Initially I was going to make this post a full-blown retrospective. But seeing as the season isn’t over yet, it’s a little redundant to recap a regular season and then go over it again when the Nats postseason run ends in at most a month. I did, however, solicit the Citizens staff for their favorite moments of the 2012 regular season. Below are those responses. Read, enjoy and feel free to post any favorite moments of your own in the comments section.
As a fan, the 2012 season has been filled with wonderful memories of great hits, throws and pitches. As a son, the season has been even more memorable. My dad was right beside me the other night; we smiled away at our team from the left field corner as Michael Morse ran around like a wild man with champagne bottles. I’ve been waiting for this for what seemed to be a long time, but he’s waited much longer.
The Senators left town when my dad was in his teens, you see, and a love of baseball but no particular team filled the next few decades for him. Finally in 2005 that void was filled with our Nationals, which we could finally settle down and cheer for. We waited and waited through the tough times without an owner, with Jim Bowden running the ship, bought into The Plan and were ready to storm Lerner Enterprises with torches and pitchforks when the Strasburg negotiations went until the last minute in 2009. Through the first seven seasons, we still enjoyed watching the mediocrity in front of us because a baseball team finally belonged to us in our home area. We loved rooting for the Nats when they were bad, but always felt that we deserved a break from the poor play we had been accustomed to seeing.
The entire 2012 has been an awesome redemption –we’ve seen by far the best baseball team that has existed in DC in either of our lifetimes. I’ve been waiting since September 29, 2004 for the Nationals to be the champions of their division, but my Dad has been waiting since he started watching the Senators in the 60s. I’ve heard all the tales of Frank Howard and Ted Williams and know that despite living through the bad years, my dad looks back on it all with a smile. At the same time, I am excited that the stories I share about my Nats fanhood with my kids won’t revolve around Rick Short, Daryle Ward or Manny Acta but rather Bryce Harper’s rocket arm, the 2012 goon squad, fans’ obsession with a fourth outfielder nicknamed “the Shark” and how for a summer every object could be turned into #rally_____.
Monday night was our validation. Our team finally is something. I won’t say we’ve made it yet – we still have World Series aspirations – but we’re on the verge and closer than ever to the elusive Commissioner’s Trophy. So while some of my colleagues here at Citizens of Natstown may have a favorite play or event, my favorite moment of the 2012 season was looking back at my dad after the Pirates beat the Braves, getting a handshake and a hug, and knowing 50 years of DC baseball-related agony have been lifted from his shoulders. I’m glad he finally got to see a winning team in DC, especially with his wife and two of his kids there to share the moment.
The Washington Nationals have 36 come from behind victories and 10 walk-off wins, but they have been such a resilient team that all of them blend together. I tried to think of the walk-off wins this morning, and I remember Ramos as a plane, Desmond’s homer against the D-Backs, Werth’s bases loaded single, Harper’s extra inning single against the Mets, and Dan Uggla dropping the ball. None of those are that memorable.
Then there are the moments that happened on the road. There is the comeback against the Brewers, Michael Morse’s fake swing for a grand slam, and countless wild pitches to start the season. The nature of this team causes all of these moments to bleed and blend together into a tapestry of fight, a nature of never giving up. It is hard to put a finger to one isolated moment and say, “This is it. This is the moment that defines the 2012 Washington Nationals.”
If I have to pick and isolate just one I will say it is Harper stealing home or maybe the night the Nats clinched the NL East. Out of all the wins that Nats posted in 2012 those two moments happen to come from losses, losing efforts against the hated rivals the Philadelphia Phillies. My moment isn’t going to be a moment at all, nor will it be the concept of resilience this team has shown.
The moment I pick for the best of 2012 is every moment we watched Bryce Harper play. Whether it was his mammoth homers to territory not reached since Adam Dunn wore the curly W, his hustle and instincts on the base paths taking every inch given to him and then a couple more, or watching him mature as a centerfielder running down fly balls not thought reachable and then turning and firing a strike hundreds of feet on the fly.
Without Harper the Nationals would have been resilient, but they wouldn’t have had the youthful exuberance. He brought something else to this team, something different. It is a feeling that not only are the Nationals the best, but they know they are, they enjoy being the best, and they are not afraid to rub it in your face. Harper is an amazing talent, but more than that he is the confidence and excitement of the 2012 Washington Nationals.
What is my favorite moment of the National’s 2012 season? Wow, that is a hard question. When I was asked to wrote a short piece for Citizens of Natstown I thought it would be easy to just pick one specific moment and say, “Yep, that is my favorite,” but upon reflection that is not the case.
I moved to Washington, DC a little over three years ago and caught Natitude before it was even a word. I did not have a name for it back then, but I knew that I was a Nats fan through and through. I grew up in Iowa and we do not have any professional sports teams and there was no way in hell that I was going to be a Cubs fan. I respect myself too much to be a part of that disaster that bases itself in Chicago.
Anyway, I have been lucky enough to attend 23 Washington Nationals games this year, and watched close to fifty more on TV, so it is very difficult to pick just one moment. The best I can do is split the season into thirds and reflect on my three favorite games of the season.
Game 1: In the first third of the season my favorite game was opening day. Three friends and I skipped work and had tickets less than ten rows behind where the right fielder plays. I have never been to an opening day game before and the entire experience can barely be put into words. The weather was warm, the beer was cold and the people that came out for the game were optimistic (which is pretty unbelievable because all the previous seasons ended with the Nats finishing with a losing record and not finishing any higher than third in the NL East).
Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was Strasburg, maybe it was the 19 year old, Bryce Harper, waiting in the minors for his debut, but the season felt different. The Nats had a chance this year. Not the same chance that every cellar dwelling team thinks the have at the beginning of every season, but a real chance.
Where the optimism of the crowd was great, my favorite part of the game was heckling Cincinnati’s right fielder, Jay Bruce. I swear to this day if he hears my voice in a dark alley he would punch me in the face. I heckled him nonstop for eight innings until I was asked by another Nats fan to give it a break. I mean I was merciless. I went after him mom, his college stats, even his Facebook page and how many friends he had. It got to a point where he would look up every so often to just to see if I was losing steam and you guessed it…I was not.
I would have felt like it was overkill, but the Nats won 3-2 over the course of 10 innings.
Game 2: I went to the Fourth of July game, which pitted the Nats against the San Francisco Giants or as we call it in my apartment the Midsummer Homerfest. If you do not remember that was less than a week after that bad storm that knocked out most of DC’s power and it was very, very hot. Edwin Jackson was on the mound and he gave up his traditional couple of runs in the first innings and my friends and I were thinking, “Oh, damn, here he goes again,” but that was not the case. Jackson settled down and pitched a solid 5 2/3 innings.
While we were half considering leaving during the third inning because a couple of my friends were feeling the effects of the heat Ryan Zimmerman came up to bat. We did not think it could get any hotter, but it did, Zimmerman blasted a double to left and scored Espinosa. Then Desmond came to bat and he singles to center and scored Harper and Zimmerman. Suddenly, we had a game.
It was all downhill from there for the Giants. Solano homered in the fourth, Zimmerman and Morse added two more homers in the fifth and Rick “We Miss You” Ankiel put the final nails in the coffin with a homer in the eighth.
It was just a great experience. People were still eating hotdogs and cheering their lungs out even though it felt like it was a million degrees outside.
Lastly, it was the best flyover I have ever seen. Instead of jets they had helicopters do the flyover and it was amazing. I felt patriotic for a week.
Game 3: I had the pleasure of being at two of the four games in the September Cubs series. The one that I liked attending to the most was the final game or as most of you might remember it as the multi-inning brawl. The Cubs were so frustrated that the Nats for three previous games had humiliated them that they tried to take it out on the Nats starting with third base coach, Bo Porter.
For those of you who do not know, Bo Porter played baseball, as well as safety for the University of Iowa. Being from Iowa, I know that you do not mess with an Iowan. Especially, an Iowan that can play football. We do not take shit from anyone…
In the end, two Cubs were ejected from the game, as well as relief pitcher, Michael Gonzalez for the Nats. The whole game was just really fun. We beat the Cubs down all series and we never let up on them throughout the entire game.
Slaten Worshipper (“Deepthroat”)
As the Nationals prepare for their first foray into postseason play, it is only natural to fill the time between the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs reflecting upon the 2012 season, and what made it special, all the while taking mental pictures of those moments that stood out, so as to never forget them. For once, the Nationals regular 162 episodes are chocka-block with wonderful moments, and plays, which makes for a lengthy saunter down Memory Lane.
For me, it isn’t so much an individual moment that will stand out in my mind as the epitome of this season, but an individual, and his ability to create an exquisite monolith of play, and teamwork that will challenge the heights of any monument that the city holds. Davey Johnson, and his ability to forge and nurture an ethos wrought from his own quiet dedication to, and passion for the game of baseball, and turn it into the piece of history that has unfolded over these 162 games, will define my recollection of 2012.
An unassuming man who has spent many a year in the game, and had just as unassuming of a playing career, Johnson found a way this year to instill his philosophies into every player on the roster, regardless of position, personality, talent level, or time in the pros, and mold them all into a cohesive unit that quietly stayed atop the NL East for 149 days, never crescendoing, or spiraling into depths in a way that made headlines. Yet, as yeoman-like as their efforts were, both the team and the man weren’t afraid to show emotion in the name of competition, and respect, as the kerfuffle on September 9th against the Cubs, and Davey’s own outburst towards Marvin Hudson can attest.
In the end, the team played, battled, and won in the image of it’s general, who rounded his troops with such humble uniformity, in such short notice, that it wouldn’t be farfetched to say that 2012 happened in the way it did because of Johnson, and his nuanced brilliance.
My personal favorite moment wasn’t a single moment. Watching the Nats clinch the playoffs from my basement with Matt and Dave was memorable. Being at Nats Park when the NL East was clinched was also memorable. But nothing trumps watching Bryce Harper grow and completely transform this team.
From Opening Day it seemed like this team was missing something. I know Morse was out for a solid 2 months and Zim was injured, but it seemed like with as well as the team was playing and even with everyone healthy the team was just missing….something. That something was found on April 28th, and it really brought this team even closer together.
As a fan I consider myself extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to watch a superstar take everything thrown at him in stride and succeed:
- You want me to be the starting CF despite only playing 33 games at CF in MiLB? I’ll just go secure MLB’s 3rd best CF UZR/150 behind Bourn and Chris Young. Yes, even ahead of Mike Trout.
- You want to throw at me to ‘welcome’ me to MLB? I’ll go 1st to 3rd and then steal home on you.
- Trying to bait me with ignorant postgame inquiries? That’s a clown question, bro.
He still has a lot of room to grow, but with the last month he’s had in the field and at the plate…I’m extremely excited to see how bright Bryce Harper can shine when the spotlight is the brightest.
The most memorable thing about this season was, for me, a deeply personal thing. It was my first trip to Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia in late August to support the Nationals. This was a big deal for two reasons: One, I was traveling with a group of Nats fans taking Natstown up north for a change, so that we could have enough of a presence to be felt among the Phillies fans. Two, I lived in Philadelphia during five key years for me—the years that saw me finish my bachelor’s degree, launch my career, and make some of the best friends I’ve made in my life—but never actually attended a baseball game during my days there. (Phillies baseball in the late 90s/early aughts wasn’t what it has been more recently.)
I hadn’t really even made it to my seat yet when the impression sank in on me: I was in line for the escalator up, when a guy in front of me turned around to find the rest of his family, and I immediately let them by me, simply because I’m a parent too and wouldn’t want to get separated from my kids. But instead of the guy thanking me, he barked back at the people behind him, all Phillies fans other than me, “WELL, THIS WOULDN’T HAVE HAPPENED IF THESE ASSHOLES HADN’T BUTTED IN LINE.” And he was looking right at the man standing next to me. Nearly everyone around me said, in unison, “Nice.” It was a polite way of saying, “Dickhead.”
Later, as we were losing the game, I saw Mr. Nice going crazy as the Phillies were going up on the Nats. He was looking right at me, jeering at me, flipping me off. But that’s only partly what made it memorable.
What made it memorable was the fact that there were about 20 of us in that section, all in our Nats gear, actually loud enough to be heard three sections away where Mr. Nice was sitting throughout the game. What made it memorable was that as we chanted Gio’s name, some of the Phillies fans around us joined in—sorta to mock us, but also acknowledging that we were being heard. What made it memorable was FP Santangelo highlighting us in the first inning, checking us off as Nats fans in the house.
Sure, we didn’t win. But look where we are now. I can look at all the other memorable moments, good, bad, ugly, miraculous, and spend days writing a book about all of them. But the one that stands out for me was the day I realized I had been a part of something that was a first, at least in this baseball era: That was the day we really took back our park, because we showed them we could be present in theirs.