Why Gerardo Parra has become a surprising key for the Nationals in their World Series run
WASHINGTON -- There's a basic human desire to compare every pennant winner, and to cram their players into the same familiar bins. There's the hotshot youngster, the ringless veteran, and so on. Every fan favorite is the clubhouse bonding agent, or the human adhesive that held together a 25-player roster through a long summer and challenging fall. The mythos around these players often defy reason, yet fit perfectly in the often-illogical sports world; thus making them irresistibly easy copy.
When the Washington Nationals defeated the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday, completing a National League Championship Series sweep sending them to their first World Series, they ensured veteran outfielder Gerardo Parra was about to have renewed national relevance.
Don't laugh -- that request often prefaces these stories. Parra has become an important component on the Nationals for reasons that cannot be quantified or witnessed on the field -- usually, anyway. Parra received some of the loudest cheers of the night on Tuesday during and after a pinch-hit appearance that saw him single. It's fair to ask, why?
Parra, after all, recorded an 87 OPS+ in just over 200 plate appearances with the Nationals -- his addition coming after he was discarded by the San Francisco Giants, a team who were churning through uninspiring outfielders at a steady pace.
Part of Parra's popularity with the D.C. crowd has to do with "Baby Shark," his walk-up song that will be described as "infectious" a lot this week. The fans clap their hands like imaginary jaws, they wear shark hats, they wear shark costumes. It's Spielberg on Flintstone vitamins.
Parra is more than a fan favorite -- he is, indeed, a clubhouse treasure. "It's tough to not have fun when he's around," manager Davey Martinez said on Tuesday. "He was on [ MLB Network], and he comes in and the first thing he says, he goes, 'Man, I nailed it. My English was perfect. My name is [not Gerardo anymore], it's Gerard.'
"He started going around the clubhouse saying, 'You call me Gerard from now on."
Anibal Sanchez said Parra is "unbelievable" and that he's "funny," "happy," and "brings all the energy to the team." Even Stephen Strasburg, stoic and laconic, conceded that while he isn't "much of a hugger" he had to take it when Parra and others embraced him Monday.
One important distinction between Parra's story and most in this genre is that the Nationals seldom discuss his on-the-field value. That he's essentially a deep bench bat is accepted. The Nationals make no apologies for prioritizing his value as an energy source. And why should they? Most everyone has felt the tangible impact of a high-grade coworker, even if one cannot calculate their precise value.
Martinez brought the point home on Tuesday when he recalled a conversation he had earlier this season with Parra, who was behaving unlike himself amid a slump. "Your job is to bring the energy every day. I don't care if you're 2 for 100. Bring the energy. Play that music, get loud, and have fun," Martinez told Parra. "You're another heartbeat of this team. It's not just about you, it's about everybody else."
Perhaps that thinking is why Parra gets so much attention. He may stand out as an individual, but he does when he's considered an enhancer of every other individual.
R.J. Anderson joined CBS Sports in 2016. He previously wrote for Baseball Prospectus, where he contributed to five of the New York Times bestselling annuals. His work has also appeared in Newsweek and... Full Bio
The Washington Nationals and their fans are feeling pretty good about themselves, as they took a commanding 3-0 series lead over the St. Louis Cardinals into Tuesday's battle. This one kicked off with
The Washington Nationals are making a historic run toward their first-ever World Series, and keeping the D.C. fans cheering in the stands is not a stadium-blasting rap or rock song, it's the ever-popular children's hit,
One team's excess is another team's ecstasy. The Giants dumped Gerardo Parra after a month, and now he seems headed to the World Series as the Nationals' inspirational leader and dugout celebration administrator. The Nationals are
The Washington Nationals stole Game 2 of the National League Division Series in the MLB postseason from the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday. They'll bring momentum and a 1-1 series back to Nationals Park Sunday
More News in Sport
The Washington Nationals can be excused for their haste, rushing into the franchise's first World Series with a seven-run first inning to earn a 7-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday and finish
WASHINGTON (AP) - As the Washington Nationals moved a party 86 years in the making from their ballpark's infield to a booze-filled clubhouse, manager Dave Martinez paused near the dugout and thrust the silver NL
WASHINGTON - The deck already was stacked against the Cards. No major-league team other than the 2004 Boston Red Sox had overcome a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven postseason series to win that matchup. Furthermore, only
EditorsNote: rewords fifth and ninth grafs J.T. Miller scored two power-play goals, and Thatcher Demko made 26 saves to win his first start of the season as the Vancouver Canucks capped an unbeaten homestand
Nashville Predators center Nick Bonino celebrates after scoring against the Vegas Golden Knights during the third period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Las Vegas. The Predators won 5-2. AP Photo Pekka
WASHINGTON - It was merely the first inning, yet fans kept rising out of their seats to applaud or yell or twirl their red towels, to chant "Let's go, Nats!" and "M-V-P!" and various players'