“A Best Friend Is Someone Who Gives Me a Book I’ve Never Read”- A. Lincoln
It’s hard to believe that this year begins the second decade when I request you share with other readers of MillersTime your most favorite books read over the past 12 months.
Here are a few revised guidelines (and one new category) that I ask you to follow in drawing your list and to make my compilation easier:
1. When I ask for your Most Favorite Reads of 2019, I’m seeking fiction and/or nonfiction books that stood out for you above all you’ve read in the past year. What have been the most enjoyable, the most important, the most thought provoking, the best written, the ones you may go back and read again, the ones you reread this year, and/or the ones you have suggested others read?
2. You are welcome to send just one title or as many as meet the criteria in #1 above.
3. Feel free to repeat any titles that you submitted earlier this year for the 2019 mid-year review, particularly if, on reflection, the book(s) still meets the standards above.
4. In order to make the list most useful and so I won’t have to spend time researching this information, please do the following:
* List the title, the author, and indicate whether it is fiction (F) or nonfiction (NF).
* Feel free to write a sentence or two, or more about why a particular book was a favorite for you. Many MillersTime readers have said that this part of the list is what’s most important to them. Readers seem specifically interested in why a particular book is on your list.
5. Don’t be concerned about whether others will have the same book(s) on their lists. If we get a number of similar titles, that’s just an indication of the power of a particular book/author.
6. Your books do not have to be ones that were written and/or published in 2019, just ones that you read over the past year.
7. If you have a child/children/grandchild, etc. who enjoys reading or being read to, feel free to include their current favorite book(s), along with the age of the child.
8. If you have listened to a book(s) in one of the various audio formats, Books on Tape, CDs, Audible, etc., and if they meet your definition of books “you’ve enjoyed the most in 2019,” please include those on your list also. Be sure to identify which ‘books’ on your list were ones you enjoyed audibly.
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New this year, sparked by a suggestion of one contributor, is to identify up to three books that most stand out for you over the past ten years. A book that was so fine, so powerful, so memorable, so important that you want to highlight that for others. (You can check out what you listed as your favorites over the past 10 years by using the links below.)
Send me your list in an email (Samesty84@gmail.com) by Dec. 16th so I will be able to post the entire list by Dec. 31. (If you send me your list sooner than Dec. 16, you may be able to avoid my constant email reminders to do so, and that will also allow me more time to put the entire list together.)
Well now that the 2019 baseball season has come to a (wonderful) conclusion, it’s time to announce the various winners of the MillersTime Baseball Contests for this year.
Name the two teams who will play in the 2019 World Series, which team will it all, and if a tie-breaker is necessary, what is the total number of games it will take to win it all this year?
The clear winner is Joe Higdon who predicted the Washington Nationals would defeat the Houston Astros.
The runner-up was Jeff Friedman, a past winner, who predicted the Astros would beat the Nats.
They both said the series would go six games. Fortunately, for all, it took seven, but the tie-breaker was not necessary as far as determining the winner of this contest..
Joe wins one ticket to the 2020 World Series, which hopefully will be in Boston or Washington. Or in both places!
Jeff (and guest) can join me in DC for a Nats’ game.
Pick your favorite MLB team, and prove you’re not a ‘homer’ by predicting your team’s 2019 regular season record, whether they’ll make it to the playoffs, and if so, how far will they go. Also, what will be the determining factor in their season?
This contest was a much more difficult one to choose the winner.
Basically, Yankee fans were good on their team’s record, but not so good on how far they would go in the playoffs. (Fortunately, in my humble opinion, they lost 4-2 in the ALCS.)
Red Sox fans did even worse, overrating their record. Plus, the Sox didn’t even make it into the playoffs. (So sad.)
Orioles’ fans did well predicting their losing record, etc., but that wasn’t too difficult a call. And one Mets’ fan predicted their won-loss record exactly but erroneously said they’d make it into the playoffs.
Two Nats’ fans, Ronnie Davis & Joe Higdon, were close on the won-loss portion of this contest, and both had them winning the World Series.
Ben Senturia, a long suffering Cards’ fan, had St. Louis with the exact won-loss record (91-71) and predicted they’d lose in the NLCS (which they did to you know whom).
