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Archive for July, 2011

The show is over

Getting rid of Haynsie and McNabb not only reflected on Shanalahan’s ability to deal, it also most importantly prevented the 2-ring circus which would have been training camp today in Ashburn if either or both were still on this team.  Instead, Kelli Johnson LaVar and Dukes and anyone from ESPN (who probably won’t be coming here since there is nothing to talk about) have nothing to talk about except how Shanalahan must have read this blog and started fulfilling my 300-pound wish list as fast as possible.

As I discussed earlier, signing Cofield makes us stronger and the Giants weaker.  The same could be said about Bowen whose departure from Dallas makes them weaker and us stronger.  Signing Chris Chester was also an excellent move since he came from Baltimore and everyone there talks about what a genius Ozzie Newsome is.  Well, we just took two of his young starters away from him and from all reports, the Ravens were sad to lose them and people think highly of them.  How do I know?  I don’t watch any Ravens games.  Yes, the Redskins signed a slew of receivers, but if you look closer, you’ll see that the big money was spent on my 300-pound wish list.  The Redskins made the 300-pounders part of the long-term future and gave all the receivers 1-year deals, aside from Moss. 

The only receiver aside from Moss who got a long-term deal was our own draft pick, Leonard Hanckerson.  So the ‘ Skins are focusing on developing young players and thinking about the future.  What a novel idea? 

We even made the Eagles weaker by signing away their solid punter Rocca, now leaving them dependent on some undrafted free-agent who may suck and who may not.  And frankly, we really needed a punter.  Kudos to Shanalahan for rubbing some of these signings in the face of our most hated opponents.

Back to Haynsie.  Now while dealing with Haynsie revealed the full extent of Shanny’s ego-maniacal ways, in some ways, the Shanalahan collective were not to blame for Haynsie.  As someone said on sports radio, Haynsie robbed the Redskins and Vinny Cerrato was driving the car on the way to the stick-up.  All that being said, the reason I always felt confident that Haynsie would be traded (and wrote so here) and told anyone who would listen was because some good team, like the Patriots who needed d-line help, would throw something at us.  And of course Bellichek collects 5th round picks like pennies.  So, it’s not like he gave up something dear that the Redskins can wave to us fans, but the fact of the matter is that Haynsie did not go to Philly, NY or Dallas and we can forget about the whole thing.  Snyder won’t forget so easily which may be the kind of lesson he needs to learn.

Many people have said that Stallworth is a good signing.  I’m not so sure, but at least there is little risk in signing him.  He’s like the Willie Parker/ Larry Johnson signing for last year.  Now Jabar Gaffney came with a sacrifice – we traded Jeremy Jarmon who didn’t play much last year and who was better suited for the 4-3.  What’s the sacrifice you may be asking then?  Well, everytime he tackled someone, I started singing “We be Jarmon” loud and proud from section 449.  Now I can’t do that anymore and besides, you hate to see a BBR have to go.

The Redskins also cut Rabach which me and many others have been hoping for a while too.  What’s clear is that Shanalahan had and still have a plan.   Last year they brought in a bunch of big-name stiffs because there were no free-agents that could help us last year and thus they didn’t sign anyone to long-term deals.  Well all those old duds are gone:  Johnson, Parker, Galloway, Roydell Williams (not a big name, but old) and they all been replaced with young drafted players and Gaffney and Stallworth who if they play well can stay, if not they can leave and we won’t be any worse for it in terms of the salary cap. 

The o-line still has one major issue:  right tackle.  Will they re-sign Jammal Brown and if not, who is going to play there?  Shanalahan may have painted themselves into a corner on this one since I don’t know how is out there still who could play RT and we have no significant drafted player who anyone could say now has a shot at being a starter come 9/11 against the Giants.  We may have to overpay for him or just take a chance on some unproven guy which does seem risky.

But then again, look at QB.  That’s really the elephant in the room.  All of these signings make sense for this year and the long-term and it’s nice to see my team finally thinking deeply about the long term in signing 300-pounders and keeping, hell even acquiring draft-picks.  But my happiness this year, and the happiness of all true Washingtonians this year is going to come down to how well Beck or Sexy Rexy plays.  By the way, is it possible that we are not going to re-sing Sexy and go with Kellen Clemmons?  No, that’s not possible, is it?  Maybe they look at Bulger?  None of it sounds all that good.

