Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Larry Brooks (kind of) Makes Amends

One day after we called for a Pulitzer for Dan Wetzel based on his marvelous accounting of the Great Dallas Implosion of 2008, we are treated to more journalistic magnificence from an unlikely source: the New York Post’s Larry Brooks.

Today Brooks argues, with 100% accuracy, that the NHL is doing itself and us all a great service with its never-ending Sidney Crosby glorification. He says that Alex Ovechkin could be a useful talent to promote (amongst others also shut out by the blinding light of Sid’s supposed combination of the greatness of Gretzky-Mario-Howe), and might even be the game’s best player (heresy alert!), despite what the well-documented fraudulence that is fan all-star balloting might indicate.

Whether this latest article is Brooks’ way of apologizing for his November 25, 2007, ill-conceived, ill-mannered, illogical assertion that Ovechkin should sign somewhere other than Washington (read: New York) as a restricted free agent, or is some under-handed way to somehow try to resurrect that long-settled issue, we at DCO always welcome any calling-out of the NHL and its Crosby hype-machine malarkey. Of course, that anti-DC rant of a year ago (recycling the tired and apparently now-defeated argument that DC is a backwater hockey town, unworthy of any stars, and that New York should have them all, etc.) precludes us from bestowing any honor like the DCO Hall of Fame upon Mr. Brooks, but we appreciate his jocking of Ovie nontheless.

Besides, is this really the poster boy image the NHL wants (yes, this is from well over a week ago, but we must never let it die):

Wiz on Fast Track to Playoffs

With yesterdays first consecutive win of the season for the formerly-struggling Wiz, talks of playoffs are heating up. How else could you analyze their brilliant sealing off of the vaunted Houston Rockets, who had found a way to fell the Wiz in seven straight ballgames before last night's obvious-that-the-bad-days-are-done W? After the hilarious comedic stylings that followed the Wiz's previous win over the so-much-worse-off (right down to the team name) Oklahoma City Thunder, where ESPN took time away from praising Lebron's latest commercial to pair highlights of poor basketball play with Benny Hill music, cracks from name-mispronouncing highly-paid yappers, and history-bearing stats, it seemed that a win against a team that even bears a slight resemblance to vauntedness would be impossible. This might especially be true considering these same Rockets entered Verizon Center and encountered the Wiz during a short cold snap, where the Wiz managed to miss something like their last eighty shots (and not all of them by DeShawn Stevenson!) before ultimately coming up short in the fourth quarter.

But odds-defying is something this inspired Wizards ballclub seems to encounter naturally. Just check the way the Wiz came close to defying the fixed odds of their Christmas day performance of the Cavs in their last loss, which seems so long ago. This whodathunkit nature translated to this brilliant victory last night in, of all forms, DeShawn Stevenson, who ignored all of the negativity surrounding his postively terrible season by hitting the absolutely huge fourth quarter shot, where he faded right on the baseline and gave the Wiz that insurmountable four-point lead. Stevenson's face finally lost that feeling, after he lost his starting spot, shooting confidence, ablility to effectively do anything, etc. We here at the DC Optimist see that bucket as evidence that this team has transitioned from historically terrible all the way to playoff contender. Could tonight's matchup with the also-vaunted New Orleans Hornets, where DeShawn hit another insane bucket at the end of the game last year be more evidence that the early-season hiccups of the losing variety are in the past?

Credit for the surge in winningness ought to also be doled out to new head coach Ed Tapscot, who has taken to rewarding the young, hungry and effective players with playing time. A Manny-like penchant for relaying inspirational quotes has both us and his newly contributing players inspired. Domenic McGuire does so many little things (and big things, especially defensively), that his inability to hit a jumpshot is inconsequential. Tap has also found ways to incorporate pups Andray Blatche, Nick Young, and occaisionally, Javaris Crittenden. Impressive work all around, as giving the Wiz youth the time to develop their game with playoff positioning a priority. Soon, once the Wizards finally receive a complement of players of the non-injured variety, they will be ready to overcome even the most seemingly insurmountable odds. Something they have shown an adept ability to do.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Skins' "Collapse" Really Not That Bad

Give Dan Wetzel a Pulitzer. Maybe the award is only for newspapers, and Yahoo! Sports online contributors are not eligible, but give this guy something for his brutally accurate and downright lyrical piece entitled “Cowboys, not Lions, were top flops.”

It’s so rare that a couple dozen paragraphs put such a profound perspective on an NFL season. While the Jason LaCanforas of DC gleefully revel in a Redskins 8-8 season and never cease to remind us of the “disastrous” decisions made by the ‘Skins collective braintrust, Wetzel reminds us of how much worse off the Cowboys are.

Some gems from this beautiful calling-out of the frauds in Dallas:

“The Detroit Lions became the first team to go 0-16 in league history but the most disastrous season in the NFL this year belongs to the Cowboys.”

“[The season] was a train wreck of melodrama, mistakes and misplaced priorities. For Dallas to finish 9-7 and out of the playoffs with that much talent is an epic failure.”

“Tony Romo continued to fall apart after Dec. 1” (my birthday; what greater gift?)

“Repeated late season collapses – the Cowboys have lost their last nine regular-season finales, and have done nothing in the playoffs – are in this team’s DNA.”

Perhaps most importantly, Wetzel reminds us:

“At midseason, owner Jerry Jones even mortgaged some of the team’s future to get more talent. He traded a first-, third- and sixth-round draft pick to Detroit for receiver Roy Williams. Like most of Dallas’ moves, it didn’t pan out. Williams caught just 19 passes in 10 games.”

So it seems there are other owners/pseudo-GMs out there capable of making poor decisions about trading draft picks! One would be correct in mistakenly thinking such dundering was limited to Washington, with all the previously referred to optimism-hating abounding in local publications.

There you have it: Dallas is worse than 0-16 Detroit, making the 2008 Cowboys The Worst Team of All-Time (relative to expectations).

Remember when the ‘Boys were 3-0, virtually anointed by ESPN as a 16-0 Super Bowl contender, lauded as unstoppable, with all melodrama left far behind them, and a lock to destroy a weak Redskins team at home? A less lazy blogger might dig up some damning quotes from the likes of Chris Berman, Peter King (what’s he going to do with no Romo or Favre in the playoffs, by the way?), et al, but that blogger doesn’t live here anymore (as evidenced by his first post since before Thanksgiving).

What about more failures much more spectacular than the Redskins 8-8 record?

The Broncos lost their last three games to gag away a division title, which they eventually lost to an 8-8 team.

The Bucs lost their last four to go from 9-3 and in command of their division to 9-7 and in the same could-have/should-have boat as the Cowboys.

The Jets, those Titan-killers of November 23 that spawned so much all-New-York-Super-Bowl frenzy, lost four of their last five as Brett Favre nicely evened out his TD/Int ratio to miss the playoffs, sending Peter King and John Madden into a depression from which they may never recover.

Washington at 8-8 doesn’t seem that bad anymore. That 6-2 start was just a teasing taste of things to come. Plus, now the Skins get another crack at the Lions next season, and a revenge date with the Rams. They finished where many thought they might, unlike that team of fraudulent false gods in Dallas.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wizards Lead Most of Christmas Night

An impressive Christmas night performance by our lightly regarded Wiz, who often spent the night in the lead of the ballgame against their apparently-more-NBA-friendly rivals. However, it wasn't enough to overcome the most one-sided officiating performance in recent history. Instead of having to overcome their tough opening stretch of games, injuries, poor play, porous defense, DeShawn Stevenson's presence, etc, the Wiz had to overcome both the influence of corporate partnerships and apparently something the NBA refers to as officiating last night in their 23rd almost-win. In case you were busy smashing your head against the wall instead of watching the Wizards umpteenth consecutive non-clinching fourth quarter, the Wiz were called for a phantom foul on a three point shooting player wearing 23, then they were called for charging on two consecutive plays, both of the questionable variety, sandwiched between a delightfully ticky-tacky loose ball foul with the game on the line.

There was no doubt that the fortunes of the Wiz were pre-determined, therefore it is unnecessary to look at the final score, since the illuminati-like team of Phil Knight and David Stern apparently phoned in the final score as soon as the Wiz held the lead with under two minutes remaining. The team the Wizards were playing against did nothing to secure a win other than hurl themselves to the floor (as per usual) in some of the poorest acting performances this side of "The Hills," with the "Closer"-like refereeing squad feigning influence by these pretending-to-be-hurt fakers.

Interesting note that before the game, the Wizards' opposition altered their uniform choice so as to appease one of their players and the release of his new, soon-to-be-on-sale-at-Marshall's shoe release. Interesting how exposed as terrible that player would have been if the NBA and Nike hadn't fixed up that fourth quarter and allowed the unfortunate Wiz to end that team's decrepit-home winning streak. Another interesting note that was happily buried in referee-abetted red tape: How another dude with the James surname was unstoppable, while the one from all of the lame commercials was busy complaining to the officials that his charges weren't called.

While the Wizards have had their fair share of moral victories this season, we here at the almost-monthly-updated DC Optimist feel that this moral victory is the most savorable. There was no way the NBA, TNT, Nike, et al were allowing their unfortunately uniformed darlings to fall against a Wiz team seemingly inspired by 24 consecutive hours of "A Christmas Story," which continued to air on the other Turner network. Mike James, likely leaving his now-famous progeny under worthy supervision, was shooting the Cavs's eyes out, and Antawn Jamison, who doled out impressive buckets almost as often as phantom fouls, earned an "A+++++++" grade tonight. And new starter Domenic McGuire is showing how nice it is to not have DeShawn Stevenson play as many minutes as he had earlier in the season with his improving defense, rebounding, passing, and dunking.

So even if after that pathetic excuse for a fixed outcome you have determined that watching NBA action is equivalent to watching a glorified Harlem Globetrotters performance (with terrible comedy courtesy of the anointed one during the commercial breaks!), and you will never tune in again, you ought to reconsider. Because with the odds-defying that the Wiz must overcome every night, that big win number five ought to be a more impressive victory than Ralphie's sudden beatdown of the yellow-eyed Scut Farkas.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Caps In Good Company Route-Wise

What to make of tonight's 7-2 brutalization at the hands of the San Jose Sharks? Should we mourn and wallow in this "well, they just have our number" sentiment because of San Jose's utterly flukey ten-year-or-whatever dominance over the Caps? Should we grovel before the specter of yet another NHL black jersey?

Nah. Let's play a little game of There's Someone Worse Off Than Us. Which would you rather be tonight: a fan of the Caps, that team with the ludicrously loaded lineup of talented youngsters kind of flying under the radar towards a deep playoff run, with a couple of those key youngsters plus one cagey rejuvenated veteran on the shelf with injuries, bowing humbly by five goals to the best team in the league, oooooorrrrr, would you rather be a rooter of those Texas Tech Red Raiders, that #2 football team in the land and quite the darling little pick to end up in the national title game, who were historically spanked by a team rated three spots below them, likely ending any hope of a championship this late in the college football season?

We'll take the Caps and their early season drubbing, knowing the team is really better than this, and that with a lineup featuring a few less injured superstars, they are still a legit contender. It's a late November loss to a team that has yet to lose in regulation at home (damn you, gimmicky overtime rules, for cursing all of us who write/blog/whatever about hockey with the need for that "in regulation" qualifier"). It's still something that can be avenged in June.

While we fully acknowledge the severe reaching of this version of There's Someone Worse Off Than Us, we nonetheless refuse to apologize for the striking similarities to the pummelings on the scoreboard, despite the distinct non-similarities to the pummeled teams circumstances.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


We know you are thinking, "Whoa, since when did the DCO pop up on my RSS feed twice in one week?" Well folks, it's time to celebrate, as for the first time since this blog's inception, a strong, emphatic, positive, enlightening W immediately followed a Wizards post on the DCO! To wit, there is master-scribe Mike Wise, patently preaching for the playtime plugging in of newest Wizard heartthrob JaVale McGee. What a piece from this reformed calmer-downer of the region's hyperbole-spewing set. As if your fill of awesome Wizards stuff wasn't completely sated by that gem, here is this relevant web link from our BFFs at Bulletsforever, who took the time to send me questions, likely to figure out when I might actually post again. Be sure to click on all of their advertisements as well.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Inspiring Wizards Advertisements

Oh Eddie Jordan, you and your undermanned, undergunning, yet never underachieving Wizards have once again struck the earth and dug yourselves another DC Hole of 0-5 to attempt to emerge from heroically once the writing off by the media has finally occurred. What to do now that Brendan, Gilbert, and A.D. are suffering ailments, the Hollinger and fiyastarter ratings sink you to the basement, and the emerging place from this deficit must begin in Utah, where pretty much no one wins? Such early season despair may cause Wiz fans to panic; where might they find the inspiration to trust in the efforts of Eddie's group to bounce back to their better than average ways? Why, if you are practitioners of 'tism, and ride the iron horses of the Metro rail, you might find inspiration in these enormous, seemingly nonsensical advertisements for a giant oil company. Some of the companies weird inner thoughts they hope for the country to share in an effort to conserve energy remain bizarrely chosen (we remain particularly inspired by the lady who will "unplug stuff more."). While the plea from the gentle elderly fellow with his strong beard to "Use less energy" fits right in with this blog's recent output, we see the inspiration in these messages as maybe applying to the Wiz, who are participating in their own cute little Metro ad campaign. Why not combine these two philosophies into one, and thus create the ultimate in energetic ad campaigns, only rivaling the 2003-2004 "Pure Energy" campaign moniker the Wiz used. Below are some prototypes:

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Alex Semin Enshrined in DCO Hall of Fame

What does it take to bring a blog out of its posting slumber? How about a Sovetsky Sports interview with Alexander Semin, brought to us by the Puck Daddy blog? About halfway in to this Q and A session with rising Capitals’ star only now catching NHL-wide attention, a question is posed regarding Semin’s place in the Ovechkin/Crosby/Malkin rivalry, asking Alex S. where exactly he fits in with this trifecta.

What a nice little middle-of-the-interview softball question. It’s the perfect opportunity to throw about some Mary-Worth-worthy platitudes, stuff like “It’s just an honor to be mentioned with those guys” or “I don’t think I’m quite there yet” or any manner of throwaway compliment to Sid's "vision", etc. But Alex knows what he has to do, what must be done. Risking the wrath of every darling-loving NHL analyst and Wheeling-dwelling Pens fan, he states: “What’s so special about Crosby? I don’t see anything special there.”


After these two sentences, we have no choice but to admit Alexander Semin to the DCO Hall of Fame. He will become Co-Director of the re-christened Stevenson-Semin Accurate Player Assessment Wing. As we all know, the Wizards’ Deshawn Stevenson gained admittance to the DCO HOF last March with his similarly establishment-bucking comments on the Sidney Crosby of the NBA, Lebron James. His hype-defying analysis was enough to garner him a wing of the DCO named in his honor. Today, Semin shares in that honor for the brave Russian’s own calling out of a Chosen One.

But wait, Semin didn’t stop with just those two sentences? He went on? Take a gander at this:

“I think that if you take any player, even if he is "dead wood," and start promoting him, you'll get a star. Especially if he scores 100 points. No one is going to care about anyone else. No one is going to care whether he possesses great skill. Let's say you put someone in front of the net and let him deflect pucks in, and he scored 50 goals; everyone will say "Wow!" and then hand him a $10 million per year contract. That's what they like here. “

Sounds familiar, no? Take a player, christen him “The Next One”, promote the living hell out of him, convince the more highly impressionable amongst us that he’s “the face of the NHL”, and bam, star. Semin’s seemingly rare ability to see through such nonsense will be of great value to the Accurate Player Assessment Wing. Perhaps Stevenson and Semin can combine forces to encourage some brave soul within the NFL ranks to follow suit and declare Tony Romo to not be one of the greatest quarterbacks in history. Perhaps this individual will defy the Peter Kings of this world to find the Dallas quarterback not divine, and in fact quite prone to the turnover and completely addicted to the playoff-game-blowing play. Deshawn paved the road for such brave whistle-blowers. Alex has followed. Who’s next? The DCO HOF awaits.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Theodore Improved (and let's never speak of this game again)

It wasn’t exactly your standard 2-1 loss, but at least we can take from it the positive of improved play from Jose Theodore. 28 shots, 26 saves, a nice .929 save percentage good enough for third star honors.

Better yet, he stopped a quality scoring opportunity very early in the game. You know, those early opportunities that found their way past him in a couple of previous games. With that big early stop, confidence was gained, solid play followed.

There’s really no need to dwell on the rest. Months from now we’ll just remember this as a quaint little trip to Calgary, a once-in-nine-years defeat that had a few interesting quirks. The nine minute power play. Eight consecutive penalties to the same team. A bevy of 5-on-3s against that same team. Heroic penalty killing for the Caps that eventually endured one 5-on-3 too many.

Sure the power play is a little fizzle-y right now, but Bruce II acknowledges this. Something about being “too damn cute.” He’s right. We all know the Caps are capable of creating poetically beautiful hockey plays. There’s nothing left to prove in that department, so we trust they will henceforth be encouraged to shoot more and dance less with the man advantage.

Jose Theodore: suddenly solid. Calgary game: behind us.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Caps Open With Same Record as Defending Champs

Yes, the Capitals now sport the same 0-1 records as defending Stanley Cup champion (and odds-on favorite to be repeat Stanley Cup champion) Detroit: 0-1. The Caps laid their proverbial egg on the road against a supposedly bad Atlanta team. The Red Wings laid their egg at home against a Toronto team that was bad before Mats Sundin went all indecisive-like and bolted the Leafs, on the night the Red Wings raised their championship banner. If a team can come out flat on a night like that, surely the Capitals can be forgiven this uninspired season opener.

Concerned about goaltending? Freaked out that Jose Theodore gave up four goals on 17 shots and Brent Johnson wasn’t much better in relief giving up three on 14? Well, consider that the sorely missed, $5.6 million goalie Cristobal Huet gave up four goals in New York tonight. It happens. Now is not the time to be issuing a final verdict on the Theodore era, or re-hash arguments over which goalie George McPhee should have signed when. Also, let’s recall the argument, well-traveled last year, that Bruce II coached this team to much success over many months with a less-than-stellar Olie Kolzig and this same Johnson in the net the whole time.

