The Washington Nationals are headed to their first World Series in franchise history, a much-needed development for a team that had never won a playoff series entering the season.
It’s been a long time coming since the Nationals have had little to show despite winning the second-most games in baseball since 2012 and having a bevy of stars from Max Scherzer to Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg to Anthony Rendon.
Plenty of ink has been spilled on the subject, but the Nationals were only able to break through after they opted to let Harper go in free agency. Just don’t think he’s sore over missing out on a deep October run.
“I made my decision, and that was my decision,” Harper said, via The Athletic. “You know, jealousy isn’t good. For me, it’s about having the gratitude to go out and do what I do each day and not having an attitude towards anybody else.”
Of course, Harper has 330 million reasons to not feel jealous about his former team, but this is the most healthy way to deal with an assuredly awkward moment. Harper played with almost all of Washington’s current players, and it’s hard not to want the best for your friends, as he told Jayson Stark.
“I think it’s about being able to be the person that I am and not saying to myself, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I’m not a National.’ Or, ‘Oh my gosh, those guys are doing what they’re doing. I can’t believe it. I’m so jealous.’ No. I’m so happy for them. You know how hard it is to get into the postseason and win games. For them to be able to put it together this year the way they have, it’s an amazing thing.”
It’s worth mentioning that the Nationals did not make the World Series because Harper left — even if the Ewing Theory may be funny here — they did so in spite of him being gone.
The Nationals made an effort to retain their star in the mildest way possible, offering him a $300 million contract that was filled with so many absurd deferrals lasting until 2052 that the present value was only $244 million. They felt able to do so because they already had three above-average outfielders in house, including one of baseball’s best prodigies, Juan Soto, and another elite prospect, Víctor Robles.
The Nationals may have been stronger this season with Harper but are probably better off in the long-term spending that money to retain Rendon or Strasburg. This is no case of addition by subtraction. It’s the Nationals finally meeting the sky-high potential of their team after years of misfortune in the unforgiving and seemingly random MLB playoffs.
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