This may seem like a Guide To The League Championship Series, but it isn’t really. If you need to be guided through four teams, you may be too dim to read.
I mean, what’s to know, really? The Yankees ruined the only real dream any sensible person has left, a postseason in which all possible games are played. By sweeping Minnesota without even bothering with a pregame stretch, they cheated us out of two potential games, including a win-or-golf special. The only times this particular dream was fulfilled was in 1972 and 1973, when there were only three series to navigate, but it is our contention that we are owed those games, and expect to somehow to be recompensed for them. Maybe Rob Manfred can juice the A’s-to-Las Vegas rumors for us.
Houston is still the best team by enough of a margin that we may continue to forget that October balls can be juiced, too. The Astros may have been extended by Tampa, but all five games were pretty cut and dried, and we can expect more of the same in this next round, and the one after that. The Astros are officially Not Fair.
St. Louis is essentially Deadspin’s bete noire from long before your humble stenographer got here, and I have been told that not loathing the Cardinals is an unacceptable position. So fine. Caring about someone else’s petty hatreds is not something we do well. We have plenty of our own.
But then there was Washington, playing the humble longshot with the sad postseason history almost to the point of nausea. You will hear that the Nationals hadn’t reached this level of playoff baseball since 1981, but they didn’t. The Montreal Expos did, and the only real reason the Nationals exist at all is because Bud Selig needed bait in 2004 to quiet a restive Capitol Hill during the game’s most strident flirtations with performance enhancing rocket fuels, and was willing to look the other way while Montreal’s franchise withered and died. You will also hear that the town hasn’t seen a World Series since 1933, but in reality that is history that belongs to the Minnesota Twins.
Indeed, Washington has largely failed at baseball for most of its existence, but rather than be merely unfair, let us list the town’s baseball accomplishments.
1. Walter Johnson.
2. Ted Williams the manager.
3. Not keeping Bryce Harper.
4. Breaking Clayton Kershaw, probably for good.
They even blew it with the hats they wear. The Expos hat, the glorious tri-color beauty that is really the only valid old ball cap for regular folk other than the Brooklyn Dodgers, was left to rot with the other traces of the franchise, replaced by the new owners’ selection of the nondescript Senators 2.0 cap of the 1960s. You may remember them if you’ve had a hip replaced—they replaced the first Senators barely months after the original failures beat feet for Minneapolis and St. Paul, were devastatingly worse than the team that left, and then they went to Dallas to ruin a whole new state.
The point is, the Nationals would be at least incrementally easier to root for here if they at least acknowledged that one part of their actual history, the only thing that is actually memorable about either Montreal or Washington in baseball terms. In the modern game, forming attachments to players is a dodgy strategy, so claiming that Anthony Rendon or Steven Strasburg or Juan Soto as Washington’s forever is probably as temporary a condition as claiming Harper. Howie Kendrick has had the single most Nats-tastic moment in team history, and this is his fourth gig.
As for that Expos cap, though, it may be merely an affectation, and it may be a reminder of one of baseball’s less noble deeds, but damn it, it’s a good-looking one, galactically superior in all ways to Washington’s curlicue blue, red, patriotic-fetishist, camouflage, or some other marketing intern’s ideas of a color scheme. We won’t get that in this series, of course, because despite whatever biases you hold against Team Leitch, the two birds on the bat is still the best uniform idea baseball has had in the last 100 years. Not even the Expos hat can beat that.
But the cap’s time ought to be here in time for next year, and if the Nationals intend to make something of themselves, they should seize the notion while they can. I mean, it’s got to be better than any of these, or for that matter, any of these, and definitely any of these. Clearly, “W” isn’t something that offers a lot of options. Maybe it would help if they turned the Expos’ stylized “M” upside down.
In the meantime, hat or no hat, we have three more series, and may they all go seven games. If we can’t have that, the reasons for the species’ continued existence are diminished again.
Ray Ratto hat-tips Chris Creamer and his Sports Logos web site at all secular and religious holidays, simply out of habit.