The World Series is here, and I think I’ve completed my mourning of the Rays postseason loss to the buzzsaw named Gerrit Cole.
Of course, there’s no shame in losing a series to Cliff Lee or Gerrit Cole or anyone of their ilk. Cy Young winners (even prospective ones) will do that to you. I’d like to think there’s a universe in which some tipped pitches allow the Rays to keep things scoreless for a while in Game 5, but the past is in the past. Time to move on.
Now I’m looking forward, or more specifically, at the thing in front of me, my television, where the Washington Nationals just took Cole yard. We’re talking a homerun that landed on the railroad tracks above left field. That Juan Soto moonshot awakened something inside me: My love for postseason baseball was back.
And I’m here to root for the damned Nationals, baby!
I don’t think I need to lay out all the reasons why we should all be pulling for DC here, but let’s run through ‘em!
1. Holy shit, that’s Davey Martinez!
Really! Former Devil Rays outfielder and longtime bench coach to Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay has manned the helm for Washington through some tumultuous waters, including the loss of superstar Bryce Harper and a season in death spiral, all the way to the freakin’ World Series.
To have watched the Rays during Joe Maddon’s time is to have watched Dave Martinez as well. Side by side they were at the steps of the dugout, and when Maddon was tossed it was Martinez making the calls for honestly what feels like forever. His legacy with the Rays is baked into that glorious 2008 season as much as any player on the team, and I’m thrilled to see him have success as No. 1.
That’s the beauty of baseball. When there are 162-game seasons, you feel as if you know players and staff. They’re being welcomed into your living room six or seven times a week for months on end. You might see them more often than your friends. That’s baseball, it’s always with you, just like the people on the screen or in your ears are with you.
If Dave Martinez were passing me on the street, I might say hello like I know him. I don’t! He doesn’t know me from Adam! But it sure as hell didn’t feel that way for a decade of Rays baseball. I like Dave Martinez, if only for all those nights he was watching the games as the same time as me — well, from very different vantage points, but watching the same action unfold on the field at the same time nonetheless.
I want him to do well, and I’m glad he’s having this moment.
2. And there are actually a lot of former Rays
With all due respect to Robinson Chirinos, who was deeply wronged by the Rays to have been cut while recovering from a concussion, and to Todd Kalas who now leads the broadcast in Houston, I’m vibing with these upstart Nationals and their former Rays players.
Powder keg Fernando Rodney is still firing his arrows. Asdrubal Cabrera is giving me an undeserved sense of calm defending the infield. Daniel Hudson — who the Rays acquired at a significant cost but couldn’t pitch when he arrived in camp — is now closing and for some reason, I’m happy for him instead of mad he couldn’t figure it out in Tampa Bay. Heck even Trea Turner, who built a Motel 6 in my head after the Steven Souza trade, gives me the warm and fuzzies and I’m not entirely sure why!**
Whoever said familiarity breeds contempt was dead wrong. I like all these folks! Heck, even Joe Dillon is out there! After finishing his career in Tampa Bay, he became part of the hitting revolution in DC under coach Kevin Long! That’s awesome! Look at all these former Rays doing well!
**I think it’s because the Rays fleeced the Padres to get Turner, so even if they didn’t keep him, that’s a fun memory overall... right?
3. Even the non-Rays players are deeply likable in DC
20-year-old Juan Soto? Bookstore advocate and part-time Jedi Sean Doolittle? Mr. National himself Ryan Zimmerman? Yeah, these guys are good television, and are individually all people I’d love to see find some success.
And then there are the starters. I’m still angry at the Houston Astros pitchers for destroying the Rays hopes and dreams for 2019. I’m definitely not angry at these Nationals pitchers. Max Scherzer? You’re super fun. Licking your whole damn hand in between pitches and grunting when you hit 95 is super weird, but it’s also compelling television! And wouldn’t it be nice for Max to have a ring? [Editor’s note: As someone who watched the 2012 and 2013 Tigers, I can confirm it would be very nice]
Oh and I’ll always have a soft spot for Stephen Strasburg, who I watched throw his first ever professional pitch in Viera, FL at a bright and sunny spring training game however many years ago.
