An Excerpt from Trading Bases, A Story About Wall Street, Gambling, and Baseball: 2012 Postseason Wrap-Up
Warm-Up Tosses: The end of the season also brings to an end the 2012 edition of the Trading Bases newsletter. Shortly after Spring Training opens next March, Trading Bases, the book will go on sale. It's impossible for me to say at this point whether there will be a newsletter next year as the success of the book is impossible to predict. Currently, advance copies of the book have been circulated to various members of the press for pre-publication reviews; it will be at least a month until the publisher gets any feedback. In the mean time, I thank you for reading this year's newsletter, especially those of you who have sent feedback that's led to many additional discussions about baseball. As a thank you, I leave you with an excerpt from the book -- an excerpt which sums up my thoughts on the 2012 postseason. Of course, I hope it also serves as an enticement to order the book.
Trading Bases, A Story About Wall Street, Gambling, and Baseball is available for pre-order from a number of on-line booksellers. Here are three you can currently choose from:
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The following is an excerpt from Trading Bases, A Story About Wall Street, Gambling, and Baseball* (*)Not necessarily in that order:
I watched even more baseball in 2012 than in 2011, spent so much time in buffet lines in Las Vegas that I began to muse about things like “if someone invented mimosa-flavored toothpaste, I’d totally buy that.” After three months, I had become so inured to the Vegas lifestyle that by the time I got back to San Francisco after the regular season ended, I kept thinking people were trying to pass me counterfeit money if it didn’t have glitter on it. As the baseball playoffs started I was surprised and thrilled to find out my oldest daughter, age 8, was interested in the post-season fate of the San Francisco Giants. Eager to further her interest, I chose my words carefully when providing in-game play-by-play. This is a girl who was inconsolable when Gryffindor lost a Quidditch match to Hufflepuff during Harry Potter’s third year at Hogwarts. I didn’t want to snuff out her budding interest in baseball by exposing her too soon to the unique disappointment being a baseball fan can bring.
Then again, it’s experiencing that pain that can make someone a fan for life.
From 1985 to 1994, I lived in the Washington D.C. area and became familiar with a specific banner perpetually hung at RFK Stadium. The first time I remember seeing it was at a Bruce Springsteen concert in the summer of 1985. While introducing Glory Days, Bruce paid homage to legendary pitcher Tom Seaver who had won his 300th game the day before and acknowledged a banner hanging from a railing that read, “Baseball in ‘87”. As the years passed, and the organization working to bring an MLB franchise to the D.C. area made little progress, the wording changed to “Baseball in ‘88” then “’89” and so on until the organizers realized it was simpler (and less embarrassing) to settle on “Baseball in DC”. For the next few years, no matter if you were at a concert, a Redskins game, or a World Cup match at RFK Stadium, the sign was always on display.
The movement to get an MLB franchise back to Washington for the first time since the Senators relocated to Texas in 1972 suffered a major setback when MLB awarded new franchises to Miami and Colorado for the 1993 season, and a seemingly fatal blow when Tampa and Arizona were the choices for baseball’s last expansion in 1998. Potential ownership groups in Washington persisted however, and after years of torturous negotiations with the owners of the Florida Marlins, the Boston Red Sox, the Baltimore Orioles, and the City Council of the District of Columbia, the Montreal Expos relocated to Washington after the 2004 season ended. On April 4, 2005, nearly 20 years after I recall seeing the first public display of ambition, “Baseball in D.C.” became a reality.
Seven-and-a-half years later, shortly after midnight on Friday, October 12, 2012, I thought to myself, “Be careful what you wish for.”
The Washington Nationals had the best record in baseball during the 2012 season, winning 98 games while losing just 64. That marked the first time the franchise had had a winning record since relocating from Montreal and during the year attendance at Nationals’ home games increased more than 20%. After management launched a marketing campaign during Spring Training around their recently coined word for the team’s combination of youthful talent and confidence, “Natitude” became a constant presence on Twitter and impossible to avoid during a Nationals’ telecast. As a Phillies fan, I found this utterly annoying. Entering the 2012 season, the Phillies were the five-time defending champions of the NL East, and other than some classless comments directed at the Philadelphia organization from its former right fielder and current Nationals outfielder, Jayson Werth, to Phillies fans the Nationals were most notable for one thing: It was easier for many Philadelphia-area fans to get tickets to a Phillies game when they played the Nationals in Washington than it was to get tickets to a home game at Citizens Bank Park. For the last few years, it seemed a healthy chunk of Washington’s attendance was made up of Phillies backers. Therefore, I didn’t think there were many true baseball fans in the D.C. area.
