Saturday, June 30, 2007
Friday, June 29, 2007
Boz caught a little flak for his 'tism-dripping column on Monday (we hear ya, man), but that doesn't mean he was wrong. Back then, he was writing about how the Nats bounced back from a demoralizing series against the Tigers and took 2 of 3 from the Indians. Surely this bounce-back attitude is even more important now, as the series-from-hell (maybe even below hell) against Atlanta was arguably even more brutal. Thus, time for another bounce-back. Playing the part of Cleveland will be Pittsburgh.
Premier Stan picks up the shared award for his comments (quoted right in Boz's column, how convenient) expressing confidence in GM Jim Bowden and our hero (reverent silence), Manny Acta. Kasten rightly gave Bowden his proverbial props for putting together this lineup (these "pieces") in the face of a rebuild-and-damn-the-present climate. And in Manny, "we've found a manager that can manage." What else do you need?
For Stan's assurance that the two most important non-player positions on the club are secure and, more importantly, well-manned, and for Boz's never-ending willingness to point out that, despite bad stretches such as the Nats have experienced recently, they continue to defy expectations, we have our first shared MAO of the Week.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
We accept the challenge. We will spin this until we are stupid dizzy and we will find the reason(s) to not fall into despair. While sympathizing with natural and understandable reactions, we realize that we must be ever-positive. So even though you took away go-to 'Tism points such as Dmitri Young getting a hit and not being shut out (you even demoted Brandon Watson), we will, as always, defend you and remain your loyal fans.
It happens to everyone. The Yankees have had three five-game losing streaks this season. And they have a payroll of $3.7 trillion. Yes, losing 9 out of 12 hurts, but it might simply be that time of the season for the Nats to temporarily take a dunk in the toilet. They're bound to get out of it, one way or another.
A more experienced, perhaps more expensive team, one that is less ravaged by injury, might be able to ride it out for an extra win or two. These Nats, however, are balancing on a razor-thin edge to begin with. They can only take so much. To paraphrase The Simpsons, this season started on a wing and a prayer, but now the wing is on fire, and the prayer has been answered...by Satan. The four out of five starting pitchers injured was bad. Maybe the Guzman injury just pushed them over the edge, for now.
A team such as the afformentioned Yankees, with their $6.2 trillion payroll, cannot afford to use injury as an excuse for poor performance. We at DCO submit that a team such as the Nationals, universally derided as awful when completely healthy and with a miniscule payroll, absolutely can use injury as a completely legitimate excuse for (temporarily) poor play. When your starters are supposed to be wretched, surely you must be excused if, even after your subs have played remarkably for a month and a half, you encounter a rough spot such as this. Thus, these recent losses, unlike the great post-May 10 string of success, can be written off as fluky aberrations.
It can't, and won't, last much longer. As hard as it might be for some to admit, the Nationals are better than that.
In a celebration of sorts for our 100th post, we take a look at the overall picture of several DC teams and their (surprise) blindingly bright futures (and in some cases, presents).
We already know how the draft went (brilliantly, for those of you who don't want to click the link). We also know how they were intelligent this off-season and didn't indulge in the usual orgy of overspending. The (relatively) minimal turnover, especially in the coaching ranks, plus a schedule that should not be (in theory) impossibly difficult, a healthy lineup featuring what should be one of the most feared backfields in the league, and all key players reporting to camp without incident equal big things.
We've commented on them more than any other team, partially because it is baseball season and partially because their leader is so in line with our thinking. Manny Acta lives optimism, and brings it to the field, the clubhouse, and pledge-your-allegiance commercials during Nats games.
Of all local teams, this one could have the brightest future, despite their current situation. With The Plan churning along unstoppably, and with a present team that has played superbly so far this season, one in which they were almost-unanimously projected to be historically horrendous, the future is nowhere but up. As has been described more eloquently elsewhere, these Nationals have faced so much crap (we won't use that horridly overused term "adversity") this year, mostly in the form of cruel injuries to key players at most positions, that often one wonders if somebody has it out for them, and truly means for them to be the worst team of all time. But they won't go quietly, or at all, even as that DL full of players who were supposed to comprise the worst-ever team doesn't get any smaller.
Watch out in '08 and beyond.
