Washington Nationals: A Fan's Perspective On The Stone Garrett Injury

The Nationals lost in New York last night to the Yankees by a score of 9 to 1, but they also lost a key member of their recent success in the process. What does Stone Garrett's injury mean to the team and its fanbase?
Cleveland Guardians v Washington Nationals
Cleveland Guardians v Washington Nationals / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages

Sports can be so brutal sometimes. Having a rooting interest in a team or player can really backfire when your team underachieves or loses that must-win game, or when your favorite player gets traded or otherwise leaves your team. Or worse yet, they sustain a serious injury. And the twisted part about it is that the more you care, the more it hurts when things go wrong.

So why do we keep doing it?

The thing is, sports can give back so much. You'll hear any professional athlete say it: they get payed to play a children's game. There are extremely high levels of skill and talent and competition, but at they end of the day they also entertain. They give us something to look forward to, an escape from the potential monotony of everyday life. As cliche as it may sound, they give us something to believe in. Or if we don't believe in them, they give us a common enemy until the franchise finally makes a change. And either way, we build connections throughout the fanbase that can last a lifetime. We care so much when things go wrong because we care enough to want to see the team do well, and at times we take it for granted.

We got a sobering reminder of that on Tuesday night as Nationals' Outfielder Stone Garrett had to be carted off with what appeared to be a significant injury to his left leg. A devastating gut punch to a team that had been playing so well since the All Star Break, and to a fanbase that is finally coming around after a couple of down years.

But to understand why this meant so much, you need to look beyond the Nationals' record or player statistics.

The Nationals are not fighting for a playoff spot. In fact, they will likely have a losing record for the 4th consecutive season. The injury will not derail any hopes for an October postseason run or a potential MVP campaign. The Nationals are not world-beaters offensively and Stone Garrett wasn't a league-leader in any category either.

In reality, none of that mattered to begin with.

No one was expecting the Nationals to having a winning record, let alone compete for a playoff spot. And certainly no one was expecting an All Star campaign or anything of the sort out of Stone Garrett - he didn't even make the roster out of Spring Training.

Instead, fans were truly just looking for a sign that things would get better. For a team that had competed for the better part of a decade prior to tearing it down, fans were craving that feel-good feeling once again. After seeing fan-favorites and franchise icons get traded, leave in Free Agency, retire or lost to injury, there was not much optimism amongst the fanbase. They just wanted a reason to root for their team without the rug being pulled out from under them.

Enter: The Scrappy Nats.

A 55 win team just a year ago, the Nationals have embraced a new identity. What they may lack in power or firepower, they make up for with grit and sheer will and determination. They don't roll over easily and they certainly do not play to the pre-season expectations of their team.

That is what Stone Garrett did as well.

This was a player who took up Real Estate because he was not sure he would ever get a chance in the Major Leagues. He was a minor leaguer for almost a decade before he finally got a cup of coffee with the Diamondbacks last season, who responded to his seemingly positive performance by releasing him.

After signing with the Nats this past offseason, he immediately became a fan favorite due to his stature and frankly, his cool ass name.

But the Nationals have had fan favorites before, and after being assigned to AAA Rochester out of camp, there was concern that Garrett would just be another fan favorite that was nothing more than a "clubhouse guy" or "cheerleader" and wouldn't produce. And honestly, we have seen enough of those lately.

Instead, he did produce. Garrett got the call up shortly after the season began after an Opening Day injury to Corey Dickerson. In his first start with the Nationals, we went 4 for 5 with 5 RBI against the Colorado Rockies with this towering home run, further cementing himself (rock joke) into Nats' fans hearts:

He then, of course, inexplicably sat for 6 straight games. However, that also contributed to his importance to the fanbase. No one knew why, on a rebuilding team nonetheless, a guy who could go 4 for 5 with 5 RBIs and hit for power on a seemingly powerless team would not be playing everyday. Social media is a cesspool most of the time, but all Nationals fans alike were clamoring for more Stone Garrett. This continued from early April all the way until August 2, when the Nationals finally released Corey Dickerson, clearing the way for more playing time for Stone Garrett.

For those four months, Stone Garrett would get scarce opportunities despite seemingly performing well enough the majority of the time to earn more playing time. He was assigned to a bench role and would only hit against lefties every so often. But again, he would answer the call more often than not. After a while, he earned more of a platoon role, but nothing netting substantial playing time.

However, it was really no different for Garrett, who had spent 8 years in the Minor Leagues trying to prove himself. He was drafted by the Marlins and spent 6 years in their farm system, but would never see anything above AA in their organization. He spent an additional 2 years with the Diamondbacks AAA affiliate before he finally got his chance and after he did, he was cut. He signed with the Nationals, but didn't make the roster out of camp. All of this would deter the average person, but he kept going. And he let his performance earn him not only a roster spot, but a starting spot.

Yet again, Garrett answered the call. In his last 30 games, Garrett posted an .888 OPS while playing everyday, and had got especially hot in the past couple weeks with an OPS flirting near 1.000. He was proving all his loyal supporters right and giving the collective fanbase something they could cheer for, together.

This fanbase is still on the newer side, but is also still adjusting to life after the World Series. Some think the team will compete as early as 2024 whereas others believe we are in for a decade long dark phase with no light at the end of the tunnel. And you best believe that we disagree on everything this team does and with each other, because we all know more than one another and more than the General Manager and Manger as well. If we were running the team, it would definitely be different.

Admittedly, I was caught up in this. I was always focused on what the Nationals could be doing better because I had such a desire to see them put in the same care I did into the team that nothing could ever be good enough. For a time, I took it for granted and forgot what its like to just root for your team. When you can just step back and root for your team, that is fandom at its purest.

And that is ultimately how I see Stone Garrett. He was the player that united all sides of the fanbase and got us to stop going for each other's throats long enough because we just wanted to see him play and see him do well when his opportunities arose.

No matter what your thoughts on Davey Martinez's bullpen management were or Mike Rizzo's roster construction, or the Lerners and their sale of the franchise, if Stone Garrett was up to bat, everyone believed. And if he did well, everyone celebrated.

And the coolest part was that seemingly everyone was on the same page. We weren't declaring that Stone Garrett was this or that or even necessarily in the team's long term plans, but rather we just all appreciated the story and the ride and enjoyed the fact that our guy was doing well.

The Nationals still have a bright future and will likely have more fun moments the rest of this season thanks to players like CJ Abrams, Keibert Ruiz and Lane Thomas and the seasons they are having. But we will certainly miss seeing Stone Garrett out there. And you know the players and coaches will too, as evident by their reactions after last night's game.

When more details release regarding the injury, we will react accordingly. But we sincerely hope this is not career-threatening to a guy who had to work so hard just to get a chance in the first place. Wishing a speedy recovery to the player who had many happy to just be a fan again.