Remember when the Redskins lost their first game and didn’t look too good doing it? No need to panic then, and things have been pretty ok since then. We see the same happening here. And Huet comes back to town tomorrow. That worked out well last time:

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wizards in Mid-to-Late Season Form

Hey wizards fan, maybe you too were as excited as the DCO offices were that the Wizards were finally kicking off some preseason basketball action, action that was televised on Comcast Sportsnet featuring the bumbling, yet lovable duo of Steve Buckhantz and Phil Chenier. Maybe you were so excited that you cooked a steak with a lovely butter and garlic sauce sided with a blue cheese spaghetti dusted with bacon bits (oh Rachel Ray, your bacon-goes-with-anything philosophy is the stuff lives are based around). Maybe you had just cut a slice of your steak and inserted it into your mouth slowly as to let the succulent beef and butter sauce effectively enhance your cholesterol when suddenly the deliciousness that was crafted through your thirty-minutes of hard work vanished as Antawn Jamison, the rock of the lineup, the 20 and 10 big man, the heart and soul, the 08-09 Wes -- according to Abe Pollin, etc, crumpled to the floor after slipping on a hideous Dallas McCains logo en route to smothering Dirk Nowitski. The steak suddenly tasted of garlicky battery acid as 'tawn writhed on the floor and trained Eric Waters rushed to his side along with two others to walk him off the court. The blue cheese spaghetti tasted like live rattlesnakes peppered with pain as Phil and Buck read the requisite "knee sprain" from their reports. The night was officially ruined for you as you took your couch pillow, nestled it on top of your eyelids, threw the recliner back, and forced sleep upon yourself as if it were to stop the sadness of your Wiz-life entering such an early stage of disconnect(ed ligaments).

But, while dinner may have been ruined, FEAR NOT, as even if the Wizards played at mid-to-late season form (as in, body bag style), the news regarding Antawn's knee was good. Strained tendon. He even says he's good to go for the Memphis game, if it were game seven against the Cavs or whatever. Apparently, 'tawn went to the Jason Taylor school of iron-clad ligament enforcement, where even the scariest, most revolting looking knee grabs simply can be stretched out, walked off, and held intact without Gilbert's-career-threatening-like surgery.

It was then, Wizards fan, maybe after you realized that the witnessed knee strain (not sprain) that ruined dinner wasn't so bad, that you decided to partake in the remaining carton of Ben and Jerry's Smores Ice Cream, which was so awesome that you risked cardiac arrest and partook in injesting it. Then suddenly, Chris Miller of Comcast Sportsnet and Ivan Carter of the Post teamed up to deliver more shocking news that transformed the graham crackery goodness into sandpaper inflected drywall spackle. Brendan Haywood, the Wizards' exceedingly brilliant big man, who ratcheted up his game to such a high level last season that all previous years had completely been relegated to "development time," would likely miss 4-6 months (!!) getting surgery on his SPRAINED wrist. All of this news was delivered while Chris Miller flippantly added that Brendan likely chose this surgery because the season was a lost cause without Gilbert at 100% for two months anyways. HUGE INJURY PLUS COMMITMENT QUESTIONING? You too may have vomited a little, and not to taste the ice cream again.

But we here at the DC Optimist are not ones to panic in the face of repeated Wizards' injurious ways. We managed to maintain sanity and witness the sparkling play of three of the Wizards stockpiled bigs, and felt yes, everything would return to the peachy-keen ways of that imaginary period when the Wizards were kind of healthy.

1) Andray Blatche, sporting what appears to be an eraser-inspired Kufi on his head, was spectacular. Worked the post skillfully, spun away from defenders and hit circus shots, enacted fast breaks after getting rebounds, looked all of the freakishly talented 6-11 that we had been salivating over. Big Blatche's 19 and 5 could spot start for either the wood-man, or Jamison, and it would remain exciting.

2) JaVale McGhee, NOT A STIFF. This was the DCO's first witnessing of Pam McGhee's kid, and man, were we impressed with his footwork, general offensive ability, and actual athleticism that is NOT simply the result of extended limbs. Some may have been salty that the Wiz didn't draft some extracurricular activity-loving point guard back-up, but this kid McGhee looks to be the real deal. And this is while Eddie Jordan et al remain steadfast in their assessment that the kid is raw. Could this extra playing time cook him into the well done big man neither Brendan nor Etan could ever have been? Witness Blatche's development and Haywood's development. It is really looking like this team knows a thing or two about making viable centers, folks (ignore the thoughts about this guy when you read that).

3) Oleksiy Pecherov, ALSO NOT A STIFF. Kid was stroking threes and being a general offensive pest. Good stuff from Pesh, who hasn't seen much healthy action either (WIZARD 4 LIFE!). He spent most of his garbage time minutes last year shooting threes that bounced off the front of the rim, now, with a week or two of 100% status, he is nailing those threes.

So see? Even with Brendan's upcoming absence, Jamison's scary tumble, and the overall status of the economy possibly ruining your TV-inspired dinner, things will be OK, Wizards fan. Trust us.

Monday, October 6, 2008

What's It Take to Get Some Acknowledgment?

It was a little irritating last week to find the Redskins, after their thumping of the Cowboys in Dallas, decided underdogs against the Eagles, who had just lost to the Bears after repeated failed attempts to score from inside the five yard line, events which would be eerily prophetic of things to come when the Redskins arrived. It was similarly annoying to find Washington in many cases horridly underrated in horridly flawed power polls.

After a similar thumping of the Eagles in Philadelphia, it is more irritating to find the ‘Skins still under-appreciated by Peter King’s “Fine Fifteen”. Why this still irks or surprises me I do not know, since his Cowboys homerism is such an undeniable influence on his judgment. His ranking of the Redskins at #4 last week was baffling since the Cowboys were still rated ahead at #2. This week, however, he has dropped the ‘Skins to #5 as a reward for their throttling of the Eagles in Philadelphia (Eagles, incidentally, his sixth-best team last week), yet kept Dallas in the top 3 because of their heroic hanging-on against the Bengals at home.

He also has the gall to mention “schedule advantage” in his comments on the Redskins. The words “schedule advantage” are, to any half-intelligent being, completely synonymous with the words “Cowboys’ schedule”. Check out the dragons the ‘Boys have had to slay thus far: Browns (1-3), Eagles (2-3) at home, Packers (2-3), Bengals (0-4) at home. Brutal! Especially given the fact that those upset-minded Bengals were a firm Chris Henry grip on the ball away from potentially shocking Dallas on their lame-duck home field. If only the turnover-prone back could have held on, we might also be treated today to more TO-pouting. As it is, he was placated with a TD pass on the Cowboys’ ensuing possession, thus depriving us of more Dallas implosion. But back to that schedule question.

A more appropriate phrase for King to use would have been “schedule respite”. After five consecutive weeks against teams that were picked in the pre-season to be playoff contenders and who may yet prove themselves so, the ‘Skins finally get their share of the cupcakes that Dallas seems to have been feasting on for the past two seasons en route to paper-tigerish glory ultimately exposed as fraudulent. No team deserves the Rams, Browns, and Lions right now more than the Redskins. They’ve more than earned it and have the opportunity to be 7-1 when another darling-on-the-rise, Pittsburgh, comes to town for a Monday-nighter, at which point we’ll be treated to those insufferable “when the Redskins win/lose before an election” features. That Chris Berman will be involved makes it all the more worth our while to tune in just seconds before kickoff. But that’s weeks away. For now, bring on the tomato cans and enjoy watching the wins pile up, even if Cowboy apologists don’t notice.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

DCO Hall of Fame Recognizes Jeff Sagarin

Jeff Sagarin has been appointed Special Consultant to the DCO Hall of Fame for his work on the Sagarin Ratings Index which appears in USA Today. Most notable is his work on ranking NFL teams. Yesterday we studied the errors that can occur in team evaluation when one’s judgment is clouded by darlingism and love of Tony Romo’s glamorous smile and cutesy backwards-hat-wearing. The Sagarin Index is immune to such foolishness, as it uses accurate, utterly objective criteria to reveal to us the true cream of the NFL. To that end, we see the Redskins rise to #1 in these ratings, having demonstrated an ability to jump to 3-1 against the NFL’s toughest schedule through 4 weeks.

For his work in seeing past what ESPN and Peter King (among others) cannot see past, we welcome Sagarin to the staff, even though strict HOF admission policies forbid his enshrinement. He will report directly to Deshawn Stevenson, who was inducted into the DCO HOF in March and named proprietor of the newly created Deshawn Stevenson Accurate Player Assessment Wing. In this hype-resistant haven, Stevenson is free to correctly identify Lebron James as non-divine, and with Sagarin assisting him on the team level, there is no limit to the darling-fueled nonsense they can cut through.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cowboys Still Loved By Peter King, ESPN

It’s doubtless been a dark couple of days for the bandwagonning fans, media and otherwise, of America’s biggest bandwagon team. It was not supposed to be like this. ESPN was supposed to be gearing up for stories on the 4-0 Cowboys, who would be ¼ of the way to repeating the Patriots’ perfect season. Peter King was probably already drooling over pre-written pieces on the possibility of a Tony Romo vs. Brett Favre Super Bowl. The Redskins, that minor inconvenience of an 11-point underdog, were no match for Destiny’s Team.

