“Seeing isn’t believing, believing is seeing.”
Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Am I really using a quote from Tim Allen’s The Santa Clause to help transcribe the season in which the Washington Nationals won the National League Pennant and are now headed to the 2019 World Series? Yes. Yes, I am.
That’s all Dave Martinez instilled in his mind when writing down the names of nine men on a lineup card throughout the 2019 season. With names like Ryan Zimmerman, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Howie Kendrick, Juan Soto, Victor Robles and many others on the Nationals roster, Martinez didn’t doubt the mixture of age groups he had in his clubhouse. He had it all, players with ten years of big league experience and those who are just dipping their toes in the big league waters.
“If you look at how — where we came from and what we had to accomplish to get here, it wasn’t easy,” Martinez said following a 7-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series. “I’ll be the first to say, you know, I never doubted these guys. I really didn’t. All I kept telling myself, hey, stay with them. Stick to the process. Stay positive. Teach. And as soon as everybody gets healthy, we’ll make a run. We’ll make a run. We’ll get back in this thing.”
It wasn’t until the Nationals clinched a playoff berth and were sent to the National League Wild Card game against the Milwaukee Brewers that the baseball world would look through their peripheral vision to see if something special was happening in Washington. Now, all eyes are on the nation’s capital as Martinez sets his agenda for one final series.
Many are looking at the Washington Nationals and are asking themselves, “When did this all begin?” When and where was the turning point that sent them on an ambitious run to the World Series.
“After May 24th, we played playoff baseball throughout the rest of the year.” Martinez said reflecting on the 2019 season. “The result is what you see. It’s going to happen in our world, in the baseball world. It is. We’ve just got to believe. We’re one step closer right now.”
For those who believed, they witnessed the Nationals signify a brotherhood that was rooted within their struggles in April and early May and progressed into a team to fear in October.
Momentum gained control for the National League East squad as they broke through June with a 42-41 (.506) record. After the series sweep over the Miami Marlins in late June, the Nationals never looked back and they persevered through all the doubts and adversities.
“They played unbelievable. We talked about this earlier today about how we get down. There’s no quit. These guys are always staying in the fight and that’s what they do,” Martinez said after an 8-5 victory over the Marlins on June 27, the day the Nationals average pierced the .500 mark.
Though the Nationals battled injuries on the roster, the biggest scare for the Nationals organization came when Martinez had to forgo games in September to undergo a cardiac catheterization after feeling chest pains during a game on Sept. 15 against the Atlanta Braves. Martinez returned to the clubhouse five days later and resumed the job he started.
“These guys back here, they cured my heart,” Martinez said as he spoke on a podium in front of his players and Nationals fans at National Park Tuesday night.
Martinez may attribute his success with the 16 years he spent as a big leaguer with eight teams he had stints with from 1986 through 2001. In 1988, as a member of the Montreal Expos, Martinez didn’t expect to don a Washington Nationals uniform and become the third active Latino manager in Major League Baseball.
You can take also into consideration the experience he assembled as a bench coach for the Tampa Bay Rays (2008 to 2014) and the Chicago Cubs (2015 to 2017) underneath Joe Maddon’s shadow, to help send the Rays and Cubs to the World Series in 2008 and 2016, two teams who have yearned to soak up the atmosphere of the Fall Classic.
Now, it’s time for the Nationals to endure the World Series atmosphere for the first time in franchise history when they play Game 1 against either the New York Yankees or the Houston Astros on Tuesday October 22 at Yankee Stadium or Minute Maid Park.
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