Last night, after a loss, the red was everywhere. Fans stayed long after the final out, and players were going from the clubhouse and back out to the stadium wearing celebratory hats, shirts and in some cases, ski goggles. It was a long time coming, but the Nationals finally solidified an NLDS berth by clinching the National League East division. It was the first such berth in franchise history in a season that was not disturbed by a strike.
When the Nationals found out that the Braves lost and started high-fiving in the dugout, I wasn’t as excited as most Nationals fans – heck, not even two weeks ago, I was not even following them very closely – but I wasn’t upset like most Expos fans. As far as I am concerned, the Nationals have been remembering more and more of their Montreal roots from having Gary Carter‘s and Andre Dawson‘s numbers displayed at Nationals Park to their eerily similar road jerseys that still give me flashbacks. When the Nationals clinched a playoff berth, I said that it was a welcome addition to 1981. When the Nationals did something the Expos never did, I can’t wait until the next step is taken and they are the last remaining National League team to make the World Series (Seattle has never done that in the American League, and Milwaukee, although they have never represented the National League have made the World Series in the AL). It may not be this year (don’t worry I’m not counting any chickens before they hatch), but one day it will happen.
This team is well beyond the days where they were selling their best players and is far removed from the days of Jim Bowden who made this team hard to like from a distance, never mind from in Washington. But they are different now. They are likeable, they are fun to watch. There was a sign in the crowd yesterday that lauded Mike Rizzo. He deserves quite a bit of the credit of building this team.
They have two of the best young players in the game thanks to two number one selections. But they are more than Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg. They have a very cohesive team, developed players on their own and a manager that has been around before. You know what? That sounds familiar. The Nationals are a good, young team with depth at starting pitching, an amazing bullpen and young players throughout the lineup along with players hitting their prime. They are a breath of fresh air and fresh faces are celebrating and kids who never knew any different then baseball in Washington are cheering as much as people who have dealt with previous losses – not just games but teams.
In fact, some will say the Nationals are starting something new, something great in Washington. That’s not untrue but I don’t necessarily agree. I just say that they are simply finishing what earlier versions of this franchise started.