Wild Card Game Is Not a Series
The Washington Nationals host the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Wild Card Game tonight. It is the first time the Nationals have to advance in the postseason since they have moved to Washington. Sure, they could point to their winning the 1981 NLDS in the strike shortened season, but if they want to disavow their Montreal Expos history by doing thinks like unretiring Gary Carter‘s number, they can’t claim this series win.
This game will be the Nationals’ first winner-take-all game since Game 5 of the 2017 NLDS. Tonight’s starter, Max Scherzer, was the loser in that game allowing four runs (two earned) in relief. As luck would have it, Scherzer was the Game 5 starter in the 2016 NLDS, which the Nationals lost to the Dodgers. Scherzer was out of that game before Marc Rzepczynski, Blake Treinen, and Sammy Solis would blow a 1-0 lead in a game the Nationals would lose 4-3.
Since 2012, the Nationals have made the postseason five times over the past eight years. In four of those years, the Nationals would lose in five games.
These Nationals are now without Bryce Harper. Harper proved to be their most clutch player in these situations. In those elimination games, he was 7-for-15 with four runs, two doubles, a triple, two homers, five RBI, and five walks. In some ways, Harper is replaced by Anthony Rendon, who is now the pending free agent, who just turned down a $200+ million extension from the Nationals to test free agency.
Time will tell if Rendon has a different send-off into free agency than Harper.
If the Nationals were to beat the Christian Yelich-ess Brewers, a team which has not played a team even bothering to play a competitive game for a few weeks now, Rendon would do what Harper never did. He would actually advance in the postseason. Winning the Wild Card Game would be winning a round in the postseason.
What it would not be is winning a postseason series. No, to win a postseason series would be to win a best-of-five or best-of-seven series. A best-of-one is not a series. It’s a game; a Wild Card Game. That’s it. So, even if the Nationals do win tonight in what is a massive talent and pitching mismatch, remember, the NLDS stands for:
Now, you could say this is just the bitterness of a Mets fans missing the postseason. On that front, there is some truth to the matter, but personally, I do not harbor the same ill-will of the Nationals as many Mets fans on what I at least perceive to be a conjured up rivalry.
Ultimately, where the bitterness lies is the Nationals treatment of Carter. He was an all-time great, and due to a decision by the Baseball Hall of Fame, one which they applied to him and not Reggie Jackson, he never got the treatment as an all-time great like he truly deserved with the Nationals going so far as to issue his number to Marlon Anderson, Chris Snelling, Aaron Boone, Jorge Padilla, Danny Espinosa, Brian Goodwin, and Carter Kieboom.
As a result, the franchise deserves to never win a postseason series, and they deserve the subsequent ridicule. After all, when you don’t recognize greatness, why should you then be allowing to enjoy it?