Last year, before the Dodgers played the Mets in the NLCS, I wrote this article about why the Mets were worth rooting for beyond the mere fact of their playing the Dodgers. It was a wild success, by which I mean that the Mets won the series and I’m happy to take credit for that.
This year, we were all a little preoccupied with the postseason series that the Giants were playing in, but they sure did stop doing that on Tuesday night, so here we are, left to root against the Dodgers. But instead of rooting against the Dodgers, an inherently negative action, why not root for their opponent, the Washington Nationals? Here are some things about the Nationals that you can root for instead of succumbing to the sweet, sweet, siren song of spite.
It seems like there was definitely a point when we all underappreciated Dusty Baker, though I can’t remember exactly when. Probably it was when he was managing the Cubs and losing the 2003 NLCS and taking the blame for ruining Mark Prior’s arm that Giants fans decided the team was better without him. By 2012, the common wisdom was that the Reds were succeeding despite Dusty, not because of him. Now, in 2016, we can see the difference between the team under Matt Williams and the team under Dusty Baker, and hey, maybe the guy’s a pretty damn good manager after all.
And he’s a great guy! Never have I encountered a Giants fan who had anything bad to say about Dusty Baker the person, and I have encountered a lot of Giants fans. People inside the game love him. People outside the game love him. He’s really just one World Series title away from getting a Hall of Fame spot as a manager. He was a huge part of Giants history, managing the team for a decade. How can you wish anything bad upon him? You can’t. Go Dusty. Please win.
Trea Turner succeeding will make the Padres feel bad
The Nationals were the third part of the Padres-Rays Wil Myers trade, even though nobody’s quite sure why they were invited. But they crashed the party and ended up with Trea Turner, the best prospect in the deal, despite not being the team who traded away Wil Myers. What did Turner do? He got called up, played mostly center field even though he’s a natural shortstop, and just mashed the ball. And now the Padres, whose new regime came in and made all sorts of flashy trades and generally thought they were smarter than everyone, still don’t have a shortstop of the future. Wil Myers is a good player, but Trea Turner got away from them, and now they have to watch him in the playoffs, and they feel like dummies. Which makes me feel very happy.
Bryce Harper is really good
Here are some clips of Bryce Harper being good and fun to watch:
There’s a good chance you don’t like Bryce Harper. That’s fine, but it’s fun to watch great players do great things, and Harper’s in that category. Enjoy him. Enjoy him now. Enjoy him as much as possible in this postseason, where he will hopefully play many, many more games.
Also, last year, when Jonathan Papelbon choked Harper in the dugout, Harper was incredibly classy about how he handled it. In fact, there were people who wanted him to be more confrontational and more divisive about it. But he wouldn’t, because he’s not a completely irredeemable asshole. Though, speaking of completely irredeemable assholes ...
They cut Jonathan Papelbon
Sure, maybe they “never should have traded for him in the first place.” But those were the old Nationals, baby. These are the new ones, who look at the guy who’s not contributing and is also a huge douche and who nobody outside of 4 people in the city of Boston actually likes and they get rid of him. Then we all get to feel good that Jonathan Papelbon got released. The Nationals gave us that feeling, and we should feel grateful to them for it.
Wilson Ramos sympathy points
With a week left in the season, Nationals starting catcher Wilson Ramos tore his ACL, which ended his season. Among catchers Ramos was tied with JT Realmuto of the Marlins for third in the majors in fWAR, behind Jonathan Lucroy and Buster Posey. Ramos was a huge part of the team, and they’re all rallying behind him, or at least that’s a cliche that I can write and not have anyone question it, with replacement catcher Joe Lobaton hitting a huge homer in Game 2 of this NLDS. Winning one for Ramos would be a great feel good story.
But this isn’t the only hardship that Wilson Ramos has ever gone through. Back in 2011, he was playing winter ball in his home country of Venezuela. On November 9 that year, he was kidnapped by four armed men, who held him for two days. Now he’s a starting catcher in the majors, he’s suffered a severe injury, and he’s going to hit free agency at the end of the year as damaged goods. Wouldn’t it be right for the team to win some games for him?
There you have it. Go Nationals. It would be very nice if you were to win tonight.