Thursday, November 03, 2005

Notice: Registration now required to comment.

I have decided to require a registration with Blogger to comment, because I have been inundated with spam comments and I spent the last 20 minutes deleting them from recent posts. I know this won't get rid of all of them, because there are some spamming bastards who are registered with Blogger, but that's only been maybe 10 percent of the spam. So, from now on if you see that there are comments, they may be worth reading!

This also coincides with my efforts to create game preview posts instead of game review posts. You all watch the games, otherwise you wouldn't be coming here. So I figured I wasn't really doing anyone any service by saying what had already happened. Now I'm focusing on the previews, such as my Wizards season-opener preview that will allow me to do things like live-blog the games and allow you guys to comment as the game goes on. Also, it will allow me to post my post-game thoughts in the comments section as opposed to in a new post. Hence the need for spam-less comment sections.

Here's hoping this goes well. I am also working on changing the background to make it a little more personalized than the standard Blogger template I've got up now.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

MLB Not So Fun: Matt Lawton tested positive for steroids.

ESPN link.

The news came out about a week ago that a starting outfielder on a playoff team tested positive for steroids, which meant it was time for the speculation game. Fortunately for us Yankee-haters, it was a Yankee. Unfortunately, it was a rent-a-player who didn't do anything good in his stint there.

Well, hopefully that settles any argument about whether or not the O's should sign him. That doesn't have a whole lot of effect on what I said the Orioles should do earlier, just solidifies my "go for Reggie Sanders" case.

I can only imagine that this will destroy Lawton's free agent value. He was figuring to make about $5 million a year, probably on a one-year deal somewhere. Who knows where that number will be now.

NBA: Wizards Season Preview

If you believe about a third of the experts who contributed to's season preview, you'd think the loss of Larry Hughes was like the Lakers losing Shaq.

OK, not quite... But they do seem to think it was enough of a loss to knock the Wizards from a second-round playoff team to a lottery pick in the 2006 entry draft. No one on ESPN's panel predicts the Wizards to improve on their fifth-place finish.

I'm not sure they'll improve, but I certainly don't think they're any worse than they were last year. Sure, they lost a legit ball thief in Hughes, but they also unloaded crybaby Kwame Brown and added Caron Butler and Antonio Daniels.

Hughes was dangerous on defense and on offense, but too often that danger was to his own team. Defensively, he cut down passing lanes and was a solid stopper when he focused on the man and not the ball, but too often he would go for the big steal, come up empty and find himself 15 feet from the man he was supposed to be defending. Offensively, Larry needed the ball way too much. When he was hot and taking good shots, he was capable of scoring 30 in a night. Too often, though, he would toss up ill-advised jumpers that would clank harmlessly off the rim and into the hands of the opposition. It almost cost the Wizards the series against the Bulls.

Losing Hughes should mean that Gilbert Arenas doesn't have to worry about his backcourt partner going Keyshawn on him ("Give me the damn ball!"), and that will allow him to find Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas, both high-percentage shooters, under the basket more often. As much as I dislike Kwame Brown for his whining and the comments he made after he left, he did submit a legitimate gripe about the team's unwillingness to get the ball to the post.

Eddie Jordan has been working more with the team on defense, hoping that they can avoid the 110-105 contests that were all-too-common last season. A big key to that will be Haywood, who is amazing on the offensive glass but never seems to be in the right place to collect the boards on defense. A healthy Etan Thomas should help that effort as well, as will new addition Calvin Booth at center.

Also, this team is deep. Thomas will likely come off the bench, as will newly-acquired guard Chucky Atkins, center Calvin Booth, guard/forward Jarvis Hayes, forward Jared Jeffries, and center/forward Michael Ruffin. That should take the pressure off the starting five, as last year's bench was hit-or-miss when called upon.

The strengths are clear. Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison are all-star caliber players. There is enough depth to keep everyone well-rested at all times (plus they've got fouls to give with Michael Ruffin and Calvin Booth).

The weaknesses are also obvious. They give up points in bunches. They're not aggressive enough on the defensive glass.

However, what I think was overlooked by most of the experts is that this team should be much-improved on defense. I still don't believe the "Larry Hughes, defensive juggernaut" hype, and I think Antonio Daniels more than makes up for his presence on D. If the offense lost anything from his and Kwame's departure, it is more than made up for by the newfound depth that should allow the team to stay in games even when the starters are getting a breather. Chucky Atkins should provide more consistency than Juan Dixon or Steve Blake ever did. I just don't see this team missing the playoffs.

That being said, it all starts tonight at 7.

Here's a quick primer:

2004-2005 Record: 45-37

Projected Starters: G - Gilbert Arenas, G - Antonio Daniels, F - Antawn Jamison, F - Caron Butler, C - Brendan Haywood.

Key Reserves: G - Chucky Atkins, C - Etan Thomas, C/F - Michael Ruffin, G/F - Jarvis Hayes, F - Jared Jeffries, C - Calvin Booth

Circle The Dates:
11/15 @ Cleveland (Larry Hughes)
11/30 vs. Portland (Juan Dixon, Steve Blake)
12/10 vs. Chicago
12/11 @ Miami
12/16 @ LA Lakers (Kwame Brown)
12/26 vs. LA Lakers
12/30 vs. Miami
2/10 vs. Cleveland
2/24 @ Cleveland
3/8 @ Miami
4/1 @ San Antonio
4/16 vs. Cleveland

MLB Fun: Free agents, free agents, free agents!!!

So the period when players file for free agency is in full swing, and that means it's time for early off-season speculations. On the Nationals side, they don't have an owner and their GM is only on the books until spring training. I'm not particularly sure how they plan to compete in the free agent market, so guess what, I'm ignoring them! HA! (Hopefully I'll be back with a more full analysis of their needs later.)

Anyways, Peter Angelos, the man who you should call if you've been exposed to asbestos, has vowed to spend, spend, spend this off-season. In interviews he seemed almost cocky in his prediction that the fans would be back, saying that the team was ready to spend what it takes to be competitive in the American League East.

Well, there are a couple of problems. First, you have to actually convince people to play in Baltimore for this maligned franchise! For pitchers, you've got the best lure in baseball, Leo Mazzone. So maybe that won't be such a problem. But for the hitters, you may have to overpay a couple of guys.

(Why am I writing like Peter Angelos is reading this?)

Anyways, the O's lineup right now looks something like this:

C - Javy Lopez
1B -
2B - Brian Roberts
3B - Melvin Mora
SS - Miguel Tejada
LF -
CF -
RF - Jay Gibbons
DH -

SP -
SP - Erik Bedard
SP - Bruce Chen
SP - Daniel Cabrera
SP - Rodrigo Lopez

Clearly, there are holes.

If the O's go after two starting pitchers, they could throw Rodrigo Lopez into the bullpen. If I'm the GM, I'm going a different direction, based on what's available on the free agent market.

(Check out who has filed so far at The Baltimore Sun Web site.)

I know some O's fans will think I'm crazy for this, but I say move Jay Gibbons to first base and go after three new outfielders. The first base market is weak, and face it, we ain't getting Konerko. Besides, I wouldn't want to pay the ridiculous price he's going to retrieve. O's fans aren't going to like this either, but if I'm dishing out the cash, I'm not paying off a closer. It's the most overvalued position in baseball, and if the O's lose B.J. Ryan, they can replace him with Chris Ray or Aaron Rakers and either would likely do an adequate job.

In the outfield, my picks are Jacque Jones (probably in the $5 million a year range) at CF, Brian Giles (probably in the $9 million a year range) at RF, and Reggie Sanders or Matt Lawton (probably in the $4 to $5 million a year range) at LF. Now, there is a good possibility that Lawton will get another inflated contract, but if he can be had for a couple of years at around $5 million per, he's a legit number two hitter (haha ... number two hitter) with some speed. I'd prefer to go after Sanders with a one-year deal, because his power numbers are better.

To fill the DH hole, I go after Olmedo Saenz (made less than $1 million last year, no way he gets more than $1.5 million next year.)

For pitchers, I would like to see Kevin Millwood in an O's uniform even though he seems to have a pattern of only being good on contract years. He had success with Mazzone in the past, and I think they could replicate that. I would not be averse to having A.J. Burnett, because I think Mazzone could do wonders with him, but if I am picking one or the other, I'll take the one with the track record of success with the new pitching coach.

That leaves a lineup that looks something like this:

1. Brian Roberts - 1B
2. Melvin Mora - 3B
3. Brian Giles - RF
4. Miguel Tejada - SS
5. Reggie Sanders - LF
6. Jay Gibbons - 1B
7. Javy Lopez - C
8. Olmedo Saenz - DH
9. Jacque Jones - CF

With a rotation of:

1. Kevin Millwood
2. Eric Bedard
3. Bruce Chen
4. Rodrigo Lopez
5. Daniel Cabrera

The problem with that lineup is that Jacque Jones can't hit lefties, but they could platoon him with Eric Byrnes, who is very good against lefties.

That's around $30 million for five players and a vastly improved lineup.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

MLB News: Orioles hire Jim Duquette to assist Flanagan

And then, just to make sure O's fans don't get too excited in any one day, the O's drop this bomb on us.

The Sun is reporting that the Orioles have named former-Mets General Manager Jim Duquette vice president of baseball operations.

From The Sun:
"Duquette will assist Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations Mike Flanagan in the day-to-day operations of the department, including contract negotiations, assisting in salary arbitration and player personnel decisions at the major league level."

Flanny's quote in The Sun:
"Jim brings a wealth of experience in the daily operation of a Major League Baseball team, from bottom to top," Flanagan said. "He has been involved in every aspect of the baseball front office from scouting and the minors to contract negotiations and running a department. We're thrilled that he sees the direction in which we are going and wants to be a part of it."

I know I'm psyched... OK, no I'm not. This guy is not exciting. He traded one of the top lefty pitching prospects in the game (Scott Kazmir) to Tampa Bay for Victor Zambrano, who can't throw strikes to save his life. I'm not sure exactly what his capacity is, but it seems like he will be Mike Flanagan to Mike Flanagan's Jim Beattie...if that makes sense (he'll be taking on the same role as Flanagan had last year). I guess that means we're back to the two-headed GM system, which so far has not exactly passed with flying colors.

I guess I'll reserve judgment for when the free agent signings start, but I'm not optimistic at the moment.

MLB News: Orioles hire Leo Mazzone as pitching coach

Tired of waiting for the change that may spark the Orioles to a winning season? Thought all hope was lost when they re-hired Mike Flanagan and Sam Perlozzo, then started talking to Jim Duquette about him joining on to continue the two-headed general manager system? Well, it's been a while for O's fans, but there is now reason for optimism.

The Orioles have reached an agreement on a three-year deal that would bring Leo Mazzone from the Braves to the Orioles. (AP article.)

