Tuesday, July 31, 2007

John Lannan Inducted into DCO Hall of Fame

In the most inauspicious major league pitching debut of all time, Nationals rookie lefty John Lannan won over the hearts of us here at the DC Optimist with his gutty performance, already earning a bust in our soon-to-be-coveted DCO Hall of Fame. While the actual DCO Hall of Fame building has yet to be erected, and there have yet to be any other legitimate winners of this honor, we felt that a hall of fame commemoration needs to be created after his simply brilliant attacking of Philadelphia Phillies. Most of the time we simply reward our local superstars when their attitudes are just cheery enough to straddle the delicate balance of sportsfan sanity that is as shaky as crucial knee ligaments (why knee sprain!? WHY?!!). But this display of genuine hatred towards Philadelphians will forever hold a place in our hearts. We first were won over when the ferocious lefty plunked back-to-back Phillies, got (historically) thrown out and caused the first ever ejection of ChairManny. But when news reached us regarding the first-plunked Chase Utley's hand status being of the broken variety, our hearts found a permanent place for the kid.

Injuring Philadelphia superstars before crucial playoff crunch times is always reason to celebrate. Sure Jeremiah Trotter's two years in the burgandy and gold were quite hilarious with the untimely blitzes that cause 30-yard screen passes to Stephen Davis in the fourth quarter and the knee shreddings at Texas stadium, followed by the corny "homecoming" back to that decrepit metropolis where he resurrected his fading career. But while he was here he managed to injure running back Brian Westbrook prior the the Eagles' umpteenth playoff flameout. For that, Trotter will always be in our positive memories.

Maybe people think Dale Hunter's finished check on Pierre Turgeon was a black eye for both "La Petite Peste" and the NHL as a whole. Not us. Even if Turgeon wasn't a Flyer, injuring him prevented the Islanders from winning the cup. Hunter was able to end the Flyers season back in '88, unfortunately, only Ron Hextall's wavering confidence was injured.

Thus with Lannan, we already have an injuring moment we can savor. His eventual development into one of the top arms in the Nats stable is just icing on the cake, as was the rallying of Lannan's teammates in response and the Nats' eventual victory. There may be nay-sayers who in a very Philadelphian-like manner are hilariously hostile due to their insecure whiney nature and overall malaise of their hometown. For this, we are equally ecstatic.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Nationals Win Series 2 – 1.5 (and the Gravest Threat to Us All)

The Nats shocked the NL East-leading Mets by taking 2 out of 3.5 at Shea this weekend. It would have been a more decisive 3 games out of 4 had rain not interfered for the second time this season and cut yesterday's game short after less than five innings (yes, Washington was on the verge of a stunning 5-run, late-inning comeback on Sunday. All the signs were there). Once again, only the rain bailed the Mets out of a humiliating, convincing series defeat at home at the hands of the Nationals. In fact, it might be a little too coincidental that weather again was such a factor in denying the Nats a well-deserved series victory against New York. Also a tad bit too coincidental is the upcoming Discovery Channel program on…controlling the weather, a program that, according to the promotions, prominently features New York! In short, yes, we believe high ranking members of the Mets organization are in possession of a weather machine.

Also complicit in this plot against The Plan is master prognosticator Joel Sherman of the New York Post, who doubtlessly hates to see his predictions of the NL East's mastery over the Nationals proved so completely false (yes, they currently sport an 18-23 record against the East, but this is hardly the pushover record that was expected of them; the Nats' 4-4.5 record against the Mets in particular must gall him to no end). Also, as Sherman is a self-declared member of that haughty and brillianly clairvoyant “the Nats will be worse than the ’62 Mets” club, he must have seen the Nationals’ claming of victory #43 late last week as a stinging, personal rebuke.

Thus, with his beloved team still solidly entrenched in the records books as The Worst of All-Time, and with the same team about to be done in yet again by the Nationals he disdains so much, Sherman and his conspirators in Flushing turned their keys a-la Crimson Tide and unleashed the man-shackled forces of Nature. It's the only possible explanation.

The New and Improved Brandon Lloyd

In this discrete Redskins offseason of impassioned frugality and level headedness, one of the hallmarks of what will become — in our often-correct analysis — the ultimate team-comeback story, will be the Redskins' everlasting faith in projects that had yet to matriculate positive results. Beginning with the grasping of Saunders' hallowed playbook and continuing with faith in a Portis-Betts biumverate and furthering through trust in the often snickered-at defensive line makeup, there were experiments made before 5-11 that many unfaithful individuals would have since aborted. One of the more embarrassing additions to 5-11 (yes, we are drawing slightly offensive parallels here), was wide receiver Brandon Lloyd.

Blessed with the ability to make sportscenter highlight packages that make Stuart Scott erupt with akwardly out-of-touch references to urban rap music, Lloyd was supposed to be that guy that made the defense think twice about doubling Santana. He was going to be the guy Brunell would pitch to when he wasn't targetting his check-down route on third down. Unfortunately, after his lone highlight (that diving catch on second down in the worst preseason game, like, ever), he completely vanished, turning up only to exhibit overall shame with tantrums, drops, avoidances of contact, and ahem, rap albums. After these Archuleta-like grievances, the skins braintrust should have layed down the axe upon his uniquely-coiffed head and proceeded to procure another source of catches that may not end up having the worst season in the history of wide receivers, right?

But trusting in the braintrust knows no bounds here, and The DC Optimist enjoys the manner in which the braintrust offers unwavering support to Lloyd, and we feel that there is no doubt that because of this, Lloyd will bounce back from this most unfortunate of seasons. Why check the photographic evidence courtesy of fans at extremeskins.com. Lloyd's newfound gunnage are David Boston-like in their definededness. We figure that running routes with another bouncing-back skin Shawn Springs in an offseason Arizona training compound can only help. Springs is convinced of Blloyd's ability:
"I can't think of too many guys I've ever played with that have the ability that
Brandon has," Springs said. "That's why I wanted to work out with him as a
veteran guy. He can do anything he wants on a football field. He's got that much
Nice to see a guy like Springs, who many had given up on or thought the team had given up on, working so hard to boost the talents of a player people think the team should have given up on, or never given a chance. No, Blloyd, or as my mother calls him "Lil T.O.," will fullfill the prophecies of Springs in 2007, upping his catch numbers, and his touchdown lack of number. We see physical improvements in Blloyd's fantastic website as well. New website, new biceps, new attitude — could this end positively? If we were Stuart Scott and also insufferable, we might say booyeah.

