Thursday, November 5, 2009

Nats Succeeded Where Phillies Phailed Horriphically

While we all wait for the insufferable deluge of how the Yankees “christened” their new stadium or, even worse and somehow more hacky, are in “27th heaven”, given the numeric value of their most recent title, let’s us DC fans all revel in one thing positive that came out of this most wretched World Series match-up: the Nats fared better in the new, now-holy Yankee Stadium during the regular season (as vast, vast underdogs) than these Phillies (as the defending champs) fared during the Series.

Yes, remember back in June when the Nationals took two out of three games at this new "shrine" to baseball from the mighty Yankees? That was pretty great, especially given the 3-0 shutout in the series finale, facilitated by six-plus stellar innings from Craig Stammen. The Phillies of November proved far meeker than the Nationals of June, managing to take but one of three games in this same blessed haven en route to dashing all hopes of any manner of “dynasty” in Philly.

So we’ll have to choke on a few stories about the Yankees’ return to “prominence”, and probably have to deal with a few anecdotes about some perceived “adversity” they faced somewhere along the line, with some clap-trap about the “ghosts” of the old Yankee Stadium permeating the new thrown in for good measure, but whilst we gag on that pablum, let’s remember that at least in some regard, the Nationals triumphed where the Phillies could not.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mets Worse Than Nats in the Eyes of History

Maybe you’re a little down about the constant negative/hacky Redskins-related commentary these days, or the latest lame Harlan-wrought snippy shot at the burgeoning Nationals, or the squalid lack of DCO posts since the tragic mid-July termination of our mentor and inspiration. Well, if you’re looking for something to bridge the gap betwixt unequivocally excellent and ‘tism-evoking Caps’ and Wizards’ camps and the start of the NHL/NBA seasons, look no further than tonight’s developments in the Nats vs. Mets contest.

With Justin Maxwell’s gently arcing, "evidently” line drive grand slam into the left field seats went yet another Mets’ September heartache at the hands of the “lowly” Nationals. Whether it’s crushing hopes of a division title, contributing to an epic collapse, or just piling on to an historic under-achievement, it just isn’t quite September without the Nationals laying some kind of embarrassment on the vainly grasping-for-greatness Mets of the last half decade and more.

It is SO worth mentioning that Maxwell’s slam also propelled the Mets into the wondrous category of “Worse Than The 2007 Washington Nationals”. As this blog so eloquently and gleefully declared in those hot, humid, halcyon days of two years ago, the Acta-led Nats of yore bucked each and every prediction of historical awfulness and surged to a record of 71-91, far short of the gloomy predictions, presented by hack after hack, of 120+ losses.

With Maxwell’s full-count, two-out heroics, the Mets and their epically swollen $143 million or whatever payroll earned their 92nd loss. While the calendar may save the Mets from 100 losses, ignominy knows no such Gregorian-enforced leniency. The 2009 Mets are now worse than the team widely predicted to be the worst baseball team of all time, at the hands of the very such squad predicted to achieve that distinction. Oh the irony/shame!

Manny would be/probably is proud.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Manuel Elias Acta
November 14, 2006 - July 13, 2009

This truly is one of the darkest days since this blog’s inception two-plus years ago. The Master, one of our key inspirations and mentors (two fleeting encounters count as mentorship), Man-Act, Chairmanny, is no more.

His philosophy was a guiding principle of this blog, from the first interview I heard him give on the radio, in which he was asked what he would bring to the team. “Positive energy” he replied with no hesitation. It’s what the Nats needed. While we loved Frank and mourned his passing from the manager’s perch, his old-fashioned brand of crusty, occasionally hard-ass (and, to be fair, occasional tear-shedding at the mid-inning pulling of a catcher) style might have better fit an underachieving fully built veteran squad. Occasional lover of ‘tism Mike Wise recently opined that Frank deserved better in his dismissal from DC, and had a point. Maybe he can write the same about Manny. As most everyone admits, the Nats growing pains are far too great at the moment to be cured by the firing of a manager, or even by the (wise) ditching of Joel Hanrahan and Jesue Colome.

And so, in fond, fond remembrance of Acta and his ‘tism-soaked tenure in DC, including that idyllic summer of ’07 with its resultant single Manager of the Year vote, we present some of our fondest Manny Moments as chronicled in this blog, in no particular order:

September 23, 2007

Final Nats home game of the season, and final Nats’ game ever at RFK (my first wedding anniversary as well). Closing out the home portion of the season in which his team bucked all predictions of the historical awfulness that would befall them, ChairManny addresses the crowd afterwards, stating confidently, “I am positive and optimistic [about this team].”

DCO post from that day

April 13, 2007

Ah, the early days of the blog, when posts flowed as easily as an encouraging word from Manny’s mouth to the ears of a young team told by all others they were en route to 125 losses. On this Friday in April, we inaugurated a weekly award, the Manny Acta Optimist of the Week (MAO of the Week, a moniker which begat one of Bobtimist Prime’s most clever posts/logos), given each Friday to the figure in Washington sports we felt most personified Manny’s spirit of positivity for the preceding week. The first winner was then-hitting-coach Mitchell Page, who, in the face of daunting statistical evidence to the contrary, expressed complete faith in the abilities of the Nats’ offense, and predicted their bats would yet come alive. Two years and many hitters later, he is almost vindicated.

Manny himself would go on to capture several of these awards in the time when we still gave them out, a testament to how often he alone was the voice of ‘tism in this town (oh, and our blog too).

DCO post from that day

June 13, 2007

Still just a little over two months into his first major league season as manager, Manny really started to hit his stride on this night against the Baltimore Orioles. Game 2 of what would be a stunning Nats’ series sweep at Camden Yards (a series win that would put the cost-cutting, rebuilding Nationals at the same record as the heavy-spending, maybe kind of trying to win now Orioles) went to 11 innings. In the top of the 11th, struggling hitter and not-long-for-a-Nats-uniform Felipe Lopez, 0-5 thus far that night, got into a little tiff at home plate over balls and strikes. Manny, knowing the consequences of his thinned bench losing even this light hitting infielder, strode confidently to the batter’s box and talked Felipe down, keeping what would have been an imminent ejection at bay and re-focusing his second baseman with a little Spanish pep talk.

Mere moments later, Lopez’s base-clearing triple provided the eventual 9-6 winning margin (remember when a relief pitcher could hold down a late- or extra-inning lead like that?). ‘Tism triumphs again.

DCO post from that day

June 6, 2007

The first meeting of a member of this blog and one of its prime sources of inspiration. Mrs. DCO and I were fortunate enough to briefly chat with the Master prior to our being ushered away from the seats near the dugout and back to our plebian perches. It was a short conversation, but one that featured optimism as its primary subject. At the very mention of the word, Manny’s demeanor switched from the typical fan meet-and-greet to that of Master of Philosophy, as he expounded on the need to live a life rooted in optimism, and to eschew the easy but ultimately unrewarding path of the pessimist.

The autographed ball from that night sits above my right shoulder as I type this, and will remind me of the first time I met this future Manager of the Year and World Series champion.

DCO post from that day

May 30, 2007

An interesting day, as it followed a humbling 10-0 Nats’ loss at the hands of the Dodgers and saw the team similarly fall 5-0 that night. But in the big picture, this day came
as the Nats were wrapping up a 13-7 run in May after the oft-referenced 9-25 start that had the wolves circling, salivating, howling, etc. Bobtimist’s post from that morning will no doubt someday be credited as being the first prescient reference to Manny as the greatest manager in the history of baseball.

This was the day, at the end of almost three weeks of solid, winning Nats baseball, that we felt our seldom-credited guarantee of a non-100-loss season from May 9 might not have been a product of over-zealous homerism, but might have been steeped in something else. Yeah, optimism. Almost tangible in those days.

DCO post from that day


My own personal witness to the power Manny had in that blissful summer (undocumented in DCO as far as I know) came late in a game vs. Florida that May. It was towards the end of what were to be two extended rain delays, and only a few hundred fans remained at RFK, most of whom had made their way to the seats near the field. I was sitting not far down the first base line and suddenly a dozen or so fans behind home plate erupted into a boisterous standing ovation. There was the Master, walking past, quickly acknowledging the cheer with an “I’m not worthy”-type bow in return.

We may visit some more Manny Memories in the coming days, even as we (painfully) move on and hope that Jim Riggleman can be Bruce Boudreau to Manny’s Glen Hanlon (yet again drawing parallels between the Caps and Nats. When will it end? The answer is never).

