Washington Nationals Win 2019 World Series
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Last night was improbable. It might even have seemed impossible.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: 3-2 - there it is. The Washington Nationals are world champions for the first time in franchise history.
KELLY: I'm smiling just listening to that there on Fox. What happened was, in a postseason littered with juggernauts, last night, it was the team that had looked dead in the water back in May that won it all. Well, The Washington Post's Chelsea Janes worked the Nationals beat for years.
Chelsea, welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
CHELSEA JANES: Thank you for having me.
KELLY: Give me some perspective here. Just how unlikely did winning the World Series seem back in May when the Nats were - what? - 12 games below .500?
JANES: Yeah. At that point, you know, it was, who's going to make it through this season as a National and who's not? You know, there were going to have to be changes, and they didn't make them, for the most part. They kind of hung in with key people, and their patience paid off. But to go from where they were to where they ended up last night is improbable not only just statistically, but because this team have never been able to come through when they need it in October and just could not stop doing that this year.
KELLY: You referenced the many, many playoff heartbreaks that Nats fans have endured. This year was the first in five postseason trips that the team has ever won in a playoff series. Did you have this kind of, here we go again, feeling when it looked like the Nats were on the brink?
JANES: I think a lot of people did. I think what's funny is they had that feeling over and over in these playoffs. And then somehow, it just kept not happening. It kept being OK. And you know, even some of the players the other night in Game 6 when there was a call that they felt went against them - I know Trea Turner said, all we could think is, here we go again. It's happening again. For that not to materialize, I think, kind of speaks to whatever it was that helped these guys make this happen.
KELLY: And what do you think it was? What do you think happened that allowed them to pull it together and win it all?
JANES: You know, I think they had a very different clubhouse culture this year, and I don't think there's any good reason or explanation. I think occasionally, things just click, and they did this year. They brought in a lot of veteran players. They joked about themselves as los viejos - the old ones. You know, they were one of the oldest teams in baseball. And it worked so that this time when things started going wrong, there was a little less panic, a little bit more experience and little bit more edge to this team than I think we've seen in others.
KELLY: I - alert listeners might recall that I interviewed you last December because you were switching beats from covering baseball to covering the 2020 campaign, which struck me as such an unusual leap that we got you on to talk about it. When did you go back to baseball?
JANES: I actually was flying back from the Democratic debate last month, and the Nationals had just clinched their, you know, trip to the World Series. And the editors reached out and asked if, after spending so much time with them for the last few years - if I wanted to go and cover that. You know, it's sort of an all-hands-on-deck situation when teams are in the World Series.
KELLY: Oh, yeah. I'm sure you had to think really hard about the answer to that one.
JANES: Yeah, it was definitely a try-to-stay-calm-and-be-cool-about-it thing, but I will be headed back to Iowa tomorrow.
KELLY: Oh, wow. Back to Iowa - straight back to the campaign trail.
JANES: Back to the campaign trail - but it's been nice to be able to be a part of that and see them do what they did in person just 'cause you put in a lot of time with these people, and you go through those ups and downs sort of secondhand when you're trying to interview them after games. And I think it's nice to see everyone, you know, that you've spent that much time with see some of the hard work pay off.
KELLY: I think I have a question for you that you might be uniquely qualified to answer, having flipped...
KELLY: ...Back and forth between covering politics and covering baseball and covering baseball in a very political, you know, partisan town that is, at the moment, caught up in this impeachment inquiry - could not be more divided. And yet, it felt like everywhere I went this week, Republicans and Democrats - it didn't matter. Everybody was a Nats fan. Did you feel that, as well, coming back?
JANES: Yeah. It's really interesting how many people in the political scene enjoy baseball. You know, George Will...
KELLY: George Will, the Republican columnist, yeah. Go on.
JANES: Right - big baseball fans, written a lot of baseball books. And he was in the stands at the first home game and said, you know, the good thing about baseball - it's a conversation starter. It's a subject changer. And I think that's - you know, it's not necessarily going to heal anything, but there is a space in which everyone can at least coexist, if not do so in harmony.
KELLY: Well, Chelsea Janes, thanks so much for taking the time to speak to us, and good luck back on the politics beat - and off to Iowa tomorrow.
JANES: Thank you. I appreciate it.
KELLY: Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post.
(SOUNDBITE OF VINCE GUARALDI'S "BASEBALL THEME")
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.