If you had told me the products pictured above were something I would own on May 23, 2019, I would have had several questions.
Last year, what followed the Washington Nationals 19-31 start was a perhaps the most (only?) “and then what happened” of recent times that was welcome news.
The Nats were reeling, in spite of a rotation with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin. Manager Davey Martinez was looking like a disastrous hire following a two-games over .500 rookie season. The absence of Bryce Harper left nothing but gloom for Nats fans. “FakeDavey” and “Step-Davey” were just a few of the nicknames for the beleaguered skipper
The best shape of their lives?
After a spring training of the team Instagram running the “best shape of his life” trope into the ground, I was expecting to find that Martinez was gone and see this:
Jack McKeon is in the best shape of his life
McKeon, an 88 year-old special consultant turned interim manager, seemed like a welcome possibility back then, and maybe not just for the payoff of the gag.
Go 1-0 every day
Oddly enough, the Nats started winning. The bullpen somehow improved. Sean Doolittle, pitching through overuse and pain, old man Fernando Rodney, and the chewing gum and kite-strings holding together Daniel Hudson‘s elbow were just enough.
Desperation baseball and Davey’s “Go 1-0 every day” philosophy somehow worked this time after the “window” was supposedly closed.
It was magical.
The autumn of our content
A five game sweep in D.C. of Harper’s Phillies in late September was sweet. The Nats entered the postseason hot.
The shocking playoff run, from Soto’s game-winning hit in the play-in game, to…
…Howie Kendrick winning the NLDS with a grand slam, and of course…
…Kendrick winning the World Series over the cheating Houston Astros…
…brought Washington something that had happened only once before, 95 years earlier.
The Nats returned home from Houston, conquering heroes and had a glorious parade. They stepped in it a bit (The Undefeated), and then begun the shortest offseason in DC baseball history…
…and then it wasn’t.
The obsolescence of “the best shape of their lives”
Spring training ended abruptly in mid-March. The last “best shape of our lives” post was on March 10. That was the last day I worked in an office building. Thankfully, I’m still working. My kids haven’t been in their schools since March 13. It’s been over six months.
I mostly avoided the coverage of baseball’s resumption. If it happened, it happened. Eventually, after a lot of hand-wringing, it did, with a sixty game sprint in empty ballparks with extra-inning rules and league-wide DHs. The latter two changes are likely to be permanent.
Baseball resumed in July with the Nats hosting the New York Yankees. The odd, fan-less games are strange. I have tuned out this season more than any other since baseball returned here. I enjoy the “normalcy” of having Charlie Slowes and Dave Jagler on the radio (or more likely MLB Audio), but I can’t worked up it.
This time around, there will not be a thrilling comeback. Ten games remain, and the best case scenario is finishing one game under .500. This seems unlikely. The Nats have their first losing season since 2011 when they went 80-81.
I’m not even annoyed by it.
A relaxing season, derailed by the larger world
A number of Nats fans, myself included, cheerfully acknowledged that 2020 would be a season of lower expectations. The team reached the summit improbably, and earned some goodwill just for being. Wins and losses wouldn’t be as important, because basking in the reflective glory of 2019 was sufficient for a while.
It hasn’t worked out that way. The victory lap season will never happen. A full house at Nationals Park was not on hand to see the 2019 World Series champion pennant raised or rings handed out to the team. It is discouraging, but less of a disappointment than not having a flag to run up the pole.
Or being able to go to, work, school, church, a restaurant or family members house.
Our restrictions may still be closer to the beginning than the end. The tone deaf “thanks for keeping us safe” utterance last November is now dark comedy. Indifference, laziness or even contempt from one particular office has surely exasperated this situation.
The challenge is having continued faith in the resolution of this crisis, while the responsibility for preventive action is held by individuals. Someday in the future, schools, offices, churches, and public facilities will reopen safely. Until then, I suppose I’ll keep wearing these Nats facemasks and think of better days in the past and the ones yet to come.