Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Secret to the DC Optimist's Success

Many recently have wondered, what is it exactly that powers those brilliant insights over at the DC Optimist. While the rest of the planet and maybe Mars were all gathering their reasons for the Nats to have the worst record ever in recorded organized baseball history, we were thinking not. And you know what? We were right. When everyone was jumping on the surgically repaired shoulder-padded backs of Redskins players whom didn't report to Organized Team Activities, the DCO stood tall and refused to accept their absences as anything more than procedural. We were right again. And when the DC Optimist predicted a competitive series between the Wizards and the Cavs, we were again on the money. So what exactly makes our insights so overwhelmingly on-point? Well, it's a secret, a secret now known by over five million book and DVD purchasers across the globe. It's a secret that was shared by Oprah to her legions of bawling fans on not one, but TWO episodes. That secret of course is The Secret, a self-helpish book that believes in the ultimate destiny behind positive thinking. To paraphrase this scripture-like tome, the universe can understand your inner-most thoughts. Therefore to control the future of yourself and the things around you, you simply think of wonderful things happening! So when the Nationals began their glorious season by getting smoked by the fish, the DCO went to work, compiling positive thoughts in a manner that would ultimately lead the Nats to prove optimism-haters wrong. See, it's that simple.

Chair-Manager Acta has also participated in The Secret's success, no doubt using it to secure his first ever major league managing position by thinking of Joe Girardi with a headset on, then thinking of nurturing tortured free agent shortstop pickups followed by envisioning himself smiling. A couple of months later and he's donning the red W cap in Southeast. When his team was getting shelled in both the press and the box scores, Manny again went to work with the Secret teachings, professing their power in the form of positive quotations culled from other treacly self-help books. These quotes ended up manifesting themselves into a wildly successful run that has neutralized just about all of the worst-team-evar talk and instead has everyone believing in the plan.

Now that we have proven how spectacular the power of positive thinking is, it is time to go to work fellow optimists. The editor of The Secret, Rhonda Byrne simply thought about positive vision and then no longer needed her glasses! Loyal Oprah-ists have even used the power of the secret to forego breast cancer treatments. If we together can convince those magical universal controllers to heal the slowly mending fibers of Nick Johnson's leg, maybe we can envision this silky-smooth swinging first baseman anchoring the cleanup spot in the Nats' lineup. After the freak collision with Austin Kearns caused the injury last year, trainers guaranteed a healthy Nick by opening day. But they did not forsee his leg taking it's sweet time to heal, kind of like the Mystics taking their sweet time to figure out how to win. So now I want you all to work with me, just picture big #24 in those majestic block red letters warming up in the on-deck circle at RFK. Picture as he fouls off two nasty Tim Hudson splitters to make the count 0-2, drawing a yokelling praise from Don Sutton. Then picture the dead-eyed hazel blues just laying off of two more low and away fastballs to even the count. An inside forkball is fisted off for another foul. Hudson, suddenly flustered, according to Bob Carpenter tries to fire one past big Nick, but NO, Johnson rips one off the wall in left. Nook Logan comes around to score and the Nationals have won another series against the Braves, as the stands bounce and the people of Atlanta continue to not care. Just place those lovely images in your head (and not those other ones about Kelli Johnson, you brute), and soon the key to the Nats' lineup will return. Now I am going to starting thinking about the Blog Show...

(Don't think we have neglected your contributions, optimism-haters. We just know that ignoring you is key.)

The Chorus of Defiance

Maybe you too have been riding the high-cresting wave of 'tism that is sweeping through RFK stadium after the Nats brilliant trip through the depths of the NL Central. Sure it came to a bit of a crashing halt last night by way of Brad Penny's mullet and Juan Pierre's slapping, but ever since overcoming injuries to 80 percent of their starting rotation, harnessing the untamed dance that is the Chico sideways fastball and withstanding the plague of the Speigner, the Nats are the talk of the town.

Playing the muse to frequent DCO topic Thomas "milky whiteness" Boswell, the Nats, with "more wins than the Yankees," have inspired one of the most compelling pieces of 'tism yet to be printed this season. It's only fitting that Boz's latest 'tism opus, where "The Plan" is praised, Matt Chico is "promising," Shaun Hill is Brandon Webb, and Hanrahan, Fruto and Ballester are big-upped, comes on the heels of his 3,472,387,013,478th bashing of the Baltimore franchise and their clatch of whiny overpaid oft-injured "pieces." It is pretty sweet that Ted Lerner isn't mortgaging off one of his grossly overpriced high-rises in Bethesda for the services of forgettables like Aubrey Huff, David Segui, Albert Belle and Will Clark, instead relishing in the dreg-tastic goodness of Mike Bacsik, Jason Simontacchi, Dmitri Young et al. Of course Boz pleads for the organization to open checkbooks come '07 for the always ballyhooed, yet never fruitioning free agent class. The DCO, never one to stray from The Plan, say, forget that. Look again at the Yankees (and again look at their worse record than the Nats), who have consistently added checkbook-crunching free agents to their glam-rock lineups only to have them suck, get hurt, get caught, or get hated on. Big-dollar free agency in baseball has worked in very very few instances, and the names of such bustaroonies as Vaughn (both Gregg and Mo), Pavano, Drieford, Ashby, etc. all ring a lot louder than Pedro Martinez (and that is not counting his brilliant days in Queens, right Mets fans?).

Another reason why the Nats are/will be better than the O's is the presence of a much more awesome manager, possibly even the greatest manager in the history of baseball, Manager Acta. I think more praise needs to be heaped on Manny for stitching this lineup together, something Sam Perlozzo can't do with six available outfielders all whimpering and dugout-slapping. ChairManny benches negligent powerhitters for not gutting out groundouts, seeing the efforts blossom into productive seasons. ChairManny knows when to pull strugglers like Speigner after two innings of hittable pitches, unlike Perlozzo, who was way to slow to touch the hand while Dannys Baez was on the mound tossing BP pitches in one-run games. This is how Manny Acta is treated in his hometown. This is how Perlozzo is.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Another Series Win (Ryan Langerhans!)

Almost three weeks ago, with loses mounting and optimism-haters basking in the Nats' misery, peppering columns and broadcasts with snippy comments about this being the Worst Team of All Time, DCO fought against the tide, guaranteeing, to the derision of some, that these Nationals would not lose 100 games. Following that statement, Washington has a record of 12-6, putting them on pace to lose ONLY 95 games. Throw out that pesky little let's-get-our-feet-wet 1-8 start, and they surely would be dancing with a .500 record right now. That's a far cry from the much-referenced 120-loss potential of this team.

The Nationals even match up with the MLB-leading Red Sox and NL-leading Mets in this wondrous post-May 9 stretch. Boston is 12-4 and New York is 12-5; pretty good company. Teams not in this good company include the Braves (7-10), Orioles (8-9), Cardinals (7-9), and Marlins (8-10). Yes, yes, all teams have up and down times during a season, but who really thought the Nats would at ANY time have a prolonged streak of consistent winning such as this. If this team finishes within sniffing distance of .500, it would be absolutely criminal if Manny Acta did not receive Manager of the Year honors. Possibly written off in some quarters as an overly optimistic first-year manager, Acta kept the clubhouse from splintering in those tough early weeks and has led the team to overachieve ever since, constantly relying on cast-offs and after-thoughts the whole time. Who else in MLB has gotten so much out of what was thought to be so little. Maybe it's too much to expect that he keep this up for four more months, but we couldn't call ourselves DC Optimist if we expected otherwise.

It's also worth pointing out how unexpected contributions continue to be the norm with this team. It's already been postulated elsewhere that the arrival of Ryan Langerhans ushered in this era of good feeling, but today we have the first tangible evidence that he could be a key piece here. His eigth-inning grand slam was as unexpected as it was desperately needed, and provided a cushion that kept this game from being close the rest of the way.

Not wishing to jinx this current run, DCO will, for the moment, refrain from guaranteeing the Nationals will not lose 90 games, but you never know...

Friday, May 25, 2007


Austin Kearns just made likely the greatest catch of his career, robbing Jim Edmonds of at least a double in the bottom of the 6th against the Cardinals. After sliding into the concrete base of the left field wall, he even managed to double up a runner at first base. His 2 for 3 performance at the plate (well, 2 for 4 now) rounds out a fine evening nicely. Things are looking good for the Nats again, as they are for the most part capitalizing on having runners on base.

Kearns is turning into a nice story that we hope will become the norm for this club. When he was traded here from the Reds last season, it was widely reported that he was miserable in Washington, and it looked like it could be another one-and-done deal a la Alfonso Soriano (less than one, really). However, after offseason conversations with Nats management, Kearns has bought into what the team is trying to build, and has signed on for the long haul.

It's a nice contrast from the results of an MLB players' poll (taken before the start of the season) in the recent issue of Sports Illustrated. The poll asked players which team they would rather play for other than their own. The only team not to receive a vote was Washington. Kearns is at least one vote against that sentiment. With a bright future and the infectious and unflappable optimism of manager Manny Acta, the Nationals will likely win further converts and, again, disappoint those who predict, and hope for, their failure.

MAO of the Week, 5/25

Instead of resorting to cliches such as "much-maligned", and without falling back on mocking (and equally cliched) references to a 700-page playbook, we will instead label the Redskins' offense of last year, led by certified offesnive genius Al Saunders, as misunderstood. While nearly everyone acknowledged the immense complexity of the system, and the time necessary to implement it properly (estimates of this time seemed to range from one training camp to half a season, to a full season, to two full seasons), critics and optimism-haters were still quick to jump on the team's (and Al's) lack of success moving the ball and scoring points.

With that in mind, we give this Friday's Manny Acta Optimist of the Week (MAO of the Week) award to Chris Cooley and his teammates on the Redskins' offense, for their comments and attitude this week (the Post actually described them as "brimming with optimism) that this offense is coming together at last and will, presumably, be a force this coming season. Cooley is reported to have said that he and the offense in general are "faster" this year, which doubtlessly will lead to some of the field-stretching bombs from Jason Campbell that we all were hoping for last year. Redskins Insider has some more specific information on the matter that should give fans already hoping for big things in the fall even more reason for hope.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The DC Optimist would like to apologize...

We here at the DC Optimist would like to apologize for our comments a couple of days ago regarding the defense of Clinton Portis, who has quickly turned into the Rant Casey of NFL writer and fan finger-wagging, spreading a penchant for soapbox-standing as if it were rabies. Simply associating yourself with this one-time media darling leads to an innumerable amount of pooh-poohing blog posts. To characterize these genuinely altruistic whistle-blowhards as racists goes a little too far. I mean, being that most of them likely grew up near the mean streets of places like Potomac where dog fights likely involved Ace Combat 7 for PS3, they know only of Benji, not of "Dog."

We just want to reiterate that The DC Optimist in no way condones dog fighting. In fact, all of us are dog lovers. Never would we go as far as thanking the vicious brutality that was allegedly performed by Michael Vick and defended by the misunderstood Redskins running back. Thanking this indefensible act simply for bringing to light its existence is similar to thanking the drafting of Kwame Brown and the trading of Rip Hamilton for bringing to light the mismanagement of Michael Jordan; the damage has already been done.

We don't wan't to be associated with Portis's anti-animal stances, we are pro-animals, especially of Hershey Bears, again heading for the Calder Cup with the Capitals' extra-bright future in tow. Of course some hater-types, who enjoy animal fighting, attempted to thwart the greatness of the Bears by actually reaching into the penalty box to attack Kip Brennan. "If that's what he wants to do, do it."


Quite a little run they're putting together, isn't it. A 9-4 record since those awful days of early May, and finally a the long-promised re-awakening of the bats. Series results since May 10: vs. Florida, 3-0 series victory; vs. Atlanta, 3-1 series victory; vs. Baltimore, Big Picture victory; vs. Cincy, no worse than a 2-2 series tie. Run totals for the last three games: 7, 8, 12. Some might call both streaks a fluky abberration, something to be dismissed as a brief but shining period of wins coming together and hot hitting streaks coindicing. Nonsense, we say.

The team is merely showing what it can truly be capable of. That the Nats have put this run together at a time when their starting pitching rotation is such an injury-riddled debacle is even more impressive. Just think what the team could be with hitting at even a little less of its current output accompanied by starting pitchers who were either beginning to dominate (Bergmann, Hill) or who could turn their season around and again be effective (Patterson). Most heartening could be the rediscovery of the home run, with Church, Kearns, Zimmerman, Lopez, and Schneider all homering this series (and with Guzman and Young again finding the gaps for extra bases).

Even if this is just a freakish run of good fortune, how many of us really thought there would be any 9-4 stretches this season, or totals of 27 runs in three games? Let's not fret that "this can't last" or worry about a time when the Nats might again lose eight in a row and just enjoy the ride and think about what it could mean for a brilliant future.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Hands Off, Betttman, et al

While it's not exactly Washington-sports-related, DCO nevertheless would like to commend Yahoo! Sports writer Dan Wetzel for his excellent column today on the NHL playoffs. To summarize: he says don't mess with the overtime. Just because NBC broke away pre-overtime from the Sabres-Senators game in favor of the thrilling Preakness pre-race special, that doesn't mean it's time to start considering again ill-begotten "solutions" to the playoff overtime "problem". Would NBC have been more likely to stick with the game if the teams started overtime playing 4-on-4, or if they went to a shootout after an overtime or two? Doubtful. The lure of that pony money would still be there.

