Saturday, June 30, 2007

Draft Day Brilliance by the Grun-trust

With the sixteenth overall pick, the Washington Wizards just cemented their perrenial playoff boundedness with the spectacular selection of NBA-sized (6'7") shooting guard Nick Young out of USC. Undoubtedly the Secret-tinged 'Tism wafting through Madison Square Garden, provided by all of our 47-per day readers, allowed the sweet-shooting, adversity-surviving, documentary-inspiring, hyphen-utilizing shooting guard to slip from New Orleans and Detroit into the gratified hands of newly-annointed head baller in charge Ernie Grunfeld. The stepping down of Sue O'Malley, the first-ever female president of a NBA franchise, left room for Abe Pollin to give ultimate decision making duties to Mr. Grunfeld and he responded by plucking another brilliant selection from this ballyhooed pool of college talent. Besides those luscious measurables, Young has shown the ability to take over games, hit major jump shots, have great offensive talent and dunk on people, things that Deshawn Stevenson posesses only occasionally (hence the "Mr. 50-50" nomenclature) when he isn't feeling his face.

Could Young be the replacement for Stevenson, who is looking for a new contract that fits his mediocre, yet solid value? We here at the DC Optimist hope the answer is "no." Deshawn, while having Extreme Accuracy issues at the end of the season, -- a season we have all wiped from our memories like a prominently-chinned Ben Affleck in the gawd-awful Phillip K. Dick abortion "Paycheck" -- was the best free agent acquisition of 06-07, better than Larry Hughes was when his bones managed to hold themselves together for two to three game stretches in Cleveland. He fit snugly into that forth scoring option role like so many Keith David movie appearances. His burgeoning relationship with the now-needing-to-be-pampered Gilbert was also a nice aspect of that forgotten, forever asterisked '06-'07.

Screaming ESPN analysts may again curse the Grun-trust for not finding a big man that doesn't exist outside of Minnesota, but we are in awe of the manner in which Ernie grabbed Young, for now the bench, ever the land of despair, has been boosted further. I am not in favor of sticking the kid into the starting lineup right now, with the newly-reasonably-contracted (hopefully) Stevenson already having earned that position; I want him coming off the vastly improved bench. Before the debacles of last season, the Wiz managed to draft a massive Ukranian kid name Oleksiy Pecherov who marinated in Europe this season, expanding his musculature and improving his basketballing, to be their big man of the future. While Pecherov was gathering his NBA-readiness, Andray Blatche was displaying his, with the occasional brilliant contribution in between earning Eddie Jordan's scorn. Both of these kids should be early bench options, and Young can serve as the first scoring option off the bench, replacing the often sucky Jarvis Hayes.

We have loved Jarvis's tenure in Washington, with his occasional bouts with health that kept him out of his home on the DL, occasional bouts with effective basketball play, and his gleaming dome. But it is time for him to move on and allow for this Young to work his magic.

Lest us not forget the selection of defensive guru Dominic McGuire with the 47th overall pick, who is bound to be an Eddie Jordan favorite with his penchant for defensiveness. According to our scouting department, McGuire (strangley not an Irishman) snatches rebounds out of people's hands, slashes to the hoop and "has all of the tools in place to be a lock-down defensive forward in this league." As if he were Dmitri Young displaying his recent plate (both dinner and home) output, the Grun-trust again strokes another much needed hit. Imagine McGuire being sent into the game in the waning minutes of the forth, causing an ignored travel on Lebron, and being extremely pesky otherwise. DCO Final Draft Grade: A+

Friday, June 29, 2007

MAO of the Week (6-29)

While we continue to soak in the Wizards' drafting brilliance, we pause to honor our Manny Acta Optimist of the Week. In a week where even the brightest of optimists was tested by the struggles of our Nationals, it is good to look back at how we felt at the beginning of the week, in that brief yes-we-have-key-players-hurt-but-we-still-feel-good, pre-Braves-series couple of days. Nobody better expressed the sentiment of the day (and literally, probably one day) than the now-two-time-winner of the MAO of the week, Tom Boswell. He will share the award with His Honor, the President, Stan Kasten, for reasons we will delve into in a moment.