Leo Mazzone, who had said a couple years ago that he wanted to be Sam Perlozzo's pitching coach (and that was before Sam Perlozzo ever got a managing job), brings years of success and the "Mazzone Effect" to a team that hasn't had a winning season since 1997. conducted an analysis of every pitcher that pitched at least one year under Mazzone, and compared their stats with him as their pitching coach to their stats without him. "The verdict: having Leo Mazzone as a pitching coach lowered a pitcher's ERA by a little more than half a run." Now that's a nice testimonial.

And it is much-needed on a team with a wealth of young, talented pitchers (Erik Bedard, Daniel Cabrera, Bruce Chen) that may be in the running for a big time starter in the offseason. This "big time" starter, though, would also likely be someone with a ton of potential that as of yet has not been completely realized. A.J. Burnett and Jeff Weaver are the names that top that list. However, Kevin Millwood had a lot of success when with the Braves, and this hire may make Baltimore an attractive place for him.

"It would probably make anyplace more attractive to a pitcher," an agent of a member of this year's free agent pitching crop told The Washington Post.

This is exciting news heading into an offseason during which Peter Angelos has vowed to spend money to bring the Orioles back into contention.

Monday, October 17, 2005

NHL Fun: Petr Sykoras send media into disarray

If you’re a Caps fan, you should know by now (especially after last night’s shootout) that there is a center in Washington named Petr Sykora (he wears number 20, so if you were watching a game and wondering when the Caps got Michal Pivonka back, now you know the truth). Meanwhile, there is another Petr Sykora (also a center) who rose to fame with the New Jersey Devils playing on a line with Patrik Elias, which leads to the question: What’s with these guys and missing letters from their first names? Now the “real” Sykora plays for the Ducks.

Anyways, the pair of Petr Sykoras have apparently destroyed the feeble minds of every print and Web sports agate (an agate is the poor guy that types in box scores every night for $8.50 an hour), much to the delight of the masses at the message board.

These Sykoras have come to be known as the “real” Petr Sykora (on the Ducks), and the “other” Petr Sykora (on the Caps).

The follies have been plentiful.

The most unforgivable so far has to go to a pre-season article in The Washington Post about the “other” Sykora coming to Washington, accompanied by the press photo of the “real” Sykora. Two reasons why that should not have happened:
1) That’s a Washington paper. Please have someone who knows Washington sports edit the Washington sports section.
2) In the article, an inch from the erroneous picture, the text reads that Washington’s Sykora “SHARES THE SAME NAME AS ANAHEIM’S STAR PLAYER.” (OK, I added the capitalization.) They took the picture off the Web site late in the day it was published, but it is forever available for public ridicule in any copy of October 4’s Post.

Yahoo! Sports has apparently decided to combine the two Sykoras into one super-Sykora, as anytime you click the hyperlinked name of either Petr in a game recap, such as the recap of the Caps’ shootout win over Tampa Bay last night (check the fifth paragraph), it takes you to a hybrid Sykora profile. The stats are of the Duck, the picture is of the Duck, but the “recent news” includes Capitals recaps and Ducks recaps. To make matters more confusing, if you click the Petr Sykora link in the “Game Winning Goal” box in the Caps-Lightning recap linked above, it takes you to a profile of Sykora the Cap with his stats, but no photo and no “recent news.”

CBS Sportsline and both make the same mistake, which is using a new picture of Sykora the Duck in Sykora the Cap’s profile, while using an old picture of Sykora the Duck in Sykora the Duck’s profile. Confused yet? To make matters worse, check out the picture CBS Sportsline is using for Sykora the Cap’s profile:

OK, wait just a damn minute. You mean to tell me that some brilliant young journalistic mind (the intern they have doing this crap), saw this and said, "OK, allow me to find the press photos of the Petr Sykoras. Looking, looking, looking... OH! Here's one with big hair in a purple jersey. That's the Ducks' Sykora, clearly. Ah! And here's one in a jersey with a big Duck on it ... hmmmmmm ... that must be the Capitals' Sykora." At least cuts the HUGE MIGHTY DUCKS LOGO out of the picture!

For comparison, here’s the picture CBS Sportsline is using in Sykora the Duck’s profile:

As you can clearly see, the “real” Sykora has gotten a haircut and become much less pixilated since that first picture.

I’m sure that’s not all of the Sykora-Sykora confusion, so if you find anything else, post the hilarity. In the meantime, we’ll see if the media can get this all sorted out while we sit back and laugh at them.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

MLB News: Orioles keep Flanagan and Perlozzo.

Well, if you were hoping for a huge overhaul in the Orioles system, it doesn't appear to be coming. The Orioles have gotten rid of Jim Beattie, promoting Mike Flanagan to the sole general manager position, and they have removed the interim tag from Sam Perlozzo's title.

There is an article with a lot of (mostly very angry) feedback on The Baltimore Sun's Web site. That's eight years of frustration coming out at once, I guess. (Scroll down and look on the left for the user comments.)

I'm not psyched about this news, but I don't think it's a guarantee that Orioles baseball is dead for years to come, either. Peter Angelos keeps claiming that he's ready to open the purse strings, and we'll see if that comes true and they go after some free agents. I urge O's fans to realize, though, that immediate help is NOT on the way. The free agent pitching market just isn't that strong. PLEASE, Flanny, DON'T OVERPAY FOR A.J. BURNETT, or worse, Kevin Millwood, Jeff Weaver or Jason Schmidt. The pitching is NOT available. Get some bats and worry about pitching next year (or trade for it, if you can).

Perlozzo is great friends with Leo Mazzone (of the Braves ... hardly arguable as the best pitching coach in all of baseball), who claimed a while back that his career won't be complete until he was Sammy P's pitching coach. Well, time to make that happen, Leo!

As for Beattie, it was pointed out by one disgruntled fan on The Sun's site that Beattie's one job was to sign Vladimir Guerrero. I had never thought of it that way, but I think that may be a difficult assessment to dismiss. He had signed him in Montreal, and everyone, EVERYONE, knew that it was Tejada and Guerrero that the O's wanted in that 2003 offseason. They got half of it done hoping it would lead to the other half, but there was no such luck. I contend that we may (not WOULD, but MAY) have made the playoffs this year with Guerrero. (Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, replace Sammy Sosa's numbers with Vlad's.)

The outlook for this offseason is intriguing. No more Sosa, Ponson, Palmeiro or Surhoff, and Byrnes is probably gone, too. There is also some talk that super-talented but under-motivated Luis Matos may be non-tendered (if it's any consolation to you Luis, my mom still thinks your cute). That's a LOT of loose change the O's are collecting that can then be spent on other players. Plus, trades aren't out of the question.

Down on the farm, the O's have several hot prospects, especially in the outfield. Nick Markakis should not be ignored as a possible Major Leaguer next year, especially if the O's can add a powerful outfielder to take some of the pressure off of him.

Right now, this is what the Orioles are looking at:

C: Javy Lopez
1B: None
2B: Brian Roberts
3B: Melvin Mora
SS: Miguel Tejada
LF: None
CF: None
RF: Jay Gibbons
DH: None

ACE: None
SP2: Erik Bedard
SP3: Bruce Chen
SP4: Rodrigo Lopez
SP5: Daniel Cabrera

I'll leave off the bullpen, but O's fans are spending WAY too much time harping on the possible loss of B.J. Ryan. Would he be great to have back? Yes. Is it the end of our future hopes if the O's don't have him back? No. Is there any chance he'll actually sign with Baltimore? Realistically? Probably not. Chris Ray, Tim Byrdak, Todd Williams, Aaron Rakers ... the nature of relief pitching is that your unheralded guys end up doing just as well, if not better, than your high-paid signings (Steve Kline, Steve Reed).

So who's available? Brian Giles in LF/RF, Paul Konerko at 1B, Olmedo Saenz at DH (and cheap!). But I'm not the GM. Hey Flanny, dig deep, find us some gems, sign us some people. Let's play competitive baseball!!!

Let the joy that is offseason speculation begin.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

NHL Fun: Why I should be head of Capitals merchandise.

After hearing that hat sales were booming at the MCI Center after Alexander Ovechkin's two-goal second period, with fans clamoring to have something in tow to toss on the rink in the event of a third goal by the rookie, I have decided that someone needs to create a cheap Alexander Ovechkin "Hat Trick Toss" hat. Here is what I whipped up in five minutes with PhotoShop.

Someone market this bad boy.

The Day in Sports: October 5, 2005


It was opening night in the NHL last night after a 16-month layoff, and the game looked completely different. There are no more two-line passes, the offensive zones are bigger, the goalie can’t play every puck within 30 feet of him, all the cheap hooking and holding gets called and the game just moves a lot faster. Plus, the anticipation of a potential shootout always looms.

And believe it or not, the Washington Capitals have won a game. 1-0. First place. It has been so hard for me to curb my enthusiasm on this one, because I know they aren’t supposed to be any good and there’s no reason to think they will be, but damnit that was exciting!

Michael Wilbon at The Washington Post agrees, and gave the Caps some “dap,” as he would say, for winning their opener.

If you missed it, you may have missed history. Alex Ovechkin scored his first two NHL goals! He looks amazing. It’s only a matter of time before teams start putting two guys on him at all times. It’ll be interesting to see how the Caps react to that.

The rule changes make the game far more back and forth, and it’s WAY faster than it was before. It’s extremely exciting to watch, which surprised me, because I was bored to tears by the NHL of the past few years. I guess kudos go to the owners and the players association for hammering out some rule changes that, I think, will save the sport in the long run. Now they just need to make the penalties for fighting a lot stiffer (automatic two-game suspension, a la high school rules?).

Also last night, D.C. United extended their winning streak to four games, and with two games remaining are now only two points behind New England for the East’s top spot.

Re - C - A - P - S reCAPS reCAPS reCAPS!

NHL: YOUR NATION’S CAPITALS! 3, Columbus Blue Jackets 2

For the Caps, the top draft pick in 2004, Alex Ovechkin, was making his debut after having to wait a full extra year from when that was supposed to happen.

Just seconds into the game, Ovechkin threw a check on a Columbus player behind the Capitals net that was so hard it knocked the metal support beam out from between two panes of glass. Then, in the second period, he showed what made him widely regarded as the best prospect in a decade before Sidney Crosbey came along and was considered the best prospect in two decades.

In the second period, 20-year-old Ovechkin scored a pair of goals, both very pretty, both on passes from Jeff Halpern and both to tie the score shortly after Columbus took leads.

The first goal came with 12:29 remaining in the second period, just 28 seconds after Dan Fritsche scored to put the Blue Jackets up 1-0. Jeff Halpern flicked a pass back to a wide open Ovechkin, who rifled a shot past goalie Pascal Leclaire to tie the game up.

But just over three minutes later, Fritsche buried another one to put the Blue Jackets back on top. Ohhh but Ovechkin was not done, either. 89 seconds later, the Caps were swarming in front of Leclaire on the power play, and the puck came to Halpern at point blank range. While the Columbus defenders (and goaltender) played the close-in shot, Halpern saw Ovechkin sliding onto the doorstep with the entire net open in front of him. Halpern shot him a quick pass, and before anyone could move the puck was in the net.

Halpern, though, was not done either. Exactly five minutes after that goal, guess what, the Caps were on the man advantage again. This time “Helper” Halpern set up Dainius Zubrus for the goal that would prove to be the game-winner. (I just made up the “Helper” nickname. I’m so smart.)

The third period went without a score, and the Caps held on to win, 3-2. There’s one -- about 10 percent of the wins that anyone thought they’d manage all year. (Yes, some analysts thought it was possible for the Caps to break their own record for the worst season in NHL history, 8-67-5, which they managed in their inaugural season, 1974-1975.)

Goalie Olie Kolzig looked good for the Caps, stopping 35 of 37 shots and making some terrific saves.

The Cappies play again tomorrow (Friday) night at 7 p.m. against Atlanta at the MCI Center. They will be taking on former star Peter Bondra, who they tried to get back in the off-season but who spurned the Caps for the Thrashers. Atlanta is one of the teams that is supposed to have benefited the most from the slew of available free agents, gaining stars like Bondra, Marian Hossa and Bobby Holik.

The Thrashers were shut out by the Panthers last night.

MLS: D.C. United 3, Real Salt Lake 1

Freddy Adu scored the game-winning goal and United notched its fourth straight victory in Salt Lake City last night, pulling to within just two points of first-place New England with two games to play.

Adu scored in the 50th minute to put D.C. up 2-0, then assisted on Christian Gomez’s goal two minutes later to make it 3-0.

Bobby Boswell scored the first goal of the game in the 30th minute.

D.C. is now 16-9-5.

With two games remaining before the playoffs, D.C. is on a roll. They could still take first place in the East, but the New England Revolution would have to lose one of its last two games, in which they play fourth-place Kansas City and third-place Chicago.

The United has an easier schedule, facing the bottom two teams in the East, the MetroStars and the Columbus Crew.

If New England loses one game, D.C. will take first by winning both of theirs. If New England loses both, D.C. only needs to split its last two games.

United plays next on Saturday night at 7:30, when they will take on the MetroStars at RFK Stadium. Last Saturday, D.C. beat the MetroStars, 4-1, in New Jersey.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

NHL: Washington Capitals Season Preview

As you all should know, the hockey season starts tonight.
That’s the sport with the big things sliding on ice right?
Uhh...sounds like it.
Where the guys have the brooms and you aim at a big red and blue target?
No, that’s curling.

But anyways, for the first time in almost a year and a half, the NHL will be in action tonight, and in this area, that doesn’t mean a whole lot to a whole lot of people.

The Capitals finished the 2003-2004 season with a ridiculous record of 23-46-10-3. The most ridiculous thing, of course, being that there are four numbers in a team’s record. Thankfully, there are no more ties in hockey, but there are still wimpy overtime losses, which I strongly disagree with.

Anyways, the Capitals are widely regarded as one of the worst, if not THE worst team in the NHL this year. Everyone from USA Today to ESPN to Canada’s TSN to our own Washington Post is picking the Caps to finish at or near the bottom of the league standings. (By the way, if you had any doubt about the Post’s lack of dedication to hockey, they place the Capitals section on their site’s sports nav bar between the (Baltimore) Orioles and the WNBA’s Mystics. And on top of that, the beat writer for the Caps is a guy who was a high school sports reporter until this year... Honestly, Dave Fay and the Washington Times are usually light years ahead of the Post with Caps coverage.)

Despite the doom and gloom predictions, Caps like newly-named captain and Potomac, Md., boy Jeff Halpern, long-time netminder Olie Kolzig and General Manager George McPhee (they love to call him GMGM on the Caps message board) have come out to say that the team won’t be as bad as people think.

Well guys, the team could win more games than people think and STILL come in dead last.

The Capitals are building for the future, and that usually means that the “now” sucks. Basically, the Capitals strategy is to throw a bunch of former first round picks onto the ice to see who proves they can play. They have a few veteran anchors like Halpern, Kolzig, defenseman Brendan Witt (who has asked for a trade), and a couple of new acquisitions -- speedster Jeff Friesen and assist-specialist Andrew Cassels.

There is some talent on offense, with 2004 top draft pick Alex Ovechkin seemingly poised to be one of the league’s best. Also, Dainius Zubrus is super-talented and people keep wondering when his breakout year is going to be, Friesen is a proven scorer who is one of the league’s fastest players, and Petr Sykora was one of the top scorers in the Czech league before being extracted from Eastern Europe just a few days ago. But on defense, it’s all up to the youngsters.

Witt anchors the defense, but is overrated as a “physical player” because of his propensity for the cheap shot. When it comes to battling in front of the net and playing sound defensive positioning, he’s nowhere to be found. Ivan Majesky was supposed to be one of the team’s top defensive signings, but then he failed the team physical. Steve Eminger is very talented, but he’s only 21, as is Shaone Morrisonn. Jamie Heward and Bryan Muir are both over 30, but both have mostly been minor league journeymen.

All that boils down to Olie the Goalie needing to stand on his head, which he’s certainly capable of doing, and he’s said all the right things to make us think he’s willing to take on that challenge and won’t get frustrated with the lack of defense, despite some temper tantrums in previous years. If you’re a Caps fan, though, you’ve got to love Olie. (Although I know at least a few question whether or not he is still an elite NHL keeper.)

You can check out the opening night roster here.

The line combinations appear to be up for grabs and will probably be tinkered with as the season goes on, but it certainly looks like Ovechkin will play opposite Halpern on a line centered by Zubrus.

Likely line combinations for opening night are (And I’ve included numbers so you’ll know who people are when you watch. Thank me later.):
Alex Ovechkin #8, Dainius Zubrus #9, Jeff Halpern #11
Jeff Freisen #12, Andrew Cassels #25, Petr Sykora #20
Ben Clymer #27, Brian Sutherby #16, Brian Willsie #24
Matt Bradley #10, Boyd Gordon #15, Matt Pettinger #18

(Notice the Caps’ two-Matt line and two-Brian line. Why not move Friesen and Halpern to the same line and have a two-Jeff line? And when Chris Clark is healthy, you can bring up Chris Bourque and have a two-Chris line. Incredible!)

And on defense:
Brendan Witt #19, Steve Eminger #44
Jamie Heward #6, Bryan Muir #47
Shaone Morrisonn #26, Nolan Yonkman #40

With, of course, Kolzig (#37) in net.

For now, Chris Clark is on the injured reserve with some banged up ribs, but he is listed as day-to-day and would likely bump Pettinger from a regular playing spot.

Those offensive lines are talented, and they can score goals in a big hurry. If the defense can even be serviceable, the Caps should at least be in a lot of games. I do believe, perhaps unreasonably, that this team will be better, sooner, than anyone expects (even themselves, probably). The “new NHL” rewards speed, and there is a lot of that on this team. There is a good mix of young talent and veteran experience, especially on the top two lines.

Ovechkin looked fantastic in the preseason, scoring a hat trick last Friday and adding a goal and two assists on Saturday. Caps fans are going to love him, not just for his talent, but for his team-oriented, humble attitude. There is a great article about him today from the Washington Post by William Gildea, which you can check out here.

There are a lot of good quotes in there from Ovechkin, who has only been learning english for about a year. Here is my favorite, which came after he scored three goals and notched an assist on Friday (from the article):

"Reporters surrounded him afterward, one asking if four points made this a time to celebrate.

He looked puzzled.

'We have next game tomorrow,' he said"

Awesome. Sign me up for a black #8 Ovechkin jersey RIGHT NOW.

On to a quick prediction...

I don’t think the Caps are making the playoffs, but I do think they’ll win more than they did in 2003-2004. I’ll go out on a limb and predict 35 wins and narrowly missing a playoff spot (the eighth place team in both leagues in ’03-’04 had 38 wins). We’ll know in about a month if that’s absolutely crazy or not.

So there it is. Your Nation’s Capitals, 2005-2006 edition.

Tonight’s game is at 7 p.m. at the MCI Center, and the Caps will be taking on the Columbus (that’s in Ohio) Blue Jackets. You can watch it from home on Comcast Sportsnet.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Weekend in “Other” Sports: September 30 - October 2

Last one! Let’s wrap this weekend up. Sorry if anyone’s offended that I am grouping soccer and hockey in as “other” sports, but I didn’t feel like they deserved their own posts ... and, on second thought, I don’t really give a crap if you’re offended by that. Toughen up.

Alex Ovechkin had a breakout (if you can call something occurring in the preseason “breakout”) weekend, scoring four goals and adding three helpers, including a hat trick on Friday night in a win over the Penguins. Go out and buy your No. 8 Ovechkin jersey now.

MLS: D.C. United 4, MetroStars 1

With a win over the MetroStars, D.C. United bumped their winning streak to three games and clinched a spot in the playoffs with three games remaining. Chicago is only two points behind second-place United, but it is also still possible for D.C. to jump to first place in the East.

On Saturday, United fell behind the MetroStars, who play in New Jersey and were once the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, 1-0, in the nineteenth minute before showing their offensive power and scoring four times in the second half to win, 4-1.

Ben Olsen had two goals, and Jeff Agoos and Jaime Moreno added the others.

It was just a 2-1 game until the 86th minute. Then, Olsen and Moreno each scored in under 90 seconds to make it a three-goal lead.

D.C.’s next game is on Wednesday at Real (that’s pronounced re-AL) Salt Lake at 9:30 p.m. Salt Lake is a dismal 5-20-4 on the season.

NHL: Capitals win one, lose two over the weekend.

The Capitals beat the Penguins, 4-3, on Friday, lost to Flyers, 7-6, on Saturday, and then lost to Penguins, 7-1, on Sunday.

In the Friday game, 2004 No. 1 draft pick Alex Ovechkin went buck wild, scoring a hat trick and adding an assist on a Jeff Halpern goal. He simultaneously gave hope to the Capitals that maybe this season won’t be so bad, after all.

On Saturday, the Caps held leads of 4-0 and 5-1 before collapsing in the third period and losing in overtime to the Flyers. Ovechkin added another goal and two more assists, but the defense got lax in the third period and the Caps lost. Lesson learned, I hope.

Then, on Sunday, with the Penguins playing all their stars (Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby, Ziggy Palffy, etc.) and the Caps playing just about nobody, Pittsburgh rolled, 7-1. A blowout, yes, but not really one to be worried about.

That wraps up the preseason, and now there are just two more days until the Caps open their season on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the MCI Center. They will take on the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Weekend in Football: October 1 - 2, 2005

What is this? Every local football team won? Amazing.