Four-on-four overtime is fine for the regular season. We can even grudgingly accept shootouts instead of hard-fought ties. But back off when it comes to the playoffs, even if the games stretch into the morning hours (which, as Wetzel points out, they don't do as often as some would have us believe). As a hockey fan and a Caps fan, and as a survivor of April 24, 1996, I truly hope Commissioner Gary Bettman does not continue to desperately grasp for the mass-media respect that hockey is never going to get by implementing such rules. Even though Petr Nedved ruined a perfectly mesmerizing game of hockey 11 years ago by scoring late in the fourth overtime, I would rather have seen the game as I had rather than seen it decided by the three best shooters on each team plus the goalies.

It's true what Wetzel wrote: every rush up the ice that night by the Penguins filled the arena (at least the portions not occupied by Pittsburgh fans) with tension, and every possession by the Caps brought the hope that it would be over (for the better) in a matter of seconds. Double those feelings on a power play for either side. That's a few dozen swings in emotion over the course of a 20-minute period. Exhausting to watch, and even more so to play? That's the game.

So thanks, Dan, for refuting Kara Yorio's overtime defeatist column from last month. One of her arguments actually, in retrospect, shows the foolishness of ever allowing the shootout to appear in the NHL, under the slippery slope category: "If the shootout is a good enough way to decide how teams get into the playoffs, then it should be a good enough way to decide who wins the games once they're there." We would argue: if it's a mediocre-to-bad idea in the regular season, it's an absolutely dreadful idea in the post-season.

Guess Who Is Reporting? (And Guess Who Isn't?)

Shawn Springs, with delicate groin intact, will attend those hallowed organized team activities after all, levying the final blow to optimism haters and finger waggers whom were determined to slant the absences of defensive backs as characteristic of a team fraying at the seams. Correctly predicted by us using the Post's scientific "win probability," we found the absences of the two Seans/Shawns to be a waste of good finger wags when there are more important things to get upset about, like the sight of Jon Rauch and his enourmous "I" neck tattoo warming up with a one-run lead.

It took the only head coach in the league with a bust in the Hall of Fame in Canton to smooth out the situation as Joe Gibbs has done numerous times in a hot-iron-on-Chris Cooley's-bush sort of manner. The coach reached out to the wayward Silver Spring native, urging him to return from an extended non-drug-related rehab stint in Arizona after Springs' steadfast refusal to accept a paycut, and his being mentioned in every possible trade scenerio that never happened, ultimately winning him over with his gentle elderly patter and leadership acumen. After all, we all know how important OTAs can be, and sometimes inferior teams from crackhouse-laden streets up north, have to make sure that newly acquired, often injured running backs that often do not make them a priority, attend them. Some teams have nine of 22 of their starters missing from these OTAs, a problem the Skins have not had.

Springs will anchor the shutdown side of the defense opposite former teammate Fred Smoot and nickled by not-at-all-overpaid free agent signee David Macklin, safetied by greatest tandem of safeties known to man in Taylor and brilliant draft choice Laron Landry. That is a secondary I can roll with, unless I am T.O., then I wouldn't be able to roll, nor catch the ball when I am seldom open, nor get up after I have been clock-cleaned by these crisp tacklers. Gregg Williams, the head of this band of swarming backs, has always had a great secondary in his successful tenures as defensive coordinator. This looks like the best of the bunch.

Speaking of finger wagging, it was our own 5-18 MAO Clinton Portis, usually a deft handler of reporters-haters and their stilted questions, who was taken to task for more or less endorsing the basic American rights of a co-worker. O, by-the-way, the reaction seems, a bit racist. In a statement formulated by some lawyer-PR-type, Portis responded to the haters, his motivation by the way lame Baltimore columnists, adding this nugget for those who have their head propped high in elitism clouds:
"I'm from Laurel, Mississippi. I know a lot of back roads that got the dog fight
if you want to go see it."

Sunday, May 20, 2007

No Sweep Here

Finally, a bases-loaded clutch hit, or just a clutch hit. Nook Logan's eighth-inning, 2-RBI squeaker through the infield (after fighting back from an 0-2 count) assured that we in Washington will not be subjected to obnoxious chants of "sweep" from inferiority-complex-laiden fans up I-95 for the next month, until the Nats and O's meet again. While it is doubtlessly disapointing to lose two out of three to this rabble, it is no reason for Nats fans to dispair and, perhaps more importantly, no reason for O's fans to be lost in a sea of giddy euphoria. It's pretty clear how this season will play out anyway: two teams out of the playoffs, with one non-playoff team costing nearly $60 million more than the other.

An article in the Washington Post fleshed out the details nicely, but the basics are simple: the Nats are suffering now to build for the future after being badly neglected for years by psuedo-owner MLB, and the Orioles are shooting in the dark each off-season, unwisely spending millions (and therefore the future), while being neglected (or perhaps just incompetently managed) by an actual owner.

Even Rick Maese of the Baltimore Sun, who earlier in the season reveled in Washington's sports-related misery, has found truth that one team has a bright future and one is eternally destined for third-and-fourth-place division finishes. Incidentally, is the Baltimore Sun taking a page from DCO with its blindly hopeful headline that the O's had moved into a second-place tie in the NL East, with their sub-.500 record landing them 9.5 games behind the Red Sox?

Despite some missed opportunities this weekend, DCO still salutes the Nationals for their ever-present effort, and is very grateful for the riveting late-inning victory today. We are also grateful to the Orioles for finally answering the burning question: How much does it cost to buy an under-achieving, over-priced bullpen that specializes in blowing late-inning leads? The answer? $41.5 million. Thanks, Peter.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Notable Ravens Missing from Training Activities (Plus MAO of the Week 5-18)

We here at the DC Optimist don't intend to make a stink about what seems to be a minor occurrence at the Baltimore Ravens' training facilities, where key team cogs Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Jonathan Ogden, Chris McAlister, Samari Rolle, Trevor Pryce and Kelly Gregg were M.I.A. (kind of like the Ravens' offense in the playoffs last year). The DC Optimist sees no need to point out that Lewis, who was understandibly pouty after not being selected to the Pro Bowl last year (even if he backed in later on), may be seeking a new contract that respects his value to the team despite glaring health issues. We do not feel it is necessary to mention the fact that even if these workouts are labeled "optional," these very important locker room presences will not be together to make sure that the fabled draft classes the Ravens obtain every year (Chris Redman and Kyle Boller included), can learn from the winning tradition in the Charm City. In fact, we may not even mention certain players and their off-the-field non-murder transgressions.

No, we here at the DC Optimist are realists. We see a team lead by an aging, oft-injured quarterback who specializes in five-yard dump-offs not named Mark Brunell withstanding a glaring playoff flameout last year against a dome team in their Hamsterdam backyard, in addition to taking on a new, also often injured running back heading to the diminishing returns stage of his career, remaining invincible to criticism. Why if you posess the prestigous pomposity of coach like Brian Billick, whose offensive genius has yet to be realized in 9 years in Balitmore, you can simply deflect all media criticisms and point to results. We could write an 800-plus word opus smashing the management of the Ravens for losing communication with such important individuals during this critical time period, held much closer to the beginning of the season than the OTA's of the Redskins (who still can note just one missing player). But that would be trite, and it could be refuted, say three days later.

Similarly the baseball team that has represented ballmer, and for a woeful period of time the District, can point to their results when criticism arrives, just as a rather cowardly annonymous commenter may have done in a recent DCO insight (although this commenter is anonymous enough to be likely located in the great state of Delaware, home of Dow chemical plants that spurt foulness onto I-95 like deer entrails).

No, instead of trying to start some meaningless war with Ballmer in the midst of two transitioning teams moving in opposite directions meeting up (one losing five straight, one winning 6 of 7), we will instead look to ultimate positivity, our hallmark. We look to our May 18th MAO of the week, Redskins running back and entertainment phenomenon, Clinton Portis, who on a very special episode of Ballers on the BET network, guaranteed that the 'skins would be in the NFC championship. Portis, an expert at press-handling, shook off the negativity-laced questions from hard-hitting "journalists" like Guy Torry, John Salley, and an even more annoying Hugh Douglass, providing us with a statement that will drive us throughout what looks like a massively successful 07: "The haters is my motivation." Simply brilliant work, again, by Portis, who also praised Joe Gibbs, praised the draft strategy, praised Jason Cambell and said he needed his '06 injury woes to rest. We too saw something special in the manner that the Redskins handled their offseason and also predicted similar results. As for a prediction in Baltimore? How about puzzlement.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Unwilling to Be Doormats

We've touched on this before, but let's for a moment revisit a piece written in the spring by New York Post columnist Joel Sherman. In his little blog posting from spring training, he makes a number of disparaging comments about the Nationals, and who could really blame him. At the time, and still even now, it was more than fashionable to pile on the team, to make the ever-popular and utterly hilarious and original comparisons to the '62 Mets. He starts out with the obligatory shots at the Nats' pitching rotation, calling it "bad" and "dreadful." He further goes on to state that the crowning of an NL East champion could come down to whoever beats up on the Nats the most. Here are a bunch of gimme games, contenders. Whoever grabs the most easy wins takes it all.

One quarter of the way through the season, let's look at the numbers, and Mr. Sherman's predictions. The Nats have the worst record in the NL, that is undeniable. But, thanks to a recent resurgence, they find themselves within five games of eight other teams. They have a better record than the Royals in the AL, and are not too far behind a number of other teams there, including the darling Twins. As far as pitching, Shawn Hill and Jason Bergmann, two of the guys Sherman singled out as part of "...a rotation so bad that the Long Island Ducks laugh at it", have respective ERAs of 2.70 and 2.76.

Looking at the "who can beat up on the Nats the most?" question, ask the shell-shocked Braves how that's working out. They rolled into DC in first place, doubtlessly looking for some easy wins to pad their lead a little. Three losses in four games later, the Braves are lagging 1.5 behind the Mets. Today's impressive 4-3 win against Atlanta levels Washington's record against the NL East at 14-14, hardly the type of cakewalk the division was expected to have. In fact, the Marlilns and Phillies have worse division records. The Nats are secure in their .500 division record for a while, too, as they begin a long stretch against non-division foes.

Yes, at 15-26 there is still a long way to climb, and there may be a few more prolonged non-winning streaks, but it is (again) clear that these Nationals and the inimitable Man-Act will not simply roll over and fulfill everyone's prophesies of doom, much less give them an open road to the division title.

Stycke av Pussel

That's Swedish (roughly, according to some online dictionaries) for "piece of the puzzle", and that is precisely what the Washington Capitals secured yesterday. Center Nicklas Backstrom, big-time scorer and phenom from the Swedish League, will join the Caps next year in the NHL. Marvelous. It was widely bemoaned that Backstrom was not in Washington this past year, but in retrospect that is a good thing. Having Backstrom last year would not have made the Caps that much better and would only have counted a year towards his free agent elligibility. Now, DCO believes, a slightly older and more seasoned Backstrom is a step towards propelling the Caps to greatness.

Time to look again to the offseason, and the acquisition of a quality defenseman and at least one of the following: a top-line center, another quality defenseman, a scoring wing. Regarding the top-line center, DCO re-emphasizes its insistence that this player NOT be Daniel Briere (aka, King of the Groin-Spearing Tools, soon-to-be-aka King of the Eliminated From the Playoffs Before Their Hockey-Media-Mandated Stanley Cup Championship Tools). Several commentators on Capitals Insider have similarly expressed their distaste for "Mr" Briere's cowardly spear-centric play, and we encourage all, especially Caps' management, to read. Please, Ted, George, et al, by all means make a play for Chris Drury or Scott Gomez, but not this idiot.

But back to the positive. Having Backstrom here next season will be huge. Add a few more players to a fast-maturing set of youngsters, and big things will happen. Keep an eye on guys like Boyd Gordon (who could be primed for a breakout year as a shut-down checking center) and Matt Pettinger (25-goal scorer if he stays healthy). They are former first round picks who may finally be showing some real promise.

What's that you say, it's too early for predictions for next season? Nonsense. How's this: Caps will make the playoffs as no lower than the 6th seed. We're as sure of that as we are that the Nats will not lose 100 games. Put it in the book.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Doomsayers: Wrong about Taylor

Apparently, all is well in Redskins park this afternoon, as franchise safety Sean Taylor arrived for the second week of those mythical OTAs. Seems like this FOOTBALL PLAYER disregards stereotypical notions regarding his contract status and decided that since he wants to be a part of the greatest tandem of safeties in the history of the league, he will suit up in those little burgundy shorts and perform Training Activities, whether Optional or not. This is sure to pain the Washington Post and noted optimism-hater Sally Jenkins, who sensing a possible shot opportunity of the cheap variety, never fails to levy 872 rounds at the braintrust. Wonder if I can come up with a space metaphor that describes this piece? How about a knowledge black hole, where tiny particles of insight vaporize into a massive gap of blathering, never to return.

