July 18, 2012
So New Jersey’s gate-mouth Governor is going to keynote the GOP convention? So the President gets caught giving his wife a smooch at a basketball game? So for the 400th consecutive day, Mitt Romney refuses to release his tax returns? Who cares? We’ve got baseball!
The front of the Washington Post Sports Section this morning said it all: it’s 11 p.m. and the young Washington Nationals are celebrating, not in some U Street dive, but in front of 30,000 fans who just sat through four hours of the kind of never-say-die, punch-em-in-the-mouth baseball fast becoming the norm in our nation’s capital. Lookit Ryan Zimmerman, dancing a silly number from a Fred Astaire movie with half the team digging it. Who’d guess they got to bed at 3 a.m. the night before after a rough ride up from Miami. The Nats youngest pitcher, Ross Detwiler, chunks his best game of the season, only to see Tyler Clippard blow a two run lead in the ninth. In the 10th, 19-year-old all-star Brice Harper brings the Nats back to a tie with a triple that ends with a headfirst slide into the Met’s sturdy all-star, David Wright. Smarty-pants Mets intentionally load the bases, Zimmerman scores on a wild pitch, we win 5-4. I haven’t even noticed it’s way past my bedtime.
What the Nats are doing this year hasn’t been done in Washington since the 1930s. We’re leading the NL Eastern Division by 3 ½ games, with a 52-46 record. With only two regulars hitting close to .300, the Nats are winning with defense, power hitting (nearly 100 team homers already), speed and pitching. All five starters have win-loss records over .500, with aces Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg at 12-4 and 10-4, respectively, and manager Davey Johnson says we have the best bullpen in baseball.
Most important, fans are pouring into the stadium in Anacostia. After a slow early season, the Nats are averaging nearly 30,000 per game and are about halfway among National League ballparks. The players speak reverentially about the fans and the community, the fans (especially the kids)and the community are rabid about the players and the team.
With temps standing nasty at 100+ and poisonous political rhetoric off the charts, the Nationals are providing a welcome breeze in Washington. Let’s hope it lasts through October: if we win the World Series, Bryce Harper could be the next President.
Note: since this post, Nats take another from the Mets, then lose one, take series 3-1.