Washington Nationals relief pitcher Drew Storen throws during the ninth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals of game four of the 2012 NLDS at Nationals Park (Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)
Each week, wusa*9 Sports Anchor Dave Owens examines sports related topics in an opinion column for wusa9.com. The following is his column for the week of Feb. 11th.
VIERA, Fla. (WUSA)- Athletes learn a saying early in their tutelage: "don't be THAT guy." In other words, don't be the reason the team lost the game. The weight of those words become even heavier the bigger the game.
Drew Storen has been carrying around that albatross since last October, the night he held that precious baseball in his hand and couldn't hold a two-run lead in the 9th inning. The DMV knows the story well. A six run lead turns into a historic collapse. Storen wasn't solely responsible; he was just the last man on the line.
And because of that, he had to answer the questions. How did this team's closer not close the deal? With two outs nonetheless? Those were hard questions to answer that night. But he was professional in doing so.
Four months later, Storen has had time to reflect. "I'm definitely through it," he said during our sit down one-on-one interview. "It just takes time and it's a matter of turning it into a learning process."
To his credit, Storen gave no excuses: "I know what I was signing myself up for (being a closer) it can either go one way or the other. "
The night of October 12th, 2012 it went the other way and the moment still cuts deep. The 25-year old Indianapolis native openly admits his biggest regret. "I felt bad because I felt like I let those guys (teammates) down," he said.
But those teammates and Natitude nation never wavered in their support of Storen. "The amount of support I received from those guys and the fans during the offseason has been incredible for me because, like I said, I wish it turned out differently," said Storen. "But there's not really a whole lot I can do about it now, what I can control is what I'm going to do this year."
Speaking of this year, Storen is already facing adversity and real baseball games haven't even begun yet. Management made an offseason acquisition that directly affected his position, signing Rafael Soriano to a two-year deal -- making the former Yankee the richest reliever in baseball this season.
"It kind of caught me off guard because I wasn't communicated with," said Storen. "But immediately I knew it was going to be big opportunities for me because I know how Davey (Johnson) runs his bullpen." Storen is referencing Johnson's tendency in the past to rely on multiple relievers to close. But General Manager has Mike Rizzo has stated he expects Soriano to be the team's primary closer. So when I asked Storen is he was ok with being a setup guy, he replied, "Absolutely. Being the setup guy for a winning team is better than being a closer for a losing team."
It takes maturity to say things like that. Storen could be in contempt of it all and many would certainly understand. But his demeanor in Viera has been what Nationals fans have come to expect: confident and yet approachable with the smile they've come to know.
Storen admits he's ultra-competitive so the last four months for him have most likely been a hell most weekend warrior jocks could never know. But it says a lot about who he is that, at least publicly, he's handling it. Part of growing that thick closer skin I suppose. And if there is a championship run in this Nationals team, one hopes Storen is around to be a part of it.