Instead of attempting to funnel misinformation to the masses, the Post needs to hop onto the 'tism trail, lead by our peeps at the Times, who see QB-cum-savior Jason Cambell as so totally freaking awesome that every player takes his time out of Organized Training to deliver nuggets of praise. Could the Redskins have the greatest non-whining, non-arrested quarterback in the league? What's that Sanatana?
"We're light years ahead of where we were last year with Jason."
Seems like the Redskins are headed for the stratosphere. How about that for a space metaphor, Sally?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Perfect Weekend at RFK

Finally, we have a sweep.

DCO was fortunate enough to have a representative at Saturday night's epic 7-3 Nationals' victory over the Florida Marlins. This rep stuck it out through the first nearly three-hour rain delay and the soggy innings through the bottom of the ninth. Unfortunately, by the time the second rain delay imposed itself on the proceedings, the rep and his companions had to finally pack it in (early plans for Mother's Day). Despite missing the thrillng ending (witnessed by only a handful of laudable diehard fans), the events witnessed by the rep and the information gleaned from these events should hearten Nats fans for years to come, even in the midst of this challenging season.

Manny Acta, already the winner of two of the awards that bear his name, has clearly (very quickly) become a hero to suffering Nats fans. The several hundred fans who persevered through the first rain delay saved their loudest cheers for the rookie manager as the team trickled back onto the field around 11 PM. Acta clearly relished in returning the love, smiling the whole time despite the miserable conditions. While we still love and miss Frank, and acknowledge that his patronly curmudgeonness has its place in baseball, replacing him with Acta has to be among the best moves of the new ownership. We should be grateful that another well-known patronly curmudgeon, Lou Pinella, made it clear he wanted to go only to a contender (a la Deion Sanders), and not the nationals. It warms our hearts to see his chosen "contender", the high-priced Chicago Cubs, completely eating it so far this season. Give us Man-Act; let the Cubs have Lou (and Alfonso, for that matter).

This win, sandwiched between Friday's near-flawless 6-0 victory and Sunday's sun-soaked victory (let's all pitch in and buy Robert Fick some sunglasses, shall we?), might be the old cliched "game that turns the season around." For the Nats, a turned-around season could mean losing 90 games instead of 110. We'll take it.

Friday, May 11, 2007

THE MANNY-FESTO (MAO of the Week 5-11)

Optimism isn't just an airheaded, blindly homeristic, borderline delusional way of reading into the barren local sports scene. Optimism isn't just a Mr. Bean I-don't-givea-crap way to look past the inevitable ridicule of the local and national media. Optimism isn't a foolish method to ignore obvious flaws, instead harping on a few good qualities like having a butta-faced girlfriend. No, optimism is more than that. Optimism is a way of life, a philosophy, a lifestyle choice, a movement. No one better understands the struggles of our movement better than our fearless leader. When attitudes get a bit colder in the district's sports fandom, we marinate in the warm glow of positivity that eminates from the fuzzy soul of Nats P.E. Teacher-like coach Manny Acta, the first-ever two-time recipient of the MAO of the Week award, an award which was also named after him. In a rather Schneider-on-the-basepaths slow local sports week, with drearyness seeping from such bastions of optimism as Joe Gibbs and Tom Boswell (the DCO Board briefly considered stripping the Post columnist of his own MAO of the Week Award), it is Acta who shines above all. Mark Zuckerman of the Washington Times understands this, and despite neglecting us our necessary percentage for giving him the idea for his piece, he has profiled Man-Act in a way that warms our hearts.

We don't see Manny as simply a rah-rah-ing motivator of a coach who slaps the bottoms of GIDPers in an effort to slap away the grim reality of the looming historic implications of ineptitude. No, MAO is our leader, our revolutionary savior, our chairmananager, our chairManny who neglects ruining fine lunch spreads when encouragement can be better achieved through motivational quotations. We have already begun passing out copies of "Best of Successories" to our contingent, printing them in a little red book format. We gather in 2005-at-RFK numbers chanting selected passages from it, hoping to bring down the established elites that run the local sports scene with their trade demands, contract fusses, and obligations to foreign lands.

Working together works. - Dr. Rob Gilbert.

The country is full of good coaches,
What it takes to win is a bunch of interested players. - Don Coryell

There are days when we think there is no hope, but then we look to chair-Manny's teachings and realize that his example is the ultimate version of whatever we have been trying to accomplish.
...Acta continues to stay the course. Rather than dwell on whatever negatives
come out of each loss, he looks for small rays of hope. When the Nationals lose
3-1, he points to the strong performance he got from his starting pitcher. When
they rally late to make things close, he applauds his players' ongoing efforts.
And when they lose eight straight games, he points to the fact that five of
those were by two runs or less.
Sound a little bit like your favorite optimism-themed blog? It's no coincidence. DCO supports Manny and his glorious revolution. Your only choice in this matter is to join us!

Thursday, May 10, 2007


DCO has learned that Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell has NOT been arrested for being the owner of a vehicle operated by a drunk driver. He has, in fact, been charged with no crime and, to our knowledge, had no contact at all with the police recently. We'll leave it to other outlets to report on other quarterbacks.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Win Probability

We here at the DC Optimist are big fans of the's pitch-by-pitch coverage of the Nats. Of course it doesn't compare to MASN's TV coverage, which features some great Chad Cordero commercials ("Lights out, Grandma!"), the twangy pompousness of Don Sutton and the intensely bright-eyed 'tism that continuously flows from Bobby Carpenter's microphone. But it does contain one heck of a technological advantage. Yes, the Win Probability chart.

This brilliant piece of theorhetical-mathematical-sabremetrical goodiness updates itself every inning showing just how likely the Nats will not win the game. As statistical, mathematical, and above all predictive whizes ourselves, we have applied this brilliant piece of technology to the remaining buzzing sports stories, mostly in an effort to prod the Post into including the meter on all of their stories. Here's a few Win Probability scenerios we have concocted:

Brendan Haywood, in an effort to mimic the sensibilities of his homeboy Kwame Brown, has requested a trade. In the Wizards' glorious past, guys who were a bit tough to motivate usually went on to star in another city. One of the cities that has benefitted the most from tough-to-motivate Wizards has been Detroit. The Pistons' starting five features three ex-Wiz and they are on their way to the Eastern Motors Finals. So its only right that Haywood would find a home in the city where reminiscing about the wonder years in DC makes for great newspaper reporting. So how likely is it that Haywood will take his new position in the Pistons lineup and turn himself into the consistent-contributor we all hoped and dreamed for?