Perhaps no other local team inspires as much cynicism in their fans as the Caps. We're not sure why that is. Maybe it's the (temporary) lack of a Stanley Cup championship, the well-documented-and-discussed playoff...incidents, or those heavily hyped moody "superstars" who didn't really want to play here in the first place (but eagerly took the big money; who wouldn't?) and who, along with an interesting head coach, left us only with one failed playoff appearance before being shipped off with the rest of the overpriced ballast. Pick any or none of the above, but the end result is a fanbase in desperate need of something positive to latch on to.
There are three obvious such positives: Alex O., Alex S., and Calder-Trophy-winner-in-waiting Niklas Backstrom. Perhaps only slightly less obvious are: the maturing leadership of Captain Chris Clark (30 more goals this season, guaranteed), the emergence of Boyd Gordon as a top-tier shutdown forward, and a deep pool of young defensemen whose time is coming (the franchise is so stacked at the AHL level that it has to translate to success at the NHL level, right?).
While there is skepticism in some quarters over the ability (or desire) of the Caps to add that coveted big-name free agent come Sunday, the immediate reaction should not be panic if Chris Drury isn't donning red, white and blue by sunset. We may feel slightly saddened if Daniel Briere is, since, his point-producing prowess aside, we don't dig the groin-spearing. Still, even though he should probably go someplace like Philadelphia, where we can all keep disliking him in peace (and possibly watch that dislike grow and mature), if by some miracle he ends up in DC, we'll...deal...with...it.
Regardless, there are quality players and trade scenarios out there. One particularly delicious hypothetical situation has Drury going to San Jose, who could in turn be willing to deal Patrick Marleau. Even a slightly above average center like Mike Comrie or Viktor Kozlov would constitute a significant upgrade. Then there's just the matter of finding that elite defenseman everyone is clammoring for. So let's wait and see. Something good can, and likely will, come of this offseason.
Also, the uniform: still continuing to grow on us. Looking good.
Flat out, they were robbed this past season. Robbed, perhaps, by that same force that may or may not be conspiring to keep the Nationals downtrodden. Noted optimism-haters seemed to forget that point while kicking the team in their collective ribs as they valiantly struggled against the "Chosen One" and the Cleveland Cavs in the playoffs.
These same optimism-haters failed to regard the Gilbert Arenas opt-out as the non-story that it was, and seem to somehow think that the Wiz are facing some sort of dire dilemma heading into the NBA draft. It's a silly perception, of course, for there is no real dilemma. The core of the team is strong. They were cruising through the East before tragedy struck at the knees. Tweak, but don't blow up, the team and watch the playoff run unfold.
Sure, it looked bleak early on. But things have come around nicely, and the United find themselves right in the middle of the Eastern Conference, only five points out of first (with a game in hand). They only recently lost for the first time in two months, and have scrubby Colorado up next tomorrow to get back on the right track (no comments please about scrubby Real Salt Lake).
We mentioned that they were looking good at 1-8. They are well on their way to the next Nationals-inspired milestone of 9-25, at which point they will dramatically turn their season around and once again pack 'em in to Verizon Center.
So thanks everyone for reading at one point or another over the first 100 posts. Thanks especially to those who have given our hit counter a boost by mentioning us in blogs or wherever else: Dan Steinberg of the Bog, Chris Needham over at Capitol Punishment, Pradamaster at Bullets Forever, and the dude abides, amongst others. Thanks also to the Caps and their tremendous media relations staff for granting us a bit of legitimacy in inviting us to the uniform unveiling and taking great care of us.
End of Sugary Thank-You Session and of Clip-Show-Like Post.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
The news on Hill has, of course, since turned out to be positive, but there still is the loss of our resurgent Guzzy and the slightly spiritless loss yesterday. That the Brandon Watson Watch has to be re-set to 0 makes it hurt that much more. In that light, we try to find the positives from yesterday:
1. Jason Bergmann - The obvious high point. Only four innings, but only one run. Considering the little jam he found himself in during that fateful fourth inning, it could have been much worse, but he pulled himself out of it. Sure he got tired fast, but nothing indicated the bottom was dropping out of his magnificant season with the sub-3.00 ERA.