But the events of the last two days were good and bode well for the future.

Double vision:  the Nats are in a bad way these days.  Everything is falling apart and being in last place is really bad for our psyche.  Sure, we play in the toughest division in baseball if you count up the total wins of all 5 teams together.  And maybe, it is from top to bottom the best division, but this is our division so we have to get used to it, (unless of course they get rid of the divisions and add another wild-card team like I have rumblings about recently).  But anyway, we have to figure a way to get out of last, if we are ever going to be first.  The Marlins are not much better than us and without Josh Johnson, their pitching is certainly not better than us and on top of it, they lost something like 18 out of 21 games at one point this year.  But now, they are ahead of us.  And the Mets are way ahead of us.  The next 6 games against NY and Atlanta will be very important for the Nats and the city in terms of helping keep morale up.  If we win both series, we have a chance to get out of the basement.  If we lose both, it’s hard to see us getting out of there.

The Z man and Nix and even Werth are hitting better now, but the pitching is in bad shape all of a sudden and I’m getting very nervous about the progress of our young arms.   The plan of waiting for the future needs to start with some winning and .500 was a realistic goal for this team for what seemed like quite a while.  I’m not ready to let go of it, but without it, the idea of building for a future that’s never coming seems harder to swallow.

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One of the worst mistakes made by the Redskins, among many, these past 10 years happened when we did not re-sign Antonio Pierce for what he was worth in 2005.  What happened?  He went to New York, in the prime of his career and helped the Giants not only beat us all the time, but won a Super Bowl with them.  Pierce was not a star by any means, but a valuable, smart player who knew how to play the game, played with passion and killed us time and time again.

Ever since then, I have been searching for some player to reverse this curse and today, with the agreement in principle between Barry Cofield and the ‘Skins, the curse may have indeed been reversed.  On top of it, they got him for a reasonable $12.5 million guaranteed.  A lot of people think he will play NT, but I think he will be a DE even though he is technically listed as NT.  If we don’t end up signing the NT from the 49ers, then Cofield has the versatility to play both positions.  The dude is young and in the prime his career and fulfills my 300 pound wish list to the Redskins I discussed in earlier blogs.

Since the end of last season, I have been saying that the ‘Skins would find a trade partner for McNabb. I told the Junkies, I told Lavar and Dukes, I wrote in on the blog and no one listened to me.  People instead listened to Jason Reid, the reporter who says one thing one day then contradicts himself the next, who said no one would trade for McNabb.  (Just a moment on Reid: He wrote this column that got a lot of pub locally where he said that this year Shanny should do the opposite of everything he did last year since he did everything wrong last year.  Those are his words.  Then in a subsequent article, when he was slamming Snyder about the ‘Skins waiting list, which had some legitimacy, he then states that Snyder should not act impetuously and give Shanny some time since the coach “develop[ed] key players last season and drafte[ed] many rookies who could contribute eventually. ”  That doesn’t sound like Shanny did everything wrong last year Jason.  The point is while it is maddening to cover the ‘Skins because they do so many crazy things, it is not that hard to see the good they do from the bad and it doesn’t seem to be sound journalism to slam Shanny in one article then defend him when you are trying to slam Snyder.

Now, back to McNabb.  Now I did think the ‘Skins would get a 4th rounder instead of two 6th round picks which seem to be worth less, but we did get something and Shanalahan avoided having a two-ring circus in training camp with the traitor McNabb in one ring and Haynsie in the other.

I was really not sure the ‘Skins would re-sing Moss, but the deal worth $6 million guaranteed for 3 years is really reasonable and gives us some security moving forward.  I think it also shows that the Redskins are not going to break the bank for Holmes and certainly not Braylon Edwards and probably won’t go for Plaxico, all of which is fine with me.  I want them to continue fulfilling my 300 pound wish list, next with a NT and some o-line men.

