WASHINGTON — It's been nearly two months since the last inning of baseball was played. Major League Baseball made a painful, but necessary, decision on March 12 to suspend spring training and push back the start of the 2020 season due to the spread of coronavirus.
With the season suspended indefinitely, and sports in general put on pause, fans are jonesing for America's favorite pastime. From watching simulation games to reminiscing over great plays of the past, die-hards are having to get creative to get their fix.
ESPN recently ranked all 115 World Series matchups, sparking conversation about the best games ever played in the history of the sport. For Nationals fans, I have some disappointing news: we didn't even crack the top 50. Yes, our beloved historic triumph over the Houston Astros was ranked as the 51st best Fall Classic of all time, classified under the "long but forgettable" subcategory. We are lumped in with such battles as the 2003 Marlins over Yankees and 1909 Pirates over Tigers.
Author Sam Miller said he used four primary factors in his calculations: game leverage index, at Baseball-Reference; championship leverage index, at The Baseball Gauge; how memorable the series was; and how historically significant it was. But by his own admission, it's ultimately based on one writer's opinion. So let's throw another opinion out there, shall we?
Am I willing to definitively proclaim our victory as the single greatest moment in baseball? No. But do I think it deserves to be a heck of a lot higher on this list of monumental battles? Absolutely.
Last fall's World Series win was 15 years in the making for the Washington Nationals, but 95 years in the making for D.C. The team that ended May with one of the worst records in baseball and a .1% chance of winning the World Series, went on to have the most improbable postseason run, clinching the franchise's first World Series win, and the first for a Washington baseball team since 1924.
It was also the first time in history that every game in the series was won by the away team, with the Nats taking the series 4-3 in Houston. Miller started his argument against the Nationals by saying, "The games weren't close until Game 7." I'm sorry, but how is heading to the bottom of the 9th with a one-run lead not a close game? Plus, isn't seeing a series through to Game 7 exciting in and of itself? All of Miller's top 10 picks were seven-game series.
Let's not forget the fact that the Nats had us biting our nails hardcore in that final series game, waiting until their magical 7th inning (the Nats scored more runs than any other MLB team in the 7th inning or later during the 2019 season) to put a run on the board. Anthony Rendon (we miss you already, Tony Two Bags) started things off with a solo home run, followed shortly by a two-run home run from Howie Kendrick, giving the Nats their first lead of the game.
And then there was the historic passion brought to the field by our fearless leader, Davey Martinez, who became the first manager to be ejected in a World Series game since Bobby Cox in 1996. Davey got heated after shortstop Trea Turner was called out on a controversial base-runner's interference call in Game 6, and had to be held back while arguing the call. For his efforts, the second-year Washington skipper was ejected in the 7th inning.
That passion was contagious, trickling down through the clubhouse. From the rally cry of "Baby Shark" to the energy of dugout dances and the Soto Shuffle, our band of merry men reminded us time and again that they should never be counted out of any fight.
Mr. Miller ended his list discussing a story from the 1975 World Series between the Reds and the Red Sox, saying "The biggest moments now immerse us in them, overpower us with the emotions of them." Who among us was not overpowered with emotion when the face of the franchise, Mr. National himself, tearfully declared D.C. "the greatest city in the world to play baseball for?" Who wasn't moved by Davey Martinez poignantly describing the season when he said "bumpy roads lead to beautiful places?" And who did not nod vigorously when our 94-year-old, self-proclaimed "Grandpa Shark" remarked that it had all been "worth the wait?"
For Washington Nationals fans, October 30, 2019 may have been a long night, but it was far from forgettable. On that night, an 88 mph fastball from Daniel Hudson to the mitt of Yan Gomes was the culmination of 95 years of waiting to savor the sweet victory of a World Series win. It was the payoff for a city that endured a 34-year baseball drought when the Senators departed town. It was a promise that never again would an entire generation of Washingtonians grow up without the memory of summer nights at the ballpark, sticky hands begging for hotdogs, short legs swinging lazily over the edge of seats and tiny fists pounding into leather gloves willing a foul ball to appear.
I'm sorry Sam Miller, I'm sure your number crunching and analytics are all spot on, but your definitions of memorable and historically significant need some work. But that's just one writer's opinion.