Following numerous disappointing seasons and early playoff exits, 2019 was finally the year for the Washington Nationals; the year they were finally able to get over “the hump” and bring a long awaited title to the streets of the District of Columbia.
After losing the face-of-the-franchise player, Bryce Harper in the offseason, many fans were nervous about the future of the team. The team was moving on from their 2012 number one overall pick who had brought so many exciting moments to Nationals Park. Ownership and the Front Office had now put the keys to the team in the hands of young studs, Victor Robles and Juan Soto.
The team got off to a hot start beginning in the first few weeks of the season. Newly acquired pitcher, Patrick Corbin, was pitching to a stellar earned run average (ERA), Scherzer was making his case for another Cy Young Award and newcomer Anibal Sanchez was proving that his 2018 campaign with the Atlanta Braves was not a fluke.
The new-look lineup was stellar and the bats were booming. Shortstop Trea Turner and center fielder Victor Robles were providing the speed while young phenom Juan Soto and stalwart third baseman Anthony Rendon were providing the power. It seemed as if the team had hardly even recognized that super star Bryce Harper was no longer in their lineup. When approaching a veteran leader in the clubhouse and asking him how much the team misses Harper, the player stated, “Bryce Harper. Who even is that? Oh wait, is that the guy who is hitting .235 on the Phillies right now?”
As the season moved its way into September, the race for first in the National League East was on between the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Nationals. The Philadelphia Phillies were already out of the race for first and were eliminated from contention after trading away team superstars Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson and Jean Segura before the trade deadline. When a Philadelphia reporter asked Harper on his thoughts of the disappointing 2019 season he had a stunning comment to the media that showed his discontent with signing to play in Philadelphia. He stated, “This organization is weak. They promised me a winning culture here and have not proved that they are willing to provide that. I am not sure if we will ever be able to win a World Series here. As of right now, it seems kind of impossible. I am extremely disappointed with the way that this season has turned out.”
As the Washington Nationals continued to play in September, they were able to pull ahead of the Atlanta Braves and win the division. The team was headed to the National League Divisional Series (NLDS) for the first time since the 2017 season. They had high expectations and knew they had a lot to prove to the fans who they had disappointed in the first round of the playoffs year after year.
After being led by stellar pitching in the NLDS by the best starting rotation in baseball, the team advanced to their first National League Championship Series (NLCS) in team history. When talking to Nationals manager, Dave Martinez, after the game 5 NLDS victory he was nearly in tears. Martinez was choked up when he stated, “I am proud of the boys, proud of the fact that we were finally able to get over the hump. I guess bringing those camels to spring training really got the guys in the right mindset to get over the first round playoff hump. A truly humbling experience; not to brag but I think I have a shot at winning National League manager of the year. I told the boys we are going to continue working, because we are going all the way.”
As the team advanced to the NLCS they were facing the Chicago Cubs, the team that Martinez coached before coming over to Washington. The team knew that this series would be a tough matchup, but one that they could easily handle. After starting the series by losing the first three games in Nationals Park, the hopes were still high. Former National, Bryce Harper was spotted in the ballpark wearing his old Nationals Jersey. He was extremely invested in the game and even got the chance to be the kid who gets to yell “play ball” before the game starts. However, before he yelled “play ball” the fans booed Harper and sent him off the dugout in tears. When being interviewed by a member of the Washington media, Harper stated, “After so many years of being on this team, I think I deserved a little bit of a better welcome. Even though we did not make it past the first round of the playoffs, I still did a good job of winning and taking the team to the playoffs for a few years. I was always so loyal to this fanbase.”
After playing phenomenally for the rest of the series, they were able to pull out a series victory and would be in their first World Series in the history of the franchise. They were set to face the New York Yankees on the big stage with the whole world watching. Once again, Harper was at the game with his old Nationals Jersey. Before the game, Harper was asked what he thought of the Nationals in their first ever World Series. He said that, “I am proud of those boys. I wish we could have done it together in my time here.”
As the series kicked off, the Nationals started out hot and took a three game series lead. It seemed as if they were going to bring their first World Series back to the District. They went to New York for game four of the series and won in stunning fashion. Commentators throughout the world echoed the words, “The Washington Nationals are your 2019 World Series Champion.” During the team’s field celebration Harper had to be restrained from running on the field. He argued, “That is my team, let me on the field!” Many reporters assumed that he forgot that he now played for the Philadelphia Phillies.
As the team hoisted the World Series Trophy over their head along South Capitol Street, Harper paid for a bus to take him down the parade route with a sign reading, “I am sorry D.C. I should have stayed. I love the fans and this team, please forgive me.”