Friday, July 27, 2007

MAO of the Week (7-27) and Another Semi-Prominent Naysayer

Just in time for training camp, at least one Redskins player is thinking big, really big. One-upping teammate Clinton Portis’ prediction of an appearance in the NFC Championship game, Antwaan Randle El is talking Super Bowl. As Steinz put it: “it takes a particular lack of self-doubt to make that claim about a 5-11 team with a first-year starting QB.” We would have to agree. A lack of self-doubt is often a starting point on the road to perennial (and often aggressively contagious) optimism. For such a lack of self-doubt and for his bubbling ‘Tism, we name Randle El our Manny Acta Optimist of the Week.

We can only assume that Antwaan would take issue with the newest enemy of ‘Tism: Jason Cole. This Yahoo! sports "expert" (or is he just a yahoo? Haha!) would have us believe that, in the coming season, the only teams worse than the Washington Redskins will be the Browns, Falcons, and Raiders. *Withholding litany of the most profane profanities you have ever heard in this or any other life*. What kind of not-even-close-to-the-#1-web-search-engine expert is this guy?

Even if you do not share Randle El's well-thought-out assessment that the Redskins are mortal locks for the Super Bowl (sound familiar?), you surely must believe that they will be better in this coming season than some of the pathetic teams that Expert Cole ranked ahead of them in his illogical rankings.

Seriously, Washington at the very least deserves consideration for admittance to "The Muddled Middle", (as opposed to being relegated to "The Bottom of the Pack") with the likes of the Dolphins (who is their QB again?), Packers (their QB is how old and how far removed from his prime?) and Panthers (why is the critics' favorite darling ranked so low in the first place?). Maybe it's just backlash against the Skins for years of gluttonous offseason spending, followed by enormous expectations and predictions of success, followed by disappointment. Maybe Cole thinks that such a pattern will continue unabated. Or maybe he's just a shoddy analyst.

We believe the latter, for it is clear that this off-season the Redskins broke the cycle, making smaller, more sensible moves, and getting great value out of their limited number of draft picks. Attitudes towards the best way to build a competitor have changes, and it's time to return to those heady days of two seasons ago, and beyond.

While our disgust with Jason Cole is not on the same level as our disgust with Erik Kay, they are nevertheless part of the same team of evil optimism-haters. Put another way, if Erik Kay is the Emperor, Jason Cole is a Stormtrooper (Mike Wise drives an Imperial Walker). Randle El has chosen not to believe their lies, and DCO stand with him. Cole thinks the Skins will be the 29th best team in the league; Antwaan believes they will be the best. We'll see who's closer.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fire Hunter Wendelstedt Today!!

Homeplate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt (pictured, right) has committed the unforgivable sin of ejecting Master of 'Tism Manny Acta in today's game. This after he ejected sweet, innocent first-time starter John Lannan for merely doing what countless others of us have dreamed of (admit it): plunking two Philadelphia players.

The motives of this rogue umpire may never be known, as he will doubtless keep such things buried in the depths of his blackened Grinch-like heart. However, Capitol Punishment presents a completely plausible theory for Wendelstedt's utterly insane overreation. We now only wait for MLB to do the right thing and can this blight on the game.

Will He Stay?

The Plan could continue apace today as rumors abound about a contract extension for MVP candidate Dmitri Young (if MVPs were nominated according to the letter of the law that such candidates be those who are judged the most valuable to their teams. Who is more valuable to any team than this guy is to the Nats? He’s already been snubbed once; it must not happen again). Thus is nearly completed his journey from near death to key piece of a soon-to-be contender. Could Dmitri have been sending us all a message that it's a done deal with his RBI single in the first inning of this afternoon's game? Almost assuredly yes.

This may be yet another signal that The Plan is moving to the acquisition phase and is done with the relatively brief (yet somewhat painful) blowing-up and jettisoning phase. Or it may be a lesson learned from the Soriano affair of last summer.

There are of course naysayers and doubters who wonder where this pillar of inspiration fits in a lineup with a healthy Nick Johnson (scientists have been unable to definitively prove the existence of such a being) at first base. There’s the oft-proposed outfield, where Dmitri has briefly toiled before. Some decry this move as stupid, wondering how Dmitri could lumber after flyballs in the gap and corner. We understand, but we would like to point to another hefty-yet-talented hitter who played in the outfield to some distinction: George Herman Ruth. Yes, we are comparing Dmitri Young to Babe Ruth. And if the aforementioned Soriano could make the bizarre transition from second base to left field, surely Dmitri can slide back 150 feet or so from first base to play in right.

Speaking of the outfield, yes, it hurt us to see that debacle unfold in the Nats' outfield in the bottom of the ninth last night. But we are not spiraling into depression or anything else resembling the slightest bit of a blue mood because of it. Why? Because Chris Marrero plays outfield, he will be here soon enough, and he’s clearly going to be the second-greatest-hitter of all time. Second only to who? You know.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Why Going to Tony Bat is Where it's At

You might have rolled your eyes when ChairManny grabbed that scorecard in that taught ninth inning in Philly and neglected that seldomly solid defensive replacement-cum-grand slammer Ryan Langerhans and instead filled in the blank spot with none other than the crane-swooping, base-waddling, jheri-curl rockin', on-base avoiding, weird-looking Tony Batista. But you know what, it was time for sweet redemption to rear its beautiful navy blue eyes on the loopy former Oriole. Tony Bat proceeds to crank a fastball off the wall, scoring the also-maligned Ryan Church (seriously, can you just suck during less important moments?) and setting up potential future battery-guy Jesus Flores's glorious double.

