I've always been big on the "mental side" of sports. You know, the human element.
For all the stats, analysis, or inside information you can find, there's still the fact that athletes are human, and real life gets in the way sometimes. There's no advanced metrics to measure that. Maybe you can see it coming, maybe not.
Well no one saw 2020 coming, and it's been tough on everyone. The Washington Nationals are no different. Yes, they've been a bad team this year. Really bad actually. From injuries, to struggles at the plate, or struggles on the mound, pretty much everything has been about as awful as we could have imagined from a baseball standpoint.
Plenty of that is roster construction, but a lot of that, too, is a team that just clearly isn't passionate about their jobs right now.
“Just very frustrating living life as it is now,” Eric Thames said recently after a loss to the Marlins. “It’s not just on-the-field stuff, but it’s off the field. You can’t do anything. You’re stuck in your room. You’re eating the same meals every day. Using your microwave more than ever. It’s just very, very frustrating. The natural energy’s not there. Yeah, your teammates pick you up. Your teammates are playing for each other. But the games, it’s a whole different environment now."
With no fans in the stands, the same monotonous and restrictive routine every day, Nationals players are just like us and trying to navigate through a really frustrating and draining reality.
It's not making excuses, and sure every team has been dealt the same cards, but everyone is affected by this "new reality" differently. Everyone is coping with it in their own way.
The Nats are one of the oldest teams in baseball. Many are away from their families more than they're used to. There's changes in routines, whether it's how you prepare for a game, recover, or eat or sleep -- literally everything at this point has been changed somehow.
And let's be honest, the older you get the less you like change anyway.
It's similar to so many of us, and the ways we've had to alter our daily lives, from how you work or take care of the kids, all while suddenly becoming a teacher now as well, can and will wear down any person mentally.
Some players opted out before the season even started, some in other organizations opted out once they got a taste of this 2020 baseball life. The ones that stayed tried to make it work, but there was no way anyone could be expected to have the same juice given the circumstances.
Everything in and around baseball is different. You can see it on the field, and you can hear it from the players off of it.
They're ready to go home, and they're ready to be done with this reality.