Fans blame Teddy Roosevelt for Nats playoff collapse

For six years from 2006 through 2012, Washington Nationals fans talked of The Curse of Teddy Roosevelt, and everybody knew what they meant: Teddy’s continued losses in the team’s presidents race were seen as a curse that kept the team from winning.

Washington Nationals Teddy Roosevelt Scratched Injured Day to DayAbe Lincoln pushes Teddy Roosevelt to the Ground - Washington Nationals presidents race

Jayson Werth interferes with the Nationals presidents race

Outfielder Jayson Werth attempted to interfere with the presidents race in September, 2011. “People can laugh,” Werth said. “To me, the Presidents Race and Teddy Roosevelt are very symbolic of where this organization goes.”

But since the Rough Rider won his first-ever presidents race title this year, and extended his victorious ways into the 2014 postseason, many fans have concluded that the Nats are doomed to playoff failure precisely because Teddy is now winning.

An informal review of this week’s playoff chatter on Twitter (excerpts below) reveals a strong anti-Teddy Roosevelt sentiment that grew with each Bull Moose victory and each Nationals postseason loss.

So how did this happen?

Talk of a curse among fans goes back to the days of RFK Stadium, and was the inspiration for this blog, but of course back then it was Teddy’s failure to win that was the problem.

After the team opened Nationals Park and Teddy’s losing streak passed the 250 mark, Washington Times columnist Thom Loverro first compared it to famous baseball curses that had prevented the Cubs and Red Sox from winning for generations.

When the Nationals signed free agent Jayson Werth in 2011, the team’s new outfielder spoke openly of the curse, going so far as to say that the Nats wouldn’t win if Teddy didn’t as well.

Before his first season had ended, Werth had personally tried to interfere and stop Teddy’s losing streak.

Even the next season when the team built the best record in baseball, Werth continued to insist that Teddy’s losing streak was a curse.

Teddy Roosevelt Racing President dot drawing from page A1 of the Wall Street Journal, September 29, 2012

Teddy Roosevelt dot drawing from the front page of The Wall Street Journal
September 29, 2012

As the Nats improved on the field and Teddy’s streak passed 500 losses, a Ken Burns mini-documentary plus cover stories in The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets turned the curse into a national story. Even The White House called for a victory by Teddy to break the curse.

Then remarkably, just before the team’s first playoff appearance in 2012, Huffington Post editor Brandon Wetherbee, a longtime Cubs fan, pleaded that the Nats not let Teddy Win until after the team won the World Series. He argued that a Teddy victory followed by anything short of a championship would forever link Roosevelt to a reversed curse, much like the Curse of the Billy Goat that has haunted Cubs fans since 1945.

How prophetic he was.

The Nats clinched the 2012 division title, then the team let Teddy win on the last day of the 2012 season and again in the playoffs, and Teddy has won each of the team’s postseason races since.

When the Nationals failed to beat the Cardinals in the 2012 NLDS, a few people blamed Teddy:

But when the Nationals got off to a poor start in 2013, this sort of record-keeping became common practice after every Nationals loss:

Even as the Nats record improved and they roared back into playoff contention in 2013, a new myth was establishing itself: the Nationals had taken a turn for the worse since they let Teddy Win. When the 2014 season began and for the first time Teddy started winning more frequently, the myth grew:

You get the point.

So what’s the actual record say?

That data is hardly conclusive. Teddy only started winning regularly this year, and during the recently-completed 2014 regular season, the Nationals won an impressive 69% of games in which Teddy won the presidents race:

2014 Results


President
Regular
Season
Record
Team
Record
Team
Winning
%
Roosevelt 26 18-8 69%
Lincoln 25 15-10 60%
Taft 12 9-3 73%
Jefferson 11 5-6 45%
Washington 10 5-5 50%

This record includes two occasions in which the Nats played a 13-inning home game. Both times, Teddy won the late “bonus” race, and the team lost.  Counting only the regular fourth-inning race, the team was 18-6 (75%) when Teddy won.

But the story changes during the postseason. Since Teddy’s first win in 2012, the Nats have played five home playoff games. Teddy has won all of the presidents races, including two during Saturday’s 18-inning contest, and the team has posted a dismal 1-4 record.

Thus the curse.

As you can see, the Twitter curse talk started slowly after the Nats’ Game 1 loss:

Then came game 2. Teddy won the 4th inning race, and then the team suffered a blown save in the 9th inning. In the 13th inning, Teddy won again. Finally, the Nationals lost by a score of 2-1 in epic, record-breaking, heart-wrenching 18-inning fashion, and the chatter really picked up:

When the Nats hit the road and won game three in San Francisco, things quieted down. The momentum had shifted, but people still were getting digs in at Teddy. Then came game 4, in which defensive gaffes and wild pitches led to all three of the Giants’ decisive runs. The Nats were eliminated in embarrassing fashion.

