It’s always tough for a fan base to see their favorite team miss out on the postseason.
For Nationals fans, this is the third straight year without playoff baseball in the District since the team won its first World Series championship back in 2019.
With that being the case, an important question must be asked: Who will Nats fans root for this October?
It’s not a simple question to answer if you’re going to continue being a baseball fan over the next month. Do you root for whole teams or just individual players? Do you root for league or divisional pride, or for anything but that?
The 2022 Major League Baseball postseason is set. In the first year of the new expanded format, six teams each from the American League and National League qualified (three division winners and three wild cards), with the top two seeds earning a first-round bye as the Wild Card Series starts this weekend.
In the NL, it might be slim pickings in terms of full teams for Nats fans to choose from.
You would figure the NL East rival Braves, Mets and Phillies are out of the question. The top-seeded Dodgers, their 110 wins and large payroll might be tough to root for, even though the Nationals beat them in the memorable 2019 NLDS to exorcise past playoff demons.
That would leave the NL Central champion Cardinals and the No. 5 seed Padres.
Nats fans might still hold a grudge against the Cards after the 2012 NLDS loss in a heartbreaking Game 5 (shoutout to Pete Kozma). But even that was made up for when the Nationals swept the Cardinals in the 2019 NLCS to advance to the World Series.
And perhaps as baseball fans, you would want to see Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright walk off into the sunset.
The Padres, to me, seem like the obvious choice for Nats fans to root for in the NL. The two teams only played each other seven times this year (the Padres won the season series 4-3) and have never met in the postseason.
Plus, two former beloved players now play in San Diego: Juan Soto and Josh Bell.
Whatever your thoughts are on this August’s mega trade between the Nats and Padres, the one thing that cannot be argued is that it was not the players’ choice to be shipped out of D.C.
Many fans expressed gratitude toward both guys, understanding that it was a decision coming from upper management and the front office.
That being said, I do understand some fans not wanting to see them win a ring with another team, especially Soto.
The Padres even have former National Craig Stammen in their bullpen. Stammen suffered two playoff losses with the Nationals in 2012 against the Cardinals (he pitched in four of the five games that series, including the fateful Game 5) and 2014 against the Giants (he pitched in the first two games at Nationals Park, including three scoreless innings in the 18-inning marathon in Game 2).
Speaking of individual players, the same could be said for Trea Turner, even though he plays for the Dodgers, and Max Scherzer, even though he plays for the Mets. Those two teams might be tougher to stomach to see win a championship, but surely this fan base would be happy for those former Nats.
My guess is the same cannot be said for Bryce Harper and the Phillies. But that assumption is just based on four seasons (three with fans in the stands) of seeing him return to Nationals Parks with an echo of boos from the home crowd.
Keep in mind, though, that another former fan favorite plays for the Phillies in Kyle Schwarber. But he was only a National for six months before being traded last year, so the loyalty might not be as strong there.
Maybe Nats fans are avoiding the National League all together.
The top-seeded Astros and Yankees are probably nonstarters in the American League, for different reasons. But I cannot think of a reason for Nats fans to have any animosity toward the Guardians, Blue Jays, Mariners or Rays.
So what say you, Nats fans: Who are you rooting for this October?