The Nationals just lost the pennant to the Mariners in 6 games. Tough way to end the season for a two-year old franchise. But I'm not complaining.
You see in 2005, Major League Baseball decided the teams needed to be better balanced, so they put all players into a pool and allowed the teams to draft the players and take over their respective contracts. Money was not a concern, because it was simply a video game, so competition on the whole would be improved in the struggling sport, following all the trouble with steroids over the off-season. Barry Bonds was not allowed to play...however, a white player named Jim Dowd was, and he bore a striking resemblence to Barry in all aspects of his game.
I had just taken hold of the young Nationals franchise and we had big plans for the DC squad. There really isn't a "we," unless you count my dog who is sitting on the couch with me for most of the season, but I will draw in the assumed management for your enjoyment. So anyway, We drew rights to the third pick overall, and with it selected the young stud first baseman Albert Pujols. He's a good player to build a team around, so I was very happy with the selection.
With our next picks, we felt it would be best to develop a strong young starting rotation, as pitching wins championships. I railed off the picks of Roy Oswalt, Josh Beckett, Rich Harden, and AJ Burnett, and we're sitting pretty with a starting rotation the likes of the Cubs. Things are obviously a bit thinner in the hitting department by this point, so I figure we'll get some decent defensive players with some good speed and play some small ball a la the Twins. My first pick is Corey Patterson to man the outfield and then I surround him with the rest of these guys:
C Mike Matheny Dioner Navarro
2B D'Angelo Jimenez
SS Jose Reyes
3B Aaron Boone Dallas McPherson
RF Austin Kearns Joey Gathright (actually a CF)
LF Kevin Mench Jayson Werth Victor Diaz
I round out the pitching staff with some decent characters including Jason Isringhausen to close, a non-injured Raphael Soriano, J.C. Romero, Otsuka and some other guy...who cares?
Well, I finish up with the Nationals roster, which took some time and sort of dragged on after I finished my starting lineup...then they hit me with this. Draft your minor league teams. Notice the "S" at the end of that. They don't want me to just draft the AAA team, they want me to fill the Double-A Hartford Senators and Single-A Potomac Cannons rosters. Are you kidding me? I'll let the other guys in the "we" take care of that. I let the computer handle a lot of the stuff because quite frankly I'd need a pen and paper to keep track of all this shit, and I'm not about to do that for a PS2 game.
So they fill out my minor league affiliates and we're off. Things are looking good right off the bat, Oswalt pitches an 8 inning shutout gem in the first game and the Nationals begin 1-0. Mind you, I'm not playing any of these games...who has the time. I'm here to run the show. So we proceed through the season, Kearns is starting off real slow, so I decide to shuffle the outfield a bit to give the other guys some PT. Big mistake!!!
Within games, I've got guys bitching about their contracts and their playing time and the team has hit a losing skid. I'm overwhelmed as even the AAA guys are bitching that they want their shot and are losing motivation. Victor Diaz start being a primadonna and wants to be an everyday player. Well, I'm not standing for those terrorist antics, off to AAA for that dip shit.
Next thing you know, Robb Quinlan is hitting the shit out of the ball in AAA, Dallas McPherson is claiming he's a top 100 prospect and deserves PT and I've got Aaron Boone batting .220 with 13 HR and 14 SB early on in their way.
I love Aaron Boone, he hit the homer off Wakefield to win the ALCS, but he's got to go. McPherson's the future and Quinlan is content to be a situational IF fill-in. So I trade Boone to somebody for Tim Spooneybarger and a minor leaguer. It seems to work out well, as Quinlan plattoons nicely with McPherson and Spooneybarger solidifies my bullpen which has been struggling.
Next thing you know, Oswalt is hurt, all my other pitcher's ERAs are in the 4.00s and Albert Pujols is the only reason people should come to the stadium. And boy does my bottom line show it. The computer is telling me I'm $5 Mil in debt in no time, so I chalk this one up as a disaster year, we slide into last place, and I'm just trying to get some control out here for the 2006 season.