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

This Too Shall Pass

Nationals, Nationals, Nationals. Why must you test us so? 13-0? Already twice this month we have listed reasons to be positive after two disheartening losses. It almost looks like you were responding to specific points from those earlier lists of optimism, in that you refuted them with tonight's game.

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 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.

The First 100

This post is our 100th since we launched back on March 28, a relatively modest achievement to go along with our (to this point) relatively modest success. In this brief time, we've tried to cast the bright light of optimism on such things as sickeningly unjust injuries to playoff-bound teams, franchises dealt a bad hand who are trying to climb back to respectability, and teams who just flat out could use some optimism. We've also tried to refute optimism-haters whenver and wherever possible, whether they be based locally or elsewhere (yeah, he claims he's from Bethesda. He's still a jerk).

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'

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.

Go team(s)!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Eight More Reasons to Feel Good About the Nats

In a way, it's a little harder to find optimism in yesterday's 4-1 defeat to Atlanta than it was to find it in last week's massacre at the hands of the Tigers. While that game against Detroit could be chalked up to a complete fluke with no long-term implications, yesterday's game, while perhaps not significant in itself (other than it was a loss against a team that had shown itself completely incapable of scoring recently), was accompanied by grim news regarding Christian Guzman's seemingly innocuous thumb injury (regular long-time readers should already be familiar with the nature of these things). There was also lurking the specter of Shawn Hill travelling south to see a specialist about his tendons, a meeting that could potentially have meant more surgery and an extremely extended period of absence.

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

Manny's Premonition (and the Brandon Watson Watch begins)

Yes, Saturday night hurt. The insults on top of what would already have been a horrific injury were myriad: a blown save, a home run over that cursedly deep center field wall, a sudden deficit, a promising ninth-inning rally brutally cut down before its time, and thousands of Cleveland Indians fans there to let us all know about it. What does a good manager do? Does he rip into his closer who gave up the monstrous home run, or his struggling reserve outfielder whose baserunning blunder squelched the last hopes of the team? No! He digs deep into his seemingly bottomless well of faith in his players and says, "I want to be in the same position [Sunday] with a two-run lead and my closer on the mound in the ninth inning."

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

Bob asks the tough questions

During Friday's uniform unveiling at Kettler Iceplex, I had the pleasure to ask a few tough questions to the available Capital players. Tarik El-Bashir's piece in Friday's paper noted that the brand new, super sleek, updated-throwback look includes newly designed underwear. It was up to me to find out what the players thoughts were on these new undergarmets, as well as their feelings about hurting opposing NHL players. I first want to give a strong shout out to Jeff Shultz who tolerated me through a couple of questions, but I managed to lose the audio. But I did manage to chat with superbly spent-on defenseman Brian Pothier, grinding gritty winger-defenseman Ben Clymer and the Captain and all around good guy Chris Clark. And you get to hear my amber-toned voice as well!

Brian Pothier: ("...are you serious?")

Chris Clark: ("...a whole team's worth of blood")

Ben Clymer: ("...we'll get our shots in.")

Friday, June 22, 2007

Tattoo Update

Loyalists lined up (or layed down; or laid down; or lay down; whatever) for the new logo. And judging by how many of the 2,088 fans in attendance tonight were lined up for new merchandise, the logo looks to be a hit. This despite the protestations of the naysayers and optimism-haters on various boards who declared they would not purchase anything with the new logo, and urged others to boycott in a similar fashion.

As for Marc, he who earlier pledged to get the new logo emblazoned on his neck or calf, well, he chose the neck.

And the Future Contributor to Winning the Cup is...

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).

More From Kettler

The ceremony is over, now we wait to see what happens with those draft picks. Continue to check back with DCO for recaps, pictures, and the unique 'Tism- and-underwear-flavored questions we posed to Chris Clark, Ben Clymer, Jeff Shultz, and Brian Pothier.

Live at Kettler

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.

MAO of the week 6-22, and We Clap Back at Eric Kay

It's time to look ahead. A forgettable stretch against a team from a different league (a team that, according to the ChairManny, is World Series-bound) has finally subsided, and we can again look forward to the Nats crawling back towards competitive play (still only 9 games back!). The Nats can take solace in not having to face double-digit run deficits, no matter how furious their attempts to thwart them are. They can see their rehabbing starting contingent tightening their tender tendons in Potomac, soon to return with their unexpectedly solid productive means in tact. This immediate future is brighter, folks, and it's even more illuminous when you consider the future of the future.

Yes, this Future-gazing continues to delight us here at the DC Optimist in the same manner that slipping on a newly designed, and deliciously retro-styled jersey provokes great visions of possibility. A new set of clothes, a new attitude (cue the Patti Labelle). Thankfully for us, the Nationals future involves The Plan™, a strategic foundation-building effort that has been effortlessly followed by the brilliantly patient ownership braintrust. We may have detailed the gems cultivated in last month's MLB draft, and how they are essential to the fruition of said Plan™, but we had yet to mention the seeds that had already been sowed last year, when the Kasten, Bowden and Lerner begain this fastidious reclaimation project. That is why we have awarded our 6-22 MAO of the Week to Washington Post staff writer Dave Sheinin, for in his 'Tism-frothed piece on Nats' wunderkind hitter Chris Marrero, he reminds us that we have greatness already in the wings, signed up and at 18, bursting through the minors like the "Ska-POW"-echoing baseballs flying from his parents' casa.

Sheinin tries in vain to curtail the blatant 'Tism rising out of his laptop, lacing the piece with Marrero praise that compares the kid to Albert Pujols, Barry Bonds, God and Satan (well at least Pujols). What's that? A genuine, top of the line prospect waiting in the wings to join thoroughbred third baseman Ryan Zimmerman somewhere (first, outfield, who cares) on the diamond? If that doesn't get those 'Tism receptors firing in your body, I don't know what else will. But maybe I do...

Some snarky "blogger" or "CBS Sportsline" columnist name Eric Kay attempts to inhibit 'Tism with this gawd-awful list of terrible jokes and poor analysis regarding the DC pro sports teams. We aren't the first to point out the fraudulence that exists within Mr. Kay's prose. But we feel the need to tack on a bit more ad-hominem firepower. This Kay claims to pledge allegiance to the Washington Sports franchises, being a native of the latte-slurping, sweater-tying, SUV-driving, urban redevelopment-loving, minority-avoiding Bethesda. But we can't get with someone who gives such dire outlooks to all of our loving braintrusts in multiple sporting areas, especially when, even if he thinks his jokes are so "lol" and he links to the wizznutzz, he is completely off base and traitor-like in his ways. Could this abomination of a sports columnist actually be the offspring of 'Tism Hater Hall of Famers Sally Jenkins and Mike Wise? (it was a wild Christmas party at the Post that night, Sally must have been turned on by Wise's fruit-flavorful shirt collar, even laughing at his references to rap music. Never would they know the final product of their insipid union).

Hilarious stuff about the Redskins along with that fresh material about Dan Snyder and his purchasing decisions. Hmm, I see no mention of the fiscal restraint, brilliant drafting strategies and mindful patience exuded this offseason, do I? Maybe you should instead compare the recent output of Hall of Fame Coach Joe Gibbs to that of the "non-existent" rival in Dallas? Right, not much different. In fact, there was no mention of how the skins have won three of the past four against their inferiors. Jason Cambell, the "newby" quarterback dooming the skins? Seems like he has played a total of three games less than Pro Bowl (lol) QB Tony Romo. Shouldn't the 'boys be more concerned about him? Maybe while googling lame 80's movie quotes and imitating Bill Simmons you could come across some of the fawning praise being bestowed on the "newby" Cambell from everyone in the organization. Maybe you could cue up some game footage where he was shredding the Philadelphia and New York defense, only to have the skins sieve of a defense let him down again.
And we all know Gilbert is going nowhere, so your little comments regarding his desires to leave are completely off-base, not to mention un-funny. Last season's "epic meltdown" was a freak occurrence, not some product of terrible play. What team was in first place in the Eastern Conference before their players started getting swarmed by the injury bug? riiiight.
Don't speak of the Nats without mentioning The Plan™ or the exploits of their diamond-in-the-rough pitching staff. Are they the worst team in the league? Ever? Don't think so.
And with the Caps gaining new sweaters, new attitudes, new brilliant rookies, and a new, modestly priced, yet astoundingly productive blue-liner this offseason, you can hold off on the lame references to Whoopi. Jeff Halpern was a novelty, Dallas can have him and his peanuts. Because the Caps were sooooo worse off without him (record looked the same to me).
Eric Kay, you are dead to us.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Speculation Not Pointless After All

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.

