BOSTON – Congratulations are due to the Washington Nationals! In seven games, they defeated the Houston Astros to win the 2019 World Series, the first such championship in the history of the franchise. In so doing, there were a number of stories and elements of the team that others will look to replicate going forward. Because this Nationals team is quite an anomaly.
First of all, the Nationals had a reputation of being unable to advance past the NLDS for the entire decade. When they lost their best hitter, Bryce Harper, in free agency, many were glad to be rid of the headaches he brought to the team, but many also thought the team would enter a rebuilding phase. That's what it looked like when they sputtered out of the gate to a 19-31 record that put their odds to even make the playoffs at a very slim rate, never mind winning the entire championship.
And yet, the Nationals never said die. During the post-season, they faced five elimination games and trailed in all five of them. But they prevailed every time and now they're on top of the world. There are a few core elements to how they managed to pull this off and I think there is one that has to be appreciated by all teams going forward, especially the Boston Red Sox. And that's loyalty.
The Nationals had the oldest average age of any team in baseball. While they were carried by some young guns like Juan Soto, there is no denying the importance of players like Howie Kendrick and Ryan Zimmerman to the team's success. Zimmerman, often referred to as Mr. National, was the first ever draft pick of the franchise way back in 2005. How heartwarming it was to see him hoist the World Series trophy. On top of that, Stephen Strasburg, a homegrown talent for Washington, was named the MVP of the series.
I know it might seem kind of silly to point to Washington's success as something for Boston to think about when the Red Sox themselves are just one season out from winning a title of their own, but I think there is a lot of value in being loyal to your players. Instead of moving on to the next big thing and trying to stay under certain salary regulations, I think the Red Sox should recognize both Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez as the undeniable, irreplaceable assets that they are and do everything they can to retain both this off-season.
Perhaps, if they do, they can show the Nationals that the Red Sox never say die either. And maybe we'd kick off the next decade a year from now with the celebration of even more hardware.
For now, though, all credit goes to Washington. They earned it and they should enjoy it.
Photo by Taylor Rooney on Unsplash