“I honestly haven’t even really watched it,” Zimmerman was saying in a scrum of reporters. He repeated some of his favorite lines since the World Series win — his favorite moment was the last out, and he could still feel “joy in the city” — but he had quickly returned to a “real life” of spending time with his family. He hadn’t buried himself in YouTube clips like managing principal owner Mark Lerner or been “drunk for a month” like General Manager Mike Rizzo, who got married in Jamaica last week. (They played “Baby Shark” at the wedding.) Zimmerman seemed as relaxed as ever, even though he was technically unemployed for the first time since he was a high school freshman.
The Nationals had weeks ago declined Zimmerman’s contract option, making him a free agent. And despite their early moves in the free agent market, re-signing catcher Yan Gomes and signing a few role players to tryout contracts, there had been nothing official for Zimmerman. The situation onstage for a Q&A before the documentary — a panel with Zimmerman and the two men who control his future, Lerner and Rizzo — felt emblematic of the night. Baked into the glee, the ease with which fans laughed and cried and cheered at what all still felt like a dream, there was subtle tension. What now?
Rizzo joked he had “plenty of updates” about the offseason before saying he was not here to talk about 2020. Still, he admitted the Nationals have not met with either of their big-time free agents, starter Stephen Strasburg or third baseman Anthony Rendon, even though Strasburg has met with multiple teams already this fall and will this week with the New York Yankees, according to those with knowledge of his free agency. Rizzo waved away concerns.
“We’ve been talking to them for 10 years, so there's no need to have a personal meeting,” he said. “They know where our heart lies, and we know where their heart lies.”
For his part, Zimmerman, 35, seemed as assured about the future as he had since questions about it started in September. He and his agent had spoken to Rizzo in November, and he considered it “the least of my worries.” He said there is interest from both sides and that it’s just a matter of ironing out the details.
“I think I’ve made my intentions pretty clear,” Zimmerman said. “It’s either play some more here or play some more golf.”
The impending decisions on these core pieces of the championship run cropped up throughout the night. Onstage for the Q&A, Rizzo attributed the championship win to the organization’s commitment to acquiring “the best and brightest,” and more than one voice shouted: “Rendon!” But the hosts, Craig Melvin and Lindsay Czarniak, mostly played the hits: Rizzo reflecting on what this meant for his father, Zimmerman getting another standing ovation and Lerner repeatedly thanking Houston Astros Manager A.J. Hinch for taking out Zack Greinke in the seventh inning of Game 7.
There was one apparently off-script exchange before the documentary, when Melvin jokingly asked Lerner whether he thought about buying the Redskins. The NFL team’s record and popularity in the District has sagged over the past decade. The crowd erupted, and Lerner, grinning, demurred.
“We tried that once before,” he said.
Then, finally, the lights went down and the questions of what will come next got put on hold. The 80-minute documentary focused only on the World Series and, when it took a behind-the-scenes look at Astros shortstop Carlos Correa at home a few minutes in, you’d be forgiven for thinking MLB might have sent the wrong team’s tape. But it turned out this was most of the film — a play-by-play rehashing of all seven games that used three pieces of exclusive footage, all of which focused on the Astros.
The documentary, sponsored by MLB, excluded any untidy details. There was no mention of the Astros’ dispute with Sports Illustrated over a since-fired executive’s comments on domestic violence. There was no hint that Strasburg’s rocky first innings came because of pitch tipping. There was no scene from behind the Astros’ clubhouse with a TV for stealing signs, like the one from the 2017 documentary. In a “Rocky Horror Picture Show” turn, Nationals fans amended the public record by yelling “Cheater!” every time Astros third baseman Alex Bregman appeared on screen.
But when the film finally got to Game 7, whatever everyone was here to see, any discontent melted away. There was Max Scherzer gritting through his start. There was Juan Soto making that diving catch in left field. There was Rendon smashing a home run off Greinke, and Soto following up with a massive walk. Howie Kendrick delivered the decisive home run, and moments later Daniel Hudson secured the final out.
The cheer was more modest than expected. Maybe the crowd was tired from a long night. Maybe they had cheered everyone and everything they wanted to. Or maybe this was relief — this clip, the one they had watched disbelievingly so many times, still ended the same way, and that was enough.