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Their recent winning streak notwithstanding, it’s not easy to conjure up many good feelings about the Washington Nationals in 2013. Isn’t this the team that all the Sports Illustrated gurus and ESPN yakkers predicted would roll through to the World Series? Yet here we are, in early August, with the Nationals hovering around .500 and jockeying with the hated Phillies for second place in the National League East. Face it: They’re cursed. But by what, and by what measures can we exorcise those demons?
The Curse of Danny Espinosa’s Beard
Danny Espinosa showed up to Nats Fest in late January looking like an overly hirsute Greenpoint folk singer. The second baseman hadn’t shaved since Oct. 1. But Espinosa showed up for spring training clean-shaven, and kicked off the season by hitting for a sub-Mendoza Line .158 batting average. He lasted just 44 games this year before being relegated to minor-league Syracuse. And, for what it’s worth, Espinosa’s replacement, Anthony Rendon, hasn’t been quite the same since chopping off his mullet.
Exorcism: Destroy all facial grooming products in the possession of Nationals second basemen.
The Curse of LivingSocial
When a sporting event goes past Metro’s bedtime, it’s up to the game’s operator to put down a deposit to keep trains running late. But Nationals owner Ted Lerner refused to commit his own money when the team made the playoffs last year. Instead, he deferred to LivingSocial, the daily-deals company that, barely a month after ignominious Game 5, started chucking its employees overboard and reported massive financial losses. The rub? The Nats’ home games in that series never went past Metro’s regular closing time.
Exorcism: Make Groupon the exclusive seller of Nationals tickets.
The Curse of Twitter
Though this generation of ballplayers came up with Twitter accounts, most avoid direct interaction with fans. But not Michael Morse, especially after Game 5 of the National League Division Series. While many players offered thanks over Twitter, Morse stayed up all night, conversing with and consoling fans who knew he was unlikely to be re-signed by the Nats. (He now plays for the Seattle Mariners, and appears to have quit Twitter.)
Exorcism: Force Bryce Harper to answer every single fan tweet for a month. OK, maybe a week. Fine, an hour.
The Curse of a-Ha
Speaking of Morse, one of last season’s best traditions was his use of “Take on Me” as his walkup music for late-inning at-bats. It should have departed Nationals Park when he went to Seattle. Instead, the team has started using the a-Ha classic the way the Boston Red Sox deploy “Sweet Caroline”—as a dopey late-game rally for drunken fans. The Red Sox should not be mimicked, and Magne Furuholmen is no Neil Diamond.
Exorcism: Designate a late-season game as New Wave Demolition Night.
The Curse of Teddy
Sure, it was an insult to the burliest, bravest man ever to serve as president of the United States, but was scripting a Teddy Roosevelt mascot to lose the fourth-inning Presidents Race for more than six years such a bad thing? After a raft of promotional bullshit, the team finally “let” Teddy win on Oct. 3. And then he won every day for the remainder of the season, even into the playoffs. Some might want to blame this year’s addition of a William Howard Taft costume, but true observers know an original sin when they see one.
Exorcism: Let Teddy win? No. Let Teddy burn.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery