I am a baseball fan. Before the start of the season, I thought the Washington Nationals had a great chance to win it all. Then the games started. Players became injured. I went to game after game and watched them lose over and over. My bike tour took me away from the wreckage.
But as Joe Garagiola said, baseball is a funny game. The season unfolded like all baseball seasons. Ebbs and flows, just like a long bike tour. Pre-season hopes gave way to harsh realities. A series of injuries gutted the lineup for a month. A relief pitcher coming off surgery on his throwing arm threw 100-mile-per-hour pitches everywhere but over the plate. Other relievers did little better. The injured players returned. Gerardo Parra was acquired and taught the team to just have fun. The team started to win. Max became utterly unhittable. Baby shark boomed from the speakers at the ball park. Strasburg and Rendon quietly, steadily evolved into elite players. Howie Kendrick, a part time player who had spent nearly a year off the diamond with an injury, hit like a monster. Eaton wore out pitchers and played with his hair on fire. Robles vacummed the outfield. Soto played like a veteran, even becoming a decent outfielder himself. The catchers, acquired over the winter to replace the disappointing backstops of 2018, became anchors. Max got hurt. The team kept winning. Astrubal Cabrera returned and hit like a beast. The team kept winning. Aaron Barrett returned from a hideous arm injury to pitch again and inspire. Zimmerman came back from a long struggle with foot problems. And he hit. More winning.
By the time they squeaked into the playoffs they had become the elite team I had hoped for in March. Then, impossibly, they won five elimination games, the last being Game 7 of the World Series.
In a way, winning the World Series doesn’t matter. The long arc of the season matters. Watching games on warm summer nights, sharing a beer or three with my daughter matters. Doing Baby Shark matters. Seeing friends at the game matters. Riding home from the ball park in the dark after a mid-summer night game matters.
Yes, we will celebrate for a few days. There will be a parade. Enjoy it. Already temperatures have dropped. Winds have begun to howl. Big Nellie soon will take her place in the basement where I’ll spin and read all those books I’ve neglected for the last six months. It will be reading season once more.
Meanwhile, a new team will take shape. Hopefully, my body will follow suit. Then sometime next spring, a flag will be raised and a new baseball season will begin. Maybe I’ll ride somewhere far, hopefully on two healthy legs this time. As Nationals manager Dave Martinez mother told him when he was growing up, “Often bumpy roads lead to beautiful places.”