By the power granted to me by me, I’m declaring this contest a three-way tie.
Ben Senturia and Bronwen get to join me at Nats’ park for a Cards vs Nats game at a convenient time in the future. Alternatively, Ellen and I could make our way to St. Louis and spring for four tickets there.
Joe and Ronnie each get two seats to a Nats’ game in 2020, and I’ll likely join each of them for those games.
Choose which League will win the All Star game in 2019, and name one AL and one NL team who will be leading their Division on July 9. Tie-breakers: Name the first MLB player to hit 25 HRs and the first MLB pitcher to win 12 games.
This contest winner was announced on MillersTime previously, but I repeat those results here for full disclosure.
A dozen of you got the right answer to Part 1 (American League) along with an AL & NL team leading in their Division:
Ed Scholl, Andrew & Noah Cate, Todd Endo, Jeff Friedman, Matt Wax-Krell, Brandt & Samantha Tilis, Chris Eacho, Justin Barrasso, Maury Maniff, Jesse Maniff, Jon Frank, Tim Malieckal.
The Tie-Breaker separated the pack. Many of you seemed to choose individuals who were particularly good last year.
No one got both the first to hit 25 home runs (Christian Yellich) and the first to 12 wins (Lance Lynn).
But one of you did identify Yellich who just barely beat out Alonso and Bellinger:
So Tim Malieckal wins.
Tim and a friend can join me for a Nats’ game of his choice next year. If he can’t make it to DC, maybe I can make it to see a Mets’ game, and we’ll go together at my expense.
True or False:
A. The New York Yankees WILL win the AL East in 2019.TRUE.
B. The Washington Nationals WILL win the NL East in 2019. False.
C. There will be at least one 20 game winning pitcher in each League in 2019. False. (None in NL).
D. No pitcher in MLB will have two complete shutout games (from Ben Senturia).False. (Three did – Giolito, Alcantara, & Bieber).
E. At least two teams in 2019 will loose 100 games or more. True. (Four had the dishonor of so doing – O’s, Royals, Tigers, Marlins).
F. A manager will be fired by the All Star game (from Brent Schultz). False.
G. In 2019 the two AL and the two NL Wild Card teams will each come from the same Division in their League.False. (All four were from different Divisions.)
H. Either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper will fail to live up to expectations in 2019. Specifically, one of the two will not perform well, will not have a particularly good year as defined by factors such as BA, HRs, RBIs, OPS, Fielding Average, etc. True. (While Harper didn’t live up to the expectations of the Phillies’ fans, he did perform about as well as he had the past couple of years with the Nats. But Machado more clearly makes this question True as in almost all categories he performed less well than he did in 2018.)
I. At least three teams will win 100 games or more in 2019. True. (Four did: Astros – 107, Dodgers – 106, Yankees – 103, Twins – 101).
J. One of Grand Papa’s (c’est moi) grandchildren will witness in person (at an MLB game at least one of the following: a grand slam, a triple play, a no hitter, Teddy winning the President’s race at the Nats’ stadium, will go home with a foul ball, will have his/her picture taken with an MLB team mascot or will be on the TV screen at an MLB stadium.Very True. (Between the three grandchildren living in the DC area, at least one saw a grand slam, one saw Teddy winning a President’s race, one went home with a foul ball, one had his picture taken with the Nats’ mascot, and one was on the big TV screen at Nats’ stadium.)
Three winners. Matt Galati, Jerome Greene, and Jess Maniff each got nine of the ten True/False questions correct.
Monica McHugh and Tim Malieckal had eight correct and are entitled to a MillersTime Winner Baseball Contest T-Shirt. (Monica, please send me shirt size and address. Tim has several T-shirts already. Do you want a Nats’ WS T instead?)
For all five questions, choose the MLB team who in the 2019 season will:
Have the most wins (Astros – 107)
Have the worst BA (Blue Jays – .236)
Have the most errors (Mariners – 132/ .978 FA)
Have the highest pitching save percentage (Blue Jays – 76.7%)
Have the lowest WHIP (Dodgers – 1.10)
These questions, all suggested by MillersTime contestants (and clearly baseball nerds/obsessives, positive virtues imho) proved to be the most difficult as judged by how many of the five questions were predicted correctly.