Double vision:  The Nats are playing badly.  Little Z’s two consecutive bad performances have got me a little worried and any Nats fans should be paying close attention to his next start to see if he can bounce back so as to allay any concerns that something may not be right.  So recently, even though our bats have been silent, we had been scoring runs at a decent clip by our standards, but not getting the starting or relief pitching to back it up.  Then last night, the floor falls out and we get blown away and find ourselves in last place which is definitely deflating after the excellent stretch of baseball that we had been playing for a while.

Ian Desmond has been a mess at shortstop recently and overall our defense, from Flores looking lost behind the plate in relief behind Ramos, to the Z man combing spectacular plays with some head-scratching decisions, to even Espinosa fighting it at times, has been a mess.

Now we got Gomes in a trade for some minor leaguers. It doesn’t seem like the Nats to trade for a guy in the last year of his contract.  So they are probably bringing him in to package him in some other trade they are going to make.  Not sure who or for whom aside from the likely candidates like Marquis or a set-up reliever like everyone is mentioning.

We haven’t been 4 games under .500 since we were on a win streak that took us back to .500.  So, it’s time to get things turned around against the Marlins and next the Mets.

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Yesterday, I think everyone got very excited about the owners saying yes to the proposed CBA.  Everyone got very excited.  But at the end of the day, the players are not in a rush to sign squat.  “Why?” you may ask.  Well because, they get paid only for game checks, (17 times per year), not pres-season tickets.  So, while the owners are in a rush to get the pre-season games in, and they already cancelled one, the players can play it cool.  It’s almost like the owners are like your puppy you had when you were in 6th grade, who had that Scooby Doo look of excitement on his face when you came in, his leash in his mouth, all ready to go out and play.  I can almost here Roger Goodell handing the signed agreement over to DeMaurice Smith saying “You ready to play?  you ready?  Com’on, com’on com’on.”  Then DeMaurice and the rest of the players reps taking the contract, leaning forward on the table, giving all the papers a little tap on the table to get them all even, then leaning back with one hand behind their head, bending their fingernails down over their hands and saying “Check it out, Rog, Jer, Danny, Art, Johnny, Allie, Bobby, we’ll get back to you, alright?”  Then the owners, crushed that they can’t go out and play, drop their mouths open, the leash falls helplessly to the ground and they say, almost in a whimper, “When?”  Then the players lean a little further back in their nice leather chair and say, “I don’t know, Monday, Tuesday, something like that.” Then DeMaurice leans forward towards Rog and pats him on the head and says, “Don’t worry, we’ll call you.”

It probably all went down something like that.

Now in the meantime, everyone in town is going crazy that Shanny said lats week that he “love[s] Donovan McNabb” and in the process lied to a young, innocent Redskins fan, probably much like myself at that age, and still at this age, who just wants the best for his beloved team.  Well I ask everyone who has been calling Shanny a dirtbag, which he probably is of course, “what the hell was he supposed to do?”  Tell the kid something like, “there’s actually no way in hell he will be playing QB for the ‘Skins next year because he’s washed up, somewhat of a cry baby and represents the biggest error in judgement I’ve made in my over 30 years of coaching and I would be happy if I could get a conditional 6th round pick 5 years from for him”.

Uh, no.  That would not be exactly playing your hand well.  Similarly, he’s not going to tell the media that Haynsie is whale-size douche who is on a one-way ticket out of here once the Redskins can get anything in trade value for him.  So, while we all know Shanny lacks some grace when it comes to people skills, let’s not bash him for playing things close to the vest.

As for my free-agent wishes for the ‘Skins once this whole thing is over, I don’t want anyone who is less than 300 pounds and does not play on the o-line or d-line.  Forget everyone one else.  No receivers, no running backs, no QBs, nothing.  Maybe a corner, but that’s it in terms of fast guys.

Double vision: While I have been in absentia, I have listened to every Nats game since the all-star break and now don’t think this team has the ability to go on a run like we did earlier, win 10 out of 12 games and move within 4-5 games of the wild card.  On the flip side, now that we just gave up a series at Houston that we should have won, if not for some rare bullpen implosions which happen to everyone from time to time, I do fear that we could fall several games below .500.