The collective fawn-fest is put on hold, of course, at least for a week, until the Cowboys can rally themselves to slip by the Bengals at home. The story will have to go from 2007 Patriots to 1985 Bears, of course, but they’re talented professionals. They can improvise that much.

Still, there are those pesky weekly power rankings. There must be some sort of major repercussions for losing at home to a supposedly vastly inferior team, right? USC dropped eight spots in the polls after losing to Oregon State, on the road! How to balance this and still hold on to the pervasive Dallas bias?

Apparently King, Tony Romo’s biggest fan, or at least a fan of his enchanting smile, could not bring himself to rank the glamorous ‘Boys any lower than second in his Fine Fifteen. But what about the ‘Skins, the darling-killers who took down that vaunted destined-for-undefeated-Super-Bowl-glory team on their own field with that inane Rock-Cartwright-danced-upon blue star? Stuffed behind the Titans at #4, with no mention of their league-shocking upset, just some snark about the preseason liklihood that they would be the NFL’s worst team after Week 4.

He’s not the only one in denial about the collapse of the Cowboys’ undefeated season. ESPN holds on to hope that their favorite team will still rebound to fill their pseudo-sports-news programming with glitzy stories about America’s alleged team. They rank Dallas #3, which is bordering on heresy in the media world of Dallas-jocking. The regicide-prone Redskins are a Top 5 afterthought at #6, which is an improvement over the #15 land of mediocrity in which the dwelt last week.

So it’ still an uphill climb for the ‘Skins on their quest for recognition and a legitimate place in the NFC playoff discussion. A win in Philly should go a long way to establishing that recognition. It wouldn’t carry the same weight in the pundits’ eyes as a Dallas home win over Cincy, of course, but it’s a big step. Then it’s on to the cupcake portion of the schedule (something Dallas should be familiar with) where the real progress can be made.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Hard Core Players

For Jim Zorn, Dan Snyder, residents of the Dead Tree portion of the FedEx Field parking lot, Jason Campbell, and most importantly, the most strident practicers of 'tism who may happen upon this blog, Sunday's convincing dubya against the 'boys, a team whose vauntedness remain(ed) unparalleled throughout the most one-sided broadcast since the Republican National Convention coverage on FoxNews, sweet vindication was in order. Not necessarily for the positively predicting folk, who just knew that this team had "special" imprinted all over its commemorative patches, but mainly for those who preach consistency, a concept that some were convinced was foreign to the braintrusting folks in the front office. Unlike the more hater-type of scribes, we here at the DC Optimist understood the manner and direction behind the team's makeup. Even when the old coach hung up his mesh curly R snap cap, we knew that this consistency concept was something the Redskins were in the throes of standing behind.

While certain columnist-types were badmouthing what they thought was the only constant in the flighty ownership's team-building philosophy being fluctuation, we saw how the Redskins sat back, utilized patience and locked in talented, hard-working players many would define as core. Guys who were rocks on successful, playoff-bound teams remained in the fold with contract extensions and restructures, and rewards were doled out to players who fit into the mold, not necessarily of some stalwart structure-er of offense, who thought his scheme would accommodate the most square of pegs into his rounded play holes (uhhh), but into the mold of possessing exceptional talent and a hard-working nature.

So when regimes sort of changed, and everyone began to freak out about whatever identity the Redskins were planning on forging with their 10 draft picks all fitting no foreseeable mold, we knew the skins would remain strong. They have had the same punishing ground attack that began back when Joe first signed on and obtained Clinton Portis for Champ Bailey's me-first attitude and a second rounder. What's lost in the constant gobs of analysis (something not seen on this seldom contributed-to blog) is the fact that, instead of genius coordinators, unprecedented talent discoverers, and slick-spending general managing, football games are oftentimes won and lost as a result of football players making successful plays. The Redskins have players.

While some Brian-Mitchell-types and Brian Mitchell continue to berate the colorfully obtuse running back for having the gall to be slightly interesting, oftentimes mistakenly taking this strive for genuine affability and character for a lack of desire, Portis is, quietly, in a strange manner, beginning to eclipse some of the records held by only the most esteemed Redskins. His 121 yard game yesterday tied C.P. with the immortal Riggo for the most 100+ yard games in Redskins history. Yep, in this case, C.P., most obviously stands for "Core Player."

What we saw in the offseason, and what is sprouting nicely into a nice little I-told-you-so is how this new coaching staff realizes how this team has players, and all they need is to find the best way to utilize them, not necessarily by forcing them into some rigid system, but by seeing what they do best, and then making sure that is planned to be done Sundays.

Zorn, along with Sherman Stewart, Stump Mitchell, and Chris Meidt, have taken this philosophy to impressive levels that become obvious with each more impressive offensive performance. Week one, the skins saw modest success when Jason Campbell went shotgun. As a result, Zorn, who had yet to fashion his variety of West Coast offense with the gun in mind, suddenly began implementing that scheme, as it fit Campbell's talents. In week three, Clinton Portis continued to be stifled at the line, charging into the teeth of the large defensive lines of the first few opponents. Does Zorn have such faith in his brilliance that he won't give Clinton the chance to take a different approach to his runs? No. That rad-ass running performance against the 'boys featured a newer wrinkle to the running game where Clinton would receive the ball, almost like a toss a few yards back of the line of scrimmage, so that Portis could visualize the holes, sprout through them and pick up close to six yards per carry.

The consistency and core of the Redskins has been forged through these mostly successful recent years. People may be surprised at these recent returns, but these guys with this talent, have been here. It's just nice to see someone at the helm that is innovative enough to let those talents shine outside of their genius box.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008

Vote For 'Tism

Chico Harlan, citing anecdotal evidence, has declared that Nationals fans, "with near unanimity", want the team to lose the rest of the month to secure the #1 draft pick. While this sort of nonsense may fly in areas prone to hating optimism (NY, Philly), it has no place here, particularly with the Master of Optimism, Manny Acta, manning the helm. Fortunately, the poll posted on the Nationals Journal currently shows anything but unanimous fan consent to intentional tanking (unlike, say, the Penguins in their last regular season game).

So vote for 'tism, and let's hope we're all spared a local media deluge of stories with the premise "look how bad the Nats are! haw haw haw!". I'm talking about you, Dick Heller.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

REPORT: Redskins' Season Not Over Yet

Despite some contrarial thoughts from the usual suspects (La Canfora, Jason; Jenkins, Sally), the Redskins season — despite losing one game on the road by nine points mainly from injuries and a freakish case of stone hands plaguing the secondary — is not over yet. Unfortunately for the O-haterz currently dancing in their Chad Hutchinson jerseys, eagerly anticipating the inevitable dalliance between Dan Snyder and Pete Carroll sometime after the Trojans romp on the Buckeyes, they have failed to notice that the Redskins have a grand total of fifteen more games to play before the Jim Zorn era can officially be called deader than the female gluteous maximus tissue that comprises Jerry Jones's eyelids.

That's right folks, even if the Redskins managed to be unsuccessful in the whole "game-winning" or "offensive" portion of Thursday night's pagentry-stuffed ode to the insufferably yappy Giants scourge, they still have close to 93.75% of the season remaining before Zorn is replaced with Tony D'Amato. But after the supposedly pathetic, disorganized, wimpy, hopeless, indicative-of-poor-management-decisions performance against the refs and mental cobwebs in the dead-grassed lands of Meadow, haven't the Redskins shown already that they don't belong in the cupcake crushing, reality show spawning NFC clever-word-that-rhymes-with-East? We here (and I say "we" despite this being the first post in like, an entire Nationals season, for a certain Transformers-monikered internetter) are more than confident that the events of last Thursday, which already seem further away than that time when people had questionable thoughts about Elijah Dukes, will not represent what will obviously be a successful 08-09 season. Take if from current DCO contributor/biter Tom Boswell, who in his latest call for collective 'tism, notes how maybe this thing could maybe somehow work, maybe.

Oh Boz, sure the column is rife with uneasiness over our often confused, playbook overloaded, heavily studying, somehow overcoming the memorization of eight-billion plays quarterback, but I couldn't help but return from my laziness-inflected hiatus after this poetic, business card-sloga worthy nod:
"So, Redskins fans should have patience. (Pause.) Okay, that didn't work. How
about optimism? Let's try that. "
Couldn't agree more Boz, although please, can we get a URL shoutout somewhere? I promise I will contribute a Wizards post or two if the DCO is mentioned somewhere between that Vice President chick's wardrobe choices in the Post. Why can't Boz direct his burgeoning readership to the blog with more dead links than Shawn Hill's elbow? Regardless of our fledgeling brushes with success and consistency, not since TruthAboutIt called us "sanguine," have I been so happy to have contributed to the internet back before Yahoo! began devouring bloggers like so many chicken fingers served without bitterness at Sideline (although I remain as unpaid as Todd Lowber when it comes to bliznogging). Shoutout to Boz for keeping the fanbase pointed in the positive direction.

