The Nationals 2019 World Series run was filled with incredible moments. Juan Soto's base hit squeaking by Trent Grishman to give Washington a late lead in the NL Wild Card Game. Howie Kendrick's grand-slam in Los Angeles. Kendrick's homerun off the foul pole in Game 7 of the World Series. Winning four games on the road against the Astros to take home the title.
To those plugged in with the Nationals and in the DC area, these moments may be considered a little lucky. But for the most, it is believed that the championship run was the culmination of a lot of talent clicking together at the right time. The Nationals had the formula to win and executed it.
Entering 2020, the feeling around the Nationals is that they have everything needed to compete for a chance to repeat as champions. Despite Anthony Rendon leaving, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer and a host of others from last season remain on the roster. With some new additions, it is reasonable to expect 2020 to not be a rapid departure from 2019. Last year was not a fluke, and this year will prove it.
The rest of the MLB, however, may not view the Nationals in the same light.
Joining NBC Sports Washington's Nationals Talk Podcast, NBC Sports Boston's John Tomase gave some insight into how other teams and fanbases see and judge Washington's success. Tomase, who covers the Red Sox, explained that the AL East may not be completely sold on the Nationals' success.
“Maybe as a team that got a little bit lucky last year as a wild card," Tomase said. “Maybe a one year wonder, losing Rendon obviously hurts.”
The reveal isn't meant to be a total diss to Washington. The 2019 squad earned their World Series championship and did everything needed to get there. However, Tomase explains that some may think those big moments factored in a little more luck than those in DC might want to believe. Therefore, repeating in 2020 doesn't seem as realistic to the outside world.
Luck or not, Tomase also noted that going back-to-back is a challenging task for any team. Covering the four most recent World Series titles for the Red Sox, he's seen the hurdles the following year brings. Specifically, the strain pitchers sometimes face.
“The one consistent thing you saw from year to year to year was the defending champs, their pitching staff was just annihilated the following year," Tomase said.
He saw it with Pedro Martinez following the '04 World Series, as he recalled the pitcher saying he was never the same after that. A similar story for Josh Beckett after '07 and Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello in 2019 after a deep run in 2018. Injuries and regression seemed to constantly follow those who went deep into October the season before.
Though Tomase feels that the delay to the 2020 season could help, it is still something to keep an eye on for the Nationals. During the 2019 run, Scherzer, Strasburg and others on the mound had a heavy workload. How they bounce back could dictate the direction of the campaign.
“They all talk about just the attrition and how much it took out of them playing those extra games, and those extra high-intensity games in October," Tomase said.
“There’s a reason nobody has repeated in 20 years," he added.
While the others may not see Washington as a major threat to repeat in 2020, it does not mean that the Nationals have not earned their respect. Luck or not, their World Series championship came over the Houston Astros. In recent years, the AL West squad has made plenty of enemies due to the cheating scandal they are now wrapped up in, including major ones in the AL East.
The Nationals prevented them from adding another title and that pleases plenty around the league.
“But the one thing is, obviously the respect factor goes through the roof for taking out the Astros," Tomase said. "A team that all of baseball, but particularly Red Sox and Yankees fans, and Rays fans, truly hate.”
Maybe 2019 was a one-hit-wonder year for the Nationals, and there's no denying a repeat will be an incredible challenge. But, their World Series victory put them in the history books no matter what and earned them a nod of respect from their competitors.
“Those teams all hate, hate, hate the Astros," Tomase said. "You take out the Astros, you are our friend.”
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