With a massive year taking shape, what does the acquisition of Sean Doolittle, and by extension, his wife Eireann Dolan, mean for the Washington Nationals and the city as a whole?
When Blake Treinen was shipped off to Oakland for Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals fans collectively let out a sigh of relief. The Nationals have been haunted by uncertain final innings for longer than the ghost of their first round exits. I won’t rehash it; we all know of Rafael Soriano and the crumbling, once promising, career of Drew Storen.
Doolittle’s presence gives the Nationals a luxury they are unaccustomed to, a solidified closer at the beginning of spring training. Essentially, due to all reports, the job is Doolittle’s to lose.
There have been articles about his downsides, such as his troubled shoulder and unproven ability to close an entire season. Yes, this season seems climactic for many reasons. If you listen to the talking heads and twitter avi’s, it is seemingly the last time the Nationals will ever have a shot at a championship.
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Even if that’s not the case, which I personally don’t think it is, this year is a one where all 25 men need to perform. The back of the bullpen is no exception.
The good news is Doolittle seems poised to perform to his peak potential, attempting to throw less pitches and get his slider working, as highlighted in a recent piece by the Post’s Jorge Castillo.
Let’s look ahead, past this sure-to-be nerve-wracking season. The Nationals have Doolittle under team control through 2020. This, as of now, puts the closer question to rest and provides the team, and city, with much more, things that are known as “intangibles.”
In half a year, the city and fanbase have started to fall in love with Doolittle and his now wife, Eireann Dolan, who if you don’t follow on Twitter, you should. Baseball fans love to talk about off the field behavior, commonly in a negative light, and we’ve seen it derail promising careers.
After all, what could Josh Hamilton have been? Doolittle is not a player that keeps Nationals fans awake at night.
My first introduction to either of them, Doolittle or Dolan, was when an article showed up down the rabbit-hole of sports journalism hyperlinks. It highlighted an Oakland relief pitcher’s thanksgiving dinner, one hosted for refugee families. I looked a little further and discovered that this pitcher and his, at the time, girlfriend’s passion for charity ran deeper than this one instance.
Both coming from military families, the couple has been involved in veterans issues for a while. An example is the piece they penned together for Sports Illustrated highlighting issues facing veterans with “bad paper”.
Recently, in the wake of certain events, both have both been vocal, using their platform to urge people to think about issues or see them in a way they may not have before.
I know many of us turn to sports to ignore; it is after all a form of escapism. However, there is no denying that sports are becoming intertwined with a morphing society. Pure escapism no longer exists.
Athletes are human, ones that hold opinions and have lives off the field. Doolittle and Dolan are starting to realize the responsibilities and burden of being in the public eye, a place where they will likely find themselves more and more.
After all, to use a term I’ve started to hear thrown around, Doolittle is now the closer for a “superteam”. This is the year, the stage is set and they are no longer in Oakland. I know they’ll do well off the field; I just hope he does well on it.