For those that have been reading me from day one, you may find it blasphemous that I, a true Washingtonian (so much so, that I always say I am from DC, but really I am from the suburbs some 20+ miles away), haven’t written anything about the Nationals. Maybe it’s the fact that advanced statistics have been infiltrating the sport for the last 30 years to the point where we may have collected everything. Maybe it’s the fact that I respect way too much out of such great writers like Jayson Stark, Jonah Keri, Ben Lindbergh and Dave Cameron. Maybe it’s the fact that Tom Boswell, the man who time stops anytime he posts an article on the Washington Post, is a man I admire so much, I know my work can’t ever beat his. Or maybe, just maybe, I am a bit too scared to talk about the boys whom rock the red every summer.
In my 27 years of existence, there have been three incidents’ that have permanently scarred me and possibly prevented me from ever having sheer joy of watching sports on television. The first came in 1997, when a 98-64 Orioles team won their division pennant, had the best record in the American League and should have beaten a horribly inconsistent, but still talented Cleveland team in the ALCS. Instead, this happened in the top of the 11th in the clinching game six, AT HOME!!!
Over time, sites like Baseball-Reference reminded me that Orioles team was one of the oldest in the league and were facing the beginning of the end of that core group of players. I mean, if you thought Chris Davis being suspended from PEDs was rough, does anyone remember Brady Anderson going from 50 home runs in one season to 18 in the span of two years? Even so, this team had Cal Ripken, Mike Mussina, Scott Erickson and Rafael Palmeiro. How were they supposed to lose? Fast forward a couple of months and Davey Johnson was fired for no valid reason and the O’s signed one of the biggest free agent busts in franchise history in Albert Belle. Three years later, Mussina left the O’s and signed with the Yankees for close to $15 million per year. It would take 12 solid years for this team to recover from that.
My next proverbial stab in the sports fan heart came in 2010. The Caps were playing game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens. The boys in red not only won the Presidents Trophy in the most convincing fashion imaginable, but they even proved that they could beat teams like the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins and the eventual champion Chicago Blackhawks. To this day, this team was the most fun I have ever seen in my lifetime thanks to their ridiculous amount of high flying goal scorers from all positions and they made me forever fall in love with the sport. Montreal took until the final day of the season to clinch a playoff berth and had no superstar like Alex Ovechkin, or even Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom or Alexander Semin. And yet, here’s the proverbial Zabruder film. Again, this one was AT HOME!!!
To this day, I can’t listen to Sam Rosen’s voice without cringing. Did you know that Rosen also called the Redskins game where Mike Shanahan benched Donovan McNabb during the 2010 season? I’m telling you, his voices curses every DC team in his sight!!!! To go along with that, I still am scarred from seeing Dominic Moore, Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez (even if it was fun seeing him get smashed to pieces by Tom Poti in game 2), and Tomas Plekanec’s turtle neck sweater and not thinking how much they will ruin my livelihood. I was so scared of Plekanec, I still remember that he was a free agent after that season and I am forever baffled why we made no effort to bring him to DC. Afterwards, Ted Leonsis, George McPhee and Co. paid way too much attention to idiots like Mike Milbury whom told the Caps to play more defensively. Now the Caps have looked like a frail and timid hockey team not knowing which style to play and not wanting to give up any goals without making any serious AND CORRECT personnel changes to the roster.
Lastly, my final scar in my sporting memory happened almost two years ago to the day at Nationals Park. Again, the Nationals won 98 games, won the NL East Pennant, had the best record in the National League and had a shot to make it to the World Series if things broke right. Even though the St. Louis Cardinals had the Nationals’ number head-to-head during the regular season, they were still a flawed team who didn’t have any superstars and were still trying to figure out how to live life without Albert Pujols on their team. After Jason Werth hit his walk-off home run to win game four and start game five with a 6-0 lead after three innings, you would think this series is over. Instead, this happened.
Drew Storen got so much crap that he didn’t deserve after that game. Yes, he blew a game should have had and performed below average in 2012, but he missed the first half of the season from having surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow and it wasn’t until September that he regained his closer job from Tyler Clippard. After Game 5, Mike Rizzo could have damaged the clubhouse after signing Rafael Soriano to a two-year deal so he can compete with Storen for the ninth inning job. Storen was a disaster in 2013 and needed to be sent to the minors to rebuild his pitching mechanics and confidence. This season, he is back and so is the rest of the team. Even with Ryan Zimmerman hurt, this Nationals team has, at least, two extra players that can be counted upon on in the batting lineup. Their pitching staff is deeper than any baseball team I have ever followed. I mean, shouldn’t I be weeping tears of joy after looking at this tweet every day…
…or this Facebook post?
And maybe that’s the point of this piece. I just don’t know what to do with my life anymore. Some of you will say that I stress out too much, that it’s sports for crying out loud or that my chance of seeing my city win a title (even if it has been 22 years too long) will happen. After all, my lack of enthusiasm has been making me not enjoy seeing both baseball teams in the DMV contend for a title. It has been making me not enjoy the career of the greatest athlete donning a DC uniform since Walter Johnson in Alex Ovechkin and it has been making me not enjoy a potential basketball renaissance the likes of which I have never seen in the Washington Wizards.
Maybe that’s the point. Life, at the end of the day, is way too short. I learn, time and again that upsets happen. That’s life and it stinks too much some times, but what am I going to do about it? All I can do is stay medium.
It can’t be stated enough how much you’re not a real DC Sports fan if you don’t think Tom Boswell is the best sports writer in recent times and he said it best at the end of this incredible montage about the 2012 Nationals.
Baseball in October is crueler than that. So fans should take pleasure the whole season, judge by the whole season, and then tolerate whatever happens in October and if it’s good, love it.