Marty Niland: It’s all Werthwhile now

After Chad Tracy grounded out to end the eighth inning and leave the score tied at 1-1 in Thursday’s National League Division Series Game 4, a friend turned to me and asked, “Deep down, in your heart of hearts, you really wanted a walkoff, didn’t you?”

Who would want anything else?

Didn’t every one of the 44,392 screaming, red-clad Nationals fans packed into Nationals Park want one? How could everyone watching on TV, listening on the radio or rooting for the Nats in any way, shape or form want any other outcome?

As I sat with my 11-year-old son and two longtime friends at a table on the Red Porch, engrossed in Jayson Werth’s epic 13-pitch at-bat, and roaring with the rest of the crowd as his walkoff home run sailed over the fence a few yards in front of us, it seemed that years of frustration and shame were washed away. Not only the homer, but watching Ross Detwiler pitch the game of his life, and Jordan Zimmermann, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen mow down batter after batter on a team with one of the lowest strikeout rates in the major leagues. The whole experience was nothing short of cathartic.

We can start with the years of losing seasons that followed the last postseason victory in Washington, 79 years ago. Add in the loss of not one, but two, franchises to other cities and 34 years with no team to call our own. Then the years when we cringed at the likes of Nook Logan rounding third when there was nowhere to go, runners circling the bases while Nyjer Morgan throws a tantrum after missing a fly ball, the team’s name misspelled on the jerseys and the starting pitcher’s name botched on the scoreboard.

It all seems worthwhile now, or should we say Werthwhile?

The $126 million contract that drew the scorn of fans nationwide now seems like money well spent. The trade of four players, including three top prospects, for an unproven Gio Gonzalez now looks like a no-brainer. The seeming nationwide derision toward the Stephen Strasburg shutdown all appears light years away.

There are even personal monkeys that this experience has gotten off my back. Last year, I took my son to a game against the Seattle Mariners. But because he had school the next day, we left with the Nats behind 5-1 and missed a five-run comeback in the ninth, capped by Wilson Ramos’ walkoff homer. He’s never let me live that down, until Thursday night, when he said, “Dad, I forgive you for the Wilson Ramos game.”

That’s the kind of joy an experience like this can bring.

No matter what happens in Friday’s Game 5, Washington baseball fans can now claim victory over the demons that have haunted them throughout the years.We got what we’ve been craving in our heart of hearts for years now: tension-packed postseason baseball at its best, with the most exciting ending possible.

Marty Niland blogs about the Nationals for D.C. Baseball History. His thoughts on the Nationals will appear here as part of’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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