"Athletes are human."
You hear that a lot, right? But how often do you really take that phrase into consideration when judging a team or player's success? The mental side of sports tends to be overlooked far too often, and right now, it's the most important trait in sports, especially for a team embarking on a title defense like the Nationals.
Look at 2020. It's a year that's tested everyone in one way or another. It's no different for athletes. From bubbles, to condensed seasons, to drawn-out labor negotiations, sports has been just plain, weird.
There's no question that even with fewer games, the Nationals will have to endure a lot to win back to back World Series titles, and this shortened season will absolutely be a legit title defense for the Nats.
No asterisk is needed.
For one, you have far fewer games to get your feet under you. You may not know this but, ummm, the Nats did start 19-31 last year. No room for slow starts in 2020.
By going with 60 games, as is reportedly the plan as of Tuesday, the league will jam in as many games as possible before Sept. 27, the league's self-imposed cutoff for the regular season. That's a lot of baseball in a short amount of time.
A second (rushed) Spring Training doesn't help either. These guys have to ramp back up and then jump into a schedule with very few days off and a whirlwind of new and borderline, suffocating restrictions.
Not to mention, just having the worry of an ongoing pandemic in the background means even more focus on each and every game is important.
Baseball is a marathon, sure. Sometimes though, a long season can subconsciously give you the false sense of security that early or mid-season mistakes won't be debilitating. This year the Nationals, or any other team in Major League Baseball for that matter, don't have that luxury. They're hitting the ground running.
One very promising piece of the Nats' resume though is the fact that they've already been through a mental grind. They were in postseason mode from May to October last year. They've shown they can overcome huge mental hurdles and persevere. That's as important as ever right now.
Sure, the season will be shorter, and many baseball traditionalists will say it's not a true season. But with all the extenuating circumstances surrounding this 2020 MLB season, the lack of games is without a doubt made up for with the extreme mental toll that has to be conquered by every single player in Major League Baseball.
Yes, this is certainly a true, and very unique title defense on the horizon for the Washington Nationals.
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