Friday, June 11, 2010

Is it Finally Time to Jump Ship and Be a Traitor?

I am following up on the post by our very own Alex Reed on SBNDC about jumping ship from the Orioles to the Nats (funny, because we get a lot of flack for being an Oriole-over-Nats blog). Well Alex, although I more often write about the O's and grew up supporting them with the country-folk from MD, I am absurdly jealous. You see, like any die hard sports fan, I am loyal to my teams to a fault, and force myself to sit through year after year of agony. Sure, the O's have no chance of even challenging, let along passing, the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays, but that is what us sports fan must do - irrationally tell ourselves that things will turn around and that our undying support will be rewarded at some point; no matter how much it sucks, you must persevere. Personally, the most I can do when I know my team sucks is to just pay less attention. There are only so many hours in the day, so last season I to devoted many more of my viewing hours to the Caps than the Wizards or Orioles.

(No idea what this means, except it reminds me of my nightmares)

I have been looking for an out with the Orioles for a long time. I was truly born and raised in DC, so whereas the Skins, Wizards/Bullets, and Caps are all I ever knew and will know, I shouldn't be 100% attached to a team from Baltimore. Not only is there the geographical name difference, and that long-ass drive from DC to Camden Yards, but there is the general aura/fan base difference; I absolutely despise 'Thank God I'm a Country Boy' during the 7th inning stretch of O's games. I know the O's won a title in 1983, but that was before my time as a fan (and as a human being), so you can toss that idea out for me. I said for several years that if a MLB team moved to DC, I would take the opportunity to switch allegiances. From my mouth to God's ears....

In 2005, the Expos made their long-awaited move to become DC's baseball team and solve my problems, or so I thought. Breaking up was not as easy as I had anticipated. Firstly, at this point in my life, I no longer lived in DC and had no timetable to move back. As exciting as a DC baseball team sounded, in reality, I reaped no benefit from a team being close to my parents' home. I guess I would have an easier getting to a game when I visited DC, but I shouldn't have had any more attachment to this team than one from any other city.

Don't get me wrong, I still tried to love the Nats and give them my split my allegiance to ease into a full breakup with the O's, but it didn't work. Maybe it was the move away from the DMV locking me into my childhood team, but I felt as though I was stuck with the O's for life - in sickness and in health, through good times and bad times, or something like that.

The Sports Guy has said there are 2, and only 2, legitimate reasons for changing your team allegiance:
1) Your team moves.
2) Your team has an owner that is beyond awful.

The O's definitely didn't move, but are one of the few teams to fit perfectly under #2. So to recap the reasons for DC folks not to support the O's are:
1) Angelos is the anti-Christ
2) The O's are not actually located in Baltimore, and actually are a good distance away
3) The O's make efforts to associate with MD, not DC
4) A DC alternative exists

(The amazing DC alternative)

As my interest in baseball as a whole has dwindled, I am thinking that it is time to re-evaluate this whole team switch idea. I have been trying to get excited about the wave of Oriole talent hitting the bigs, but with Matt Wieters giving me blue balls, I realize deep down that the O's have no shot unless all the stars align. For the O's to just compete with the elite of the AL East, almost all of the prospects and young players will have to reach their ceiling, and then Angelos will have to go out and spend money wisely. Even then, the Sox and Rays have better farm systems, and the Yanks have more money, so let's just be realistic and say the O's aren't going to be a playoff contender unless some crack drug lord buys the team and does not concern himself with the salary cap/revenue sharing (the Baltimore community would at least provide strong financial support). As much as I love Cal Ripken Jr. (love him like the father of Baseball Jesus), it will take more than that half-man/half-machine to turn around the O's.

Amidst this indifference, I moved back to DC (proper) this year for a new job, and have found my baseball lack of caring combated strongly by the Nats resurgence (just surgence?). I will be the first to tell you that Strasburg, 17-year-old Harper, Zimmerman, and Dunn do not a playoff team make, but I am paying attention to this team and attending their games. Instead of an arranged marriage with the Orioles, or the 'You're Jewish and she's Jewish and has nice parents' when the Nats moved to DC, this relationship with the Nats feels more natural. I want to be clear that this funny feeling inside does not just have to do with the Nats being successful, and I definitely do not want to jump on a bandwagon too late and be a front-runner. It is more that my relationship with the O's has never been weaker, and now is the perfect time for the Nats to 'steal me away'. I don't think the Nats are built for long-term success just yet, and thus may not be the prettiest girl in the room, but they do live close-by, and Strasburg basically gives them a really nice set of tits. And you know what? I've been in an awful relationship for so long that I am not looking for much. I know I can't just flip a switch and go steady with the Nats and fully extricate myself from the Orioles, but the proximity and nice tits might just be enough incentive to go ahead with a divorce.

(Image courtesy of and

The Other Prospect Wins First Start: Hope in the DMV?

While everyone was busy tracking Stephen Strasburg's between game routine and rehashing his historic debut, Jake Arrieta quietly had his own long-awaited debut tonight for the Orioles.....and Jake did not dissapoint. No, it was not 14 Ks in 7 innings, but he had 6 ks in 6 innings and defeated the Yankees.

The first start for any pitcher can mean very little, but this is significant for Arrieta and the O's. While everyone is freaking out about the Nats having Strasburg and Bryce Harper, the Orioles now have their 'big 3' of Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, and Arrieta all pitching in the bigs. Although Zach Britton may yet prove to be the best of the cavalry, these 3 were the top Oriole prospects going into Monday's draft, and will need to come through for this team to have any chance of catching the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays in the not-too-distant future. Any chance for the DCLS nickname 'The Cavalry' of catching on depends on these guys!

The O's are 6.5 game out of 2nd-to-last place in the entire MLB and have almost locked up the right to draft 3B Anthony Rendon in 2011, but 3 of every 5 games are now must see for fans. Although the Nats are closer to contention than the Birds and have Strasburg, this Orioles fan sees a lot more to keep his interest for the remainder of the season in Baltimore.

(Image courtesy of

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Sweetest Sound You'll Hear All Day

Greg Wyshynski alluded to it on Twitter, and he couldn't have been more correct: the absolute lack of sound inside Wachovia Center following Patrick Kane's Stanley Cup-winning goal was deafening. And as long as you aren't a Flyers fan, it was a symphonic masterpiece:

It's a bitter pill that the only solace Washington hockey fans can take from this hockey postseason is the hated Flyers losing in Game 6 of the Finals, but as a tribe who watched Joffrey Lupul end our season on home ice in 2008, that's about all we've got.

So now the league-wide offseason has officially begun. As if by sorcery, the post-elimination haze that hung over this writer has been lifted. It's time to leave April's failures behind for good and start looking ahead to a fresh year in the National Hockey League.

Only 99 days until training camp.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Stephen Strasburg Gives New Meaning To The Term 'Knee-Buckler'

Normally, a pitcher labors through the final outs of any outing. The human arm just wasn't designed to throw a baseball 100 miles per hour repeatedly in a few-hours' span.

Well, Stephen Strasburg isn't your normal pitcher. In his debut, he actually got stronger the further into the game he pitched, evidenced by retiring 10 consecutive batters following Delwyn Young's 2-run HR, the last 7 of which were struck out consectuively.

But take a look at the last batter he faced, Andy LaRoche. The poor third baseman struck out on three pitches:

Pitch 1: 83 MPH curveball (called strike)
Pitch 2: 83 MPH curveball (swinging strike)
Pitch 3: 99 MPH fastball (swinging strike)

It's the last pitch that really sticks out: 99 mile per hour gas on his 94th and final pitch of the ball game? Are you kidding me?!

While the 99 mile per hour heat is surely a joy to watch, it's that first pitch that was so unhittable it was silly.

Thanks to SB Nation's Jeff Sullivan, we have the GIF (click to view animation):

How do those knees feel, Mr. LaRoche?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

We are all Witnesses to Something Special

There are great debuts, and there are times when you know that you are watching something special; amidst the unprecedented hype, Stephen Strasburg stepped up and delivered a performance worthy of telling my grandkids. Sure, he did this against the perpetually awful Pittsburgh Pirates, but this was not like any debut that has been witnessed by any of us. He got stronger as the game went on and his 4-pitch repertoire and absurd velocity simply overwhelmed the opposition. He struck out the last 7 batters he faced, and 9 of the last 10, and finished with 14 Ks in 7 innings, and no BBs. He really only had 1 bad inning, in which he gave up 2 hits before the HR, but only had 1 other ball hit extremely hard the entire game (by the first batter he faced). He tied for the most Ks in one game this season, and had the first 14+ K/0 BB game, I believe ESPN said, since 2007.

