Jan 31, 2014, 2:33 PM EDT
Before the Nationals were eliminated from playoff contention on Sept. 23 of last season, they nearly completed an incredible comeback to secure a wild card spot. From Aug. 9 to Sept. 22 they went 29-12 and along the way closed the gap to a playoff berth to five games. The late season surge, however, was a little too late.
Given how hot the Nationals were in September – they won 18 games during the month – one could argue they were one of the best teams in baseball at the time. Their 2012 season suggested they were no fluke, they just arrived too late to the party.
Jayson Werth still can’t help but wonder ‘what if,’ given how well the Nationals were playing late in the year. Last weekend he looked back on 2013, and even after several months, still believes the Nats could have made some noise in the playoffs.
“We were too far back coming down the stretch. I always knew we were going to make a run, that we had good ball in us, it just took us too long to get there,” he said.
“But all in all, you look at the way we played coming down the stretch, if we get in the postseason – which we only missed by a couple of games even as bad as we played in the first half – if we get in, we were the best team in baseball at the time. I think it was ours to lose, really.”
The Nationals sat at home and watched the Boston Red Sox capture the 2013 World Series, a run that no one predicted before the season began. It was as wide open a playoff bracket as any in recent years, so who is to say the Nationals wouldn’t have had a chance?
Not having that opportunity, not even being there is something Werth has thought a lot about this winter. It gave him a strong reminder how important the entire regular season really is. The Nationals stumbled out of the gate and just couldn’t catch up in the end.
The Nats did finish the year with a 38-29 record in the second half, a pace that would have qualified them for the playoffs. Werth understands that and thinks it bodes well for 2014.
“If you look at last year, the way we played down the stretch, if we played like that all year it’s a done deal,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to . I have no expectations, nothing negative, I’m looking forward to a new season.”
The Werth and Matt Williams get-together
Shortly after Matt Williams was introduced as the Nationals’ new manager on Nov. 1, he and his family met with Jayson Werth at the veteran’s home in Virginia.
“He just happened to be in the neighborhood, so I just said, ‘you want to stop by?. I’m going to be right by where you’re going to be, so you’re more than welcome.’ He had about 15 minutes so he stopped.”
Werth described the meeting as very casual.
“It went well. We’re just getting to know each other. We just talked about the team a little bit and expectations. Just normal stuff, we didn’t sign any treaties or anything.”
Werth, who began training for the new year on Dec. 1, says he started baseball activities in recent days. He’s already geared up for 2014 and hopes the first season under Williams will be a success.
“Hopefully we’re going to be together for a long time,” he said.
NL EAST STANDINGS
TUE: Nats at Dodgers, 10:10 p.m.
WED: Nats at Dodgers, 3:10 p.m.
FRI: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Phillies at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Phillies at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
MON: Braves at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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