It's refreshing to hear a take on the work-in-progress-ness that is the current skins. It's not like Boz was scraping the bottom of the metaphoric metaphor barrell as one Mike Wise did in his shopping at Taylor-mart coverage of the tragic selling-off of the late Sean Taylor's personal items, which so totally was a paralell between what everyone already is calling a dead season, and the subsequent selling off of Brandon Lloyd jerseys, or whatever. Nice literariness Wise-ass.

But back to the Redskins, and the fact that they aren't as done-zo as the usage of the word done-zo. First of all, the first-class running game, which couldn't be properly utilized as the skins somehow were both fighting off a double-digit deficit and the predilection for running those running plays directly into a defensive lineman, remains strong, and will remain the first-mentioned, first-run aspect of the team's success in subsequent weeks, first. Second, despite the overlaudiness of coverage regarding the Giants and their defensive line, the 'skins managed to give up, lets count 'em, one lone sack, on the first play of the game, after which, clever, picture painting with words columnists, we guess, changed the channel to Project Runway. So lets not count out that suddenly old decrepit offensive line yet. Many might even say that proper adjustments were made. And the defense, sure it was in bend-don't-break mode for about two whole quarters, and one might get the notion that running Brandon Jacobs over and over again would likely lead to the Giants not having to kick a bunch of field goals and whatnot, but the D also made proper adjustments, and even, gasp, got to the quarterback, and again gasp, made turnovers occur!

Solid run game, solid o-line play, solid D: the foundation of success that the Redskins have been riding on during a streak of decency that continues to be mistaken for mediocrity. The hallmarks of these past two playoff appearing teams are currently there. One rusty performance, where nine points were the difference between lauding successes and detailing mistakes, out of sixteen can be neglected. Anyone remember that Patriots team that opened the season to a 31-0 loss to the Bills only to, after a devastating loss to Steve Spurrier and the skins, go on to like never lose again? What was the difference with that team? How about optimism?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Falling Below 100

Tonight is a big night for the Nationals. There’s an issue at stake here, and it’s even bigger than the answer to the important question: Can the Nats continue to do to the Phillies what they did to the Mets last season?

The issue concerns the prospect of the 100-loss season. Before this little seven-game tear (one that has even professional piler-on Chico Harlan waxing somewhat optimistically), such a season seemed as foregone a conclusion as a Nick Johnson season-ending injury. However, with a win tonight, the Nats can shed the 100-loss pace that has haunted them for weeks (along with Harlan-esque statistics of questionable value, such as “the team has more losses than any team has wins”. huh???)

The job falls to Phillie-plunker extraordinaire John Lannan to get the job done on the mound. The newly energized Nats lineup should take care of the rest.

Sunday, August 31, 2008


Once again, our Nats are the Hottest Team in….No, we won’t be traveling down that road of (only slight) hyperbole again. Not after our last such declaration apparently induced some sort of Bob-Carpenter-like jinxing on the team, leading to a loss that night and, just days later, the start of twelve straight…well, you know.

No, this time we’ll just revel in the two consecutive series sweeps the Nats have laid down, flush with timely, consistent hitting from a healthy, Elijah-Dukes-containing lineup and increasingly shut-down pitching from closer-in-rising Joel Hanrahan.

Want a bigger optimistic picture? The sweeping away of the Dodgers and Braves closed out an August in which the Nationals played nearly .500 baseball (14-15). Who would have thought this possible 11 days ago, with a naysayer-bringing-out non-winning streak still very much intact and the August record sitting at 6-13? Well, we did.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Mighty Have Been Brought Lowe

So much for the jocking of Derek Lowe. So much, also, for the notion printed recently in the same Nationals Journal that Collin Balester is good for only one run through the opposing lineup. With his five inning of one-run ball last night, he faced 23 batters, good for 2+ trips through the Dodgers. His outdueling of the mighty Lowe is shades of Levale Speigner showing up the even more-vaunted Johan Santana in Minnesota last summer. Maybe.

The pitfalls of following the game online were evident as I read the game recap detailing Ryan Zimmerman’s apparently double-play soaked glove. Somehow I get the feeling that dry GIDP numbers on a monitor don’t do him justice.

Tonight: Tim Redding v. the hanger-on that is Greg Maddux. Redding saved us all from more Chico Harlan snippiness with his streak-ending performance last week. A streak-extender this time, perhaps?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Making a Great Thing Even Better

What's better than celebrating the end of a 12-game losing streak? What's better than seeing the streak snapped by a game featuring late-inning clutch hits from a young newcomer, an up-and-coming young catcher, and a struggling outfielder, a bold and ultimately rewarded managerial decision to bat the closer in the eighth inning with the bases loaded, and the sublime jam-escaping skills of that same closer?

What's better is celebrating that accomplishment on the 1-year anniversary of this:

If that doesn't start your weekend off right, nothing will.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Redding to the Rescue

It's been a while since we've made any kind of bold Nationals-related guarantee. The last (and likely only) was a bold proclamation in May 2007 that the Nats would not lose 100 games. This at what turned out to be the absolute nadir of Washington's season: an eight-game losing streak dropping them to 9-25 and bringing the "worst team of all-time" vultures out in force.

Well we've reached a similar nadir. A dozen games in a row dropped. Can it get any worse? No. It ends tonight. Tim Redding, he of the 2-runs-in-six-innings specialty, will put this to rest and stop, at least temporarily, snippy Chico-Harlan-penned Nats Journal entries. Is there anyone this side of Jason LaCanfora who likes a pile-on more than Chico?

Book it. Nats win tonight.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Other Unwanted Quarterback Story

Well, Brett Favre is well on his way to being King of New York after throwing six pre-season passes for the Jets. It’s such a story of redemption after he was treated oh so meanly by the Packers. There’s no sense dwelling on this aspect of Saturday’s game except to say we look forward to the coming regicide after his first four-interception game.

Instead, let’s dwell on Colt Brennan, aptly described by some as the best player no one wanted. Looks like his being drafted waaaaaay down at 168 could turn into the equivalent of taking Randy Moss late in a fantasy draft last year (like, um, two bloggers you might know). That is, a player with gaudy statistics being overlooked again and again because of some irrational reservations becomes a key contributor. Brennan may just do it as a backup, but we’ve seen what Todd Collins (Todd freakin’ Collins!) can do when a season-saving starting job is thrust upon him. How much more could Mr. 14,000 yards in Three Years bring if similarly saddled?

One thing he’s already saddled with: that #5, something of a, well, cursed number for Redskins’ quarterbacks, thanks to some other guy who wore that number (we won’t mention his name, as it would be equivalent to a John-Carpenter-on-John-Lannan, no-hitter-killing jinx). He’s dealing with that nicely, however, on the road to perhaps purging that wretched burgundy digit of its demons.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, pre-season, third-string defenses, meaningless games, etc. Well, apparently rookie Colt Brennan passes better against third-string defenses than veteran Mike Nugent kicks against third-string special teams units, or than Eric Mangini playcalls late in games against third-string units of all kinds.

In any case, isn’t it better having a pre-season focus on a rising backup QB, rather than engaging in another tired round of "Mark Brunnell vs. somebody" debates? The answer is yes.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Intentional Stupidity?

For much of the summer, Yahoo!’s PuckDaddy blog has featured an ongoing series “Five Ways I’d Change the NHL”. Matt Bradley chipped in not long ago, much as he chips in goals throughout a season (shootout and otherwise).

Today, Ross McKeon threw his own ideas into the ring. We at DCO mostly remember Ross for his downright slanderous remarks on Ovie and the Caps during the All-Star Break (along with the typically expected mourning over Sid’s owie ankle ruining the entire league). This time, he takes his shot at the entire Caps organization in his very first “suggestion”. I’ll paste it here so there is no need to waste time reading the rest of his drivel:

1. Less is more: We're talking contraction here, fewer teams means better quality of play and so much more. Ding six franchises to get the league down to 24 teams (12 per conference, six in each of four divisions). Who goes? Atlanta Thrashers, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators. Hey, look at that, no more Southeast Division.

Typical cheap-shotting of the the SE division. Typical ignorance. Typical Don-Cherry-Canadian-elitist-like snobbery towards teams not possessing golden boys and/or not located in Montreal or Toronto. Sounding a little like Eric Kay from last fall, too.

The initial reaction here at DCO was, of course, a long-winded, blistering post on McKeon’s optimism-hating, Sidney-loving soul. But maybe, just maybe, he’s being stupid for stupid’s sake, making such outrageous comments as to illicit just such a reaction (he got some, too, in his comments section). It’s a pretty logical assumption, because no hockey analyst who is at all deserving of being a hockey analyst (a PAID one, too!) could possibly suggest contracting as up-and-coming a team as the Capitals. It would be the greatest, most outlandish admission of knee-jerk simplistic one-track thinking since Sidney Crosby won an ESPY for “best player in the NHL”.

