There are certain days people remember for their whole lives. Their wedding day, the day their kids were born, maybe even the first time they tried a Double Stuf Oreo. For Washington, D.C. sports fans, they can add another day onto that list:
July 29, 2021
It was a day that took them through a roller coaster of emotions. It had everything: blockbuster trades, a double-header, the NBA Draft, coronavirus…oh yeah, and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. One minute, the Capitals are celebrating the re-signing of the biggest star athlete in this city’s history; the next minute, the Nationals are reportedly trading a three-time Cy Young Award winner.
July 29, 2021 may have shortened the lifespan of die-hard D.C. sports fanatics. But hey, this city’s used to it. Here’s a summary of what happened over the course of the day, the gravity of which has still yet to set in:
11:37 a.m.: Nationals trade Brad Hand to Toronto
To start off the festivities, the Washington Nationals commenced their house-cleaning expedition by unloading the closer they acquired this past offseason. Washington dealt Brad Hand to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for catcher Riley Adams.
Hand recorded a 3.59 ERA for the Nats and 21 saves over the course of 41 appearances in 2021. His final week in the nation’s capital, though, was not kind.
He entered Sunday's game vs. the Baltimore Orioles with the Nationals holding a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the ninth. Hand was unable to seal the deal, allowing the O’s to walk it off 5-4. The very next night, he entered the ninth inning in Philadelphia with the Nationals up a more comfortably 5-3. A leadoff double, a wild pitch, and a three-run homer later, and Washington takes a second consecutive walk-off loss, this time 6-5.
12:05 p.m.: Max Scherzer makes possibly his final start for the Nationals
The Nationals had to postpone their game on Wednesday after news broke that 12 members of the club were placed in COVID protocols. To get back on schedule, the team played a double-header in Philadelphia with the first game beginning at noon on Thursday.
Max Scherzer cemented his name into D.C. sports lore during his tenure with the Nationals, and the first game of the double-header was vintage Mad Max. He allowed just three hits and one earned run over six innings with five strikeouts. Washington won the contest 3-1. But don’t worry, there’s wayyy more Nats news later in this timeline.
2:00 p.m.: Capitals host press event celebrating Alex Ovechkin’s new contract
Ah yes, the one undisputedly good bit of news that came out of the day. The Washington Capitals hosted a virtual press event to celebrate the re-signing of one of the sport’s biggest legends in Alex Ovechkin. The Great 8 signed a five-year, $47.5 million deal two days prior to stay with the Caps for what will likely be the remainder of his NHL career. Ovechkin, along with Capitals’ front office members and NBC Sports Washington broadcasters in on the live stream, seemed overjoyed at the deal struck between the two sides.
2:43 p.m.: Scherzer reflects on his tenure in D.C.
After what looked to be his final appearance in Nationals colors, one of the greatest pitchers in modern baseball took a moment to reflect on his time in the nation’s capital.
Scherzer, in his postgame press conference after the 3-1 win, said, “I don’t want to look at this as a negative thing. I’d rather look at this as a positive thing. Look, I signed a seven-year deal here and won a World Series. The first thing I said when I signed was, ‘I’m here to win.’ And we won. We won a World Series so that’s a lifelong dream come true and something that I’ll always be so proud of.” Enough to make grown men cry.
4:10 p.m.: Rumors of Scherzer going to the San Diego Padres swirl
As expected, pretty much every contending MLB team wanted their hands on ‘Mad Max.’ News broke that the San Diego Padres were the frontrunners to acquire Scherzer around midday. I’m sure that’s the end of the story: the Padres acquire Scherzer and everyone lives happily ever after. No need to read the rest of the timeline.
4:46 p.m.: Washington Football Team places Curtis Samuel, Matt Ioannidis on COVID-19 list
It wouldn’t quite be a crazy day in D.C. sports without the Washington Football Team, would it?
Newly acquired wide receiver Curtis Samuel and longtime defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis were placed on the COVID-19 list, right as training camp’s third day concluded.
Coronavirus concerns are especially present within WFT’s camp, as the team hovered around the bottom of the NFL in terms of vaccine rates. Head coach Ron Rivera is immune-deficient due to his recent bout with cancer, making the Samuel/Ioannidis news even more jarring.