Somebody had to take the blame:

It seems likely that until the Nationals win the World Series, this myth will continue to propogate, but I’d like to offer an alternative interpretation of things. The Nationals introduced a fifth racing president, William Howard Taft, after the 2012 season. Perhaps it’s a #TaftCurse that kept the Nats out of the playoffs last year, and caused this year’s postseason meltdown. Taft knocked things out of balance. He’s not one of the Mount Rushmore four. Get rid of Taft, and perhaps harmony will be restored at Nationals Park.

Tunnel photo: Anthony Gualtieri

Video: Fans sacrifice rubber chicken, burn sage outside Nationals Park in advance of Game 3

As the Washington Nationals arrive in San Francisco with their backs to the wall in the National League Division Series playoffs, fans back home have taken matters into their own hands.

Nationals Fan Rubber Chicken SacrificeJenn Rubenstein burning sageNationals Fan Rubber Chicken SacrificeNationals Fan Rubber Chicken SacrificeLongtime Nats fan and self-titled “Rubber Chicken Man” Hugh Kaufman led a group of 14 fans in an impromptu gathering outside Nationals Park on Sunday Afternoon, where they performed a ritual sacrifice of a rubber chicken, and burned sage outside the centerfield gate.

Kaufman said the coaching staff was aware of the event and appreciated the fan support. “We’re going to take the bad juju and give it to the chicken,” he said, “so that when the Nats play in San Francisco…they’re going to win.”

After the chicken was beheaded, Kaufman carried the decapitated rubber toy around the centerfield gate as fellow fan Jenn Rubenstein burned sage in an act known as smudging, which is reputed to bless a house and dispel it of negative energy and influences.

Longtime readers know that when the Nationals had their backs to the wall in the 2012 playoffs, Kaufman and Rubenstein performed the ritual before Jayson Werth’s historic walk-off home run in Game 4 of that year’s NLDS.

Kaufman has conducted many sacrifices since 2005, but the only other sacrifice this season came after a Memorial Day loss that dropped the team’s record below .500. After that, the Nationals got hot, finishing the season 71-40.


Videos: Teddy shows nunchuck skills, wins two presidents races during epic 18-inning playoff game

Among the many firsts in a night of firsts Saturday at Nationals Park, The Nats racing presidents held their first-ever postseason presidents race doubleheader, running a second race as NLDS Game 2 dragged into the night.

Crab Nachos Libre Beef Nachos LibreTeddy Roosevelt NunchucksNLDS Game 1 Crab Nachos LibreIn the fourth inning, Teddy entered the race late, coming out of the bullpen to trail the pack as they approached the home stretch.

But the presidents all stopped short, because waiting at the finish line was one of the team’s oddest “guest” characters of the season, Crab Nachos Libre.

Making his third appearance of the season, Crab Nachos Libre was joined by a new character, “Beef Nachos Libre,” and together they posed, broke blocks of wood over a pair of folding chairs, and generally blocked the finish line.

That’s when Teddy Roosevelt pulled out a pair of nunchucks. With the Nationals Park crowd chanting his name, the Rough Rider dazzled his nemeses with a display of nunchuck skills, then George Washington and Abe Lincoln launched over the chairs to take down the dos hermanos. Teddy raced ahead for the victory.

Here’s the team’s official video as called in the stadium by Nats Park PA announcer Jerome Hruska:

And here’s our finish line video, in which a fan can be heard repeatedly saying “Oh my god. That should be illegal!”

Teddy Roosevelt extra innings 13th presidents race
With the score tied 1-1 in the 13th inning, the presidents appeared again to run their first ever extra-innings postseason race. Teddy used the extra TV time to stop the proceedings again, this time grabbing a “Let’s Go Nats!” sign and leading the crowd in cheers. Teddy took the victory, marking the third time this season that Teddy has won in extra innings.

The team sported an 18-6 regular season record during Teddy’s other victories this season, but when Teddy wins in extra innings, the Nats have been a disappointing 0-3.

Official race video: Washington Nationals
Finish line videos: lfahome

Nats fans plan rubber chicken sacrifice for 5pm Sunday outside Nationals Park

Rubber Chicken Man Hugh Kaufman and Let Teddy Win Sacrifice a chicken at Nationals ParkWashington Nationals Rubber Chicken Sacrifice Burn SageNationals rubber chicken man sacrifice breaks bad luckFollowing Saturday’s epic 18-inning game 2 loss to the San Francisco Giants, a chicken will be sacrificed at 5pm today in front of the Nationals Park Center Field Gate.

Longtime readers know that since 2005, Nationals fan “Rubber Chicken Man” Hugh Kaufman has sacrificed rubber chickens to “get rid of the bad juju” whenever the team has run into a bit of trouble.

Kaufman is encouraging fans to come “honor our pitchers and help wake up our bats,” and promises to bring a number of baseball voodoo items to help ensure success.