The stats just don't do justice though to what we just witnessed. This was no fluke, Strasburg is an immediate star worthy of every ounce of hype. My choice of the word 'witness' is no coincidence, as the last time I can remember someone having a debut so unprecedented was that of Lebron James. Before King James, every high school draftee had taken 2-3 years to become at least a solid NBA player. It was pretty clear that something special was being 'born' when Lebron went off for a 25-9-6 line in his first game, and made it appear like this was going to be pretty standard for him.

I am proud to say I was in the building tonight, and although Nats fans did their best to dampen the experience by booing obvious called balls and not understanding the rhythm of strikeout claps, I know I witnessed a special performance, and one that will be the first of many by Stephen Strasburg.

(Image courtesy of

Top-5 Most Popular DC Athletes Right Now

I know, I know, this post has already been run by Steinz over at the WaPo (a voting in which I participated), but SB Nation DC also had a list today, so I thought it would only be fair to jump on the bandwagon and chime-in.

The term 'popular' is left vague so there is room for interpretation, but here is how I define it - as a combination of recognize-ability (name recognition), and being well liked; I believe that a notorious person can still be popular. My initial list for Steinz a few weeks ago was this:
  1. Ovechkin
  2. McNabb
  3. Orakpo
  4. Backstrom
  5. Zimmerman
My logic:
  • Ovie is widely known and loved and has to be #1. That said, the overwhelming popularity of the Redskins in this town pushes football players to greater heights. I realize McNabb has not played a game, but he is more widely recognized than Ovechkin; as Chad Dukes and Lavar Arrington said on WFAN a month or so ago, if you put McNabb and Ovie in a mall, McNabb would be the one who more easily creates a mini-riot. As much as I hate him and that the Skins acquired him, he is a close #2.
  • I skipped Portis and Gil because I thought they were not generally well liked.
  • I should have replaced Rak with Cooley, but thought Cooley's injury removed him from the spotlight too much.
  • Strasburg had not played a game and was not as widely recognized as he is right now.
  • Backstrom was fresh off of a season where the Caps elevated themselves to the #2 team in the DMV, so was very newsworthy.
Ah, how quickly things list for today would look like this:
  1. Ovie
  2. McNabb
  3. Cooley
  4. Portis
  5. Strasburg
  6. Backstrom
  • I ranked 6 because at this moment, Strasburg is #5, but his hype will likely die down after about 2 months, and I expect him to drop a few slots. The only way he stays that high is if he puts up All-Star/Cy Young candidate numbers immediately. When
  • Rak was a mistake the first time, I should have put Cooley in that spot; Rak is just not as widely known as the man formerly known as Captain Chaos.
  • Portis is not completely well-liked, but my Dad, who is not a sports fan, knows him, which puts him in select company.
  • Ryan Zimmerman is having a terrific season but struggling for All-Star votes, so it is hard to put him anywhere near my top-5 anymore. He just isn't widely recognized, and won't be until the Nats contend, or he does something outlandish like gets a tattoo on his face.
My only major differentiation from the Steinz and SBNDC lists are the omission of Gilbert Arenas, but come on, isn't he closer to the least popular athlete in DC? I can see John Wall, London Fletcher, and Mike Green pushing for honors, but I think that list of 6 is head and shoulders above the rest right now.

(Image courtesy of

Monday, June 7, 2010

There's A New Site You Should Check Out...

It's called SB Nation DC, and it is le awesome. Be sure to stop by and stay a while, as I will be contributing as the weeknight editor there.

Again, apologies for the lack of substantive posting here recently. Real world jobs, trips to Vegas, my DC Landing Strip salary ($0), that damn blister on my foot, the fact that it's the summer, and preparation for SB Nation DC have set me back quite a bit.

But you're not a complainer, so go take a John Wall shot. Blue vodka, sprite, and sour mix. It's as bad as it sounds.