caps complete their annual postseason meltdown

(photo by Greg Fiume)

This is why we can’t have nice things.

It really doesn’t matter which D.C. sports team you root for these days. They all end in heartbreak and disappointment.

Long-time fans of the Washington Capitals know that this franchise has never really done well in the postseason. Whether we’re talking about multiple overtime games or going up three games to one in a series and being unable to finish off an opponent on the ropes, the Caps have historically tortured their fan base on a level that should be punishable by law.

Graybeards like me know playoff letdowns are an annual tradition, and are able to adjust their expectations accordingly. But I still feel for those relatively newer additions to the local hockey-loving community.

Those who have only been here for the “Rock the Red” era of the Capitals clearly had no idea what they’d signed up for. They simply saw dynamic playmakers on the ice and larger than life personalities off of it and decided to give the Caps a try.

Little did they know they had just entered into an abusive relationship.

But really, their first clue should have been that this franchise was located in Washington, D.C. That alone should be enough at this point to make people proceed with caution.

Take, for example, the Nationals.

spending father’s day with the nationals

(photo by Brian Murphy)

Yes, the Washington Nationals were swept by the New York Yankees over the weekend.

And yes, there were way more fans of the opposing team at Nats Park than any D.C. sports fan would care to see in one of their local venues.

But honestly, it doesn’t matter.

There are roughly 100 games left on the schedule and even after this temporary setback, the Nationals are still 12 games over .500 and hold a four game lead on the rest of the NL East.

If nothing else, this series should serve as a reminder that while there is plenty to like about this year’s club, there is still plenty of work to be done before anyone rushes to “crown their asses.”

At roughly $198 million, the Yankees have the largest payroll in baseball. Conversely, Washington ranks 20th in baseball with a payroll around $81 million.

The Yankees, for as long as the Steinbrenner family has been involved, have been happy to try and outspend their opponents in hopes of buying another championship.

The Nationals, since coming to town back in ’05, have been irrelevant to anyone other than locals happy to have baseball back in our nation’s capital.

But even after this disappointing series, it’s impossible not to notice that the Nats are legit and will likely be competitive all season long.

Sunday was my first trip to the ballpark this season. While seeing Bryce Harper in person for the first time would have been enjoyable enough, it was an even better day because it marked my son’s first-ever sporting event.

Just two weeks away from his first birthday, my son isn’t really up to speed on the rules (unwritten or otherwise) of America’s pastime. Instead, he spent the majority of the day 1.) transfixed on everything going on in Washington’s bullpen and 2.) waving to the right fielders.

And you know what? That was fine with me.

Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age, but spending an afternoon at the ballpark with my family was the perfect way to spend my first Father’s Day.

Even on a day when the Nationals struggled to put up much of a fight against New York pitcher Ivan Nova, the weather was absolutely ideal and the atmosphere at Nats Park was the closest to a playoff game I’d ever experienced.

Moving forward, skipper Davey Johnson will be able to use this series as a teaching tool for his young squad. Along the same lines, my hope is that more casual sports fans will realize that this team is well worth the price of admission and start making it harder for fans of the Yankees, Phillies or whoever to get tickets.

So even though the Nationals failed to rise to the challenge against the Bronx Bombers this weekend, I couldn’t care less about the final score. And more importantly, I can’t wait for the next chance to take my family back out to the ballpark for another day with Harper and friends.

introducing baby mcfanboy

Just a quick programming note for the website. As you can see from the photo above, the McFanboy clan has signed a new free agent. After an extended stay at the hospital, everyone is healthy, happy and (finally) … home. It’s going to take us a little while to get the hang of this whole “parenthood” thing, so please bear with me if a couple days go by in between posts. I promise, the new guy is worth the trouble. Cheers.

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.

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.

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.

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?