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Jim Riggleman's resignation minutes after a walk-off win? Doesn't get much stranger.
And make no mistake, there were some strange moments in NatsTown. There was a previously popular center fielder getting traded for a bag of peanuts days after getting into a clubhouse fight with a teammate. There was a manager resigning moments after his team won in dramatic fashion. There was an interim manager getting ejected during his first game at the helm. There was a rookie pitcher hitting a home run on the very first pitch he ever saw in the big leagues. And there was the sight of a $126 million right fielder knocking giant foam presidential caricatures to the ground, winning the nightly race himself and then declaring himself "the last remaining member of the Bull Moose Party."
Let's run through the five finalists, one bizarre moment at a time...
MARCH 27: MORGAN TRADED TO MILWAUKEE
That Nyjer Morgan and the Nationals parted ways in less-than-loving fashion was no surprise. That relationship has steadily deteriorated over the course of a year. But the manner in which Morgan left the club -- traded to the Brewers during the final week of spring training shortly after getting into a clubhouse scuffle with Jayson Werth -- was a strange (and perhaps fitting) end to the Tony Plush Era in D.C. And when Nyjer proceeded to become a cult hero in Milwaukee and help lead the Brewers to the NLCS? Well, that was the cherry on top of a truly bizarre sundae.
JUNE 23: RIGGLEMAN RESIGNS AFTER WALK-OFF WIN
A scenario for your consideration: You are manager of an up-and-coming ballclub that is on its best roll in six years. You just won for the 11th time in 12 games, this time a 1-0 walk-off victory that put your team over the .500 mark for the first time this late in the season since 2005. How do you celebrate? By resigning over a contract dispute. Hey, Jim Riggleman was too old to be disrespected like that. Whatever you thought of Riggleman's move, whether you agreed with his principle or believe he committed career suicide, on one point no one can disagree: That was one of the strangest things you'll ever see in baseball.
JUNE 24: McLAREN EJECTED IN FIRST GAME AS MANAGER
On the other hand, Riggleman's replacement manager getting ejected one night later made for a truly bizarre scene itself. Tasked with running the club for the weekend in Chicago until Davey Johnson could take over on a permanent basis, John McLaren gave the Nationals everything he had. And then some. With an epic tirade after a blown call at first base, McLaren was ejected and then made contact with an umpire. (MLB wound up officially suspending him for a game ... even though he was no longer managing or even in uniform.) Oh yeah, then there was that night's game, in which the Nationals bullpen blew three saves in four innings ... and still wound up winning 9-5 in the 14th!
SEPT. 3: MILONE HOMERS IN MLB DEBUT
Every young pitcher dreams about his major-league debut. He envisions himself striking out the very first batter he faces, carrying a shutout into the seventh inning and then perhaps departing to a standing ovation and tipping his cap to the adoring masses. But how many pitchers dream about hitting a home run on the very first pitch they ever see in the big leagues? Tommy Milone created a memory for the ages when he took the Mets' Dillon Gee deep in the bottom of the second, sending the Nationals Park crowd of 34,821 into pandemonium. A truly special moment for Milone and the Nats. But also a truly bizarre one.
SEPT. 24: WERTH WINS PRESIDENTS RACE
Jayson Werth's disdain for the nightly presidents race -- or, more specifically, his disdain for the running gag that prevents Teddy Roosevelt from ever winning -- had been well-known since early in the season. But in the second-to-last home game of the year, Werth decided to take matters into his own hands. During the fourth-inning race, he attempted to hold back Tom Jefferson and the other racing presidents, clearing a path for Teddy. Except this only resulted in all the presidents crashing to the ground in a heap of giant foam heads and flailing human legs. So Werth figured his only choice was to run the rest of the race himself, raising his arms in triumph as he crossed the finish line. Afterward, the erudite right fielder displayed his impressive knowledge of American history. "I'm the last remaining member of the Bull Moose Party, I guess," he said. How many ballplayers have you ever heard use that line?
So there you have it: The five strangest moments of the year in NatsTown. It's time for you to vote. Scroll back up to the top of the page and click on the poll in the upper right-hand corner.
And with that, we say farewell to 2011. See you next year!