2. Billy Traber - But wait, didn't he give up the three-run homer that blew open the close game? Sure, but really that's just because of one slightly hanging curve. Until that point, he was getting that wicked little pitch past just about everyone. It's unfortunate that he had to pay such a high price for that one less-than-great pitch (and even more a shame that the ball couldn't have been hit at RFK, where it would have died a grisly death at the warning track).
3. Ronnie Belliard - He'll step in at second while Felipe moves over to cover short. While not having Guzman's .329 average in the lineup will hurt, Ronnie's no slouch. He had a nice double yesterday, and he can pick up at least some of the slack left by our would-have-been Comeback Player of the Year.
4. Brian Schneider - He went 3 for 4, including a double in the ninth when all was basically lost. His batting average is now at .251, higher than even Ryan Zimmerman.
5. Dmitri Young - Keeps getting hits. Still batting .338. No need for all-star ballot fraud here. He's a deserving candidate who should somehow make the game based on his accomplishments (perhaps a new Comeback Player of the Year?).
6. Team Resiliency - They've already shown they can be competitive with most of their starting pitching rotation down in an injured heap, now apparently they must pass the test of having one of their best hitters out (and let's not forget that Nick Johnson is still nowhere to be found in this lineup). They've come this far with bafflingly cruel injuries, so what's one more on the pile?
7. No Errors - Yes, we're recycling points from last week now, but it's still true: no errors last night. It's worth pointing out any time it happens.
8. They're not the White Sox - What the hell happened there?
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Now, we have previously explored how 'Tism can affect the course of human events, and we seem to have more confirming evidence here. For what did ChairManny find in the ninth inning today? His closer on the mound in the ninth inning with a two-run lead. And as the theme of redemption rolls on this season, Chad Cordero delivered, even overcoming a brief scare caused by a wild throw on a would-be double play.
Thus the Nationals have a big series win against Cleveland, one badly needed after the, um, events of the Detroit series. Just when things were starting to look bleak again, with the team losing five of six and perhaps finally succumbing to the expectations that they be a pushover last-place team, 'Tism pulled them back. Bring on the squabbling Braves (yes, they claim to have made up, but our optimism towards our own teams is only matched by our pessimism towards others, so we don't believe it).
The impressive season debut of Brandon Watson should not be lost in all of this. He has now hit in three straight games since going 0-3 on June 20 against Detroit. Is he perhaps setting the table for an encore to his minor league hitting feats? Only 40 games left (and maybe 13 beyond that?) until we know for sure.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Friday, June 22, 2007
As for Marc, he who earlier pledged to get the new logo emblazoned on his neck or calf, well, he chose the neck.
Karl Alzner. He's big (6'2", 206 lbs.), he stays at home defensively (as the blogger does), and he looks like a thoroughbred. "Al," (as in "Iafrate") models his game after Chris Pronger and Niklas Lidstrom as opposed to Sergei Gonchar, who no one should model their game after. He even wears number 27 in honor of recent Conn Smythe trophy winner Scott Niedermeyer. As the Caps' time on the clock wore down, the DCO braintrust discussed the possibility of a Niedermeyer-Pronger package in exchange for the #5 pick, but the deal was likely rejected due to Alzner's embodiment of both players simultaneously.
A word on the uniform: It's no coincidence that the letter "T" is most prominent. The DCO has no doubt that this "T" represents the mantra that is sweeping the area: 'TISM (the dot on the "i" represents the apostrophe).
Just a half-hour to the big "unveiling." It's starting to get busy around here. Rumors of trades and, maybe more interestingly, loyal fans updating their Caps tattoos. Marc Duff (left arm pictured, right) is waiting for a tattoo artist (currently reported to be "on Pennsylvania Avenue") to add some new ink, possibly "on the neck or calf." Further details as events warrant.
Thanks to our new buddy Dan Steinberg for covering this important story on WP live.
Update: Ted Leonsis just stopped in to inform us that there are in fact THREE such fans willing to defile their bodies in honor of the new look.
BOB: The DC Optimist team scurries about the Kettler Iceplex batting eyes at Dan Steinberg and Jill Sorenstam, making friends with people from the internet and thinking of funny things to ask the players without them wanting to punch us. There is a copious amount of FREE name-brand soda, potato chips and perky employees clad in brand new (formerly secret) Capitals logo polos. Things are roped off for us.
