I know I’m going to jinx them. I just know it.
As soon as you start talking about the Nationals this year, they do a face plant and fall back off the pace. Again. Their bullpen implodes. Again. They remind you that Mike Rizzo isn’t a genius when it comes to constructing bullpens or picking managers. Again.
Nonetheless, I’m going to take a chance. And I’m doing so because Max Scherzer is worth it.
Who breaks their nose (in a freak bunting accident, no less), then 24 hours later goes out with said broken nose and amazing black eye and punches out 10 Phillies (boo Bryce Harper) via strikeouts? Then five days later throws one-hit shutout ball — again with 10 strikeouts — against the Marlins? Finally, yesterday, in his first return to Detroit since signing with the Nats as a free agent, Max — still with a discolored eye and broken nose — goes 8 innings and has 14 strikeouts in a 2-1 win that brings the Nats home for July 4th with a 5-1 road trip. Max has 10 strikeouts or more in 90 games in his career and he’s had such a dominant June that he’s firmly inserted in the conversations around the race to win the Cy Young award for best pitcher.
We are so lucky to get to watch a future Hall-of-Famer every five nights.
Getting the opportunity to see something special even in the midst of general mediocrity (the Nats are only one game over .500 after several strong weeks) reminded me of a post from one of baseball’s best writers. On September 29, 2011 — after arguably the craziest night ever in baseball* — I wrote a post urging everyone to read Joe Posnanski’s column about that evening entitled Baseball Night in America. It is still a great read. I can’t quote the whole thing, but here are a handful of gems from this column about baseball . . . and life. First this:
“There is nothing in baseball as jarring as a blind-side hit, as jaw-dropping as a perfect alley-oop, as tense and heart-pounding as a breakaway. And the hard thing to explain, the impossible thing, is that many of us love baseball not in spite of these failings but because of them.”
“I never argue with people who say baseball is boring, because baseball is boring. And then, suddenly, it isn’t. And that’s what makes it great.”
Followed by this:
“And on this wonderful baseball night, this wonderful thought struck me: Raul Ibanez at age 39, in the 12th inning of what was for him and his team a game without consequence, had run his heart out to first base though the double play was almost certain. Why are you doing this? Maybe it’s because sometimes, when it seems least likely, we might find the best in ourselves.”
And Joe ends with this gem:
“Baseball, like life, revolves around anticlimax. That’s what you get most of the time. You stand in driver’s license lines, and watch Alfredo Aceves shake off signals, and sit through your children’s swim meets, and see bases loaded rallies die, and fill up your car’s tires with air and endure an inning with three pitching changes, a sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk.
But then, every now and again, something happens. Something memorable. Something magnificent. Something staggering. Your child wins the race. Your team wins in the ninth. You get pulled over for speeding. And in that moment — awesome or lousy — you are living something you will never forget, something that jumps out of the toneless roar of day-to-day life.
The Braves failed to score. Papelbon blew the lead. Longoria homered in the 12th. Elation. Sadness. Mayhem. Champagne. Sleepless fury. Never been a night like it. Funny, if I was trying to explain baseball to someone who had never heard of it, I wouldn’t tell them about Wednesday night. No, it seems to me that it isn’t Wednesday night that makes baseball great. It’s all the years you spend waiting for Wednesday night that makes baseball great.”
As Joe says, baseball is boring, until it isn’t. Just like life. Go Nats!
More to come…
*UPDATE NUMBER 1: On September 28, 2011, four teams went into the 162nd and final game of the season tied for their league’s wild card slot, to get into the playoffs. After each relevant game began according to what one would expect, they all deviated into one crazy, unpredictable, wild, and emotional night of baseball.
UPDATE NUMBER 2: Clearly I didn’t jinx them this year.