Night Terrors and Day Drinking: The Self Inflicted Trauma of Being a DC Sports Fan Part 8
Haynesworth laying on the field wasn’t the only embarrassing on field moment from 2010. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Nyjer Morgan’s glove throwing incident. Describing Nyjer Morgan the baseball player is close to impossible. He was a centerfielder that thought he should be a superstar but had the talent of a fringe average baseball player. He couldn’t hit a cut off man to save his life and while he was fast he had no instincts on the base paths. And so it was in a game against the Baltimore Orioles and on ball off the bat of Adam Jones he ran back towards the wall to make what would have been a spectacular catch. When he missed the ball he threw his glove down in frustration and seemed to have no idea that the play was going on while he threw a tantrum and left fielder Josh Willingham was left to retrieve the ball and throw it in too late as Adam Jones scored an inside the park homerun.
But 2010 wasn’t all bad for the Washington Nationals. Let’s not forget June 8 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. I was at RFK for Zimmerman’s walk-off against the Yankees and I was at the opening of Nationals Park but nothing was the event that Stephen Strasburg’s debut was, and DC sports wouldn’t be a true horror show if there wasn’t hope and that is what Strasburg’s debut was. There were two times I’ve seen people cry at Nationals Park. One was after Strasburg’s 14 strikeout debut and the second was after the Nats 2012 Game 5 loss to the Cardinals. It was the hope that was born on that early June day in 2010 that made that night in October of 2012 so awful. That was meant to be our reward for our suffering but it was simply more suffers, and we will get to that soon enough. For now let’s take a breath and remember fondly the night Strasburg burst on the scene and struck out 14 Pirates, but now let’s also remember the night in August when he’d throw his change-up, one of the best pitches in baseball, and shake his arm, call for trainers, and be criticized by Rob Dibble for being injured. Strasburg’s tearing of his UCL would turn out to be a pivotal talking point of the 2012 playoff disappointment.
2011 was a mostly unremarkable year in DC sports. Bruce Boudreau was fired in favor of Dale Hunter, the Redskins floundered around as only the Redskins can, and the Wizards were still waiting on the promise of John Wall. The Nationals had two key events happen that would shape the future of the franchise and I met the majority of my friends of Natstown. We drank beers at the Red Porch before games and when the team was out of town we met up at places like Lucky’s in Springfield, Dog Fish Head in Fairfax, and Iron Horse in DC. It was a fun year but my social activity wasn’t what was important for the Nationals. It is the statement they made when before the 2011 season they unexpectedly signed Jayson Werth.
It was a contract that was criticized from the jump. The Nationals were not the type of team that was supposed to sign the big money free agents and not one pundit thought Werth was going to be worth his $126 million contract. They all agreed that his few remaining productive years were going to be wasted on a Nationals team that would be nowhere near the top of the standings and paying money to Werth would stop their so far successful rebuilding process in its tracks, and at points during the 2011 season they looked correct. Especially as Jayson Werth struggled mightily at the plate that season. My contention at the time was that Werth was never being paid to be the best player on the field. Ryan Zimmerman was already here and Bryce Harper was soon to arrive. Werth was being paid a lot of money to change the culture of DC and he started right away when he got on Nyjer Morgan for his lackadaisical attitude in Spring Training and eventually forced him to ask for a trade. Werth wasn’t done at cleaning house by getting rid of Nyjer Morgan and there was one more man Werth couldn’t stand to play with or more accurately for.
Jim Riggleman became the manager of the Washington Nationals when Manny Acta was fired mid-season in 2009. He wasn’tgreat manager but he showed more spine than Manny Acta and he got the team to play at a 70 win pace. It wasn’t awful but it wasn’t great and that’s about the best way to describe Jim Riggleman. Then the Washington Nationals started playing well. They swept the Seattle Mariners to improve their record to 38-37 and Riggleman overplayed his hand. He went to Mike Rizzo and demanded a contract extension right then and there or he wasn’t getting on the plane to Chicago. Mike Rizzo told him no dice and Riggleman walked away mid-season in what remains one of the most bizarre incidents in baseball. All Riggleman had to do was keep the team playing well and fighting for a Wild Card and he would have had either an extension in Washington or would have been the hot managerial candidate of the off-season. Instead he made demands that most if not all general mangers would have found impossible to meet and he was finished in Washington. He said the reason was the players couldn’t respect a manager that wasn’t guaranteed to be around past the current season, but what he meant was Jayson Werth thought he was a joke and a jumped up bench coach. The sudden change led the Nationals to lure Davey Johnson out of retirement and set up the fun that was going to be the 2012 season.
In 2011 I turned 30 years old and my stable and reliable life crashed down around me. The effort to turn our photo business into an industrial casework company came to a bitter end as we were besieged on all sides. The recession had cause general contractors to bid jobs at 90% of cost and they were making their money by cheating subcontractors out of money. One general contractor attempted to do so by demanding our cabinets be delivered by a certain date when they were behind schedule and then they stored them on site and called us back when they were ready for our installers. They called us for our installers to come out three months later and then sued us for being late with the install. They lost that lawsuit but the contracts we signed were generally unfair and made so the general contractors, architects, and owners could get away with just about anything. There is one phrase that will haunt me to the day I die that was included in most contracts and that is, “Including but not limited to,” and general contractors swung that like a hammer to pile on extra work and deny change orders as often as possible. And none of that mentions the accountant that stole a million dollars or the employee that ended up having a fake social security number and winning $250,000.00 in a bogus workers comp claim. Everything was awful and I got myself out of there as fast as I could and set off for a career change.
I don’t think I need to tell you how great the vast majority of 2012 was. The Washington Nationals won 98 games and Robert Griffin III appeared to be all that was advertised and more. The Capitals once again won the Southeastern Conference in a strike shortened season behind coach Adam Oates and John Wall was starting to deliver on his promise while the Wizards struggled to put a team around him. But we all know how 2012 ended and those two playoff loses for the Nationals and Redskins helped to pile on the ever going crap sandwich of misery that is DC sports fandom.