Here are three more films we’ve seen since we returned from the recent Philadelphia Film Festival (see reviews). All three of these new ones deserve your consideration.
Also, if you scroll to the end this post, I’ve listed when and if each of the 18 films we’ve highlighted (Philly and DC) was or will be released.
Reviews by Ellen Miller
Harriet – Ellen ***** Richard *****
This is a blockbuster bio-epic of Harriet Tubman, the great heroine of the Underground Railroad. It is a ‘big film,’ and you-don’t-want-to-take-your-eyes-off-the-screen because of the superb acting, story-telling, direction, and cinematography.
Harriet is the story of the power of one woman’s desire to be free and to reunite all her family as free men and women. As an activist on the Underground Railway, she risked her own life each time she returned to the South to free her family and others. The film is a well-researched, fact-based inspiring portrait chiefly focusing on Tubman’s life just before the Civil War.
Harriet Tubman (played brilliantly by the British actress, Cynthia Erivo) was born a slave in Eastern Maryland until, improbably, she made her way to freedom in Philadelphia in 1849, when she was about 25 years old. There she connected with the Philadelphia Abolitionist network (Leslie Odom, Jr., plays the Abolitionist William Still). Then, between 1850 and 1860 she returned to free others, approximately 70 people, including almost all of her family, plus numerous other slaves in her 13 ‘return’ trips South.
Tubman remained active during the Civil War, working for the Union Army as an armed scout and spy. She was also the first woman to lead an armed expedition for the Union Forces at the Combahee River Raid, which liberated more than 700 slaves in South Carolina.
On all accounts, what the film has set out do, how well it’s done, and the value of doing it, Harriet is excellent.
The Cave – Ellen ***** Richard *****
It’s easy to rate this documentary with five-stars, but that doesn’t mean I would recommend it to everyone. It is a difficult, unrelenting story of the human cruelty in southern Syria inflicted by leader of the country — Bashar Hafez al-Assad and his Russians allies — and the people who tried to save lives in an underground hospital (“The Cave”). It takes place in the city of Eastern Gouta.
The film follows Dr. Amani Ballour, an extraordinary and inspiring woman who along with other doctors and assistants (many of whom are women) are indispensable to saving lives of the ordinary people. The documentary is so authentic that the audience — you — become part of the terrifying, frustrating, and murderous moments of brutal air attacks that occurred during a five year period by the Russians on their city. The film is drawn from hundreds of hours of footage shot between 2016 and 2018.
Taken from a wonderful review by Indie Wire, written by Eric Kohn is this summary:
“But as a pure cinematic immersion into Syria’s civil war, it’s an unprecedented look at the deterioration of a country with no ground left to stand on. The movie’s horrific final stretch is an eye-opening look at the aftermath of chemical attacks, and its graphic details prove essential: Introduced by an ominous yellow fog overtaking the city’s horizon, the sequence provides an jarring look at systemic genocide impossible to convey through reductive headlines from afar. As the stench of chlorine overtakes the room, Fayyad doesn’t hold back on disturbing glimpses of burnt flesh and cries of pain.”
Oscar nominee Feras Fayyad (Last Men in Aleppo) as director has made a critically important personal view of the Syrian war. It will stay with you long after you leave the theater, and it’s just right to awaken anyone to what is happening there (particularly if you haven’t paid much attention to this devastation). This film won the People’s Choice Documentary Award at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.
See it. Just be prepared to avert your eyes.
Waves – Ellen **** Richard ****
Waves is another important movie, and, despite what I felt were some flaws in execution, I would urge everyone to see it. It’s fresh — a story of an upper class African-American family and their struggles. The story centers around a strong demanding father determined to push his son to be his best in all he does and particularly in his ability to be a wrestling star in his high school senior year in Miami. It’s also the story of the younger sister of the family and the husband and wife — a story of addiction, violent emotions, and heartbreak, blame and forgiveness. It offers a universal lesson.
This film works because not only is there a compelling family story but there is also extraordinary acting. The son is played by Kelvin Harrison who is mesmerizing. Sterling Brown (the father) and Rene Elise Goldsberry (the mother) are equally first rate. The acting is prize worthy.
If you go to see this film when it’s released (Nov. 15th), plan to spend a bit over two hours involved in a dramatic and a non-stop tension building narrative that you know from the beginning is not going to turn out well.
To give you some breathing room the director creates artificial breaks in the story as it unfolds using a blank screen followed by waves of light sequences. They punctuate each scene. I found the repetition of this annoying and an unwanted interruption of the story. These “breaks” also added, unnecessarily in my opinion, to the overall length of the film, but they didn’t ruin the film for me.
We had first flagged this film to see at the Philadelphia Film Festival but had a conflict, so we are happy that we had an opportunity to catch it at the DC Cinema Club. The writer/director Trey Edward Shults is one of the new bright lights of independent film. Like his first film Kirsha (it won both the Grand and Audience Prizes at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival), this one contains many autobiographical elements.
Combined Ratings (Ellen & Richard) and Availability of these 18 Films
By the Grace of God *****
Downton Abbey *1/2
Leftover Women ****1/2
Les Miserables *****
Pain & Glory ****1/2
So Long My Sons *****
The Australian Dream ****1/2
The Cave *****
Varda by Agnes *****
Waves **** – November 15, 2019
The Two Popes ***** – November 27, 2019
Marriage Story **** – December 6, 2019
A Hidden Life ****1/2 – December 13, 2019
Just Mercy ***** – December 25, 2019
The Whistlers *1/2 – February 28, 2020
Sorry We Missed You ***** – March 6, 2020
(Note: You may notice that we have rated the majority of these films quite highly. Our only ‘excuse’ is that we choose carefully, in advance, what we are going to see.)
When I last posted on this topic of baseball – my beloved obsession forever (at least 70+ years), this life giving and taking, romantic, heart-breaking, exhilarating, logical and illogical, and occasionally magical game – I wrote about a dilemma, whether it was better for my grandson’s learning if the Nats won or lost the final game of the 2019 World Series.
I knew, as FH reminded me in an email, that I had no choice in the game’s outcome. But I was leaning towards the benefits to him of a loss.
Wisely, a number of you reminded me that he could learn from a victory as well as a defeat, although the lesson(s) would be different ones. (See these Comments from readers like Charlie, Tim, Janet, Brian, Hugh, etc.).
Even (even?) my son-in-law who hasn’t even reached his mid-30s yet had some wise counsel:
“While exciting, I hope tonight isn’t a pivotal moment in Eli’s life. Win or lose, the lesson he should take is that when a champion is crowned, it is final. If it’s the Astros, it isn’t unfair, it’s unfortunate (for him but not for the Houston version of Eli). If it’s the Nationals, he will probably be happy, and he will go to school tomorrow with a nice memory. Hopefully, he learns to appreciate the ecstasy the champion feels and recognizes the hard work that was put into the accomplishment.”
Plus, I had told Eli the moment the Nats had lost the third straight game in DC that ” it’s not over yet.”
But I knew the Nats were now facing two hurdles, as a loss in either of the final games in Houston would mean the end of this dream. And in my heart and soul I thought the Astros would win. (It’s hard to overcome the ‘schooling’ of being a Sox fan. Tho, I guess I may have forgotten the full lesson of that ‘schooling,’ – that when the win does comes, and it eventually will, it’s an overwhelming joy.)
Hell, I even forgot, ignored (?), to some degree, what my then 21-year old daughter had written to me fifteen years ago and I had posted about lessons I had taught her about “never say never” and the importance of believing in miracles (more on that word below).
So as everyone everywhere now knows, the Nats did win that final game, coming from behind in the 7th inning, to complete a simply amazing series of comebacks and five months of truly extraordinary achievements.
I shoulda known.
I shoulda believed.
And for those of you who have a few more minutes to devote to this important topic, even if you’ve read, listened to, and talked about what the Nats achieved, I’m posting below an article that sums up how truly extraordinary what the Nats have done. It’s written by Jason Stark in the The Athletic.
He writes that this was a truly magical event.
If you remove ‘divine intervention’ from the definition of magical and stick to simply supernatural, then I totally agree with Stark.