When the Nationals had their backs to the wall in the 2012 playoffs, Kaufman performed a similar ritual, sacrificing a chicken before Jayson Werth’s historic walk-off home run carried the team to a Game 4 victory in that year’s NLDS.

Kaufman says has has “sacrificed dozens” over the years. In fact, he says 2014 is the only year in which he performed the ritual only once.

This season’s only sacrifice came after a Memorial Day loss that dropped the team’s record below .500 after 51 games. After that, the Nationals went on a tear for the rest of the season, winning 71 games vs. just 40 losses.

As it is Sunday and there is no game today, plenty of free parking should be available. Kaufman is encouraging fans to wear their Chicken Mode t-shirts.

Video: Nats racing presidents dance to “Rock Your Body” by Justin Timberlake during race

The National League Division Series began Friday at Nationals Park, and the Nats’ racing presidents used the unusually long commercial break during the fourth inning to add a few dance moves to the regularly-scheduled presidents race.

Rock Your Body presidents race Washington NationalsRock Your Body presidents race Washington NationalsTeddy Roosevelt emerged from the bullpen to stop his fellow presidents, put down a boom box, and lead a dance routine to Justin Timberlake’s “Rock Your Body.”

When the music stopped, Teddy raced ahead for the victory.

UPDATE: Since the dance routine was in the outfield, the Nationals’ in-stadium video had the best views, but due to music rights issues, they could not publish it with the original song.

So sue me, but here below is a mashup version created for LetTeddyWin.com, overlaying sound from our finish line video with the video as seen on the scoreboard. Enjoy:

Original finish line video by YouTube member lfahome

Video: On historic day at Nationals Park, Teddy wins his first presidents race championship (and some other stuff)

With playoff home field advantage wrapped up by the home town Nats, the only thing undecided going into Sunday’s regular season finale was question of who would win the 2014 presidents race championship.

Nationals racing president Teddy Roosevelt with Madagascar PenguinsTeddy Roosevelt beast William Howard TaftTeddy Roosevelt Wins presidents raceTeddy Roosevelt Presidents Race Champion BeltSo while fans at Nationals Park expected little on-field drama, anticipation was high about the final tie-breaking dogfight between four-time champion Abraham Lincoln and perennial loser Teddy Roosevelt.

What unfolded defied every fan’s expectations.

The final presidents race of the season wasn’t a dogfight at all, but rather a staged relay race featuring the racing presidents and the characters from the upcoming Dreamworks motion picture Penguins of Madagascar.

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abe Lincoln, and William Howard Taft lined up in tandem with penguins Private (pushed on a cart by George), Skipper, Rico, and Kowalski. Roosevelt did not participate.

Then, halfway through the race, the hero of San Juan Hill emerged from center field and darted past the relayers, passing Taft in the home stretch and running away uncontested with the presidents race title.

(Nats fans know that what the presidents race championship lacked in drama, Jordan Zimmerman provided as he tossed the first no hitter in team history. Congratulations to JZimm, and to September call-up Steven Souza, who sealed the no-no with a spectacular 9th inning catch.)

After over 600 losses, Teddy Roosevelt is now presidents race champion for the first time. The Nationals sport a record of 18-8 when Teddy wins this season (18-6 when Teddy wins in the fourth inning), a record which suggests that a few more Teddy victories in the playoffs would not be a bad idea.

Here’s your finish line video:

As always throughout the season, finish line video for LetTeddyWin.com is by the intrepid lfahome of the Gnome Garden.
Photos/Washington Nationals, lfahome

Video: In a first, Nationals presidents race goes to replay review, Lincoln robs Teddy of title

The Nationals racing presidents entered the penultimate regular season race of 2014 on Saturday with four-time champion Abraham Lincoln on a tear.

Presidents race photo finish Teddy GeorgeThis Play Under Review - Replay BaseballReplay official Abraham Lincoln - Washington Nationals Racing PresidentsLincoln, the all-time winningest racing president, had been dominated most of the season by Teddy Roosevelt, the perennial loser who came into the season with an all-time regular season record of 12-595 (yes, that’s twelve wins against nearly 600 losses).

But after clawing and cheating his way to victory in eight of eleven races in September, the Great Emancipator entered Saturday having tied the Rough Rider atop the presidents race standings.

So it was a surprise to most in the stands when “Honest” Abe failed to show up for Saturday’s race.

When the tightly-fought contest ended in a photo finish between Teddy Roosevelt and George Washington, race judge Screech the Eagle called for a replay review.

That’s when Lincoln appeared from the sidelines wearing a headset, having been appointed replay official by Screech.

After a delay in which the replay was shown on the Nationals Park scoreboard, Lincoln called the race for Washington, setting up a final showdown with Teddy in Sunday’s season finale.

Here’s the race as called in the stadium by PA Announcer Jerome Hruska, followed by our finish line video:


Videos: Washington Nationals and YouTube member lfahome

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,102 other followers

%d bloggers like this: