I know I am late to the game on this one, but better late than never. On October 10th, the Washington Mystics defeated the Connecticut Sun 89-78 in game five of the WNBA finals to win their first league title. 20 days later, the Washington Nationals defeated the Houston Astros 6-2 in game seven of the World Series to win their first championship in DC. I’m sure many fans are still recovering from the stress of two winner take all games in a three week period. All of this has happened less than two years after the Washington Capitals won their first Stanley Cup. It may not be the history of a sports city like Boston or Los Angeles, but for Washington DC this is about as a good as it has been. Let’s take a look at each team’s path to victory and what will happen to them next.
For the Nationals, their World Series victory brings an end to a stretch of incredible frustration. From 2012 to 2017, they finished first in the division four times, only to be knocked out of the playoffs after one series each time. It was too talented of a team to have zero NLCS appearances. 2018 was a down year, and the talented (albeit polarizing) Bryce Harper departed in the off-season. That loss plus to previous year’s struggles led to tempered expectations. After a 19-31 start, those concerns were justified, but once the team got healthy they caught fire and never looked back. They were the best team by record in the MLB after May 31st, and we can include the playoffs with that now. SP Stephen Strasburg won World Series MVP, 3B Anthony Rendon was a borderline MVP, and talented young players Juan Soto and Victor Robles made their mark.
Moving forward, I do not expect a repeat performance right away. Strasburg and Rendon are likely to be elsewhere in 2020, and ace Max Scherzer will turn 36 in the middle of next season. Fellow starters Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez are also north of 30. There is still plenty of exciting talent in Soto, Robles, Trea Turner, and Carter Kieboom. The pitching will continue to be strong despite the age, but probably not quite the same level. Overall I expect competitive performances and perhaps a wild card birth, but back to back World Series victories is unlikely.
The Mystics started of their existence with little success. In their first 15 seasons, they missed the playoffs nine times and only won one playoff series. They had three consecutive first round exits from 2013-2015, and then fell short again in 2016. Starting in 2017, with the arrival of star forward Elena Delle Donne, the Mystics became a true contender. They had a nice playoff run in 2017, followed by their first WNBA finals appearance in 2018 (lost to the Seattle Storm), and then their first league championship last month. They also finished first overall during the regular season for just the 2nd time in franchise history. Delle Donne won league MVP, forward Emma Meesseman won finals MVP, and guards Ariel Atkins and Natasha cloud were both voted to the 2nd team all-WNBA defense squad.
For the future, I would expect the team to remain equally competitive. The way contracts appear to work in the WNBA, it does not appear difficult to keep players together. Even if the team throws a (relative) ton of money at Delle Donne, they should still have enough salary cap space to bring back their other free agents. Assuming they can re-sign Meesseman, Kristi Tolliver, and Ariel Powers, this team will be a title contender in 2020.
The Capitals won their title last year, so I will not go in depth on their victory. Similar to the Nationals, they had a stretch where they were one of the best teams in their sport, but could not put it together in the playoffs. The Caps were a dominant regular season team, finishing first in their division seven times from 2007 to 2017. The stars finally aligned, and they won their first Stanley Cup. As for moving forward, we can talk about that in the present tense. The 2018-2019 was successful minus the fact that they were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. Through 25 games this season, the Caps have the best record in the NHL, and appear to be title contenders yet again. In the coming years, as Alex Ovechkin ages and salary restraints take hold, the team may fall back to the pack. For now, things are looking promising for another playoff run.
There was a long stretch of time in recent memory where Washington DC was considered one of the worst sports cities in the country. They had not won a championship in the four major sports since 1991, and only DC United had won a title in this millennium before 2018. Now the city has broken multiple curses and not only has added three championships, but has teams fighting for more. Of course we have to address the Redskins and Wizards, who are not exactly taking their respective leagues by storm. Barring some miracles, it may be a while before they are championship contenders. Still, DC has something to proud of in the sports world. That will do it for this post. Thanks for reading, and we will see you next time on the IE Sports Radio Blog, your blog for all that is sports.