So, if you’ve tied your dreams to the Nationals, you better hope that Danny Espinosa or Kurt Suzuki wins the ’13 Series MVP because something that odd is usually essential to being a baseball champion. A player on that level has been the key man twice as often as a Ryan Zimmerman.
How did the Giants win two of the last three World Series? Yes, great starting pitching was the bedrock. But Marco Scutaro and Cody Ross were the MVPs of the ’12 and ’10 NLCS. Both were midseason pickups. If the Nats win the NLCS this year, their key man may not even be on the roster yet.
Lifelong fans know the drill. Some sports are all about, or largely about, the winning. Baseball is about the winning, too. But it is also, to a significant degree, about “everything else.” If you don’t love that vague “everything else,” 162 times a year, the game will wear you out. Partly, it’s beer in the bleachers or seeing the arc of every career, not just Strasburg’s but Goon Squad boys, too. But, most novel, it is a new region-wide summer cuisine.
For generations Washington has dieted on awful baseball with brief tastes of mediocrity, minus 33 years of starvation. Now the Nats are a feast, and fun, too. However, in a sport where eight teams trace their lineage back to 1876 to 1884, the basic nature of the game isn’t going to change for us.
If you don’t hope for the best, “World Series or Bust,” you aren’t a fan. Maybe you aren’t even technically alive. But if you don’t understand the true odds, if you don’t internalize the infernal difficulty of the thing before opening day arrives, then you are not in touch with the element of mystery, of factors and actors undreamed, at the center of almost every baseball title.
The game runs on two tracks. The regular season offers a ridiculous range of pleasures, from watching a star develop to the granular level of strategy. There are several novels’ worth of plot, too, if you care to indulge.
The other track is a chilly tunnel that runs through October. It’s thrilling. But the beckoning light at the other end, which glints like a bright trophy, is usually, though thankfully not always, a very large train.
The crashes are amazing. We already saw one last year. But no one ever really dies. Someday, you want that trip to end in glory. But never forget the one plan that always works, that never fails: Enjoy the ride.
For previous columns by Thomas Boswell, visit washingtonpost.com/boswell.