So he has to be joking.

UPDATE 8/14: Ted Leonsis pens the well-thought-out response.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Corner-Turning Weekend Part II

A few days later than planned, and while we prepare to see more pleasant surprises tonight against Buffalo, let’s count the ways the Redskins turned some corners of their own last weekend.

1. The start of getting some serious HOF recognition for the glorious Gibbs years. Gibbs, Riggins, now Monk and Green. Hopefully soon to be joined by Grimm, Jacoby, etc. But at least for now the population of NFL-dominating Redskins is increased significantly.

2. Jim Zorn looking confident and “with it” on the sideline, easily managing the Gibbs-built team, and not appearing overwhelmed, even drawing admiring commentary from Michaels and Madden for his rampant stoicism.

3. Related to the above, and Mike Wise commented on this earlier this week, the team took the first step to leaving behind those glory days of the 80s and early 90s. They will always be remembered, but never identically duplicated.

4. They stayed out of the Brett Favre fiasco. A Dan Snyder of even just five years ago might have dropped and/or traded everything to land such a marque name. While there were early rumors of the Redskins making a bid, the blow was (again) struck for continuity in the team’s name not surfacing for weeks in conjunction with Favre. There is confidence in Jason Campbell. There will be no repeat of Mark Brunell usurping Patrick Ramsey.

5. Speaking of quarterbacks, how about that Colt Brennan lad? Yes, yes. Preseason, third-stringers, garbage time, blah blah blah. But how about all three quarterbacks? Campbell: perfect. Collins: still grasping at a new system, but nearly perfect. Brennan: first professional action and within one incompletion of complete perfection. The QB situation may be more stable than we thought, more stable than perhaps in years.

So there are a few of the many reasons for a return to good feelings about the Redskins after that whole offseason of Gibbs-retirement, Jim-Fassel-flirtation, head-coach-hire-by-default drama. For all that happened, the team is very similar to the one that ran the table at the end of the season and very nearly ran through Seattle in the closest 35-14 playoff game ever. Who knows what other pleasantries await us tonight?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Three Sentences Reveal Aversion to Optimism

The gladness brought on by the recent run of stellar play by the Nats can only be heightened by knowledge of the dead weight they’ve purged. We speak, of course, of Felipe Lopez, who earlier this week had this to offer as an excuse for his subpar performance in Washington:

"Like I said, the motivation - just being dead last, I guess. Like going out there knowing you're probably going to lose isn't motivating. That's tough. That's tough, for me."

Manny did his best to motivate, but on some the message is lost, especially on someone whose very being is apparently immune to any notion of optimistic thinking (0-3 for the Cardinals last night, by the way).

What of Felipe’s middle infield replacement? Doing just fine, and lifting the team with him.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

One Sentence Begets Much Optimism

How can one line in a small story about a relatively minor Caps' signing (that of Dave Steckel to a one-year deal) be cause for so much optimism and anticipation for next season? When the line reads "[Steckel] figures to enter the season as the fourth line pivot behind Nicklas Backstrom, Sergei Fedorov, and Michael Nylander." How many years during the 90s did we fans pine for such depth and wealth of talent at center (don't forget +28 Viktor Kozlov ready to step in the middle if needed)? Remember watching failed bids for the likes of Pierre Turgeon, Jeremy Roenick, etc? Or how about forcing wings to play center, or signing a moody superstar's favorite center to placate him in the hopes of squeezing some production out of his $7 million/year contract?

Those years are gone. Ancient history. The depth and abilities we so longed for are there: the perfect combination of playmaking and defensive acumen. The one line said it all.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Feeling Good About a Non-Win

Sure they’re statistically no longer the Hottest Team in the Majors, but the Nats still have reason to feel good about last night’s non-win vs. Colorado. Sometimes-referred-to-as-ace John Lannan shook off the unpleasantness of his last start, a 5.2-inning, 8-run affair vs. Philadlphia, to post 7 solid innings, giving up a Tim-Redding-like two runs.

With the hitting alive again, it’s nice to see Lannan back in form to help bring the starting pitching around. With the statistical oddity of Lannan not receiving any run support, it kind of figures the bats would take a night off, but they’ll be back. In the meantime, Austin Kearns has crawled up into the .230s, healthy Ryan Zimmerman is creeping through the .260s, and Willie Harris and Lastings Milledge claw their way towards double-digits home runs. Hitting lives, a rising pitcher regains his form. Not a bad way to end a four game winning streak.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Hottest Team in the Majors

Despite a perhaps predictable injury to a hot, producing player, the Nationals today are tied for longest winning streak in MLB. Four games. Modest? Sure. But a better recent run than, say, the Mets, owners of a current four-game slide, after all that dalliance with the division lead brought about some brief optimism in New York. All that’s left is to wait for the "Fire Manuel" calls to begin.

Speaking of the Mets, here's a candidate for best-ever Yahoo! search that led to DC Optimist: “mets dumb jesus flores”. As in, Mets are dumb for allowing Flores to slip to the Nats via Rule 5 for nothing. Lost in all that early season swooning over Ryan Church’s march towards Cooperstown was the emergence of Flores as a legit starter over Mets castoff Paul Lo Duca. The crowing over how the Mets clearly robbed the Nats should subside now, with Lastings Milledge getting healthy and back to productivity and the free Flores gathering hits and RBIs nightly. Incidentally, we’re sure some day (perhaps as soon as Manuel’s job is officially declared to be in jeopardy) that “mets dumb manny acta” will also find its way to our referral records.

Anyway, four-game win streak. The Nats creeping up on not-last-place in the NL. Everything's going to be fine.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Corner-Turning Weekend, Part I

Nice little weekend, though the week ended badly enough, with Ryan Zimmerman taking another injury and the Post gracefully declaring the season had plunged to “unrecoverable depths”. There was also that little bit earlier in the day about a couple of maligned Nats named Lo Duca and Lopez finally being given the boot. Seemed the team was completely imploding, ready to sit down, lose their 100+ games and mail it in for the next couple of months. Not quite.

New blood in the form of Emilio Bonifacio and Alberto Gonzalez, plus sort-of new blood in the form of an (at least temporarily) healthy Elijah Dukes gave the team basically a new image overnight (Nationals Journal even quoted one anonymous player saying it was like being dealt to a different team the atmosphere was so rejuvenated). The now-youngest team in the Majors (finally, numerically certifiable evidence of a true youth movement) responded with an authoritative sweep of the Reds. Newbee Gonzalez chipped in mostly with his bat, Bonifacio mostly with his ridiculous glove.

Before poo-pooing such a sweep with rancid “evidence” that the Reds stink, so the Nats “should” be able to beat them (didn’t this exact sort of thing set Manny off last year?), consider that the Nats sweeping anyone has been a rare occurrence, and that a team so laden with newcomers and injury-fillers, one so derided as a “non-Major-league team”, one so lampooned by hacks, should be allowed celebration at this accomplishment, regardless of the opponent. So let’s celebrate. Let’s also look at some encouraging numbers helped along by a three-game winning streak.

The Nats now need only to win 23 of their last 51 games to avoid triple-digit loss indignity. It might seem a small feat, but given the well-publicized long-term injuries to all nine opening day starters We do include C. Guzman in that category, since he’s not yet fully back despite being “day to day” from the beginning of his injury stint. Let’s just be glad he hasn’t taken the 2008 Nats’ progression from day-to-day to 15-day to out-for-season. Staying below 100 might also just be enough to keep the hungry dog critics and expert analysts at bay. You know, the ones still burned from last year’s lack of 121 losses and hoping for something a little closer to that from this year’s Nats to redeem their lack of foresight. This weekend must have been crushing for such embracers of the negative.

So, two corners turned for the Nats this weekend. First, the long-term corner with the true move to youth and the release of never-panned-out Lopez and Lo Duca. This also means an extra $10 million for the team next year. Perhaps it’s a foreshadowing of some sort of Ted-Leonsis-like release of team money this coming offseason. Second, we see a shorter-term turn within this single season. With a younger, more enthusiastic lineup to compliment the young, enthusiastic manager, days of nine-game non-winning streaks could be behind us. The landmark of .500 may be but a dream this year, but something approaching last season’s late summer/early fall respectability can yet be achieved.

More later on the Redskins and their fine weekend.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Nurturing Optimism (even if only brifely)

Missed this one from a couple of days ago: an actual call to 'tism from Nationals Journal! Chico Harlan has brought plenty of snark to the program since taking over, but here he actually encourages Nats' fans to share their optimistic thoughts on the team, looking away from things like (now) seven-game non-winning streaks and to focus on what is good about the franchise and its future. Of course, he's probably just giving the fans what they want instead of completely changing his ways, but the effort is certainly appreciated. We certainly wouldn't rank him up there with some of the great optimism-haters of all time, though on occasion his little editorial jabs irk us somewhat.

