WASHINGTON – Mike Rizzo, the long-time GM of the Nationals, met with the media for about 25 minutes before the regular-season finale on Sunday.
And about 24 of those minutes were spent talking about the 2021 season, which has been a downer for fans and team personnel alike.
But Rizzo also mentioned another disappointing campaign in the history of the Nationals, which began in 2005 when the team moved from Montreal.
“No one thought we would win 98 games that season, myself included,” he said of the 2012 season.
That year, however, ended in heartbreak for fans of the Nationals.
So with that as a backdrop, here is my highly arbitrary ranking of the five most disappointing (not the worst) seasons in the short history of the Nationals:
2015 – First
How can a team have the MVP and not make the playoffs?
The Nationals managed to do just that in 2015, as Bryce Harper was the MVP in the National League.
But Jonathan Papelbon, the controversial closer, went after Harper in the home first-base dugout in late September of that season as the pitcher felt the slugger wasn’t giving 100 percent.
Papelbon was later let go by the Nationals and never played in another Major League game.
Matt Williams, the manager of the Nationals, famously used Papelbon later in the game after the closer went after Harper.
It was a sad end to a disappointing season.
2012 – Second
How can the first division title under the lovable Davey Johnson be considered a disappointment?
One team and one player – the Cardinals and Pete Kozma.
The Nationals famously won Game 4 at home over St. Louis in the NLDS as Jayson Werth hit a walk-off homer as bedlam rained in the Navy Yards neighborhood.
But in Game 5, the Nationals and starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez let a 6-0 lead sink away as the Cardinals rallied to win 9-7 on October 12, 2012.
Kozma drove in the final run off reliever Drew Storen in the top of the ninth for the Cardinals.
Fans of the Red Sox mutter Bucky Dent – the Nats have another infielder, Kozma, to save for some choice words.
2014 – third
Williams, the former Giants’ third baseman, makes his second appearance here as the 2014 season also ended in frustration.
San Francisco beat the Nationals 3-1 in the NLDS as Washington made its second playoff appearance.
The Nats lost Game 4 by a score of 3-2 on the road as Williams used pitchers such as Matt Thornton and Aaron Barrett out of the bullpen instead of Stephen Strasburg.
Once again it was Gonzalez who started the game on the day his team was knocked out.
This time the lefty from Florida went four innings and allowed two unearned runs.
2017 – fourth
Forget most disappointing season – how about the most disappointing (frustrating, agonizing, etc.) inning in the history of the team?
That nomination would be the fifth inning on October 12, 2017, as reliever Max Scherzer allowed four runs (two earned) as the Cubs scored four runs to wipe out a 4-3 lead by Washington.
All sorts of crazy things happened that inning, with poor Matt Wieters back of the plate for the debacle.
Chicago went on to win 9-7 in the fifth and deciding game in Washington.
That would be the last game that Dusty Baker would manage with the Nationals. He won two division titles in both seasons, but the stage would be set for the hiring of Davey Martinez.
2021 – fifth
In some ways, the Nationals were trying to defend their World Series title this year.
Yes, we know the Dodgers won the title last year in a season that had just 60 regular-season games.
But in word and action, the Nationals acted like 2020 didn’t count in the way they approached injuries and other such things.
So in the first “real” season since the Nats beat Houston in Game 7 in 2019, Washington fell flat on its face and saw an organizational pivot for the first time in a decade as Rizzo and his staff unloaded a ton of veterans at the trade deadline.
“One of the most disappointing seasons we have had,” Rizzo said Sunday of the 2021 campaign.
“Life comes at you fast; it came at us pretty quickly this year. Seasons like this are not easy.”
Nor were four others that came before this one.