Yes, the ChairManny's clairvoyance was once again correct, and even if you Needham-ly slapped your head when Tony reared into his patented crouch and lurched at that first six-finger fastball from washed up circus-freak Antonio Alfonseca for one of his hilarious first-pitch strikes, you had to feel the vibrant 'tism that such a grandstanding stance would emit. The DC Optimist knew as soon as Tony took his three-to-four second avalanche of a rip that the game was changing its pace. Of course unlike some, the DC Optimist knows that the clairvoyance of Manny is never to be questioned. Not when he keeps Billy Traber in to pitch to the frustratingly unstoppable (and lamely facial-haired) Aaron Rowand, and not when he puts D'Angelo Jimenez, with his lone base hit in 2007, in to pinch hit with the game on the line. Nope, desputing the Chair's decisions is grounds for dismisssal from these grounds, as is disbelieving in the eventual steadyness of Zimmerman, the major league playing ability of Felipe, the rightfully rewarding of Ronny B, or the brilliance of the braintrust (anyone else surprised at Detwilder's sudden ass-kicking? Not here).

Regardless of the eventual outcome of the game, the Chair was correct. It's not like he's bunting with the aformentioned, wisply goateed, still annoying Rowand with the outcome in jeopardy. Nope!

Monday, July 23, 2007

DCO Mailbag / Series Preview

Regular DCO commentator (bless you for that) and Phillies fan Pop Cultured writes, "Our series starts Tuesday, brother...what do you think?" We've only done a series preview once before, and while that prediction may have been, on a purely cold, results-tilted scale, slightly incorrect (though on a 'Tism-weighted scale it was dead-on, with only dastardly circumstances preventing what might [should] have been), we nevertheless put our prognosticating skills to the test again and look at the important aspects of the crucial upcoming Nationals-Phillies series.

Mildly interesting fact: both teams are 6-4 since the All-Star break. This record marks a tremendously successful stretch for the Nats, putting to bed the unpleasant memories of late June (selectively looking back a little further, they have won 8 of 12), and igniting hopes that we are about to re-live the glory days of mid-May through mid-June. The Phillies' recent streak has pushed them up above .500. Still, a 6-4 stretch is much more of a big deal to Washington than it is to Philadelphia. Advantage: Nats

The Phillies boast some gaudy offensive statistics, with players with more than 20 HRs, 80 runs, and 80 RBI. The Nationals have a feel-good story sitting in second place in NL hitting. Dmitri has only temporarily vacated the top spot in favor of Chipper Jones, whose recent fluky hot streak is no match for Dmitri's two-months-and-counting hitting extravaganza. Dmitri is scheduled to come off a minor injury to continue the extravaganza in a starting role on, coincidentally enough, Tuesday, in Philadelphia. Advantage: Nats.

The Phillies franchise recently lost its 10,000th game, to the apparent delight of wacky disc jockeys. The Nationals are unlikely to lose even 1/100 that many games this year, to the disappointment of every baseball expert in the entire universe, but to the surprise of no one in the Washington clubhouse. Advantage: Nats.

Matt Chico takes the mound on Wednesday in the second game of the series. According to his biggest fan, Chico=American Icon/Hero, presumably a bigger icon than, say, the Liberty Bell, and a bigger hero than, say, Ben Franklin, both of Philadelphia. Advantage: Nats.

The Nationals have signed second-biggest-feel-good-story-in-baseball (at least baseball in Washington) Ronnie Belliard to a contract extension. The Phillies have not. The move suggests that other re-signings of other key players may be forthcoming as The Plan perhaps transitions from "jettison-all-currently-good-players-in-favor-of-long-term-prospects" to "keep-the-good-players-you-have". Advantage: Nats.

With these undeniable and unassailable facts such as they are, there is only one possible result to this series. We report. You decide (please don't sue us, Rupert).

Saturday, July 21, 2007

MAO of the Week (7-20)

It's a day late, but we nevertheless present this Manny Acta Optimist of the Week award to Capitals' captain Chris Clark. Besides showing his dedication to the "other plan" in town by re-upping for three years, Clark vocalized his foresight and bubbling optimism by saying "I like where I am right now. I like the organization. I love the area."

Clark's attitude flies in the face (again) of the optimism-hating perception that "nobody wants to play for the Capitals." Just as the Michael Nylander DC-is-way-better-than-Edmonton situation showed, players coming off career years do want to play here. Clark could have walked after next year and had his soul purchased by the blackened hearts in Philly or New York, but he chose to stay. There may yet be hope that traditional team-building will win the day over the elite-player-grabbing-and-overpaying that is more and more becoming a strategy in the NHL (salary "caps" notwithstanding).

We are also exuberant about Clark's re-signing for more selfish reasons. The extension presents us with three extra years of opportunities to pose pressing questions to the benevolent captain, who seemed to genuinely enjoy his brief chat with our own Bobtimist Prime at last month's uniform unveiling. There's plenty more where that came from, Chris. We're glad you're sticking around for it.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Self-Promotion Friday

The dearth of recent posts is not due to some sudden (and tragic) drop-off in optimism levels on this site. Such levels are, in fact, unmoved, and may even be higher, thanks to everyone's new favorite pinch hitter, D'Angelo Jimenez. With a simple stroke of his .040 bat, DA won last night's game and exacted a measure of revenge on drunk-with-power and optimism-hating homeplate umpire Rob Drake, who had the unprecedented gall to eject the inspirational Dmitri Young in the third inning. How is winning a game revenge against an umpire? It just is.

No, we've been relatively post-less because of our careful crafting of a guest post for master of the Bog Dan Steinberg. Head on over to the Bog and read the compelling evidence for cutting two local teams some slack in the record books. If, after reading, you'd rather chalk up our downturn in posting to utter laziness, feel free.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Sweet merciful crap! Is that Dmitri Young running away with the NL batting title (and making Gold-Glove-worthy defensive plays from first base)? Is that Ryan Zimmerman flirting with .260? Is that Austin Kearns increasing his RBI total by 6% in one game? Is that really a commercial for License to Wed on TV right now??? With all these questions and more answered in one day, what is a blindly optimistic Nats fan to do?

Let's start with the batting. The untradable and critical to the future of the Nationals (please be reading, Jim) Dmitri Young again improved his NL-leading average, this time all the way to the dizzying height of .342. Ryan Zimmerman, showing that getting a hit in a game doesn't prove anything or necessarily contribute to a winning effort, stayed withing spitting distance of .260, just another stop on the inevitable journey to .300. Every starting outfielder contributed: the aforementioned RBI-machine Kearns, the sneakily rising Ryan Church (average .262 and counting), and the power-hitting-monster-in-waiting Ryan Langerhans (halfway to double digits!).

Pitching. Six brilliant innings by Jason Bergmann (nothing of note happened after that). A pair of Holds and a Save later and we have a our 39th victory, again creeping up on these Houston Astros, the Reds, Pirates, Royals, Cardinals and, perhaps most importantly, cursed Orioles.

Not a bad initially rainy afternoon game. All of a sudden, the Nats have won five out of their last eight. Might we be returning to those glory days of May 11 - June 24?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Manny's Happy Place

In an almost throwaway statement on Washington Post Live prior to last night's victory over the Houston Astros (question: the flippin' Astros bring opposing fans to RFK? What the hell?), Manny Acta cracked open the window to his soul . When host and DC Optimist fan Russ Thaler asked Man Act how he copes with "mounting loses", the Master of 'Tism replied that he will simply "watch the 'Fresh Prince of Bel Air' with my daughter." It is, apparently, that simple. We only wish Russ had relentlessly pursued this angle in the same way he aggressively sought details surrounding Manny's upcoming experimentation with the country music scene in Philly.

Though we lack specifics as to how the wacky exploits of the Banks family give Manny a quick upper, DCO nevertheless fully endorses this revolutionary 'Tism Therapy. To that end, we recommend that after every Nationals defeat fans tune in to the WB at 1:00 AM, lest they go to bed the least bit upset at what transpired on the diamond.

Had the Nats lost last night, for instance, solitude would have awaited us in the form of "As the Will Turns", in which "The lead in a daytime drama (Leanne Hunley) wants Will for her co-star." Oh Will, what have you gotten yourself into this time? Of course, even botched calls at first base and late-inning comeback attempts could not deny our boys victory, so such viewing is not required this early morning. However, should things take a turn for the worse tonight, we have
"Save the Last Trance for Me" to pull us out of any funk that may ensnare us. This time, "Carlton hires a hypnotist for Will's bash; Nicky interviews for school." If such zaniness does not put you to bed with a smile on your face, your name is Lou Pinella. Ha!

But seriously, how can you not love this guy? While other local coaches may be known for brooding about Redskins Park the office at all hours even during successful stretches (not a knock on you, Joe. Love you too), ChairManny kicks back at home and enjoys the journey from West Philadelphia to Southern California, recharging the batteries to bring optimism to his players and the masses no matter the situation. I may tune in tonight after all. Just in case.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Not So Obvious MAO of the Week (7-13)

Sure, we could have gone the obvious route, again choosing our mascot/inspiration/savior/friend whose umpteenth 'Tism profile (this time in the Post), seems to follow the path beaten by a certain optimism-themed web-blog, (with the paper again neglecting the rightful percentage owed to us). We could have blah blah blahed again about Manny and his "successories collection" and his motivational attitude and how everyone in the organization has faith in his teachings as if he were the head of a red-colored revolutionary party that overthrew a corrupt dynasty system, spreading the good word to the downtrodden. But redundancy is not the reason we draw 50+ users a day (except on Fridays). No, the MAO of the Week feature is meant to spotlight optimism in areas that may be bereft of light, areas that may even be encased in the darkness of 'Tism-hating.
There hasn't been much baseball (of meaningful, or of the well-coached variety) this week leading to lots of reflecting over what has transpired so far in the 07, and one of our favorite season wrap ups so far has come from DCO homie Chris Needham over at Capitol Punishment whose half-way analysis is just dripping with 'Tism like sweat from Dmitri Young's prodigious nipples after legging out a triple. Anyone who reads Punishment on the reg knows that its a place where things can get a bit snippy in regards to management and their embrace of a legitimate team-building strategy. We wonder if the presence and ultimate influence of Manny has permeated Needham's MASN2-airing flatscreen and brightened up this oft-downtrodden Natosphere regular. The first recipient of lavish praise is the ChairManny himself:
"He's setting a positive example and isn't letting the players get down on
themselves, constantly teaching and keeping the team from getting down and
falling in on themselves."
We nodded our head steadily while reading as if we were Leo Mazzone watching Daniel Cabrera walk 9 batters on the way to not fullfilling his potential. We too love everything Manager Acta brings to the team (in the least redundant manner possible), and we are happy to see his influence reach all aspects of Nationals coverage. What would "Good thing number 2" be? Why none other than the Greatest Hitter of All Time Dmitri Young:
"What more can you say about what he's done on the field?"
Well I'm sure there are a couple of more posts we can eek out on his remarkable turnaround especially if he keeps lacing bases-loaded doubles like he's doing for Bergmann and his lack of stuff tonight. Of course the pending fruitless debate over whether or not to trade D'Meat Hook (designated the MVP by Needham) come next month ought to provoke more sayings. In our quest to keep Dmitri where he belongs it's good to see an ally in MAO veteran Tom Boswell instead of the alternative. I'm sure Needham feels similarly. And for good thing number three? Why tonight's bouncing back starter Bergmann, whose profile is, in Needham's eyes, almost as made-for-the-big-screen as Dmitri's:
"Bergmann needed to be in DC, with St. Claire over his shoulder and with Bowden
barking in front of him. Right place. Right time. And he has a future. Take any
individual piece of that away, and he's likely back in NJ teaching bored
children how to dissect frogs."
Well he certainly wouldn't be playing terribly for the Orioles, like most pitchers who arrive near the inner harbor, inhale its toxic fumes, and take in the disturbing blight that surrounds the area. We also love how Needham has stretched his 'Tism post to include "other things" including Matt Chico, Ronnie Belliard, and jokes about Jesus Colome! Bravo!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

An MVP Snubbed, And All Signs Point to Selig

Bud Selig, obviously still miffed over his lack of lordship over the Washington Nationals, has again taken to poisoning deserving Washington players instead of rewarding them for their vital contributions to this most-important (REALLY IT COUNTS) game where people from the Pirates are forced to play. Instead of rightfully anointing Nationals first baseman-cum-inspiration Dmitri Young a most valuable player award, for sparking the bottom-of-the-ninth, two-out rally with his karma('tism?)-tinged infield single, Selig thought to dole out the award to a big money overseas commodity.