According to our probability meter, not very likely. Sure it's easy to sit on a bench with non-defenders and complain about PT, but with actual two-wayers in Detroit and noted alpha dogs like Sheed Wallace and Chauncey Billups manning the locker room, Brendan will likely cower to the end of the bench with counterpart Nazi Mohammed.

The Redskins started their annual Optional Training Activities (ne OTAs) yesterday, and in practice sessions closed to the public, players both healthy and recovering gathered to do... something. Although the media folks were not allowed inside, that didn't stop the Washington Post from muckraking regarding the absence of star d-backs Sean Taylor and Shawn Springs. Instead of sending in a microphone-wielding hottie like Kelly Johnson to get the puffy scoops like Snyder-homies Comcast Sportsnet does, the Post has, again, decided to dwell on the negatives. After careful consideration, we decided to apply the Win Probability to this scenario:

As you can see, the whole scenario reeks of nothing. But just to make sure, we applied the science to the post's impending coverage:

Please breathe easy, Redskins faithful.

And finally, with Mike Wise not having the depleted Wiz bunch to kick around anymore, the Post sent him off to interview one of his good buddies and current ressurection specialist in Golden State, coach Don Nelson. In a column that blindly reaches for more racially motivated thingies than a Michael Wilbon trade paperback, Wise attempts to "pun-up" his piece in regards to the Warriors sensibilities.

"Now Nellie is giving the Warriors more street cred than Nelly?"

Besides being a woefully dated pun that caused a near-vomitous shock reaction in me, the pun does not take into account the fact that Nelly, he of the Super Bowl dual-jersey performance and the *shudder* Tim McGraw collaboration, has absolutely no street cred whatsoever. Because of this, we have applied our Win Probability to Wise's street cred, and here's what it read out:

Seven-Game Non-Winning Streak is Even More Inconsequential

Why does everyone insist on piling on ("bunch of losers"? seriously, Linton Weeks, do you just want to never be able to get press credentials)? It's like no team has ever had a lengthy losing streak before. Why this rush to anoint the Nats as the worst team of all time? It's barely a month into the season, and not even a year into the reign of the new owners. As Mark Zuckerman eloquently points out, in a rebuke of a "expose", it takes time to recover from years of incompetent and (likely purposeful) neglectful MLB team management (we've argued similar points before).

Since it seems like almost nobody is sticking up for this team (except their beloved leader), DCO feels it necessary to, right now, guarantee that the Nats will not lose 100 games. If they do lose 100, then we will apologize to everyone we have maligned as an Optimism-Hater for failing to give this team (or, for that matter, any of our local teams) the beneift of the doubt. Well, almost everyone.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Two-Game Unbeaten Streak is Completely Consequential (so is the name)

We admittedly don't post much about DC United here, and (maybe) shame on us for doing so. However, the team's recent tie-and-win combination, after losing their first three games to the great consternation of some, is worthy of note. It's also a good time to continue our occasional series pointing out that, no matter how bad the situation for a local team, there is always a team somewhere else in much worse shape.

Today it's not so much about on-field performance, but about stupid team nicknames. Sure, the United are currently in second-to-last place in the Eastern Conference (though surely not for long), but would you rather they be in, say, second place with a name as awful as the Red Bulls? While DC shares the name of a prestigious title-winning team, New York (what, no more -New Jersey?) is named after, um, sugar water. Pretty cool (it actually might be, if not for the blatant our-team-is-named-after-a-commercial-product angle. Even the Anaheim Ducks managed to salvage their name by shedding "Mighty"). Next year, DCO looks forward to following the NFL's New York Gatorades and the NHL's New York Propel Fitness Waters. Soon to be folowed by the NBA's Brooklyn 5-Hour-Energy Drinks.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Five-Game Non-Winning Streak is Inconsequential

It would be very easy to be down on the Nats right now, with a five game non-winning streak, another injury to the man thought to be the staff ace, another blown save, and the team in fifth place in the NL East. But it's not so bad and, more importantly, still not historically bad. Perhaps we do harp on this not-the-worst-of-all-time point a little too much, but we feel it only fair, since it was the one season result deemed most probable for this team by much of the baseball world. It's also worth noting that the Kansas City Royals are only 1/2 game better than these would-be-all-time-worst Nationals. So let's see pundits and angry sports radio hosts talk about them and the '62 Mets.

But on to the positive. Check out Shawn Hill, part of the starting rotation that was supposed to be completely laughable. In six of his last seven starts he's allowed two runs (in the other he allowed three). By all rights he should have had his third win yesterday, but, well, no reason to dwell on that. Others can do that for us. His unexpected emergence is a bright spot even as John Patterson continues to struggle. Jason Bergmann has also settled down, bringing his ERA to a near-respectable 3.34. The bullpen has shown signs of being legitmate (recent closing trouble notwithstanding), or at least servicable.

The pitching situation, combined with a gaggle of hitters who do have the collective ability to drive in runs, is a sure indication that the debacles of the first couple weeks of the season are not going to be the norm. In fact, since that difficult time, the Nationals have been quite competitive, losing a lot of one-and-two-run games.

So, we say yet again, it's not as bad as it could be (and actually is a little bit encouraging). Besides, we all know what this season is really about anyway: the draft!

