The Improbable Story of How the Washington Nationals Won the World Series
The remarkable story of the 2019 World Series champion Washington Nationals told by the Washington Post writer who followed the team most closely.
By May 2019, the Washington Nationals—owners of baseball’s oldest roster—had one of the worst records in the majors and just a 1.5 percent chance of winning the World Series. Yet by blending an old-school brand of baseball with modern analytics, they managed to sneak into the playoffs and put together the most unlikely postseason run in baseball history. Not only did they beat the Houston Astros, the team with the best regular-season record, to claim the franchise’s first championship—they won all four games in Houston, making them the first club to ever win four road games in a World Series.
“You have a great year, and you can run into a buzz saw,” Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg told Washington Post beat writer Jesse Dougherty after the team advanced to the World Series. “Maybe this year we’re the buzz saw.” Dougherty followed the Nationals more closely than any other writer in America, and in Buzz Saw he recounts the dramatic year in vivid detail, taking readers inside the dugout, the clubhouse, the front office, and ultimately the championship parade.
Yet he does something more than provide a riveting retelling of the season: he makes the case that while there is indisputable value to Moneyball-style metrics, baseball isn’t just a numbers game. Intangibles like team chemistry, veteran experience, and childlike joy are equally essential to winning. Certainly, no team seemed to have more fun than the Nationals, who adopted the kids’ song “Baby Shark” as their anthem and regularly broke into dugout dance parties. Buzz Saw is just as lively and rollicking—a fitting tribute to one of the most exciting, inspiring teams to ever take the field.
Dougherty, the Washington Post's beat reporter for the Washington Nationals, digs into the exciting story of how the team went from a losing record in May 2019 to World Series champions five months later. The narrative begins in the offseason when the team decided not to re-sign their star pitcher Bryce Harper following a disappointing 2018 season. The team struggled early in the season, as manager Dave Martinez and GM Mike Rizzo searched for answers, and here, Dougherty delves deep into the team's strategies, such as Martinez encouraging the coaching staff to look at the "little things," which eventually led to led to their bringing in cast-off players and veterans who would help lead the team's resurgence. That combo worked, and the team reached the playoffs, which Dougherty captures in a great mix of game recaps and personal narratives that includes Martinez undergoing heart surgery mid season, and a Twitter brouhaha sparked by pitcher Daniel Hudson missing a playoff game to be present for the birth of his daughter. Dougherty highlights the team's use of modern analytics and traditional scouting during their triumphant march to championships, as the Nationals beat the Cardinals in the NLCS and the Astros in the World Series. Emotional and informative, this is a home run for any fan of the sport.
I am up at 4:00am to “crack the spine” of “Buzz Saw”, and my first impression as I begin is WOW, WOW, WOW! I am now slowing down my reading progress to savor every word on every page. OUTSTANDING! Baseball and Nats fans—don’t walk, RUN to get a copy of this marvelous book!