In the end he’s the sacrifice that a 26-61 record demanded. It’s still depressing to see him go, especially feeling as strongly as we do that he will land elsewhere and that his unquenchable positivity will lead someone else to glory. In a way it's as hard to read about this dismissal as it was to read about that whole Caps Game 7 thing vs. Pittsburgh. But, as with that sordid affair, we can get through this.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Possibility for a Different Type of Managerial Discussion

The prevailing attitude out there indicates that this Nats’ series against the Yankees will determine the fate of Manny Acta’s future in Washington. Maybe it does. But maybe, maybe, the absolute reverse could be true. What if this series somehow plays into the future that onetime Nats spurner Joe Girardi has in New York? Imagine a scenario in which the Nationals take 2 of 3 from the Yankees, or maybe even just take one game, perhaps the first one. What about, dare we say it???, a sweep. The maniacal screams of the New York Post, et al, for the immediate dismissal of Girardi would know no limit.

Living in the NY area and having direct access to the home of sensationalistic sports-related overreaction (not to mention some of the most spectacularly ludicrous trade theories you’ll ever hear) that is WFAN radio, I can attest to the thin ice some perceive Joe Girardi to be on, and it seemed to get thinner after the most recent sweep at the hands of the Red Sox, adding to that 0-whatever record New York now has this season against Boston. Who knows, if Luis Castillo catches a routine popup and the Mets take 2 of 3 in the increasingly watered-down Subway Series, maybe a few more calls for Girardi’s dismissal could have surfaced (then again, if Nick Johnson catches a routine popup in Tampa, maybe there are a few less for Manny’s).

It could happen. Remember earlier this spring, when a similar DC-NY table-turning went down involving a couple of goaltenders? As the story in that series shifted from Lundqvist to Varlamov, perhaps now a different kind of story could shift from Acta to Girardi (we do love any opportunity for a Caps/Nats parallel). If it does, be sure to tell all your friends where you read it first. Then call WFAN and continue to tell them the Mets should “pick up” Adam Dunn.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Nats Fans: Less Flappable Than Nats Beat Writers

When Bobtimist posted a link on his Twitter feed this morning pointing to a poll in the Nationals Journal, I felt an almost immediate sense of familiarity.

The subject matter of the poll, of course, was whether the firing of the Master of 'Tism himself, Manny Acta, increasingly rumored to be imminent, would be warranted right now. A steady 55-56% of Nats fans have been maintaining that such a dismissal is, at the very least, ill-timed. It's worth noting the wording of the survey question: "Is it the right time to fire Manny Acta?", perhaps indicating that the questioner has already determined the Master must go, and just wonders when the right time is to drop the ax.

This survey brought to mind another such polling of the mindset of Nats fans, one undertaken just last summer, when things were looking similarly bleak for the franchise. The tide of optimism was strong then, even as the Nationals limped towards that 100 loss plateau they had so valiantly avoided a year prior. Back then, as now, a majority of the fanbase expressed confidence in Manny, 4/5 going so far as to say he would one day lead the franchise to a winning record. Back then, as now, Nats fans showed how strongly they ultimately believe in this team and remain hopeful in its future, in stark contrast to the continual snark, gloom, and overall negativism found in the pages of Nationals Journal and elsewhere.

There is, of course, that voice out there that is (usually) optimistic in the form of our buddy Boz, who so eloquently stated the dignity with which Manny still carries himself, and the support he still enjoys amongst his players. This is not some team implosion, poisonous locker room needing to be purged type situation (a situation, incidentally, that has been prophesied by naysayers whenever an alleged "troublemaker" or "cancer" with a name like Young or Dukes has been signed). It's just another struggling chapter in a re-building ballclub, one made all the more difficult with all that Bowden stuff that went down, and with all this young pitching trying to find its footing.

So, no, the time is not right to fire ChairManny, and we shouldn't assume such an action is or should be imminent. He's been the perfect character guy to keep a positive attitude through all this painful-if-necessary losing, and deserves to see things through to their ultimate, successful, winning conclusion. The fans seem to get that.

Friday, June 12, 2009

We Can (and will, and must) Get Through This

It’s been a while. Almost a month, actually. The last post on DCO to this point was before a bitterly disappointing Capitals’ Game 7 vs. the Penguins. That ended not quite as we’d hoped, but that game’s repercussions are perhaps as nothing compared to the Game 7 that went down tonight, a Game 7 that will cause we DC fans such pain as perhaps cannot even be fortold yet this early into the crisis.

So, this is bad. Maybe not Tony-Romo-with-a-Lombardi-Trophy bad, but very, very close. We’re in for a dark summer and early fall, my friends, months of gushing talk of “destiny fulfilled” by “the next one”, of “adversity overcome” by the same, of the audacity of free agent Marian Hossa to spurn a young hockey diety to play in Detroit, etc. Further, the next hockey season may well be difficult as any accomplishment by Alex Ovechkin or the Caps will find some beer-swilling yinser from Wheeling or Charleston, or maybe even on occasion Pittsburgh proper, bloviating about “the debate being over” as to who is the more superior player for all time, Sid or Ovie. This dark cloud may even hang over another probable trophy windfall by Ovie at the upcoming NHL awards ceremony, as the above-mentioned cretins will remind us of the one, perhaps two, honors not yet on his resume.

But it is that word, “yet”, that gives us hope, and let’s cling to it even at the onset of this dark night. The well-positioned Caps, not quite as lucky in the obtaining of #1 and #2 picks as these (gag) champion Penguins but close to their level nonetheless, will, soon, bring the discussion/debate back to even ground. They will do this, of course, with a Cup of their own. Perhaps a couple. We at DCO believe this, partially because we have to, but mostly because we really, really do. This tiresome-as-it-is “Ovechkin vs. Crosby” debate is laughingly far from over, being so early in the careers of both, and with each respective team only now rising to elite levels after years of last-place finishes and at least one near-move to Kansas City (looking back now, how sweet would that have been?). Who knows, maybe someday Alex will even rise enough to not be so arbitrarily and automatically attached to the horrible beard-grower in southwestern PA. A few 70-goal seasons should do it.

The Hershey Bears won yet another Calder Cup tonight, so that should blunt this crushing blow to all that is good and not ruined by excessive fawning in the world. All that talented AHL goodness flowing through DC and resulting in championships in the coming years will blunt it further, until June 12, 2009, will be remembered as just another goofy sky-diving birthday for an aging ex-president and not for the atrocity that occurred in Detroit, and the gushy coronation that ensued.

It will take some time, and it may be painful, but we will get past this.

Now how about those Nats?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Of Demons and Darlings

It’s been almost month since the Caps were so perfectly poised to bury one of those exhaustively referenced playoff demons. That particular hell-spawn was the memory of 2-0 and 3-1 series leads lost (the 2-0 specifically being the winning of two opening road games), typically while being the underdog. The beating of the underdog Rangers, who had taken those two very series lead against the higher-seeded, mostly favored Caps, went a long way to washing the vile tastes of 1995, 1996, and 2003 from our mouths (amongst others).

In a season seemingly dead-set on giving the franchise a fresh start in its post-season history, it was perhaps only appropriate that the one-time consensus Eastern Conference Champion New Jersey Devils would so gloriously choke away a lead with just over a minute left in Game 7 to give the Caps a second round date with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The “coincidence” of this event happening just moments after sageful Sergei Fedorov had buried the Rangers in the Caps own Game 7 should not be ignored.

So yes, the Capitals can expunge another painful part of their past tonight by improving the franchise’s playoff record against the Pens to 2-6. Be ready to hear that record screamed incessantly by insecure Iron City drunkards should their vaunted squad be defeated. Nothing like ancient history to salve the wounds of the present.

A win tonight makes us forget silly things like OT penalty shot pucks skipping playfully around Joe Juneau’s stick and harmlessly into the waiting pads of Ken Wregget, buzz-killing 7-0 Game 1 defeats on home ice, wackily deflected OT goals, Petr Nedved, and, yes, seemingly commanding series leads lost.

There is even more at stake, however. The Caps can do the rest of the league and hockey fans outside of the Pittsburgh/West Virginia area a huge favor tonight in vanquishing those darling Penguins, that team never lacking for a pep talk from whatever hockey pundit feels a warmth in his bosom for Sidney Crosby on any given day.

