Nationals reliever Michael Gonzalez recently received his American League championship ring, his reward for helping the Texas Rangers to the pennant last year. In the clubhouse one day, he showed it off to curious and impressed teammates.
“Then Edwin comes over and shows his, and it doesn’t mean anything anymore,” Gonzalez said. “He just kind of rubbed in my face.”
Edwin Jackson had ambled over to the circle and pulled out his World Series ring, his reward for helping the Cardinals beat Gonzalez’s Rangers in seven games last year. Gonzalez and Jackson, the two participants from last year’s World Series on the Nationals, are now trying together to topple the defending champions, starting with Game 1 today at 3:07 p.m.
Since Gonzalez signed with the Nationals in early May, he and Jackson have frequently discussed the series, which the Cardinals won after the Rangers had moved within one out of clinching the title in Game 6.
“It’s all fun and games with us,” Gonzalez said. “But the truth is, it still hurts a little bit. That’s how it’s always going to be.”
Last weekend, Gonzalez walked into the visitors clubhouse at Busch Stadium and declared to his teammates, “I have the worst feeling in my stomach right now.”
He had sat in the same room with his Rangers teammates late last October after Game 7 of the World Series, beaten by the Cardinals. They stared at each other in silence, their season over. “It was like, ‘Did that just happen?’ ” Gonzalez said.
“Obviously, it’s a personal matter,” Gonzalez said. “You want to redeem yourself. But also now, it’s with the team.”
Yesterday, Jackson returned to the stadium where he won the World Series last year but walked into the opposing clubhouse. In a way, he feels Gonzalez wasn’t slighted to be on the other side.
“The overall experience, just to be in the World Series, it’s the same,” Jackson said. “Of course it’s a lot different if you win. Just having the chance to play in it is something in itself.”
Jackson made one start in St. Louis this year, the nine-run, 1 1/3-inning shellacking he absorbed last weekend. Jackson said the start came down strictly to not having any feel for his pitches, not any kind of issue with his gameplan or nerves facing an old team.
“There’s no extra emotions,” Jackson said. “You’re trying to come out and treat everybody the same, regardless if it’s a team you played with or a team you didn’t play with.”
Jackson is again preparing for the postseason in St. Louis, just on the other side. Only two lockers down from in the clubhouse sits Gonzalez, a 34-year-old who mapped out his season to get another chance at the ring he really wants. Gonzalez said the Yankees, Red Sox and Reds all showed interest in signing him, but he believed his best chance to win came with the Nationals.
“It all goes back to earlier this year,” Gonzalez said. “Having different opportunities, different teams to play with, I felt like this team had the best chance. I told [Mike] Rizzo the same thing. It wasn’t as much money as maybe other teams offered. But I felt like this was the best opportunity to get back to the World Series.”