Chris Clark, when asked what the team needs to compete for a championship next year, said "not much." The essence of 'Tism. Preach it, Chris.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Well, I guess we should have waited an hour or so before calling speculation over the new Capitals' uniform "pointless" in our last post. It turns out those Internet rumors were presenting the real deal after all. So much for the Big Surprise tomorrow at the Kettler Capitals Ice Complex.
Our opinion of the new look can perhaps be best summed up in the initial reaction of a DCO member a couple of days ago, when first viewing the "leaked" jersey: we don't hate it. Despite the views of numerous negative commentators on Capitals Insider, we actually think it's a pretty good look. Yes, it goes back to the old days, but is that necessarily so bad, so bad that so many people have to write something as clever as "excuse me while I vomit" when writing about the uniform? While it may be natural to initially have a negative reaction to such a drastic change, to not even give the new look a chance to, as cliched as it sounds, grow on you, is a bit much. It's grown on us the past few days and, judging by comments on sites where less-self-flagellating fans hang out, it's growing on others (sure, plenty of others dislike it, too, but what do you expect?).
Another take on this situation might be to ask the question: why must somebody always seek out to ruin a little surprise such as this one? While part of us may applaud or admire the enterprising "fan" who cracked in to the Caps web site to find this little unrevealed gem (or hunk of crap, whatever your preference may be), we must ask: why? Is it too much to wait a couple of extra days to end the suspense in proper press-conference-revealed fashion? Part of the blame is of course with whoever made the design so hacker-vulnerable in the first place, but it would be nice to not have to worry about such things.
Regardless, the new look is out now, so all us Caps fans have to ask: is it so terrible that we must change our loyalties? Should we just be thankful that our team is not the mustard-garbed Nashville Predators or the truly horrendously dressed Florida Panthers? Or should we withhold vitriol (and perhaps even gushing praise) until this one settles in, and maybe until we see it in action? Whatever the case is, don't jump on the team just because your initial reaction to the new logo isn't positive, and at the very least hope for big things on draft day tomorrow, and in the all-important free agency period to come.
Is George McPhee ready to pull the trigger with a package to bring to Washington a missing piece such as Joni Pitkanen, as one commentator suggested (a -25 for the Flyers last year, but we'll look past that to his +37 total for the two years previous)? Regardless, this could be a sign that the Caps are ready to deal in the pre-free agent period for somebody who can make the proverbial "contribution now" and make this team decisively better in '07-'08. Perhaps. Again, like the uniforms, we shall see.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Cat Deely (in swarthy British accent, towering over Dan Snyder): Weeeelcome to another edition of SO you THINK YOU can MaNAGE!!! pre-teen crowd roars. Tuh-dayee, we are goooowing to analyze the recent player acquisitions of the Warshington RIdskins!! pre-teen crowd again roars. With us again are the the world famous JERDGES including the dippy choreographers and Nigel Lythgoe, the weirdo producer of the show whose creepy glances towards the teenage contestants seem to linger a bit too long! Now that the Redskins off-season is heading to a cloooowzzz, it is time for hack online columnists to hand out grades to each team for their on-the-paper performances! And we are no different in our superficial analysis! So without fur-ther a-dooow, LET GET JERDGING! Beginning with the skins' recent draft, lets hand it over to Shane Sparks!
Shane Sparks (buried underneath a fitted cap that matches his muscle-tight hardcore punk tee): Maaaaan. You guys was like... (long pause) off-the-HOOK! pre-teen crowd roars. Whoa! I mean, daaaaamn, that was NIIIIIIIICE! Straight up, I was feelin' that. Like, I thought Laron Landry might not be able to fit in well in that defensive backfield, but he is already pop-pop-popping at the groin. I think he will have great musicality back there... he's got MOVES, son. And I like the old-school flavor of London Fletcher. Sure he may be pushin' thirty-five, lookin' like that old dude at the club, but he's got game. Reminds me of a creepy uncle.
Cat Deely (still looking enormous): Thank yeeeoouww Shane! Your analysis was "own point" dawg! Now lets see what the more bitter, more white hip hop choreographer Dan Karaty thinks of the moves!
