What if Michael A. Taylor‘s hit-by-pitch in the 8th inning of the Wild Card was overturned on the video evidence? What if Ryan Zimmerman‘s broken bat looper was caught by the second baseman or Lorenzo Cain in center field? What if Josh Hader struck out Anthony Rendon instead of the walk? History says that all of the tumblers clicked in place which is essential in a game that relies on some luck, and all of the “what ifs” went the Nats way before the 20-year-old Juan Soto stroked a single into right field that we all know veered slightly off course with that element of luck that manager Dave Martinez called a “tricky bounce”. Call it what you want, the game winning run scored on what was ruled an error. Every step of the way in competitive games of skill there can be one instant that changes everything.
“It was our time. … Mike Morse when he ended up winning the World Series out in San Francisco,” Zimmerman said. “They got rolling, Tim Flannery said ‘sometimes it’s just your time. Baseball chooses when it’s your time.’ We beat two teams that had 107 wins or whatever it was.”
In 2012 to May 23rd of 2019, it was not the Nationals time, but then something changed. Maybe it was having a guy like Gerardo Parra as the circuit breaker in the dugout and clubhouse allowing you to reset the switch. We all know the book that Jesse Dougherty wrote titled, “Buzz Saw” and the quote came from Stephen Strasburg who inspired the book’s title.
“You have a great year, and you can run into a buzz saw,” Strasburg said. “Maybe this year we’re the buzz saw.”
The Nats were the buzz saw although sometimes they seemed to be a chain saw cutting into a gigantic sequoia. Actually, the Astros won 107 games and the Dodgers won 106 games. It was like cutting down two sequoias. The Dodgers had existed since 1884 and never won more than 106 games before, and the Astros had never won 107 games before. It seemed to be a foregone conclusion that the 2019 World Series was going to be the Astros hosting the Dodgers. But it is a good thing we play the games. The Dodgers won 73 games from May 24th to the end of the season and the Nationals won 74. Maybe the Nats just were not getting the respect they deserved.
You cannot measure the size of one’s heart. What the Nats might have lacked in the bullpen they made up with a postseason plan that neutralized the weak front of their bullpen. Manager Dave Martinez used his starters throughout the postseason in the bullpen. Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Max Scherzer all logged valuable innings in relief roles to bridge the gap in key spots and long relief to get the Nats to the back of the bullpen, and then Davey could rely on Daniel Hudson and Sean Doolittle late in the games to finish them up. It worked. It worked almost to perfection. Some in the media doubted the Nats could keep using their starters in the bullpen — but it worked through Game 7 of the World Series.
But it took a village to make this work. From the doctors, trainers, and massage therapist to the scouts, analytics department to the front office staff. From ownership to the players, it was the inverted triangle approach to every resource from the bottom up to the players.
From the 25th man on the roster to the superstars, this team does not win without the contributions of everyone. A key hit by Adam Eaton was needed just like Howie Kendrick finishing off games. We have read the stories of Jonathan Tosches from the advanced scouting group and Harvey Sharman from the medical staff. We got to see BP pitcher Ali Modami as an emerging character in the dugout giving celebration piggyback rides. We know all of the coaches contributions from Paul Menhart to Tim Bogar to Kevin Long. There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes.
What about those who are not even part of the organization any more like front office assistant general manager Bob Miller who was the architect of the Joe Ross and Trea Turner trade in a three team deal? There was also Aaron Barrett who was not even on the postseason roster but made his presence felt as an inspiration to his teammates. There was 94-year-old owner Ted Lerner who had the vision to make deals that no other owner would when he made Max Scherzer the highest paid right-handed pitcher in baseball history at $30 million a year while receiving criticism from the media.
While some trades were debated as “fails” at the time, could you imagine where this team would be without Eaton, Doolittle and Gomes who all came to this team in multi-player trades.
While starters like Turner, Asdrubal Cabrera, Victor Robles and the catchers, Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki, did not get a lot of mention, they all had some key plays throughout the postseason. Same for Anibal Sanchez who had one of the best starts in postseason history taking a no-hitter to within one batter of the 9th inning in the first game of the NLCS against the Cardinals that set the tone in a four-game sweep.
It took a village.