Calling the 2013 Washington Nationals season a disappointment is probably a gigantic understatement. After winning the NL East last season, Washington was the sexy pick to win the World Series this year.
Of course, the Nationals haven't come close to touching those expectations. After their game with the Royals on Sunday concluded, the Nationals sat at 65-65, 13 games behind the division-leading Braves. Washington's playoff odds are miniscule, and it would take nothing less than an epic collapse by the Braves and a historic run by the Nationals for Washington to reach the postseason once again.
The whole situation with Washington reminds me of the above clip from The Simpsons. Homer unveils a pig he's planning to barbecue for his neighbors, and Lisa (recently converted into a vegetarian) interrupts the barbecue and sabotages Homer's plan.
In the real world, the Nationals are the pig. The vast majority of mainstream writers and television analysts across the country are playing the role of Homer, unveiling their prize pick to the adoring public, who ooohs and ahhhhs the choice. The Atlanta Braves play the role of Lisa, destroying the finely crafted narrative of the Nationals becoming World Champions by obliterating them in the NL East standings. You could even make an argument for Bart being the Phillies, because everyone is so used to them winning the division just like they're used to Bart being the one causing mischief as opposed to Lisa.
And then, we have the bulk of the clip, as Lisa pushes the pig down a hill to start its descent just like the Braves kicked the Nationals in the teeth in April, sweeping them in DC to push Washington further down the NL East standings.
The pig smashing through some bushes as Homer proclaims, "it's just a little dirty! It's still good! It's still good!" is like the Nationals splitting a four game set with the Braves in Atlanta at the beginning of May. "it's only 2.5 games! It's still good! It's still good!" Atlanta winning eight in a row in May and the Nationals not completely getting blown out of the division is like the pig's journey through traffic that doesn't result in it getting smashed by a car.
The pig falling into the river as Homer proclaims, "it's just a little slimy! It's still good! It's still good!" is like the Nationals going into the All-Star Break only six games behind the Braves in the standings. "there's still half the season left! It's still good! It's still good!"
The pig getting stuck in the dam is like Atlanta's 14 game winning streak through the end of July and into August, complete with a three game sweep of the Nationals that resulted in the Braves holding a 15.5 game lead. You can sense the national writers giving up like you can see Homer giving up on getting his pig back.
Then, you have the big bang: the Braves taking two out of three from Washington last weekend. This is like the pig exploding out of the dam like a cannon as Homer exclaims, "it's a little airborne! It's still good! It's still good!" before Bart tells him, "it's gone". This is the white flag from everyone. The Nationals aren't going to win the division. It's gone.
Briefly putting this into perspective, if the Braves just play .500 baseball over their final 32 games, the Nationals would need to go 29-3 in their 32 games simply to force a tie. If the Braves went 11-21 (the same record they had during the final 32 games of 2011, when they lost the NL Wild Card to the Cardinals on the season's final day), the Nationals would need to go 23-9 the rest of the way, which is a .750 clip. Keep in mind that the Braves have just six games left against teams at or above .500 (all of which are at home) and that they have 19 games remaining at home (where they're playing .710 baseball this year).
It's not just a little airborne, Nationals.. It's gone.