Dan Karaty (bangs ablaze in LA Looks): Yknow... I really wasn't feeling that move, Dan. I don't know I just... thought it was kind of OK. pre-teen crowd boos mercilessly. Hold on, hold on now, I'm not saying that amassing a backfield that includes two potential ego-riffic pro bowl safeties both gunning for the big hit at the same time, likely causing a big offensive play to happen concurrently is a bad idea, I am just not sure. pre-teen crowd again boos. WAIT WAIT! MY OPINION SHOULD BE RESPECTED, YOU MULES! I KNOW HOW TO EVALUATE TALENT, YOU DON'T! I CHOREOGRAPHED 'MUSIC AND LYRICS,' DAMMIT!
Cat Deely (able to restrain Karaty from the stage with her enormously long arms): Thank you Dan! Now lets go to the likely-stoned Mia Michaels for her take!
Mia Michaels (staring into the lights): All I have to say is (long pause) wow. Simply breathtaking. Your drafting skills are, in a word, stunning. Your braintrust is like an instrument in and of itself. Yeeaaaaaaaaaaahhh. (may have passed out)
Cat Deely (tall): Thank yeeeoow Mia! That was pertinent! Now lets hand it over to the histrionic Mary Murphy for her take!
Mary Murphy (WTF): Well guys. I hate to be the one to say this. I know you guys worked hard to shed your image of wayward free agent spending, terrible trades and other chemistry crushing moves. I know you want to deliver a proper championship to your loyal fans in the District. So I hate to be the one to have to say, WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!
Cat Deely (dunking a basketball): Ow-Kay! Now that that blatant grab for attention is over with, lets hand it to my boss and the token British arse, Nigel Lythgoe!
Nigel Lythgoe (oddly orange): Thaahnk you Cat. Well. I must say that these moves have been both thrifty, and spirited. You've reunited your fans with Smoot, you've focused on the tackling problems in the defensive backfield, and you've given your offense another year to gell with the players. I'd say overall, the performance was BRILL-YAHNT. I think there is room for improvement in the defensive line aaahrreea, but you put on a GREAT perFOHmance this offseason. BRAh-VOW!
But it's ok, really. We'll be back playing teams without guys hitting in the .380s before you know it. No list tonight of reasons to be happy in the face of a loss and a sweep at the hands of the Tigers, but if anyone has such reasons, please share. In the meantime, there are the Cleveland Indians to prepare for. The Indians, who are...just...as...good...as...the...Tigers. Hope Manny brings an extra dose of 'Tism with him to the ballpark.
Again, it's cool. We're alright. This too shall pass. It's not like they've lost nine in a row. They could be like the Rangers, or this blog post: adrift and rambling, without a plan, with no real idea of how to tidy things up.
We have The Plan. We have Manny. We have, um, Dmitri miked up, being an overall nice guy, exchanging pleasantries with his old pals on the Tigers after they have secured another base hit.
There will be better days. There have to be better days.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
1. It was not a shutout. Because that would have been embarrassing.
2. Billy Traber was almost untouchable. Two full innings, only two hits allowed, and no runs scored, dipping that ERA to 1.59.
3. Dmitri Young. Two doubles and an uptick in the batting average to .338. He's looking more and more like All- Star material.
4. Christian Guzman. Came out of a mini-slump by going 2 for 3, with the lone Nats RBI. Also made several nice plays in the field.
5. No errors. That's right, no errors.
6. They were not alone. The Blue Jays were also members of the Losing Double-Digits to Single-Digits club tonight.
7. Stability is still assured. Despite this loss and the recent mini-streak of losing, the Nationals will not have their manager fired tonight, tomorrow, or any time in the foreseeable future.
8. Games such as this have been rare. Remember when some thought that bad losses would be the norm all season? They were wrong. Perhaps tonight stings a little more because it's really the first loss if its kind this year. The lack of complete blowouts shows how much this team has exceeded expectations.
9. No fights. Despite several rough innings, nobody in the Nationals dugout threw a punch at a teammate.
10. The impending arrival of Brandon Watson. Though everyone obviously wishes it were under more favorable circumstances than Robert Fick going on bereavement leave following the death of his mother, we have 43-game-hitting-streak sensation Watson coming to town to fill an open roster spot. That's exciting.
