with changes on the field. This is where the fans really need to struggle to stay positive. The fans need to try to stay positive and hope that the recent change in management means there will be a change in process and a corresponding change in results.

Rob Dibble shows off his new car.

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