Optimism in Waiting?

Well, according to Capitals Insider, the Caps are fielding calls from multiple teams regarding the #5 pick in tomorrow's draft. What might the offers be? An elite defenseman, a scoring/set-up center, a talented left wing? It's probable that, as in the situation regarding leaked uniforms, speculation is pointless, but it's also probable that the time is nigh for rampant 'Tism.

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

So You Think You Can General Manage?

Many people have been curious about Redskins' owner Daniel Snyder's recent acquisition of Dick Clark Productions. Thankfully, the DCO understands the great tiny mogul, and we are here to provide the succinct explanation. In addition to adding another kitchy old family friendly money-grab to his family friendly money-grabbing empire, he has secured the rights to the greatest reality television dance competition ever to be broadcast on the Fox network two days a week during primetime! Yes, we are talking about So You Think You Can Dance, the strangely-worded dance reality show competition that fervently slaps the American Idol formula to an eager group of butta-faced dance majors (aren't they all?) looking to become the next great video or Popeye's commercial extra! Mr. Snyder sees in this hit TV show more than just a money-making family-friendly (if those pesky homosexual connotations continue to be ignored) television megalith, no, he also sees TALENT EVALUATORS (and we see another opportunity to squeeze an ounce of comedy out of this story). Mr. Snyder is repeatedly smashed by 'Tism-haters for ignoring the scouting operations and instead relying on Eric Karabell and his fantasy-league geekerzoids for his free agent evalutions. Now he has recruited a gang of the best talent evaluators out there, and after this especially long-winded DCO opening post, we will get their comments on the recent brilliant off-season moves of the 'skins. It is these talent evaluators who correctly predicted that Benji would become the embodiment of America with his dance moves. Can they be as clairvoyant when it comes to football moves?

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!

Relax. Everything's Going to Be Fine.

Well, that was some sixth inning, wasn't it? Anybody else looking forward to bidding farewell to RFK? To 407-foot shots off the bats of Nationals that are hauled in for long outs, a la Dmitri Young tonight and countless others before him? Seriously, what the hell?

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 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

Eleven Reasons for Cheer

In perhaps our most challenging post yet, we look at the bright side from tonight's game. What positives can we glean from a 15-1 defeat?

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.

When a Loss is a Win

It’s irrelevant that the Washington Nationals lost against the Detroit Tigers tonight. They played like the scoreboard didn’t even exist; they played with the effort and intensity of a team who has a pure love for the game, a team infected with untreatable, incurable, inoperable, drug-resistant 'Tism, and that came through sublimely in the ninth inning, possibly the most exciting of the Nationals’ stellar season thus far.

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

The Third-Most Irrelevant Sports Story in DC

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.

Etan Thomas Responds to Tom Knott (again)

We here at the DC Optimist haven't bothered wasting time covering the non-issue involving Gilbert Arenas and his financial desires. The non-point, non-issue became further moot after Gilbert eased all Washingtonians' fears as well as delighted all of the internets once again with a fanciful blog post that addressed his contract situation along with other important concerns like riding a bike without a helmet, Larry Hughes's undergarmets and video game championships. Of course that didn't stop frequent 'tism-hater Tom Knott from wagging his fingers all over his laptop in a column bashing the Agent's contract decisions. Thankfully, the bloggers have responded and Knott was once again left to look Sally Jenkins-esque in his foolhardiness. But we thought another voice was needed to K.O. Knott. In a "war" of printed words last year, Wizards center Etan Thomas got into "debate mode" over his dual role as both a mediocre center and a thoughtful public speaker with the gruff Moonie-paper columnist. Thomas came out the victor of this brief beef, and unlike many of his games, he was consistent with his points. We sought out Etan for his thoughts on the recent bashing of his teammate by the MC Eiht to his DJ Quik. His response is below:

The other day I was driving my hybrid through the dilapidated streets of Washington DC, searching for a place to park so that I could enjoy a serving of fresh falafel, free of slaughtered animals, when I encountered a copy of your "great republican" newspaper, serving as a bed-sheet to a homeless transient. Ironic, I thought, that it is Knott's blowhardiness serving to warm this disenfranchised soul. After offering my 20-oz jug of wheat grass juice to the man in exchange for his bedspread (he took 20 dollars instead), I read over your latest bashing of African Americans living in this country. How long will we have to live with your racism, Mr. Knott? My teammate Gilbert Arenas may not have the wherewithal to deliver me the rock when I am free on the low block, but he is true with his intentions as a business person in America. What is wrong with a brother looking to maximize his financial means?

I was once a hungry rookie on the Washington bench, fiending for the opportunity to show off my potential to the Wizards' management, and after my impressive 03-04, I was rewarded with a contract that is critical to the team's success. I knew that with my financial future on the line, I would play as if my dreads were posessed by Jah himself, and afterwards, I would reap the rewards. I only see the play of Gilbert as going in the same direction, granted he passes me the ball every four or five posessions. The new contract, like the haters, will be his motivation, much like annihilating prejudice from the minds of bitter, unathletic sports columnists has always been mine.

Maybe you didn't know that while I was earning my degree from the prestigious Syracuse University, I was also serving as captain of the debate team, poet laureate and all-time shot block leader. I feel obligated to speak my mind when it comes to issues that involve racism, as most of your columns tend to do (and don't think I didn't notice your labelling of me as "The Poet" once again, as if having a literary-mindedness somehow is cause for jokes). I also have a problem with these websites that attempt to imitate my writing style in an effort to draw laughs at the expense of me and my mission. Laugh it up in your office cubicles; you are not out on the front lines speaking for the disenfranchised. Since everyone loves to affix me with this "poet" label, here's some battle rhymes I wrote for all of you:
I see you affixing your labels
eyes like post it notes
neon with hatred
none will attach
when my hands is slippery
Try to move me
but I won't budge
paper motivation like one sentence paragraphs
but fleeting
*author may not be Etan Thomas

Sunday, June 17, 2007

2007-2008 NHL Awards Predictions

After the NHL announced the winners of the various trophies and awards for this past season, DCO began an in-depth process of making projections for the 2007-2008 season. Based on these projections, we believe we have come to reasonable conclusions as to who will win next year's post-season awards. The results:

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

MAO of the Week, 6-15

Just two weeks ago, we never thought we'd award a Manny Acta Optimist of the Week (MAO of the Week) Award to the Washington Times' Mark Zuckerman. Certainly not after his buzzkill of a column in which he chalked up a recent Nats hot streak (which continues to this day, actually) to nothing more than playing "lesser competition." Zuckerman's tounge-lashing from Manny Acta on that very subject seemed to seal his fate as an optimism-hater.

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

The Sweetest Sweep That Was Ever Swept

There's not much to say about tonight's game that we haven't already covered in our posts about the previous two games. Still, it is worth pointing out that once again the Nats knocked in runs with two outs, saw Dmitri Young improve his average, and got a tremendous outing from a "stopgap" pitcher (could J. Simontacci be sticking around for a while?). Also, Ryan Zimmerman finally chased down that elusive .250 (straight on to .300, Ryan).

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.

DCO Guest Blogger: George P. Pelecanos

With the Nats bludgeoning the Orioles this week in Charm City, the DC Optimist sought perspective from a passionnate, historically in-tune, and violently brilliant writer for this 95-north-based battle; a writer that both understands the local scene, and can provide awesome descriptions of bludgeoning. Who better than crime novellist-slash-television and film producer George P. Pelecanos, the District's most knowledgeable and consistent voice of the streets. Pelecanos's crime novels have exposed a side of DC's underbelly that is rarely looked at by Barbara Harrison, and when he isn't sending Private Investigator Derek Strange off to shove knives in racist drug runners' necks, he is penning some of the best episodes of the best television show ever based in Baltimore, The Wire. His recount of Felipe Lopez's brilliance last night in the 11th inning is below:

Felipe got back into the batter's box for what seemed like the thousanth time. In his last five trips to that proverbial dish, lined with white chalk that resembled only the finest in Colombian uncut, he flailed. He couldn't figure out how this game eluded him. Like a white Republican attempting a coup on the Mayor's office, his output had been almost laughable. Maybe he needed a bump of that China White to speed up his 47-ounce Louisville. Something had to force the shank of bad luck from his gut that was shoved there sometime in early May, when he was shifted to a new field post for the second time to again appease this frantically-run operation.

