You couldn't begrudge MASN's Bob Carpenter (though he was threshing some serious straw men) for saying repeatedly in the late innings of Monday night's game that there was no such thing as backing in.
And once we got over the incongruity of the Nationals celebrating during a game in which they were shut out over seven innings by Kyle Kendrick (season ERA+: 99, career ERA+: 96), we found it very easy to enjoy the celebrations, especially since we defended the Nats when they celebrated clinching a postseason berth with essentially a laurel and a hearty handshake a few weeks ago.
Make no mistake, this is about more than a division title, the first-ever for the franchise in a non-strike season. This is about a 96-win season a little more than two full years after we listened in on a static-pocked conference call in which Mike Rizzo told reporters that Stephen Strasburg would require Tommy John surgery. This is about early arrivers like Ryan Zimmerman (who batted .397 in 20 games for the 2005 Nats and has more or less been here ever since) and latecomers like Kurt Suzuki (how queasy might we be feeling if not for his 10th-inning double in St. Louis Saturday night?).
It's about the fans too, not just the ones who turned up at RFK Stadium in 2005, but the ones who stuck through some terrible baseball and humiliating off-field issues (Smiley Gonzalez, "Natinals," et. al) as the Nats became the butt of baseball jokes. Two of them, Dave and Cheryl Nichols of District Sports Page, are moving to Idaho the second the Nats season ends, and we're happy they'll be sticking around a little longer.
Like the fans, the baseball writers hitch their wagon to this team every year for six months, and only one that we know of kept doing so when he had every excuse to walk away. When we met Mark Zuckerman, during the 2010 season, he had been kicked to the curb with his fellow Washington Times sportswriters, and was reduced to covering the team out of his own pocket and soliciting donations to cover traveling expenses to spring training. Now, he's at CSN Washington, and we're sure he's loved every minute of this season.
Most importantly, this is about Washington experiencing playoff baseball for the first time since Franklin Roosevelt's administration. We were born during the 1987 World Series, so we may be biased, but high-level, high-intensity baseball on an blue-skied autumn afternoon or a crisp October evening is one of the best things contrived by God or man.
The fun starts this weekend, and we'll all go through it together.