We do some internal investigating, lose some of the jokers who feel they're real players (Nook Logan, Ross Gload) and sign all the quality guys to long-term deals. Now all my players have happy faces next to them, team chemistry is high and we're heading into the new season. I kept the core guys and really didn't delve into the free agent market since we were so far in the hole to begin with.
And then it begins...
Best record in Spring Training. Harden and Beckett are throwing lights out. Pujols batted over .400 and even Reyes and Diaz (yep, he calmed down) are looking like their about to step their game up.
I do some reorganizing of the roster to make sure Kevin Mench stays happy...he's my only big power threat aside from Pujols, so Joey Gathright has to take the back seat and act as a fill-in OF for the time being. When I signed him to a new contract, however, I put in that he'd be a backup, so he actually kept his happy face. Plus we were winning.
Everyone's looking good for the first half, cruising through the season without any major injuries, when Izzy starts bitching about PT. What??!! He's the closer?? So I move him to middle relief and put Otsuka and closer...still bitching. So I traded him and his big salary for top upstart young pitchers. Who needs that kind of distraction in the locker room?
Burnett has some rough outings, so I move him to the bullpen to work things out. Otsuka doesn't like closing so I call up the pitcher I got for Izzy...something Frederick and he's holding things down as the fireman. He has a 92 rated 4-seam fastball..that's probably pretty good.
We're still losing money like I'm burning it though...but who cares...can they shut down my stadium? We move forward and unfortunately hit a dry spell. A 7 game losing streak drops us out of first and even trailing Arizona for the Wild Card. Things get tight at the end of the season and it comes down to this.
Final game against the Mets (who suck), one game back from the Braves for the NL East. Tied with Arizona for the Wild Card, Oswalt due to pitch. Braves lose, Arizona loses. The door is open...and yes, the Nats pull off the win and force a one game playoff with the Braves for the NL East...loser will be the Wild Card.
Beckett on the mound, Braves have been tough all year...and we lose a heart breaker, 3-4. Off to SF to face the Giants as the Wild Card team. But it's the playoffs, one year after a last place finish. DC is getting exited...I'm pulling in close to 10,000 fans a game. Whoo Hoo.
Obviously, the team is pissed about the loss in the one game playoff, because Frank Robinson leads em out there and they spank the Giants, outscoring them 26-1 in three games to sweep the series. Pujols is on FIRE!! Four homers in three games.
Guess who won the other series. The fucking Braves. Well, you ain't beating us this time...Nats beat em down in 4. This isn't even a contest. Two more shutouts. Harden hasn't allowed a run in the playoffs! Onward to Seattle, the AL winner.
They've got some nasty pitchers on this squad, resembling the Cubs rotation so much, they've actually got Prior and Wood.
Nats go down three quickly and things are looking grim. The offense is being shut down by the Mariner rotation and I'm sure Safeco field is playing its part (AL won the All-Star game, dammit). But we're back at RFK, we need to regroup after the first loss, and I can't let AJ Burnett pitch for our livelihood. Not after the season, he's had. So on three days rest, in comes Oswalt. He does his job, holds the Mariners to 3 runs in 6.2 innings of work and the offense does the rest, 8-4. Pujols and Gathright homer, Reyes is stinking up the joint though and doesn't have a hit.
Game 5, I gotta put Beckett out there, Harden's only been rested for 2 days. And oh, does he deliver. 7 innings, 1 ER...Nats win 3-1. We're almost back into this.
Well, unfortunately, you already know what happens. Here comes Harden...he's only allowed one run in the playoffs at this point, he's had an amazing year, I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. He breezes through 5 allowing just 2 runs and the game is tied, but Frank left him in too long off the short rest. Shelled for 4 more in the 6th, things are getting blown open, 6-2.
Soriano allows 4 more in the 7th and now it's grim, 10-2. We scrap for 1 more in the eighth and that's all she wrote. It was a good ride...and probably the only chance I will have in the near future to feel the excitement of the Nationals in the World Series.
Rich Harden is my new favorite player. And Yes, I just wrote an entire blog about a video game. And you read it.