Rick Snider: Rough Ride finally over for Teddy, Nationals

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Sports,MLB,Nationals,Rick Snider

Maybe Teddy should have won years ago. The Washington Nationals' woes might have ended much earlier.

Teddy claimed the Presidents Race on Wednesday after 538 losses. A Philly Phanatic wannabe knocked down the other three presidents before escorting Teddy to the finish line. His victory trended worldwide on Twitter.

Moments later, Ryan Zimmerman homered. Michael Morse just missed one with a double off the wall. Tyler Moore doubled. Suddenly the Nats were in front en route to a 5-1 victory.

Forget Natitude. The Rough Riders are heading to the playoffs.

It's all so new, October baseball meaning something in Washington. In past seasons, games often were inconsequential in the steamy nights of August. The final months were reserved for diehards in the stands relieved another losing season was ending.

But those days are over. Washington is about to enjoy its first baseball postseason since 1933 after the Nats finished 98-64.

Teddy's seven-year losing streak has ended, though that's really nothing considering Teddy Roosevelt hasn't won anything since 1904. But can a mascot in a silly race actually inspire a team in the postseason? The Nats seem to need a little spark.

Washington looked a little spent lately, ending the regular season with a 13-12 stretch. Maybe the team peaked during its four-game sweep of Chicago a month ago. It's not easy for a losing team to become baseball's best in one season, though the Nats improved a remarkable 18 wins over last year.

Manager Davey Johnson dismissed the Nats' lack of postseason experience; only Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche among his regulars have past playoff runs elsewhere. Jones said 162 games are all the chemistry the Nats need to survive the postseason.

Maybe, but baseball's idiotic playoff schedule hurts Washington. The Nats play the first two games at the winner of Friday's wild-card game between St. Louis and Atlanta. Nobody wants to face Atlanta right now. The Braves swept the Nats on Sept. 14-16 and won 13 of their final 18 games.

The pessimism built by covering decades of bad Washington teams creates a fear that the Nats will be down 0-2 in a best-of-five series before they finally play a home postseason game. That's a big hole. Even Teddy can't save the team then.

Of course, the Nats could win the first two road games and need just one of three at home. Considering Washington is 10-8 against Atlanta and 4-3 vs. St. Louis, the Nats don't fear either. If the Nats advance to the next round, they're 5-1 against San Francisco and 5-2 vs. Cincinnati.

For a few days, the Washington Redskins are the second team in town. Baseball returns to dominance in the nation's capital for the first time since 1969, when Ted Williams coaxed a winning season out of the Senators.

This used to be a baseball market. Football wasn't close. The Redskins only captured the market following the Senators' 1972 move to Texas. While quarterback Robert Griffin III is now the town's superstar, this moment belongs to Teddy and the Nats.

Examiner columnist Rick Snider has covered local sports since 1978. Read more on Twitter @Snide_Remarks or email rsnider@washingtonexaminer.com.

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