Friday, May 4, 2007

Overheard at Brendan and Etan's date

Recently, much-maligned Washington Wizards centers Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas mended their torn dreadlock of a relationship. According to Ernie Grunfeld, "they went on a date the other night, they're real good friends now." The DCOptimist was at the scene of this "big" date and we transcribe the encounter below.
--The two enter the posh Ozio for a late lunch, pulling up at a chair in a lightly-lit section to the rear.
Haywood: Man, that playoff series sure was tough wasn't it. I for one have had a problem with the officiating.
Thomas: Tis true. I relate it to a few bars I have been working on for my next protest rally. I call it, "LeBlanco Games" peep game:
My heart lie unbeaten,
yet remaining virulent,
for even the truest warriors,
cannot withstand the system
When color is whistled by the white-striped zebra,
the play is called by Imus.
Haywood: Word. I bet if that blasted Eddie Jordan would have put me in the game, Big Z wouldn't have been so dominant. Shoot, Z was saying it himself!
Thomas: Thus is the struggle, young Brendan. Athletes frankly need a voice in this league and I can only purport your languishes on the wooden slave ship of the bench to the "great republican party." Would he have had the same reaction to Darko Milicic, Rasho Nesterovic or Nenad Krstic?
Haywood: So you sayin' that it wasn't Eddie's obvious hatred of me and my offbeat contributions?
Thomas: Brendan, this league was built by the white man and it is sold to the white man. Do you think they want to see one of their own consistently shut out by one of us brothers? Open your eyes man. Why do you think Steve Nash is always the MVP?
--Haywood picks up a piece of complimentary bagguette. Before he can make a move to butter it, the piece slips from his hand onto the floor.
Haywood: True, but Nash don't want it with me. Besides, coach is black.
Thomas: Don't let me get in debate mode young Brendan. Coach Jordan is a pawn of the ultimately white system that is the National Basketball Association. It's the same way that I was denied my original starting position earlier this season. The powers that be could no longer stand for an authoritative black force in the paint.
Haywood: Maybe you're right 'tan. I just can't seem to figure out how to get on coach's good side. I mean, it's hard being a center on this team. I know my three step fadeaway is an unknown commodity in this league, that is why I utilize it with every minute I can get. People just don't see how big sexy's post moves have the element of surprise.
Thomas: I fully understand, B. The league no longer wants us to think so much as it wants us to promote their product and play nice.
--waiter arrives with a glass of fresh-squeezed wheat grass juice, and a coke.
Haywood (in a rage after taking a sip): I ordered diet you idiot! Yo manager, replace this waiter now. If he is not replaced, I am leaving! Who is this guy to ignore my requests?
Thomas: Sometimes waiters make a mistake that is so unbelievably blatant that it renders you speechless, left without a response or reaction, until you think about it at a later date. You could have interpreted this as a bad mistake by a service-worker who should be more focused on making the correct drink orders than selling cokes that aren’t diet. Or you could take this as a blatant slap in the face. You could make the connection to a larger problem in society that deals with obliviousness and stereotypes. Is it an unfortunate reality that many people are still dwelling in the pit of ignorance?
--Etan, now visibly upset, attempts to throw a piece of the bread at the waiter. Misses badly. Haywood then picks up another piece of bread to throw at the waiter, also misses badly. A second free and open attempt by Thomas hits.
Waiter: Hey! You can't do that just because you are basketball players.
Thomas: Excuse me?! What did you just call me? There are certain statements that will always remain in my permanent recollection. This waiter has just been added to that list. I’m not looking to squeeze an apology from you; don’t even want one. Why would you apologize for the way that you feel? That’s like Michael Richards apologizing for his racist, hateful rant. Not likening this waiter to Kramer, but don’t apologize for something you’re not sorry about. If you simply regret that people may look at you differently as a result of your feelings, well, that’s an apology you can keep.
Haywood: Word. This restaurant needs my presence. I am the best big man here. I think I may leave a few seconds before the check arrives, removing my signed picture from the wall and taking it with me.
Thomas: This waiter has created the public perception that we players were once again unjustly complaining about something we weren’t happy with. Creating an overall illusion — no matter how off base or completely wrong it is — can change the public perception of what is being implemented. Furthermore, it can garner support for something the implementer knows is wrong. We saw this with the invasion of Iraq.
--Thomas and Haywood are asked to leave, as their contributions to this meal were minimal at best. Haywood proves relatively easy to move, but Thomas' bulky contract prevents many other restaurants from accepting him.

MAO of the Week 5-4

Like terrible traffic, sticker shock and Pierre L'enfant's random placement of logic-defying circles in the middle of intersections, looking forward to the offseason is a Washington tradition. It is during these calm and serene times that the stress and consequences of actual game play is ignored and our teams are either gloriously rebuilt, or in the joyous process of gloriously rebuilding. With the acquisition of a new draft pick or a crop of new free agents, the optimism shines brightly in the minds of our loyal fanbase. Washington Wizards head coach Eddie Jordan, an Archbishop Carol high-school graduate, is no different, and based on a recent interview with the Washington Examiner, we see him as the perfect recipient of our coveted Manny Acta Optimist (MAO) of the Week.

Jordan, known for his avant-garde lineups and occasional defensive-mindedness, offered this to the Wizard faithful in lieu of a challenging 2007 off-season:

“We want to get better and we want to get better as a coaching staff,” Jordan
said. “So I don’t look at the complaints. We’ve got a good offseason ahead of us.
Indeed an offseason of note remains for the Wizards who have several notable free agents including Jarvis Hayes, Calvin Booth, Michael Ruffin, Roger Mason Jr., and Andray Blatche. Recent squabbles between Jordan and Brendan Haywood pose more locker room questions, and the appeasement of Gilbert Arenas, who may opt out of his contract next summer if he doesn't enjoy the direction of the team, is another concern. That is why it is nice to hear some confidence from the team's floor general.

Of course whether or not this offseason is "good" is up to player-personnell guru Ernie Grunfeld, he of the Kwame-for-Caron swindle two seasons ago and the brokering of minimal fundage to Deshawn Stevenson in 2006. Could Grunfeld be concocting another massive offseason for Wizards fans to rejoice in as if they were rejoicing over the Redskins acquisitions? Grunfeld has already committed to bringing the seven foot Ukrainian Oleksiy Pecherov over from Europe, as well as Vladimeer Veermenko, another large European forward prospect. Both are teeming with talent and mystery, like most European forwards. We here at the DCO applaud Grunfeld, and ask that Wiz fans have confidence in his management.

"I know everybody wants answers today to everything, but that's not going to happen, because that's not the way I work," he said. "I'm going to take my time.
There's no urgency; you can't sign anybody today... and my experience tells me that the worst time to make decisions is right after tough losses. So you have to take a step back, clear your head, look at everything that happened throughout the season and see where you want to go from there."
Grunfeld also has to mine the potential Stevenson opt-out, as well as negotiate the buyout of imminent Spanish superstar Juan Carlos Navarro, who can't possibly wait any longer to don the golden Wizards uniforms. Stevenson hopes his shot at free agency, unlike many of his shots in the playoffs, lands in the right place. To him, that right place is in DC.

"This is a great situation here, playing with Caron, Gilbert and Antawn,"
Stevenson said. "I think we could have won at least 50 games if everyone stayed
healthy. But I'll have to do what's best for me. This is a great situation
Other players with name-plates on their lockers know what a great situation it is in DC, playing for Jordan. Antonio Daniels and Antawn Jamison reiterated faith in their head coach as well.

