I looked into Ian Desmonds's eyes as he stood in the batters box. DRIVE.
I looked into Jordan Zimmermann's eyes as he leaned forward on the mound. FOCUS.
I looked into Anthony Rendon's eyes as he inched in, waiting for the bunt. DETERMINATION.
I remember the last time I stared into this team's soul to gauge whether they were ready to take the next step. It was October of 2012 and what I saw left me somewhere between frightened and revolted. Gio Gonzalez's eyes? APATHY. Ryan Zimmerman's? DOUBT. Jayson Werth's? FEAR. Despite leading the majors with 98 wins, and taking Game 1 of the NLDS I not only knew they were going to lose, I knew that they SHOULD lose. They didn't deserve to win anything. They weren't a team. They were a collection of cowards who happened to get lucky over and over and over and over and over again.
I was proven right the next year when they failed to make the playoffs, a clear indication of a team that couldn't play the right way when they had the weight of a target on their back, something that all true winners need to be able to do. Not only was this bunch feeling the pressure of being the lead dog and trying too hard, they were thinking winning would just come to them and they weren't trying hard enough. It takes a special team of failures to manage that double.
It continued into 2014 when they sputtered around for the first half of the season just because they had a couple of boo-boos. They would go on to take 1st place soon after and my feeling for them started to turn a little. Still, I could tell they still wouldn't fit in the World Series. They might end up winning a lot of games and making it, but it wouldn't be right, you know? Even if they could find success through talent, this wasn't a championship TEAM. They might earn it on the field, but they hadn't earned it yet in their hearts.
It wasn't until they started winning ALOT did I see the change in their demeanor, in their manner, in their very essence. Shows of anger after big outs no longer meant the players were letting emotions get the best of them, they now meant the the players cared. Fun celebrations and smiles in the clubhouse were no longer displays of being content with minor successes, they were signs of looseness on the big stage. It takes a trained baseball mind who has spent years watching the sport to notice those changes, but they were apparent to anyone that knows this wonderful game.
It was then after that big 10-0 run that I saw that they were finally a team that if they ended up in the World Series I wouldn't retch with disgust at their good fortune. Teams don't luck into winning a lot. You don't just bring together your roster healthy for the first time all year, expectedly play better in every aspect of the game, and wins follow as if the baseball gods sprinkled fairy dust on you. No, winning like the Nats have recently... that's a sign of something bigger, something your fancy WARS and BOBOPs can't measure. It's a sign that this group of dirt dogs and red asses is utterly and completely, in the depths of its very being, A World Series Team.
Unless they start losing a bunch or get swept in that first playoff series. Then they are losers who tricked me.