Maybe the Nationals won’t win the 2019 World Series. And Cabrera definitely doesn’t get a standing ovation in Nationals Park on Thursday evening and waves in his Arizona Diamondbacks uniform in front of the visitors’ clubhouse. General Manager Mike Rizzo once called a title year the Jenga Tower: Take a piece out and the whole thing falls apart. However, Cabrera was more than a tiny block for the club who defeated the Houston Astros in Game 7 17 months ago. He was the first second baseman for the entire stretch run.

How did this happen? It came to the Nationals in San Francisco in August 2019, was initially moonlit and got hot on the plate. Eventually, manager Dave Martinez decided that Cabrera was a better everyday option than Brian Dozier, who signed a $ 9 million one-year deal last winter. Kendrick returned. Zimmerman too. Cabrera hit and played on.

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“Earlier this year, Texas gave me a release and I thought it was for me,” said Cabrera on Thursday afternoon before beating the Nationals 6-0 in an 11-6 win. “As soon as the Washington Nationals called me, it was really good for me. I’ve been telling my family, probably for the last three months. I’ll just have fun here and see what will happen.

“And we made the World Series and won the World Series. So I’ll never forget this year.”

His first hours after arriving in San Francisco weren’t included in Thursday night’s tribute video. It was instead filled with footage from his first stint with the team – 49 games in 2014 -, timely playoff hits in 2019, and the World Series parade. But his second term began in a cramped visitor’s clubhouse in Oracle Park. He leaned back in a chair and chatted with the then basic trainer Tim Bogar. Cabrera had a first baseman glove on his lap.

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About a week earlier, he thought his career was over. He was able to hang it up in his name with more than 6,000 record appearances. But the Nationals offered the chance to continue on one condition: he just had to learn the first base.

“I was thinking of going home,” Cabrera said of how he felt before the Nationals contacted him. “But the way I finished this year with really good numbers helped keep my head up and say that I have more inside of me.”

In January last year, he signed a $ 2.5 million one-year deal with the Nationals. And like in 2019, he had more reps than expected. Carter Kieboom’s shaky season resulted in regular third base starts for Cabrera. But in the past off-season, when seasoned bankers were still needed, the Nationals looked elsewhere.

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You have signed Josh Harrison again for a year. You also signed Zimmerman into a one-year contract. Cabrera, aiming for a major league contract, ended up with the Diamondbacks for a season and $ 1.75 million. The Nationals have now filled out their list of utility companies like Hernán Pérez and Jordy Mercer (also because Kieboom had problems again this spring and is now at the alternative location in Fredericksburg, Virginia). Cabrera’s bat would fit nicely, maybe instead of Pérez or Mercer. But in hindsight, that’s the talking.

“I’ve been waiting for this, I wouldn’t lie,” said Cabrera, because the Nationals didn’t show him any interest in preparing for spring training. “But they never called me.”

That put Cabrera in the same bucket as those who don’t get an ovation with the Nationals after the World Series. The pandemic robbed the 2020 team of celebrating as a 2019 team. Washington started last season with 19 players from the championship list. During that streak against the Diamondbacks, that number has dropped to 12.

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Gerardo Parra and Javy Guerra are at the alternative location. Cabrera, Anthony Rendon, Sean Doolittle, Adam Eaton, and Kurt Suzuki are on other teams. Dozier and Kendrick have retired. Starter Aníbal Sánchez is looking for a chance and even got some interest from the Nationals earlier this month. Fernando Rodney, 44, has to prepare for more innings somewhere.

But every year it gets harder to bring them all back together. Therefore, Cabrera was cheered on while passing through.