Welcome to the pennant race, Nats fans. Take a look around and familiarize yourself with these new surroundings. Some of you are still grumbling about this being just like 2005. The Nats were already in last place by this time in 2005. This is nothing like that. I am sure by now you have noticed the great walls of pressure ready to squeeze in upon us and crush our hopes. You can’t see what I am talking about. Perhaps that is because they don’t exist.
Don’t get me wrong pressure exists in sports. Especially at the professional level, but consider the path that many of the Nationals took to get here. Ryan Zimmerman, for the longest time, was a great player on a bad team, and just as the team got good, he was rewarded with a $100 million contract. The pressure to perform has been on Zimmerman all season long, and when he wasn’t performing it had more to do with an injured shoulder than any type of pressure.
We can quickly head over to the newest and youngest member of the Nats, Bryce Harper. Being the most hyped prospect in perhaps baseball history and then playing in the majors at the age of 19 is the very definition of pressure. Harper has had his slumps, but that isn’t due to the forces of his own mind turning against him as he crumbles under the pressure of the pennant race. Harper struggled because he couldn’t lay off breaking balls away and is now playing a longer season than he has ever been a part of.
Continue down the line of Nats players, and Gio Gonzalez is proving that trading for him was a good idea and that he is the ace pitcher the Nats thought they were getting. Jordan Zimmermann is fighting like the bulldog he is, and it could be said that Zimmermann is the type of player that puts pressure on the pennant race. Ian Desmond fought for years in the minors. He went from being a player fans of the Nationals looked forward to seeing in 2005 to one they all forgot about until he debuted in 2009.
There is pressure in sports. There is pressure in a pennant race, but for high class athletes pressure is nothing new. Their entire lives has been about pressure: the pressure of pleasing their parents and coaches, the pressure of making the varsity team their freshman year, the pressure of dozens of scouts watching their every move, the pressure of fighting through the minors and trying to get that cup of coffee in the show, and the pressure of staying at the big leagues once they arrive.
To act like this newly added pressure is somehow greater than all the pressures that the Nats players have fought through to make it to this point is ignoring everything that they are. If the Nats fail, it isn’t because of a sudden foreign contaminant known as pressure. It will be because of the reason baseball teams fail: talent. The talent on the Nats has created this pressure situation, and as long as they can play as they have all season long, then there is little to nothing to worry about. The pressures of a pennant race are more a construct of our minds than they are of the players.