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

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

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: Grounds crew pummels presidents. Teddy wins again. Nats don’t.

For the third time since his historic first win last week, Teddy Roosevelt scored a victory in the Washington Nationals postseason presidents race.

Grounds Crew Attack racing presidentsUnfortunately, after the St. Louis Cardinals completed the biggest comeback in MLB playoff elimination game history, the race would prove to be Teddy’s last of the season.

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln did their best to prevent Teddy’s win, ambushing him on the outfield warning track, with George Washington knocking him to the ground and Abe taunting him as they ran past him.

The race carried on with Teddy doubled over on the warning track, but as the other presidents entered the home stretch along the first base line, members of the Nationals grounds crew left their positions and attacked, mercilessly.

As the grounds crew pummeled his opponents, an inspired Teddy Roosevelt caught up and passed them to win what would be the final presidents race of the season.

UPDATE: Here’s the finish line video. Note the joy with which the grounds crew pounds the racing presidents. One gets the sense that they are unleashing seven years of pent up October Natitude:

With the Nationals out of contention for 2012, Teddy’s fans are wondering what the team has in store for him. Rumors have run rampant about Teddy’s retirement (which the mascot denies), and about the possibility of adding new presidents to the mix.

Video: Presidents race Gangnam Style 강남스타일 again as Teddy steals Nationals’ first postseason race

Nationals Park Standing Room OnlyTeddy Roosevelt as Psy Gangnam StylePresidents Race Gangnam Style Washington NationalsNationals racing presidents Gangnam StyleRacing presidents Gangnam Style - Teddy Roosevelt Washington NationalsTeddy Roosevelt dances Gangnam StylePresidents Race Gangnam Style Teddy Roosevelt WinsThe Washington Nationals hosted the first playoff game in the team’s short history Wednesday, and area fans showed up in droves, crushing previous attendance records to pack the house with a record standing room only crowd of 45,027.

Many of the usual stadium promotion breaks featuring in-game host Clint Khoury were usurped by Major League Baseball for the playoffs, so when the middle of the fourth inning arrived, the crowd rose to its feet and cheered as P.A. announcer Jerome Hruska announced presidents race.

Coming off last week’s historic first win for Teddy Roosevelt, and with the record crowd on hand, fans were wondering what the Nationals would do for an encore. Speculation was rampant in social media circles. Would Teddy retire, or would he keep winning? Would the Nats introduce a new president? A rumor was spreading that the route might even change.

In the end, the team used the extra long commercial break to revise a fan favorite from just last month.

The September 1 race in which the racing presidents danced “Gangnam Style” is the most viewed video in Let Teddy Win history, amassing nearly a quarter million views in the month since since it was first shared. So, figuring you can’t get too much of a good thing, the Nats went back to the well, with a twist.

Teddy Roosevelt bolted out wearing sunglasses in the style of Korean dance pop star Psy, and was met in right field by Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln, wearing similar glasses.

After shedding their uniforms for Hawaiian shirts, the presidents broke into the familiar dance to the delight of the crowd; but unlike September, when the other presidents left Teddy behind to head for the finish line, this time it was Teddy who turned the tables on the other Rushmores, stopping mid-dance to leave them in the dust.

As Teddy celebrated his second victory of all time on the field, the Nationals Park crowd began chanting “Teddy, Teddy, Teddy!”

It was unfortunately one of the few highlights of the game for Nats fans. Unlike Teddy’s first win one week ago, the team did not respond with a barrage of hits to tie the game, and fell behind in the series to St. Louis, 2 games to 1.

The racing presidents playoff standings are now Teddy 1, George 0, Tom 0, Abe 0.

Here’s a close-up video from Maggie at First Ladies of Baseball:

And here’s our full finish line video by YouTube member lfahome:

Are the Nationals planning to retire Teddy Roosevelt?

Teddy Roosevelt wins his first presidents race at Nationals ParkThe National’s plan to let Teddy Roosevelt win the presidents race Wednesday was one of the most poorly kept secrets in Washington history. The team promoted the event for a week, even bought ads in the newspaper; yet many Teddy fans, having been burned in the past, remained skeptical.

However, in light of Teddy’s historic victory, must the Nats’ rumor mill be taken more seriously?

Before Wednesday’s historic race even took place, rumors were flying around Nationals Park about not just a victory for Teddy, but about the team’s plans for the 26th president after the celebration was over.

Chillin' with Teddy

Will the Nats retire Teddy?

Nobody would speak on the record, but the story was consistent from employees working all corners of the Park: The Nats would let Teddy Roosevelt win, then retire him and replace him with a new racing president in 2013 — possibly John F. Kennedy.

The first part came true. Is part two in the cards?

One fan, hearing the same rumors, has already started a Facebook campaign to keep Teddy.

Sounds downright heretical to me. In the meantime, Teddy fans are hoping to see more victories as the Nationals host their first home playoff game next Wednesday.

Speaking of retirement, one question that’s been pouring in from all corners is “What happens to LetTeddyWin.com?” On that there is no discussion. As long as the readers keep coming, we’ll keep writing.

Scoreboard photo by reader Alfonse Mannato

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