Actually, maybe there was some divine intervention. See what you think.
HOUSTON – Do you believe in miracles? You should. Here’s all the proof you need that miracles happen in sports: The Washington Nationals just won the World Series. Just don’t try to explain how. That’s the miraculous part.
They just completed a journey unlike any that has been completed before. They just spent their season and their October doing things that no team has ever done. And then, for their final act – in a wild Game 7, on a shocking Wednesday evening in Houston – they won one more game they couldn’t possibly win, which finished off one of the greatest upsets in the history of the World Series. That’s all.
Do you believe in miracles? Well, when it’s the seventh game of the World Series and you’re getting one-hit in the seventh inning by a future Hall of Famer – against a 107-win juggernaut that needs just nine more outs to start comparing itself to the ’27 Yankees – you don’t need to consult the Win Probability charts to understand what a preposterous formula that is for winning that game, let alone that World Series.
But “preposterous” is actually an excellent way to describe the wild and crazy ride of the 2019 Nationals. So of course Anthony Rendon launched one more staggering home run into the Crawford Boxes in left, off Zack Greinke. And of course the apparently ageless Howie Kendrick then sliced a game-changing, Series-changing, life-changing home run off the foul pole in right. And of course the Nationals would perform their latest elimination-game magic trick and turn one more near-certain defeat into one more death-defying victory.
Because this is what they do. A little over four weeks ago, the Nationals were four outs from not even advancing past the wild card game. And now they’re the champions of baseball. Because if ever there was a baseball team you just couldn’t kill, this was it.
“OK, this is now the most 2019 Nats thing to ever happen,” said reliever Sean Doolittle, as the champagne dripped from his championship goggles after one final 6-2 stunner of a win over the mighty Houston Astros.
For two weeks now, Doolittle has been spinning off variations of that quote, all while we’ve been carrying on a running dialogue about whether this team qualifies as miraculous. He instructed us at one point to come up with some sort of metric to determine what constituted a true miracle. Weighted Miracles Created Plus maybe? That sort of thing. That part of this project didn’t go well. But Doolittle continued to weigh this heavy-duty topic.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this,” he said – but he still wasn’t sure, even as the champagne flowed. So we were forced to turn elsewhere. We then asked this team’s hitting coach, Kevin Long, if he thought what this team has just done could be called a miracle.
“Yeah, I do,” Long said instantly, then realized tears were welling in his eyes. “I’m going to get emotional. But the stuff and the things that these guys have overcome, it’s truly amazing.
“I really do think this was a dream team,” he said. “I really think this was one of the most amazing feats that any team has ever accomplished. If somebody had said that we’d beat the (2017) world champions in Houston tonight and they’d crown us world champions, I don’t think anybody would believe that.”
But there’s no choice but to believe it now, because they’ve done what they’ve done. So why do we think it’s safe to call these men the Miracle Nationals? It’s our mission today to make that case to all of you. It’s not as hard as you’d think.
The miracle of the elimination games
When we say that no team has had an October like the October of the 2019 Nationals, that’s not an opinion. That’s a fact. Let’s lay out those facts for you now:
Other teams in baseball history have won five potential elimination games in one postseason. But the Nationals put a slightly different twist on that feat – because they trailed in all five of them at some point. And how many teams in history have ever come from behind to win five elimination games in the same postseason? That would be none, says STATS LLC.
That feat is miraculous enough, but now let’s move along to the three winner-take-all games this team played. The Nationals trailed by two runs in the eighth inning of the wild card game against Milwaukee, with the fearsome Josh Hader on the mound. They trailed by two runs in the eighth inning of NLDS Game 5 in Los Angeles, with the great Clayton Kershaw on the mound. Then on Wednesday, they trailed by two in the seventh inning of this Game 7, with Greinke dialing up the most dominant postseason start of his life. So what happened? Yep. The Nationals roared back to win all three of those games.
So how many other teams have ever won three elimination games — let alone winner-take-all games — in one postseason after trailing by two runs or more in the seventh inning or later? How many do you think? There are no other teams that have done that, according to our friends from STATS. Ever. In fact, just one other team — the 1980 Phillies — has even won two potential elimination games like that.
