This weekend the Washington Nationals make a rare visit to Fenway Park as they square off in a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox. For most, the series is just another in a long string of games that are equal in importance; but for me, it is a tug-of-war that pulls at my fan allegiance.
Growing up as a Red Sox fan, I have had the good and bad fortune to witness many memorable moments over the years. I have been a witness to great baseball in 1986 and in 2004, attending games against the hated rival Yankees; sitting in the somewhat uncomfortable seats at Fenway. Through thick and thin I have always wanted nothing but success for the Bean Town squad.
All the while, I have also been a fan of the Montreal Expos; now known as the Washington Nationals. Having relatives who lived in Montreal, I was first exposed to the Expos when I visited Canada in 1977. Unlike my Red Sox fandom, the Expos-Nationals have had little success since their MLB arrival in 1969. With the exception of the 1981 strike-shortened season, the Expos-Nationals have failed to experience playoff baseball. In fact, only a strike in 1994 prevented their best team to date from making a playoff appearance, as the first place Expos owned baseball's best record when the season was ended. Despite having disappointing seasons, the Red Sox have treated Boston fans to postseason play 13 times during that same span; winning four American League pennants and two World Series championships. Even when the team struggles much like they do now, they incredibly remain in playoff contention in the American League.
Today the Nationals are a team on top of the National League East and on the rise, built on young talent that is coming into its own; while the Red Sox are at the polar opposite, currently sitting in the American League East basement; with an inflated and under-achieving payroll. While the long term future of the Nationals is bright, the same cannot be said for the Red Sox; with the veteran team currently constituted that is reaching the end of their run together. The time has come for the Red Sox to rebuild their roster; whether that comes from the more traditional methods of player development as the Nationals have, or through additional payroll commitments to rebuild on the fly. With fan patience in Boston not in great abundance, it is very unlikely that a lengthy rebuilding process will be tolerated.
Even though I am a born and raised New Englander at heart, I am now torn over which team to root for; the perennial playoff contender with a payroll commitment that doubles that of their weekend opponent; or the upstart team that is building a team that can contend for years to come. With Red Sox player attitudes and questionable commitments over the past year, I find it difficult to root for the "local nine".
Don't get me wrong; I want nothing more than to watch playoff baseball in Boston again this season. The experience of watching the collapse unfold game by game was excruciating and their ultimate elimination on Game 162 had a numbing effect that took days to recover from. Following that painful experience, the lack of success this season has caused me to follow the team less than in years past. Through the benefit of internet streaming of baseball games, I have the good fortune to watch any game of my liking these days; and in doing so select the Nationals games as a first choice. In my viewing I have witnessed many dramatic come-from-behind wins and impressive pitching performance that is easy to want to return for.
After the conclusion of this weekend, I will be able to go back and root for both teams in hopes that a future Nationals - Red Sox World Series is in the not-so-distant future. Until then I will watch Boston and Washington knowing that I will draw satisfaction regardless of whichever team wins.
Scott Duhaime is a life-long Boston Red Sox and Washington Nationals fan with a career statistics/analytics background. His passion for baseball and his quantitative skills translate into a deep analysis of player statistical contributions both to their respective teams and the sport in general.
Follow Scott on Twitter: @scott_duhaime
Yahoo! Sports: Boston Red Sox Home Page
Yahoo! Sports: Washington Nationals Home Page
Baseball-reference.com: Boston Red Sox Roster and Payroll
Baseball-reference.com: Washington Nationals Roster and Payroll