When I walked into the Nats’ clubhouse on Thursday, I saw Goon Squad t-shirts everywhere. Rick Ankiel was wearing one. Mark DeRosa was wearing one. Jesus Flores was wearing one. There were more in a box by Chad Tracy’s locker. Even Ian Desmond had one.
“The Goon Squad is a very elite group,” Desmond told me. “I think to be a Goon Squadder is different than just having a shirt. I have a shirt, and I’m definitely a supporter of the Goon Squad, but I’m not a Goon Squadder.”
“I don’t know,” Desmond said. “You’d have to ask the captain.”
So I asked the captain, Tracy.
“The Goon Squad changes night-to-night,” he said. “Whoever’s on the bench that night is part of the Goon Squad.”
The origins of the Goon Squad? Well, Tracy said that was what the bench players called themselves when he was with the Cubs in 2010. He doesn’t remember where it came from, but he brought the nickname with him, and applied it to several likely reserves in Spring Training this year, including Steve Lombardozzi and DeRosa.
The nickname got more currency after F.P. Santangelo began using it on MASN broadcasts. Santangelo told of Tracy returning to the dugout after getting a hit during one of the many games when the Nats’ offense has appeared stagnant.
“Goon Squad 1, Starters Nothing,” Tracy reportedly said.
And since winning baseball teams are allowed to have fun, the nickname stuck, even as the constant injuries shuffled the roster of Goon Squadders.
“It just kind of caught fire,” Tracy said. “And I said you know what, I’m gonna have some t-shirts made.”
So he went to his friend, who works in architectural design, and he produced the above image based on silhouettes from baseball cards. Tracy got an initial order of 25, and planned on giving them to anyone who served on the Goon Squad, or possibly just people who contributed to wins as reserves.
“But everybody wanted one,” he said. Not just starters like Desmond and Ankiel, but also pitchers like Gio Gonzalez and Tom Gorzelanny.
“I’m not gonna tell anybody they can’t have one,” Tracy said. “I’m probably gonna have to end up ordering some more.”
I told him he should talk to the club about stocking them in the team store. I wasn’t joking, either. It’s a pretty slick looking shirt.
No other Squads have developed on the Nats, at least not that I could figure.
“We need to come up with a special bullpen name I guess,” Craig Stammen said.
“I think the starting rotation has a little clique, but I don’t know if they have a name,” Desmond said. “We should take that to the next level.”
Tracy, meantime, said he wasn’t technically the captain of the Goon Squad.
“I wouldn’t even say that,” he told me.
So what is he?
“I’m the guy who had the t-shirts made,” he said.
And is he a Goon?
“Tonight I’m a Goon, for sure,” he said.
(I guess I missed the 2005 story when Jamey Carroll made “Carlito’s Way” t-shirts in honor of Carlos Baerga that read “Let’s Get Naked.” That’s better.)