Will the Nationals Let Teddy Roosevelt Win?

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The campaign has been around for a while now, those T-shirts that say "Let Teddy Win!" dotted throughout the crowd at every Washington Nationals game.

But only now, as the Nationals dive into playoff baseball, has the mantra got some bite.

At its worst, the Teddy-Never-Wins tradition at Nationals Park is a conspiracy that goes straight to the top, involving the president himself (four of them, really, all deceased).

How did it start? A knowledgeable source -- who spoke to me strictly on background in accordance with the standard-bearing rules of Washington political journalism -- told me that it started simply because Teddy wasn't winning those races around the warning track in the middle of the fourth inning.

This was back in the old days. The Nats' new park had just opened. Ryan Zimmerman hit a walk-off home run to christen the park, remember? And Teddy wasn't winning the Presidents Race.

So someone on the Nationals PR team floated this pitch: What if we never let Teddy win?

And he hasn't since. The fate of a famed president held in the clutches of a marketing ploy, in for a rough ride if he ever was ready -- for 81 games every year he has face planted, been duped by the trickery of the other Rushmore greats, run the wrong way, or just been too slow.

So will Teddy win Wednesday evening, the last game of the regular season? The Nats have been teasing it -- launching their own Teddy 2012 campaign, mocking us believers. They hand out fake "eye black" to fans with Teddy's name. They want us to like the perennial loser. So if I had to hedge, I'd say -- no, he won't win Wednesday night.

But maybe he will on the first home game of the playoffs.

Nobody but a select few in the presidents' inner circle know if Teddy will ever win. I asked a super awesome source with the Nationals today if he will, and my contact blocked me on Gchat. Mike Rizzo, the king of the Nationals, the man who signed underage golden boy Bryce Harper and indestructible cannon Stephen Strasburg, was asked the same question — and he said, "That's above my pay grade."

It's not surprising that the presidential footrace has grabbed attention beyond Washington. It is, after all, what the Nationals announcer says at every game -- "the main event."