The Terps won in a barnburner in College Park, the Redskins squeaked out an overtime win at FedEx Field and the Ravens beat the Jets at M&T Bank Stadium.

For the record, I was 0-2 in picking against the spread in the NFL games this weekend. Sorry. But then again, if you’re basing your gambling picks on this site, you deserved to lose your money.

NCAA Football: Terrapins 45, Virginia Cavaliers 33

Well, I don’t think anyone really saw this kind of shootout coming. Maryland’s offense came up big time, with Lance Ball rushing for 163 yards and two touchdowns and Sam Hollenbach going 25-for-33 for 320 yards and a pair of passing scores as the Terps knocked of No. 19 Virginia.

The Terps offense was Friedgen-esque, putting up 570 yards. This after over a season of complete inability to mount an offense that led to some people questioning if Friedgen’s convoluted schemes had become too much for the players to handle. Ralph, consider yourself vindicated.

The Terps are now 3-2 (2-1 ACC), and the Cavaliers now have a blemish on their record, at 3-1 (1-1).

Go figure, Vernon Davis caught one of the receiving touchdowns for the Terps, who wore new black Under Armour jerseys for homecoming.

The Terps didn’t do a great job of containing UVA QB Marques Hagans on the ground, which I thought was going to be the key factor in the game, but Maryland won despite allowing him to run for 55 yards and two touchdowns.

Virginia took a 26-24 lead into the fourth quarter, but Maryland turned up the offense for three touchdowns in the final frame to get the win. The loss knocked Virginia out of the AP Top 25 and down to No. 25 in the USA Today Poll.

My prediction: Terps win 27-17.
Actual score: Terps win 45-33.

The Terps travel to Philadelphia to take on Temple on Saturday, October 8.

NFL: Redskins 20, Seattle Seahawks 17 (OT)

After a late-fourth-quarter Seahawks interception in Redskins territory, it looked like the ‘Skins were destined to lose a heartbreaker. But when Josh Brown’s 47-yard field goal attempt doinked off the left upright, the Redskins still had life.

In overtime, Mark Brunell converted three third-and-longs in a drive that culminated in a 39-yard Nick “The Kick” Novak field goal to win it.

The Redskins had leads of 14-3 and 17-10 before a Matt Hasselbeck pass to Darrell Jackson tied it at 17 with two minutes left in the fourth quarter. Brunell and the Redskins had enough time to drive for a game-winning score, but on the second play of the drive, Brunell threw a pass a little too far out in front of Clinton Portis, who deflected the ball straight up in the air for an easy Seahawks pick on the Redskin 26.

With one second remaining, the Seahawks called a timeout and sent Brown out to win it with a 47-yard field goal, but it bounced over halfway up the upright and back into the end zone. No good.

Brunell finished 20-for-36 passing with two touchdowns and an interception, Santana Moss caught six passes for 87 yards, and Clinton Portis ran for 90 yards in the win.

My prediction: Seahawks win 21-20
Actual score: Redskins win 20-17

The Redskins are now 3-0, which means everyone in the area gets to hear bold presumptions of a Redskins Super Bowl ... at least until the ‘Skins head to Denver on Sunday to play the 3-1 Broncos.

NFL: Ravens 13, New York Jets 3

Man, are the Jets bad. That’s all that needs to be said.

The Ravens (1-2) still couldn’t put together a legitimate offense, but Jamal Lewis did break through for his first touchdown of the season and the Ravens won for the first time this year.

The Jets started rookie Brooks Bollinger, and he was harassed from the beginning. He was sacked five times by the Ravens, and only managed to go 14-for-28 for 149 yards passing.

Anthony Wright only managed 144 yards passing for the Ravens, but he did it on a respectable 15-for-21. He did throw an interception, but the Ravens pounded away on the ground, running the ball 45 times for 115 yards. Those numbers aren’t good, but they were enough to beat the Jets.

Baltimore took the lead in the first quarter on a Matt Stover field goal and never gave it up, leading 6-0 before the Jets field goal in the third quarter that was their only score of the game.

In the third quarter, Jamal Lewis ran the ball in for a one-yard touchdown to put the ravens up by 10, and the defense made it stick.

My prediction: Ravens win 14-10
Actual Score: Ravens win 13-3

Let it be known that I did say the Jets wouldn’t score an offensive touchdown, and that they’d get a field goal and score on an interception return. I was right, except that the interception wasn’t returned for a touchdown.

The Ravens take on the 1-2 Lions in Detroit on Sunday.

The Weekend in Baseball: September 30 - October 2, 2005

There is an absolute crapload of sports to review from the past weekend, so I’m going to split it up into three sections: baseball, football, and “other” sports. Sorry Capitals and D.C. United.

Here’s your baseball fix for the last weekend of the season. I’ll come back with Nationals and Orioles season reviews sometime (probably not today, because I feel no need to post five times in one day).

News now, recaps later.

The Orioles and Nationals both finished their seasons with sweeps, but the O’s were doing the sweeping and the Nats were getting swept. The Nats finished the season even at 81-81, while the O’s finished at 74-88. Coincidentally, the most the Orioles were over .500 at any point in the season was 14 games, and then they tanked and finished 14 games under .500. Terrible.

Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies kept his hitting streak alive, so we’ll have to wait until next year to see him put his 36-game streak on the line. The streak is the ninth longest hitting streak in Major League Baseball history, and it’s the longest since Paul Molitor got to 39 in 1987.

Also, the Padres managed to finish 82-80 and avoid falling bass-ackwards into the playoffs.

The playoff match-ups are set, with the American League pitting the White Sox against the Red Sox and the Angels against the Yankees. In the National League, it’s the Cardinals against the Padres and the Braves against the Astros. The games begin tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon and will air on Fox and ESPN.

And in funny news, the Yankees are mad at their former manager (and current Rangers manager) Buck Showalter for pulling his top players when Texas was beating the Angels, 4-1, in the third inning. The Angels went on to win, 7-4, and it cost the Yankees home field advantage in the division series. Way to go, Buck! Read all about it.


The Nationals were swept at home in three games by the Phillies, losing 4-3, 8-4 and 9-3. While the Phillies clung to playoff hopes until just a few minutes after their regular season ended, an Astros win over the Cubs ended that.

There’s not a whole lot to say about the series, really.

Hector “Wildness” Carrasco took the loss in the last game to fall to 5-4 and bump his ERA over two, Cristian Guzman somehow ended with a .219 batting average after hovering below .200 for most of the year, and 32-year-old Rick Short finished his debut season in the Majors with a .400 average (6-for-15) and a 1.404 OPS. Can he please have a full season in the Majors now? Anyone?

By the way, 81-81 was good enough for dead last in the National League East, if anyone’s counting. While the record is a success for a team that was, well, the Expos for the previous 35 years, it sucks that they could only muster the place in the standings befitting of the Expos.

The Orioles swept the Devil Rays in Tampa Bay, 7-6, 4-3 and 6-2, and the Orioles kept from having their fourth 90-loss season in five years. I guess that’s something to be proud of.

Unfortunately, Miguel Tejada couldn’t get the last two RBIs he needed to get to 100, so his streak of five straight 100-plus RBI seasons has ended.

Jay Gibbons and Melvin Mora both finished on high notes, though, with Gibbons hitting his 26th homer of the year on Sunday and Mora hitting his 27th. Gibbons finished the year with an .833 OPS, which should be good enough to earn him a permanent spot in the Orioles 2006 outfield.

Bruce Chen, who was arguably the best pitcher on the O’s staff this season, finished out 2005 with his 13th win. He was 13-10 on the year with a 3.83 ERA.

Chris Ray, who may take over the closer job if B.J. Ryan bolts (and Ryan’s been very open about his desires to play home games at a place like Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium, even if it means becoming a setup man), pitched a third of an inning to finish his solid rookie season with a 2.66 ERA.

Tonight’s match-up is no one against no one, at nowhere. Turn out the lights when you leave.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Weekend Football Preview: October 1 - 2, 2005

Here it is! My first Weekend Football Preview. Enjoy it.

Starting with NCAA, the Maryland Terps take on the No. 19 Virginia Cavaliers/Musketeers/Wahoos/a-holes/whatever you want to call them at Byrd Stadium at noon. This has become a pretty intense rivalry since Ralph Friedgen took over at Maryland, mainly because the Terps don’t lose every game against UVA like they used to. It’s also Maryland’s homecoming game.

The Terps are 2-2 (1-1 ACC), and the Hoos are (3-0. 1-0), with all their games coming against joke teams. (Don’t believe me? Their ACC win is against Duke, and their non-conference wins are Western Michigan and Syracuse. That’s a suckfest.)

The Terps have lost a couple of tough games against Clemson and West Virginia, with the defense taking most of the blame. The offense has been solid behind quarterback Sam Hollenbach, thanks in large part to Vernon “Duke” Davis being the most unstoppable force in the history of athletic competition.

Maryland’s running game hasn’t really been sorted out, but it’s becoming clear that Mario Merrills, who was slated as the team’s starter going into the season, has lost the job and is not the answer. Keon Lattimore rushed for 76 yards and a score against Wake Forest last week, so he seems to be the favorite, but Lance Ball should get some carries, also. The Terps NEED to establish a rushing game this week. They haven’t done that yet this season, and that has been the recipe for success during the Fridge era. Bruce Perry, Chris Downs, and Josh Allen were all good backs, but no one has emerged as the star on this year’s team.

The Terps D toughened up last weekend, holding a potent Wake Forest rushing attack in check and scoring a touchdown on a fumble recovery to aid in the 10-point victory.

On the Virginia side, they have a mobile quarterback in Marques Hagans, which is a complete change of pace from what they saw in Wake’s Benjamin Mauk last Saturday. This means the Terps will have a tougher time getting pressure on the QB, which could in turn mean that the weak secondary will be exposed. We keep hearing about Maryland’s defensive speed, and they’re going to need to use every bit of it to keep the reins on Hagans.

On the ground, the Hoos will probably start senior Wali Lundy, who’s battling a foot injury but always seems to torch the Terps. Maryland couldn’t stop the run at all in the first three games, but had some success against Wake. They’ll need that to continue.

(Homer) Prediction: Terps 27, Cavaliers 17.

Maryland has home field advantage, Virginia hasn’t been tested, and I’ll give the Terps the benefit of a few more points because it’s homecoming.

On to the NFL, where the Redskins (2-0) play host to the Seattle Seahawks (2-1) on Sunday at 1:00 p.m.

The Redskins are riding real high after a win over Dallas two weeks ago, but everyone keeps saying not to get too amped over Mark Brunell’s two passes. The ‘Hawks are riding a pair of victories after an season-opening loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but they have to come to FedEx Field, where you KNOW the fans are going to be completely bonkers to congratulate their team on a rare win in Dallas.