Although, or perhaps because the Spring Training bravado turned out to be spot-on, the Nationals’ success on the field in 2012 irked me all season. Moments after the Nationals were eliminated from the playoffs in the early morning of October 13, Matt Swartz summed up the feeling of Phillies fans everywhere when he tweeted, “Our long Nationals nightmare is over!”
I laughed, considered retweeting the comment, but ultimately embraced that sentiment for no more than a minute or two. Then I looked back at the television screen and considered what had just happened on the field. The St. Louis Cardinals, down 6-0 after three innings, had completed yet another improbable post-season comeback by scoring four runs in the top of the ninth inning despite being down to their last strike five different times during the inning. With no warning at all, the team with the best record in baseball had gone from a seemingly assured place in the National League Championship Series to elimination. Nationals Park looked like a funeral home complete with vacant stares, a lifeless procession, and yes, even tears. Instantly, I had empathy for the entire fan base. Although all season I accused the locals of only noticing the Nationals once the team started winning, as they filed out of Nationals Park I thought, there is no such thing as a fair-weather fan of the Washington Nationals right now. Maybe many in the crowd had got caught up in the local excitement of the 2012 season and attended their first games this season, heck, maybe someone on a date attended their first game that night, but even if they came to baseball this year with a detached coolness, they’re in love now. In love with the Nationals and in love with baseball.
It’s the kind of love that springs from the ashes of pain and, to my mind, is unique to being a baseball fan. Nationals fans now know what it’s really like to be a baseball fan. They know what it’s like to have been a Cubs fan in 2003, a Red Sox fan in 1986 and 2003, a Phillies fan in 1993, a Rangers fan in 2011, and so on. They’ll be despondent for the near future, many won’t watch another minute of the postseason, and they’ll wonder how they let themselves get so caught up in the fortunes of the local baseball team. Those fans who are parents of eight-, nine-, and ten-year olds might be spending a lot of time consoling their children the next day, explaining disappointment, while noting to themselves that this type of emotional devastation never seems to accompany a Redskins loss.
As baseball fans who have suffered excruciating defeats know, at some point though, as the winter wears on, the crushing disappointment subsides and even if they swore, shortly after the devastating loss that they’d never let themselves get that caught up in the fortunes of a baseball team, they’ll start thinking about Spring Training. They’ll start thinking about Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, and they’ll realize they don’t hate themselves for falling in love with the Nationals. No, they hate Pete “Bleeping” Kozma for his opposite field, two-strike hit. And they’ll think, “You know what, there’s no reason the Nationals can’t win 100 games this year.” And they’ll start talking to their kids about what games they want to attend in 2013 and in the end what really happened on the night of October 12 wasn’t that the St. Louis Cardinals once again came back from near-playoff elimination, it’s that an entire generation of life-long baseball fans were formed in the Washington D.C. area.
From one life-long baseball fan to another, I say “Welcome aboard. We have a lot to talk about. I hope you enjoy the book”
 Tony Kornheiser, a Washington Post sports columnist at the time, summed up its ubiquity perfectly when he wrote, after attending a World Cup match between Mexico and Norway, that even though he couldn’t understand the foreign-language signs of the fans from Mexico, he was “pretty sure . . . there was one in Spanish that said “Baseball in D.C.”
 To capitalize on the hottest trend in publishing, I thought about naming this book, 50 Shades of Shea, the Exquisitely Tortured History of the New York Mets Fan Base.
Mop Up Duty:
Joe Peta is the author of Trading Bases, the Newsletter, a companion piece to Trading Bases, A Story about Wall Street, Gambling, and Baseball* (*) Not necessarily in that order, a Dutton Books/Penguin (U.S.A.) March 7, 2013 release. The book is available for pre-order here: http://www.amazon.com/Trading-Bases-Gambling-Baseball-Necessarily/dp/0525953647/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1346604029&sr=1-1&keywords=trading+bases
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