Sometimes you just have to put rivalries aside and tip your cap for a job well done.
I was rooting for the Houston Astros in the World Series, mostly because I wanted them to beat the top National League East rival of my Atlanta Braves, but the Washington Nationals earned that championship the hard way.
Washington started off the season terribly, which meant they were looking up at Atlanta in the standings all season, and Braves fans like myself never missed a chance to rub it in. But when it mattered most, one team embarrassed itself (again) and the other took home the trophy.
My allegiances actually shifted a bit with Game 5 and Max Scherzer. It was heartbreaking to hear that a guy who busted his butt all season, woke up on the day he was supposed to pitch and was rendered pretty much immobile with neck and back spasms.
You could see the pain on the guy’s face as he took questions from reporters that day. It was then that I thought to myself, I hope Scherzer gets a chance to contribute in Game 6 or 7.
He did, getting the start in Game 7. Scherzer wasn’t in peak form but he gave the Nats five solid innings and kept the game within reach. Howie Kendrick and the Washington offense eventually did the rest.
Kendrick is another guy you can’t help but be happy for. The 36-year-old’s career looked to be winding down, especially after a ruptured Achilles heel last year, but the 14-year veteran bounced back to play 121 games and hit just shy of .300.
Then came his unforgettable playoff run, highlighted by two go-ahead home runs in pivotal moments.
Lastly, there’s Ryan Zimmerman. Washington selected the first baseman with its first-ever draft pick in June 2005 and Zimmerman was in the majors that September as a 20-year-old rookie. He stuck with them and now at age 35, his loyalty has been rewarded.
This all sounds like I’m a Nats fan now, right? Not a chance. The World Series is over and I’m still Atlanta all the way, but Washington earned its time in the spotlight. Maybe it will push everyone else in the division to do better next season.
Mike Hautamaki can be reached at email@example.com.