As the Washington Nationals enter the National League Division Series, all eyes are on whether they can finally win a postseason series. The club’s health in recent weeks complicates the picture against the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the pieces are in place for a competitive first round matchup.
It’s been a week since the Nationals clinched the NL East with a win against the Pittsburgh Pirates and with the Philadelphia Phillies surpassing expectations by not blowing a ten run lead. In this week since, Bryce Harper has been sidelined with a thumb injury and Wilson Ramos’ ACL may have put his last play as a National in the books. Baseball can be one cruel mistress, but sometimes you can find light at the end of the tunnel. As luck will have it, there are pictures and videos of your favorite baseball team clinching a division title for the third time in five years. Lookit.
As I watched Wilson Ramos land awkwardly and crumple to the ground pointing at his knee Monday night, a lot was going through my mind. I was mad that the Nationals had to play in the sloppy conditions in DC that night. I was frustrated with Dusty Baker for not giving Ramos more time off. I cursed the baseball gods who clearly had a hand in sending first Stephen Strasburg then Daniel Murphy then Bryce Harper and now Ramos to the bench with injuries. I wondered how many people weren’t watching the game because they were doing something much more important like watching the presidential debate. I hated the Diamondbacks and their stupid jerseys. I missed Jose Fernandez, because anything related to baseball makes me miss Jose Fernandez this week. But most of all, in the midst of all that emotion, I feared what this injury might do to ruin what has been an amazing season of baseball in DC.
There have been 159 pitching debuts during the 2016 season thus far. The ERAs of these pitchers range from 0.00 to 40.50. But, of course, none of them are women. Pitch, the newest fall FOX drama, imagines a Major League Baseball where this isn’t the case — an imagination that leads them to a worthwhile pilot episode and hopefully beyond.
September baseball can be agonizing for many reasons, but mainly because it’s not October. It could be agonizing because your team is waiting on a mercy killing or (as is the case with the Nationals) because they are involved in the world’s slowest countdown – the countdown of the magic number.
The Nationals have a problem, they have a black hole at first base. I mean that figuratively of course; the Nationals have gotten the least offensive production out of first base in all of baseball. There may be a hole in the space time continuum at first, though, because Ryan Zimmerman has gone missing this season. Zimmerman’s .213/.269/.365 batting is far from acceptable from a first baseman. In fact, it makes him the worst offensive first baseman in all of baseball. He might as well have been pulled into The Upside Down.
The resumé of Dusty Baker is one that elicits sharp debate. Depending upon one’s interpretation, he’s either an under-appreciated leader with over 1,700 wins and an impeccable ability for handling a clubhouse, or he’s notoriously prone to bad in-game decisions and just happens to be in the right places at the right time.
The last time the number seven was this magic was when Barry Bonds wore it for his introduction to Major League Baseball in ‘86. Checking the NL East standings to make sure that the Mets haven’t been automatically knocked out for signing Tim Tebow will reveal that the magic number now sits at seven. That magic in the air might be why the Nats hit peak fun off-the-field this past week.
With a playoff berth looking surer by the day, the Washington Nationals must look to October. The franchise’s playoff history is far from sterling, but what about this year’s team? Could they be the ones to break through and bring DC its first baseball title since 1924? One easy way to figure it out is by looking at how the past few champions have made their way to destiny.