Some weeks ago I wrote a column about my love for the Washington Nationals baseball team. And I noted that despite major political polarization in Washington, there is one place where Republicans and Democrats forget their partisanship and join hands — and that is at Nationals Park rooting for the Nats.
Since then, with the Nats poor record since the All-Star game and especially after being swept recently three straight games by arch-rival and first place Atlanta Braves, all of us Purple Nation Rs and Ds Nats fans are hearing mostly doom and gloom by DC’s sports writers and bloggers that the Nats are done for in 2013 and won’t even make the wild-card slot much less overtake the Braves.
As of yesterday morning, August 11, the Nats trailed the first place Braves by 14 1/2 games.
Given that as of Sunday there were only 46 games left for the Nats, the odds that they can overtake the Braves’ 14 1/2 game lead are slim to none — or so it seems says almost everyone I talk to in DC right now who have given up on the Nats.
Well not me.
I say: Remember what happened sixty-two years ago to the day from yesterday, on August 11, 1951.
On that day, the New York Giants were 13 1/2 games behind the Brooklyn Dodgers in the National League pennant race, with a record of 59-50, compared to the Dodgers, 70-36.
This was one of the great Dodger (and baseball) teams ever — led by all-star hitters Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, and Duke Snider.
And the Giants on August 11?Pathetic. They had started their season after the first three games losing 11 straight games; and on August 8-9, were swept by the Dodgers, resulting in their 13 1/2 game deficit.
But after the August 9 third game, the Giants reportedly heard the Dodgers through the shower walls between the team locker rooms celebrating and mocking the Giants.
The Giants were reportedly offended, to say the least – and motivated.
After a loss to the Philadelphia Phils on August 11, 4-0, the magic began: the Giants won 16 straight games by August 27. Between August 11 and September 30, the Giants won 37 out of 44 games for a miraculous winning percentage of .840. Meanwhile the Dodgers experienced a team batting slump and inconsistent pitching, but still compiled a record of 26-22, slightly above .500.
And then of course the historic miracle finish — the Giants win the pennant after Bobby Thomson’s incredible bottom-of-the-ninth, walk-off, three-run home run, the “shot heard ’round the world.”
So if the ’51 Giants could come back from a 13 1/2 game deficit on August 11, why can’t the Washington Nats, exactly 62 years later, just one more game, 14 1/2, behind?
After all, this is basically the same team that compiled the best record in major league baseball last year and won the NL Eastern Division Title. Moreover, as good as the Atlanta Braves are this year, they can’t come close to the packed superstar line-up of the Jackie Robinson-led 1951 Dodgers.
So here is my Field of Dreams scenario, based on this historical precedent:
As of Sunday morning, August 11, the Nats need to win an average of 2 out of 3 games of their remaining 46 games — a far lower percentage than won by the ’51 Giants in the same time period (.667 vs .884). Meanwhile, the Braves would need to win just one of every three games for their remaining 47 games as of Sunday morning — entirely possible if the team reverts to the hitting and pitching slump they demonstrated several times this season.
If this scenario or something close to it occurs, the Nats will be once again the Eastern Division Champions. (There is an even easier pathway to overtake the Reds, with an 8-game edge to qualify as a wild-card entrant into the National League play-offs.)
Am I engaging in silly fantasy that suddenly the Nats will play at their highest level for the next six weeks, while the Braves (and the Reds) are seized with a team slump?
But that would have been precisely the accusation against anyone who, on August 11, 1951, predicted that the Giants would win the pennant over the mighty Dodgers.
I promise you this:
If the Nats pull this miracle off and get into the playoffs, then most certainly there will be no Republicans or Democrats at Nationals Park for those games and the World Series, but rather, just Nats fans, cheering and singing together “Take On Me” in bipartisan harmony and joy.
Bring it on!