The fans seemed to respond in kind. The comments section filled up with flowery optimism, proving again that not every Nats fan (or alleged fan) is a downer. This comment from "masnstinks" nicely captured the spirit:

A. We have a baseball team in DC!
B. We have a new stadium in DC!
C. St. Claire and his pitching staff
D.Ryan Zimmerman
E. our minor leaguers
F. Jesus Flores
G.Just realizing that I could complete the alphabet if I wanted to -priceless!

Reference to tired credit card commercials aside, it just shows that once you start thinking about all that is good with the Nats, instead of dwelling on the easier-to-think-up (and nicely hammered home by every hack analyst out there) negatives, it's hard to stop.

Also encouraging: judging by Monday's attendance of 34,039, fans are decidedly NOT staying away in mass numbers despite the 38-68 record of a team still trying to recapture the run-scoring magic so recently discovered in Atlanta. Sure, maybe an unwanted Philly fan here or there, but there were some solid numbers for the series against not-in-proximity Houston a couple week ago too. In short, we see again that there is 'tism out there amongst the people, even if it's only rarely and briefly encouraged by our local correspondents.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Rattled Collins Signifies Stout D

Apparently Todd Collins had some difficulties this morning in practice. Words like “frustration” and “pain” dot the Redskins Insider report of the backup quarterback’s dealings this morning.

Is this bad? Is it an omen of doom that the man ready to step in should Jason Campbell’s knee pop again is so out of sorts running the offense? NO. Instead, it is a sound indication that the Redskins’ defense is ready to pick right up where it left off last season. That is, dominating.

The same Todd Collins who came in cold vs. the Bears stout defense to orchestrate a victory, the same Todd Collins who was utterly unflappable in the Meadowlands vs. the Giants and their heralded D, the Todd Collins that came within one fraction of one bad quarter of leading Washington through the playoffs in Seattle: this same previously un-rattleable Todd Collins was rattled by the ‘Skins ready-to-explode defense.

This impressive statement with Jason Taylor still “adjusting” to the team. Once he is comfortable with the program, we’ll doubtlessly see more rattled quarterbacks with names such as E. Manning, D. McNabb, and T. Romo.

SSpeaking of Mannings, this rising defense (and team) may get a series or two on Sunday against the other Manning to benefit from a Super Bowl MVP bestowed by a media horde overly anxious for a touching angle. The Hall of Fame Game vs. the Colts should feature a good opening salvo by this defense ready to retain its Top 10 form, even if the pre-season game stays true to form and gives us about as much physical play as your average non-Sean-Taylor-attended Pro Bowl.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ranking Dan Snyder

Earlier this week while perusing Yahoo! Sports I saw a link for NFL Owner’s Rankings. It was Part I, ranks 32-17. My head was immediately filled with “here we go” thoughts, believing that, upon clicking this link, I would be treated to some piling on action vis a vie Dan Snyder. Words like “meddling”, “over-spending”, “wasteful”, and “incompetent” would surely fill some sort of zinger-filled paragraph next to the number 32. When the teaser line said something to the effect of “there’s someone worse than Al Davis” my suspicions rose even higher. I clicked anyway.


Snyder’s name was nowhere to be found in this bottom half of NFL owners. Nowhere amongst true perennial bottom-feeders like the Lions, Vikings, Browns, and Jets. My heart soared at the proposition that Yahoo! Sports writer Michael Silver might rank my team’s owner somewhere in the mediocre middle, away from the slinging barbs reserved for the lower rungs, but still not approaching the sainthood destined to be attributed to the name Rooney.

So yesterday Part II came out and I clicked to read the lukewarm analysis of how terrible Snyder was, but he’s improved, but he still has those control issues, etc..

Imagine the shock of scrolling past the heralded name of Rooney at #15, Mara at #11, Irsay at #6 (six spots ahead of Baltimore…just sayin’), to see emblazoned at #3: Daniel Snyder.

He’s given the most text of any owner, the first part explaining how he’s usually reviled. Then comes the ‘tism-like praise. Words and phrases like “awesome”, “eventually he’ll get the rings” and “hoists the Lombardi Trophy” follow. The non-smear-job details the wondrous way in which Snyder treats his players, deeply cares for the team, desperately wants to win, and did not hesitate to make a bold, necessary move when faced with an injury-depleted defensive end position.

Sure it’s just one Yahoo! column, but it’s perhaps a sign that the perception of this owner and this franchise is turning around. It might have taken eight years since the Sanders/Carrier/Smith spree to turn the corner, but the corner has been turned.

Of course, there was the requisite buzzkill in the very next ranking with Jerry-Jones-fawning in full swing. The two paragraphs dedicated to this Romo-enabler quashed burgeoning predictions that Michael Silver might be on the fast track to DCO Hall of Fame induction for his courageous bucking of the anti-Snyder trend. As it is, such induction will have to wait for such heresies as predicting a fourth Super Bowl ring in the near future for the Pizza Hut shill. That and calling the new Cowboys’ stadium the greatest arena since the Roman Colosseum. However, if J Taylor vs. Romo works out as well as prisoner vs. lion, all will be forgiven.

Despite this downer of a Top 2 selection (and with Vladimir Putin’s favorite owner taking the top spot), we salute Michael Silver for not lazily falling back on the same tired anti-Snyder rants of years past and illustrating the ways in which he’s matured as an NFL owner. Now to just wait for that inevitable hoisting of the trophy.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

No Bad References to Bad TV Shows Here

How many naysayers did you encounter after this weekend? How many told you Jason Taylor (#99, pictured, in a scene never to be repeated again) was “past his prime”, that he would be “invisible” this year on defense? That this windfall of the elite defensive pass-rusher the Redskins have “lacked” for so long was nothing more than another “mortgaging” of draft picks? A few such naysayers voiced thief opinions to DCO headquarters (email account).

Of course, this is all nonsense. The trade, of course, is a stroke of brilliance, even if it were born of semi desperation. Plus, it’s nothing like the star-grabbing, true future-mortgaging, draft-disrespecting strategies that may have occupied these parts in years past. Those days were officially put to rest in the refusal to overpay for Lance Briggs. No, this addressed a true need, one that was “ignored” in the draft, bemoaned the second-guessers. With Phillip Daniels and his backup down for the season (first day of training camp; first day of training camp), something had to be done, and the loss of a couple of draft picks for a guy who piled up 11 sacks last year was the right price. Yes, 11 sacks. How can that be “past his prime”? It’s even a prime number, for the love of ‘tism! Maybe ‘skins fans have just been hurt too much by prime in the past.

Here’s a number that won’t be prime: the number of insufferable “Dancing With the Stars” references this season. Mike Wise kicked us off nicely in that regard (we cringe to think of any Chris Berman coverage of the Redskins in the coming months). Though the next day he did reward us with a almost embarrassingly gushy piece about Taylor that reminded us again of his remarkable turn from chief optimism-hater to embracer of all things ‘tism. Fans apparently share the optimism, as evidenced by the poll showing 74% expect to see 8 or more sacks from him this season. With he and Andre Carter bookending the line, it would not be surprising to see 20 sacks off the ends this fall/winter.

It had to be done. The ‘skins rescued Taylor from the perma-frown clutches of Bill Parcells. He has responded in kind, lending credence to V. Cerrato’s prophecy that Taylor would play more than one year. Prime years they will be indeed.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Scouts Jealously Tremble at Might of Future Nats

After throwing in the requisite schtick-y shot at the team ("the District's alleged major league team" STOP IT!!), this morning's Nationals Journal entry detailed some tepid praise for current and future Nats players. The sources of the praise are non other than scouts for other MLB teams. The praise and its tepidness show the underlying fear (and envy) of these executives towards the Nats' now highly touted system. There's also a little indirect love for rotation mainstays Jason Bergmann and John Lannan.

Just about every piece of praise from these scouts is qualified. Yeah he's great but he's no more than a #3 starter. Sure he's got a good arm but all his pitches stink. Good stuff but he's a career minor leaguer. That sort of thing. One can read between the lines to sense the fear these experts have when the Nats' kids are ready for the big leagues. One also easily grasps the jealousy that these teams possess because they do not have such touted prospects. The best way to deal with that is to talk down the player, reduce their perceived value, in a desperate gambit to perhaps acquire one for reduced value in a trade.

It's subtle, but here's a good sign the rest of the league knows what's coming from Washington in a few years.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Dick Heller Declares War on Optimism

It’s been a while since we’ve had one of these: some columnist yucking it up that the Nationals are just ever so bad. Oh the wacky zaniness that can be had with such a topic; the jolly mirth-making; the astoundingly horrid mis-statement of fact.

While the Post was busy ignoring the existence of the Nationals and again pretending the Orioles are our team, Dick Heller of the Times was busy with the above-mentioned skewering of our already put-upon-enough Nats.

