The end of the Nationals’ season brought with it so many unknowns. The abrupt nature of it leads the mind to wander. Players wonder when they’ll get another chance. If they will. The reflection on eight-plus months of work and 167 games of baseball makes the end seem much more harsh when it arrives unceremoniously.
And for some, the end might be just that. Sitting at his locker in the back corner of the Nationals’ clubhouse Friday night, Mark DeRosa, 37, pondered the future. His future.
“I really don’t know,” he said. “I refuse to give in and say ‘I’m done.’ I’ll let the powers that be make those decisions. I still think I can be valuable. I’m also honest with myself and realize the last three years since I got hurt pales in comparison to what I’m capable of doing. If the phone rings I’ll listen, if it doesn’t, I’ll move on.”
Next to him, outfielder Michael Morse slipped on a hooded sweatshirt and looked over at DeRosa.
“You’re gonna have to pull the jersey off his back,” Morse said. DeRosa smiled.
“Of course I want to keep playing,” he said. “I’m in great shape and feel like I can contribute. But the numbers say otherwise since I thrashed my wrist up pretty good. We’ll see. I didn’t think the phone was going to ring this offseason and it did. I got a chance to be a part of a great team and a great group of guys and a team that’s going to be in the playoffs for a long time to come so, we’ll see.
“I’ll let the game dictate whether or not it wants me to keep playing.”
DeRosa dealt with an oblique injury early in the season and his recovery from it was complicated by his father suffering a recurrence of cancer. He passed away in June and the Nationals became DeRosa’s salvation, being around them helped keep him sane through it just as much as he helped keep their youthful team on track. In 48 games, DeRosa hit .188 this season.
“We’ll see,” he said. “I had a blast this year. This is the first time in my career I ever hit a buck-eighty and had fun, to be honest.”
The question of retirement hung over him as it ended, though. He hadn’t been given any indications that the Nationals might welcome him back in a bench role again for 2014 and with the emergence of some of their younger players like Tyler Moore and Steve Lombardozzi the need for him appears to be less than it was at this time last year.
DeRosa watched former teammates Chipper Jones and Kerry Wood ride off into the sunset this year to rousing ovations and emotional sendoffs. He knows he’s not that type of player, but he’s still unsure if he’s ready to process the end.
“I’m kind of in a weird state,” he said. “I don’t know if this is the last time I put on a uni. I don’t know if I’m OK with that yet. I don’t know if anyone is. We’ll see. I’ll go home and listen.”
In the silence of the Nationals post-game clubhouse there wasn’t much about his own future he could speak on with certainty. He’d go home to Atlanta, celebrate his son’s third birthday and figure it out from there. He was, however, sure of what he’d witnessed this season.
“I see this team doing great things,” DeRosa said. “I sit there as a position player and say ‘Where do I fit?Where would I fit on this team?’ The eight spots are pretty locked down for a while. Hopefully Adam (LaRoche) gets a chance to come back. I know he loves it here. What Bryce (Harper) did was amazing. For a 19-year-old to do what he did was absolutely amazing. So many great memories I’ll take from it.”
“I’m just sad for these guys,” he added after a long, contemplative pause. “That’s the thing for me. I’ve done it for a long time and been on both sides of it. I think that’s the frustrating thing. This team had enough talent and enough immaturity to maybe win the whole thing. That’s what I was excited about. The chance to go up against San Francisco and the chance to go to the World Series. That’s the tough part.”