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: Nats get superstitious, reverse presidents race direction and put a stop to Teddy victories

Blame the team. Blame Twitter. But the seven year conspiracy against Teddy Roosevelt seems to have been resurrected.

Racing president Teddy Roosevelt takes a dive July 25

Teddy Roosevelt takes a dive just short of the finish line July 25

Rally Cicada arrives too late to tackle Teddy Roosevelt July 26…

Teddy Roosevelt Takes a Dive Jul 26 Nationals Presidents Race 2

…but Teddy Roosevelt pretends to be tripped and falls anyway

Abe Lincoln leaps from the stands to tackle Teddy Roosevelt in the Washington Nationals Presidents Race

Abe Lincoln leaps from the stands to tackle Teddy Roosevelt July 27…

Abe Lincoln leaps from the stands to tackle Teddy Roosevelt 4

…as George Washington races by for the win


The Washington Nationals’ struggles have prompted hundreds of Tweets tallying the team’s total record since letting Teddy win at the end of last season, with some even calling it “the curse of Let Teddy Win.”

After suffering their sixth straight loss Wednesday, the Nats tried to shake things up. The direction of the race was switched, with the presidents now running towards a finish line on the third base side of the field. More significantly, a familiar but suspicious pattern suggests that the team revived its longstanding ban on Teddy Roosevelt victories at the same time.

On Thursday, the presidents ran left for the first time all season, and Teddy took a huge lead into the home stretch, but stumbled as if on queue, falling flat on his face just short of the finish line.

The next day, the Rally Cicada returned to Nationals Park, and appeared ready to ambush Teddy along the finish line. The bug arrived late and missed Teddy completely, yet Teddy pretended to be tripped and fell just short of victory.

Nats play-by-play announcer Bob Carpenter captured it best. “This town loves a good conspiracy,” he said on the broadcast. “That was the worst, ever.”

On Saturday, the Rough Rider once again took a big lead into the home stretch, but Abe Lincoln was waiting in ambush, and jumped out of the stands along the third base line, tackling Teddy to the ground, allowing George Washington to race by for the win. On Sunday, George Washington slammed into Teddy with a bicycle.

Teddy had won five races this season, but none on this homestand, and the team has won 4 of 5 games since the changes. If superstition holds, Teddy may be in for a long rest of the summer.

Seamheads.com & SABRmetrics expert says dump Taft, Let Teddy Win

The folks over at Seamheads.com know a thing or two about baseball, having authored 90 books about the subject. So the Washington Nationals might do well to pay attention when Seamheads managing editor, baseball author, longtime MASN contributor and SABRmetrics expert Ted Leavengood offers some advice for getting the season on track.

Seamheads Ted LeavengoodOn Thursday at Seamheads.com, Leavengood makes the case that the Nats messed up their juju by introducing new racing president William Howard Taft for the 2013 season, while turning Teddy Roosevelt into a perpetual loser once again.

“What must be accepted,” Leavengood writes, “is that the Natinals (sic) have violated the first rule of Juju. You don’t change the narrative when your team is winning.”

Citing The Juju Rules by Hart Seely, Leavengood argues that the prescription is simple. “The first step must be to have Teddy win again. He must win by running directly over William Howard Taft. That may be enough, but if not then Taft must be shipped out to Syracuse. The Nationals need to get down to the business at hand and it is all about Teddy.”

You can find some of Leavengood’s books on Washington baseball here.

Nats get superstitious with presidents race direction

Baseball is known for its superstitions, and nothing brings out the eccentric behavior like a good losing streak.

Day Game presidents raceWhile Nats fans are preparing a chicken sacrifice Thursday at noon, the mascot team has been doing what it can to change the team’s recent fortunes.

On Wednesday afternoon, the powers that be who run the fourth inning presidents race moved the finish line to the third base side for the second day in a row. The racing presidents ran along the left field warning track, in the opposite direction of their usual path. The team tried a similar tactic last season, switching directions only when the Nats lost, but the system was soon abandoned.

Rather than move the finish line, Nats brass should be more concerned with the race results. George Washington won again on Wednesday, keeping Teddy Roosevelt winless for the season. Teddy’s historic October victory as the Nats tied up their first winning season was said to have broken a long-standing curse. Why would they now not let Teddy win?