The Seahawks combine solid defense with solid offense (ranked second and eighth, respectively), whereas the ‘Skins have only been bringing it on the defensive side of the ball so far. In the loss to Jacksonville, though, the Seahawks let Jimmy Smith run loose for 130 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Redskins don’t have Jimmy Smith or Byron Leftwich, but they do have Santana Moss, and you can bet he’s looking to continue what he started in the fourth quarter against Dallas.

Clinton Portis hasn’t scored yet this season, and I’m not sure Seattle’s rushing defense is going to allow that to happen this week, either.

Seattle has some serious offensive weapons on their side, with Matt Hasselbeck under center and Shaun Alexander running the ball, but the Redskins are as strong as anyone on defense.

I may look bad for doing this, and it’s not really like me at all, but I think Brunell’s got a good season left in him (and I’m not even a big ‘Skins fan), and I think he may lead the ‘Skins to the playoffs. The Redskins are favored by 1.5 points, which I’m not quite sure about.

If Brunell can come out early and prove that two amazing passes in Dallas weren’t a fluke, it will really keep the Seattle defense from teeing off on Portis, which should mean nothing but good things for the Redskins. So unlike last week, I think we’ll know after the first quarter how this game is going to go.

I don’t think this is the Redskins’ week, though. A snap back to reality may be in order, and it will be a crushing one coming off such a big win.

Prediction: Seahawks 21, Redskins 20.

Seattle is far better on both sides of the ball than the Cowboys, and despite improvement from the Washington offense, I think Seattle’s got this one.

To the north, it’s the Ravens (0-2) at home to take on the New York Jets (1-2) at 4:05 p.m.
This is not a pair of teams headed in the right direction. Both teams are without their starting quarterbacks (which, in Baltimore’s case, may be a good thing), so don’t look for an high-scoring game.

The Jets lost Chad Pennington and backup Jay Fiedler for the year in last week’s loss to Jacksonville. Now they turn to rookie Brooks Bollinger, and look for the Ravens defense to foam at the mouth when they see him under center.

The Ravens are favored by seven points, and I’m not sure they make the spread, but I think they do take the win if only because of what should be a complete inability on the Jets’ part to move the ball.

On defense, the Jets have had trouble stopping tight ends, and Todd Heap should be able to take complete advantage of that. The Ravens play-calling has been disastrous, though, and I don’t even trust them to jump on such an obvious flaw by calling Heap’s number. At the very least, I think he’s good for a touchdown, but they should be looking to him all day long.

Jamal Lewis has been silent for the Ravens this season, but maybe the week off did him some good. The Ravens will hope that is the case, at least.

Both defenses have been mediocre to this point, but for the Ravens a lot of that has to do with constantly being on the field. Also, neither defense will need to bring their A-game to shut down these hapless offenses.

This one could be ugly. REAL ugly. But I think the Ravens will get touchdowns from Heap and Lewis, which should be enough to win if they don’t give up points on offense.

Prediction: Ravens 14, Jets 10.

That would have the Ravens winning without covering the spread. I just don’t trust their offense to drop more than 14 on anyone ... ever.

The Day in Sports: September 29, 2005

The Orioles got spanked by the Yankees again, and that was it for the local sports scene last night. Real exciting. Hooray. Tejada didn’t get an RBI, but Jay Gibbons did hit his 101st career home run.

In national baseball news, the big series starts tonight with the Yanks and “Sawx” (Mike Wilbon redux), and the Red Sox are a game back in the American League East standings. Get ready for hours of Peter Gammons analysis on ESPN!!!

In other sports, if you don’t have any plans tonight, I highly urge you to head over to the MCI Center and check out the Capitals preseason game against the Penguins. It will be televised on Comcast Sportsnet, but they have a great deal where for $25 you can get lower level tickets to tonight’s game (and there’s an FBI vs. Canadian Embassy game after), AND you get a voucher for free upper level tickets to the regular season game of your choice. That is a DAMN good deal. Plus you’ll be making your mama proud because the proceeds go to the Katrina Relief Fund. Or, if you're a cheapass and hate the Hurricane Katrina victims, there are $9 Eagle's Nest tickets available, also.

Also tonight, the Nationals take on the Phillies at RFK to begin their final series of the year. The Phillies still have (slim) playoff hopes that the Nats will look to crush, but the more interesting story is that Jimmy Rollins is looking to end the season with a 30-plus game hitting streak in tact. Right now he’s at 33, and tonight he’ll hit off of Livan Hernandez (15-9, 3.95 ERA, RHP), who’s been terrible lately. The Phillies counter with Eude Brito (1-2, 3.68 ERA, LHP).

Now here’s your recap. I’ll be back with some weekend football previews (they’re new, they’re shiny, and they’re guaranteed to impress ... OK I make no such guarantee) later.

MLB: New York Yankees 8, Orioles 4

Erik Bedard (6-8) did not end his season on a high note, the Orioles couldn’t hand Aaron Small (10-0) his first loss of the year, and the Yankees maintained their one game lead over the Red Sox. Get the hell out of town.

After eight games in less than two weeks against the Yankees, and Camden Yards being the Bronx, Md., for the last four, it’s time for them to leave. Finally. Now the Orioles finish off the year with a meaningless series against the Devil Rays.

But first, the details. The Yankees scored four times in the first inning, once in the second, once more in the fifth, and twice in the seventh to go up 8-0 before the Orioles even plated a runner. Jason Giambi and Hideki Matsui both homered for the Yanks.

The O’s made a mini-rally late, scoring twice in the seventh and eighth innings to make it 8-4, but the game was over. Javy Lopez hit his third homer in three games, and Jay Gibbons homered again, also.

Bedard only went two innings, giving up five runs on five walks to up his once-sub-3.00 ERA to 4.00. Disappointing.

Tonight, John Maine (2-3, 5.54 ERA, RHP) faces Doug Waechter (5-11, 5.41 ERA, RHP) at 7:15 in Tampa Bay to kick off the three-game series that no one is talking about.

Is the season over yet?

Don’t forget to check back for the football previews. AND GET YOUR TICKETS TO THE CAPITALS GAME to benefit the Hurricane Relief ... and to get free tickets to a regular season game! Here, I’ll even link you straight to the ticket interface. Now you have no excuse.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Day in Sports: September 28, 2005

Baseball. Lots and lots of baseball. It’s been a slow week.

I think that was a haiku.

Anyways, the Nats won, and that guarantees that they won’t finish below .500. Combined with the Mets loss, it also put them in sole possession of third place in the National League East.

As for the O’s, the misery is almost over. Tonight is the last home game of the season, so if you haven’t been to many/any games this year, hit up Camden Yards lest you go five months without Boog’s Barbecue and Uncle Teddy’s Pretzels. I am planning on going, so you might even see me! (Gasp.)

In non-area baseball news, Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies (who the Nationals will start a series with on Friday) got a hit in last night’s 16-6 rout of the Mets to extend his hitting streak to 33 games. That puts him 23 games away from Joe DiMaggio’s record of 56 set in 1941. Rollins’ streak would have to extend 20 games into the 2006 season to reach 56, and breaking the record with a split-season streak would be crappy. The thing is, we don’t have to worry about this because 23 games is still a loooong hitting streak. It would be an interesting cliffhanger for the offseason, though. The Rollins streak is the longest since Luis Castillo compiled a 35-game hitting streak for the Marlins in 2002.

Caps and Recaps were in a boat. Caps fell out. Who was left? RECAPS!

MLB: Nationals 11, Florida Marlins 7

The Nationals completed a sweep of the Marlins last night and scored 11 runs for the second game in a row. The win puts the Nats three games over .500 (81-78) with three games left (all against Philadelphia).

Last night’s game was a slugfest, with Esteban Loaiza (12-10) benefiting from Preston Wilson’s 3-for-5, five RBI game. Loaiza gave up six runs on 10 hits in six innings, but got the win thanks to the offense.

Wilson and Nick Johnson both homered, and they combined for nine of the teams 11 RBIs.

Marlins pitcher Brian Moehler only lasted 3.1 innings, giving up seven runs on six hits.

Washington has the day off today before taking on the Phillies at RFK Stadium for a weekend series. The first game is Friday at 7:05 p.m., with Livan Hernandez (15-9, 3.95 ERA, RHP) slated to face Eude Brito (1-2, 3.68 ERA, LHP), with the Phillies still clinging to wild card hopes.

MLB: New York Yankees 2, Orioles 1

How do you play a 17-9 barnburner one night, then turn around and play a 2-1 pitchers duel the next? I have no idea.

Daniel Cabrera (10-13) and Shawn Chacon (7-3) kept the bats quiet for the most part last night. Cabrera worked into the seventh inning, giving up two runs on six hits, while Chacon worked 6.2 innings, giving up one run on four hits.

The Orioles only run came on a second-inning solo homer from Javy Lopez, his 14th of the year and second in as many games. Alex Rodriguez hit a solo shot also, his 47th homer of the season, which tied the game at one.

Derek Jeter broke the tie in the seventh, hitting an RBI single off of Todd Williams (not literally) that scored Jorge Posada.

Mariano Rivera worked the ninth inning for his 43rd save.

The Red Sox got thumped by the Blue Jays last night, so the Yankees now have a one game lead in the American League East with four games remaining. After tonight’s game with the Orioles, the Yankees head to Fenway Park for a division-deciding, season-ending, three-game set with the Sox.

But first things first, tonight is the last game of the season at Camden Yards, with Aaron Small (9-0, 3.25 ERA, RHP), who has been the subject of a couple of my recent rants, facing Erik Bedard (6-7, 3.74 ERA, LHP). I would love to see the Orioles hand Small his only loss of the season.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Day in Sports: September 27, 2005

Well then. That was a lot of runs. The Nats and O’s combined for 28 runs in their games last night, and both teams won!

Jay Gibbons hit his 100th career homer last night in the fourth inning off of Al Leiter. It was a two-run shot that put the O’s up 8-7. Congratulations are due to Gibby.

In hockey news, the Capitals sent five more players to the AHL, including Chris Bourque (Ray Bourque’s kid), who was an interesting training camp story because he’s only 5-foot-7 and plays possessed. None of the moves are surprising, though.

Time for recaps!

MLB: Orioles 17, New York Yankees 9

YES!!!!!! The Orioles have clinched fourth place in the American League East!!!!

With a 17-9 win over the Yankees last night, the Orioles accomplished a number of things. They ended a nine-game losing streak, they kept the Yankees and Red Sox tied for the division lead, they guaranteed that they can’t fall behind Tampa Bay in the standings, Jay Gibbons hit his 100th career home run, Miguel Tejada knocked in his 96th, 97th, and 98th runs of the year, and the O’s beat the Yankees on a day when Gary Sheffield homered twice (including another grand slam) and knocked in six runs.

