D.A.: The Nationals' World Series Title Was Everyone's Spirit Animal

In winning the World Series, the Nationals gave countless sports fans, even those outside of Washington, a reason to believe

Damon Amendolara
November 01, 2019 - 9:09 am
Nationals World Series Game 7

USA Today Images

You may not have thought you had a rooting interest in the World Series, but you'd be wrong. Even if you weren't wearing a faded Jeff Bagwell jersey, or counting the Dusty Baker toothpicks stored in your man cave, there was a deep reason to care. The Nationals were your spirit animal if you've ever rooted for the losers, the tortured, the punchlines. The Astros were the team that always flogs your spirit animal. 

Washington became all of our teams on this exhilarating run through the postseason. For those of us that relate to getting let down annually, the Nats have always looked awful familiar. The Nats had built a brand on overpaid underachievement. They had the star power, the top draft picks, the high payroll. They had the division titles, and the dominant regular seasons. They also had playoff heartbreak, one year more painful than the next. 

Starting in 2012, October was all ghosts and goblins for the Nats. Ninety-five, 96, 97, and 98 win seasons all ended abruptly in the NLDS. Three of those exits happened in the deciding Game 5. There were blown leads, botched plays, weak at-bats, and exhausted starters. There were bullpen implosions and managerial blunders. The Nats watched as Cinderellas kept dancing. Washington would always go home. 

A few weeks ago, The Ringer ranked the franchises with the worst playoff losses this decade. The Nationals came in second. They would've topped the list but it was written in honor of an even greater collapse... the Nats beating the Dodgers. Quite the back-handed compliment. Washington finally tallied a series win in Game 5 of this year's Divisional Series against L.A., which set the stage for this month's incredible joy ride. Before that? Get out the gas masks and HAZMAT suits. 

In 2012, the Nats shut down Stephen Strasburg with concern over his workload. As the baseball world howled, Washington led the Cardinals 7-5 with two strikes and two outs in the 9th inning of Game 5 (TWICE!) but closer Drew Storen walked both Yadier Molina and David Freese on full counts. 

Daniel Descalso then singled up the middle, followed by Pete Kozma's single down the line, and the Nationals went home. In the next three postseasons Washington lost nine games, eight of them were by one run. There was an 18-inning affair against the Giants where Jordan Zimmermann nearly threw a complete-game shutout, but Storen coughed up the lead and the win on a wild pitch. There were two more elimination games with Max Scherzer starting at home, but guess what? That's right, the Nats couldn't get the job done.

Then this season happened, and everything changed. The chokers became clutch, the punchlines became champs. The Nats came back on the Brewers in the Wild Card, the Dodgers in the NLDS, and had too many high-wire acts in the World Series to count. They'll be celebrating with a parade in downtown D.C., and the rest of us tortured souls will be with them in sprit. 

Look at this decade of perennial losers flipping the script. In the NBA, the Cavs, the Raptors, even the Warriors – once upon a time – were chumps. The Blues and the Capitals had never kissed the Stanley Cup. The Eagles and Seahawks held Lombardis for the first time. The Royals and Astros erased decades of misery, and in the biggest exorcism of them all, even the Cubs flew a World Series flag. The 2010s were the era to get over your hump.  

If you're one of the lucky ones, a fan that routinely celebrated and enjoyed regular domination, then the Nats weren't for you. This series was made even more strange because Houston had, until two years ago, been that tortured franchise. But the Astros had grown into MLB's Death Star with one of the most dominant three-year stretches in baseball history. They'll surely have plenty more runs at a ring. For the fans, though, who have woken up the morning after another gut-wrenching loss and wondered why do we put ourselves through this? The Nationals just gave you the answer. 

Damon Amendolara, known by his fans as D.A., hosts “The D.A. Show,” from 9:00AM-12:00PM, ET, across the country on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. “The D.A. Show” is known for its unique perspective on sports, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, colorful listener interaction, and candid interviews with athletes and coaches. Amendolara also appears regularly on NFL Network as part of the “NFL Top 10” documentary film series, CBS television and SNY TV. He is a Syracuse University grad and native of Warwick, N.Y.