All posts in baseball

02May

meet aubrey huff: tampa’s super fan

(photo by Greg Fiume)

How would you like to hear about the time I legitimately thought my buddy was going to come to blows with a member of the San Francisco Giants at a hockey game? Is that something you’d be interested in hearing about?

Yeah, needless to say my Game 2 experience was probably a little bit different than any other blogger’s.

Let me preface what I’m about to say by openly admitting I have a unique relationship with the Tampa Bay sports scene.

This dates back to Jan. 7, 2006, when I decided to take my wife to the Washington Redskins’ first playoff game of Joe Gibbs 2.0 – a matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

On that day, I opted to rock my Sean Taylor jersey for the special occasion (which becomes noteworthy in a moment).

The Redskins got off to a fast start that day thanks to an interception by linebacker-turned-radio host LaVar Arrington that set up a six-yard touchdown by running back Clinton Portis and a 51-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Taylor.

The Redskins, back in the postseason for the first time since 1999, were up 14-0 before the first quarter even ended and life couldn’t have been better.

At this point, I decided to have a little fun with the locals by turning around and playfully asking “Do you mind if we fire off your cannons, since you’re not using them?”

Now, if you’re not familiar with Raymond James Stadium, it’s the only venue around that has a pirate ship built into the stadium. And yes, that pirate ship has cannons that the Bucs fire off whenever they put points on the board.

So you can imagine how thrilled the locals were with my smart-ass comment. And when Taylor was ejected a little bit later in the game for spitting in the face of Buccaneers running back Michael Pittman … well … it’s safe to say the Bucs fans let me hear about it.

By the time the game ended and the Redskins had emerged victorious 17-10, the crowd had gotten hostile – with more than a few Bucs fans basically looking for me to give them a reason to start something.

For once, I was smart enough to keep my mouth shut as we got the hell out of there and enjoyed the victory with fellow ‘Skins fans, but there were definitely a few moments there when I thought I may end up taking a sucker punch from a pissed off Tampa fan for drawing attention to myself earlier in the evening.

Fast forward to Sunday night, when the Washington Capitals hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Verizon Center in Game 2 of their second-round series.

This time around, I was a model citizen as I watched the game with my wife and a few friends in a luxury suite. The same could not be said for San Francisco Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff.

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23Jul

what we’re reading

(courtesy photo)

Sorry for the lack of content this week. My schedule has been fairly hectic, but with Redskins training camp right around the corner, it’s a safe bet that I’ll be back in action next week. In the meantime, here are a few links to tide you over:

The Washington Capitals are in the news this week and it’s for all the right reasons. The Caps donated equipment to the USA Warriors Ice Hockey Program and then hosted a hockey clinic involving 40 wounded servicemembers. Very cool stuff.

In other Caps news, Alex Ovechkin recently suited up for Dynamo back in Mother Russia. To recap, while Albert Haynesworth, the Redskins $100-million athlete, can’t be bothered to practice, Ovechkin, the Caps $100-million man, is willing to play pickup wherever they’ll have him. Which team do you think is happier with their investment?

And finally, the cleverly-titled King of Leonsis blog asks the simple question – is Tomas Fleischmann worth the cash? The answer is no, but you should still give it a read anyway.

The Nationals won 7-1 yesterday, which is newsworthy because it was the first time the team won a game in which Stephen Strasburg wasn’t involved since July 8th. Prior to Thursday’s victory, the Nats were 3-0 in Strasmas games and 0-7 when anyone else took the mound in their last 10 games. And yet, team president Stan Kasten believes his Nats are “so much closer than it appears.” Spend some money to get some more depth in the lineup and I might actually agree with you, Stan.

If the Nationals are going to be competitive anytime soon, they’ll likely need to add more to the lineup. That would mean players like Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham and Matt Capps – all of which have been mentioned in trade rumors over the last month – would likely stay around. SB Nation DC looks at the value of keeping Dunn on board.

According to Bullets Forever, Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld is the 18th best GM in the NBA. I’m not sure I’d rank him that high – especially after giving Gilbert Arenas a six-year, $111-million contract in 2008 and his continual desire to trade away top five draft picks and get nothing in return – but it’s still worth checking out.

In preparation for training camp, the folks at NFL.com take a look at the 2010 Redskins. In their opinion, the transition to a 3-4 scheme on defense, the wide receiver battle and the renovated offensive line are the biggest focal points.

In other Redskins-related news, Skinscast is back for a fifth season. With a new general manager, a new head coach, a new quarterback and countless other changes from last season at Redskins Park there’s no shortage of stuff to talk about concerning the burgundy and gold.

And finally, former Redskins tight end Clint Didier has a new teammate – Sarah Palin. Try not to hold it against him.

19Jul

what’s wrong with the nats?

(photo by J. Pat Carter)

What the hell is wrong with the Washington Nationals? Or, more accurately, what’s it going to take for this team to finally have both the offense and defense clicking at the same time?

During a three-game series against the Florida Marlins this weekend, Nats starters gave up 14 hits, eight walks and just two earned runs while striking out 19 batters in 18 innings. Any team in baseball would be thrilled to get this type of production, right?

Well, leave it to the Nationals to somehow find a way to lose two out of three games anyway.

And it wasn’t because of a shaky bullpen either. Washington relief pitchers threw seven scoreless innings in Florida. This wasted opportunity comes courtesy of the team’s lackluster offense.

Although the Nationals had 27 hits in the series, they scored just four runs. While that’s bad, it’s even worse when you realize that the bulk of the offense came on a three-run double by outfielder Josh Willingham in Friday’s game.

Sadly, the four runs scored in the sixth inning of that series opener represented the only offensive production Washington had the entire series. That enabled the Marlins, who scored a grand total of three runs in three games, to somehow steal the series victory.

“The game is based on execution when you’ve got runners in scoring position,” said Nationals hitting coach Rick Eckstein. “That’s the bottom line. We just didn’t execute the last few days.”

So basically, the Nats bats have gone scoreless over the last 21 innings and Washington stranded 18 runners in scoring position over the last two games. That’s not going to get it done.

“When guys were on base, we weren’t getting it done,” Eckstein said. “Plain and simple. Typically in those situations, they tend to pitch us in a different way. We’ve got to make adjustments. Our adjustments weren’t up to par.”

The only possible silver lining after a disappointing weekend is that the four runs the team did manage to score ensured that rookie pitcher Stephen Strasburg didn’t waste another gem.

Otherwise, there isn’t a lot to be pleased about when it comes to the Nationals offense – although, I’m apparently more concerned about the lack of production than Nats skipper Jim Riggleman.

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09Jul

d.c. sports: state of the union address

(courtesy photo)

Now that LeBron-a-thon is over and the rest of the sports world can return to some semblance of normalcy, I thought it would be appropriate to take a moment for an impromptu state of the union address for the D.C. sports scene.

In no particular order, here are 10 thoughts on all of your favorite local sports franchises.

1. Strike while the iron is hot and trade Gilbert Arenas to Cleveland. Like, right this minute. Seriously. Do it.

My plan all along was to wait for the New York Knicks to fall flat on their face and miss out on the big-name free agents like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, etc.

Unfortunately, Amare Stoudemire took the money and ran, which leads me to believe that the Knicks aren’t likely to be as desperate to acquiring someone with name recognition. Maybe if Isiah Thomas was still calling the shots it could happen, but I doubt that their new regime is in as much of a hurry to pull the trigger on an Arenas deal.

Same concept, different city.

The Cavaliers just took the biggest stomach punch in the history of professional sports. Their chosen son just went on primetime television to break up with them. Honestly, it’s more disrespectful than anything Albert Haynesworth has done since he came to D.C.

But the more you think about it, the more it makes sense. The Cavs could swallow Arenas’ contract if they shipped the Wiz back Antawn Jamison and some spare parts. The Cavs are obviously reeling from this blindside hit – so much so that their owner, Dan Gilbert, guaranteed Cleveland will win an NBA title before James. His remarks reek of desperation, which is exactly what you want if you’re looking to unload someone with as much baggage as Gilbert.

So let’s get on the phone now and make it happen before they have a chance to even rebound. Do it for the kids.

2. While we’re at it, be sure the deal includes a sign and trade for center Zydrunas Ilgauskas. I’m pretty sure he still has his Wizards jersey from the last time he was traded here, so you’ve got that going for you. Which is nice.

3. Speaking of the Wizards, their roster is starting to take shape after Washington drafted John Wall and acquired combo guard Kirk Hinrich and disappointing forward Yi Jianlian via trade. But regardless of what happens with the artist formerly known as Agent Zero, they’ve still got some work to do this offseason.

Personally, I’d like to see them sign Josh Childress. Dude’s got some game and he’d be an upgrade over Nick Young or whoever else he’d be taking minutes from. The only issue seems to be that after a stint in Greece, Childress seems to be a highly sought after player. No worries. If the price tag is too high, then the Wiz should turn their attention to re-signing Josh Howard once he’s fully recovered from his knee injury.

Unfortunately, the Wizards renounced the rights to Howard this week, as well as Mike Miller and Randy Foye (you know, the two guys they traded away a top-five draft picks for one year ago). So yeah, general manager Ernie Grunfeld continues to make the job harder than it needs to be.

Is it too late to include Grunfeld in a package deal with Arenas to Cleveland as well?

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08Jul

nats owe it to fans to keep dunn

(photo by Alex Brandon)

If you think it’s a coincidence that Adam Dunn just had the best game of his 10-year career after a weekend of trade rumors had him being shipped off to the Chicago White Sox, then you’re clueless.

Dunn’s offensive explosion – a three-homer night which paved the way for the Washington Nationals’ 7-6 victory over the San Diego Padres Wednesday night – was clearly a sign from the slugger that he’s very comfortable in D.C. and isn’t in a rush to play elsewhere.

“That’s what he can do,” said third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. “He’s one of the best, if not the best, power guys in the game for the last five, six years. It’s good to have him on your team.”

Of course, none of this guarantees that Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo will do what’s necessary to keep Dunn in town, but he should.

The only other player to have a three-homer game for the Nationals since they moved to Washington is Alfonso Soriano, who accomplished the feat against Atlanta back in 2006. Soriano, as you might remember, was a big-time slugger who management let get away. Sound familiar?

It’d be a shame for history to repeat itself, especially for a franchise as offensively challenged as the Nationals. Even his teammates realize the situation, and thankfully, are doing their part to speak on behalf of Dunn.

“One of the hardest things to find on a team is a 3-4-5,” said Zimmerman in reference to the team’s batting order of him, Dunn and outfielder Josh Willingham. “Obviously, he’s one of the best four hitters in the game, has been for the last five or six years. He’s a very, very important player to this team in what we do offensively, not only in the field but in the clubhouse, as far as helping out the young guys.

“We understand people have to do their job,” Zimmerman continued. “Personally, I think if we get rid of a couple of those guys, we’re going to maybe take a step backward instead of forward. I don’t think we’re that far away. It’s really, really hard to find a 3-4-5. Look at what we’ve done for the past two years. We enjoy playing together, and we kind of push each other. It’s a good group we have. It would be bad if we broke it up, I think.”

After the game, Dunn wasn’t up for speculating about his future. Instead, he said he was just happy to turn things around after going homerless in his previous 12 games.

“It’s pretty cool to hit three homers, but the last one, since we won, was obviously the biggest,” said Dunn. “I don’t feel any different than I have in the past. I got pitches to hit tonight and didn’t foul them off like I’ve been doing.”

Dunn is now batting .280 with 20 homers (tied for second in the National League) and 54 runs batted in (tied for 12th in NL) this season. Simply put, he’s been everything the team could hope for offensively.

This is the point of the conversation when I point out that Nats owner Ted Lerner is worth more than $3 billion dollars. Yes, I said billion.

You wouldn’t know it by looking at his team’s payroll though, as the Nationals rank 22nd this season – behind notoriously cheap franchises like Milwaukee, Tampa Bay and Kansas City.

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30Jun

caption this 11

(photo by Kevin C. Cox)

Ladies and gentlemen, back by popular demand, it’s time for another round of “caption this.”

The game is fairly simple, as you hopefully know by now. We supply the photo and you bring the witty reader-submitted captions. You might not win any cool prizes, but you’ll be formally recognized for being better than your peers and will get some love here on the blog.

Here’s our humble offering for this photo to help get folks started:

“Rookie Stephen Strasburg has become so desperate for run support in the Washington Nationals’ lineup that’s he now holds auditions on his off days.”

Think you can do better? Leave a comment below with your best caption.

[Editor’s note: The winner is Milhouse44 with a caption of, “You kids get off my lawn or I have 95 mph change up for you AND your old man.”]

15Jun

a decade of mediocrity

(photo by Jared Wickerham)

Losing seasons have been the norm for D.C. sports fans, as the Redskins, Capitals, Wizards and Nationals have won just 1,165 out of a possible 2,673 games in recent history.

Thankfully, the influx of young talent with franchise players such as Alex Ovechkin, Stephen Strasburg and John Wall means that brighter days are ahead for our nation’s capital. Or at least that’s the story we’re telling with our weekly column over at SB Nation DC.

Click here to read the full feature. Or don’t. It’s your call.

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