Take that.

The O’s offense exploded early on Mike Mussina, scoring five runs in the first two innings and knocking him out of the game after just 1.2 innings. The Yankees came back on Bruce Chen, though, scoring twice in the third inning and then getting the grand slam in the fourth to make it 7-5, Yankees. But the Orioles rallied with three runs in the bottom half of the inning to go up 8-7, then added five more in the fifth, thanks in large part to two bases-loaded walks.

Gibbons went 3-for-4 with four RBIs, Tejada had three RBIs, and Melvin Mora added five RBIs.

Mora hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning, his 24th. Gibbons also now has 24 homers on the year.

Aaron Rakers (1-0) worked 2.1 scoreless innings to get the win.

Since this is the “Go Gibbons” blog now, here’s some more about the O’s player rep. Jay is now batting .278 with 24 homers, 74 RBIs and a very solid .826 OPS. Ideally he would walk more and get his on-base percentage up, but any questions about whether or not he’ll have a regular spot in the 2006 Orioles outfield should be answered.

Game three of the four-game set is tonight at 7:05 at Camden Yards, with Daniel Cabrera (10-12, 4.58 ERA, RHP) facing Shawn Chacon (6-3, 2.89 ERA, RHP).

Nationals 11, Florida Marlins 1

The Nationals are also trying to keep from finishing in last place, and they helped their cause last night by shellacking the Marlins, 11-1. The Marlins and Nationals are now tied in the cellar of the National League East at 80-78. The Mets are 80-77.

The Nats scored four runs in the second inning, two in the third, three in the fifth, and one each in the sixth and seventh to go up 11-0 before the Marlins scored in the bottom of the seventh inning.

The Nats got to 22-game-winner Dontrelle Willis (22-10) early, scoring nine runs (five earned) on nine hits in four innings to knock him out of the game. Reliever Jon Rauch started for the Nationals but only pitched three innings, so Mike Stanton (2-1) got the win for his two scoreless innings.

Marlon Byrd went 4-for-6 with a homer and two RBIs for Washington, and Cristian Guzman continued to raise his batting average now that the season is over, going 2-for-5 with a double and an RBI. Guzman is now batting .217.

The series finale is tonight at 7:05 in Florida, with Esteban Loaiza (11-10, 3.63 ERA, RHP) set to face Josh Beckett (15-8, 3.38 ERA, RHP).

Tonight’s game will determine who is in last place in the NL East heading into the final series of the season.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

NHL News: Capitals acquire LW Jeff Friesen

In a surprising move (surprising because no one thought the Capitals were in the market for anyone), the Capitals have obtained speedy left wing Jeff Friesen from the cap-strapped New Jersey Devils for a 2006 conditional draft pick. This with just over a week before the beginning of regular season play.

Friesen, who has been in the league for 10 years but is only 29, is currently the team's second highest-paid player, making $2.28 million this year. Olie Kolzig is the only guy making more, and he's slated to bring in a shade under $5 million.

Check out the Washington Post article here.

See Friesen's stats from ESPN here.

The move comes while the Caps are having a hell of a time trying to extract another left wing, Alexander Semin, from Russia. Current predictions seem to be that he will be playing in Russia this season. Semin figured to be a big factor in the Capitals offense this season.

In the 2003-2004 season, Friesen scored 17 goals and totaled 37 points in 81 games for the Devils, but that was a down year. His best season was in '97-'98 with San Jose, when he scored 31 goals and accumulated 63 points. He is also widely considered one of the fastest skaters in the league, which means the new rules may suit his style very well.

The Caps are still hurting for defensemen, but this move does show that maybe owner Ted Leonsis will be willing to loosen the purse strings a little bit if he can nab someone for a good deal. Also, it was a heady move from general manager George McPhee to see a bargain from a team that has used up most of its cap room and take it.

Maybe this is a one-and-done thing, or maybe McPhee will seek out more steals prior to the season-opener against Columbus on October 5.

I certainly don't know, but you can read about 20 pages of speculation over at the Caps message board.

The Day in Sports: September 26, 2005

No intro. Here we go...

MLB: Nationals 4, Florida Marlins 0

The Nats kept from falling under .500 thanks to another strong pitching performance by Hector Carrasco (5-3), who had been a reliever all season until September 13, when he made a spot start and ended up with a place in the rotation. Now, the Nationals are probably thinking that they could still be in playoff spot if Carrasco had been in the rotation all year instead of, oh, say ... Rangers reject Ryan Drese.

Last night, Hector went six innings, giving up just two hits and striking out six Fish. Carrasco has now pitched 17.2 scoreless innings in his last three starts, lowering his ERA on the year to 1.73.

This is a good story for the Nats (yes, better than Cristian Guzman going 3-for-5 with three RBIs to lift his batting average to .215 ... he’s still the worst offensive player in the Majors). Carrasco is a guy that’s been around for over 10 years and has never been dominant, posting pretty consistent ERAs in the mid-4’s. Then he had rotator cuff surgery, missed all of 2002, and couldn’t find a team. He played most of 2003 in the Orioles farm system, then headed to Japan for 2004 after failing to land a bullpen spot with the Cubs. Finally, the benevolent Washington Nationals picked him up and sent him to New Orleans to be a Zephyr. Less than a month into the year, he was called up to the big club, and he’s been pretty much dominant ever since. Good job, Hector.

Plus (for any of you from the College Park area), he kind of looks like “Wildness,” the (Hispanic? I don’t know ... Wildness is unclassifiable!) guy with the dyed blond hair who always wore sunglasses at the TCBY, and now does so at the Tasti D-Lite. (Sorry folks. I couldn’t find a picture. Just know that he’s a legend among drunk/high college students in need of frosty treats around the University of Maryland.)

Thusly, I fully support, from now on, referring to Mr. Carrasco as “Wildness.” Make it so.

Anywho. Game two of the series is tonight at 7:05 in Florida, with Esteban Loaiza (11-10, 3.63 ERA, RHP) facing D-Train, Dontrelle Willis (22-9, 2.44 ERA, LHP), who is very talented. (Dare I say, almost as good as Hector “Wildness” Carrasco.)

I’m on a (parentheses) kick today. (Awesome.) (It’s because I use them with style.) But enough stalling...

MLB: New York Yankees 11, Orioles 3

The Yankees scored a lot of runs, the Orioles didn’t. Tejada didn’t get any RBIs and Gibbons didn’t homer. Rodrigo Lopez (14-12) took the loss.

The Red Sox were rained out, so the Yankees win put them in sole possession of first place in the American League East by half a game.

O’s late-inning replacement shortstop Ed Rogers hit a two-run homer in the ninth inning for his first Major League hit.

The current nine-game losing streak is the Orioles’ longest of the season.

That’s all you need to know, and probably more.

Tonight is Bruce Chen (12-10, 3.60 ERA, LHP) against Mike Mussina (13-8, 4.20 ERA, RHP) at Camden Yards at 7:05.

P.S. I hate Gary Sheffield.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Weekend in Sports: September 23 – September 25, 2005

There’s no real news to report, except that the Nationals are now in last place in the National League East and the “big announcement” at the Capitals fan fest, as I predicted, was naming Jeff Halpern captain.

The Ravens, Redskins and D.C. United all had the weekend off, so it was just college football, Major League Baseball and preseason hockey this weekend.

NCAA Football: Maryland won at Wake Forest, 22-12, to show that they plan to be in the hunt for a bowl bid this season. The defense asserted itself after many questions about its ability to handle the run heading into the game. Wake Forest went into the game with the eighth-ranked rushing attack in the country, and the Terps held them 111 rushing yards, less than half their average of 270. The defense also added a touchdown when Josh Wilson returned a fumble 20 yards for a score.

Ray Lewis’ half-brother, Keon Lattimore, ran for 76 yards and a touchdown to lead the Terps offense.

Maryland is now 2-2 (1-1 in the ACC).

The Terps face rival Virginia on Saturday, October 1 at Byrd Stadium in College Park. Game time is noon.

MLB: The Nationals were swept by the (previously last place) Mets to fall to 78-78 and last place in the National League East, just where everyone expected them to be going into the season. Wow. Who would have thought two months ago that we would be talking about the “last-place Nationals”?

The Nats lost 5-2, 5-2 and 6-5 in the three-game set with the Mets. The last game included two-homers from has-been Mike Piazza.

The Nationals now head to Florida for a three-game series beginning tonight at 7:05. Hector Carrasco (4-3, 1.86 ERA, RHP) will look to build on a great start in his last outing when he faces Jason Vargas (5-4, 4.39 ERA, LHP).

MLB: The Orioles were swept by Boston over the weekend. Big freaking surprise. The O’s lost games by scores of 6-3, 4-3 and 9-3 to fall to 70-85. Last year’s team finished 78-84.

The Orioles have now lost what feels like 65 games in a row. OK, so it’s only eight, but when the last seven of those come to the Yankees and Red Sox, it feels like more.

Miguel Tejada added a pair of RBIs in the series, so he is now at 95 with seven games left. Jay Gibbons didn’t homer, so he’s still sitting on 99 for his career.

The misery continues tonight at 7:05 as the O’s begin yet another four-game set with the Yankees, this time at Camden Yards. Rodrigo Lopez (14-11, 4.79 ERA, RHP) will face still-undefeated and still-undeserving-of-all-the-praise-he’s-received Aaron Small (9-0, 3.25 ERA, RHP).

NHL Preseason: The Capitals won a game! And against Pittsburgh no less! After losing, 5-2, to Philadelphia on Saturday night, the Capitals headed to Hershey for an exhibition game where the team’s AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears, play their home games. Maybe it was meant as a message to the young players on the Capitals roster: “This is where you’ll be in two weeks.” Who knows?

What I do know is that Brian Willsie scored a pair of power-play goals and newly-named captain Jeff Halpern scored the game-winner in a 3-2 victory over the hated Penguins. The Capitals are now 1-3-1 in preseason action ... not that anyone cares.

Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby didn’t play for the Pens.

The Caps and Penguins play again on Friday night at 7:00 at the MCI Center, and the game will be televised on Comcast Sportsnet.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Day in Sports: September 22, 2005


In cased you missed it or haven’t heard, it came out yesterday that, during his suspension appeal hearing, Rafael Palmeiro indicated that a supplement that an Orioles teammate gave him was a possible cause for his failed test, and while he named that teammate during the hearing, it was not being made public. After literally minutes of speculation, it turned out that Raffy named Miguel Tejada as the guy who gave him the potentially tarnished substance, a shot of vitamin B-12 (not on the MLB list of banned substances). Basically, it seems to be pretty much agreed that the possibility that the B-12 shot caused Palmeiro’s positive test is nonexistent. Major League Baseball has already come out to clear Tejada’s name.

The article is here.