11. Reality check. No, this isn't one of those "they've just been beating lesser teams" type of comments. It's just a slight reminder to fans, particularly, um, highly optimistic blogs, that there is a ways to go for this rebuilding team. It absolutely does not shake our faith in The Plan, it simply re-enforces that there will not be overnight results, and that teams like the Tigers are really, really good.
So there you go. That wasn't so hard, really.
By the top of the sixth inning, the Tigers led 9 to 1 and many spectators were heading for the parking lot, expecting that the game was already over. With two homers by Gary Sheffield and Marcus Thames and six runs scored by Detroit in the fifth, a comeback seemed improbable. But for those who embrace ‘Tism, this was a time to rally. Chair Manny looked focused, his determination and belief in his team unwavering, as Felipe Lopez stepped to the plate. As if possessed by the positivity that has propelled this club into a respectable standing, Lopez smacked a triple that drove home Christian Guzman and inspired singles from both Ryan Zimmerman and Dmitri Young. Austin Kearns walked to first, loading the bases, and by the end of the inning, Ryan Church and Brian Schneider had also helped to boost the Nats' score by four runs.
Their defensive cohesiveness and Manny-inspired confidence was at its best as Saul Rivera and Jon Rauch managed to hold the Tigers scoreless and keep the Nationals momentum going, and by the bottom of the ninth inning every remaining Nationals fan was on their feet, and damned if those Tigers fans, those fans of the elite second-place team about to blow a big one to an unwilling doormat, didn’t look noticeably nervous.
At the beginning of this season, in that dark first week that modern evidence suggests might never have existed, a four-run lead against the Nationals in the ninth would have meant that the opposing team could relax and wait out their win. After a recent series win against a now manager-less team that is not in this market, and game after game of proving themselves against allegedly stronger ball clubs, a four-run lead no longer means ultimate demise. It means the Nats have room to explode like fireworks over RFK stadium. And explode they did.
With a visibly concerned Todd Jones on the mound, Robert Fick (batting average now .200+!) and Ryan Langerhans (who DCO predicts will be quite the power hitter by the end of the season - 10 homers, put it in the book) effortlessly got on base, just in time for Christian Guzman to step up and triple for the fifth time this year, sending his boys home. Eliciting deafening cheers from the stands, Lopez, likely still hopped-up on Manny Motivation, stepped up and singled Guzman home. And although Young struck out and Ronnie Belliard hit a bouncing grounder to the short stop and prevented the tying run, the Nationals still accomplished a great feat by any standard.
They put the fear of God, if only momentarily, into one of the best teams in the league. They refused to roll over and die when the opposition tagged them for runs early on. They showed (most) underdogs all over the world that greatness is possible if you just inject a little ‘Tism into the mix. They didn’t "technically" get the win tonight, and maybe the Tigers left the field feeling only slightly less smug than usual, but in typical fashion the Nationals’ spirit and enthusiasm made us forget that we were even keeping score. And that’s evidence of a team that comes to PLAY, no matter what the circumstances. They may yet show us that even a defeat can be a springboard for a big run. Take note, nearby non-DC team.
Monday, June 18, 2007
We've already dealt with the G. Arenas non-issue non-story. If a list of Stories Irrelevant to DC Sports existed, this one would be at the top. It would be followed in irrelevance by the story of a baseball manager in another city being fired. Why this story garnered a headline on the front web page of what is purportedly a DC paper is a discussion for another time but, regardless, it is of no relevance to us. Unless of course we are counting the number of MLB managers within 50 miles who do not have "interim" in front of their title. The result of that count currently stands at 1.
A relative newcomer to this irrelevant list, coming in at #3, would be the LaRon Landry Paintball Scandal. While most local media, to their credit, have not blown this story out of the tiny proportion it should occupy, we have noticed a little more concern than is warranted in some individual fans. To them, we can only say: Relax. Everything's going to be fine. Even Coach Joe, never one to shy away from prophecies of doom when he feels it necessary (though he does at times overwhelm us with good sugary 'tism; he's a complicated man), has labeled this a "freak accident" of little note. LaRon is young. He'll heal fast and be anchoring the secondary before you know it. Besides, it's not like this story is driven by something like a contract dispute or potential felonies. It's an innocent non-bump in the road to the season opener. But in an offseason full of great moves and no arrests, there is clearly the need in some quarters to worry about something. Don't buy into it.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Calder Trophy (best rookie) - Niklas Backstrom (WAS)
Selke Trophy (best defensive forward) - Boyd Gordon (WAS)
Norris Trophy (best defenseman) - Soon-to-be-acquired (via trade or free agency) elite defenseman (WAS)
Vezina Trophy (best goaltender) - Tie: Olaf Kolzig/Brent Johnson (WAS)
Lady Byng Trophy (sportsmanship/gentelmanly play) - Donald Brashear (WAS)
Jack Adams Award (oustanding coach) - Glen Hanlon (WAS)
Hart Trophy (MVP) - Alex Ovechkin (WAS)
Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP) - Brooks Laich (think John Druce) (WAS)
It could happen.