Photo of Wednesday’s race courtesy of Joan Jankowski

Wall Street Journal reports Teddy seeks meeting with Obama, McCain calls it a “vast left wing conspiracy”

Teddy Roosevelt Racing President sketch Wall Street Journal

Dot drawing of Teddy Roosevelt from the front page of Saturday’s Wall Street Journal

The Nationals are seeking a tête-à-tête between racing president Teddy Roosevelt and Barack Obama, as Arizona Senator John McCain calls Teddy’s losing streak a “vast left-wing conspiracy being organized by pinko commie liberals,” according to Saturday’s Wall Street Journal.

The front page story by diplomatic correspondent Neil King, Jr. caps a week in which the Let Teddy Win movement has become national news, following an ESPN profile by Ken Burns and a White House statement in support of the cause.

King’s profile revisits the outrage expressed by McCain and White House spokesman Jay Carney over Teddy’s losing streak, adding additional perspectives from Roosevelt biographer Edmund Morris, and from Teddy’s great great grandson Kermit Roosevelt.

“I find this whole thing extraordinarily unfunny,” Morris tells the Journal.

“Teddy would have physically dominated any of those guys,” adds Roosevelt, who turns out to be a Phillies fan, and believes in a curse. “The Nationals will not win the World Series until Teddy wins the presidents’ race,” he said.

The Let Teddy Win blog gets a few nods as well, and the online story features a compilation of our race videos taken by longtime blog contributor lfahome:

After high expectations are dashed, even Abe Lincoln implores the Nationals to Let Teddy Win

Washington Nationals Presidents Race 5-30-2011Abe Wins.  Teddy far behind.Abe Lincoln supports Teddy?The “Let Teddy Win” buzz hit a fever pitch on Memorial Day at Nationals Park, with rumors spreading rampant that after high-level meetings in the Nats’ front office, a decision had been made to finally let Teddy win.

From the stands to the press box, from Twitter to even the Phillies’ TV and radio broadcasts, word was spreading to watch for a breakout race from Teddy Roosevelt.

Even outspoken outfielder Jayson Werth, who had refused to watch Sunday’s race, stepped out of the dugout and onto the field to see the big event.

Fans and reporters alike approached to say they had come not to see Roy Halladay and the Phillies, but to see Teddy take victory #1. Yes, everybody got the message.

Except Teddy.

In possibly the most disappointing performance in five years, Teddy ran wire to wire in last place, and failed to even finish.

Even showboat Abe Lincoln, after taking his 13th victory of the season, grabbed a Let Teddy Win sign from the crowd and held it up in support.

Nats management clearly doesn’t buy into the notion that Teddy must win to break the curse that keeps their team in the basement; but after roughing up Phillies ace Roy Halladay only to end up on the losing end of another 1-run game, why continue to tempt fate?

Video courtesy of YouTube member lfahome

Teddy please don’t curse Drew Storen!

Drew Storen Washington Nationals 26A day after picking closer Drew Storen in the first round of the draft, the Washington Nationals signed the #10 overall pick to his first contract and introduced him to the fans at Nationals Park.

In a young season that has already had more than its fair share of screw-ups, the quick signing and introduction was meant to show Nats fans that Nationals management can get things right.

So what the heck were they thinking when they put their new pitcher in uniform #26?

#26 is, of course, Teddy Roosevelt’s number…
a number which the Nationals avoided issuing
Washington Nationals racing president Teddy Roosevelt wears #26, the same number issued to first round draft pick Drew Storento any player this season… a number which, frankly, should be retired until Teddy Roosevelt breaks the curse and wins the presidents race.

Hasn’t this organization had enough bad luck? Wearing #26, Teddy has easily been the most snakebitten National of all.

Lest you think the number has nothing to do with it, remember that the last Nationals player to don #26 gave Teddy a run for his money. It was outfielder Wily Mo Peña, the slugger with the .205 batting average who hit a whopping two home runs for the Nationals last season before being chased out of town.

Why curse the new kid?

Last night, Storen got a first-hand introduction to Teddy’s travails as the newest National was on hand to throw out the first pitch. In the 4th inning, the crowd went wild as Teddy broke out to a huge and seemingly insurmountable lead, but Teddy stopped just short of the finish line to pull out a sign for the cameras welcoming the new #26 to Nationals Park.

Oh Teddy…

AP photo by Gerald Herbert
Video courtesy of YouTube member lfahome

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