Selig, whose commisionership boasts such luminous episodes as a tied All-Star game and sparsely attended regular season games in Puerto Rico, decided for once to check his heavy-handed dictatorial ways at the door and declined to step in and award Dmitri his obviously deserved MVP honors. If flashy inside-the-park home runs are such a strong criterion in determining an MVP, then surely Austin Kearns is high on the list of potential season MVPs for pulling off such a feat on May 12. If Selig is at all fair and consistent, he will make sure Austin is seriously considered.

While we are fostering most of the blame on the rarely accounting-for-himself commish, more finger wags ought to be pointed in the direction of National League coach Tony LaRussa. LaRussa's Cito-Gaston-like decision to keep his own star player on the bench in a key bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the ninth was eclipsed in idiocy only by his decision to sit Dmitri for 8 2/3 innings. We at DCO have analyzed Dmitri's limited playing time and have projected, based on his lone at bat, what his stats would have been had LaRussa done the right thing and played him the whole game:

AB = 4
R = 4
H = 4
RBI = 4
AVG. = 1.000

2B = 1
3B = 1
HR = 1

And the most important statistic, often not charted:
Most inspirational story in sports - 1

Maybe oft-confusing flip-flopping 'tism supporter/hater Mark Zuckerman ought to check these projections out next time he wants to throw out insane suggestions regarding the Nats' clubhouse lifeforce.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Crosby Contract Good for Caps

Rest assured, this will be the only piece we ever post with the word "Crosby" and the phrase "good for Caps" (excepting extreme circumstances involving early retirement, the dissolving of the Penguins franchise, an unlikely trade, or a move from Mario Lemieux's house to Jaromir Jagr's). With that in mind, let’s look at the good fortune Washington reaps from Sid’s new 5-year, $45 million contract.

If Alex Ovechkin’s cryptic “it’s a little bit secret” response to questions about a contract extension (plus pure common sense) is to be interpreted to mean the Caps are in negotiations to extend his soon-to-be-expired (after this season) rookie contract, we can assume that both parties are looking at comparable contracts around the league. Before today, the only close benchmarks were the gratuitously overpaid Daniel Briere (8 yr./$52M), Chris Drury (5 yr./$35.25M), and Scott Gomez (7 yr./$51.5M).

While Briere’s contract may not be completely ludicrous (if you have a fetish for diminutive centers who specialize in doling out cheap spears while hiding in the comfortable shadow of a defenseman twice their size), the Rangers giving out $7 million+/year contracts to a pair of guys who didn’t top 70 points last season was at the very least a disturbing harbinger of future contracts (will the likes of David Vyborny, with his Gomez-like numbers, demand similar terms in future negotiations?). The Crosby Precedent, with it’s $9 million/year average, presumably puts a reasonable limit on individual player salaries in a way that the ever-rising NHL cap cannot.

With a comparable contract at last in place, the Capitals can safely offer Ovechkin a fair-market deal before he becomes a restricted free agent next summer. With the jilted Kevin Lowe’s ridiculous offer (since matched) to Thomas Vanek as a potential benchmark, RFAs may not be as unattainable to a deep-pocketed (or desperate) team as they used to be. It’s not hard to imagine the Rangers or a like-minded-and-financed team making an equally over-the-top offer to Ovechkin next July, which the Caps would then have to match (or lose their franchise player, then their already tenuous fanbase, then their franchise), to the likely detriment of the rest of the squad. The NHL “cap” on individual player salaries (no more than 20% of the total salary cap) is no protection against such a thing. With the team cap rising from $39 million in 05-06 to $50.3 million only two years later, it’s not hard to envision a “cap” of $11.5 million+ or more for individual players within a year or two. It’s a salary that our friends in New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, or Toronto would be more than happy to provide, probably with an insanely front-loaded contract.

In the end, Crosby may have saved the Caps a few million dollars over the next several seasons, enough to put another Viktor Kozlov or two on the roster. So thanks, Sid (also the only time such a phrase will appear), for restoring some relative form of sanity to the league. Too bad your submissive servant Commissioner can’t do the same.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Recognizing Dmitri (and others)

Throughout this occasionally glorious baseball season, we had eagerly anticipated someone taking down Dmitri Young's incredible story, knowing that his "troubles" in the past and his redemption via bat swinging was the type of stuff that gives misty eyed Field of Dreams-watchers chubbies. But no one had stepped to the plate yet, not while he was in the major's top five in hitting, not during his also-sort-of-troubled-brother's breakout year, and not immediately after he was selected to his second all star team. We anxiously waited while premature Guzman redemption stories were printed, while Manny's glorious attitude was detailed, while Zimmerman breakouts were anticipated, while bargain bin pitchers' second, third and umpteenth chances were looked upon, but there was nothing of this majestic comeback story. ESPN was busy with their yearly puff pieces about heroic athletes spending a day shepherding around a disease survivor neglecting to mention Dmitri's greatness when a promotional tie-in wasn't readily available (putting him on the Budweiser Hot Seat would be a little classless, no?).

Finally the post and Barry Svlurga came through on Sunday, delivering a multi-paged, multi-photoed, and multi-sourced piece that featured Dmitri's well-deserved grin spread across the sports page. While some golf tournament with some dude seemed to be the highlight of the local sports scene all week, we thought that it was fitting for this story, which likely wrote itself (even if, as Dmitri said, "you don't have enough paper") to gain its rightful prevalence. There are a few other stories brewing in the local sports landscape that we feel need to be explored, and they are listed below.

1. Adam Archuleta's workout tape. According to the promotional website, "As you master these beginning exercises, you too will realize dramatic improvements in strength, speed and explosiveness and be on your way to reaching your ultimate athletic potential!" Early reviews say that while the exercises look nice and can deliver some nice results, they often leave you in the wrong position. The tape is incredibly expensive as well.

2. Anthony Anderson's prodigious Clinton Portis jersey and matching Redskins laniard worn throughout hollywood blockbuster, Transformers. Speaking of product tie-ins, enter the Danny's latest. Every great Hollywood movie needs actual authentic branding to slip product choice influencers into our youth's maleable brand loyalty tendencies, why not include one from the most valuable sports franchise this side of the Atlantic? There is no doubt that Snyder saw paralells between the skins and this overdone, overglossed, overpriced flick about toys that were better and more popular in the eighties. Could the skins be in the midst of their own big budget transformation? Are they ever not?
3. Oleksiy Pecherov "boxing out" Harvey Grant for an imaginary rebound. There is an imaginary post battle that I never want to imagine even if the hustle was implied (The whole "Man this guy has some size" quote is also disturbing). Sure we are all excited about the 7-footer's development with the regression of other 7-footers on the roster and all, but I don't know if I need those kind of hustle details. The fact that Pecherov looks more and more like a psychopath with every bloodshot-eyed photo doesn't help.

4. Jason Simontacchi's "reason for optimism." Just because.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Looking Forward (Again) with the MAO of the Week (7-6)

We begin this MAO of the Week post with a bit of existential comedic stylings from Zippy the Pinhead, who in this strip simply cannot fathom the negativity from Griff, whom is often the voice of reality in Zippy's world. The DC Optimist loves Zippy not only because it makes us look intelligent and witty to pretend like we understand half of the strips, but also because we see a lot of similarity between the 'toon's titular character and Nationals Manager (and now 3x MAO of the week winner) Manny Acta. Staring at three consecutive series losses and mounting disabled listers already has General Manager Jim Bowden (ever the Griff in this cartoon), freaking out: "Is everything okay? No, everything is not okay," exclaimed Bowden when asked of the injury situation. I'm sure it was also a bit unsettling to Nats' faithful to see him pow-wowing with another person in a leadership position whose team is not currently looking so hot during last night's game either.
But never fear negativity fellow optimists, for we have a beacon of 'Tism that shines bright from the lockerroom like the recently opened-for-tourists Chesapeake Bay lighthouse. It has almost become a cliche (albeit a convenient one for a weekly feature), as once again the 'Tism master has kept our spirits afloat after another week of slumping Ryans to go along with general offensive ineptitude, as well as mounting injuries of the debilitating nature (based on the recent trends, I really hope Matt Chico is spending his offdays getting accupuncture, chanting, burning incense while lightly tapping gongs or some other form of spiritual cleansing). ChairManny, who seems to have earned the permanent label "perennially upbeat" from beat reporters, has again stood strong insisting that the Nats bat-woes are soon to be forgotten.

"It's not frustrating," Acta said of the team's offensive woes. "I don't get
frustrated by baseball stuff. We're going to snap out of it like we did before."
A very similar notion was expressed early on in the season by our very first MAO of the Week, Nats then hitting coach Mitchell Page. Page has since been on leave from the team in lieu of health concerns (an interesting pattern developing, no?) and has had his spot filled in the interim by former pinch-hit god, Lenny Harris. Would Page feel the same way about the team now? Last night line drives were being smacked directly at infielders, including Brian Schneider's 8th inning, bases-loaded rip. "You see all those holes in the field, and you wonder why you couldn't find one," said Schneid, echoing many of our sentiments. Yet despite this endless snakebite in the Nats bat, good always seems to pour from Manny's mouth, housed in that increasingly gray-flecked goatee. Sure Ryan Zimmerman is having a sophomore slump of epic proportions, but Manny knows this is temporary:
"Sure he's been up and down, but we know he can hit and field," the manager
said. "It's hard to keep learning at the major league level, and he's never
failed before. Yes, pitchers are adjusting to him, and now he must adjust to
them. We've told him, 'Don't try to do anybody else's job. Just do your own.' "
People may think that Manny, like Zippy, is just lost in the information gluttony this world is swarthed with, never looking into reality and seeing that the Nats, his personal managerial record, baseball in Washington and maybe even Iraq, could be doomed. But we don't agree with that notion. For there is "Big Sh*t Poppin'"(and lil' sh*t stoppin) in the Nats' future.

Today the Nats will officially introduce first round draft choice Ross Detwilder to the public, having signed him to a new contract that will fast-track his ascension into the major leagues. Being the first first-rounder to ink a deal with his respective team has the DCO feeling like this kid will be special. Bowden even has him eyeballed as a September call-up, barring some sort of John Patterson-esque elbow issues. Also in the fold for the wondrous future is Michael "The Meaty Legend" Burgess, our favorite Nationals prospect because of his prodigiously porky home plate returns. Nats need bats and Nats need arms. Both look to be on the way soon. So please stop worrying Jim. As for your hot-dog-eating game partner, well, we won't get into that.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Campaigning for Change*

In a few recent Wizards-related DCO posts, we have mentioned taking the events of last season's ending and removing it from our recollection permanently. After some internal discussions, we thought this concept ought to be applied to all official Wizards-related business, and now utilizing all available communcative outlets, we are campaigning to have an asterisk (*) forever applied to any mention of the Wizards' record last season. No team in the history of basketball has ever had their two most quintessential players stripped from their roster not two weeks before the start of the post season, and whilst the remaining shambles of the team fought more dilligently than we have ever seen anyone on the New York Rangers fight, they could not shoulder the burden god had placed on their already shaky joints. Therefore, we feel that the "41-41 (2nd Southeast)" that bears itself on most official Wizards business needs to be given a signal that it wasn't pure. It needs a marking that would delinate that the strategism of Eddie Jordan (All-star game coach), the constructive genius of Ernie Grunfeld, the first ever all star Caron Bulter, and the watershed Gilbert performances were not all in vain. The record needs an attachment that would show the world that this team was a title contender, much more worthy than the pathetic Eastern Conference representers, that team of me-first Nike-shill-watchers that caused millions to turn on dance competitions instead.