Friday, June 15, 2007
However, much as with Dmitri Young, Ronnie Belliard, Christian Guzman, and Chad Cordero, among others, there is Optimistic Redemption, in the form of this article from Monday. Zuckerman has thus been infected with 'Tism, and lays out eight reasons to celebrate these 2007 Nats. While these reasons may be nothing new to regular readers of this blog (we love and cherish all 20 or so of you), they are an encouraging sign that the message is spreading, The Plan is working, and success may not be as far away as anyone previously thought.
Welcome back to the fold, Mark. And if you want to write about Baltimore being a lesser team, we would not be opposed.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Felipe Lopez, still swimming in Manny Acta's stern encouragement, brilliantly split the outfielders with a line drive in the 5th, and was likely robbed of another triple and RBI by the low (and possibly cheaply made, like the scoreboard) walls at Camden Yards, which couldn't contain the pronounced bounce produced by his shot. Ryan Langerhans also continued his relative renaissance with an RBI extra-base hit.
So, make that three for three, both in games and in the goals we laid out in the post earlier today: sweep the series, win the season series, and tie Baltimore in the standings. Peter Angelos and his shady media empire must be bubbling and boiling, much as the cheese on the Quiznos sub that is on tv right now. Delicious.
With that, we wrap up a dizzyingly successful series in Ballmer, and salute the many Nationals fans who made the trip to cheer on the boys in enemy territory. A final word from Master of 'Tism Manny? "We're inspired right now, and we're going to ride this as long as we can." As the late and utterly great Bon Scott might have said: Ride On, Manny. Ride on.
What Man Act has done with this team is already noteworthy, and he should garner at the very least consideration for Manager of the Year. Last night he again showed he is not afraid to leave the dugout to have a friendly discussion with an umpire, and he put on a nice show of "calm down" with Felipe Lopez when the struggling second baseman disputed a called strike in the 11th. Acta knew they couldn't afford having Felipe tossed with two outs and the bases loaded in a tie game, even with his .230 batting average and 0-5 performance up to that point. What did ChairManny say? We don't know. "[spoke] a little Spanish," is all he revealed.
Whether he spoke Spanish, English, or any other language is irrelevant, for we all know by now that Manny speaks the more important univeral language of 'Tism. What else but a good dose of this language of eternal optimism could have pulled Felipe back from the brink, and inspired him to, two pitches after the dispute, sneak a tricky shot down the first base line for a base-clearing triple? What else could have kept the dugout together after a pair of late-inning leads evaporated and the Ballmer faithful smelled blood?
Let's also not forget the heroics of the overlooked Robert Fick and Ryan Langerhans. Fick's single in the 11th started it all (he played some nice defense, too), which Langerhans followed with a walk (a nice homer in the 5th, too), leading to Christian Guzman's walk and Felipe's redemption.
Now the Nats look for a win tonight that can fulfill three laudable accomplishments: a series sweep; a season series win; a tie with Ballmer in the standings. Yes, the team that drastically cut salary to win in the future is but a victory away from matching the team that went on a baffling spending spree in a half-assed attempt to win now.
A cobbled-together starting rotation putting forth solid effort after solid effort (with healthy arms on the way)? A roster full of hitters with potential that is finding its stride? A rookie manager coming into his own, one who has the full confidence and respect of his team and who relentelssly preaches 'tism, regardless of the odds or situation? That all equals Big Winner, maybe just in 70-75 games this year, but in a whole lot more down the road.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
It was great to hear a large (or at least loud) contingent of Nationals fans in our lovely neighbor's house tonight. It seems to us, based on this circumstantial-yet-convincing evidence, that a sizable portion of the Nationals' fan base resides in the Baltimore area, thus making it Washington "territory", thus making it essential to the team's survival that the Orioles be contracted (or moved to Montreal/San Juan) and the holy "territory" be preserved. Right, Peter? But we digress.
