Despite appearances, the New York Mets are not baseball's worst team. That honor belongs to the Washington Nationals, a organization whose legendary incompetence should be memorialized on the marble arches of the great city that wishes they played elsewhere.
Since Pierre L'Enfant is no longer around to accurately convey the majesty of their ineptitude, this humble blog will attempt to do it with pretty pictures. It's more than what's needed, but less than they deserve and it will hopefully make Mets and Pirates fans feel a little bit better about themselves.
[Photo via. Special Thanks to Dan Steinberg and the rest of the Washington Post crew for their thankless coverage of this team.]
February 17: Sports Illustrated reports that Esmailyn Gonzalez—a highly-touted 19-year-old Washington Nationals prospect from the Dominican Republic—is actually 23-year-old Carlos Alvarez Daniel Lugo, a not-quite-as good baseball player from the Dominican Republic who forged his identity. "Gonzalez" had received a $1.4 million signing bonus in 2006, nearly double his next closest offer.
February 26: The Nationals fire Jose Rijo, a "special assistant" to General Manager Jim Bowden. Since July 2008, Rijo, Bowden and others within the organization had been under investigation by Major League Baseball and the FBI for allegedly skimming money designated for prospect signing bonuses in Latin America. Rijo, a former Major League pitcher, also owns the Dominican baseball academy where "Esmailyn Gonzalez" was discovered, but denied any involvement or knowledge of the fraud. [Washington Post]
March 1: Just days after spring training begins and faced with the growing scandal over the team's operations in Latin America, GM Jim Bowden resigns. The team's record over his four-year tenure is 284-362.
March 16: The Nationals sign journeyman RP Julian Tavarez, who describes his decision to join the team thusly: "When you go to a club at 4 in the morning, and you're just waiting, waiting, a 600-pounder looks like J-Lo. And to me this is Jennifer Lopez right here. It's 4 in the morning. Too much to drink. So, Nationals: Jennifer Lopez to me." Tavarez is designated for assignment in July.
April 6: On Opening Day, The Nationals are beaten by Florida, 12-6. The team loses its first seven games and falls 5.5 games back after just one week of the season. They are never closer than five games behind the division leader the rest of the season. [Photo: AP]
April 18: Elijah Dukes is scratched from the starting lineup and fined $500 after he arrives five minutes late for pre-game stretching. Dukes was tardy because he was giving a speech to children at a Little League ceremony. The league solicits donations from parents and pays the fine on his behalf.
April 18: Several Nationals players take the field with the letter "O" missing from their uniforms.
May 15: Rookie P Jordan Zimmermann receives his first personalized bats after being called up to the majors three weeks earlier. His name is misspelled on the bats. On August 19, Zimmermann undergoes Tommy John surgery and will miss all of 2010. [Just A Nats Fan]
May 16: A mechanical failure with the mascot's "sausage cannon" causes exploding hot dogs to rain down upon fans during an in-game promotion. One traumatized onlooker says: "It's just funny to watch hot dog rolls explode and come down on people." [WaPo]
May 16: Also, this happened.
June 7: Off-duty District of Columbia Fire Chief Dennis Rubin attends an afternoon game at Nationals Park against the New York Mets. Rubin immediately suspends all pyrotechnics at the stadium after he is hit by "debris" during a fireworks display that accompanies the National Anthem. [Wash. City Paper]
June 10: After a two-and-a-half hour rain delay in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Nationals rally from two runs down to force extra innings. They lose, 4-2, in the twelfth with fewer than 100 fans still left in the ball park.
July 13: After finishing the first half of the season with 26-61 record, manager Manny Acta is fired. [Photo: AP]
August 2: The Nationals begin an 8-game winning streak—their longest of the season—with victories over Pittsburgh, Florida, and Arizona. At the end of the streak, the team is 22.5 games back. [Photo: AP]
August 18: Two months after the MLB Amateur Draft, the Nationals sign No. 1 overall pick SP Stephen Strasburg to a four-year, $15 million contract, including a record signing bonus of $7.5 million. (He does not pitch in the majors in 2009.) Some experts believe they got off easy. [Photo: AP]
September 4: The Nationals are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. [Photo: AP]
September 9: Interim manager Jim Riggleman is quoted as stating that baseball is "not a physically taxing sport." The Nationals are 24-33 under his watch. [Photo: AP]