When this season began, hopes were high for the young Washington Nationals team. This team had great years ahead of it supported by a great pitching staff and a good young lineup. Heck, maybe the Nats could finish over .500 this year for the first time ever. These were the conversations I had with friends, family, and strangers in March and early April.
It turns out, the Nats had different plans, and manager Davey Johnson said as much in a spring training interview. If the Nats didn’t make the postseason, Davey said, “fire me.” People, including me, thought he was crazy. Well, there’s certainly no concern about the Nats manager’s status with the team after they won the National League East, earned the top seed in the National League, and finished with the best record in baseball. Maybe Davey knows exactly what he's talking about.
As the season progressed, it became clear from watching this team that what they were doing wasn’t a fluke. They believed in themselves, they had the talent to succeed, and rookies and veterans alike provided huge boosts in important spots.
When Ian Desmond went down, the teams MVP to that point in the season, rookie Steve Lombardozzi came in, and the team barely missed a beat. When Jayson Werth broke his wrist, Lombardozzi, Tyler Moore, another rookie, and others platooned to help the Nats work through it. Oh, and Bryce Harper was called up in late April, and he’s likely on his way to winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award.
Even with all the injuries to key players, including Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Michael Morse, Wilson Ramos, and others, the Nats starting pitchers never wavered a bit. They simply carried the Nats to the promised land. Stephen Strasburg showed what the Nats can look forward to for many more years, Gio Gonzalez is a leading candidate for the NL Cy Young Award, and the three other starters, Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson, and Ross Detwiler, all exceeded their expectations. The offense eventually got it together once they were healthy, but without that pitching staff, the Nats couldn’t have been here, on their way to the National League Division Series.
Baseball in DC has come a long way from Junior Spivey, Tony Armas, Jr., Steven Shell, and many, many other former Nats players that have long since left baseball and have long since been forgotten, even by many diehard Nationals fans. For those of us that watched from the beginning, a season like this is sweeter than sweet. The seasons of 100 plus losses, of irrelevance on the national stage, and of unknown players in the starting lineup are over. No one will soon forget the players that made up this 2012 Nationals team.
I’ve been blogging about the Washington Nationals for three years now, though I’ve been a fan from the start, and I joined here at The Nats Blog late last season. Not many independent baseball blogs are credentialed to cover an MLB team, but the Nats allowed us to do just that along with three other great blogs, District Sports Page, Federal Baseball, and We Love DC.
Watching this unfold from high atop Nationals Park in the press box has been unreal, and being granted credentials to cover the team’s home games for the NLDS is an extremely high honor. It’s been a challenging and exhausting season with lots of late nights of writing and early morning posts, but I wouldn’t have changed a single thing about it. This has been one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of my life, and it’s been wonderful sharing those experiences with you.
Our work isn’t done yet, because it never is. We have postseason baseball to write about, and then we have the offseason to talk about. I hope that doesn’t come until November. No one will forget the first time this team got here, and it will always be special as a Nats fan, but remember, there’s never a guarantee for future success. Savor this feeling and the experiences surrounding it. This is the kind of season you should want to tell your kids and grandkids about. I know I will.