I still play Strat-o-Matic Baseball. The old fashioned way with the cards and the dice. So, once I was starting to get over the flu last week with the cards all detached and ready to go, I tried to re-create the infamous National League Division Series Game Five between the St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals. I was poised to get the Nationals to the NLCS.
Then, the complete opposite of what happened in real life happened. Allen Craig and Yadier Molina both hit home runs in the first inning. Carlos Beltran did the same in the second. Before the second inning ended, it was already 6-0 Cardinals. The Nationals were hitless off of Adam Wainwright through two. By the end, there was no comeback, no payback in sight.
So, yes, last year’s game was heartbreaking until the very end, but wouldn’t it have been worse had it been awful from the start? The day after the game, I’m sure everyone would have said no. You can’t have your heart broken when you don’t care after the second inning. However, a few months after the fact, knowing that the team had a chance is better. Going into the first pretend game on Saturday afternoon, the off-season had a tone of a team that never wanted to feel like they did last October. That isn’t the same as a team that doesn’t want to have a horrible game at the wrong time. This team had its heart ripped out and stomped on just like the fans did. And while we can’t do anything about it, those players can. And Mike Rizzo did as much as he can to make sure it doesn’t happen again and that this team takes the next step.
Losing a game like the Nationals did last year sucks. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it. But what comes from that game is something you can’t describe. If you need to lose to figure out how to win, you might as well lose in the worst imaginable way. That way, you learn more. At least, Nationals fans hope that’s what the payoff is.