If the Washington Nationals make it to NL post season play it will be the first time for D.C. since 1933. Back then the local team was the Washington Senators and they played in the AL. How much has baseball changed for the Nationals compared to the Senators?
The Nationals are currently in first place in the NL East with 17 games to go. They have a record of 89-56. If Washington can maintain its 6 1/2 game lead over the Atlanta Braves they will earn one of the top three spots in a five team NL playoff and advance to the divisional championship series. In order to get to the World Series the Nationals will have to win a best of five and best of seven series.
In 1933 the Senators finished first in the American League by seven games over the defending world champion New York Yankees. Back then only 16 teams made up MLB split into two eight team leagues. The Senators did not have to worry about playing a divisional or league championship series. The team which finished first automatically advanced to the World Series. Expansion and television as a pair were almost 30 years away.
The Nationals are in their eighth season in Washington having come from Montreal in 2005. In this time they have never challenged for a post season spot. Washington was not expected to be contenders by many this season despite finishing a solid 80-81 in 2011.
The Senators were known as one of baseball’s worst teams. From 1901 to 1933 they had spent most of their time finishing in the second division. They surprised everyone by winning the pennant in 1924 and ’25. The 1924 team won Washington’s only World Series. Despite three consecutive seasons with over 90 wins under manager Walter Johnson the Senators still carried a reputation as losers and were not expected to win the pennant in 1933.
Under manager Davey Johnson the Nationals have battled with the Cincinnati Reds for best record in baseball status all season. With one more victory they will accomplish the team’s first 90 win season since coming to Washington. The team still has an outside chance to win 100.
Under player-manager Joe Cronin the 1933 Senators finished with a record of 99-53. It was the best finish in team history. The Senators beat out a Yankees ball club with names such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Tony Lazzeri.
While the Nationals will have to win 11 games to become world champions, the Senators only had to win four. Unfortunately for Washington fans they could only win one.
The Senators lost the 1933 World Series in five games to the New York Giants. Their only victory came in game three as pitcher Earl Whitehill threw a 4-0 shutout. Washington’s magical season came to an end in five days.
The Senators would never see another post season before moving to Arlington and becoming the Texas Rangers in 1972.
Now we have the Nationals trying to make history. They are trying to become the first Washington D.C. baseball franchise to make it to the post season in almost 80 years.
Here is hoping that they fair better under tougher circumstances than the 1933 Senators.