Can Baseball’s Team of Destiny Finish the Job?
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
The last World Series appearance in the District was in 1933.
By Matt Foley
This is the latest edition of OZY’s Huddle newsletter, which brings you a smart, flavorful conversation-starter for your next game watch party. No stale takes allowed. Add The Huddle to your OZY email subscriptions here.
The Washington Nationals’ World Series drought isn’t quite on the level of the Chicago Cubs’, but it’s brutal nonetheless. After failing to win a playoff round in their 15 years in Washington, the Nats bucked that monkey — winning the wild card before beating the Dodgers and sweeping St. Louis. But D.C. is desperate for more. The last World Series appearance in the District was in 1933, when the Senators — who became the Minnesota Twins in 1960 — lost to the New York Giants. That’s 86 years, precisely as long as Boston’s “Curse of the Bambino.” The last Washington baseball championship was in 1924.
Can the Nationals bring a new trophy home?
Ryan Zimmerman certainly hopes so. After enduring each and every lean expansion year, no one is more deserving of a title than Mr. Walk-Off. Washington’s dominant three-man pitching rotation of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Aníbal Sánchez will keep them in any game. But each passing day of the ALCS threatens to cool Washington’s hitters. Can they maintain the mojo after a week off?
With a young core of all-world players Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto and Trea Turner, plus Zimmerman, a healthy Victor Robles and NLCS MVP Howie Kendrick (pictured), this lineup is more resilient than most. What they lack in power (13th in regular season home runs), they make up in clutch run production (first in postseason hits and runs).
If a World Series team is affected by MLB’s newly de-juiced baseballs, it won’t be Washington.
What to Watch & Pick ’Em
Manchester City at Crystal Palace (Saturday at 12:30 pm ET on NBC Sports)
An angry City side comes to Selhurst Park after their home loss to Wolves. The Eagles have won just one of their last nine home games versus City, dating back to 2001.
- Man. City (-400)
- Crystal (+1000)
No. 16 Michigan at No. 7 Penn State (Saturday at 7:30 pm ET on ABC)
Shea Patterson and Michigan have regained solid ground after an embarrassing first three weeks of the season, but can they hang with the Nittany Lions’ high-powered offense?
- Michigan (+9)
- Penn State (-9)
Ones to Watch
Alison Riske. The Women’s Tennis Association announced this week that No. 19 Elise Mertens, No. 20 Riske and No. 21 Donna Vekić have qualified for next week’s fifth annual WTA Elite Trophy in China. The tournament, featuring a prize of more than $2.4 million, consists of the top 11 players not already qualified for the 2019 WTA Finals, plus a wild card. Madison Keys (No. 14) may be the field’s best player, but Riske, 28, is running hot. Her best season to date is highlighted by a first career Grand Slam quarterfinal at Wimbledon (where she took down Ashleigh Barty), a second career title at the Libéma Open and her top 20 debut last week. Should she continue to climb, Riske will be a name to watch at the Australian Open in January.
Carsen Edwards. Between Larry Bird and Ray Allen, Celtics fans know incredible shooting performances. But they’ve never seen a player go off like Edwards on Tuesday night. In under nine minutes of play, the 6-foot-1 rookie out of Purdue went 8-of-11 on 3-pointers for 26 total points in the third quarter of a preseason win over Cleveland. Edwards finished 9-of-15 from deep, including four 30-footers in the third quarter. That’s double the total amount of 30-footers made in a regular season quarter over the past 20 years. For a Celtics team that will need to stretch the floor while playing a new brand of small ball this season, Edwards’ emergence is a godsend. The knock on both of Boston’s starting guards (Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart) is 3-point shooting, so Edwards could play a pivotal role as Boston pushes for a high playoff seed in the East.
A ringside reckoning. Boxing has blood on its hands … again. Patrick Day, a 27-year-old former amateur champion from Long Island, died on Wednesday after suffering a brutal knockout loss to Charles Conwell in Chicago on Saturday. Day becomes the third professional boxer to die from injuries sustained in a match this year, following Maxim Dadashev and Hugo Alfredo Santillán. The terrifying stretch has many in the sport wondering what, if anything, can be done. And is boxing even worth supporting? The “sweet science” still provides purpose and means for young men and women across the world — and has done so for generations. Keeping it around means boxing’s often disorganized, competing governing bodies have to step up to make it safer. In other words, more drug testing, comprehensive pre- and post-fight medical care and uncapped health insurance.
Measured takes. Just a guess: You’ve got an opinion too? Last week, we told you that LeBron James wouldn’t solve the NBA’s China problem — and that James would say nothing interesting. That proved to be half right. In criticizing Rockets GM Daryl Morey, James fanned the flames of tension both at home and abroad. The concerns for his fellow players in China last week were valid, but there’s no denying that the King could have handled this better. Of course, at the slightest sign of weakness, the internet did what the internet does. Media mouthpieces screamed “Hypocrite!” and claimed that James’ tremendous humanitarian efforts in America were worthless. Mouthbreathers sold shirts with James in a communist Chinese uniform. Thankfully, the regular season is just days away — and the on-court drama will take over. Maybe LeBron is the second coming of Mike after all, and this episode will go down as the “Republicans Wear Shoes Too” chapter in the King’s book. We’ll ask Twitter.
Will This NBA Prospect Ditch Blue Bloods for an HBCU?, by Mark W. Wright/OZY
When Makur Maker visited Howard University’s celebrated homecoming festivities this month, you could feel the ripples across the sports landscape — and the world of historically Black colleges and universities.
The Unbreakable Bond, by Mina Kimes/ESPN
Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins says he owes his career to his mom. When you hear her remarkable story of survival, you’ll understand his devotion.
NFL’s Failure to Understand L.A. Is Hurting Experience for Rams and Chargers Fans, by Arash Markazi/The Los Angeles Times
From 1995 to 2015, the NFL staged 31 preseason and regular-season games around the globe. Do you know how many games the league held in Los Angeles to cultivate interest in the country’s second-biggest market? Zero.
Where’s the Glory Gone, Manchester United?, by Brian Phillips/The Ringer
The Premier League giants are in crisis mode ahead of Sunday’s clash against their archrivals, Liverpool. What does their legendary former manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, think of their current state? We’re glad you asked.
In January, 42-year-old Vince Carter will become the first NBA player to hoop in four different decades. The old man’s still got it, and he’ll be a pivotal role player for a young Atlanta team hoping to contend for the playoffs. Parents, tell your children about Vinsanity — then show them his dunk against France.