He thought about getting the call from Wayne Krivsky last season, how he was being sent to this newfangled operation sprouting up in the nation's capitol, stolen from Canada to appease the heavy-dollared residents of the neighboring suburbs, people who rushed through RFK's neighborhood as fast as possible on their way back to rolling green lawns and prominent Starbucks shops. Was he a second-rate shortstop, one that could stroke bombs over those short walls in the subtly-named Great American Ballpark, but was a bit more of a headache than a prodigy? He was dealt for a crusty old short named Royce Clayton, whose uniform collection seemed to house every team in the league. Was he no better than Clayton?

He tried in vain to stave this negativity, switching his batting entrance music at RFK to Ice Cube's "Today Was A Good Day," the 1994 Isley Brothers-sampling hit that described a perfect day in O'Shea Jackson's South Central nightmare. "No barkin' from the dog/No smog/and momma cooked the breakfast with no hog," he silently mimed to himself as he stepped to the plate for another fruitless at-bat back in DC. No song was going to bust him out of this slump, no matter how positive it was.

His eyes would glaze over as he sat through another pep-talk from that spritely new manager, Manny Acta, an upstanding guy he knew from his minor league stints, a guy he would always silently respect, but also a guy who seemed blind to the stark realities of failure. Felipe felt like he was living those realities, and that motivational benching Acta handed out to him last week hurt. He felt like one of those bratty kids from Vienna, whose cushy-government-employed mother would try to use taking the Escalade keys away as motivation to force that brat to work towards getting into his father's alma mater.

Maybe he was thinking too much during these tough times. He looked towards Baltimore's embattled closer Chris Ray, probably one of those Escalade kids he was just thinking about earlier, although with Ray's, and the entire Baltimore bullpen's recent struggles, taking away car keys would never be enough. Felipe looked at third, where that ebuillent journeyman Robert Fick, with his shock of red facial hair bursting from his face like bad acne began to stretch out a lead. Fick was always good for a laugh in the dugout, usually at the expense of the other journeyman bencher Tony Batista, him with that weird batting stance looked like a swooping crane. Maybe he ought to consult Tony about breaking out of this?

On second was newly acquired center fielder Ryan Langerhans, probably coming off of one of the worst batting droughts he had ever seen. Felipe knew that he shared an unsaid bond with Langerhans, whose strange arrival in the midst of a sub .150 batting swoon, suddenly energized the Nats.

On first was Christian Guzman, who spent all of his first year in DC in a slump, re-writing the books on ineptitude and free agent misery. Guzman's recent resurgence came at the expense of Felipe's natural position at shortstop. Sure he agreed to move to second base this season — he never thought his status as a player ever commanded any sort of reason to complain. He just wanted stability, consistency, and faith. The Nats sure did show faith in Guzman and the recent returns looked like they were clairvoyant in their assessment. Guzman was gutty, could leg out a triple and slapped balls all over cavernous RFK after he spent all of last year rehabbing a torn labrum. Felipe saw in Guzman the redemption of faith. Maybe now, in the 11th inning of this brewing local rivalry, fueled by a story-hungry sports media and bickering old billionares, he would have his redemption.

Felipe watched as Ray's second heave flew past his shins. Bill Miller, a showy old curmugeon, like all bastard umps, called strike. This was the last straw for Felipe. The struggles were taking their toll, he was thinking about snorting the batter's box for Christ's sake. He thought about his wife, he very own J-Lo, and how if he blew another opportunity like this he wouldn't be able to fund her charity work. She was good to him and had great hips. How could this fat slug, obviously tiring from 11 innings stacked on top of a rain delay ruin both his and his beautiful wife's ambitions.

Felipe stepped to Miller. It was like his mouth was possessed by foulness. The curses were going to fly out. There's no way that pitch was a strike, he enunciated in so many four letter words. Felipe then felt a sudden blast across his chest. He felt the modest goatee scrape across his cheek, and he could smell the faintly foul breath he felt during what seemed like an endless pep talk last week. It was Acta, smashing Felipe from the batter's box, away from the rising temper of Miller. "Another pep talk," groaned Felipe to himself. Acta briefly muttered a mangled combination of English, Spanish, and curse words. Maybe it wasn't so much a pep talk as it was a slap back into reality. Acta has wiped Felipe's slate clean.

