Dusty Baker talked before Game 2 of the NLDS with the Los Angeles Dodgers about his first experience of postseason baseball in D.C. the previous night, and the atmosphere in the nation’s capital.
Washington Nationals fans, 43,915 of them, filled the stands, dressed in red, and cheered the Nationals on throughout the series opener and the two games that followed.
“I loved it,” Baker said.
“I tell you, wish it was like that every day. It’s only like that every day in a few places, and I loved the sea of red, a lot more red than blue, and it made us feel good, and I think it was a great atmosphere, it was a good atmosphere.”
General Manager Mike Rizzo, in an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s The Sports Junkies this week, talked about the fans in the Game 5 loss to the Dodgers and how the Nationals move on from the disappointing finish to the 2016 campaign.
“Tip of the cap to the Dodgers, they played well,” Rizzo said. “We could’ve executed better. I expected us to win that game and we didn’t, so we have to examine what can we do to improve ourselves and get us to the next level, and we’re hell-bent on working hard and doing that, and putting a team out there that the D.C. area can be proud of.”
Rizzo said the he was proud of the turnout and excitement Nationals fans generated for that decisive game of the series.
“The fans at that game were unbelievable,” Rizzo said. “They were as loud as I’ve ever [heard]. I was in Arizona when we beat Mariano Rivera in Game 7 in 2001, this crowd was as loud or louder than that crowd was. Tip my hat to the fans of D.C., they were awesome. We were in awe of the way that — everyone was talking about this Metro thing, and people leaving early — B.S. Nobody left early, there wasn’t an empty seat in the house, it was as loud as can be and the fans — it’s an educated fan base here — and they were crazy. There were raucous and it was unbelievable.”
Washington won 95 games, they took the NL East for the third time in five years and were one win away from moving on to the NLCS for the first time. So what’s next?
“You strive to put together a team that you feel can compete,” Rizzo explained.
“We always strive for a 90-win caliber team, and then some years your 90-win caliber team wins 95, sometimes it wins 85, but the goal is to play meaningful games in September and October and next year, if we have a Game 7 or a Game 5 to decide things with Max Scherzer on the mound and the team is healthy and playing well, we’ll take our chances each and every year.
“That’s I think how you win — everyone asks, how do you win in playoff baseball? Get to the playoffs as many times as you can is how you win, and eventually the ball will fall right for you, the breaks will go your way, somebody unexpected will step up and do something special.”
Baker talked after the Game 5 loss about believing that teams and cities have to go through some pain to reach their ultimate goal.
“It's not an overnight process,” he said. “But I mean, yeah, you do have to go through some pain. It's not a very pleasant pain. I've gone through that pain a few times now.
“But you know, you have to persevere. That's the story of life. You know, it's how you deal with the down times and how you deal with pain. And if you just keep persevering, then something will happen, something good will happen. You can't stop trying. You can't stop trying to reach your goal.
“Like I said, the key word is perseverance.”
The work to build the 2017 roster, Rizzo explained, began shortly after the Nationals were eliminated.
“We’ll strive to do better next year and put together a team that can challenge to win a World Series, that’s our goal and we fell short this year,” Rizzo said.
But they moved on quickly and started preparing for next season.
“Our season ended Thursday, I gave our office off Friday, and then the weekend and we got back at it Monday,” Rizzo explained.
“We had our first postseason meeting to try to put a bow on the season, try to kind of analyze what went right, what went wrong, and then there are some mechanical things, roster things, that you have to decide shortly after the World Series ends, so we kind of got our ducks in a row there. The process never ends. Right now we crank it up, we restart it. Believe it or not, your mind set as the President and GM of the team is when we lost that game Thursday, our season was over and we were immediately in the 2017 mode and kind of trying to put the ‘16 season behind us and move forward.”