It’s a chance for the Caps to rescue us all, at least for five months, from a world where any mildly irritating, NHL-decreed-destiny-defying setback for the Pens is characterized as “adversity” (also known as “losing a game” or “incurring a penalty” for any other team), which of course is eventually “overcome”, where any Pens’ minor success is lauded as “resiliency”, where another manifestation of Sid’s petulant, entitled-brat schtick in complaining about hat-trick hats is characterized as the Pens captain being ”ever the competitor”, where instances of trash-throwing on DC ice are met with disdain and instances of the same in Pittsburgh are ignored, where the true resiliency of a Caps' rookie goaltender is questioned even as his counterpart in black and gold allows one laughable goal after another, and where increasingly tired arguments (some admittedly presented here) of which fanbase/organization has more “class”, which team posesses more loyal, less-bandwagony fans, or which team boasts more whiners, fall almost unanimously in favor of the Penguins. It's the Caps on the short end of these arguments now, but a Pittsburgh victory and it will soon be the Bruins/Hurricanes or Ducks/Red Wings/Blackhawks/any team daring to stand in the way of Gary Bettman reverently handing Sid a trophy.

This is the monster the Caps can slay tonight, along with their oft-mentioned demons, and oft-mentioned (usually snarkily) ancient history with the Penguins, a history with which exactly zero current Capitals were involved in any way (regular resident of the healthy scratch list Michael Nylander doesn’t count). It's a chance for a fresh start for us all.

Beat the Penguins, save the (hockey) world.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Hope and Sanity From...

The Penguins seem to officially be darlings again, almost unanimously picked to advance past the speed-bump Capitals. Remember when the Pens were going to miss the playoffs, and we were all ready to be spared from having to hear Sidney Crosby and his enabler hockey pundits talk about “overcoming adversity” or “facing adversity”, perhaps the most over-used phrases (with “it is what it is” coming in a close second) in all of sport? Those were nice days, days in which we might have dreamed of the Pens merely being relegated to talk of moves to Kansas City, days in which they might have again been abandoned by their supposed non-fairweather fans, who are of course superior to the all-bandwagon crowd filling Verizon Center.

However, in all of the renewed christening of the golden boy and his golden team, there may be a voice of sanity in the unlikely mulleted form of Barry Melrose. We all remember Barry, right? He made a trip to Washington mere days before his 16-game tenure behind the Tampa Bay Lightning bench ended. Well, over at, amidst a summary of overwhelming predictions of a second-round Penguins’ triumph vs. the Capitals, Barry and Pierre LeBrun stand alone as the only prognosticators willing to vouch for at least the possibility of a Washington victory.

What’s the point, you might rightfully ask? Well, a look back at predictions for Round 1 of the playoffs will reveal Melrose as the only one out of 18 expert predictors (including a monkey, who, incidentally, likes the Caps’ chances) who forecast Anaheim to knock off presumed Cup finalist San Jose. So he predicted, so it came to pass (and note the Capitals vs. Capitals phenomenon amidst the Yahoo! experts).

Maybe this guy is on to something. Maybe he knows something the rest of the expert hockey-predicting world doesn’t. Maybe he realizes that just because a #2 seed took a game or two longer than expected to knock off a #7 seed which possessed one of the East’s best defenses (if one of the worst offenses) and a goalie with series-stealing capability (as we were many, many, many times told), it doesn’t necessarily mean they are doomed by the prospect of facing Brooks Orpik and M-A F.

So, thank you, Barry (and, to a lesser degree, Pierre, since you predicted it would take the full seven games for the Caps to advance and face the Hurricanes in a paradox-causing all-SE-Division Conference Finals), for not falling blindly into another premature coronation of the Penguins. Your prediction is a refreshing WAS in an otherwise bleak world of PIT.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Stop with the Speculation Screeds!

There is much in the way of myth generating in regard to the figures that rule over the DC sports landscape. It seems that certain players, coaches, front office types, and owners around here make statements without even saying them, plan to perform actions that are never performed, and have certain personality traits that have never been completely accounted for. While they attempt to keep their personalities/decisions/feelings about whatever completely under wraps, the dilligent sports reporters and analyzers attempt to unearth these completely secret aspects of their lives in order to compose screeds on how terrible these people actually are at their jobs. Now, we don't want to discount the intrepid work of these writing professionals. Their thankless job provides the conversations we all enjoy having more than the conversations about Susan Boyle. Yet it becomes frustrating when the unknown decisions, feelings, and actions of these figures receive what amounts to a complete and utter bashing despite those feelings not being correctly interpreted and subsequently rebuked once truth or results prove these bashers wrong.

For example: the Wizards recently had what amounted to an aberration of a season (meaning the whole roster was hurt, not just a key cog or two). They realized that with the opportunity to re-assess their needs, they could address the lingering concerns while simultaneously staying the course of their ultimate structure. So they hired Flip Saunders, the most decorated coach in the market, which, unless Phil Jackson was available, isn't exactly brimming with proven ability. Saunders ran teams similar to the Wiz to great success. Sure, he didn't win a title, but only four active coaches can claim that anyway. Maybe his lack of title would be more motivation to make this squad run on all of its cylinders.

Yet, there were echoes of doubt from the analyzers and writers of sport, all of whom were doubtful Flip Saunders would ever wrangle in that insane clubhouse killer Gilbert Arenas, whose zany ways would drive any coach batty. How did they determine that Gilbert would be a problem for any coach he didn't choose via flipping coins? Not through any statements from Gilbert, or any actual proof of his past issues with coaching, but through speculation. Naturally the union of Arenas and Saunders is already off to a fantastic start, with Flip commending Gilbert, and Gilbert lauding the new constructor of his plays. What happened to the impossible-to-coach Gilbert driving every coach insane? We don't think many coaches would hate having a guy who can drop thirty, dish out ten-plus dimes, generate free throws instantly, and hit massive game-winning shots, yet sports analyzer Michael Wilbon figured Saunders would not be able to generate results from this mercurial player, and as a result, the hiring was terrible, awful, laughable, dump-onnable, etc.

Yet yesterday's formal introduction of Flip went with tons of mutual appreciation from Saunders and his new point guard, who will obviously transform into a quicker, more dynamic Chauncy Billups under this new tutilage. Speculation was wrong there, which made the immediate hating of the hire, transcribed through panic-ensuing screeds problematic.

We have the same problem with the sports reporters' treatment of the Redskins' upcoming draft. Now, we aren't going to go all Larry Michael and ask for the heads of these NFL Sources that keep reporting the impending doom and gloom eminating from the unwanton desires of Dan Snyder. We just find it troubling that far-reaching results of player transactions have already been documented despite any sort of genuine happenstance of a Mark Sanchez selection. The skins haven't made any trades, haven't formally swapped any contracts, nor have they stitched together any uniforms with these new players' names on them. So why, again, does Mr. Wilbon tap out another screed about the Redskins' front office inabilities, when none of these crippling transactions have actually been made? Sure Wilbon crows about how idiotic the skins are for not trading down, like they should, yet he fails to mention that the skins did in fact trade down last year. They have traded down to acquire picks a number of times. Just because the skins wine and dine a potential prospect (the same way they wined and dined another potential prospect) doesn't mean that their decision has been curly-R stamped in burgundy and gold. Plenty of speculated skins selections have not happened in the past, why must we assume the ravenous desires of the owner will always be sated, even if no official statements of these desires are ever actually made? If the supposed loud overtures of desire for a rookie quarterback are never actually resulting in his selection, why should you, Denver, Colo ask Jason La Canfora (of all people) for a new team to root for? And what happened to the last quarterback Dan Snyder supposedly lusted after?

We just ask that you all try to save your imminent frustrations for actual football/basketball play. Or consider this extremeskins thread created by DCO homeboi da#1skinsfan. That is, if you are in the mood for more speculation.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Needless Piling-On Is Becoming Tiresome

The Nationals have won two in a row (perhaps paving the way for the Caps’ to win two in a row, seeing how the collective fates of the franchises are intertwined, at least in our eyes), stingily holding on to one-run, ninth inning leads on consecutive nights.

Still, the resounding attitude towards the club is defined by snark, as illustrated by the blow-up over a couple of missing “O’s” on a couple of uniforms and, most disappointingly, if subtlely, a needless, uninformed shot in a Washington Post piece not even about the Nationals.

The article in question was written by Keith Richburg and was about the alleged over-the-top home-run-friendliness of the new Yankee Stadium. Of course, to put it in proper context, a shot at the Nationals is in order:

“Nationals Park in Washington, in its second season on the Anacostia River, featured 18 homers in the first six games -- more because of the Nationals' pitching than the wind or sloping stands.”

Haha, see, the Nationals are so bad that naturally it’s just their pitching and only their pitching that has caused this home run explosion at their second-year park. Of course, a closer look at the numbers, and not just a lazy reach-back for another “Nats stink” dig, reveals that the Nationals themselves actually hit eight of those home runs. So, perhaps an improvement in the team’s hitting, and not just a sluggish start by its pitching staff, has something to do with this gaudy total, huh? Again, though, this does not fit in with the motif that the Nats just flat out stink in every way and must be ridiculed with no mention whatsoever of any positive developments.

It really seems that in the heart of every baseball writer is the desire to pen cheeky “ho ho ho, our home team is so bad, those bums, heh heh heh, what are ya gonna do” types of columns. Everyone wants to wax on about their own “lovable losers”. And when they can't write full columns prematurely predicting historical catastrophes for the home team, they write little zany one-liners in unrelated columns. Anyone who loves optimism like we do should not let it go unnoticed.

Fortunately, our man Boz still gets it, even if he does throw in a completely unnecessary crack about “Natinals”. But at least his is a delightful piece of positivity in a newspaper world of smarm and sarcasm.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Changing the (Hot) Goalie Conversation

Remember two whole days ago, when normally ‘tism-centered Tom Boswell bemoaned the Caps’ “April Curse” of running into that dreaded playoff nemesis, the “hot goalie”? Oh, Henrik Lundqvist was the absolute worst the Caps had ever seen, having not won the Vezina three times and being the latest to inevitably join playoff tormenters with names like Wregget, Barasson, Hextall, etc.

That looks to be changing, and maybe now it is a Washington Capitals opponent who will have to deal with the phenomenon that we Caps’ fans have been forced to suffer for so many past (emphasize past) playoff series.

Let’s be honest: how many Rangers’ fans and members of the New York media were salivating, absolutely drooling uncontrollably and thinking things like “desperation” and “easy series win” when it was announced, shortly before Game 2, that rookie goaltender Simeon Varlamov would be taking over netminding duties for the Capitals? Why, a win in that very Game 2 must have re-enforced the notion that the Caps had taken their last, best shot and failed, they were done, they had pulled out all the stops and were still defeated. Bring on the Bruins in the second round, right?

As we know by now, that Game 2, one-goal-allowed performance by Varlamov was merely a precursor to the shocker at the Garden last night, the sublime shutout performance (despite the best efforts at jinxing throughout the entire third period by the Rangers’ broadcast team) by the not-legal-drinker who apparently already knows how to ignore/enrage Sean Avery. The goaltending future of the Capitals arrived a year or two earlier than forecast last night, and it could not bode more well for this team’s current playoff run.

Sure, it’s two games against the Rangers, with their flaccid scoring rate of 2.56 goals per game in the regular season and their holding of the distinction of being the only NHL playoff team with a negative goal differential (210 for, 218 against). But it counts. It doubly counts because Varly pitched a shutout in “the world’s most famous arena” (as MSG always reminds us), and was un-intimidated by those suddenly boastful Rangers’ fans who crowded behind every MSG announcer and in front of every MSG camera to chant nonsense like “sweep” prior to Game 3.

It’s now the young Russian’s series. He now boasts more gaudy numbers than the vaunted King Henrik. While DCO may admittedly be a blog more geared towards (positive) emotion than cold hard statistics, let’s take a look at the latter in the series thus far to shake things up perhaps just this once, or whenever it serves the cause of DC-sports-related optimism.

Save Percentage
Varlamov: .982
Lundqvist: .936

Goals Against Average
Varlamov: 0.50
Lundqvist: 2.33

It’s a different game, and a different series now. We look forward to numerous reports from Washington and national media declaring that there is a new hot goalie in the NHL playoffs, and that he minds the pipes for the Capitals, seeking to put to rest yet another playoff demon. The King is dead. Long live the Czar.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Caps Finding Creative Ways to Battle Demons of Playoffs Past

Remember back when the Caps made that little run to the Stanley Cup Finals over a decade ago? Remember all that talk of burying demons of playoff failure past, specifically those particularly spiteful demons who would cause the choking away of 3-1 series leads? They were dead. Gone. Exorcised, to use the popular cliché of the time, in the wake of a trio of 3-1 series leads successfully held on to in wins over the Boston Bruins, Ottawa Senators, and Buffalo Sabres (they had a pretty good goalie too, no?).

There may be, however, another, similarly insidious demon that has until this point lived latently, only mildly detected in the hearts of die-hard Capitals’ fans: the demon of Winning The First Two Games On The Road Only To Lose The Series. Such a gruesome fate has befallen two Capitals’ teams in the past, two teams looking to slay the dragon of first-round underdog-ness. The ’95-’96 team took the first two games in Pittsburgh then lost the next four. The ’02-’03 Jagr-infested iteration won twice in Tampa before again dropping the next four, against a John Torterella-led squad no less. Kind of see where we’re going here? (Disclosure: I have a personal interest in seeing this matter settled, having been present for key games in both series: the epic, miss-school-the-next-day 4 OT Game 4 loss to the Penguins on April 24, 1996 [curses upon Petr Nedved for now and for all time], and an overall letdown of a Game 4 loss, 3-1, to the Lightning on April 16, 2003).

Clearly, there is only one way to settle this demon’s hash once and for all, and we chastise ourselves, as the theoretical leading purveyors of optimism in DC (if only because of our blog’s name and not because of our frequency of posting), for failing to see it before now: the Capitals must BE the favorite who drops the first two games at home before coming back to take the series against a lesser foe. Perhaps then, and only then, will all past playoff shortcomings be expunged, moreso if the Caps happen to win one of their games in four overtimes or more.

So, there may yet be a greater (subconscious) reason for the Caps dropping these first two games in a building in which they have, for six months, owned the opposition. It could be a step towards, finally, for good, putting behind all those bad memories from the past two decades. If that's the case, these painful losses in games we thought would be pushovers will have been worth it.

Not over. Definitely not over.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Caps Set to Defy Naysayers Again

A throwaway line from a Capitals Insider post on Saturday night may hold more meaning than its parenthetical aside nature originally intended. The line:
“(Weird, meaningless fact: The Caps' season began and ended with a 7-4 loss.)”

That season-beginning loss, of course, was what turned out to be a minor setback in Atlanta. The Caps went 50-23-8 after that game, compiling the fourth-best record in the NHL. We weren’t worried about that loss, and we aren’t worried about this meaningless season-closing contest against the non-playoff-bound Panthers.

Then, as now, prophets of doom reacted to a 7-4 defeat with their well-prepared statements of optimism-hating: Jose Theodore stinks and was a disastrous signing, the defense is incompetent, George McPhee assembled a team incapable of winning anything.

So perhaps it was appropriate that the regular season was bookended by losses of the same score, to remind us how the naysayers were proven wrong in October, and how they can be proven wrong again in April, May, and June. The Caps rebounded nicely from that dark night in the early fall to put together a historical season. There’s no reason they can’t rebound again and put together a historical post-season.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Nationals Inching Closer to Victory

The first victory of the Nationals’ season is imminent as the team has gradually reduced its non-winning deficits through the first four games of the season. Since Opening Day, the Nats have not won by 6, 5, 2, and finally 1 run. Last night’s almost-had-it game against the Braves even took 10 innings for the ultimate result to be had.

This, of course, means that the young team with so much new blood is starting to gel, and that the Master’s proclamation that they will “be fine” deserves to be heeded, and that the team deserves better than the incessant snark delivered upon it by haters of optimism and hacky writers looking for the next bad baseball zing.

Also encouraging is the clear truth that the Nationals’ offense will be able to produce enough runs to win many games this year. The run totals through the first four games may appear pedestrian at first, but there are hits and opportunities to score many more buried in those stats that speak to a squad that will score much once they’ve worked through these early tough times. The key, of course, is not surrendering quite so many in return. Kind of reminds us a little bit of another young Washington team with so much potential offense that ultimately exploded to grandiose proportions, all the while nurturing a young defensive (pitching?) corps that has proven at least adequate to keeping the opposition scoring totals down. We have seen those clear similarities for a while.

Victory is coming, and we not alone in this belief. ‘Tism yet lives out there.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Nats End Extended Spring Training in Florida, Haters Rampen Up the Snark

The Nats emerged from their first few early-regular season workouts with some strong contributions in the realm of hitting and bullpen work, two aspects of last year's team that were glaring weaknesses. Now that the Nats have started to realize the potential of their potent lineup and unmatched depth in the outfield reserves, and they have found reasonable bleeding stopping from the arms in the pen, the settling down of the starting pitching and the adequate playing of the starting defense ought to settle into place now that the team has left Florida. In fact, so different is this team from last year's squad that so far, only one starting fielder is on the disabled list, and instead of a false-hope-inducing 3-0 start, the team has already erased hope bypassed that by losing their first three in the barren stands of Miami. Simply put, this is a different Nationals squad from last year's last-in-the-majors team.

So why has this team already been buried by unfunny cynics and baseball writers alike despite only being three games into what will ultimately be a redeeming season? The genuine impatience is so palpable that Stan Kasten is heard traversing decrepit landscapes off of 95 North to invite cretins to don their XXXXXL Chase Utley jerseys in our stands, despite the fact that these people shouldn't be allowed to roam outside of their personal living-room tailgate. Even the newly unveiled statues at Nationals park bear snarky reviews that lamely reference the temporarily-troubled ways of the hometown team. The praise of the new punch in the lineup has been replaced with punchlines by often-reaching scribes looking for easy ways to rampen up the doom and gloom and make everyone avoid the nice little Southwest shrine that bears the team name instead of a corporate logo.

It would be lovely to have a brand-new team that never had its entire innards gutted during an unfortunate fire sale at the hands of 29 inept major league co-owners who served as the team's runners, but that is the legacy the Nats bear. As we have noted, the Nats are victims, and these tough rebuilding years serve only to erase the poor upbringing that plagued the team once the unit was adopted like a troubled puppy from Montreal. The patience that needs to be utilized when cultivating a genuine ballclub cannot be damped into hasty hatred so early in the season. One wonders whether the Nats simply tack an entire Washington Post to their bulletin board of motivation, because the paper (outside of our homeboy Boz) does little else than crush the team with every sentence (but of course they don't because no one buys newspapers anymore).

But through these hardships that have beset the team, glimmers of 'tism have emerged like a phoenix in the shape of the new screech rising from ashes. Adam Dunn has already crushed a homer and rallied the 'house toward winning ways. Elijah Dukes has shooken off a tough Spring to become a viable contributor. Austin Kearns has figured out how to hit in his first three starts. Jordan Zimmermann has yet to show off his impressive array of pitches. And despite the fact that the DCO wasn't invited to participate in their fantastic advertisements (we even have our own dance! C'mon!), MASN2 has debuted some truly awesome Nationals commercials. It might even be a bit too early in the season to bury this team and its stadium and its capacity for fan fullfillment and the viability of baseball in the district, etc. Nope.

In fact, we are so confident that this season will turn itself around soon because we now have the Master providing his special brand of 'tism to these snark-infested internet waters with his own(?) blog! And what nuggest of 'tism is the first to be noted from the master?
"we'll be fine."
Manny proves that he is a natural at posting as well as managing. Now can we get a link?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Young Set to Win Second Comeback Award

Dmitri Young is evidentally set to join the Nationals’ 40-man roster, per a good old fashioned handshake agreement with the dearly departed Jim Bowden.

Young, of course, thrilled we lovers of optimism with his stirring 2007 season, earning himself all-star honors (and a subsequent snubbing) and a richly deserved Comeback Player of the Year Award.

While the 2008 season was essentially lost to Young because of various health problems, we at DCO are heartened by his return this year, which should ultimately earn him a Grover-Cleveland-like second non-consecutive Comeback Award. Look for Grover to be added to the Presidents’ Race next season in honor of this accomplishment.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The DCO Salutes T.O.

With the amount of T.O. news getting ready to bludgeon the public in the coming hours, we here at the DCO would like to take the time to thank the former 'boy, and former iggle for all of his contributions. While many have bemoaned Terrell Owens' presence in the hallowed halls of the National Football League for his flamboyance, his demand for attention and passes, and his carousing with Desperate Housewives, we here at the DC Optimist think one of his more unheralded contributions has gone unlawfully unnoticed. Owens, by the grace of god, single-handedly destroyed both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys playoff chances during his reigns in their respective uniforms, and for that, he cannot be thanked enough.

It all began with his celebrated tenure in Philadelphia. Working like a secret undercover agent, Owens decimated morale in the Eagles' locker room, belittled fellow diva Donovan McNabb into choking at every opportunity, took to camera whoring when his enormous contract seemingly wasn't enormous enough, and then, when it seemed like the world would completely implode on itself and the Eagles might win the Super Bowl, forced his way out, leaving the team's receiver core still without it's most productive target, and thus impotent and failure-prone. In the process, he enraged the admittedly easily-enraged Iggles fanbase, something we here at the DCO strive to do with every post. Owens work made the Eagles look cheap in the eyes of potential free agents, and naturally, players of his ilk stayed as far away as possible from that decrepit city, like many of the more sensible individuals in this country.

Naturally, Owens' problems with co-workers was lost on the bumbling Jerry Jones, who couldn't possibly see what a destructive force Owens was and like the inept personnel director he is, happily lead T.O. into Dallas so he could continue his masterwork of crushing locker room jollyness. While the earth was revolting at the sight of Tony Romo winking with his hat backwards, Owens went to work making sure that scourge of football was properly reminded that he isn't s**t. Romo was lambasted by Owens in every glorious opportunity, especially during Romo's impressively epic failures, like every playoff game number 9 ever suited up for and bungled.

It was the presence of T.O. combined with the natural unintended comedic brilliance of Jerry Jones' personnel moves that lead HBO to once again film Hark Knocks in the Cowboys' locker room. This development has always lead to the profiled team completely ruining itself, as the hour long in-depth scouting reports aired weekly often showed things to teams that couldn't be found studying game film. Although viewing Hard Knocks was especially troubling for this blogger, as it is strange watching a program where you wish every participant would suddenly become debilliatingly injured, it was hard not to notice the seeds of destruction that Owens had planted. Rookies looking to make T.O.-like money, have T.O.-esque commercials, etc., looked up to the receiver and his highly publicized tantrums. Why wouldn't they rally against their awful quarterback? And if HBO cameras weren't enough to parlay, Owens usually took his act to the pressers, including the undeniably fantastic "That's my Co' Back" post-playoff flameout that has been the finest post-football game press conference ever assembled. These seeds, combined with the Cowboys own drafted and acquired free agents, amounted to their suckiness.

With Owens now hitting the free agent market, many teams may be taking another look at his sort-of productive numbers, and possibly taking him and his brilliant destructive ways into their locker room. We hear the Giants may be looking for a replacement for the also-troubled Plaxico Burress. Wouldn't T.O. enjoy ripping apart another NFC East team from its insides? We'll be waiting to find out; with our popcorn of course.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Sweet merciful 'tism, a couple of lackluster non-wins, a little patented McPhee silence leading up to a trade deadline, and in some quarters you'd think the Caps were battling it out with the Islanders for draft position. The Caps will be fine, well secured in their first-round home-ice-advantage position of Division Leader. We're not looking at a Mets-like collapse here by any means, or even a Broncos-like collapse. The lead is 11 points, perfectly solid.
As for the trading, McPhee wisely continues to look long term. No need to deal a first-round pick + for someone like Olli Jokinen. Oops, sorry Flames.
Relax. Everything's going to be fine.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Honoring One GM, Awaiting the Latest Brilliance of Another

As mentioned in the most positive DC-sports-related twitter feed available on the right, we at DCO salute recently departed Nationals’ general manager Jim Bowden, he who literally put his own health aside to tend to this fledgling franchise, and hope that when the Nationals reach their full potential he is recognized for his role in assembling this team.

No team-assembling action is closer to this blog’s heart, of course, than Bowden’s hiring of this man:

Manny may ultimately be the legacy of Jim Bowden, in the way Bobby Beathard gave us Joe Gibbs. The Master of ‘Tism is DCO’s spiritual inspiration, reminding us all that the power of optimism can accomplish things as great as keeping a lowly regarded and injury riddled 2007 team from plummeting to the depths of historical badness, to things as subtle as helping alleged malcontents like Elijah Dukes become true MLB superstars someday. Federal investigations aside, Bowden has left us this lasting gift.

We salute this departed GM as we await more trading deadline aplomb from the offices of George McPhee. GMGM of course drives speculative sportswriters, bloggers, and blog commentators mad with his signature non-disclosure of in-the-work thievings trades. Who foresaw last year’s complete and utter fleecing of other professional-level hockey teams to acquire division championship-delivering goaltender Cristobal Huet, mentoring wise veteran (and object of a blogger’s wife’s affections) Sergei Fedorov, and noted pugilist Matt Cooke (now sadly wasting away in playoff-grasping Pittsburgh)?

The silence is typically overwhelming this time around. What difference maker(s) will be had for a song (perhaps the controversial “hockey song”?) either today or tomorrow? We've already seen one Verizon Center team exercise good trade deadline judgment. Is there any doubt the Caps will follow suit?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Caps' Success is Begetting Bitterness, Lunacy

A curious thing may be developing here as the Capitals continue to slay dragons atop various division and conference standings: they are drawing some ire. It’s as if the team is supposed to be a perennial punching-bag, a franchise everyone else can comfortably turn up their noses at, and lazily bring them up as a candidate for contraction. Now that such talk can no longer conveniently be turned to whenever the team’s name comes up, some people are throwing daggers and slinging mud.

First, let’s look at Boston coach Claude Julien, and his pouting after Alex Semin beat the Bruins with a slapshot from well beyond the blue line: “I've heard them say that they're in our heads. They do a lot of talking. They're one-goal games. They could have gone either way. By all means, I don't think they scare us.” The simple fact is three out of the four games between the two went the Caps’ way. Sounds like perhaps some overreaction to Brooks Laich’s comments prior to the game about a victory over the Bruins scoring some psychological points should the teams meet in the playoffs: "Maybe they finish ahead of, maybe they don't. But now they're wondering, you know, 'We can't beat those guys.’” Maybe we wonder about Julien’s coaching acumen if he chose to complain about Laich’s apt analysis after the game instead of maybe using it as a means to try to coax his team with the shrinking first-place lead into actually beating the Caps in regulation for once.

As it is, his little rave-out after yet another loss to the Caps reminds us of Donovan McNabb’s equally insane insistence that the Eagles were better than the Redskins despite the latter’s sweep of the former in the season series. The after-the-fact bitterness in both cases illustrates the animosity our teams can expect to face as they rise (or prepare to rise) to heights the rest of the sports world seems to think they should not.

Speaking of such sentiment, by now we all know about Don Cherry’s insane Ovie-related rant. The bald absurdity of it all is self-apparent, and the motive behind it all even more so with the mentioning of poor down-and-out Sidney Crosby immediately before the Ovechkin celebration bashing began. People are on to the overrated-ness of Sid, realizing the greatness of Ovechkin, and Cherry and other Sid anointers are unable to deal with it.

It’s interesting that Cherry held up soccer players for ridicule because of some of their goal celebrations and then likened Ovehckin’s celebrations to those. We think a far more telling comparison between the two sports would be comparing this:

To this:

Now we get the analogy. Thanks, Don.

As has been pointed out pretty much universally since this nonsense hit the airwaves, the timing of Cherry’s idiocy is curious, coming at a time when Ovechkin’s star is very much on the rise and the sheen is coming off Sid exponentially as his whining, tantrum-throwing, and baffling suspension-less cheap-shotting increase (also curious that many of the Ovie clips shown have been around for at least a couple of years, and only now apparently has the outrage come forth in Cherry’s Canadian-centric mind). NHL players, at the very least, are starting to fully embrace the anti-Sid movement. Hopefully NHL marketers will come to their senses as well, and maybe even NBC will start to show a few more games not featuring the Penguins.

In the end, we at DCO are heartened by these anti-Caps developments, as it indicates that the Capitals will likely not be inundated with irritating darling-ism, such as been heaped upon every Penguins’ team since Cherry’s Messiah broke into the league and lost the Calder trophy to Ovechkin. Maybe they’ll just be allowed to go about their business bringing a Cup to DC, and to making the town a permanent residence for other trophies with names like Hart, Richard, Ross, Adams, Norris, etc.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Celebrating Christmas in February!

If you happen to be one of the new subscribers to the most positive twitter feed in the region (see newest widget to your right, and add away), you will notice a marked enthusiasm from us about the Redskins' latest delving into the waters of free agency. Despite what many of the sayers of nea were harping on regarding the cap situation, the hightened salaries, poor economy, presence of Vinny Cerrato etc., Dan Snyder still managed to obtain the highest-regarded player in free agency, Albert Haynesworth, while still retaining that lovely late season playmaker D'Angelo Hall, and STILL remaining in the running for totally-welcome-back pulling guard Derrick Dockery. Noticing needs for a more destructive defense, big D (meaning Snyder, not the Sportscenter-ticker-dominating 'boys) didn't stand pat, nor did he tear anything down, nor sacrifice any future, nor disrupt any past gains. No, he went out and made this team better for its millions of high-price paying fans, doling out even more millions to improve a product we have always felt was on the cusp of greatness.

What is there to gripe about when it comes to signing Haynesworth to the biggest contract for a defensive player in league history? If you asked one of the quibbling Jasons from the Post, they may reply with details of the salary cap problems that the skins were supposed to be mired in for centuries to come. They may liken giving this contract-year guy enormous dollars to giving the scourge that is Dana Stubblefield enormous dollars (yet denying him his proper performance-enhancing drug budget). They may dismiss the signing as ornament-grabbing business-as-usual for D-Snydes and his raquetball cronies, who think a large, expensive band-aid will fix what years of maligned drafting and fluctuating management have wounded.

But if you ask our contingent of 'tism, we would express nothing but the deepest of excitement for this move and its ramifacations throughout the league. With this signing, the retention of a now-healthy Jason Taylor and Cornelius Griffin, and the tendering of draft picks Anthony Montgomery and Kedric Golston, the skins have formidable-ized their defensive line, which in the past had been a softer spot of their still-top-five-in-the-league defense. The re-upping of Hall enhances that continuity portion of the team that everyone continues to think is barren. That fantastic secondary ought to have plenty more opportunities to intercept Tony Romo once these QB eaters begin their weekly blocker sheddings and pain causings. Pockets will collapse, and mistakes will be increased. Turnovers (and dropped turnovers if you are Carlos Rogers) will increase, field position will enhance, and FedEx Field game announcer Mark Kessler will likely bring back his decrepit "It's thiiiiiiiiiird down aaaannnddd llloooooooongg!" chant, which will now not result in an instant first down for the opposition.

With the Haynesworth signing, the skins can concentrate their full complement of draft picks on another maligned portion of the team: the offensive line. The harrumphing at the hog-less ones has been heard (ha-literation!), and with a draft that seems to be pregnant with O-line talent, a first-round selection in the realm of combine Columbiner Andre Davis or Michael Lewis-inspiring Michael Oher ought to add more blue-chip talent to a rugged veteran line eager to teach. If you read Lewis's Oher biography-slash-Joe Theisman broken leg autopsy book "The Blindside" you may recall current skin John Jansen supplying Oher with clothes and shoes during the kid's insanely huge development period. The draft-stock dropping Davis is another in the long line of Crimson Tide Tackles, whose lineage includes current pro-bowl, and happily restructuring tackle Chris Samuels. I envision Samuels taking the troubled Davis under his giant sack-preventing wing, schooling the youngster on how to be awesome when not hurt. I envision either of these SEC giants to fit in nicely as a result of these ties. Plus, if there are enough dollars left to bring back Dockery, not only does that fill that gaping Guard hole, but it also returns a locker room good guy to the skins. The youthful exuberance of Chad Rinehart and Stephon Heyer ought to remain properly tutored by Joe Bugel, and should be ready for insertion if an unfortunate bump or bruise happens.

But most of all, these signings return the skins and their wonderful fanbase to those great, Christmas-like days of previous years, when you went to sleep to John Clayton theorizing and woke up to burgundy-and-gold-wrapped presents filled with newly-signed hope and promise. If you don't even feel a tingle of excitement, friends, we can only call you scrooge. Don't the skins boast some of the highest team revenues on the planet? Don't they charge you pretty much a small fortune to attend games, purchase hooded sweatshirts, and drink beer? Why shouldn't they splurge on what the team needs the most? Anybody with a problem with competitive spending can go quietly hum "ba humbug" to him or herself at their new favorite team's now-packed games. We'll stay singing "Deck the D-Halls", or some other potential Chris Paul-inspiring holiday song.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Wiz Trade Deadline Grade: A

There is a contingent of people in the local sports press who may have written off the temporarily moribund Wiz. They have been called every "inept" synonym the thesaurus holds during their current cold streak. It seemed like every facet of their structure, from the decision makers to the coaches to the scouts to the few un-injured players left on the squad, should all be let go, replaced with expiring contracts, first round draft choices, and Ja Vale McGee's fully developed future self. With this season a lost cause, why not take apart the entire thing, scrub the salvagable parts, and replace everything with young, cheap, and Hollinger-approved.

