As the title states, this is my second illogical story of the week post. If you missed the first, you can find it here.
We’re staying away from North Korea, lightning strikes, and deer gland medicine this time, and focusing on something more American.
More specifically, the Atlanta Braves and their logic-defying struggles against the Washington Nationals.
The Nationals became the Nationals in 2005. Before that they were the Montreal Expos. Since their move to Washington, the Nationals have a win-loss record of 464-616 (including today’s loss against the Braves). That’s a winning percentage of .429. They’ve never had a winning record, and have only finished at .500 (same number of wins and losses) once, in 2005. They do have a shot this year to finish above .500. Their best finish in the National League East Division was 4th (out of 5) in 2007. In 2008 and 2009, they posted back-to-back 100+ loss seasons. Even one 100 loss season is abysmal. To the Nationals’ credit though, they do seem to be improving and have some decent young talent coming up in their farm system. The future is at least partly sunny for them.
Over that same period of time, the Atlanta Braves have a record 566-518, good for a .522 winning percentage. Assuming they don’t tank for the rest of this season, they will have 5 winning seasons during that span. The Braves best finish in the NL East was 1st in 2005. They also made the playoffs last year as the National League Wild Card team. Their worst record was in 2008, when they went 72-90. It should probably be noted that this time period has actually been the worst for the Braves since the late 1980s, right before they began their unprecedented streak of 14 straight division titles. Still, 5 winning seasons out of 7 and 2 (hopefully 3) playoff appearances isn’t that bad. Just ask fans of the Pirates, Royals, Orioles, or…wait for it…Nationals.
Despite all this, the Braves are a measly 61-60 against the Nationals since the Nationals moved to Washington (2005). 61-60! To me, that defies all logic. As I wrote in a previous post, the Nationals are one of the four teams in all of MLB that hasn’t finished in the top 10 in regular season standings in the past 5 years. Yet the Braves are only one game over .500 against them since 2005.
What is it about the Washington Nationals that the Braves struggle with? I’m a firm believer that even the worst teams in MLB are tough to beat ALL the time, but a supposed regular contender (for a playoff spot at least) should be able to regularly beat a team that hasn’t mustered a winning season since I graduated high school (Note: Technically it’s been longer than that. The last time the Nationals franchise posted a winning record was 2003, when it was still the Montreal Expos. The Braves were 12-7 against them that year. Go figure).
Maybe it’s because the Braves often play up (or down) to their competition. Some have argued that. If that were totally true, though, wouldn’t you expect them to have a better record against the Phillies than 53-68 since 2005? Personally, I don’t think there is a good reason for the Braves’ struggles against the Nationals, which is why it’s the illogical story of the week.