A great start to a new series in what is becoming a longer and longer stretch of success for the Nats (18-12 since that little eight-game losing streak that also may not have happened). We've always had faith in The Plan, but not even on our most optimistic day (which is every day) did we think so much could happen so soon.
Calm down, it's just one win against a lesser team, you say? Balderdash. Each win is as precious a building block for the future as each of these guys. A win against the Orioles might even be worth two Josh Smokers.
Finally, lest we forget, Chad gets his 100th save, also making some bad memories more distant. The Plan knows no bounds.
Monday, June 11, 2007
Remember the hand-wringing in late April, when not even a lighting storm could delay the divinely appointed inevitability of another United loss? Well take a look now: the team is undefeated in six games and has not lost since April 28, the latest triumph coming over that ineptly named team from New York.
The run has landed DC solidly in the middle of the Eastern Conference and primed for a Dmitri Young-like rise from oblivion. It won't be long before the East wakes up one morning and finds DC near the top of the standings again, much as Dmitri has appeared from nowhere to grab second place in the NL in batting average. Maybe it's an RFK thing. It must be.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
In Washington, however, there was no such chest-thumping and no calls for revenge regarding the recently completed weekend series between the Nationals and the ex-Nationals/Senators (aka, Twins). Even if there were such sentiments, no despair would be necessary this Sunday night, because the Nats left Minnesota with a series win. It's even possible to imagine they could have left with a series sweep if Dmitri Young's first-inning bomb had strayed a few inches left and into fair territory. And speaking of that near-home run, was that King of 'Tism Manny Acta out on the field to (briefly) argue the call? It was good to see, and it was even better to see Man Act handle himself like a gentleman in such a situation, in contrast to...you know. So before we surrender to the consternation that is the Gilbert Arenas Situation, let's pause to enjoy a great weekend of DC baseball.
A quick stat: 34 hits in three games, led again by Young and Christian Guzman, who now see their team-leading batting averages stand at .342 and .346, respectively. The bats are back, they just need to be timed a little better to capitalize on the extra baserunners. What is needed to accomplish this is a little positive encouragement, not snippy criticisms. With the hitting improving and healthy pitching on the way, 'tism levels should be spiking about now. Having soundly left the Worst Team of All-Time talk behind them, these Nationals should head straight for .500 and not look back, landing ChairManny a Manager of the Year award in the process.
Going back to pitching for a moment, this weekend series also finally answered the question: Is Levale Speigner better than a Cy Young winner?
In all, a nice start to the gimmicky portion of the schedule. Next up, a series in the afformentioned revenge-thirsty Charm City.
Friday, June 8, 2007
Every team falls in love with its own picks and thinks its rankings are smarterNo enthusiasm is discounted in these parts, Mr. Kasten. And the aforementioned Michael Burgess, whose bat power is already approaching legendary status (473-foot home run over the 60-foot-high center field wall in Sarasota's Smith Stadium), shall now be known as the Meaty Legend, for his hearty, five different types of swine approach to the plate. Looks like The Plan™ will be working out just fine for the Nationals, whom with the sixth overall pick took Missouri State lefty Ross Detwiler, a brilliant pick, whose franchise-uplifting potential mirrors another impressive sixth overall pick by a neighboring franchise. With number 31, the Nats grabbed Georgia High School lefty Josh Smoker, who has hack sportscenter announcers salivating at the possible highlight package calls. Headline writers too are eagerly anticipating their first "Smoker Lit Up" or "Smoker Chokes" upon the emergence of this fire-metaphor attached baseball player.
than anybody else's. But by nightfall, the Nats' front office practically needed
sedation. According to President Stan Kasten, the team's top three picks,
including Burgess, the 49th pick, were in the Nats' top 20. "There was a big
cheer when we knew we'd get Burgess," Kasten said. Even pick Nos. 67 and 70 were
graded in Washington's top 30. "You have to discount any team's enthusiasm,"
Kasten said. "But we're really happy."