After a few easy practice swings, Felipe returned to that drug-addled box, looked again at the fraying Ray and waited for another pitch. Felipe roped the slider over the first base line, causing the corpulent attention-whore Kevin Millar to dive frantically. Felipe ran, he knew he was fast, but after this hit, it was like spirits had arisen in his #2 jersey. He circled second to the sound of dissapointment from Dundalk's finest. It was like music to his ears. Redemption felt good, it sounded good, it reminded him of a line from a song he tried in vain to embrace earlier in the year. "Today I didn't even have to use my A.K." The bases would clear and so would his conscience.
*may not actually be written by George P. Pelecanos

The Chair(Manny) Has Spoken

Again, six runs scored with two outs. Again, double digit hits. Another nice start from Matt Chico. But what may be flying slightly under the radar here is the continual maturing of Manny Acta as a legitimate big-league manager.

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

Mystics Win!

Yes, the first win of the season. That puts them at 1-8, the same record the Nationals had after nine games, and they are turning things around nicely, aren't they? The same can happen here. If the Mystics reach 9-25, then there will truly be reason for optimism.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Plan Marches On

Another piece is falling into place: clutch hitting. Six runs with two outs tonight! Did the Nats have that many in the first 63 games of the season? With a 7-4 win over the Baltimore (not Washington) Orioles, broadcast with pride on the Mister Angelos Screws the Nats (MASN) network, Washington is but ten games under .500. Do we dare mention that they are just as many games out of the wild card spot? Probably not (yet), but regardless, records like 1-8 and 9-25 are becoming more distant memories, and may not have even happened.

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

Another DC Turnaround in Progress

Time for a short break from worrying about non-stories and potentially brilliant trades to look at the oft-successful but also oft-ignored team in DC sports. No, not the six-time Attendance Champion Mystics, but the cruising-back-towards-elite-status DC United.

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

A win with no decades-old grudges

In other cities, a contest against the team that abandoned you, no matter how long ago the abandonment was and no matter how over it you should be, would be cause for much city-wide chest thumping and maddened calls for "revenge". A defeat to this team, consequently, would cause city-wide despair.

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 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

MAO 6-8: The Plan Fruitioning

Yesterday the Nationals had their third-ever MLB draft, selecting sixth overall, and several other times in the early rounds, boosting their burgeoning farmlands in Potomac with high-grade live armstock, maintaining the youth-based focus of The Plan™ and promoting grassroots success that was slashed and burned to the core by neglectful hive ownership. Attempting to yield crops from what was a cut, burned and salted landscape is something that takes strongminded, level-headed and strategic decision making. And based on the superbly bright prognosticating regarding the eight nicely bred young men chosen by all of the deciding parties, we have named the Nationals' brain trust as this week's MAO of the Week.

DCO's favorite writer and constant purveyor of 'tism, Tom Boswell was on hand to pick the brains of the trust, noting that their mutual excitement over each of the picks was contagious, and despite the lack of Red Bulls for the fantastically excitable General Manager Jim Bowden, this swarm of 'tism was exquisite and should never go unchecked. We would first of all like to commend the Boz for attempting to throw our requested four letters into his column, for we noticed that they were obviously clipped from the final print of the Post by overzealous, under-rested copy editors whom recognize no word unless it has been listed in Merriam-Webster's 11th. We would like to extend a thank-you for the (sorta) shout out to the Boz, whose report of the Nats's head-people-in-charge and their assurrance that all picks were top-of-their-list good, delivered this nugget of 'tism that was especially exciting.
Every team falls in love with its own picks and thinks its rankings are smarter
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."
No 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.

What is equally great about getting such spectacular raw talent in the draft this year is pairing them with an equally spectacular manager. Again taking the time to punish laziness as if it were candy-reaching four-year olds, Acta's benching of his near-progeny in Felipe Lopez is again proof that he's the best. And never would we neglect to mention this legendary clash with the Times' beat(down) writer Mark Zuckerman, where the ChairManny not so much as preaches the 'tism gospel as he enforces it. Kudos to you Manny. For even with a slightly less successful homestand, running out grounders is uber-important. Manager Acta knows that if we are going to fall, we are going to fall the right way, "like an American."