The general consensus among those who attempt to report on the Wiz was, whatever deal was on the table, take it, you don't want to lose out on that potential number one pick. But the Wizards, and us here at the DCO, felt differently. The Wizards head-of-everything Manager Ernie Grunfeld felt that this team was perfect as constructed, and none of those trades that all of the NBA would have loved to execute were viable. And for this faith-in-the-Wiz philosophy, Ernie Grunfeld and his pat-staying Wiz have earned a coveted "A" grade from our own team of brilliant draft analysts.

While our draft analysts tend to often be correct in their respective analyses, there really aren't experts on the whole, knowing of Abe Pollin's exact thoughts thing. But we do know that if this potential trade would have been made, a trade both the yammerers of the media and, apparently, executives of NBA teams discussed ad nauseum, it would have destroyed the entire public's desire to ever take in an NBA basketball game.

Trading Antawn Jamison to the Cleveland "Crabaliers"(copyright Carter), would have made the entire National Basketball Association Incorporated become fraudulant. It would have taken something as perfectly American as loyalty seem forbidden. If Ernie Grunfeld would have listened to this contingent of unimaginable opinions, he would have squeezed any viable worthiness out of the league for good.

Yet Grunfeld, harboring DCO HOF-worthy steadfastness, resisted the marketing machinery. He kept his currently slumping Wiz team intact, knowing that full recoveries would lead to that winning tradition, built by Grunfeld et. al. He didn't give those a**holes Antawn. Not even if the referees fix the outcome completely will the Wizards hand-deliver the Cavaliers anything. NOPE!

As someone who "WITNESSED" the last time the Cavaliers played and lost to the Wiz, I know that there is only one team in the NBA that continues to remain either morally, or outcome-ly victorious in this match-up; and it's the Wiz. Again, the Wizards stood victorious. The Cavs couldn't even get a referee to rule favorably for them and execute that trade. One wonders whether David Stern himself blew a whistle during the phone call between the teams, and had Boobie Gibson execute the trade from the free throw line. We are positive that LeBron was crying while refreshing that NBA trade rumors page on worldwide dot com. Again, the Wizards emerge victorious over the least-appealing team in the NBA.

Naturally, the Wizards have been inspired by this tism-riffic victory. We know that current Wizards boss Ed Tapscott begins every game with an inspirational quotation. This not-trade likely didn't have to lead Tap to resort to his must win quote, namely the "us must trust us" verse from KRS-One's "Ova Ya Head." Nope, the Wiz responded to their non-makeover by steamrolling their last two opponents, emerging from the basements of the league, and looking as spoiler-riffic as ever. Maybe it was Kane's verse first verse from "Anotha Victory" that emblazoned the whiteboard before their last game and victory ("Come, get some, you little bums"), both their second straight overall win and their second straight at the well-groomed Izod Center (not copyright Berman). Cuz the Wiz made quick work of the Jarvis-less and Vince-Carter-ability-less nature of the Nets. Before that, they were firing up Verizon Center with their dismissing of the worse-off T-Wolves. Want to see development in the youth? Watch the current version of Javaris Crittenden popping eyes everytime he ignights a fast break. Check to see if it's McGhee, Andray Blatche, or career-highing kid Domenic McGuire catching his alley-oop toss. This team's reserves are legit.

And all of this luxury tax rigamorow? Not even an issue once next year kicks off, you know, when Gilbert, Brendan, etc etc become healthy and the Wiz return to excitement? The present, and the future, have become brighter. And you don't have to boycott a sporting league in the process.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Jay Beagle Set To Score First NHL Goal

With the late-breaking news that Alexander Semin will not play tonight vs. the Rangers, the stage is set for another Capitals AHL call-up success story (unlike the Rangers imminent AHL call-up disaster).
As any reader of any regularly posting DC-sports-themed blog could tell you, Beagle is the seventh player to make his NHL debut on the Caps this season.

The successes of Karl Alzner and Simeon Varlamov have garnered plenty of well-deserved attention, though let us also not forget the more subtle triumphs of those Hershey Bears such as Sean Collins (first NHL goal was the morale-killing opening score of a 7-4 rout of the Lightning on January 1), Andrew Gordon (presented himself well in that injury-ridden Caps legendary 5-4 OT win in New York on December 23), or Oskar Osala (scintillating single shot in a 3-1 victory over the conference-leading Bruins on December 10). Also, while he did not make his NHL debut this season, let us never forget Chris Bourque and his first NHL goal in that same game as Collins' goal, which prompted some, um, bold proclamations from your favorite optimistic bloggers.

What similar glorious success awaits Beagle? This blog sees him as yet another valuable contributor from a farm system with seemingly endless quality depth.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

America's Hot New Philosophy

If you, like me and apparently the entire freakin' country, were trolling the streets of the district like zombies on an everlasting trek for brains, you might have seen or heard the hot new buzzword that has swept the nation: optimism.

Maybe you saw it emblazoned in the most friendliest of corporate manner on your local metrobus? Maybe you heard one of the countless pundits who you now have grown a strange sudden interest to say it? Or, maybe you heard it in a place we here at the DC Optimist have been chanting it for the past two years or so: in the DC sports landscape.

In today's paper, maybe you had to divert your eyes from the dizzying highs of the winning part of the sports region (Barry Svrluga's poignant profile of the popularity surge in Alex Ovechkin and his first-place hockey team) to witness the never insurmountable lows of last-placitude (Chico Harlan's report on a luncheon involving Nationals brass and the people). But buried in the suffering of that report is that hot little buzzword permeating the region, and it was uttered by none other than this site's patron saint, Manny Acta. When discussing how totally better the Nats will be next year, Acta described himself as "optimistic, not realistic."

In that delicious quotation, Acta went ahead and again won our hearts and cemented himself as the quintessential manager to ever fill out a lineup card.

But that's not the last of the 'tism fest that is sweeping the local sports nation. During this euphoric Caps' renaissance, we profiled the utter rightness of rookie defenseman Karl Alzner. After receiving this quote via email earlier from my co-optimist, I realized that gee, even when he is sent down, Karl Alzner handles it the right way. Per Tarik El-Bashir's Capitals Insider: "Ever the optimist, Karl Alzner doesn't mind being back with the Bears."

Take notice America, and potential TV show producers looking for the perfect blog to make a TMX-like show about, optimism is taking this nation by storm. And with the way that has trickled down to the areas of our sporting locale that seem to need it most, you can thank yourself for knowing where it originated. Tism is king.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Flyer Than the Rest of Em

I for one, have no problem with the democratic process. I am happy with the results of the presidential election, and whatever is coming up in light of that decision. I find voting to be a heroic act by those flexing their god-given freedom of selection. However, as we discovered eight and four years ago, oftentimes, the wrong mother-effer is picked number one by the voting public. With the big swearing in getting ready to absorb everyone in the district and outlying region's attention and Metro breathing room, it was nice to see that another major mistake made by voters was being rectified last night in Pittsburgh.

I don't know if you read another one of those seemingly ill-timed Mike Wise 'tism defibrillator charges that was printed in the paper yesterday, but it was something about how Washington Capital and Hart Trophy pwner Alex Ovechkin is essentially inherently superior to that oft-injured other occasionally mentioned in the same breath guy, and the NHL just can't bear to realize that. The results of the NHL's dubious marketing scheme led to a duo of out-of-contention teammates from Western Pennsylvania absorbing more votes than their far superior rival from DC. As was the case when W was elected twice, the voters got it wrong twice, and yesterday's convincing performance by the Caps was a personification of that. Instead of being seen chipping in on game-tying, -winning, and -sealing goals, the number-one vote getter was seem limping off the ice, trying in vain to dive into a game-salvaging poor referee call. Simply put, yesterday was Ovechkin's inauguration. Oh, and as for the #2 vote getter? Became suspiciously absent from the post first-period portion of the game, where the Caps wrestled away their rust and began their steady 6-cylinder firing. If there was any doubt that the preferable candidate was not properly chosen by the public, Ovie's third period sealed that doubt, much in the same way the Wizards seal down that number one overall lottery pick in their nightly efforts.

While I wasn't one of the supposed millions who somehow elected the guy pretending to be hurt all the time as the number one all-star, I may be able to understand if they find shock that their decision was made poorly. I'm sure those people who saw Katrina wash away much of New Orleans, the country toil in an unjust war, and grammatical atrocities becoming the latest bumper sticker slogans became ashamed as well. And they took action by electing Obama, right?

