Everyone wants a team who they can root for. Unfortunately, the majority of hometown teams just don’t get the job done. That’s what bandwagons are for. These days, the Washington Nationals wagon is more crowded than a McDonald’s on free coffee day.
It is quite fitting then that the team based in the nation’s capital is quickly becoming America’s team
Largely due to the nature of baseball’s non-existent salary cap, the villainous teams feature much more prominently. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are the driving force of the MLB with fans outside those respective cities rooting almost as hard for a Yankee or Red Sox loss as they do for their hometown team to win. Villains are fantastic for the narrative but nothing sells like a story where the good guys come out on top.
People love the feel good story. We’re suckers for them. That’s why it is hard not to be enthralled by the product the Washington Nationals are putting out right now.
Before they moved to Minnesota, the Washington Senators were known for their losing ways. Washington was “First in war, first in peace and last in the American League.” When Washington finally reacquired a Major League Baseball team in 2005, nothing much changed other than the fact that the losing happened to be in the National League. Washington baseball went with losing like hot fudge and ice cream.
That is, until now.
If you don’t know that the Washington Nationals are the must watch team in baseball, get yourself out from under that rock you have been living under for the past month. With a 15-9 start to the 2012 season, the Nationals haven’t just brought their franchise back to respectability but they have created one of the most marketable professional sports teams in North America.
The Nationals ability to lose, a culture that has long been associated with Washington baseball, didn’t hurt their cause.
Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, both first overall picks in consecutive years (2009 and 2010), are the faces of this Nationals franchise. They also happen to be two of the most exciting players the MLB has seen in years.
Stephen Strasburg throws a 90+ mph change-up and can touch over 100 mph on his fastball. Despite undergoing Tommy John surgery last year, Strasburg has been absolute dominant this year with a ho-hum 1.12 ERA. Any game that Strasburg is pitching, the baseball world is paying attention.
Bryce Harper is the phenom. He has a hose in the field, power like Mickey Mantle and a swagger that just borders on being a bit too cocky. It has only been 3 games but Harper has shown that he is the real deal. This is the new Alex Rodriguez. Well, the A-Rod that people didn’t used to mind so much.
I’m not the first to say it but this is Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry all over again. The MLB might have its own personal Lebron James–Dwyane Wade duo for the entire nation to focus on. Except in this case, everyone is rooting for this duo to succeed.
It seems more than fair that the Washington fans get treated to something that has the potential to be the most exhilarating tandem in baseball. There is nothing to be jealous of. Most fans can relate to the endurance of perennial hardship and the Washington fans have had their share of hardships. This is a match made in baseball heaven.
The Nationals didn’t simply buy a team to compete with the ridiculousness of the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies. Fresh blood coming up through the draft is treasured by sports society, not condemned. The Nationals are exactly what the doctor ordered for Major League Baseball.
Superstars are the reason professional sports are so popular today. The hardcore fans will always be there but stars bring the casual fans. Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg have the god-given insaneness to show a person that maybe baseball isn’t too slow a game for them. It isn’t too difficult to get behind two guys who can, not preposterously, remind us of the good ol’ days of Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry.
So hop on aboard the Washington Nationals bandwagon. There’s more than enough room for everyone.
What else would you expect for America’s new team?
Chris is a writer on Comedic Prose, and he also is the editor of Painting the Black.