6:10 p.m.: Phillies walk-off the Nationals
Washington was up 7-0 in the second game of Thursday’s doubleheader in Philadelphia. Little by little, the Phillies chipped away at the Nationals’ lead. It all culminated with the game going into extra innings and Phillies infielder Brad Miller hitting a walk-off grand slam off Sam Clay. The Nats would go onto the lose the game 11-8 in extra innings.
7:03 p.m.: Dodgers reportedly still in the mix for Scherzer
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic initially reported that the San Diego Padres were the frontrunners to snag Scherzer. Just under three hours later, he reported that while San Diego still had a great shot to get him, but the Los Angeles Dodgers were also in the mix.
8:16 p.m.: Wizards trade Russell Westbrook to the Lakers
Woj bomb. The Washington Wizards, just as the NBA Draft was getting started, finalized a deal to send Russell Westbrook and two future picks to the L.A. Lakers in exchange for Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the 22nd overall pick in the draft. This was easily the biggest move of the NBA offseason thus far, as Westbrook quickly became a fan favorite in Washington after just one season. Westbrook posted career-highs in rebounds and assists as a Wizard, all while becoming the league’s all-time leader in triple-doubles. Russ posted a touching tribute to Washington fans later in the night.
8:51 p.m.: Dodgers move closer to finalizing a deal for Scherzer and Trea Turner
Step aside, San Diego. Just before nine o’clock (which, by the way, was when several medal events in Olympic swimming began), L.A. began finalizing details on a trade to acquire Max Scherzer and Nationals shortstop Trea Turner.
Scherzer was all but a guarantee to leave Washington. Turner, not so much. The shortstop had been one of the Nats’ best players over the last five-ish years, and this season alone he ranks fourth in the MLB with a .322 batting average. Washington was in line to send the duo to L.A. in exchange for a haul of prospects within the Dodgers organization. It’s a full-on retooling for the Nats. Somehow, their night STILL isn’t done.
9:29 p.m.: Wizards select Corey Kispert no. 15 overall in the Draft
Shooting and wing defending were key concerns for the Wizards as they drifted closer to the 2021 NBA Draft. They got both and then some by snagging forward Corey Kispert out of Gonzaga with the 15th pick.
10:26 p.m.: Wizards trade for Aaron Holiday and 31st pick
Remember the 22nd overall pick that was part of the package the Wizards got for Westbrook? It didn’t stay in D.C. long. The Wizards sent the pick (Isaiah Jackson out of Kentucky) to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for point guard Aaron Holiday and the rights to the 31st overall pick. Washington plugs the hole left by Westbrook at the point guard position and adds some backcourt defense, as Holiday is an undersized yet gritty guard.
10:56 p.m.: Nationals trade Kyle Schwarber to Red Sox
Could the Nats not give us one, simple moment of peace? Apparently not, as they shipped slugging outfielder Kyle Schwarber to Boston for RHP Aldo Ramirez. Though he dealt with injuries during his lone season in the swamp, Schwarber became must-see TV for the absolute tear he went on during the month of June. He won NL Player of the Month after hitting 16 homers and knocking in 30 RBIs as the leadoff man. But now, he’s in Boston.
11:15 p.m.: Wizards draft Isaiah Todd 31st overall
The Wizards were compensated the first pick of the second round as part of the Westbrook deal. They chose power forward Isaiah Todd (no relation to author) from the G-League Ignite. Todd is a superior athlete from Baltimore and could give the Wizards some depth around the perimeter.
11:56 p.m.: Nationals trade Daniel Hudson to Padres
San Diego ends up nabbing a Nats pitcher after all. Washington sent the righty Hudson to the Padres in exchange for two prospects, an RHP and a shortstop, four minutes before day’s end. Hudson will always have his name etched in baseball history as he threw the final strike of the 2019 World Series, capping off a miraculous run for the Washington Nationals en route to their first-ever championship.
So there you have it. Everyone still breathing?
July 29, 2021, will be one of the most fateful days in the history of D.C. sports, that is for sure. The day saw two of the city’s biggest stars (Scherzer and Westbrook) shipped to the city of angels, while their former clubs made moves to try to set up a brighter future.
From sunrise to sunset, it was a whirlwind day. There is no doubt that D.C. fans have been through turbulent days before, but this one might just take the cake. For now, the city, its teams, and its fans looks to the future.