2012 Nationals Soliloquy

This was a fun ride.

I knew before the season, I wanted to return as a Nationals season ticket holder after attending some games the year before when I saw the Nats transition from doormat to respectability. This year was the question if the Nats could contend not only getting over .500, but for the wild card since the playoffs expanded to 5 teams.

During spring training (where I went to Viera, FL for the first time) and throughout the regular season, this was a different squad that I saw from the seven incarnations of the Nats. This team felt ready to take it to the next level. I thought the next level would be a winning season. The Nats next level went above expectations: an NL East crown and best record in baseball.

During that journey, the team was consistently winning each month, the crowds grew bigger (on and off, of course), and old and new friends forged. DC started to become a sports town when they have their summer sport. Baseball became popular when the Nats were winning. Everyone wants their piece of the pie. I will remember July 3rd when the Nats setup the “Ignite Your Natitude” Tweetup. That was probably the most fun I had in baseball:

  • Running down to see Nats players (literally) from Strasburg, Stammen, Clippard, Jackson, and Storen.
  • Meeting with other Nats fans on Twitter in real life.
  • Mocking Angel Pagan at section 143.
  • Fireworks.
  • Finally, a Nats blowout (won 9-3 over the Giants)

The 2012 season was to cherish and will never forget…

Which leads me to now.

Most in D.C. became a Nats fan because they were winning and wanted to be part of it. Some followed the sport, some wanted to join in on the fun, and some  don’t care but want to follow what’s trendy. They wanted to be part of a “magical” season that suppose to happen to the best team in baseball by record. I was just happy the Nats made the playoffs and knew the playoffs are a crapshoot and there are no guarantees.

What people have learned today is the baseball gods control destiny. The baseball gods will toy with us with relief, frustration, jubilation and mystery. The final part depends on where the wind is blowing. We originally thought it would side with the Nats with the 6-run lead, but baseball has a funny way to remember history. Do you remember July 20 when the Nats blew a 9-run lead and lost in the 10th inning against the Braves? Do you remember the September 1 against the Cardinals where the Nats blew a 4-run lead? Why do you think I tweeted “IT IS NOT OVER” over and over?

Most of the fan base (and nationally) will blame Drew Storen for not shutting the door; blame the offense for not scoring a bunch more runs after the 3rd inning; blame Davey Johnson of relying too much on certain people and things; and/or blame Mike Rizzo for shutting Strasburg early.

I look at this poetically: the Nationals were not ready to handle the baseball gods. The offense relied on the regular season success to carry-over and it bit them. The fans became overconfident (myself included). The whole pitching staff (starters and bullpen) became tired, not Rizzo withholding Strasburg and that’s when the baseball gods feast on them. St. Louis won because they know what to expect from these battles. The baseball gods respect what they have done before and got rewarded. The message the Nats and their fans got from the baseball gods is this what pain feels like; how are we going to handle it?

We never had an immediate answer and thus, the season has ended for the Nats in the most cruelest of fashions, but maybe that is a sign that the Nats need to be tougher and play differently. I know the Nats will comeback next year, but what team should we expect? This as far as we know: this will be a different team next year in every which way.

As we say goodbye this season, it is also goodbye to a few things:

  • Goodbye to Bo Porter. Good luck with the Astros.
  • Goodbye to the players, coaches, and front office: rest up. You deserve a vacation.
  • Goodbye to all the Strasburg talk (well, here locally).
  • Goodbye to my friends who I met at Nats Park and on Twitter. We’re going to meet again, but won’t be the same in a wonderful setting. Hopefully there’s a NatsFest in January.
  • Goodbye to fantasy and welcome back to the real world, where I want to return to a corporate setting.
  • Finally, a special goodbye to Cheryl and Dave Nichols, who will be moving to Idaho next month to startup their photography business. If it wasn’t for them, NatsJobs wouldn’t have been created.

I’m going to summarize with the popular poem “A Ballad of Baseball Burdens” by Franklin Pierce Adams (with some changes) that sums up what we’re feeling:

The burden of hard hitting. Slug away
Like Ryan Zimmerman or like Bryce Harper.
Else fandom shouteth: “Who said you could play?
Back to the jasper league, you minor slob!”
Swat, hit, connect, line out, get on the job.
Else you shall feel the brunt of fandom’s ire
Biff, bang it, clout it, hit it on the knob—
This is the end of every fan’s desire.

The burden of good pitching. Curved or straight.
Or in or out, or haply up or down,
To puzzle him that standeth by the plate,
To lessen, so to speak, his bat-renoun:
Like Stephen Strasburg or Gio Gonzalez,
So pitch that every man can but admire
And offer you the freedom of the town—
This is the end of every fan’s desire.

The burden of loud cheering. O the sounds!
The tumult and the shouting from the throats
Of forty-five thousand at Nationals Park
Sitting, ay, standing sans their hats and coats.
A mighty cheer that possibly denotes
That Nat or anyone fat is in the fire;
Or, as H. James would say, We’ve got their goats—
This is the end of every fan’s desire.

The burden of a pennant. O the hope,
The tenuous hope, the hope that’s half a fear,
The lengthy season and the boundless dope,
And the bromidic; “Wait until next year.”
O dread disgrace of trailing in the rear,
O Piece of Bunting, flying high and higher
That next October it shall flutter here:
This is the end of every fan’s desire.

ENVOY

Ah, Fans, let not the Quarry but the Chase
Be that to which most fondly we aspire!
For us not Stake, but Game; not Goal, but Race—
THIS is the end of every fan’s desire.

We had our sadness, anger, disbelief, and now it’s time for reflection. The baseball gods are telling the Nats to improve as players, as a team, as fans, and more importantly, as a whole community this offseason. It is the only way to appease the baseball gods to get something we want: a World Series championship.

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