Do you remember the feeling last year at this time as the Nationals pulled off a remarkable run to get into the playoffs? Or how you felt about the chances of a team that had adopted Baby Shark as a rally song or the “stay in the fight” motto? There were so many highlights that crescendoed into an epic ending that catapulted the Washington Nationals into World Series champions. Fast forward to the 2020 season and you can’t help but feel that, as the season came to an anticlimactic 15-5 thumping of the New York Mets on the final game of the season, the Nationals and Washington D.C. were robbed!
After a 33-year hiatus, baseball returned to the District in 2005 amid fanfare, jubilation, and a sense of respect that only a 4-sport city can achieve. Washington DC was once again the home of a major league baseball team. They rekindled the days of the Washington Senators by initially playing in RFK Stadium. No longer a fitting venue for today’s modern ballparks they embarked on a journey to a new ballpark that might someday host a world series championship banner. Washington rolled out the red carpet, some tax incentives, and the neighboring Baltimore Orioles made a lucrative one-sided media deal but it was all okay because baseball was back. After an impressive debut season (81-81) and nearly making the playoffs, the team descended quickly. This honeymoon phase started to wane as the city endured seven straight seasons missing the playoff with 2 of those years including back-to-back 100-loss seasons.
Then came the playoff stretch that everyone had been waiting for. From 2012 to 2018 the Nationals made the playoffs 4 of the next 7 years. each year ended with a heartbreaking first-round loss. None more devastating that the 2012 home-loss to the St. Louis Cardinals when the team was one out away from clinching its first playoff series win. I remember standing inches away from my television waiting to leap into the air to celebrate the first-round victory. It never came as the moment slipped into the October night on the heels of a disastrous 4-run ninth-inning meltdown.
After the controversial firing of manager Dusty Baker at the end of the 2017 season and another first-round playoff loss, the Nationals ended the 2018 season unceremoniously by missing the playoffs. At the end of the season, their All-Star game home-run derby contest winner and much-touted teen phenom packed his bags and moved to Philly. The team’s 2nd-year coach seemed over matched by the game and the expectations of a talented team. So, with little fanfare and expectations, the 2019 season unfolded and the team teetered consistently around 500 and later dipped to 19-31 on May 24th. From there they launched one of the most remarkable and stunning comebacks and as they say – the rest is history.
So coming into the 2020 season after an off-season of pride and celebration Washington fans looked forward to a season-long celebration as the reigning World Series Champions and defending that title against all comers! Then came COVID-19 to not only throw the world of sports into chaos, take an unbelievable death-toll on the country, but it also selfishly robbed DC fans of a moment to bask in the glow of its first World Series Championship. What should have been a year of anticipation, quickly turned into a year of despair, a 60-game abbreviated season, the loss of one of its key players in the offseason trade, and throngs of cheering crowds replaced by throngs of empty seats. But like they say there’s no crying in baseball, so what had all the promise of a glorious second act turned into a devastating sequel.
The 2020 season ended in whimper despite a 15-run barrage. There’s always next season but any Washington Nationals fan can’t help but feel we were robbed of our season in the sun. After 14 seasons of losses and first-round heartbreaks – we were deprived of that one moment of glory and this year’s march to the fall classic won’t include Baby Shark, dugout home run dances, or the powerful “stay in the fight” slogan. So, when the Major League Baseball kicks off its 2020 march to the Fall Classic, DC baseball fans can’t help to have an empty feeling in the pit of their stomachs. Not only did we not make the playoffs but we were robbed of a full season being MLB World Series Champions. But, like I said, there’s no crying in baseball – Spring training starts in 152 days!