Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sally Jenkins: Swayed by the 'Tism

At the offices of the DC Optimist, the watercooler chatter usually revolves around the Daily Puppy and who got eliminated from "So You Think You Can Dance." Aparently, office chatter at the Washington Post revolves around 'tism, both the mystical force propelling the local sports franchises and the fantastic originators of said term, for once again, our impassioned work has swayed one of the most egregious offenders of optimism, and begat a column where only overzealous copyediting kept our t-word from being mentioned. Sally Jenkins has been sternly rebuffed in these webpages, where her opportunistic blasts at the Redskins' braintrust fizzled once the subjects of her diatribe revealed that her finger-wagging speculation was completely offbase. Retiring to her lair upon the disolving of her 'tism-hating arguments, Jenkins must have taken to scanning each of the DC Optimist's 150+ posts, brightening her sullen mood with their pertinent observations, their correct predictions, and their mystical-force wielding powers over the sporting landscape. We waited with baited breath for Sally J. to pop off again, either dissing The Plan, or calling Gilbert a coward for not sacrificing his health to swish 100,000 shots. But we were wrong. Today, on my birthday no less, Jenkins decided to throw her hat into the cause of propping-up local spirits with her latest column titled "Plenty of Reasons For Fans to Cheer Up."

Bearing the link title "Reasons for Optimism" on the post's website, this column brought forth strange emotional responses from us. Was this a cute, tongue-in-cheek, Eric Kay-like dismissal of enjoying local sports? What exactly are Mike Wise, Tom Boswell, and Sally Jenkins discussing during those watercooler DCO discussions? Our strange obsession with Kelli Johnson? What's a better Sally-related rap song: "Sally Got A One-Track Mind," or "Sally"?

While there are some omittable portions (ugh at the "leader Lebron" paragraph), for the most part the column is spectacularly soaked in 'tism. Sure Sally doesn't explicitly mention the local teams, but she does deliver one paragraph that pretty much describes the manner in which us and fellow Optimists handle themselves day in and day out.
"3. Forget the larger moral issues, root like hell for your hometown team, gloat
over victories and indulge in acts of rage after losses. Cheat nihilism by
becoming a foam-at-the-mouth fan who treats the successes or failures of your
team as personal success or failure. Kick a hole in your living room wall if you
must. Anything is better than the numbness and boredom of a cynic. Let's face
it: Even supposedly impartial journalists have secret rooting interests and
crave those cathartic occasions that ruin our detachment."
Nicely put Sally. We were always wondering if you had any secret rooting interests when you slam the Redskins, and this is a nice way of owning up to it. But why couldn't we have been included in the "blogger-extrodinaires" that you quote from? I know Deadspin is totally more popular and gets like a billion hits every minute, but wouldn't the DC Optimist have fit your column more snugly than Larry Johnson's plunging neckline t-shirt he wore on "Hard Knocks" while signing his contract extension? I am not accusing you of cribbing from us like Boswell did Sunday, but please contact us next time! We appreciate and understand your mission here and would provide nothing more than fantastic opinions relating to the struggle!

The DCO is also extatic at the timing of this piece. The Nationals fanbase could use upliftment, DCO homey D-Steinzz is doing a bit of 'tism-hating, and Boswell is searching for parking-meanings in The Plan. We salute you Sally for taking on the 'tism cause. And we once again salute ourselves for making all of this Washington Post material possible.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Proven Wrong, Naysayers Try Another One

First off, was that really Tony Batista finally hitting one out last night? Next up on the getting-off-zero list: Nook Logan. We’ve been saying it for weeks. It’s going to happen. Tony can do it; Nook can too.
CORRECTION: Robert Fick has done it this very day.

The fact that the Nationals have lost five in a row, and six of their last seven, and 10 of their last 13, does not concern us. The point has already been made this season, and the road to <100 losses is wide open, as is the road to >71 wins. The team is undeniably on the right track. They’ve silenced the naysayers, or at least forced them to re-evaluate and, in some cases, repackage, their pre-season evaluations. They've defied expert logic. So every win from here on out is merely a nice bonus, not an absolute necessity (after win #63 anyway. Still plenty of time for that).

Looking at things even more positively, a little bit of losing brings any raging optimists in the braintrust back down to earth a little (but not raging optimist bloggers), and will encourage them to continue to pursue helpful, sensible additions to the club. It’s like that Tigers’ series we all remember so well: it serves notice that there is a little ways to go, that there are teams the Nats should aspire to be.

Back to the re-evaluating and repackaging of dismal preseason predictions for a moment. We’ve discussed the lame naysayer cop-out “How can a last-place team consider their season a success?” (again, the answer is: because they can, and they are still not in last place). Its bald-faced ass-covering is apparent enough for all to see, so it is hardly worth discussing. A new trend may be emerging, however. As this season has been above ridicule, there is evidence that naysayers are promoting the new argument: “Well, they’re going to stink next year.”

The essential crutch of this ridiculous burgeoning argument is the supposed lack of “quality free agents” available, or at least attainable (we also do not appreciate the sarcastic quote marks the referenced article places around “Plan”, as in, The Plan. As in, the brilliantly devised, contender-building Plan. As in, show some respect!). As if such demi-gods were a cruicial ingredient to a winning franchise. Quality free agents sure worked for that dominating Baltimore bullpen, didn’t it, hon?

We could spend this post making fun of flawed-free-agent splurge after flawed-free-agent splurge, but that’s not the point. Similarly, we could spend our time making fun of Baltimore, but that likewise would miss the point. Still, let’s make fun of Ballmer a little anyway:


No, the point is that acquiring flashy free agents that “sell tickets” is not what The Plan (sans quotes) is all about. The Plan, with ‘Tism always as its guide, seeks those overlooked pieces, those Dmitri Youngs and Ronnie Belliards and Wily Mo Penas and finds in them the production to which the rest of MLB is blind. Combined with ludicrous quantities of up-and-coming quality pitching and home-grown instant-slugging-stars-to-be, it is plain to see why The Plan has no need for ill-advised, long-term, expensive contracts for soon-to-be-declining superstars. So what's next, naysayers? Are the Nats surely doomed when Ryan Zimmerman retires in 2027?

On another note, the lauding of Manny rightfully continues. Even if the recent slump callously pushes him out of contention for a still-well-deserved postseason award, what he is accomplishing here will not be forgotten. We won’t allow it.

So don’t worry about the recent losing. Everything’s going to be fine. Now and for a long time.

Monday, August 27, 2007

T-Boz Leaves Anonymous Comment, References DCO

While our most-favorite Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell has recently been teetering on the brink of 'tism-hating with his wary Redskins columns, doing such unmentionable things as questioning the team's makeup and actually worrying about what certain meaningless games amount to, all has since been forgiven. In Sunday's analysis of the skins' T-Boz once again nodded in the direction of the DC Optimist, referencing one of our hallmarks of pertinent Redskins offseason analysis.
"After the misery of 5-11, everyone, especially Gibbs, who claims he has the
right personnel in hand to build a fine team, wants clarity and rapid
Hmm, that wouldn't be the same, slightly offensive 5-11 term first referenced in this very webspace in July, would it? We have already altered the site to better cater to T-Boz's navigation, and we pleaded for him to give us a quick shout out for providing great column suggestions during lull months, and he (sort of) gave us our due, not-so-much as dropping the t-word in another Nats lovefest, but we didn't expect this sort of tribute. I am guessing that being awarded two and a half MAO of the Weeks amounts to something in this great blogosphere, no? Now, the sudden burst of fame that ultimately will bestow itself on this site as a result is making us a bit weary. Which 'tism term will we need to turn into fashionable t-shirts for Jamie and D-Steinzz to rock on the next blog show? What if we are linked to Deadspin and subsequently cared about by the rest of the Sports Blogging community of basement-dwellers? What will our ballhype numbers look like then?

Some may think we would be upset that Boz again stole from us, but we can't be mad at him after he decided to bless our not-so-often utilized comments section in lieu of his latest material mining.
"I come here daily (since your endorsement from the Sports Bog) but don't see
many comments, which is a shame because this is the most entertaining DC Sports
Blog out there. I assume it reflects not a lack of interest, but the nature of
those who typically leave comments to be 'tism-haters. Rest assured that many of
us appreciate your efforts to accurately editorialize the goings on of our
beloved DC teams and fail to comment because there is really not much to comment
upon when someone simply gets it right. Thanks."
We are pretty much positive that this "anonymous" comment was from Boswell, who we now happily count as one of the fifty regulars getting their 'tism fix from us.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

One Good Thing

Yes, Shawn Hill was magnificent again. Yes, Ryan Zimmerman continues to make the case that he might just be able to reach 25 HR, 100 RBI, and .280 before the end of the season. Yes, Wily Mo Pena was a marvelous pickup. And yes, Nook Logan continues to develop into a gap-covering, double-robbing center fielder (and we still believe he'll get that HR this season).

Yet that bundle of facts, wonderful as it is, is not the ultimate positive to emerge from this 'tism-testing (but not breaking) disappointment in Colorado. No, the one thing we can truly be thankful for is that this event, wrenching though it may be right now, will in the long run grant us the benefit of not having to hear our gallant TV announcers say things like "Shawn Hill about to get his fourth win of the season" before the game is over.

If that is the end result, it was worth it. Now go tag 30 on the Rockies in the next one (but nobody say it's over until we are safely in the postgame show; maybe not even until we are reading the result in the next day's paper).

Friday, August 24, 2007

MAO of the Week (8-24)

About a month ago we recognized Capitals’ captain Chris Clark for his enthusiastic attitude towards his team, this area, and the general direction of the organization. This week we present a Manny Acta Optimist of the Week award to his teammate and pseudo-captain Olie Kolzig for similar, and in some respects even more far-reaching, comments.

In an interview with Capitals Insider, Kolzig demonstrates his faith in the Capitals’ version of the Nationals’ deservedly heralded Plan. He praises the brilliant summer acquisitions (if not summer hockey) and flat out calls the Caps a playoff team. Not only that, he declares Washington as such a team with “who we have in this room right now,” eschewing the need for flashy, expensive player acquisitions. Such lofty predictions and statements of faith in one’s teammates have, of course, come from other players on other local teams, but it’s nice to hear big expectations coming from the Caps, and Olie in particular, again.

Olie doesn’t stop at noting wonderful offseason free-agent management or his wishes of building on the team’s pre-Christmas success last year. He sheds the light of ‘tism on everything from the impressive development of youngsters Niklas Backstrom and Karl Alzner to his confidence that both his and Alex Ovechkin’s contracts will be extended in due time. He is entirely unconcerned, as we all should be, that these things will be worked out. Even on the off chance things get hairy with Alex, or the least bit distracting, Olie assures us all he and the veterans will step in and restore focus.

Again, it’s great to hear Olie sounding so positive again. While never overtly negative, he has seemed more reserved in the past few years, maybe a little weary from the team’s struggles. But he stuck with the team, stuck with the Rebuild and the Re-Rebuild, did not sulk his way to a trade, and has never wavered in his desire to finish his career in DC.

Who knows, one day Olie could be leading the Caps to the playoffs, re-creating his Vezina-Trophy-winning magic of seven years ago, the next he could be leading them through the playoffs, re-creating his should-have-been-Conn-Smythe-Trophy-winning performance of nine years ago.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Shunning of Optimism-Hating

We’ve seen a steady parade of redemptive stories this summer, from death-bed-to-possible-batting-title inspiration Dmitri Young to optimism-haters-turned-lovers (or at least embracers) Mark Zuckerman and Mike Wise. Throw in an equally steady stream of only somewhat lesser redemptions or redemptions-in-the-making such as Ronnie Belliard and Wily Mo Pena and it’s hard to see the past several months in anything other than a positive light.

These successes are no doubt causing sleeplessness at night and nervous hand-wringing during the day for those springtime optimism-haters who unanimously scoffed at the Nats. We find it amusing that so many predicted a season of historic awfulness in DC when in fact such awfulness would eventually be found about 40 miles north of here. Some still cling to the antiquated notion that this Nats’ season has been a dismal failure, wondering how a last-place team can call a season successful. We wait to hear further updated attempted buzzkillings from these heretics once the Nationals solidify their hold on not-last-place in the NL East.

There is one entity, however, that apparently wishes to break from the ranks of these stubborn curmudgeons. The editorial board of the Washington Times led off their Monday op/ed section with this tear-jerking retraction of their now-obviously misguided statements during Spring Training. We hope this editorial is but one of hundreds of similarly contrite public apologies to the left-for-dead Nationals that we will read in the weeks to come.

Most warming about this Times’ piece is not the simple statement that they were wrong (and they were). They go so far as to delve into the specifics of their ignorance of four months ago. They directly address their sarcastic dismissal of Dmitri Young and rightly pen him as a lock for Comeback Player of the Year (though they should have pushed it further to “deserving MVP candidate”). They bring up their unjust and premature classifications of the team ("traditional league doormat").They credit Ronnie Belliard for his resurgence, agree with us that Matt Chico shows tremendous promise, and even give a nice tribute to Christian Guzman's would-be masterful season.

Is it too much to think that this desperate confession was written as a direct response to our threat, less than one week prior, to call out all pre-season naysayers in a blistering end-of-the-season expose? Could it be that the Times wanted to avoid such a public flogging at all costs and scrambled to take it all back in as thorough a way as possible? Maybe. The timing is just curious, that’s all. Very, very curious. Kinda makes you think. Kind of. A little bit.

In the end, it doesn't matter. Amends have been made, and all is forgiven. The rest of the naysayers have just over a month of brilliant Manny-led baseball to likewise come to their senses and join the parade of redemption.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

DCO Crystal Ball

At the moment the Nationals are losing 3-0 in the bottom of the fourth. While we have complete confidence that they will come back to win this game, we do predict that, in the unlikely event of a loss, the Nationals will lose by fewer than 27 runs.

Time to Really Plan for the Future

It's been long months, who knows how many, but here they are: alone in fourth place. Finally a solid black and teal bufffer between them and the filthy basement to which MLB tried to shackle them. Not even a basement, a Silence-of-the-Lambs-esque squalid pit within a squalid basement. As the bats cool from another offensive outburst after a homestand of relative dormancy, and as we marvel at Nook Logan's five masterful strokes from last night, we look to our Jodie Foster, our Clarice Starling: Manny Acta (this is perhaps where the Silence of the Lambs paralells should end, eh?), he who exposed the squalid pit and led us from the basement.

We've discussed GM (the G is for Genius, the M is for...Manager) Jim Bowden's support of ChairManny as Manager of the Year recipient. Calls for such a recognition are growing, not only on mildly popular blogs, but also in the realm of the anonymous scout (third bullet point under “Ready to Rumble”). We wish this scout would reveal their identity, as there could be a year’s worth of Optimist of the Week awards given for such recognition of the forces of ‘tism.

There would also appear to be the initial rumblings of a campaign for the Nationals to immediately extend Manny’s contract, or, more accurately, pick up the team option for 2009. While we obviously tip our cap to such a move, we (predictably) believe it does not go far enough. No, a one-year, or even two-year, option pick-up is not sufficient given the history-defying and precedent-setting performance of Man Act this season. Consider:

-This team is essentially on its third distinct starting pitching rotation, yet continues to churn out quality start after quality start.
-This gaggle of would-be historical losers is guaranteed to finish at least 15 games above .500, with .500 being a relative number. For the Nationals, a .500 record for the season would be considered 42-120, which is about the average finish predicted for them.
-The Nationals are only six wins away from 63 victories, ensuring they will not lose 100 games this season. Most probably thought Manny’s 63rd victory as a manager would come some time next June.

Given these undeniably mind-blowing considerations, it is clear that there is only one contract to which we can look for precedent: Wayne Gretzky’s 21-year pact with the Edmonton Oilers, signed in 1979, when Wayne was wowing the hockey world much in the same way Manny is wowing the entire world.

Yes, the comparison is imperfect, since Manny is a much better bench coach than Wayne will ever be, but that’s not the point. The point is the Nationals should lock up the services of Manny for at least that long, and not foolishly part ways with him less than ten years later, as the Oilers did with Gretzky. If having the Manager of the Year for one year is great, imagine how much greater it will be to have the Manager of the Year for the next two decades!

Think about it, Jim. It could be your most ingenious move yet.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

We Will Now Light Bill Simmons on Fire

We here at the DC Optimist are big fans of "The Sports Guy," Bill Simmons, who despite having churned out about 7000 different columns that rework the same material, is still the most fun sports columnist out there. Usually when guys like Mike Wise and T-Boz are dropping pop-culture references, our eyes are rolling like potential field goals through Tony Romo's supple fingertips. But when Simmons compares certain Celtics or Red Sawx to characters on "Recent MTV Reality Program," we know the reference comes from actual program viewing, not brief skims of "Reliable Source" in between reading opera reviews. We normally wouldn't join the online chorus that sings every time he missteps, cajoling his early public denouncing of sports blogging, his increasing irrelevance in the face of more constant and more x-rated material from his next of kin, and his prevalent douchebaggery inherrent to him being a Boston sports fan, but recent events have had us think of joining into that clatch of haters, and with the resulting karmatic 'tism that has occurred upon his last batch of whimsical firings in the direction of our nation's capital, we are justified.

Earlier this month, Simmons, again in a sabbatical to produce another best selling ego-stroker, answered a few choice emails from fans. The first email sparked our hater-fires a bit, needling the very competent Washington Nationals and the oft misperceived notion that they are terrible:

Q: If Bonds had hit No. 756 on the road, would the mood have been similar to
when Chong Li killed that guy in the Kumite in "Bloodsport"?--Matt G, Boston

SG: Right down to the swollen body and the oversized head. Look, I know it
makes me a racist that I didn't want an ornery African-American baseball player
who I believe cheated over the past nine years to break a record held by a
dignified African-American baseball hero who didn't cheat, but still …. I
thought it was appalling that (A) people weren't more appalled, and (B) a team
going ABSOLUTELY NOWHERE like the Nationals didn't intentionally walk him every
at-bat for three games just to make a point for the rest of the country. Nobody
took a stand against Bonds this season -- not Bud Selig, not MLB, not the TV
networks, not the opposing players or managers, nobody. Not one person stepped
up. Everyone was secretly excited to see it happen. And by the way, I include
myself because I probably watched 95 percent of Bonds' at-bats live the past
three weeks. Now I feel dirty.

So I guess the Nationals, a team that was going ABSOLUTELY NOWHERE, that was riding a six game win streak upon their arrival in hype-fested San Francisco, should have just catered to this sort of reactionary notion of game fixing to appease the rampant hate-filled lynch mobs that followed Bonds throughout his pursuit of statistics. Too bad that NOWHERE going team ended up winning that game despite Bonds' hated heroics. The NOWHERE boys also have something called team pride and a brilliant manager to prop up in lieu of pending Major League honors. I also see no mention of the Plan, which quintessentially dismantles the entire notion of going ABSOLUTELY NOWHERE, right down to signing 20 draft picks, re-signing key veterans and healing nicely. If NOWHERE means the top of the National League East shortly, count me as one of the lost. I mean, if the Nationals were say, members of the National League Central, a division they have thoroughly dominated recently, NOWHERE would likely mean PLAYOFFS.

Thankfully, redemption needed not be in the form of the DC Optimist getting angry on the internet, Simmons reading it and subsequently writing some 3500-word response that reaches for Karate Kid references and suggests new VH1 programming. No, Simmons was likely dealt a more symbollic blow by recent brilliant Jim Bowden acquisition Willie Mo Pena, who after scorching in his first few ABs against the Mets, blasted another Nationals home run in a seven-oh deflowering of the Houston Astros. Why, in that same August mailbag Simmons cries for a Willie Mo trade for, well, nothing:

Q: What do you consider to be a fair trade the Red Sox can make for Wily Mo
Pena? My roommate and I were discussing it, and we decided that a cheeseburger
would be fair. But not just any cheeseburger… we're talking a one-pound cheddar
and bacon burger from Fuddruckers. We figure once we add on the tomatoes,
pickles, relish, mustard, ketchup, jalapeños, nacho cheese and onions, we'd come
out on top. Your thoughts?--James, Brighton

SG: Um, you'd come out on top if
you traded Wily Mo for a single-patty McDonald's cheeseburger with nothing on
it. But I like the thought of Theo Epstein announcing the deal, then holding a
news conference in which he eats the Fuddrucker's burger in front of the
reporters and cameraman and just repeatedly says, "Mmmmmmm … . Mmmmmmm … mmmmm,
this is delicious, it almost makes up for the fact that we effectively gave away
Bronson Arroyo … mmmmmm … yummmy … "

Hmmm, well that Fuddrucker's burger, AKA PTBNL, ended up blessing the Nationals with some late-lineup thunder. Mo Pena, the Shareef Abdur-Rahim of the MLB is another Re-Red in the Nats lineup, looking to make Bowden look brilliant twice, and strangely enough, sometimes that formula works (compare the two teams, at the very least). It's also interesting how as soon as Bowden nabs a veteran mid-season, they explode out the gate. Remember the inauspicious debut of Junior Spivey? What about Preston Wilson's first-game-as-a-Nat bomb? It was like the guys threw on the Red White and Grey and immediately thundered. We can only attribute these sort of breakouts to the redemptive waters of 'tism flowing freely through the Anacostia. Just ask Dmitri Young about how soaking in those waters not only rehabillitates your swing, but also your livelyhood. Why Ronnie Belliard was thought to be a scrap heaper until his bat started to connect consistently and his defense sparkled, the reason (secret)? 'tism. The 'tism in RFK is contagious folks, and it's only right that Mo Pena, oft-maligned by Masshole sports fans who somehow find a racial group responsible for any team woes, is the next to benefit. And since Simmons often takes to "lighting himself on fire" when a trade doesn't go the Bahston way, we are here to light the first match. Willie Mo will bring the wood.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Anatomy of a Knee Bruise

Shock. Horror. Suicidal Tendencies. Intoxication. Blood-curdling violent revenge thoughts. Relief. Belief. The emotional roller coaster of Saturday night's meaningless FedEx field warm up was enough to make someone who downed three Heinekens and two or three shots of Jaegermeister in F40 in a short period of time due to conscious-crushing game time parking lot traffic ruining whatever tailgate was planned, hurl. But thankfully, even though it was one of the first plays your trusted narrator witnessed live at FedEx in seats pilfered from elitist lower level season ticket holders, another, more glorious thing was witnessed. Upon the unforgivable actions of Brett Keisell and the subsequent silence that befell the crowd (save the 10,000+ unwashed West Virginians in attendance, who hooted and hollered at the sight of fireworks and running water), a noticeable aura was emitting from the seats. That aura, in a secret-like manner: 'tism. Sure dirty hits from Steelers in that likelihood usually mean certain doom for quarterbacks, and since they are usually delivered in the midst of a breakout game and perfectly delivered pass, the time seemed perfectly right/wrong for the worst to happen. But due to the united thoughts of the remainder of FedEx field's innumerable filled seats, Campbell's knee ligaments were left unharmed. Instead of a this dirty, unnecessary play in a meaningless game from a guy who likely runs over baby meerkats with a gas guzzling SUV that blasts Toby Keith from the CD player, the play lead to nothing but a bruise. We could reason this happened due to Campbell's savior-like qualities and intangible knee strength. But I think we, the crowd should be taking credit here. Instead of panicking and unleashing a murderous rampage upon every West Virginian in attendance, the crowd chanted deep inner thoughts to the silent forces that control the universe, ultimately convincing them to hold Jason's knee ligaments intact for their due trot through the gates in Phoenix for Super Bowl XLII. After those thoughts were read and the forces held their own, Jason trotted off the field unharmed, and the home team crowd was left to make jokes about Ben Roethlisberger's motorcycle riding (example: Big Ben attempts to roll out and slide for a few extra yards, yet is hit, "He just flipped over a Buick!"). Yes, it was 'tism that kept this season from becoming Joe Gibbs crying over the promotion of Todd Collins from third string noodle-baller to head thrower in charge, or, worse yet, the return of three yard dumper-offer Mark Brunell, whose fourth quarter comeback on Saturday ended like many of his fourth quarter comebacks during 5-11.

But this meaningless game had no meaningful implications on the season, unless you count the return of Brandon Lloyd, the DCO's preseason comeback player of the year, who finished his seven yard ball-keeper with an emphatic goal post slam. Or you could draw meaning from the already-having-returned-to-form Redskins defense that has yet to allow an endzone dance from would-be first, second or third team offenses. Game one was about brilliant free agent acquisition London Fletcher, who speared into running backs in a manner that would leave Warrick Holdman grasping for a loose jersey on the turf. Game two was about brilliant Redskins draft pick Rocky McIntosh and his ascent to preeminence, as he layed into Stillers all night, even dropping a potential interception, very Redskins-esque.

Intelligent fans understand that while three fourth quarter field goals may have swung the final score in favor of Morgantown's favorite team, more excitement was to be felt on the skins side. And even as some lout tried to take pride in his team knocking Campbell out of the game, as this one gentleman did on the way out of the stadium, he ultimately had no effect on us, for the strong forces of 'tism understand that his feelings come from years of neglecting proper hygene in lieu of illicit actions with local wildlife.

The DCO harkens back to late last October, where during an innocuous trip to the Verizon Center for a glorious Wizards win, a luxury box (BALLIN'!) was shared with Jason Campbell. During this brief, photographed, akward exchange, could the strong forces of 'tism have transferred from its proper conduit to its most worthy benefactor? Check the evidence for yourselves:

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Tonight's End Results Ultimately Mean Nothing

The Redskins lost; it means nothing, given the spectacular performances by key players. The Nationals lost; it means nothing, given the tremendous performance by the newest team member and the blindingly bright overall future of the franchise. Let the Steelers have their hollow 12-10 pre-season victory. Let the Mets have their equally hollow victory en-route to either another post-season absence or early exit. In either case, the Washington franchises turned in worthy home efforts tonight.

We recorded the Redskins' efforts more or less step-by-step in the post below, and we are impressed, most so by the defense. Again, still no touchdowns against. That includes first string, second string, third string, practice squad, and resume-preparers. Basically, it is The System, after all that doubt. The defense looks stellar. The offense looks servicable. Jason Campbell, when not being stopped short by cheap low shots to the knees, would appear to be a quarterback who can manage a championship team in the Brad Johnson mold (or, we hope, much better). In the event of said cheap low shots to the knees, Todd Collns would appear capable of picking up the slack and leading the offense down the field. In the event of Todd Collins faltering, the defense would appear to be able to hold the opposition to field goals or less, giving whatever offense takes the field ample opportunity to win. And Brandon Llloyd finally found the end zone, even if it was a pre-season game. Enough said. Rest the starters, including Jason Campbell (he of the potentially beneficial pre-season-ending bruised knee) for the next few weeks. Bring on the Dolphins and let's get this done.

The Nats. Yes, they lost again tonight. That's what, four losses in five games? Who cares? The verdict on this season is in: Complete Success. While some optimism-haters may wonder how a last-place team can claim success, we nevertheless defiantly state that they can. Sure, they're in last place, but by what margin, one game? Who out there thought it would be less than a 20-game margin? The season is already a blilnding success, with 100 losses being a very, very unlikely result. Any win from here on out is gravy, and a delicious, Thanksgiving-turkey-ish gravy at that.

Tonight they lost to the Mets, those supposed baseball gods who were destined to run away with this division anyway. The fact that the Nats have played them so tough this year is a sidenote that only pure optimists will note. Seldom have there been easy victories by any would-be NL contender against this so-called doormat. Tonight especially our boys put up a valiant fight. Carpenter and Knight documented well the umpiring travesties against the Nats, from multiple blown calls at fist base to non-balk calls that might have changed the complexion of the game.

We will not dwell on such things, however. We will let the Mets have their win on their way to ineveitable postseason heartbreak. We will instead look to bastions of 'Tism such as Wily Mo Pena, the latest potential hero addition to the Nationals's lineup. His debut box score may read 1-4, but these cold numbers will not reveal the blistering shots he hit to the outfield (one of which would have registered as a sacrifice fly, had the afforementioned balk beeen called) or his two important runs scored. More so, his line would not reveal the faith the braintrust has in his potential, in his ability to fill the left field position in a way that Ryan Church perhaps has not.

Two teams, two losses. In the end, they both won.

Skins v. Steelers

11:35 first quarter - Offense looking good. Despite the one botched snap and a pair of stuffed running plays, they're moving the ball. Two really nice first-down conversions. They even had to decline a penalty! Moss catches another for a first down. Love it.

7:30 first quarter - That first drive may have died unspectacularly, but check that defense out. Was that pressure on Big Ben (real great, clever nickname) as he threw up a bomb with Landry and Rogers ably blanketing the Steelers' receivers? Was that a quick three-and-out after a pathetic dump-off first down? Starting D continues to impress.

4:33 first quarter - That guy's a bum. I'm even too mad to check on his name right now. This is why starting players should not play in the pre-season. Nay, this is why the pre-season should be banned altogether. What nonsense. BUT, did you notice how Jason Campbell, after going down following the cheap unnecessary low hit, paused to make sure his brilliant pass was completed to Chris Cooley before grasping his knee in pain? Possible DCO Hall of Fame material. Seeing him walk off the field afterwards was encouraging. Maybe the injury will be beneficial in the Chris Samuels/Clinton Portis vein, in that it will keep him off the field for the rest of these meaningless games. Still, might want to hold on to that Palmer lad, just in case. UPDATE: The bum's name is Brett Keisel. He is the devil, and his name almost ryhmes with that word. That play (and other low cheap shots) is the real reason roughing-the-quarterback penalties are called, and not the harmless touched-after-the-ball-was-thrown calls we've seen too much of in recent years.

1:32 first quarter - BRANDON LLOYD SCORES. Great catch. The starting offense comes through, perhaps silencing some critics as they strike against that legendary Steelers' D. Jason Campbell is avenged by Todd Collins. Was Al Saunders right?

15:00 second quarter - Rocky McIntosh with the sack! Were the thousands of fans calling for his insertion into the starting lineup last year right? Campbell's knee would seem to just be bruised. Let's all be optimistic shall we?

11:26 second quarter - A 59-yard punt. Special teams would seem to be in good shape.

11:18 second quarter - Andre Carter starting some serious pressure. Rocky McIntosh finishing it. D looks better and better.

7:55 second quarter - Chris Cooley stretching out and giving the second effort for a first down in a literally useless and unnecessary game. Offense still moving the ball against godlike Pittsburgh defense. 'Tism levels rising. What say you now, target="_blank">optimism-disdaining columnists?

5:40 second quarter - Another great punt. More great kick coverage. Time to sit the starters (preferably for two-and-a-half more games. The point has been made.

2:00 second quarter - There's a nice shot of Jason Campbell not in the hospital. Rather, he's comfortably sitting on the bench. So we can all truly relax. Everything's going to be fine. See you in early September, Jason.

0:46 second quarter - Rocky comes back from another brief injury scare and is in the middle of yet another defensive break-up. Carlos Rogers shows some tackling prowess. Presumably his catching of balls hitting him in the numbers is improved as well.

0:27 second quarter - Rocky McIntosh again. A play after getting called on one of those pathetic illegal contact penalties, he gets ridiculous untouched penetration and stuffs the run. Whether the Steelers score here or not is irrelevant. The first half has seen the official resurgence of the Skins D (confirming what we saw last week).

Halftime - How many plays did Pittsburgh have inside the 15 yard line? I don't know, but it was a lot to just come away with three lousy points. Defense looks spectacular again. That's no touchdowns against the starting (or reserve, or reserve-reserve) defense so far this pre-season. The starting offense strikes and moves reasonably well a few other times. Even for wild-eyed optimists such as ourselves, it's hard to look at this first half, the meaningful part of this game, as anything other than completely successful and a cause for hope for things to come.

8:23 third quarter - Collins: nothing but poise with nothing but time to throw on a third and long. Todd Yoder: yes, he's still here. Nice run after the catch.

6:05 third quarter - Suisham connects on an anything-but-a-gimme-48-yard field goal. There's one you can't chalk up to the they-were-playing-against-the-scrubs defense argument. Just another special teams success story from tonight.

7:17 fourth quarter - Sure, it's only the backups, but it's still a nice defensive stand to limit the opposition to a field goal. Perhaps it is "The System" after all. Still no touchdowns allowed this pre-season.

1:34 fourth quarter - Whether these are third or fourth or fifth string players, it's tremendously satisfying to see the defense trying desperately to not give up a single inch on the goal line late in the fourth quarter of an ultimately worthless game. Our faith in The System may be rivaling our faith in The Plan.

Welcome Wily Mo!

The Wily Mo Pena trade has paid immediate dividends with a well-drawn walk and now a run scored against the Mets. DCO joins ex-Reds Felipe Lopez and Austin Kearns in believing Wily Mo has 40 home run potential and loves the acquisition. We hope also it might push fellow left fielder Ryan Church into pushing his performance into the .280, 20 HR range. One other thing: Jesus Flores was totally safe at first base and the John Lannan legend grows with his first major league RBI, driving in the same soon-to-be-legendary Wily Mo. One other, other thing: A Nook Logan home run is imminent these days, with a ball hit off the top of the wall the other night and a well-hit ball to left tonight that turned into a sacrifice fly. One other, other, other thing: Luis Castillo was totally out at first base. Looks like we may have another call for an umpire firing on our hands. One last other, other, other, other thing: that was as clear a pick-off at second base as I've ever seen. Ronnie was right to rage.

Matt Chico Will Be Back (plus MAO of the Week for 8-17)

Matt Chico has left us, finding himself with AAA Columbus after another rough start. Whereas his last such start hastened the triumphant return of future Cy Young winner Shawn Hill, this outing against the Mets was enough to (presumably) end his season in Washington. With Chico’s departure, we salute his brave stint in DC, one thrust upon him despite his lack of experience, and also present a Manny Acta Optimist of the Week award to his biggest supporters. It’s something of a season-achievement award that we give to the Matt Chico-sphere for their support of Chico all year long.

We appreciate the fact that they latched on to this unheard-of rookie during spring training and brought attention to the raw talent and potential that should now be so obvious to us all. We look forward to the Chico-sphere's continued support of their man as he blows his way through AAA on his way back to the majors.
With Manny dropping hints of a six-man rotation once everyone is healthy again, there will be room for Chico in the future, even with the gluttonous bounty of pitching that DC will reap in the next few years.

Despite the struggles Chico has had recently, we owe him a tip of the ‘tism cap for his mid-season finery, including perhaps the purest victory of the year, the
Independence Day brilliance. He also deserves our thanks for being the lone member of the season’s starring rotation to survive unscathed. While early on we watched John Patterson, Jason Bergmann, Shawn Hill, and Jerome Williams (remember him?) fall in quick succession, Chico somehow escaped the curse. Oddly enough, the injury-avoidance so uncommon with the Nats this season may have been his undoing, wearing him down without a trip to the DL to rest and causing him to lose some of the stuff that so baffled the Cubs on July 4th and others at other times during his dreamy mid-summer run. We feel confident that the control problems he is having are, like the minor issues with Jason Campbell's mechanics and ball protection, correctable.

Take care, Matt. See you soon.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Another Victory for The Plan

That's 20 for 20 overall and 3 for 3 for the top talents (let’s not panic about Ross Detwiler’s shaky start at Potomac shall we?). That adds up to a big-time restocking of the much-talked-about desolate minor league system. Clearly we applaud the move in getting Jack McGeary signed (and at a steak house!), but we even more applaud the way in which he was signed. A $1.8 million bonus! Take that, MLB! Where's your overly anal "slotting" system now? Sure, the Nationals aren't the only team that went over the suggested donation that baseball royalty encourages for each draft position, but it was nice to see nontheless. As we've mentioned many times before, the Nationals owe MLB no favors.

The signing is also another telling and tangible indication of how far the Nats have come as a grown-up ball club, one no longer forced to bow to the whim of 29 other major league owners. The $1.8 million to McGeary is the kind of cash-doling that would never have been allowed under repressive hive management. The team would have been lucky to come away with ten cheap draft picks if Premier Selig et all were still calling the shots. So let the royalty fume away at the (in their eyes) excessive money being spent. What can they do to this club that they already haven’t?

Not to be overlooked in all this good news is the tremendous 4-2 victory over the Chase Utley-less Phillies last night, or Tim Redding’s beautiful stroking of a double down the third base line to score a pair of runs. Or Ray King striking out back-to-back-batters with the bases loaded at a time when it seemed we might be forced to re-live the heartbreaking late inning breakdown of the night before.

Redding’s stellar pitching also shows us again the nice rotation that is building here: Shawn Hill (2.41 ERA), Joel Hanrahan (2.76), Redding (2.88), and John Lannan (3.00). Matt Chico will inevitably rebound and pull down that ERA that we don’t need to mention right at the moment.

What we can mention at the moment is a review of the teams in the rearview mirror: Houston, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Texas, Chicago White Sox, Kansas City, Tampa Bay (not fair, really). Those slippery Marlins and their fourth-place pedestal are still a game away, but they can’t run forever. And are those the Chicago Cubs we see just coming into view at a distance of 5.5 games? But we thought they were run by manager-god Lou Pinella! How could they be slipping so? Welcome to the gutter, Lou.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Commissioner Selig, Rename This Award

Last week, Jim Bowden threw his support behind Chief Optimist Manny Acta for Manager of the Year consideration. While Bowden may be about three months late with such a statement, it is nonetheless laudable, and completely accurate. At 54-64, the Nationals could lose their last 44 games and still exceed all expectations and predictions for this season by at least 11 wins (depending on the prediction).

We’ve documented this expectation-exceeding all season long and won’t dwell on it too much here (saving most of it for a season wrap-up of expert call-outs, likely to be titled “Everyone Who Was Wrong and Should Be Fired From Their Respective Publication or Broadcast Platform or At Least Banned From Writing About or Commenting Upon Baseball”). We will instead (again) praise the job that Man Act, our leader and the partial inspiration for this blog, has done with this team, and show why we so completely agree with Bowden’s statement that Manny deserves Manager of the Year honors (The Examiner rightfully cites compelling precedent for such an honor.)

So history-defying (defining?) has his managerial debut been, that we will even take it a step further and insist that, from this point forward, MLB re-name the award in his honor. Each year MLB should present the most outstanding manager in each league with the Manny of the Year award. Deion Sanders wanted the cornerback position re-named after himself. While the overrated, front-running, contending-team-joining-then-dumping egomaniac was completely undeserving of such a distinction, Manny has proven himself, already, more than deserving. Let’s look at a few key moments from this year, moments in which Manny’s overwhelming optimism and managerial mettle contributed to the alteration of what many considered to be pre-written baseball history (badness).

June 13 vs. Baltimore (booooo). An angry Felipe Lopez looks destined to be tossed for arguing balls and strikes with the bases loaded and the game on the line. Man Act heroically dashes to the scene and pulls back his struggling infielder, whispering Spanish encouragements to him. Shortly thereafter, Felipe pulls through with the winning hit, the highlight of a glorious three-game sweep of the Orioles in Baltimore.

June 24 vs. Cleveland. The previous day, Manny watched his closer blow a ninth-inning lead, giving up a titanic home run in the process, and ultimately lose the game. Nevertheless, he restated his faith in the team, his closer, and hoped for the exact same situation in the very next game. Perhaps showing a scientific correlation between ‘tism and premonition, Manny was rewarded for his faith, as the Nats did face the exact same situation against the Indians. ChairManny stuck to his word and his plan and the Nats came away with a win.

July 26 vs. Philadelphia. Manny is ejected by an evil, and possibly drunk (on power or otherwise), umpire. Why? For defending the honor of future (DCO) Hall of Famer John Lannan and his misunderstood Phillies-seeking fastballs. While the ejection was missing the hissy-fit-inspired spectacle favored by the Lou Pinellas of the world, it nevertheless riled the Nats enough to rack up five late-inning runs en route to perhaps their most stirring victory of the year in front of a typically hostile Philly crowd.

It’s been the same theme all year long: avoiding disaster and pulling out unexpected victories, fending off the naysayers and optimism-haters just when they were most ready to pounce. The team was 1-8 and 9-25, so they went on a month and a half winning binge (followed by a brief June lull, followed by more winning). They were supposed to be the silent side act to someone else’s night, so they stole a win, never minding that nobody would ever remember it. Even as recently as Sunday afternoon they showed their logic-defying resilience, putting up 7 runs in two innings on the red-hot Diamondbacks to avoid a sweep. It all goes back to the manager.

More than any specific instance, though, we should be talking about the Disabled List. Look at this thing. Look at all the pitchers! It’s been like that for months. In a real world, Alleged Awful Team + Injury-Riddled Pitching Staff = 130 losses. In Manny’s world, such things = Legitimate Shot at .500. Who else could possibly be worthy of the newly refurbished Manny of the Year Award? This temper-tantrum-throwing idiot with his incredibly novel kick-dirt-on-the-umpire routine? Get lost. If Man Act doesn’t end up as a nominee, it would be MLB’s greatest travesty since Bud Selig, steroids, the Montreal/San Juan Expos, a tied All-Star game, a cancelled World Series, and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Initial Panic and a Call for Calm

In a confounding swing of the ‘tism pendulum, it would seem that admitted antagonist and optimism-hater-in-recovery Mike Wise is in the process of trading places with two-time MAO of the Week winner Tom Boswell. The telling evidence can be found in each’s assessment of the Redskins’ 14-6 preseason victory over the Titans on Saturday night.

We’ll start with Boswell’s column, written as he inexplicably continues to ignore the surging team playing in the Redskins crumbling old home (actually, we should probably say surging TEAMS; see, we still pay attention to the other footballers). This rather depressing entry into Boz’s portfolio reads like a pre-season Redskins’ surrender. It’s the kind of all-hope-is-lost-right-off-the-bat reactionism we’ve previously seen elsewhere.

Frankly, we expected more from Boz. Every time he seems to be letting a little light of ‘tism into the conversation, he shuts the door with a flood of negativity (we’ll hold back on “optimism-hating”). He says, “Yes, it’s only one meaningless preseason game” (yes it is) then follows that statement with, “…it’s probably not too early to start worrying” (yes it is). He essentially attributes the dominance of the Redskins’ starting defense solely to the absence of super-QB Vince Young. Apparently, Young alone would have shredded the ‘Skins secondary and “no-show” Sean Taylor. He would have run straight through the highly effective Laron Landry and London Fletcher.

The key omission on the not-playing topic, of course, was how a healthy Chris Samuels would have picked up some of those missed blocks Boz bemoaned, or how a playing Clinton Portis would have added the necessary flair to the running game to get Ladell Betts past those six yards on four carries our suddenly ‘tism-disliking (not quite hating) columnist seemed vexed over. Such things clearly would have led to multiple Redkins' offensive scores, taking one less arrow out of the Quiver of Knee-Jerk Panic Boz apparently has slung over his shoulder. Speaking of those injured Redskins, there is a place for them in the column as well, framed as yet another preseason disaster, even though such injuries have already been proven as unworthy of our panic.

To be completely fair, Boswell comes around a little towards the end, praising the Redskins’ “energy” and the stoic play of Todd Collins (even though early in the column he derided such late-game heroics as meaningless because of the usual “third-stringers-and rookies” circumstances). He refers to the victory as a baby step, which is kind of nice, but it’s still hard to get past the overwhelming sense of (unwarranted) dread oozing from every paragraph prior.

Mike Wise, on the other hand, presented a change of pace as refreshing as a lime popsicle (I’m eating a lime popsicle). From the man who earlier this month confessed to getting a kick out of “contributing to the insecurity of any team’s core fan base” came a column urging, of all things, patience. Patience with Jason Campbell (“let’s not be rash” he said; are you listening, Tom?). Patience with the pass protection/run blocking (putting Chris Samuels injury in the proper frame of reference, again!). Wise spent a good deal of the column’s space dealing specifically with Campbell’s past successes, and his continuing drive for self-improvement, which is balanced nicely with his refusal to get down on himself over a rough performance.

Campbell’s level head and bright-future-gazing attitude come through near the end, as he declared that some of last year’s debacles “happened for a reason” and that they were merely meant to “prepare us for something greater.” Regular DCO readers will have no trouble figuring out what something greater is.

What does all this mean? That the universe is being torn asunder because out of nowhere Mike Wise is semi-embracing ‘tism and Thomas Boswell appears to be shunning it in the same way he is suddenly shunning baseball columns, his true love? Partially, yes. But in a more important sense it means that (here it comes) for now we should mold our attitudes towards this initial preseason game after those of Mike Wise, and drop the Boswell-like panic-mongering like memories of a 5-11 record.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Even More Unlikely MAO of the Week (8-10)

Last weekend was a tough weekend for those of us in the 'tism territory of the Washington Capital Area. While we had the best team in the National League to prop up our spirits with their drubbings of inferiors and their timely camera muggings, we also had to witness the greatest travesty the NFL has ever bestowed upon us. No, not the Carolina Panthers' uniforms, no, not Paul Maguire, nor the NFL network becoming a premium channel. No, the travesty we speak of involves the induction of a certain, non-deserving, scum-of-the-earth individual into the hallowed halls of football's greatest players. During this celebration of football greatness, we had to witness this individual — whom was fired from television for being not only unwatchable, but also a noted regular drug user and racial stereotype purveyor — speak of his accomplishments in front of the camera. We had to witness this person's face encased in bronze in a sculpture likely based on his vast collection of post-arrest mug shots. We had to hear fawning praise from yapping (balding) heads who chuckled heartily on camera at his antics. In short, we witnessed a perversion of sports right-ery.

What made the induction of this degenerate all the more dubious, was the oversight of a much more worthy, much less detrimental, never-before arrested wide receiver who continues to receive a snub-like treatment from the band of ravenous reporters who treat things like "objectivity" like it's a side of honey mustard when their ham-and-cheese opinions are the served lunches of their reportage. There is no need to again prop up the case for Art Monk to be in the Hall of Fame. More glorious, better-researched reports from exquisite individuals have handled this portion of the snubbery with aplomb. What is important is to note how the efforts of these individuals are finally doing their just-cause, and the "reporters" who finally realize the errors in their snubs ought to be credited for finally abandoning their 'tism-hating.

Like Mike Wise before him, Sports Illustrated's Paul Zimmerman (aka Dr. Z) usually justifies his 'tism hating with terrible humor, and a desire to ruffle feathers. He is noted by the unbelievably comprehensive Art Monk Hall of Fame Campaign blog as a "Probably No" vote in Monk's campaign, affixing such low-brow, unresearched opinions as "catching 800 8-yard hooks doesn't do it for me." Yet due to the steady righteousness of Art Monk backers and the everlasting 'tism that this area cannot shake, it seems like Dr. Z has changed face. And for his change of heart, we are rewarding Z with our 8-10 Manny Acta Optimist (MAO) of the Week.

In his latest Dr. Z Mailbag, Zimmerman states that his previously short-sighted opinion was a bit on the under-researched side.
"Maybe it's time to take a closer look at that rather supercilious [800
8-yard hooks] observation. Maybe a player who has drawn such a loyal
following, year in year out, deserves more serious consideration."
Well, yeah Dr. Z, this should actually go without saying when it comes to inducting individuals into the hall of fame. I mean, if we are to select the greatest individuals from certain areas, especially those that possessed world records prior to a change in offensive philosophies throughout the league, we need to delve deeper than their — as you note "boring" — statistics. But I digress.

Maybe we should be a little more upset that it took years of consistent needling from lobbyists in the Monk camp before Zimmerman would do a tiny ounce of extra research, but comments like these leave us elated. As most know, these objectivity-hating reporters have been slamming Canton's door in Monk's face mostly because he never spoke to them after games. Prefering to leave the attention-whoring to the drug-cultured, Monk eschewed interviews, ruffling the feathers of guys who want to berate performances in print. Aparently, a transgression of this magnitude speaks more volumes than, say, holding cocaine parties during the season. And with Chris Carter's eligibility arriving, it will take a strong push to get Monk into Canton, even if Monk still has better numbers than (BOLDED FOR EMPHASIS) EVERY WIDE RECEIVER ALREADY IN THE HALL. First Peter King was swayed through the help of Joe Gibbs amongst the other faithful. Now with Dr. Z in the fold, induction could be imminent.

We thank Dr. Z for realizing the error in his biases and look forward to August of 2008, when side by side, Darrell Green and Art Monk, donning yellow sportcoats, will be showing off their bronzed mugs in Ohio. Even the debacle of Last Saturday can be forgiven when that scene takes place.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Philadelphia 'Tism?

As a former resident and permanent hater of the city of Philadelphia, I feel the need to check in on the city's various shortcomings through the fantastic free paper Philadelphia Weekly. In addtion to providing copious LOLs via Atheist British arse Steven Wells, PW features a lovingly viscious weekly comic strip by Jay Bevenour called "Hoagie Dip" that takes to task the city and its various happenings. With the city of brotherly love extending their affections towards recent DCO Hall of Famer John Lannan, we were pleasantly startled to find this rare nugget of 'tism being broadcast from that disparate metropolis north of us. Check out the third pannel of Bevenour's latest:

Many may think that this strip is another in the long line of self-deprecative, whoa-are-us humor stylings of Philadelphia Sports fans meant to elicit some sort of remorse for their sports miseries despite them being loutish jerks who pollute local sporting venues with vomit-colored jersey-wear. But the DC Optimist reads this not as humor, but as pertinent analysis of the Nationals' brilliant future-gazing and prospects-culling. We too see this sort of event occurring in the future for the brilliant Nats lefty who remains undefeated in his first three starts. His unprecedented ascent from single-A ball to the majors is a magnificent story in and of itself, and this type of recognition is to be expected.
The John Lannan wing of the yet-to-be-erected DC Optimist Hall of Fame building continues to grow. Next to an enlarged reproduction of this strip, the wing will feature video replays of the live Sportscenter interruptions of scheduled programming that broadcasted Barry Bonds failing in three plate appearances to register a home run against Lannan. We are also looking into obtaining Chase Utley's x-ray photos for an animated montage of his fate-full plunk.


The Great Climb continued late last night, and those of us who missed the end of the game woke up this morning to see the Nationals and the Marlins with identical records as they wrestle for control of the coveted penultimate position in the NL East. We were also treated to a lovely box score with highlights such as Felipe Lopez, Austin Kearns, and Brian Schneider home runs, and a late-inning comeback by the Nats to steal the win.

