Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles — Maybe Next Year

Unbelievable!

Wouldn’t you know it, my Friday-afternoon  post speculating on an I-95 World Series was the kiss of death for the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals. Before the night was over, BOTH teams were eliminated from the 2012 pennant chase, the O’s in the American League and the Nats in the National League.

A short post on my humble blog has the same power to jinx as a Sports Illustrated cover story? Who’d ‘a thunk it?

The Orioles 2-1 loss in the Bronx to superior Yankees pitching was a disappointment, but somewhat salved by a gracious postgame appearance by owner Peter Angelos in the visiting team locker room. The Orioles can be proud of breaking out of a two-decade slump. Wait till next year.

Decades and decades of baseball mediocrity in Washington, D.C. Wait ’till next year!

The Nationals 9-7 defeat by the St. Louis Cardinals was more devastating because the Nats had the home-field advantage and staked their ace starting pitcher to an early 6-0 lead. Which the bullpen blew in the 9th inning!  I’m not naming names until the implicated pitchers are safely out-of-town.

The 9th inning! Washington fans had been driven to delirium by the stunning success of their young team. At the end of the 9th inning, the overflow, standing-room crowd at Nationals Park was in shock. The fans may never recover. With a lot of offseason psychotherapy, the talented young players should be able to bounce back by spring, and the team has every reason to contend for the pennant in 2013.

Baltimore may have suffered two decades of losing seasons, but before that the Charm City team led a charmed existence. Jim Palmer and the other starting pitchers were so good and so crafty, they were dubbed the “Graduate School of  Pitching” by the Washington Post’s Tom Boswell. (Starters: Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar, Pat Dobson, Mike Boddicker, Mike Flanagan, Scott McGregor, Steve Stone, Storm Davis, Dennis Martinez — have I missed anyone?)

Hall-of-Fame Manager Earl Weaver was fortunate to manage diligent and disciplined stars like Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr.  Weaver also seemed to have awesome powers of motivation with all the position players. (Rick Dempsey, Rich Dauer, Boog Powell, John Lowenstein, Gary Roenicke, Ken Singleton, Al Bumbry, pinch-hitter Jim Dwyer  — all must have been levitated to over-perform by the powerful personalities of Earl Weaver and Coach Cal Ripken Sr.)  The 1970s and 1980s Orioles teams turned in group performances beyond the sum of their individual talent.

But back to the Washington misfortune. I think I was infected with bad-luck baseball early on. The Washington Senators of my boyhood justified the familiar line: “Washington, first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.”  They always seemed to lose when I was in the stands. And also when I wasn’t.

Could the ghost of the 1950s and 1960s Senators have followed the new team to the National League? Probably not.

The Nationals were doing fine until I attended my first Nats game ever Wednesday afternoon. Cards 8, Nats zip. Deja vu all over again. I wasn’t in the ballpark on Thursday, so the Nats won, 2-1. Then I had to post that optimistic drivel on Friday. It can’t be all my fault. I’ll be happy to share the bad-luck blame with my brother, Tom Hayden. He was at Friday’s doomsday game, and I hold him partly responsible.

But on the bright side folks, the ballpark food selection is way above average at Nationals Park. I can personally vouch for the chicken fingers and french fries. Oh, and the ice cream cones.

— John Hayden

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