After two months of spring training and six months of the regular season, every team has a story, characters worth rooting for, a reason why winning in October would mean a whole lot. But from top to bottom, these Nationals are loaded with people for whom this October just means a lot more. Below, a reminder of all the characters whose stories will change for good in the weeks to come, and why a World Series would mean so much.
Manager Dusty Baker
The Nationals manager has managed for two decades, and accomplished nearly everything a major league manager can accomplish -- besides win a World Series. Many wonder, including Baker, if his Hall of Fame case pivots on whether or not he can win a World Series. After years of close calls and agonizingly painful near-misses -- and with no contract in place for 2018 -- this season might be his best chance yet.
It’d mean a lot. It’s always meant a lot. The way I look at, it’s already written. All we got to do is believe it. And then what it would mean to me is that it would make my prediction come true if I win won then we’re going to win two. That’s what it means to me. you got to win one before you win two.
When Werth signed with the Nationals before the 2011 season, executives around the league mocked Werth for going to a losing franchise, then the Nationals for paying him. Two seasons later, the Nationals were winning the first of four division titles in six years, their inner workings nearly completely overhauled -- in large part due to Werth's pressing for various upgrades to player experience. Werth is now in the final year of that controversial seven-year deal, and soaking up an outpouring of support from Nationals fans realizing these might be his final days in D.C. He has said that the success of this contract will depend on whether or not the Nationals in the World Series this year. Either way, he has become one of the most beloved players in franchise history, and his time with the Nationals is nearing its end.
[Winning would mean] everything. When you start talking about stuff like that, there's a lot more to it. Dusty needs his championship. I came here, against all odds, I came here to win. I mean, when I came here, when I signed here, it was a joke. But this place isn't a joke. This has been one of the best teams in baseball since I signed here and I'm definitely proud of that. But we need to win. I keep saying, 'We need to win.' We're poised. This team has grown up since I've come here. I'm proud of these guys and who they've become. We've got a lot of hard work ahead of us and a lot of tough games. But of all the years that I've been here, this is the year where we have the best chance, we're in the best shape, to keep playing and play as long as we can. You look back, it's crazy to think that this is Year 7, and this is it.
The first draft pick in Nationals history is also their first and longest-tenured star, a National for life who has endured the bad and contributed to the good. After three down seasons that left
some wondering if he would ever be the same, Zimmerman responded with a 36-homer, .300 season that blasted away all previous career highs and earned him his first all-star nod since 2009. Now, all that is left to do is to bring a championship to D.C.
It'd be great. I think for anyone, whether you've been here one year or 12 years, this is what you play for. I think people just assume, they don't understand how many things have to go right. Winning the division four out of six years, just where this organization is now, there's a lot to be proud of. But obviously, the ultimate goal is to make a nice run and get to the ultimate prize.
Lerner, son of family patriarch Ted, has long been the most visible of the Nationals' ownership family, always seated in the seat right next to the Nationals dugout -- rain or shine. But this season, Lerner battled cancer, which resulted in the loss of his leg and kept him from the seat in which so many were used to seeing him.
Since the postseason is just getting underway, I haven’t let myself spend too much time thinking about what it would feel like to bring a World Series Championship back to Washington, D.C. From the moment we learned that we had been selected as owners of the Washington Nationals, it has been my family’s dream, of course. We realize how special it is for a team to make it to the postseason three out of the last four years. But our goal – and this team’s goal – has always been to go all of the way. When we do that, it will obviously be a very special moment for me and my family, but also for our amazing fans and our great city.
Since taking over as General Manager in 2009, Rizzo has rebuilt the franchise from the ground up, gutting the international system, restocking the farm system, and turning a perennial 100-loss team into an annual contender. Under his leadership, the Nationals have won four out of the last six National League East titles, but gained a reputation as a team that could not win in October. His contract expires after next season. This might be his best chance, too.
It would mean the world to me personally, and I really feel it would mean a lot to the city specifically. For DC to win a World Series, and finally get this cloud of failures out of here would pick up the entire city, and every other sport in the city. But specifically, I would like to win it for my dad and Mr. Lerner, the two guys that have been around, and it probably means more to them than anybody.
Henley, who played for the Expos in the late 90s, rejoined the organization as a coach in 2003. He stayed with the organization when they relocated to D.C. in 2005, and worked on minor league staffs until Matt Williams made him his bench coach before the 2014 season. Henley has been with this organization as long as anyone, and has seen the growth and development of every Nats star first hand.
Wow. I’ve been here a long time. That’s a great question. That would…wow. There’s a lot that would go into that answer. That’s probably my answer. That I don’t know if I could put that into words right now. The amount of time. The constant working toward a goal with a group of people you’re so close to and so dear to, for an organization and a city that so deeply wants to do those things we want to do as well. I don’t know what the word would be. I’d probably have to go to the dictionary and figure out what good word.
Scherzer signed a seven-year, $210 million-dollar deal before the 2015 season, becoming the highest-paid player in Nationals history in the process. Since then, he has thrown two no-hitters and won a Cy Young Award, and might just win another this season. Scherzer reached the World Series with the Tigers and lost, and the only thing lacking on his resume is a championship. He knows it.
I want to win a World Series. It’s not necessarily to prove something. I just know guys who have won it. And I want that. I want to experience that feeling. I want to finish the year saying we were the best.
Albers was one of the last men cut from the Nationals' Opening Day roster, but re-signed to stay in the Nationals' organization in the hopes that he would be needed some time during the season. As it happened, he was called up within two weeks, and has been a staple of their bullpen ever since. Albers has played 12 big league seasons and played for seven different teams, but never appeared in a postseason. He has probably never meant more to a team's success than he has to that of these Nationals.
It’d be awesome. It’d be great. I think that’s the reason I signed over here was to have a chance to go deep into the playoffs. I know I had a brief stint in the Wild Card game, but that was the most fun year I’ve ever had. To be able to win the division early and be able to win that first round I think it would be a big deal for this organization to get past that first round and into the second round and see what happens from there. It looks like a lot of fun to be able to party and hopefully go all the way. It would mean a lot.