In other, perhaps bigger news, Chris Schroder picked up his first career win, John Rauch reached 20 Holds, and Chard Cordero bounced back from the previous night's blown save to shut the Giants down in the 9th. Starting pitcher Mike Bacsik, despite walking away with a no-decision after five innings of work, unselfishly said afterwards, "I'm excited because we won the game." He also said, perhaps referring to the stunning way in which the Nationals have defied expectations this year and surged from 9-25 to fourth place, "Now I'm linked forever in baseball history to this achievement." Indeed. Finally, showing an admirable desire for constant self-improvement, Bacsik stated, "So now my next goal is to win 20 games and be an all-star like Al Downing." Best of luck, Mike.

Manny also got caught up in the moment, saying, perhaps also in reference to the continuing climb from despondency to fourth-place glory, "I kind of knew that it wasn't going to be an easy year for whoever was managing here with everything surrounding the history-making..." You've handled it well, Manny. He also said of Dmitri Young, who was nice enough to heap some random praise on Ken Griffey Jr. after the game, "He's legit. He's a good guy." He sure is.

Felipe Lopez, who we feared might have been the next starter to visit the disabled list because of a minor injury earlier this week, was clearly thrilled to just be playing and to be part of this resurgence. In theory he could have been speaking of his dramatic third-inning home run that got the Nats on the board when he commented, "I had goosebumps. It was awesome." We feel the same way.

Now that the Marlins are reeled in (get it?), there are only the half-game-away Cardinals to catch before the longer climb to the upper half of the NL, that golden land filled with Contenders and falling Pretenders.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Report: Wizards Not Doomed

Redskins training camp has had the easy going nature of a workplace team-building session, complete with trust-falls, friendship-buildings, and early closures. The Nationals are tearing through the National league, reeling off consecutive wins and propelling out of the basement as if they were networking bloggers. With all of this goodness surrounding the DC sports scene, why have there been such negative attitudes towards the most playoff-prolific of the local franchises, the Washington Wizards?

All of a sudden, after a future-gambling, cap-crunching importing of Kevin Garnett to the Boston Celtics, everyone's favorite big three seems tiny to some in comparison. Foreign commodity Juan Carlos Navarro couldn't be given a contract without sacrificing Abe Pollin's precious luxury tax dollars and was subsequently dealt to Memphis for...something. Andray Blatche, looking at a new contract and the opportunity to break out into the KG-molded player we all see in him, slipped into the Chris Webber-molded player that we all hoped we wouldn't see in him by making it rain on a undercover police officer posing as a prostitute, leading to a much-blogicized arrest. Deshawn Stevenson was retained for that reasonable contract we all hoped for, but the move has occasional Wizard-noticer Michael Wilbon, amongst other disgruntled, asking whether Navarro would be a better option. And our favorite venerable Wizards' beat writer Ivan Carter is dealing with internet threats being placed on his totally awesome blog entries (if only the DCO received such threats, after all, the haterz is our motivation).

Issues like these may have a less optimistic person worried that the playoffs, where the Wizards have become accustomed to attending, may be out of reach. It may cause them to worry that Carter, seemingly losing his sanity, will cease giving us updates on exactly which picks the Wizards won't get for Navarro, and instead spend his off-time shopping for on-air shirts with Mike Wise, thus dissapointing the internets as a whole. But as you may have noticed, this place is never less optimistic about anything. Herein, we discuss why these minor issues will have no effect on the Wizards continuing their motoring-to-the-top ways, eschewing these distractions, building for the future, and continuing to provide Ivan Carter with spectacular internet posting material (seriously, try asking players the tough questions yourself before you go dissing Ivan, nerdz).

1) The Ballyhooed Garnett deal: The C's finally returning to some sort of eminence is a nice balancing out of a league, and having to deal with Garnett crying on camera about his loyalties and blah blah blah was also irritating, so we welcome this deal. However, we can't simply annoint KG, with new teammies Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, as the best trio in the eastern conference right this second, nor can we immediately place them above the Wiz on our scientific ranking systems. Unlike the KG-Allen-Pierce combo, the Wizards' big three (Caron, Antawn and Gilbert), have had two seasons of togetherness. Does chemistry count for anything on the basketball court (Seriously Hollinger, "glorified Wizards?" They will be lucky to touch the highest scoring trio in the league)? Carter, who has taken to balling with NBA players on occassion might say yeah. After all, it usually took a few games early in the season for the Wizards to engender new teammates into their systems. This will not need to occur in 07-08, for the chemistry will already be bubbling from their first place mid-finish last year.* Does this Garnett move resurrect the east? Maybe, but we feel like the ressurrection was in the midst of occuring last year*, until an unknown, unholy being decided that 2007 would not be the year glory would bestow itself in Chinatown. Speaking of injuries, how many games have Pierce and Allen combined to miss in the last two seasons? Everyone knows what happens when two of the big three are missing, even though everyone should have forgotten.

2) The Navarro deal: Juan, A second rounder whose decision to come stateside was ill-timed to say the least, will net the Grun-trust at least a first rounder sometime in the near future. This is a prodigious gain, frankly. Too many Wizards drafts have consisted of middling picks that either become Jarvis Hayes or sit overseas for a year. With two first rounders (sometime), the Wiz will be in the position to continue to bolster their future, or even deal for that elusive big man that doesn't really exist for less than 20-mil a year.

3) Blatche's booty call: Look, we are not going to again link ourselves to taking a stand for victimless crimes, but lets give the child a break. He is only 20 years old, has been shot, and has had to share a locker room with Michael Ruffin. We can grant him a little slack when the heat turns up and the local police officer count explodes. He has even taken to the airwaves to declare his innocence. The worst thing the Wiz could do would be to cut this kid loose for this transgression. The aforementioned Chris Webber may have had his personal flaws, but his colorful rap sheet was still the wrong reason to deal him for the genial Mitch Richmond. Give the kid a chance to redeem himself.

4) Stevenson's retaining: Look, the Wizards could have maybe dropped Rashard Lewis money on their venerable defending two-guard for his undying vet-minimum loyalty, but they didn't. They locked up that starting two position for the future at a reasonable price, ensuring the lasting chemistry betwixt him and Agent Zero, and supporting his role through the drafting of Nick Young. Stevenson had two major plays that lead to W's last year (1. dish to Caron for dagger vs. Knicks, 2. shot block and free throws vs. Hawks), and his swag was entertaining to watch. He fit nicely into Eddie Jordan's supposed system, and he actually has the potential to get better, with surgically repaired knee ligaments rounding into form. Why send him elsewhere for an unknown? Gilbert is happy with it, and with doomsayers worried about his pending free agency, keeping him ebuilient is of the utmost importance...

5)...As is keeping our friend Ivan Carter happy: Please don't let the internet bother you. One trip through the message boards ought to have you convinced that these people are pretty much crazy. So keep us posted on those Navarro particulars, PLZ!

Burgeoning Relationships at Training Camp

The DC Optimist was lucky enough (if you count being in Bawlmer in torrid heat temperatures as "lucky") to witness first-hand the fast-developing relationship between the future greatest-safety-tandem-in-the-history-of-the-NFL at the Redskins' generally successful scrimmage against inferiors up north. Sitting near the Redskins sideline, we witnessed the young Laron Landry, fresh off of rushing his agent into finishing a deal so that he could attend this glorious camp (very team-first, no?), tailing the physically marvelous yet intimidatingly stoic Sean Taylor throughout the practice sessions, picking the pro-bowler's blow-out-fro encased brain for tips on playing the as bone-crushingly as physically possible. Taylor, in contrast to the manner in which he deals with ravenous reporters, took the young Landry in, often showing him the ins and outs of their respective positions. The DC Optimist witnessed numerous fist-bumps, in fact, the two were pretty much inseperable on the sidelines, looking like a more athletic, less drug-addled Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo, although I think the major hallucinations that this duo will look to accrue will be for their opposing wide receivers, dealt via earth-shattering, Brian Moorman-nightmare subjecting, legal hits. Just witness the two collaborating on Todd Heap in the photo above, no doubt causing a loss of bowel retention. I look forward to Terry Glenn again sensing the potential impact of either 21 or 30 (an area superfans at extremeskins have dubbed, "Area 51") and flinching no matter what side of the field he attempts to circumvent.