We were down in the wild card game,” Long said. “I mean, are you kidding me? We were down five times (in elimination games). Really? I can’t say that enough. We were down in all these games late, and just continued to fight and come back and stay together. And the pitchers knew if they just stayed close, we’d find a way to win. And we certainly did.”
The miracle of the World Series
Now let’s think about the team the Nationals just beat in this World Series. The Astros won 107 games this year. That’s the most in baseball. But even that doesn’t adequately capture how good they were.
Teams like that don’t lose the World Series. Teams like that normally dominate the World Series. But that isn’t how this World Series turned out, is it?
Their powerhouse pitching staff had an Adjusted ERA-Plus of 127. Their deep, talented offense had an adjusted OPS-Plus of 119. That’s nuts. Want to know how nuts? Over the last 100 years, there has been only one other team that had both an OPS-Plus and ERA-Plus of 119 or higher. That team was Babe Ruth’s 1927 Yankees.
The Astros won 14 more games this season than the Nationals. And only two other teams in history ever had that large a win differential over the team they played in the World Series and didn’t win it. One was Vic Wertz’s 111-win 1954 Indians, who lost to Willie Mays’ 97-win New York Giants. The other was Three Finger Brown’s 116-win 1906 Cubs, who lost to Jiggs Donahue’s 93-win White Sox.
So just based on the history, this goes down as one of the biggest World Series upsets of all time.
There’s also the Vegas take on how large an upset it was:
Yet from the first inning of Game 1, the Nationals played like a team that never bought either of those narratives. And even after they lost Games 3-4-5 at home without ever leading for a single pitch, they still thought of themselves as 100 percent alive — because they never looked at the Astros as the unbeatable behemoth that Vegas thought they were.
“There was something going on,” Doolittle said. “We totally felt it. We totally fed off it. We kind of thought coming into the series that the pressure was on them. We could tell right away from the questions that they got on Media Day, versus the questions we got on Media Day. There was a totally different vibe to those questions.
“They were getting asked, ‘What are you gonna do after you win the World Series? What are you gonna buy?’ And people were asking us, like: ‘What does it mean to be in the first World Series ever in Nationals history?’ And we were like, ‘I don’t know. It’s cool. We’re happy to be here.’ So we were very aware that they were the team to beat and we were the biggest underdogs, according to Vegas, in the last — what? — 15 years? Something like that? But you know what Han Solo says: ‘Never tell me the odds.’”
The road-field advantage miracle
The 2019 Astros didn’t merely run up the best home record in baseball (60-21) this season. They were one of the most unbeatable teams at home in modern times.
In fact, in the nearly six decades since baseball went to a 162-game schedule, just four teams won more home games in any season than the Astros won this season:
So just winning a World Series in which the Astros had home-field advantage would have been a sensational feat. But as you might have heard, that isn’t all that happened, right? In a very weird World Series, in which the home team won zero games, the Nationals did something unheard of:
They became the first team in the history of any of the four major professional sports to win a championship by winning all four games of a best-of-seven series on the road. How many times did the Astros lose four in a row at home all season? Yessir. That would be never. In fact, they didn’t lose four games at home over the course of the entire season to any team except the A’s — who beat them four times, but needed 10 games in Houston to do it.
“Remember the other night, when I said after Game 5, ‘Hey, we’re just fine. The road team’s winning every game?’” Doolittle said. “I was just joking. But hey, look at us now.”
The “Fall of the Titans” miracle
Before the Nationals wiped out those 107-win Astros, they pulled another monumental upset — by beating the 106-win Dodgers in the NLDS. So who does that — wins a World Series by upending two teams that won at least 106 games in the same postseason? Nobody does that, naturally. Or at least nobody did it until now.
“We believed in ourselves from the beginning,” said catcher Kurt Suzuki. “You know, everyone always says that to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best — and we beat ’em.”
The miracle of 19-and-31
Back on May 23, the Nationals were 50 games into their season — and somehow found themselves 12 games under .500 (at 19-31), just like the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers went on to lose 114 games. The Nationals went on to win the World Series. You don’t see that much.
