TINSMAN: A World Series was worth the wait

Brian Tinsman
October 31, 2019 - 2:44 am
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The 2019 Washington Nationals' World Series championship should go down as one of the most improbable turnaround stories in pro sports history.

All fans had to do was wait, which is always easier said than done.

In the long view, D.C. baseball fans had to suffer through decades of mediocre play from the Washington Senators, two versions of which defected to Minnesota and Texas over the years.

You can trace misconceptions like, "D.C. isn't a sports town," back to those franchises struggling and then moving away. There's a belief that teams don't leave good sports cities.

D.C. baseball fans know better. They quenched their thirst with the Orioles, waiting for one of their own, Ted Lerner, to fulfill a dream of bringing baseball back to the District.

Baseball's return wasn't always easy to watch. There were the cavernous RFK years, the "Natinals" era, and a franchise that struggled to build an identity from scratch.

A new stadium helped, in a neighborhood that was reimagined to grow with the team.

Young talent like Ryan Zimmerman, Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper helped lay the team's foundation. Jayson Werth and Max Scherzer gave the franchise credibility, and "Natitude" was born.

The window to win titles was thrown wide open by one of the deepest payrolls in baseball.

And yet the team still couldn't win. When they did win, they had to shelf Strasburg for the playoffs, or find a new way to lose Game 5 of the division series each year.

This year started with an offseason of spending, spring training hype, and then the infamous 19-31 start. Dave Martinez was the Vegas favorite to be MLB’s first manager fired this season, before mid-May.

Good things happen to those who wait. Before pulling the plug, Nats ownership waited for the team to get healthy. To fill gaps, the front office traded for outfielder Gerardo Parra in what proved to be a catalyst moment.

Parra, looking for a spark, changed his walk-up music to the kids' song "Baby Shark." The team got healthy and his infectious energy made the dugout camera angle must-see TV.

The Nats went on a run that can only be described as a team of destiny. They had one of the best 112-game stretches of any team in MLB history. Every time they needed a spark, they got it, and the hero was different every night.

That trend continued into the playoffs, where World Series MVP Strasburg re-wrote his reputation, delivering a 5-0 postseason and the first relief appearances of his career.

Juan Soto and Anthony Rendon combined to be the best one-two punch in the playoffs, validating the team's approach with Harper in free agency. The Nats lost a former MVP and gained an opportunity for Soto to become the new face of baseball. Finally out of under Harper's shadow, Rendon got the NL MVP consideration he deserves.

Ryan Zimmerman, the team's first-ever draft pick and longtime face of the franchise, turned back the clock in the playoffs, particularly at the plate. He was joined by fellow overlooked veteran Howie Kendrick, who was the NLCS MVP.

Patience was giving the front office the time and resources to assemble the right pieces. Patience is also letting world-class talent like Harper, Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond, Daniel Murphy and others depart in free agency, giving real opportunities to youngsters like Soto, Trea Turner and Victor Robles.

The end result was a championship team unlike any other. They had the worst bullpen in baseball. They weren't favored in any postseason series. They never won a home game in the World Series.

And yet they won it all.

Whether you count from D.C.'s last baseball title (86 years), the final departure of the Senators (48 years), the birth of the Nationals (15 years), or just the beginning of the 2019 season, the Nats and their fans have shown that patience pays off.

At long last, the greatest Curly W in franchise history is finally in the books.

Brian Tinsman has covered D.C. sports since 2011, both from the team marketing and skeptical fan perspectives. Tweet your criticisms @Brian_Tinsman.

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