Speaking of Taylor, of whom he rarely does himself, many have pieced together profiles via other people's quotes in light of Taylor's refusal to deal with the Steve Czabens of the world. A favorite from this piece was this one by perennial quote-machine Clinton Portis:
"Defensive player of the year. ... You're going to see some picks. You're going
to see some heads getting knocked off. You're going to see some receivers
retire. You're going to see everything you've been looking for."
With T.O. nursing more phantom, press-whoring injuries, will it be Taylor finally escorting him into the broadcast booth were he ought to be permanently ensconced? Portis has already emitted a great amount of 'tism earlier in this offseason, and it's great to hear him continue brimming, especially when it involves his former classmate at the U. It sure seems like a long time since 'tism-haters were clamoring for reasons why this safety duo wasn't going to work, mostly involving baseless accusations regarding Taylor's committment to the team. Gee, his missing from mythic OTAs a couple of months back seems like even more of a pointless waste of ink, doesn't it Sally?

And with the continued development of Taylor, it's ever the more special to pair him with such a sponge-riffic Landry. Now, if the two tandem up and change the Redskins defense to a respectible one instead of a laughable one, wouldn't that mean that draft pick prognostigators would again be wrong in their assessments? This one wouldn't be.

Truth In Signage (and I hate the word 'signage')

Note to the snarky Giants' fan with the sign that read, "You're in last place. Pitch to Barry" : A more accurate sign would have read, "My team is in last place by a significant margin. Please don't pitch to Barry because once he hits his next home run there will be no reason to follow this aging, pathetic team with no future." How's that?

It's pretty safe to say that nobody can scatter eight hits and five walks like DCO Hall of Famer John Lannan can scatter eight hits and five walks. Just when it seemed the wheels were going to fall off every inning, he got The Reason Everyone Was There (TREWT) to ground into a double play or strike out. Sure it would have been nice to win this one, and yes they probably should have, and it does hurt to see "(BS)" next to "Cordero" in the box score and to see Ray King's perfect season record sullied. But it was a nasty set of circumstances playing last night after a cross-country trip the day before and a set of brutally hot games previous to that. Goodness, with the drastic temperature change from Washington to San Francisco we should just hope the boys don't all catch pneumonia. Bundle up out there in that 60-degree weather.

So not to worry, the chasing down of the Marlins will get back on track, likely tonight. And if TREWT should happen to homer, so be it. Then at least we can all go back to ignoring the Giants again.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Hottest Team in the Majors (plus MAO of the Week for 8-3)

Look at that: 50-60, a nice round record. Fifty-two games left and only 13 wins needed to avoid 100 losses, the second-most-dire prediction for the Nationals. The Royals re-join the group of clubs in Washington's rearview mirror as the Nats' winning percentage soars to .455. Florida is even feeling the heat within the division, barely holding on to 4th place by half a game, and needing extra innings last night to keep their tenuous (and surely temporary) hold on that spot.

Bigger picture: the Nats have won five in a row, the longest current streak in MLB. They are 8-2 in their last 10 games, a record matched only by the Arizona Diamondbacks. In short, they are The Hottest Team in the Majors as they go for a sweep of the Cardinals, and as they stare down history starting tomorrow in San Francisco.

If the Nationals give up the record-breaking homer to Barry Bonds, they will receive the most attention from MLB they have in a long time, at least since the beginning of the season and the "worst-ever" predictions, and certainly more attention than in the MLB ownership days. The useless powers-that-be give our team so little attention and respect that they couldn't even include Ronnie Belliard's inspiring fielding performance in's Top 10 defensive plays of the week. We can only hope, since Ronnie's feat took place on Tuesday and the list came out Wednesday, that there simply wasn't time to put him at the top where he deserves to be and reshuffle the rest of the pack. Surely this oversight will be mentioned with next week's Top 10.

On a related note, we present a late-coming Manny Acta Optimist of the Week award to the Washington Nationals' collective brain trust. This past week they let the trading deadline pass without dealing the oft-mentioned trade bait Chad Cordero, John Rauch, and Ryan Church. It's hard to argue with the results that keeping the team together have yielded. Since that July 31 statement of faith in the team on the field (and unwillingness to part with current players for those ill-defined "prospects" everyone was clamoring for), the winning has been uninterrupted. It re-enforces the simple brilliance of The Plan, highlights even more the optimism-brimming managerial magnificence of Chair Manny, and brings teeming crowds of 25,000+ to RFK.

As the team looks to plant another dozen on the hapless Cards this afternoon and looks to make/spoil history in the days afterwards, let's keep in mind that the wild card is only 9.5 games away. There, we said it.

Friday, August 3, 2007

The Dance Sensation that is Sweeping the Nation (and the Reds)!

Like the rest of the world, we too were stunned and inspired by this simply marvelous feat of physical prowess performed by the Nationals recently (brilliantly) re-upped second baseman Ronnie Belliard:

So inspired were we that we figured that the only way to properly pay tribute to this most fantastic of season-uplifting baseball plays is to create an interpretive dance. What follows is not only Bobtimist Prime's youtube hoofin' debut, but also the beginnings of what will no doubt become the greatest baseball-player inspired dance like ever. Ladies and gentlemen:


Now, take this brilliant dance routine and use it to display your Nationals pride and/or your newfound dance talents by performing it at your local bar and/or grill when they play "A Bay Bay," or any other remotely hype song that isn't Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" (ugh, please, make it stop). Passionately spin yourself in section 424 when you are at the ballpark later this evening, admiring Ronnie's plate appearances and or routine stops. Perform it in large groups of people, choreographing complex wave-like rounds into it's seemingly simple premise. Capture it on youtube and send it to us. It's time that the world knew the awesomes that Ronnie Belliard consistently deliver to us, and by spreading this dance sensation throughout the nation, we can make that happen. DO THE RONNIE™

More Expert Ignorance Brought to Light

Bloggers often catch heat for not being "legitimate" writers, and for being of questionable "reliability" because they are not beholden to legions of editors and fact-checkers. It's all nonsense, of course, since "professional" writers such as this guy, Matt Becker, can get away with such a blatant disregard for facts. The first line of his Nationals-Reds game preview was so out-of-step with reality it would have been laughable if it were not so insulting. This looks like a growing problem over at Yahoo!, since in the past week we have already exposed an example of shoddy journalistic research on their part.

Before we get into this latest slight on the Nats, let's bask in the 'tism-tinged light of a brilliant series sweep, one accompanied by the shut-down antics of Mike Bacsik (post-2nd-inning) and the thunder from the heart of the lineup. DCO attempted to attend the game, but was denied by the crushing and baffling onslaught of traffic near the 14th Street Bridge (traffic exiting town, in contrast, breezed by unfettered). Question: how long should it take to go from Pentagon City to the Pentagon? If you said "less than 45 minutes" you would be incorrect. Now, on to the horrid line:

"The Washington Nationals are stumbling through another disappointing season."

We know, we know. The awfulness, inaccuracy, and ignorance of this statement speak for themselves. Still, for the benefit of those who would believe such things are true, let's examine some key words from this ill-conceived sentence and analyze what they mean and why they are wrong.

-Stumbling. "to move unsteadily. falter." Mr. Becker would apparently have us believe that the team is moving aimlessly through the season, without purpose.
He obviously is unaware of the brilliance and long-term focus of The Plan, how it is blossoming, perhaps years ahead of schedule, and how key components are in place and developing at a staggeringly quick pace. This is not unsteady movement, and the team is far from faltering (see below). The Montreal/San Juan Expos were stumbling. Bud Selig’s handling of the moving/selling of the team could be described as stumbling (or, more accurately, “purposely incompetently executed”). This team is not stumbling.

-Disappointing. "failing to fulfill one's hopes or expectations." As bad as “stumbling” was, this is worse. They may be the first team in history to see 48-60 as not disappointing, but the fact is…48-60 is not disappointing. It is in fact cause for blissful celebration. By most “expert” accounts (presumably including some experts at Yahoo!), 48 wins was supposed to be far beyond attainable for this group, whose Major League credentials were constantly questioned. They were supposed to be the pushover joke of the NL East, yet they find themselves only 2.5 games behind the mighty Florida Marlins for 4th place in the division. They have a better record than teams not burdened with worst-ever predictions: the Giants, Astros, Pirates, Reds, Devil Rays (please let this list include the word “Orioles” by the end of this season. It’s possible, so very possible). Maybe Manny needs to sit down with this guy and give him a scolding, and explain to him how un-disappointing this season is, perhaps pointing out that winning July record as an indication of how far (how fast) this team has come from 9-25.

So, Mr. Becker, before you take a quick glance at the standings and write your previews based solely on cold, unforgiving win-loss counts, dig a little deeper. There could be a completely different story behind those numbers.