As major league baseball begins its playoffs tonight, I can’t help but feel a pang of sadness.
It was only two years ago we were all on top of the world. We all knew the Washington Nationals weren’t that great a team, as they got off to a 19-31 the old-fashioned way – they earned it – but they somehow found lightning in a bottle. A cast of characters melded into a band of miracle workers who found a way to hit timely run-scoring hits at the most opportune times, and when you finally thought “this is the end”, you opened your eyes and it wasn’t.
They never really fixed their problems, but they somehow always found a workaround. Their bullpen was like a bad placekicker in football, where you held your breath every time they were employed, only when the playoffs came, they just went for two every time, using starters out of the bullpen.
It worked. They won. And none of us knew it at the time, but we were given the chance to enjoy paradise before the storm hit.
The celebration of winning Oct. 31 spilled over into Thanksgiving, and led to a lot of Nationals merchandise under the Christmas tree. Nationals hats, golf shirts, polar fleece jackets, coffee mugs…if you could put a World Series logo on it, somebody sold it. And I – like many of you – bought just about all of it.
But when you make it to the top, tucked inside all this euphoria is the implied knowledge that you’re going to at least have some time to enjoy this beyond a 90-day window. As we’ve seen with the professional football team in DC back in the glory days, it usually goes like this: Unless you’ve created a dynasty (which the Nationals clearly had not done), there’s a gradual slide back to the norm.