And Then There Were Two, Still

Rob Carr - Getty Images

Earlier this week, somebody asked me who I was rooting for between the Cardinals and the Nationals. It's always important for me to have some sort of rooting interest, and in the other three series it was easy -- I wanted the Giants over the Reds, the Orioles over the Yankees, and the A's over the Tigers. The Cardinals and the Nationals gave me pause, but the words that came out of my mouth were "Nationals, because I want the Mariners to be the only team left that's never made the World Series."

I don't know if I was being serious or tongue-in-cheek. One of the problems with being fairly young in Portland is you can never tell when you're being sincere. As it happens, this carries over to grocery shopping. The other day I bought soyrizo. What the hell? Did I actually want the soyrizo, or was I making a joke that no one was in on? Life here is littered with the most ridiculous and unanswerable questions. But regardless of the meaning behind the rootability statement, the facts are true: the Seattle Mariners have never made it to the World Series, and the Washington Nationals have never made it to the World Series, as they are or as they used to be in Canada.

And the Nationals won't make the World Series in 2012, just like the Mariners. By qualifying for the playoffs, the Nationals had a better shot, and by all rights the Nationals should've advanced to at least the NLCS. Tonight, in Game 5, the Nationals' win expectancy topped out around 96 percent. They were up 6-0 at home in the bottom of the third. They were up 7-5 at home with two outs in the top of the ninth. What's going to come out of this, thanks in large part to last October, is more of the narrative that the Cardinals just never quit. Not that anybody ever quits, under these circumstances. To be fair, the Cardinals have established a track record of unbelievable comebacks. But for me, as much as this is about the Cardinals, it's also that much about the Nationals and their inability to close things out. The Nationals don't seem like the Orioles, in that I think the Nationals will be good for a while, but this was nothing short of devastating.

Used to be there were three teams left. The Nationals, the Mariners, and the Rangers all used to hang out, talking about how they couldn't wait until they all had awesome sexy girlfriends. Then in autumn 2010 the Rangers got laid and it left just the two. You could say that the Nationals just went for it; you could say that the Nationals just got shot down. I guess you could say that the Mariners are biding their time. Working on the self before really looking for another. I'm not real comfortable continuing this line of thought.

The Expotionals had a head start, coming into existence in 1969, eight years ahead of the Mariners. That's eight additional seasons that that franchise has never advanced to the Classic. Given that line of reasoning, you could argue they should be more embarrassed than the Mariners should be. But at some point the number of years stops mattering, once it's gotten big enough, and I think that number is smaller than 36. The Nationals aren't worse for never having made it in more time. The two teams should be equally humiliated.

I guess maybe this is a deceptive fact, though. So the Mariners and the Nationals are the only teams to never make the World Series. The Cubs haven't made it to the World Series since 1945. That is a very long time ago! Who should be more embarrassed by their history -- a younger team that's never made it, or an ancient team that hasn't made it in forever? That's not a real question, the answer is the Cubs, haha, the Cubs are pathetic, so hopelessly pathetic. At least we're not all Cubs fans. At least we're not all Cubs fans.

Still, I go back to what I said. Is it better to have the Mariners and the Nationals as a pair, or would it be better to have the Mariners all by their lonesome? We could conceivably wear it as a badge of honor. "There's no team like ours," we could've said. "So you can't understand what it's like." There would've been some perverse joy in that state of existence.

But instead we'll remain in more or less the same state of existence. The Nationals are closer to being a pennant-caliber baseball team than the Mariners are, and maybe with Stephen Strasburg the Nationals already are a pennant-caliber baseball team, but they haven't yet won a pennant. Not now and not ever. They can't shake us that easy. The Cardinals saw to that.

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