The Nationals clinched a spot in the playoffs on Thursday night, which means postseason baseball is coming to Washington for the first time since 1933. Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post talked to Bill about the impact of this event in Washington.
“It almost caught people by surprise,” Svrluga said. “The players reacted very calmly because they have greater things in their sights: the division title and beyond.”
Thursday’s game drew 30,000 fans, an indicator of the sense of ownership people feel for the Nationals.
“This season is the one where after 8 years of having baseball this feels like Washington’s team, Washington is responding to it, and the postseason is this world of possibilities we haven’t had here in 79 years,” Svrluga said.
Former editions of Washington baseball teams include the current Minnesota Twins and the Texas Rangers. The current edition of the team, formerly the Montral Expos, improved dramatically in the last three years.
“A lot of things fell into place this year,” Svrluga said. “They’re on pace to win 99 games and win the National League East comfortably and really be one of the favorites to represent the National League in the World Series.”
Earlier this month, the Nationals pulled their pitcher Stephen Strasburg as a precautionary measure, and though that decision met with mixed reactions, Svrluga noted other players who will contribute in the post season.
“Local fans and fans across the country should pay attention to Ryan Zimmerman, the third baseman,” Svrluga said of the Virginia Beach native. “He’s been an all-star player, he’s been a gold glove winner, he has signed two contracts to stay with Washington.”
Svrluga also mentioned Gio Gonzalez, a left-hander and Cy Young Award candidate.
“He’s a happy presence in the dugout and the clubhouse, and now with Strasburg out, the anchor of the pitching staff,” Svrluga said.
Many expect baseball fans in Washington to rally around the Nationals’ first opportunity to contend for a title.
“This is a team that is in this position because it’s very good. It knows it’s good,” Svrluga said. “I think everybody—fans, players, management alike—are waiting for the things that are in the weeks to come.”
A team from Washington has not won a championship since the Redskins won the Super Bowl in 1991.