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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

There was a championship moment Sunday night for the Washington Nationals and their fans, a reminder of the gift of the franchise’s 2019 World Series championship, the gift that keeps on giving.

The gift that it turns out was so desperately needed.


The organization revealed the design of their World Series championship rings in a team video, but without presenting them to players, as they opted to continue to hold off on that ceremony until they can do it in person amongst themselves and with Nationals fans present.

Who knows when that will happen?

A World Series ring is a treasure that for most will likely seem to be their single greatest possession, a reminder right there on their finger of the glory of that time, even when they are old and forgotten.

Memories fade, though, and circumstances change. It is not unusual to see players’ championship rings up for auction. A search found former Nationals outfielder Willie Harris’ 2005 Chicago White Sox World Series championship ring available for bidding in 2016. An unidentified New England Patriots player put his Super Bowl LI ring up for auction.

Players are not the only ones who get rings. Employees do as well. Last month, the Houston Astros stopped an employee’s ring from being auctioned because of an agreement they signed with the team that dictates the owner must offer the ring back to the organization for the price of a $1 before attempting to sell it to someone else.

You could make the case that all the 2017 Astros’ World Series rings should be taken away and melted down. Or have we forgotten how mad we are at the Astros for cheating?

The absence of baseball during the coronavirus is not the biggest void in everyone’s lives. But the absence also means that the presence of a World Series championship still resonates because there is nothing to replace it yet.

In a quarantine-free world, the Nationals’ defense of their title would be nearly two months in at this point, with debates going on about the loss of Anthony Rendon or the aging of Max Scherzer or, of course, arguing over manager Dave Martinez’s bullpen moves.

Instead, one of 30 teams sidelined in baseball gets the pleasure and privilege of still hanging onto the remarkable moments of the 2019 championship season. Every step — a ring display, a team video recapping the season — touches that place inside Washington baseball fans where history was made, without anything happening since to diminish it.

The upside of no baseball is that Daniel Hudson’s game-ending strikeout of Michael Brantley to clinch the Game 7 win over the Houston Astros is still the last baseball moment the game has seen.

The ring, designed by Jostens, features 30 rubies, representing the 30 runs the Nationals scored in their four World Series victories over the Astros. There are 108 diamonds representing the 105 regular season and postseason wins, the one World Series and the two homes the franchise has claimed (a nod to the now-defunct Montreal Expos). There are other jewels as well, including 12 red rubies for the team’s number of postseason victories.

Each ring has the player’s name and number engraved, along with a view of District landmarks such as the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Capitol building and the Jefferson Memorial.

Other features include the words “Fight Finished” in diamonds and Martinez’s “GO 1-0 EVERY DAY” in the ring palm.

Nowhere are the numbers that define the Nationals’ championship season more than any other – 19-31, Washington’s record after 50 games last season and the point where everything changed, starting off a 74-38 run for a wild card spot and eventually the World Series championship.

I understand how unusual it would be to put a losing record on something like a championship ring. But 19-31 is what made this Nationals championship so unique, so special, a comeback not accomplished in baseball since the 1914 Boston Braves. The numbers 19-31 are the identity of the 2019 season.

That is the real gift for everyone, fans and players alike. How many in the game of baseball can think this fondly about a losing record?

You can hear Thom Loverro Tuesdays and Thursdays on The Kevin Sheehan Podcast.


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