They gathered Monday evening at The Anthem along the Southwest Waterfront, Mark Lerner and Mike Rizzo and Ryan Zimmerman and several thousand Nationals fans who wanted to watch the premiere of the official 2019 World Series documentary and celebrate the ballclub’s achievement en masse one more time.
Lerner talked about the moment he knew his team was going to win the series (when Astros manager A.J. Hinch pulled the dominant Zack Greinke up 2-1 in the seventh inning of Game 7). Rizzo talked about the most eventful fall of his life, which included not only the championship run but his wedding in Jamaica. (“I’ve been drunk for a month,” the general manager joked.)
Zimmerman, technically a free agent now but once again insisting he expects to return for another season on an affordable contract, hoisted the Commissioner’s Trophy high over his head and soaked in the adulation of the assembled fans.
Those fans then enjoyed watching the 80-minute documentary account of the entire World Series. Fair warning: This is a Major League Baseball-produced documentary, not a Nationals-produced documentary, and so equal time is afforded to the runner-up Astros. Nonetheless, everyone in attendance cheered in anticipation of the key moments, culminating with the final out and the ensuing dogpile at the center of the diamond in Houston.
It was yet another joyous celebration to cap a five-week celebration since the Nationals won the city’s first major league title in 95 years.
And yet it was also a reminder that the time to celebrate has just about wrapped up and the time to start focusing on the 2020 season has arrived.
Baseball’s offseason is in full swing now. Only minutes after Monday night’s event ended, the Nationals officially announced their roster decisions on six arbitration-eligible players. Trea Turner, Michael A. Taylor, Joe Ross and Roenis Elías each had his contract tendered. Javy Guerra and Koda Glover (who earlier in the day announced his retirement from professional baseball) each was non-tendered and effectively released by the Nationals.
The Winter Meetings begin Sunday in San Diego. Free agents have already begun signing, including Monday’s news that infielder Mike Moustakas is heading to Cincinnati on a four-year deal. There also was a report of Anthony Rendon meeting with the Rangers and Stephen Strasburg planning to meet with the Yankees.
Suffice it to say, it’s time for the Nationals to get back to work and start figuring out how they’re going to attempt to defend their title in 2020.
This all happened quickly, of course. While the majority of the baseball world has been idle for two full months now, the Nationals’ season ended only five weeks ago.
They have no choice but to get back to work now, with no more delay.
Rizzo has a lot on his plate to sort through. He needs to figure out if he’s going to be able to re-sign Strasburg, Rendon or both. He needs to work out a new deal for Zimmerman, plus find a left-handed complement for the veteran at first base. He needs to decide which (if any) of the veterans who played such crucial roles during the championship run (Howie Kendrick, Asdrúbal Cabrera, Brian Dozier, Daniel Hudson) will be invited back next season.
Yes, the Nationals will continue to celebrate their title, straight through the winter and even into next spring. That’s their right. To the victor goes the spoils.
But the time has come to get back to business. If the Nats are serious about attempting to become the National League’s first back-to-back World Series champs since the Big Red Machine more than four decades ago, they’re going to have to fully shift focus away from their memorable 2019 and devote all their time and energy to a 2020 season they hope is just as memorable.