OK, to be honest, you don’t see that ever. No team in history had ever had that bad a record after 50 games and gone on to win a World Series. But the Nationals did. And only one team had ever been 12 games under (or more) at any point in any season and gone on to win a World Series. That, as you also might have heard, was Possum Whitted’s 1914 Boston Braves – who have been known throughout history as the “Miracle” Braves.
So if there’s only one other team that has followed this path and their nickname is “Miracle,” doesn’t that automatically qualify these Nationals as a miracle unto themselves? We’ll get back to that in a moment.
What’s more important than what we call it is how they did it. And they did it by reminding themselves, as they finally started to get healthy, that they were way too talented to be hanging out with the Marlins and Tigers in the standings.
The road back from 12 games under began with a team meeting, in a conference room off the clubhouse in late May. All the coaches and position players were there. The message from the veterans in the room was firm and clear.
Long’s everlasting memory of that session: “I remember these guys saying, ‘We can do this, and it will be the greatest accomplishment of our lives.’”
Maybe that resuscitation alone — from life after 19-31 to triumph in October — isn’t enough to make you believe we should hang that “miracle” sign on this team. But now add in all of it — the elimination games, the upset of the Astros, the upset of the Dodgers, the four World Series victories in one of baseball’s most intimidating environments — and think about this one more time.
Also remember that this is a franchise that had never won a single postseason series since moving to Washington. And remember that no team from Washington had won a World Series in 95 years.
So now add all that up. Has there ever been any World Series champion — any league, any town, any year — that did all of that on the road to the parade floats? You know that answer. That answer is: No way.
And even if you weren’t sure about these guys before Wednesday, how could you have watched the final chapter in this story and not believed in this miracle?
Their starting pitcher, Max Scherzer, went from having to fall out of bed on Sunday to gutting his way through five innings Wednesday. That’s not a miracle?
One minute on Wednesday, Greinke was making the Nationals’ lineup look so overmatched that Long said that when he saw Gerrit Cole begin to throw lightly in the bullpen midway through the game, his reaction was: “‘Please bring him in,’ because that’s how good Zack Grinke was.”But next thing you knew, Rendon was lofting a Greinke changeup into the left-field seats, for just the Nationals’ second hit of the day. And even that seemed like a miracle at the time.
“You know, momentum’s tough to change,” Long said. “And something like that really, really lifted everyone’s spirits in the dugout. You could see it on the field. It was almost like those (Astros) said, ‘Oh no. Here they come.’”
Yep. Here they came, all right. Juan Soto would walk to end Greinke’s day. Kendrick would welcome Will Harris to the festivities with a what-just-happened two-run homer. And in a span of only eight pitches, the Nationals had gone from nearly dead to somehow leading. You mean that wasn’t a miracle?
“I had a flashback — to the wild card game,” Suzuki said. “I said, ‘This seems kind of familiar.’”
They were eight pitches that changed a game and changed the World Series. But if they seemed miraculous to those on the outside, they seemed like business as usual for the Miracle Nationals.
“It was just fitting for our season,” Suzuki said. “We’ve been playing elimination games since the middle of May. At least it feels like it. We had to fight for everything. So what a fitting way to end this season.”
We understand that your definition of a miracle may be different from ours, or Sean Doolittle’s, or Kevin Long’s. So when we ask, one more time, if you believe in miracles, the answer doesn’t really matter. What matters is that this somehow happened. In real life.
And so, on this one last crazy evening at the ballpark, it was the Washington Nationals standing on a makeshift podium in Houston, kissing their trophy and wiping away tears. It was all so powerful an experience that even they don’t completely understand how everything it took to hoist that trophy was even possible.
“You know, I was just talking to a friend of mine,” said right fielder Adam Eaton. “He was talking about all the things (that happened to us). He just went through, like, six or seven or eight different things. And when you hear them, it’s like yeah, it’s remarkable. If I was not here, I’d be home watching it. That’s for darned sure.”
“And if you weren’t here, if you hadn’t seen it and you hadn’t lived it, would you believe it?” we asked.
“No,” said Adam Eaton. “And that’s why I’d be watching.”
Good idea — because how can you believe in miracles unless you watch them with your very own eyes?