“He did a great job making adjustments and doing the things he had to do to make
us competitive. I have a lot of respect for him.”
Said Antawn Jamison, “I love Eddie and think he’s a great coach. He’s made myself and other guys in this locker room great players.”
With enthusiastic locker rooms, brilliant general managing and a solid head coaching philosophy, we can't agree with Jordan's offseason assessment more. We could be Dallas.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

DC Sports Stars Grace Video Game Covers

Recently, Gilbert Arenas has been added to the prestigious panthenon of Washington Sports stars whose mugs have graced the cover of video games. Electronic Arts is banking on Gilbert's appeal to push their NBA Live game franchise into new levels and hopefully avoid a late season swoon. Gilbert, a noted video-gamer, is understandably excited (old-fogey hand-wringers who have a problem with it ought to get a Wii nunchuck "shoryukened" up their hindparts). Of course Gilbert isn't the first Washington sports superstar to have a video game cover. Here the DCO recounts the last few video games where prominent Washington Athletes have been the star.

Alexander Ovechkin - NHL '07 for Playstation and XBox consoles. It was just another shot for Ovechkin, as he was rewarded the sweet cover after he lead the league in shots his rookie year, in addition to leading rookies in goals and points. The game was pretty eh, as was his follow up season. EA promises that next year's version will be muuuuuch muuuuuuch better and that we should trust them.

Deshawn Stevenson - Xtreme Accuracy Shooting for PC. After a playoff series in which this gunner really showed off his accurracy, Stevenson, also gunning for a new contract, was able to secure this lucrative deal with a shooting simulator. The game features realistic tests of accuracy and it becomes impossibly tough to hit anything in the later "post-season" levels.

Jarvis Hayes - Chuck Rock for PC. Hayes was rewarded this video game shoot for launching into his first playoff series. Jarvis's fanbase was noticeably excited regarding the deal, and the game-makers at CORE put together quite a cover. Chuck Rock also has a sequel in the works, but unfortunately for CORE, their output is woefully inconsistent.

Dan Snyder - Championship Manager for PC. After another brilliant offseason of multiple intelligent personnell moves and favorable media coverage, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder was given the opportunity to represent all great football managers on the cover of this ambitious simulator. The game may have its flaws, but fans of it remain undettered and consistently buy it, no matter how bad some versions have been. This is actually the second time Snyder has graced the cover of a video title. While a burgeoning mogul, Snyder was tabbed for the cover of this rather dull stock market title, Invest:

(looks like him, doesn't it?)

Eddie Jordan and Brendan Haywood - Wizard Warz for PC. This ambitious title features two mediocre spellcasters "coach" and "wood", one with more authority, the other with a disagreeable disposition, divided over their mutual roles in a Wizard academy. The gist of the game lies in making sure the two coexist peacefully. When both are at their peak output, the points soar and the victories mount, but when one is upset with the other, destruction occurs. In the end, only one will remain. It is up to you to decide.

And while it isn't a cover, game maker Data East noticed the motivational talent of Nats manager Manny Acta and gave him a key cameo in their video game classic, Bad Dudes. Here's a screencap.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

DC Optimist Draft Grade: A+

It has been a few days since the Annual NFL Player-draft, and it is time for the "so-called experts" to start handing out their grades. In this time-honored tradition, people who have very little comprehension of the sport of football offer their take on the business practices of multi-million dollar corporations, mainly to entice screaming matches on cable television. This year saw the Redskins missing many of their picks due to a few productive (as opposed to few productive) trades that bolstered their roster in years past, making their haul a little lighter than most other teams. It was for this reason that many of the "draftnicks" slammed the braintrust triumverate of Coach Joe Gibbs, VP of player personnell Vinny Cerato, and owner Daniel Snyder.

Maybe you too have seen this compendium of draft graders and thought, "Wow, if a consensus of this sort exists, than the Redskins' draft surely must have been counterproductive." However, we here at the DCO have thoroughly examined each of the Redskins' newest draft picks, talking with talent scouts, agents, NFL personnell and draft plaudits (well, we googled), and we have decided that this draft was bountiful, and will receive a solid A+. Lets go over the players shall we?

First Round, #6 overall. Safety Laron Landry, Lousiana State. We have already mentioned why we think he was the correct choice, but lets dig deeper into the Redskins bold selection of a second top-10 overall safety a bit. In recent profiles, Landry has shown a penchant for flying around, always a good safety quality. He has yet to be arrested. Also a great quality in first-round draft selections. And of the four safety selections in the first round, it was Landry who ranked highest. It is obvious to us that the safety position is revolutionizing the NFL and teams are seeing the need to add gamebreaking athletes into that position. Couple this with the fact that Gregg Williams uses the safety in a unique, almost genius manner by assigning boxes to each player, and you can see how the Redskins were clairvoyant in their move. Even Jason La Canfora, never one to back down from blasting the organization, has been convinced, of course it took a college kid in Australia to notice, but at least the point that drafting from an admittedly weak class of defensive lineman was not the answer. To sum it up, bravo, braintrust!

Fifth Round, #143 overall. Linebacker Dallas Sartz, Southern Cal. While not having a preferred nomenclature and possibly being racist, Dallas Sartz looks to be a fantastic steal in the fifth round. Great measurables, a fantastic collegiate background, and a versitility that this defense demands make Sartz a guy who ought to transcend special teams to day-to-day action in a hurry. And given the Redskins linebacking core's penchant for not making any thing resembling a play last season, his addition is welcome.

Sixth Round, #175 overall. Linebacker Horatio Benedict Blades, Pittsburgh. With a totally awesome video game name, (sounds like an Ice-Hockey player) H.B. is one of those smallish, glue guys who simply make plays. A Benarik and Butkis finalist and All-America, Blades stood out in Pittsburgh. Check out this career wrap-up:
He finished fourth nationally with 147 tackles last season and ranks third all-time in school history with 409. He was a three-time, first-team All-Big East selection and was named 2006 Big East Defensive Player of the Year.
Whoa. Check out that wicked afro too. I'd also say this was a steal.

Sixth Round, #205 overall. Quarterback Jordan Palmer, Texas El-Paso. The bro of Bengals' QB Carson Palmer, and not related to hilarious Canadian former-Giant Jesse Palmer, aka the Batchelor, Jordan Palmer looks to be a solid clipboard holder for years to come. Sporting good size (6'6"), good numbers (851-of-1,427 passes--a 60 percent completion rate--for 11,084 yards, 88 touchdowns and 64 interceptions.), and obviously a great pedigree, "JP" ought to be the prototypical superstar quarterback brother, unlike some other black sheep.
Seventh Round, #216. Tight End Tyler Ecker, Michigan. Another big (6'6") dude from a big school, Ecker looks to be a blocking tight end and according to Gibbs he will, "have a chance to make our team." High praise coming from coach, who has had his share of difficulties with tight ends not named Chris Cooley. Lets just say, this guy won't be crying in the locker room for dropping three passes in a crucial game.
See, with all of these steals in the draft, coupled with one bonafide stud, the Redskins receive the highest possible draft grade.