The Cardinals left town yesterday, and the Nationals have moved on to the next series (the Nats beat the Reds 8-1 Thursday night).
But I’m not ready to move on. There’s still one piece of unfinished business: Pete Kozma.
The 2012 Nationals were a team of destiny. Three seasons removed from the worst record in baseball, a talented young corps emerged at just the right time, won 98 games, and united a city. When Jayson Werth hit a walk-off home run in Game 4, it promised to be the signature moment during an inevitable march to the World Series. Only one man stood in the way–a 24 year-old unheralded rookie with 89 career at-bats. A man named Pete Kozma.
A compelling story, if any of it were actually true.
Pete Kozma had very little do with the Nationals NLDS loss last season. I previously examined in his role in Game 5, and why Nationals fans should blame someone else for that loss. I won’t rehash those reasons here.
But I will address the phenomenon of scapegoating. Human beings have a natural inclination to find a scapegoat after disappointment and defeat. Red Sox fans for years blamed Bill Buckner and Bucky Dent for their lengthy championship drought. Cubs fans blame Steve Bartman and, coincidentally, a goat. Fans choose scapegoats because its easier than facing the uncomfortable facts. In this case, the Nationals lost the NLDS because their pitchers blew it. The team was outscored 20-4 in games 2 and 3. They had a 6-0 lead in Game 5. There are many people responsible for their stunning loss in the series.
But I think the Pete Kozma hatred runs deeper than the desire to scapegoat. It’s part of a fan base seeking an identity. It’s a team with no particular history discovering that it suddenly has history. One year ago, Nationals fans didn’t have a Pete Kozma to hate because they had never even seen a playoff series. No one will admit it, but it’s kind of fun to have a Pete Kozma. People boo him, not because it’s painful, but because it reminds them how close they really were.
- Pete Kozma and the Nationals from the Cardinal’s TV Side (halfstreetheartattack.com)
- Your Collection of Pete Kozma Tweets (halfstreetheartattack.com)
- 5 People Nationals Fans Should Blame More Than Pete Kozma (halfstreetheartattack.com)