From the Desk of Mark Lerner: Envious No More

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Just about every night, I remind myself, be careful what you wish for.

For years now, we watched with silent envy as teams played meaningful games late into the season. We were thrilled to play a role — any role — in the season’s outcomes, to affect the standings from the outside.

Some call it playing the “spoiler.” Whatever they called us, it fit at the time.

But when everyone went home at night, all we could do was picture and dream what a pennant race was like from the inside.

Well no longer. Friends, we are in the midst of a real pennant race. And, bonus, this one appears to have started a bit earlier than most.

Honestly, my early impression is that it is equal parts pleasure and agony.

As if the late innings of a tight game are not grueling enough, let me tell you that I literally cringe every night about 7:10 p.m. upon checking the out-of-town scoreboard for the first time. Not much changes either during my 62 subsequent glances, as I wait for the scores to flip or turn over at inning’s end.

The man known as “Kurt Klutch” has already made his presence felt with the Nationals.

Honestly, this is so fun and much more invigorating than I imagined during all those blank nights. This is daily drama that only our sport can provide.

The ups and downs … they are amazingly addictive, but as we all know, the nightly outcomes cannot always work in our favor.

And it is in those moments that I remind myself … be careful what you wish for.

*It has been a busy week with the additions of Kurt Suzuki and Cesar Izturis. Suzuki has made an immediate impression in the clubhouse — he is so upbeat and personable, it is as if he’s been with us for 3-4 years, not 3-4 days. I know he’s still feeling his way, trying to learn about our pitchers and their various strengths. But our fans should feel comfortable with not only his talents behind the plate, but also in a one-on-one setting.

*A little bit was made about the Suzuki acquisition being some sort of commentary on the play of Jesus Flores, especially since Wilson Ramos went down in early May. I can assure everyone that Mike Rizzo does not feel this way. This was an opportunity to acquire another front-line catcher. Mike was understandably nervous about the worst case scenario: losing Flores to injury. This trade makes us better and deeper. And as we’ve seen all season long, our depth is a big part of what has set us apart.

Danny Espinosa has played the hero role lately, with the Nationals rookies in support.

*I know I wrote about the agony that comes with a pennant race, but one recent high point was Saturday night’s big comeback win over the Marlins. That was as loud as I have heard our ballpark. The only other moment that could potentially stack up was Ryan Zimmerman’s game-ending homer to open up Nationals Park on March 30, 2008. As up-to-the-task as Danny Espinosa was in Saturday night’s critical at-bat, I genuinely believe that the fans primarily fueled that six-run eighth inning. We’ll need much more of this in the next 2 months.

*I do not think it is any exaggeration to think that Adam LaRoche should be a part of any NL MVP discussion. At the very least, he is the NL Comeback Player of the Year. He carried us in April and has never let up. He leads all big league first basemen in home runs with 23. Yep, that’s one more than even Albert Pujols (22).

*I’d also like to welcome Jayson Werth back to the active roster. And he is not just back and working himself into shape. Rather, he is helping us win games. Wrist injuries are probably the most disruptive ailments that can plague hitters, and for him to come back and to have already raised his batting average above the .300 mark? It is a remarkable testament to his will and determination. His body’s ability to heal quickly is something to behold.

Bryce Harper continues to dazzle with the bat and the glove.

*I’d be remiss if I did not mention the many contributions of our rookies: Bryce Harper, Steve Lombardozzi and Tyler Moore. Go back to Saturday. Bryce, Steve and Tyler accounted for half of the runs in the aforementioned six-run eighth inning. Some say the best thing about rookies is that they become second-year players. Well, in my mind, the best thing about these rookies is that they are not going anywhere any time soon.

I hope to see everyone during our next homestand. Remember, the next homestand includes a big 3-game series against the Braves. I’ve had friends tell me that this might be the biggest baseball series in D.C. since the 1933 Fall Classic. This is what it’s all about.


Great article! I agree, what an exciting time for us in DC. My wife and I LOVE going to Nats park we’ve been 6 times this year and have taken our 7 month old baby to several games. It is the BEST sports venue in DC. What a special season the NATS are having. I hope everyone realizes that our starting rotation is a once in a limetime thing that you may never see again even if you lived 10 lives in 10 other baseball cities.

Please keep Charlie and Dave in the broadcast booth describing this “Sweet Action” until they can no more.

I agree why no mention! I was holding my breath…I was so afraid he wasn’t going to catch it!!! I should of had more confidence!! lol

And no mention of last night’s amazing catch by Roger Bernadina? We were about to have a heart attack when he caught the ball.

I just started watching baseball last year and became a huge Nats fan. I wish I lived close enough to buy season tickets. I am so excited to see how far they have come from last year. I haven’t been to a game YET and I hope to make it to one this year. I do enjoy watching them on tv and listening to the comentators. They give us so much information and make watching the game so entertaining. GO NATS!

Wonderful article! I completely agree about how special this team is – you really could go decades without seeing a team like this. I don’t miss an inning. I record all the games and get to the park every chance I get. And my friends and I just sprang for 2013 season tickets!

What a fine article. It really sums up my thoughts each night. I have not been able to make a game in 4 years and it is KILLING me not to be there this year. Since 2005 people here (Nebraska) have sniggered or downright laughed out loud when I said I was a Nat’s fan. NO MORE. Thank God for MLB TV.

Normally I would be worried and anxious every game being in a pennant race but really all I can do is relax and enjoy and have fun with this team. At the beginning of the season they weren’t suppose to make a run until 2013. Then they were suppose to fold when:
– Ramos when down
– Soren went down
– Morse when down
– Werth went down
– Zimmerman went down
– and on and on

This team is so special that even if they fold like a cheap suit, it will have been a blast of a year.I’ve been a baseball fan for almost 50 years and I really think most people don’t realize what magic they have been watching this year.

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