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The Circle is Unbroken

It’s early 2005 at something nobody’s ever heard of called Faith and Fear in Flushing. We’re blogging for the first time. We have Carlos Beltran coming to camp for the first time [1]. We have the Washington Nationals coming to the National League East for the first time [2]. Beltran was just an Astro. The Nationals were just the Expos. We were just e-mailing each other. Now we’re all starting new adventures.

Faith and Fear watches Carlos Beltran awkwardly approach a leadership role on his brand new team. He’s not an obvious fit as he gets himself acclimated to a new team, a new city, a new situation. The Washington Nationals, meanwhile, morph from their previous identity. They’re pretty good at first, then reverse course and descend into dreadful for several years that coincide with the establishment of a comfort zone for Beltran [3]. He settles in. He hits. He hits with power. He runs. He fields. He throws. That’s the part we see with our own eyes. Whatever he does in the way of leading the team we can only imagine.

Carlos Beltran gets hurt and, as a result, the Mets aren’t very good. The Washington Nationals remain the one team in the NL East that’s worse [4], but things are about to change. They draft well. They cultivate talent. By the time Beltran heals and leaves, the Nats become good. Good enough to loathe. Not good enough to win it all, but certainly good enough to compete.

Beltran continues to excel as he ages. Wherever he goes, his team benefits. The Nationals stop and start. In 2015, it is the Mets who stop them. In 2016, it is a former Met teammate of Beltran’s, Daniel Murphy, who starts them up. We loathe them some more. Murph can’t lift the Nats all the way, though. Neither can Bryce Harper. Neither can Stephen Strasburg. Neither can anybody for what seems the longest time.

Carlos returns to Houston for one final go-round. He’s not an everyday superstar anymore, but he’s still got skills. He’s definitely a leader. Everybody’s sworn to it since he left the Mets. In 2017, on an Astros club said to be missing only a dash of veteran wisdom to complete its calculated journey from the bottom to the top, it is Beltran who everybody looks up to. With the twenty-year vet mostly sitting on the bench but definitely a factor in the clubhouse [5], the Houston Astros become world champions.

Two years later, the Astros are in the World Series again. Their opponent is the Washington Nationals. No more Murph. No more Bryce. But Strasburg’s around. And Ryan Zimmerman, who was a National in the first season there were Nationals, has never left. Max Scherzer and Howie Kendrick, two wizened Nats, date their major league service to the previous decade. Scherzer pitched at Shea Stadium [6] on June 11, 2008, in a game where Mike Pelfrey shut out the Arizona Diamondbacks into the ninth inning. The game got away when Willie Randolph took out Pelfrey in favor of Billy Wagner. In extras, the Mets won when Carlos Beltran homered. Five nights later, Pelfrey defeated the Angels in Anaheim. It was Randolph’s last game as Mets manager [7]. His first was Beltran’s first. In the lineup on June 16, 2008, for the home team, batting seventh and playing second, was Kendrick.

It had been a while overall for Zimmerman; for Scherzer; for Kendrick; for Strasburg (he debuted in 2010 to a torrent of hype, yet was informed in 2013 he was not as good as Matt Harvey [8]); for Davey Martinez, the Nationals manager. In his first year as a player, 1986, Martinez pinch-ran for the Cubs in the ninth inning on September 17 at Shea. A couple of outs later, the Mets clinched their most convincing division title. Fifteen years later, Martinez was a Brave, playing in what we’d remember as the second Brian Jordan Game, a game the Mets lost in horrifying fashion as they groped for an unlikely playoff berth. We’d remember it too much in 2019 when the Mets played another Brian Jordan Game [9] in another futile grope. Jordan wasn’t involved this time. Martinez was. He was the Washington Nationals manager.

That was in early September. The 2019 Mets fell away from contention. The 2019 Nats pushed on. Into the Wild Card Game. Into the NLDS. Wondrously into the NLCS — wondrously because they’d never advanced beyond the NLDS as the Nationals. It had become an unwanted signature of their franchise, finally erased on their fifth try. Then they put the NLCS behind them with ease, and for the time, whether as Expos or Nats, they were in the World Series. The Astros had 107 regular-season wins, which earned them home field advantage, which earned them nothing. Six games were split, each in favor of the visitors. The seventh game was in Houston. The Nationals, behind Scherzer pitching five gutty innings after neck spasms shelved him three nights before, hung in against the Astros. They hung in until Zack Greinke, who the Mets and Murph had overcome in the 2015 NLDS to advance toward their own NLCS sweep, was removed in favor of Will Harris. Harris faced Kendrick with a runner on in the seventh. Kendrick made the last out for the Dodgers in 2015. In 2019, he hit a go-ahead home run for the Nats.

The Nationals padded their lead and won the seventh game of the World Series, 6-2. The road team prevailed over and over. The Nationals, comprised of old guys, potential free agents and an impossibly young, impossibly good Juan Soto, became the eleventh National League East representative to win a World Series [10], marking the end of the fifteenth season and postseason of baseball we’ve blogged at Faith and Fear in Flushing.

As we look ahead to 2020 and our sixteenth season of blogging, we learn that the manager of our New York Mets will be Carlos Beltran [11], long removed from his playing days as a Met, not so long removed from playing in general. He is universally admired within the game, yet taking on a wholly new role. So are the Washington Nationals. They will be first-time defending world champions, charging out of the visitors dugout at Citi Field on March 26, taking on Carlos Beltran’s Mets.

That’ll be Opening Day, when everything old and new traditionally merge into something else altogether.