Since we were (sort of) able to gain a mention of our four-lettered, apostrophe-ed philosophy by a major sports columnist, and since we are stars of cable television (YOU RULE, LITTLES), and since our burgeoning Secret-influenced readership has already marked their place in the sports landscape with their positive thoughts, we feel that we can make this happen. So fellow Optimists, call your congressmen other than Herb Kohl, start threads on your favorite message boards, email people who produce Wizards-related media material, stand outside of Metro stations hollering into the night air as bewhildered golf fans scurry by, post on your awesome sports- and kitten-related blogs. It is time that we make this change permanent—permanently noted.*

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Best Fourth of July in 231 Years

The Nats ran over the Cubs 6-0, silencing annoying Chicago fans in the process, with electrifying performances from Matt Chico (will he ever give up another run?) and Dmitri Young. DC United won again and completed their climb from the bottom of the East to the top. We learned that elite center Michael Nylander turned down more money from Edmonton in order to come to the Capitals, putting a dent in that "good players don't want to come to Washington" argument. The region was aflutter as the AT&T National geared up for its start tomorrow, bringing PGA legitimacy back to DC. In all, it's hard to argue that, in a close finish, this was the second-greatest July 4th of all time.

Young's magnificent performance can be seen as a rebuttal to a pair of suspiciously similar articles by Thomas Boswell and Mark Zuckerman. Their pining for the departed St. Alfonso Soriano was a little disappointing, especially coming from two Manny Acta Optimist of the Week award winners. Virtually ignoring the renaissance that is Young, they long for a man with a batting average 30 points lower. Why not write about what the Cubs (and their fans) saw that they were missing: a coherent Plan for long term-success, one not burdened by eight year, $136 million contracts. A Plan unhindered by a crusty manager with a love of temper tantrums. A Plan that does not carry the burden of 100 years of losing tradition. A Plan that exists beyond one offseason of soon-to-be-in-vain free agent spending.

The words from Boswell that may hurt the most are: "...[Soriano] reminded his former team of what it no longer has -- the charisma, firepower and confidence of a superstar." These words couldn't have been more incorrect after seeing Dmitri deliver his fifth-inning grand slam. Let's go down the list. Charisma - Nats fans love Dmitri. Firepower - big 4-run blast, with a double and single to boot. Confidence - after an IBB to face him, likely thinking him a fine candidate for a double play, and after falling behind 0-2, Dmitri was unfazed and jacked one. Tom, Mark, we expect full retractions.

As for the United, there can be no doubt that they are fully back as an elite force , going 7-1-2 since that early season unpleasantness. Who's going to stop them?

While hints of worry may have crept into the minds of Caps fans yesterday and today as the we-saw-him-first crap storm came out of Edmonton, it seems ever-likely that nothing will come of it, and Michael will be serving up assists for Alex all winter (and spring and possibly summer). As the all-time greatest attorney Lionel Hutz might have said, "I'd like to refer to the case of Finders vs. Keepers." Michael stays here, and the Oilers can continue to make ill-advised trades.

Finally, we have big-time golf again. This no doubt sticks in the spiteful craw of noted DC(and probably optimism)-hater Eric Kay. It seems as though "America's sports arm pit" (hey, that's clever; almost as clever as "Kay's Korner") is a fine place, in the eyes of one of the greatest athletes of our generation, for a PGA tour event.

Yes, it was a great day.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

bienvenidos la bomba!

Buenos noches optimistas! It turns out that after careful consideration with folks not from America, Juan (not Juwan) Carlos Navarro, aka "La Bomba," brilliant second round selection of the pre-Grun-trust era who has been dominating the Euro-league ever since, is finally ready to come over and play real life basketball that actually counts! We had already noted how the Grun-trust fortified the once desperate reserves with newly minted draft picks from both this year and last, and now with the addition of Navarro, with his slashing-to-the-hoop teardrop dubbed la bomba for its resemblance to exploding point totals in tow, will be the cherry on top of this proverbial Spanish fried ice cream of a team. Now that the forever asterisked 2006-07* has been forgotten by all of us, we can truly look forward to a season next year of developing youngs, prolific bigs and redeeming all-stars ending in a Eastern Conference title or bust.

Navarro may not be known to many over here where basketball actually matters and isn't an outlet for pretending to be fouled, but at Barcelona, he is a perrenial all-star guard, whose offensive game is top notch. He has been named Euroleague MVP, has been named to the Euroleague first team multiple times and presided over the Spanish World Championship team that took home the gold medal last year after brilliant American coach Mike Krychyzsky decided that Gilbert Arenas didn't belong alongside the Nike shills. Even if Coach K's decision was ultimately painfully and hilariously wrong (kind of like his decision to recruit and start Gregg Paulus), and America wasn't delivered their championship as a result, the talent in Spain should not be discounted. Navarro started as the two-guard throughout that competition and he averaged around 14 ppg against many NBA players, even Dwyane Wade, who was busy saluting an imaginary flag in lieu of playing defense.

Navarro had been festering over in that inferior league for so long because his original contract with FC Barcelona was so enormous (yes Juwan) that under NBA rules, he could not opt out of it. See the NBA has this policy when it adopts neglected foreigners into their superior facilities where they can only offer a little tiny bit of money to the player's original team in exchange for rescuing that individual from unfit areas of basketball expression. It is then up to the player to make up for the rest of their contract. FC Barcelona, sensing how important Navarro's wispy beard and prodigious three point range was, signed him to a contract that could never be made up for with the wimpy NBA exception. It would have to be up to Navarro to pony up the rest of his 20-million coins with holes in them per year in order to join the Wizards, as he has routinely desired. Now, after a diplomatic, almost NATO-esque treaty agreement, Navarro was let out of his contract and allowed to come stateside.