Yep, a far-reaching Washington-related timely metaphor. Sorry to steal your latest PTI bit, Kornheiser. I must say that I was inspired to put this piece together by another local superstar, Rapper Wale. After hearing it for the first time likely forever after everyone else did, I found what has to be pumping out Mike Green's Laborgini speakers: This Anthem. While it is known to the hockey savvy that Ovechkin plays in signature CCM skates, last night it became obvious that Ovie wears "Nike Boots."

Monday, January 5, 2009

Karl Alzner Does Things The Right Way

It was sometime during the lull of a Capitals home win, with the lull coming solely from the almost mundane feeling of an assured guaranteed victory, when I started thinking, "How come there is almost never any lapses of concentration, any complete screw-ups that lead to inevitable Ls anymore? Why doesn't this Caps team screw up anymore?" I mean, when teams are injury depleted, they end up thinking about lottery picks, which overpaid dude on their roster they should deal, how they can rebound when after a promising start every offensive weapon spent time on the shelf. Not these first-place Capitals. And especially not at the insanely popular and populous Verizon Center, where nobody other than the Caps ever wins a game, and instead only attends try to luck themselves out of another Ovie highlight. It is strangely settling. So, it was during this over-extended thought that I found a person who embodies that stable-throughout-the-organization infallibility and I found it in Karl Alzner.

When he was drafted --- during a DCO-attended draft party, where the of-course-they-were-awesome uniform change was introduced, and Bobtimist Prime awkwardly attempted to elicit funny from serious professionals --- Alzner was lauded for his all-around game. His top-to-bottom housing of defensive essentials and leadership qualities, his captainship of championship Canadian National juniors, winning defense awards in junior; basically he had everything.

And while it took a few weeks for his arrival in DC, and this unfortunate rash of injuries, it is clear that he embodies this bizarre, mistake-free nature of the 2008-2009 Caps. I mean, he has yet to take a penalty in an NHL game. He does the right things. So often in fact, that we think he does things the right way in every aspect of life.

Did you know Karl Alzner also:

- always uses his turn signal, especially when he is like, travelling south on 16th street and he is in the right lane and someone is parked and he has to get over

- rarely crowds to doors of the Metro, when he gets on, even if it is in like the boondocks of Wheaton station, he heads middle, freeing up that space for people to enter and exit the train. Only in the instance where he is getting out of the doors in a crowded train to let people on does he crowd the doors. All of this is done without holding the doors up like a jerk. Plus he

- knows EXACTLY where that intersection in Dupont is, without looking smarmy about it, or questioning your decision mentally or verbally about your location choice. He doesn't even joke with tourists about the location of J street, which would befuddle them.

- PROMPTLY moves his CORT truck, which unfortunately may have douple-parked you into a spot on P Street. He wouldn't even make you have to call his supervisor twice or lean on the horn in your finest imitation of Verizon Center's Horn Guy.

- If there were ever an occasion where he choked out of two game-winning baskets, including one terrible attempt at eliciting favortism that was for the first time in history correctly called by an official, Alzner would never ever deny the obvious-to-everyone-on-the-planet fact that he travelled and that for the first time in history, he was called for it. Nor would he even come close to crying to the officials if ever he was called for a mistake.

No, Karl Alzner does the right things when duty is called upon him. I was talking with the DC Optimist about this, and he thought similarly. Like how he likely gives out money to the less fortunate, homeless folk out there on Fun street before the games. Even that funny dude with the raps about how he needs a beer. I mean, like he's not suckered by the bums, but he'll hook up one of the more-clever ones like that dude. Like, if he were loaned something, he'd return it, and his home wouldn't be adorned with "Ned Flanders' Property." But, he'd also loan that stuff out without question, as was the case with Ned Flanders' TV tray.

Despite being a fantastic stay-at-home defenseman mainly adept at getting the puck out, he still plays physically. But that physicality would never translate to picking fights with defenseless people. While he does not get penalty minutes, ever at all, if he were, in some bizarro-world where leading rookies in ice-time, and becoming a key penalty killer translated to 19 penalty minutes and a game misconduct, it wouldn't be during a 6-1 loss to the Florida Panthers.

If Karl Alzner was behind you in line at McDonalds and realized that you were fifty cents short of getting a 20-piece McNuggets meal, he would have gone a head and placed two quarters on the counter.

That lost wallet, that he would better serve to throw away? He's dropping it off in your mailbox just in time to pay off those gambling loans, like if he were to find Rick Tocchett's wallet.

He'd help a stranded person; he wouldn't abandon them during crucial-final-three-games-of-the-season moments. If he were sacked and ended up giving up the game-winning fumble to allow perrenial fakers like the friggin' Eagles into the playoffs, he'd never faintly grasp his helmet with two dramatic, pained hands, bantering to an audience of idiots who might determine this pathetic display of worthlessness as a result of playing hard and hurt.

No, Alzner does things with the correct amount of rightness. So if you may still have some question as to what happened to that mistake-prone Caps team of old, just be ensured that the Capitals, as the did when they let this fledgling online outlet of 'tism walk amongst their employees, have done so many things right lately. And Alzner embodies that.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Calder for Bourque?

After the Capitals’ stirring road victory over the Sabres on Tuesday, we at the DC Optimist feel it reasonable to ask: should Chris Bourque garner consideration for the Calder trophy, given to the NHL’s most outstanding rookie, for his game-changing first period goal in Buffalo?

It was a crucially important game for the Capitals, if all this talk of demon-exorcising from Bruce II is to be believed. It was a game in a building in which the Capitals traditionally met an ugly demise, against a team that, for whatever reason, seemed to have the Caps’ number over the years (Eastern Conference finals notwithstanding). To paraphrase the reigning Jack Adams winner (en route to a repeat), these are the games the Caps have to start winning, the venues the team has to start conquering, if they are to be champions.

This could be the confidence-building win that, ultimately, pushes the Caps towards that over-the-top territory they are so desperately seeking and, given the utterly ridiculous AHL-resembling of their roster due to injury after injury after baffling injury, they ultimately deserve.

All that being said, how could the league not take notice of Bourque’s first career goal, that adeptly buried long rebound that gave the Capitals a 2-0 advantage, leading directly to Craig Laughlin’s traditional proclamation that another Caps’ goal would mean “lights out” for the opposition. Ultimately, this game-breaking goal led to just that.

Not to alarm Caps fans, but there is this slight possibility that Bourque may be snubbed despite his objectively pure qualifications for the award. Therefore, we pre-emptively cite the example of equally
snubbed would-be MLB All-Star-Game-MVP Dmitri Young

In the 2007 version of the game that can still end in a tie (is a Donovan McNabb joke at this point considered dated? Can we still make that tie-related joke?), Young stoked a 9th inning rally with a two-out infield single. The eventual triumph of the National League would not have been possible without it, yet Young was denied most valuable player considerations afterwards.

Similarly, this magnificent rebound goal by Bourque made possible this victory in Buffalo so badly needed for the Caps’ Cup-seeking psyche. While Nicklas Backstrom may nominally hold the game winning goal for this contest (courtesy of that meaningless post-empty-netter tally by Buffalo’s Clark MacArthur with 11 seconds left), it was Bourque the Younger’s tally that ultimately, truly won this game for the Caps.

Finally, since it’s the New Year (irrelevant, but who cares, let’s press on), we'll play a game of If The Playoffs Began Today. If the playoffs began today, the Capitals would play…the Penguins in the first round. You remember the Penguins, right? That team of baby darlings that so charmed us last spring with their little playoff run, and who were such a lazy popular pick amongst hockey experts to repeat as Eastern Conference Champions, and who are apparently completely unable to deal with the nasty little injury bug as well as the Caps have. Yes, those Penguins.

Talk about exorcising demons. A clean first-round sweep of the Pens would do more to bolster the post-season confidence of the Caps and their fans than any number of 3-1 series leads held on to in 1998 could ever do. All this assumes the Penguins make the playoffs, of course, and don’t fall into the pit of expectation-choking-away that befell the Dallas Cowboys in the past month.

Regardless, give Chris Bourque his due for the goal that may well push the Caps to the next level. A text-based postgame conversation between myself and DCO’s Bobitmist Prime on Tuesday acknowledged that Chris faces stiff Calder competition from Karl Alzner and Simeon Varlamov, but we can, and should, all hope that his heroics will ultimately be recognized league-wide.