We should take a moment here to bow down once more to the amazing story of the Washington Nationals. This is a team that lost 100 games in back-to-back years, 2008 and 2009, a team that went through that managerial nightmare last year when Jim Riggleman resigned right in the middle of the year during that crazy “I’m too old to be disrespected” saga, a team whose franchise pitcher, Stephen Strasburg, blew out his elbow 12 starts into his big-league career.
And look at them now, all grownsed up, leading the league in ERA, top five in runs scored, protecting their guy Strasburg against waves of national protest, riding the energy of a 19-year-old Bryce Harper, taking the city of Washington into the baseball playoffs for the first time since the New Deal. It’s a story that defies mere words. It needs a Broadway show.
The Nationals certainly have as good a shot as anybody to win the pennant. The playoffs are, as we know, a crapshoot, but even without Strasburg — and it’s amazing to say this sans Strasburg — I don’t think there’s a team in the league that can match up on paper with Washington’s top three starters of Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler. Of course, the Reds have four good starters and a lights out bullpen, the Giants have postseason whiz-kid Matt Cain and perhaps the best home atmosphere in baseball, the Cardinals are defending champs and score a bunch of runs, Atlanta has a well-rounded team and the incomparable Craig Kimbrel at the end, and you can’t really predict what will be the story of the 2012 postseason.
But I would say even with the amazing Orioles run and even with the extraordinary drive of the Oakland A’s, the Nationals are the story of the 2012 regular season.