Having procured this information from the insanely valuable (yet equally insane) realgm.com, I expected the trade ideas to start bubbling like baking soda mixed with cocaine, and I wasn't wrong. According to some, this is the first key to landing Kevin Garnett (or Theo Ratliff, not that much of a drop-off, right?)! However, the DCO believes that Juan Carlos' place is here in the District. Represent Spain in a land filled with representers of other countries and other states. Play on a team destined for the NBA Finals after a season lost in the wrath of god. In fact, on La Bomba's website, he has a list of NBA teams he asks his faithful to choose he play for. Already the Wizards stand atop the team rankings, and the DCO asks you, people of the land of democracy, to vote early and vote often on this very scientific poll, for Juan Carlos needs to know where he belongs!

Redemptive signs began with Nick Young landing in the palms of the Grun-trust. Now with Navarro's seemingly impenetrable contract penetrated, there only stands a few obstacles in the way of destiny. Could the Wizards start playing....................................DEFENSE?!!?

Monday, July 2, 2007

Nylander to Washington = Cause for Celebration

We couldn't have been more wrong. It turns out that Michael Nylander (pictured right, in happy times past) coming to the Caps is exactly what the team needs after all. Here's a guy who had success in DC passing to a moody Czech winger, so it stands to reason that he will have greater success this time around, passing to chipper Russian wingers.

His career-high 83 points last year (and 79 the year before that) means the Caps are getting him on the upside of his career, despite his relatively advanced age of 34. Wasn't Adam Oates just as aged refined when he arrived so many years ago? It's just more experience to pass on to his future star of a countryman. Welcome back, Michael. Sorry about that whole trading you to Boston thing.

Does this make it even better? Caps get their man and make Jagr cry (sure he just says "a little disappointed" but please, he cried).

Nylander to Edmonton = No Cause for Concern

If the reports are true, and Michael Nylander is off the board, it's ok. It would have been nice to see him back in DC, but he wouldn't be a long-term solution. He would in fact likely be a short-term, overly expensive solution.

So again, don't panic. Get Mike Comrie in here. Or continue to pursue tantalizing trade options. Or break the glass on the Yashin Contingency Plan. Actually, the more we think about it, Yashin would be a perfect fit in the pantheon of Redeemed Athletes in DC, most notably and recently our all-star first baseman.

Update 12:20 PM: It might not be a done deal after all. Hats off to Japers' Rink for going to the source.

Update 3:20 PM: It's sounding more and more like he may be headed to Edmonton after all. We stand by our initial headline statement.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

A Nice Start

A final note on Day 1 of NHL free agency. Two solid players added. Maybe not the franchise-changing players some had hoped for, but, as many optimism-loving fans have pointed out, signings such as these will allow the Caps to keep franchise-changing players next season. Sure, the team could have splurged and dished out $8 million for Daniel "Spear" Briere or Chris Drury, but then they would be lacking in cash or cap space, or both, next season when it came time to re-sign Alex O. and Alex S. Instead, we have the physically massive and offensively gifted Viktor Kozlov and Tom Poti arriving, for starters.

In particularly heartening statements, both McPhee and newcomer Poti described these signing as the first stage of improving the team. There are obviously more players out there that the braintrust would like to acquire. And please remember, ye optimism-haters who are flooding the message boards with panicked comments such as "that's it?" and the ever-original "*vomit*", it's the first day of free agency. There are still guys like Michael Nylander and Mike Comrie out there as FAs, not to mention other help that could be available through a trade. Today was a great start, considering where the Caps were beforehand.

The power play at the very least will be improved with Poti on board, and who knows, maybe he'll discover the way to properly throw that huge frame around to chip in with some good D too. The arrival of Kozlov can only improve the offense, whether at right wing or center. Two good additions in one day. Pretty solid.

Welcome, Viktor

Viktor Kozlov comes aboard. Not bad. Another reasonable talent at a reasonable price: two years/$5 million. Daniel Briere will make that by January, but is he worth it? The answer is no. We'll be content to watch Viktor dish and score between Ovechkin and Clark all year. Or flanking Nylander or Yashin with Ovie on the other side. Supposedly the Caps are still working so we'll see if either of those centers (or that big D-man) is involved.

One Piece Acquired. More on the Way?

Tom Poti has joined the Capitals. Here he is pictured (right) wearing silver, no doubt a warm-up for lifting silver. While he may not technically be that ever-elusive-and-sought-after #1 elite defenseman (it's only Day 1 of free agency, so don't panic), he is a nice acquisition. He has the offensive potential of Brian Pothier, with a few extra inches and pounds. He's Sergei Gonchar with a few less flashy goals but a greater defensive conscience. Overall, a nice compliment to Pothier as a powerplay point man and to Milan Jurcina as a throw-your-weight-around crease-clearer.

Briefly looking at other NHL news, we have the answer to the question: Who will overpay for a smallish groin-spearer? Who else? The curiously front-loaded contract from Philadelphia gives Briere $10 million this coming season, which should work out to about $1 million per cowardly penalty. Speaking of overpaying, the Rangers have apparently signed Scott Gomez and Chris Drury. Gomez at 7 years, $51.5 million. One can only imagine the gaudy number$ Drury pulled down (update: five-years, $35.25. Why?). In any case, it's nice to see Briere land in Philly, where we can continue hating him unabated.

But back to the Caps, who have learned what kind of bag ridiculous overspending can leave you holding, even if the Rangers have not. The gluttonous center-grab by the Rangers leaves Michael Nylander nice and available. It was a shame to see him leave the Caps those long few years ago, and it would be great to have him back. Plus, he's Swedish! Like our new Calder-Trophy-leading-candidate. What could be more perfect?

The other rumor out there involves the forgotten Alexi Yashin. Whether he figures seriously into the Caps' plans or is just a fall-back is unknown, but DCO would applaud his acquisition as one with great proverbial upside. Plus, it would give us the opportunity to ask more pressing questions about the new uniforms. Specifically, can he fit that turtleneck under it? Will he have to buy one in a new color, or will his Islanders-blue one work well enough that we wouldn't notice?

So leave the Rangers and Flyers to gorge themselves yet again on big names with big price tags that lead to early playoff exits or no playoffs at all. Give us Poti, Nylander, and possibly Mike Comrie, and possibly Scott Hannan.