Heller whips out the latest edition of Unfunny Cliches for the Uncreative Sportswriter and drops these hilarities throughout the misguided column (his presumed reaction to each of his zingers in parentheses):

- Calls the team, get this, the “Gnats” (guffaws)

- Refers to All-Star Break as the team’s “hottest four-day stretch of the season” (chortles)

- Makes tired joke about “36 years and counting” without major league baseball in DC (slaps knee)

- Makes forced Election 2008 reference involving Ralph Nader’s electability and Nats’ Gnats’ ability to not finish in last place (fills out application to join The Capitol Steps)

- This one’s not directly Nats-related, but he mentions “these United States”, a phrase comfortably nestled in the 19th century (nods smugly at cheeky wordsmithing ability)

- Says Chipper Jones could outhit eight Natioinals combined (chuckles wistfully)

- Follows above winning line with quip that “eight guys from the nearest bar” could do the same (ROFLMAO [Ed note: I hate such acronyms, but hate optimism-hating more, thus its usage here])

- Calls national anthem “dramatic highlight” of recent game (slaps both knees, feeling downright patriotic at the same time)

- References some sort of Frank Sinatra song (pines for old days and “real” music)

- Says “Alf, Barry, Jimmy, and Fritz" should race instead of the presidents (???????)

- Makes another forced current events-type reference, this one to “House”, in discussing Nats injuries (admits to self he’s never watched “House” but heard it’s popular and has something to do with medicine)

- Recycles “eight guys in a bar” routine with dagger that uninjured Nats could not “win…on the nearest sandlot” (calls friends to brag about this golden line he just wrote, wonders where nearest sandlot is). One is shocked to find no mention of Sandlot the movie

- Questions the managing acumen of Manny Acta (forever damns his soul)

- Tells some anecdote from the 1920s (destroys fragile reputation of having knowledge of pop culture gained from earlier “House” reference)

- Jokes that the fans in the stands are asleep (hoots and hollers, shouts "Well if that don't beat all")

- Starts wrapping it up by suggesting the Nationals “Throw up a white flag before your remaining fans throw up period.” (writes to Sports Illustrated about starting a column, written by himself, with something like a “Dan Patrick meets Rich Eisen meets Rick Reilly meets Dennis Miller” vibe)

- Deploys word “ennui” (pats self on back for versatility of vocabulary/writing style)

- Just so Nats aren’t alone in his mocking, makes sarcastic ending note of the “almighty” Redskins starting camp soon (submits column and practices Pulitzer acceptance speech)

In all, possibly the worst article to appear in print since Linton Weeks’ similarly awful piece in May of last year.

Back to that “mis-statement of fact” we mentioned earlier. Heller, in his quest for only the most stinging of zingers, claimed the Nationals finished last in the NL East in each of their first three seasons in DC. Well, he can pull out some obscure tale from 1920, but he can’t pull out a copy of last year’s final standings to see that Washington, despite all odds and predictions, finished on top of Florida and securely in fourth (read: not last) in the East.

Those last few “give up now” because you’re “not gonna win anyway” paragraphs are truly the most galling. It’s pure concentrated disdain for optimism. Recently we stated the Nats might simply be destined for suffering this season to bring about a far greater good, that the team is much too resilient for Fate to allow to be healthy, thus the mountain of injuries begetting the non-winning of recent weeks. Heller just advises quitting, and presumably rooting for the darling Rays.

I generally don’t have a problem with the Times. I even enjoy reading DC’s second paper sometimes, but it seems to me the best advice for Heller and his colleagues is to give up now. Since their paper falls far short of the Post in circulation, readership, recognition, and relevancy, and has no hope of ever catching up, they should throw up that white flag now before we all…you know.

More Evidence Nats Fans Love 'Tism

While we wait for the second half of the season, and while we still bask in the glow of Cristian Guzman’s game-saving plays at third base in the All-Star Game (third base; the versatility!), a quick look at the Nationals Journal Midseason Report is in order.

This came out a couple days ago, but it’s worth looking at, even belatedly, for many of the same reasons as the Journal poll a week ago: it shows a burgeoning sense of ‘tism amongst Nats faithful despite the franchises various travails.

The overall thesis of the report? “…the typical Nats fan is both upset and ever-optimistic.” Nothing wrong with being upset when your team is not winning. It’s the focusing of that distress into pure optimism that’s the key (rather than home team abandonment and frontrunner-finding).

Some other key hope-inducing points: fans are already hopeful for some free-agent-type help this offseason, they see a healthy Ryan Zimmerman in the All-Star game next year (perhaps playing shortstop for an inning or two, completing the Guzman-to-third circle), and they see Elijah Dukes completely avoiding the self-and-team destruction so many forecast for him.

Again, it’s helpful evidence you can use to know you’re not alone, even if everyone around you is telling you your team stinks and is destined to always stink. You know it’s not true, but it’s nice to know not everyone out there is an optimism-hater.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Once More Re-Enforcing the DCO Mantra

Ernie Grunfeld is a believer. George McPhee likewise is with the program. Now, in just two weeks, a third DC sports mainstay has joined the ranks of those publicly adhering to core DCO philosophy.

Mere days after his biggest downer of a column since his DC Baseball is Dead tantrum of late 2004, Tom Boswell came back with a piece that was (eventually) more uplifting.

Sure, he lead with the approaching-dead-horse stat of 9,000, that sickening alleged number of DC-area TVs tuned in to a Nats game on average, following up with a rent dispute or two, succeeded by cheapskate innuendo directed at the owners, topped off with two fans’ tragic deaths and an encore involving an FBI investigation.

Wow. Guess the team is headed for retraction, right? At least relocation certainly.


Finally, Boz gets to the good, or at least the this-is-not-the-end assurances that so eluded him during his Linda-Cropp-induced lunacies of that dark winter of 2004. He states, for the sake of ship-jumpers and knee-jerking Nats-buryers everywhere: “…the life of a franchise is measured in decades, not in weeks.” And he’s right. Let’s all remain calm.

Within the last six years, the Mets (back on the track to darlingism post-Willie) endured seasons of 86, 95, and 91 losses, with significant drops in attendance to go with them. Go back ten years further and you see more losses, and worse attendance. In short, the Nationals are hardly the first team to ever go through a few seasons lacking 90 wins and 3 million fans.

Boz nicely wraps it up with a summary of the quality sub-3.90 ERA starting rotation the Nats are boasting, with a tip of the cap to “quiet progress.” His penultimate sentence is one word, the same word that adorns DCO’s humble little masthead: Relax.

Good advice. Sound philosophy.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Rooting for the Home Team Guilt-Free

Back in April, when Mrs. DCO and I moved to SE Connecticut, I vowed to continue to root for my beloved DC teams and to forsake all NY-area teams as the enemies they have always been. I’ve maintained that healthy and natural animosity, spurning the advances of friends trying to convince me to adopt the Yankees, Mets, Giants, etc. as my new teams. Those franchises remain unpalatable to me.

I have found, however, an exception in the non-MLB-affiliated minor league Bridgeport Bluefish. The physical proximity of this team and it’s complete lack of relationship with any team that would ever play the Nationals make it the perfect adopted team to root for, completely guilt free. No feelings that I am betraying in any way my loyalties back in my boyhood home.

Last night was my first experience seeing the Bluefish play, and my first in-person baseball experience since mid-April when my only trip to Nationals Park resulted in witnessing an ugly drubbing handed out by the Marlins. Bridgeport’s game against the Newark Bears, though in name and stature nothing akin to a major-league game, nonetheless presented striking and eerie parallels to watching the Nats play (one thing presenting absolutely no parallel: our $14 tickets two rows behind home plate).

First, there were a healthy number of errors, which would make any Nats fan feel at home. A total of six (three by each side). A bit ahead of the pace of what we might see any given night at Nationals Park, but somewhat reminiscent of home. Second, the Fish’s fine third baseman (still trying to learn names) pulled off a fine Zimmerman-ish backhanded snag down the baseline/firing perfect of strike to get the out at first. Very nice. Third, as if to personally remind me of the wonders of attending a Nats’ game with Phillies’ fans, some loudmouth backers of the Bears sat just a few rows behind. “Eeeeeeeeveryone gets a hit! Wwwooooooooooo!” This every time Newark got on base, becoming progressively more slurred and insistent as the game wore on.

Finally, perhaps most endearing and most brining me back to DC was the ending. A Bluefish 8-2 lead in the 7th inning shrank to 9-6 by the top of the 9th, by which point Newark had loaded the bases with two outs. With the closer struggling, another pitcher came in to throw three strikes to end the game, mercifully ceasing a very long top of the 9th, and ending an exciting, suspenseful contest that until that inning had been a blowout. Ahhhhhh, that takes me back.

The Fish play next door to an arena housing another local minor league team: the American Hockey League’s Sound Tigers. This presents a more complex situation than the straightforward no-problem-to-root-for-them non-conundrum of the Bluefish. The Sound Tigers are, unfortunately, affiliated with an NHL (that is, potentially Capitals-competing) team: the Islanders. While not as gaggingly awful as a partner of the Penguins or Flyers or even Rangers, it’s still potentially distasteful to root for a group of AHLers that could possibly one day threaten the Caps’ coming dominance of the Eastern Conference. I’ll likely end up pulling for them anyway, just to get in a live hockey fix this fall that cannot be completely satisfied by the Center Ice package. I will simply root for the Tigers to send out a team of career AHL players every night (a squad full of Frederic Cassivis), and when the Hershey Bears come to town, all loyalties to Bridgeport are out the window. There you go. Proper traditional loyalties maintained, new loyalties justified.