I posted some comments at Camden Chat that you can check out here.

Also of interesting note is that Tejada said that he’s been tested three times and come back clean each time.

Basically, I’m not still sitting here waiting for Palmeiro to give us “the other side of the story,” because I don’t think it exists. As for this incident, I am really hoping that it wasn’t an attempt to take a teammate down with him (and a very poor attempt, at that). I’m going to give Raffy the benefit of the doubt and say that he was just frantically searching for a possible explanation and didn’t mean to indict anyone.

After the news initially came out that Palmeiro had mentioned a teammate, interim manager Sam Perlozzo told the Associated Press that maybe it would be best if Palmeiro didn’t return to the team. Previously, it was thought Raffy might return for the final home stand of the season, which begins tonight against Boston.

In other news, 32-year-old career minor leaguer Rick Short is batting .462 with two homers, four RBIs, four runs scored and a (get this) 1.610 OPS in 10 games with the Nationals. That includes a 2-for-3 night last night in which he smacked a pair of doubles and knocked in a run against the Giants. Go Rick Short!

Now on to those evil, evil recaps.

MLB: Nationals 2, San Francisco Giants 0

They did it! The Nationals played a game against the Giants and didn’t allow Barry Bonds to homer! What’s that you say? He didn’t play? Well ... at least he didn’t homer!

The Nationals got 5.2 scoreless innings from fill-in starter (normal reliever) Hector Carrasco and seventh-inning RBIs from Rick Short and Deivi Cruz to take a 2-0 win over the Giants.

Brett Tomko (7-15) gave up the runs and took the loss, Jon Rauch (2-4) pitched a scoreless inning and got the win, and Chad Cordero shut the Giants down in the ninth for his 47th save.

Tonight at RFK at 7:05, the Nats take on the New York Mets to open a three-game, bottom-of-the-NL-East series. The pitching match-up is Esteban Loaiza (11-10, 3.66 ERA, RHP) against Steve Trachsel (1-3, 3.42 ERA, RHP).

MLB: New York Yankees 7, Orioles 6

The Yankees got their extra-long brooms out on the Orioles, completing a four-game sweep with a 7-6 win last night.

Jorge Posada did the damage last night for the Yanks. After 5.1 stellar innings from Bruce Chen (12-10), having only given up a homer to Posada in the fifth inning, Chen got beat by Posada again in the sixth. With two men on, Posada launched a home run into the left field seats to make it 5-1. Chen was then pulled.

New York added two more in the seventh to make it 7-1, but the Orioles put up four in the top of the eighth to make it 7-5, then Melvin Mora hit a two-out, two-strike homer in the ninth to make it 7-6, but Miguel Tejada grounded out to end the game.

Tejada knocked in his 93rd run of the year in the eighth inning.

Boston was idle, so the Yanks are now a full game ahead of the Red Sox in the American League East.

The loss was the Orioles’ 82nd, so they can no longer finish at .500.

After giving the Yankees the AL East lead, they now get to give it back to the Red Sox in a three game set at Camden Yards starting tonight at 7:35. Daniel Cabrera (10-11, 4.68 ERA, RHP) will face Bronson Arroyo (13-9, 4.31 ERA, RHP). Both have done well in their last three starts.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Day in Sports: September 21, 2005

Oh, the dreaded recaps. And boy are they bad. Thank goodness baseball’s almost over, because it’s been rough to be a Nationals or Orioles fan over the past few months. Let downs are the worst.

First, some news: Brian Roberts will undergo surgery on his injured elbow and is expected to need six months to recover. Six months from now is late March, so that’s near the end of spring training. It is possible that he will miss the start of next season, but there is no telling right now. Six months is a long way away. Get better, Brian!

MLB: New York Yankees 2, Orioles 1

Rodrigo Lopez (14-11) threw a quality start, but Randy Johnson (15-8) threw an even more quality start, and Matt Lawton’s two-run homer in the second inning was enough for the Yankees to beat the Orioles for the fifth straight time. With the BoSox losing to Tampa Bay last night, the Yankees (sigh) are now in first place in the American League East. I hate it that the Orioles are the ones handing them another title.

The Orioles only run came on a Melvin Mora RBI double in the sixth inning.

Mariano Rivera almost choked it away in the ninth, but he got B.J. Surhoff to fly out weakly to end the game.

On a bright note, Gary Sheffield went 0-for-4.

The loss was the Orioles 81st, meaning they would have to finish out 11-0 to reach .500.

Mercifully, the series ends tonight with Bruce Chen (12-9, 3.51 ERA, LHP) facing former-Oriole Mike Mussina (12-8, 4.34 ERA, RHP). Despite some fans telling me that they still like Mussina for what he did with the O’s, I don’t like him anymore. I would even say I dislike him. Yankees are Yankees, and they are to be hated.

Game time is 7:05 p.m.

MLB: San Francisco Giants 5, Nationals 1

John Patterson (9-6) had a rare rough outing, giving up five runs on 10 hits in seven innings in the Nationals 5-1 loss to the Giants. Brad Hennessey (5-8) got the win and provided some offense in the game, going 2-for-3 with a homerun.

Barry Bonds hit a 2-run homer in the first inning to make it 2-0, and that’s all the Giants would need. I hate Barry Bonds.

Armando Benitez came in with two men on and one out in the ninth and got the final two outs for his 18th save.

Tonight the Nationals will send reliever Hector Carrasco (4-3, 2.01 ERA, RHP) to throw against Brett Tomko (7-14, 4.54 ERA, RHP). Let’s see if the Nats can go one game without giving up a Barry Bonds homer. Please.

Game time is 4:35 p.m. Dip out of work early, stop at the CVS/Walgreens/Rite Aid on the way to the Metro, grab the big bottle of fake Excedrin, and start pegging them at Barry's fat, steroid-pumped head. I command it! (I think people on steroids end up with huge faces because just the act of chewing pumps up their jaw muscles so much ... but I'm not a doctor.)

In other news, the Capitals lost to Buffalo, 4-0, at MCI Center to fall to 0-3-0 in preseason play. Apparently Alexander Ovechkin didn’t do much in his Capitals preseason debut. Darn. That last 0 in the record, by the way, is overtime losses, the stupidest and wussiest rule in the history of sports. I’m sorry, but giving the losing team a point no matter what kind of negates the excitement of a shootout. That’s the same kind of sissy thinking that leads to the plus-minus grading scale and parents who give a bunch of presents to their child on his/her birthday, then also give one present to each non-birthday sibling. It’s my birthday. I get the Sock’em Boppers.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Day in Sports: September 20, 2005

Yesterday was awful. Having two of the three athletes I despise the most in all of sports come up HUGE against both of the local teams is not fun. But it’s a new day, and it’s time to let the bean fest begin -- if only Daniel Cabrera was pitching for the O’s.

Also, the Orioles feel-good story of the year, Brian Roberts, is done for the year after dislocating his elbow last night. On a bunt up the first-base line from Bubba Crosby, Roberts covered first and stretched to reach B.J. Surhoff’s throw, and Crosby ran into his arm, bending it backwards. Roberts was batting .314 with 18 homers, 73 RBIs, 27 stolen bases, a .387 on-base percentage and a .903 OPS. A career year in all respects. Congrats on the season B-Rob. It sucks that it ended this way.

Enough sadness and bitterness. On to the recaps...

MLB: New York Yankees 12, Orioles 9

Just kidding. More bitterness!

Allow me to repeat myself: YOUR LITTLE SISTER COULD WIN 20 GAMES WITH THAT KIND OF RUN SUPPORT! Aaron Small (9-0) is not good. I’m tired of the constant praise on him. He’s given up 13 runs in the last 18 innings. Don’t get out your calculator; I did the work. That’s a 6.50 ERA. But, of course, he’s 3-0 in that span because the Yankees have averaged a shade under 10 runs a game in those three starts. Someone give me a Yankees uniform; it’s time to collect my 9-0 record and a big league paycheck. I think I’m fourth in the rotation – behind your little sister.

So the Yankees won, 12-9, in a game that was never as close as that score indicates. John Maine (2-2) gave up four runs in the first inning, and every Orioles run after that was just for show. The O’s bats managed to produce three runs in the top of the second to make it 4-3, only to watch a grand slam by Gary “my season is when I get paid/if I’m unhappy you don’t want me on your team/you should get a full-season suspension for using steroids even though I, myself, used steroids” Sheffield. (OK, so that last one isn’t a direct quote.) That made it 9-3.

The O’s cut it to 10-7 by scoring in the sixth, seventh and eight innings, but the Yanks extended the lead to 12-7 in the eighth by beating up on who else but Jorge Julio. The O’s added a couple of meaningless runs in the ninth to make it 12-9, but the game was long since over, despite not seeming like it on the scoreboard. We’ll call it a “moral blowout.”

On a (small) bright note, Jay Gibbons hit a two-run homer in the seventh, so he now has 99 career home runs. Miguel Tejada was one of three O’s in the starting lineup to not get an RBI, so he’s still stuck on 92 for the year.

Also, Sam Perlozzo was ejected after flipping out at an umpire for not calling Crosby out on the play that ended Roberts’ season. Perlozzo argued that Crosby should have been called out for running inside the baseline on the bunt.

Tonight at 7:05 it’s Rodrigo Lopez (14-10, 4.86 ERA, RHP) going for his 15th win against Randy Johnson (14-8, 4.01 ERA, LHP), also going for his 15th win.

Johnson only lasted 1.2 innings in his last outing, when he gave up three runs on three hits, two walks and a homer to Toronto.

MLB: San Francisco Giants 4, Nationals 3

Good job, Nats fans. You booed loudly and brought signs. Some had paper asterisks, one sign said “Barry BALCO,” another said, “It’s ‘Clear’ Barry Can’t ‘Cream’ The Nats.” One clever group even covered a 10 seat, three row area with a sign declaring it the “Roid Rage Blast Zone.” Hilarious. Good job Nats fans.

Too bad Barry and his 40-pound head (literally and figuratively) still won.

Bonds’ solo homer in the fourth inning tied the game at one, but it was Moises Alou’s three-run bomb in the top of the ninth after a semi-intentional walk to Bonds that really made the difference. The Nats were up, 2-1, and the Giants had men on first and second when Alou launched Livan Hernandez’ (15-8) pitch over the left field fence. 4-2 Giants.

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Nats had scored a run and threatened for more, but a Brad Wilkerson liner was caught on a very nice play by Bonds’ replacement, Todd Linden, in left field.

Jack Taschner (2-0) worked the eighth and took the win, and Yankee-puncher Armando Benitez (barely) earned his 17th save.

The Post’s Thomas Boswell wrote an interesting column on the drama, although I don’t really agree with his take that “this was perhaps the best game of the entire season.” How can a loss be the best game of the season? I remember going to play hockey and people would tell me to “have fun.” I would invariably tell them, “I’ll have fun if I win.” I don’t know; maybe that’s not the best way to look at sports. But I’m hyper-competitive, and that’s part of the fun.

