Talk about easier said than done. If the Nats keep picking that scab, they’ll only reopen the wound. Few World Series winners reach their goal without several colossal disappointments. The 1976-to-’83 Orioles blew a three-games-to-one World Series lead; won 97 and 100 games and didn’t even make the playoffs; missed the ALCS on the last day of the season; and required eight years of beating their heads against walls to win the ’83 Series.
Those Orioles swallowed and digested many disappointments as galling as the one the Nats just absorbed. It drew them closer, bonded many of them for life and ultimately helped create a team of ferocious resolve. So, if the Nats can’t suck it up after one busted jaw, and have each other’s backs by the time they get to spring training, then they weren’t much anyway.
But the high likelihood is that they will learn and grow from the most common of baseball experiences: getting thrown off the roof in October.
If Washington is like most other cities, that experience will probably also have a dramatic and unexpected impact on the team’s fan base. It may be galvanizing rather than destructive.
This Nationals offseason will be informed by two indelible moments at Nats Park on the last two days of the season. One will be the silence after the last defeat. However, the other has ended up being more vivid for me, because it was so unexpected.
The crowds in St. Louis and San Francisco are two of the loudest, yet most civil, in the sport. The cities are very different, but their rabid fans are both models. The Nats crowds at Games 4 and 5 may, with some seasoning but not a great deal, get to the same general level. Knock me over with a rosin bag.
At Game 4, tied at 1 since the top of the third, the crowd in the lower bowl, and some of the upper deck, stood for 60 to 75 straight minutes from the top of the sixth inning, cheering Ross Detwiler’s final inning, until Jayson Werth’s walk-off home run in the ninth.
When Jordan Zimmermann came out of the bullpen and struck out the side on 12 pitches in the seventh, few could sit down. When Tyler Clippard struck out the side in the eighth, they were still up. When Storen fanned the first two hitters in the ninth, the nuttiness kept building. And of course, in the bottom of each inning, they had to stand to beg for the go-ahead run.
Who are these people? And where have they been for the last six years? The answer, perhaps, is not just that the fans had fallen for an appealing winning team, but that no Nats crowd had ever sensed before that they actually had a major impact on a vital game.
You don’t realize what that buzz is until you feel it yourself. Most people want to be part of it again. And in five months, they can be.
For previous columns by Thomas Boswell, visit washingtonpost.com/