4. The Nationals have never done this before, and that’s fun!
Seriously their whole franchise has never been to the World Series. Not the Expos, and not the Nationals — until now — the second to last team in all of baseball to never find its way to the Series.
5. And the Nationals got here without tanking to become good!
In my mind the Astros and Cubs will always have asterisks next to their World Series achievements. Yeah you got a ring, but you could have done better by your fans first. And I know that’s a bit of a glass-house-statement given the Rays fan-abuses of trading so many beloved players away, but at least they’ve never been bad on PURPOSE, ya know?
And the Cubs and Astros have something else in common with their ring pursuits — Domestic Violence. Let’s go there...
6. The Astros have lost my respect, in more ways than one
The Astros have made their deal with the devil, bragged about their sins, and now it has somehow gotten worse through repeated episodes of incompetence by employees throughout their front office.
Houston’s closer Roberto Osuna, as you most assuredly know, was available on the cheap from the Blue Jays last year due to a suspension for Domestic Violence. The charges were dropped when his accuser was granted a restraining order and left the country.
Baseball is a sport of celebrity. It’s entertainment. Every player who takes the field does so receiving the endorsement of their organization. These are public figures. It should not matter that the charges were dropped, he’s not a person any team should be associating with (and the same goes for Aroldis Chapman).
And there thankfully isn’t a glass house situation. Derek Norris, the only Rays player to be accused of DV under the Rays new front office helmed by Neander and Bloom, was cut. The Rays organization is deeply committed to supporting DV survivors and accusers, leading the way on concepts like bathroom-signage. That should be standard for all of baseball.
Anyway, Osuna is still on the Astros and that’s bad enough. But there’s more!
A member of the Houston front office (Asst. GM Brandon Taubman) — who had a history of being frustrated with sports writers who are women that have reported on Domestic Violence in the past — celebrated Osuna in the Astros clubhouse by repeatedly yelling obscenities at a group of female reporters standing nearby, expressing gratitude the Astros had Osuna on the team (with odd timing, considering he’d just blown the save).
One of the reporters, Stephanie Apstein, showed incredible courage by publishing the encounter in Sports Illustrated, and the team responded by... first not acknowledging the encounter, and then calling her a liar once it was published.
A day later, the Astros acknowledged the encounters, but cited some meager organizational donations to DV causes and noted the AGM was “loving committed husband and father.”
As of this writing, no one in the front office or public relations has apologized for attacking Apstein’s credibility, or for their AGM celebrating a known abuser. Even their owner is trotting out a non-apology on behalf of his staff.
Thankfully, the national baseball writing community has rallied to support Apstein, as has the BBWAA, the Baseball Writers of America Association:
Statement on behalf of the BBWAA: pic.twitter.com/8MndA180Fa— Lindsey Adler (@lindseyadler) October 22, 2019
The Astros should definitely apologize, as the above requests, but you know what the Astros should do moving forward (other than the opposite of everything above)? Believe women when they speak out about abuse. It’s a pretty simple idea, and one that would work in their favor.
You can read more about all the responses (re: errors) made by the Astros from our friends at Crawfish Boxes.
7. Last but not least, Houston’s stadium sucks!
Houston’s stadium — Minute Maid Park, the other orange juice stadium — has a bastardization of the Green Monster and used to have a hill in center field that outfielders had to climb. They took that away and moved the fences in, which removed character more than anything else.
It’s named for a dramatically inferior product to Tropicana’s orange juice, and worst of all: YOUR TEAM IS SPACE-THEMED BUT THE STADIUM ISN’T???
architect 1: what’s the name of the team— legally may not discuss birds (@AnthraxJones) October 23, 2019
architect 2: Houston Astros
architect 1: oh cool, like the space program and NASA
architect 2: yeah, we should do something in the stadium that’s an homage to outer space and NASA
architect 1: any ideas
architect 3: a fuckin train
WASTED OPPORTUNITY. All they got is a decent mascot. [Editor’s note: and a real human man who drives the home run train!]
Houston does not deserve such a well-branded team.
Any of those seven reasons is enough. Go Nationals!
Should you or anyone you know need Domestic Violence services, please do not hesitate to contact The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, which operates a 2-1-1 emergency call line.