The Nats are now five games behind Houston in the Wild Card Standings with just 11 games left. It’s insurmountable. So what’s the point in telling you that tonight will be John Patterson (9-5, 2.65 ERA, RHP) against Barry Bonds and Brad Hennessey (4-8, 5.25 ERA, RHP)? Oh well. I just did.

If you’ve got tickets, go boo Barry some more. In the meantime, I’ll try to think of some clever/outrageous signs. How about this one:

Does your roid rage lead you to beat your wife and kids? And by “wife and kids,” I mean boyfriend.

Actually, how about everyone go out and by a bunch of cheap, CVS brand Tylenol knock-off pills, then shower Barry with them as he goes to the batters box. It would look freakin’ sweet.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Day in Sports: September 19, 2005

Well, unfortunately for Baltimore sports fans, the Redskins and Cowboys weren’t the only rivals going at it last night. The Orioles were visiting Yankee Stadium, so here’s the downer. There had been too much jubilation around here, anyway.

MLB: New York Yankees 3, Orioles 2

AAAAARRRRGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!! That’s all I can say. That one hurt.

The Orioles were up 2-0 after three innings, but the Yankees tied it in the fifth after Erik Bedard loaded the bases with nobody out. The game remained tied until the bottom of the ninth. Eric DuBose was pitching, as he had been since the seventh inning, and with no outs, Bubba I-raised-my-batting-average-28-points-tonight Crosby hit one into the right field stands for the walk-off home run. Cue Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”


Crosby was batting .250 coming into the game, and went 3-for-4 to raise his average to .278.

To make matters worse, the Red Sox lost to the Devil Rays, 8-7, so the Yanks are now just half of a game out of first place in the American League East. Argh.

The Orioles get three more games to try to keep New York from taking over that top spot, then they play Boston for three games, then they get the Yankees for another four games. This is the Orioles’ chance to play spoiler, and it’s not starting out well.

Miguel Tejada did get his 92nd RBI of the season last night, so he now has 13 games to get eight more to reach 100.

Tonight, the O’s send John Maine (2-1, 3.27 ERA, RHP) to face 33-year-old journey man/career minor leaguer/new Yankees savior Aaron Small (8-0, 3.28 ERA, RHP). Despite winning his last two games, Small has given up nine runs in 13 innings (a 6.23 ERA), but has gotten wins in both because the Yanks scored eight runs in the first game and nine in the second. Your little sister could be a 20 game winner with that kind of run support.

Game time is 7:05.

Also tonight, Barry Bonds makes his first road trip of the season as the Nationals face the San Francisco Giants at RFK Stadium at 7:05.

Booooooooooo. Booooooooooooooo. BOOOOOOOOOOO!

In the past few weeks, everyone has been saying, “Say what you want about Barry Bonds as a person, but he is one of the most/THE most talented player in the history of baseball.” I’m tired of it. Here is my reply: “Say what you want about Barry Bonds as a player, but he is a cheater and an asshole.” (That’s me quoting myself ... because I’m so hardcore.)

I. Do. Not. Like. Barry Bonds. In my mind, he is currently competing with Terrell Owens and Gary Sheffield for the biggest jerk in all of sports. I’m not sure who’s winning.

Livan Hernandez (15-7, 3.93 ERA, RHP) will pitch to Barry Bonds tonight, and pitching on Barry Bonds’ side is 20-year-old Matt Cain (2-1, 2.00 ERA, RHP). Cain has pitched well in four appearances for the Giants this season (all starts). His last three games have all been quality starts.

For the Nats, Livo can get kind of ornery, so he might just throw at Barry Bonds. I wouldn’t complain.

I fully urge all of you to go and boo Barry Bonds. It’ll be fun.

And now, back to the Redskins beating the Cowboys!!! (You didn’t think that one post was it, did you?)

Michael Wilbon wrote in The Washington Post that he didn’t think Brunell looked that good until the last few minutes, and that he was outshined by “one of his mid-thirties peers, Drew Bledsoe of the Cowboys.” I don’t really agree. Brunell, at the very least, looked like he was confident in the pocket. Bledsoe was under-throwing receivers also, but everyone seemed ready to heap praise on him. Besides the interception, I thought Brunell looked like a guy who could drive the offense. But then again, maybe I’m just so used to watching the Ravens offensive ineptitudes that any offense that managed more than one first down would look good to me.

At the very least, Santana Moss was impressed. The Washington Times quoted Moss as saying, “If he gets blocking, that man can do anything with his arm.” I guess Patrick Ramsey’s not headed back under center any time soon.

Also check out Thomas Boswell’s column in The Post, where he says that this gives the younger ‘Skins fans “one nearly unbelievable national-TV Gibbs-over-Parcells, Redskins-over-Cowboys miracle victory on which to hang [their hats].”

NFL: Redskins beat Cowboys, 14-13!

Normally this would go in The Day in Sports (TDiS for the super-hip Beltway Sports Beat readers), but it is clearly not just any other game recap, so I figured it deserved its own post.

For the first time since 2002 and just the second time in the last 16 meetings, the Washington Redskins have defeated the Dallas Cowboys. It was the first time the 'Skins have won at Texas Stadium since 1995.

Dallas was up 3-0 at the half, barely capitalizing on an interception and a lost fumble from the Redskins. But the Cowboys scored a touchdown on their first drive of the second half, then engineered a six minute 27 second drive that resulted in a field goal to go up by 13 with under six minutes remaining. It certainly had the makings of another demoralizing Redskins loss to the Cowboys.

But a funny thing happened on the way to sulking to the locker room.

Mark Brunell, who had played with poise for much of the game, put together a 10 play, 76 yard drive, culminating in a 39-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss that cut the lead to 13-7 with 3:46 remaining.

Then the defense stepped it up, forcing a Dallas punt after just 54 seconds with the ball, leaving the Brunell and the 'Skins with the ball on their own 20 and 2:52 to manufacture another touchdown.

They would need all of 17 seconds. On the second play of the drive, Brunell found Moss again, this time for a 70-yard touchdown that gave the Redskins their first lead of the game.

In two last-gasp Dallas possessions, they turned the ball over on downs and then ran out of time.

Frankly, I'm amazed that the city of Washington is still standing.

I hate to say it after just two games, but the Redskins look like a playoff team. Brunell was 20 for 34 passing for 291 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, good enough for a 94.1 QB Rating. He looked poised in the pocket, and numerous times he was flushed out only to find a wide open man at the last second for a first down. Washington, I think you have a quarterback.

The Redskins have a bye next week before taking on the Seahawks at FedEx Field on October 2 a 1:00 p.m.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Feature: Monday’s (lopsided) Rivalry Preview. ‘Skins vs. Cowboys, O’s vs. Yanks.

This is it. What you’ve been gnawing on your refresh button for. My deep, insightful, and overly-pessimistic look at tonight’s pair of hate-filled rivalry games. On the gridiron, the Redskins take on the hated Cowboys, and on the diamond, the Orioles start a four-game series against the hated Yankees. Hated. Hated hated hated.

Well, hatred, while fun, has not translated into recent success for the good guys in these battles.

At 9 p.m., Joe Gibbs’ Redskins will take on Bill Parcells’ Dallas Cowboys on ABC’s Monday Night Football (which will include a telethon for the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund). But enough about caring and giving! We’re here for hate!

Redskins fan or not, if you are from around this area, you do NOT like the Cowboys. I think it’s in the water.

If you’re a Redskins fan, the recent history of this once-epic rivalry has not been kind to you. The Cowboys have won the last four straight, and 14 of the last 15. To make matters worse, the ‘Skins haven’t won at Texas Stadium in 10 years. Even in the Cowboys’ most dismal seasons, they always seem to save a couple of winning efforts for the games against the Redskins.

Tonight’s match-up in Dallas pits a pair of 1-0 teams against each other, with the Cowboys coming off a 28-24 Week 1 win over the Chargers, who are now 0-2 after a loss to the Broncos. The Redskins are coming off a 9-7 win over the Bears, who then went and ran up 38 points on the Lions.

The ‘Skins will be starting Mark Brunell, who’s old (turned 35 on Saturday). Ramsey replaced Brunell midway through last season and had some solid starts, but this is the here and now, and Ramsey posted a Kyle Boller-esque 49.4 passer rating in the first half against the Bears last week before taking a hard hit and leaving. Brunell filled in for the second half -- and stayed in after Ramsey was cleared to return. Some might say that was a message. Or at least a foreshadowing.

Brunell led all three of the ‘Skins scoring drives. And by “scoring” I mean “field goal.”

The Redskins are six-point underdogs, and despite the line, the doom-and-gloom intro and the recent history, I really do think the ‘Skins have the talent and ability to win this game, and I think there should be some optimism in D.C. But if I’m putting money on it, I’m taking the Cowboys and the points.

In New York at 7:05 p.m., the Orioles will face the Yankees in the first of a four-game set. For the Yankees, now 1.5 games back in both the American League East and the wild card standings, this is a crucial series that could determine the Yanks’ playoff fate. For the Orioles, now 16.5 games out of any playoff spot with 14 games to go (read: mathematically eliminated), this is a chance to play spoiler to a team you despise.

One can only hope that the Orioles will head to the plate with visions of Jeffrey Maier grabbing phantom homeruns in their heads (still bitter ... and sorry for mentioning his name ... not cool).

But there is some reason for optimism here. While the Yankees have won the last two games against the Orioles, the O’s have taken six of ten so far in the season series (granted, at one point they had won five of six). But if the O’s can somehow take three of four in this series, they will guarantee at least a split season series with the Yankees. Obviously, though, I’d much rather see a 14-4 season series with the O’s on the winning end.

Tonight’s pitching match-up is Erik Bedard (6-7, 3.82 ERA, LHP) against Chien-Ming Wang (7-4, 4.18 ERA, RHP), who is 1-1 since coming off the disabled list on September 8, but has given up eight runs in 11.1 innings in that time.

Bedard has struggled also, going 0-3 and posting a 5.91 ERA in his last seven starts. The Orioles have lost all seven of those games.

John Maine (2-1, 3.27 ERA, RHP) will face Aaron Small (8-0, 3.28 ERA, RHP) on Tuesday, Rodrigo Lopez (14-10, 4.86 ERA, RHP) will face Randy Johnson (14-8, 4.01 ERA, LHP) on Wednesday, and Bruce Chen (12-9, 3.51 ERA, LHP) will face Shawn Chacon (6-10, 3.70 ERA, RHP) on Thursday. All of the games start at 7:05 p.m.

With 14 games to go, the Orioles have eight remaining against New York, three against Boston, and three against Tampa Bay.