Tag Archives: washington nationals

BUZZ SAW by Jesse Dougherty

Last fall, something magical happened in DC. The Washington Nationals, who had started the 2019 baseball season with the pathetic record of 19-31, beat the odds to make it to the World Series. They dispensed with formidable opponents along the way, notably the Milwaukee Brewers and the Los Angeles Dodgers, leading to a World Series against the Houston Astros, who had one of the best records in baseball and a scary lineup of ace pitchers. Buzz Saw: The Improbable Story Of How The Washington Nationals Won The World Series, written by Washington Post Nationals beat reporter Jesse Dougherty, chronicles the 2019 season from sad start to glorious finish, delving along the way into the personal histories and unlikely plays that made the Nats’ journey even more meaningful and historic.

Why I picked it up: I am a huge Nats fan, and I can’t resist any chance to relive the 2019 postseason. It was amazing!

Buzz Saw goes month by month through the baseball season, explaining how unexpected the streak was. The Nats had the oldest roster in MLB, with some players who had considered retirement before getting picked up by Washington. Some were overcoming injuries from the season before. And there were also young stars on the team, like Victor Robles and Juan Soto, who brought explosive raw talent to the Nats. As the wins piled up, the team worked to overcome its most glaring deficiency – the bullpen – trying different combinations and bringing in Daniel Hudson to offer relief to overworked starters like Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasberg.

And then, of course, came the postseason, the many elimination games, the come-from-behind wins, the heroics of Howie Kendrick and Juan Soto and the clutch pitching. Ah, it was all so good! And so unexpected. And so much fun to experience. Buzz Saw brings it all back. And in a summer without baseball until just a few weeks ago, it was a great reminder of a season that feels like a lot more than 9 months ago.

I read Buzz Saw out loud with my son, so I guess I read it and did it on audio. The narration (me) – not great. The book is well-written. I like Dougherty’s writing style a lot – lively and descriptive – but I suspect that its publication was rushed to make an Opening Day deadline (or what was supposed to be Opening Day) and it could have used another round of copy editing, as I found a lot of typos and small mistakes. Overall, though, a really fun read.

So would you care about this book if you weren’t a big Nats fan? Hard to say. If you’re a hardcore baseball fan and/or enjoy underdog stories, then you might enjoy Buzz Saw as much as I did.

Buzz Saw was Book #32 of 2020. It satisfies the Book About Sports category of the 2020 Everyday I Write The Book Reading Challenge.

THE GRIND by Barry Svrluga

If you don’t like baseball, stop reading right now.

The Grind, by Washington Post sports reporter Barry Svrluga, is a collection of long articles about the 162-game baseball season, told through the prism of the Washington Nationals. The book opens in winter 2014 with an article about The Veteran, a longtime baseball player getting ready to start spring training. It then moves to The Wife, a chapter about what it’s like to try to raise a family when you’re married to a baseball player who is on the road so much of the year. Other chapters are devoted to baseball scouts, starting pitchers, the players who go back and forth from the majors to the minors, the players who seem to hold the team together, the guys who are in charge of getting all the players and equipment where they need to be (and so much more), relief pitchers and general managers. The book roughly covers the chronology of one year in the life of the baseball team, from winter 2014 to winter 2015.

If you’re a baseball fan, The Grind is a great read, and if you’re a Washington Nationals fan, The Grind is a must-read.

I have always enjoyed going to baseball games, and I’ve been a Nats fan since they came to DC, but in recent years I have become pretty much obsessed with the game and the Nats. I can’t get enough of them. So I loved reading The Grind. I got a lot of behind-the-scenes information, which I have always craved, and I loved hearing the different perspectives of the people that make up the team, even beyond players. I also came away with a new appreciation for the drudgery of the season. Yes, the players make it look fun, and it’s certainly an enviable career in so many ways – most make a ton of money doing something fun. But there are a lot of challenges, and it’s hard to stay focused and in shape for that many days on end, especially if you’re losing.

I loved The Grind. If you’ve read this far, you probably will too. Svrluga’s writing flows nicely and his journalistic style is perfect for the subject.

Svrluga was at Politics & Prose for a Q&A a few weeks ago. I was planning to write up the Q&A here, but it’s very Nats-focused so it might not have a wide appeal to this audience. 🙂 Suffice it to say, it was a packed house and it went on well beyond the allotted hour. People have a lot to say about baseball!