Nationals' World Series victory marks the end of October agony for a team full of veterans
Many Washington players had only known postseason heartbreak before 2019
HOUSTON -- This World Series champion Washington Nationals team had so many fascinating stories that deserved to be told -- and we've done them justice here at CBS Sports throughout October. But something really stood out to me as I walked through the visitor's clubhouse at Minute Maid Park while getting sprayed with champagne and beer (not a complaint! I love it). I looked around the room and time after time I saw faces of 30-something players -- some stars, some journeymen -- who had been around a long time and had never tasted the greatest team-level success that can be achieved in this sport.
Prior to Wednesday's Game 7 victory, many of them had seen heartbreaking endings to seasons, too. Let's run through those veteran players who won their first rings in 2019:
Max Scherzer is a 12-year veteran who made the World Series with the Tigers in 2012, but was swept. This was his seventh postseason and he suffered two heartbreaking NLDS losses with the Nats. He went out in Game 7 and pitched his guts out despite being three days removed from needing help getting dressed. As he received the trophy, he had the most intense happiness I think I've ever seen. Fitting, right?
Stephen Strasburg was the No. 1 overall pick when the Nats were at their lowest. When he came up, he was one of the most-hyped prospects of all time. He was amazing, but then he needed Tommy John surgery. He sat and watched his team blow the 2012 NLDS after a notorious shutdown. His team continued to lose in the NLDS, but then this year they broke through. Now he will have the Big Game pitcher reputation because in 55 1/3 playoff innings, he has a 1.46 ERA.
Anibal Sanchez is 35, and he was with Scherzer in 2012. Sanchez looked like he might be out of baseball after 2017. Now he has a ring. There was a moment when Sanchez and Scherzer embraced and both had looks of disbelief on their faces while celebrating.
Howie Kendrick is also 35. He had been to seven different postseasons before this year and this was his first World Series. He also dealt with injury, but noted that he never let it bother his mood.
"That's the only way I can be," he said. "If you're miserable about it you'll never get right. I told the team I'll be ready to go for spring training. That's the mindset I have about everything. I'm always upbeat."
The quote of the night might've been what Kendrick thought as his all-time great World Series Game 7 home run approached the foul pole -- which at Minute Maid Park has Chick-fil-A advertising on it.
"Stay fair, I love Chick-fil-A!"
He's now a World Series champion and had the go-ahead home run.
"To be a part of this, it's special."
Kurt Suzuki, 36, has been on four different teams in his 13 years and he was on the 2012 Nationals team that collapsed. He had never been past the divisional round until this season.
This time around, he got to experience a 5-0 record with his team facing elimination.
"It makes up for all the times that we went home sad," Suzuki said. "This is the first time in my 13 years in the big leagues I got to celebrate on the last day of the season and it's awesome."
"I can't," he said when I asked him to describe how he feels right now. "I couldn't believe we're still playing baseball. It's Halloween tomorrow! This is what you dream about. It's phenomenal."
Fernando Rodney is 42 and has played for 11 different teams in 17 years. He had been to six different postseasons and this is his first ring.
Adam Eaton is 30 and in his third stop in eight years and this was his first postseason. He was certainly ready. He went 8 for 25 (.320) with four walks, two homers and six RBI in the World Series. He had the game-tying homer off Justin Verlander in Game 6 and put the series away with a two-RBI single in the top of the ninth in Game 7. The hit gave some extra breathing room for Daniel Hudson and the Nats bullpen.
Brian Dozier is 30 and in his eighth season. He lost the World Series last season with the Dodgers and lost the Wild Card Game the year before with the Twins. I asked him how "Brian Dozier, World Series champion" sounds to him. He smiled huge and said, "say that again." So I did. "Keep saying it, over and over and over!"
Sean Doolittle is 33 and in his eighth season. He previously played for four different postseason teams but had never advanced. Now he has a ring and was integral in the back-end of Washington's bullpen.
Yan Gomes, 32, is an eight-year veteran who previously went to four postseasons. He was part of the 2016 Indians team that lost a 3-1 lead to the Cubs and the 2017 Cleveland squad that had a 2-0 lead on the Yankees in the ALDS only to lose three straight in heartbreaking fashion. In Game 7, he caught the whole game and won a ring.
Gerardo Parra, 32, is on his sixth team in 11 years and started the whole Baby Shark craze! He had previously been on three postseason teams and never made the LCS round.
Asdrubal Cabrera is a 13-year veteran playing on his sixth playoff team. He'd previously never been past the LCS round.
Daniel Hudson, 32, was on his sixth team in 11 years and has gone through injury issues along the way. He had only played in one playoff series and that was in 2011. Game 7 saw Hudson get the final three outs, including a strikeout to close things down. Remember, his wife gave birth to a daughter earlier this month. After Game 7, he told me it was a surreal month and it would take a while to let everything sink in.
And of course, there's Ryan Zimmerman. He was the Nationals' first first-round pick after they moved from Montreal. He was in the majors the first year in D.C. He was the face of the franchise when the team was bad. He was part of heartbreaking divisional series losses in 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2017. He was part of the rally in the Wild Card Game this year, had a big homer in the NLDS and a big homer in Game 1 of the World Series. He's popular in that clubhouse, too.
"I was here in 2012 when we made the playoffs and we had heartbreak," Suzuki said. "To be able to come back and to watch what Zim did this postseason and to help carry us, it couldn't have happened to a better person, to a better family."
With tears in his eyes, Zimmerman succinctly summed up how his career lead to this moment.
"I wouldn't change a thing."
Well said, Mr. National.
The Nationals are World Series champs and while many of the younger guys were important, this one felt like it was for all the long-time veterans that had not only be unable to get over the proverbial hump, but had also ended so many seasons in heartbreaking fashion. That's what I took away from the celebration in the clubhouse.
It was years of frustration erased in an instant.
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