The Nationals refused to talk about the layoff, turning it into a positive instead

Chris Lingebach
October 23, 2019 - 2:01 pm

The Nationals combated their seven-day layoff before the World Series by refusing to talk about it, General Manager Mike Rizzo tells The Sports Junkies.

Long layoffs are what nightmares are made of in postseason baseball. A cruel punishment, when a team should be rewarded for running through its prior opponents.

The Nats ran through the Cardinals in four games in the NLCS, awaiting the winner of an Astros-Yankees ALCS – which went to six games – for four days, leaving Washington with a week off before they'd meet Houston in Game 1 of the World Series.

The Nationals opened the World Series as the biggest underdogs (+195) in 12 years, with Caesars sportsbook placing the Astros as -235 favorites, the most overwhelming favorites since the Boston Red Sox met the Colorado Rockies as -240 favorites in the 2007 World Series. 

DraftKings sportsbook placed the Nationals' odds of sweeping the Astros at 25-1, while Houston was +750 to sweep the Nats.

The 2007 Colorado Rockies swept their way through the NLDS and NLCS, leaving themselves nine days off before Game 1 of the World Series. The layoff killed the Rockies, who ran into a buzzsaw in the 96-win Red Sox, who swept the Rockies in four games.

The Nationals stunned the Astros, beating the 2017 World Series champs 5-4 on their home turf in Game 1.

Nats GM Mike Rizzo joined The Sports Junkies for his weekly 'In The Clubhouse' segment the following morning, brought to you by Burke & Herbert Bank, where he was asked for their secret to avoiding the curse of the long layoff.

"Well, you know, we just refused to talk about it," Rizzo said on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday morning. "We weren't gonna talk about layoffs. We weren't gonna talk about pitch-tipping and stealing signs and that type of thing. We're past that stuff."

"It's just, let's go out and play the Astros," he said. "It's the World Series. We've earned it. We're a good, talented team. We're gonna beat this team on merit and just by playing better, and it has nothing to do with these other rationales and reasons and excuses.

"Going into it, yeah, we had six days off. We kind of played it off as we could have used the time off, especially our pitching staff, which worked hard throughout the playoffs. It's a little tougher on hitters – their timing and their rhythms and their routines are off a little bit. But that's something that we had to deal with."

"We had multiple simulated games," he said. "We had pitchers that needed to throw during the off week and they were throwing as simulated as game-like as you can. But you're never getting the juices flowing like during a game. But guys got their swings in and kept themselves as sharp as they can, and it gave some hitters a chance to get into the video room and the film room, and to look at some little tweaks and mistakes that they've been forming throughout the last couple of weeks, and you try and turn what could be a negative into a positive, and that's what they did."

"We just refused to talk about it and to utilize it, and to allow it to seep into our brains as something that could be a detriment to us," he said. "So we turned it into a positive."