Our lineup continues to show that we have the pieces which could fit together really nicely. Next year, it could look something like,

Bernadina (or free-agent lead-off man)

Espinosa

Zimmerman

free-agent clean-up or Harper

Werth

Morse

Ramos

Desmond

That’s not too bad and if Morse continues at this rate, he would just the kind of protection Werth could use in the lineup.  Now as for pitchers, only baby Zimm and Lannan are guaranteed to be around next year, but along with Strasburg, maybe Peacock and a free-agent/ re-signing Marquis, the rotation could also be pretty strong.

Triple vision: Sorry to see Fehr go, but we needed someone to leave so that we could keep Alzner around.  But as I’ve said on many occasions, Fehr never became that tough net presence the Caps thought he could be and at the end of the day became just another winger on a team with a bunch of more skilled, a now with our new acquisitions in the off-season, tougher wingers.

Too much vision: After picking up 4 points in two, tough road games, D.C. United played like shit on Wednesday night and gave up a great chance to make a strong push for the #3 spot in the East.  Now it’s uphill again.  This team lacks consistent effort.  Letting a header in on a corner is about desire and effort and at the other end of the field, no one aside from De Rosario seemed all that willing to battle and overcome the heat in hustling to become a major presence in the final third.  Disappointing.

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The Nats enter the all-star break at .500. The glass half-empty look is that the Nats are 8 games behind Atlanta for the Wild-Card and too far back to measure from Philly.  (Did anyone else realize that the National League East is the best division in the National League and may the be the best in baseball aside from the American League East?)  Of course that would be ignoring the fact the we are .500 at the all-star break for the 1st time since 2005.  That’s a long time.  That would also ignore the fact that we have played the whole year without our  best pitcher, Strasburg, and without our best player for 2/3 of the games – the Z man.  That would also ignore the fact that our supposedly strong slugger and defensive stud at 1st base, Adam Laroche never did squat and is out for the season.  On top of that, Jason Werth is hitting the ball, very, VERY badly.  I know it’s baseball and most of the time hitters fail, but the ground-out double play he hit into with 1 out in the bottom of the 9th with a man on 3rd and 1st and a chance to tie the game with nothing more than a sac fly or ground out to 1st base was really awful.  On that one, he deserved the boos.

So all that is bad, and yet the Nats are 46-46.  The obvious shining spots this season are Jordan Zimmermann, (a.k.a Kid Z, kinda like Kid A, but less weird, but equally awesome), Danny Espinosa, (a.k.a Danny Boy), Michael Morse (a.k.a Jus) and Wilson Ramos (a.k.a. our no-dbout about it catcher for the future).   Desmond’s defense at short-stop has been excellent although his bat still leaves a lot to be desired and makes the possibility of getting Jose Reyes an intriguing possibility since he can play lead-off and hit and play strong defense.  At the same time, I’m inclined to think that Reyes will go back to being hurt, like he is now, moody and inconsistent as soon as his contract year is done.  So, no thanks, I’ll pass.

One of the things Davey Johnson has done since taking over this team is let Bernadina (a.k.a. the shark) play everyday as lead-off and center fielder.  He already is a very good center-fielder and I think he will continue to grow into the lead-off spot like Jimmy Rollins did in Philly.  I think he could be the future at the position even I though I am definitely in the minority with that view.

Jason Marquis has begun to have a few bad starts and I am inclined to trade him for a good young, current major league player if we can get him.  I think he and Gorzo will not be back next year although of the two, Marquis has more chance of sticking.  We have kids in AAA who can come up and apparently Wang is going to be given a chance to show his stuff.  Lannan could be the #3 or #4 starter in a top-of-the-line rotation which hopefully we should have next with Starsburg and Kid Z as our top 2.

This team has a lot of confidence and a lot of fight which should help it continue to improve in the 2nd half.  Our schedule is not that tough outside of the division, but we have a bunch of games left within the division at the end of the season which always separate the men from the boys including 21 games left with Philly and Atlanta.

The safe thing to say will be that the Nats finish at or below .500, but I think we can finish off better than .500 and set the stages for a very strong 2012.

Double vision:  Watching D.C. United play has become more and more entertaining and this weekend’s game against New York was no different.  D.C.’s front 5 is very strong and it showed as we really made the most of our chances.  On the other hand, our back 4 which has really not been all that good of late, limited New York’s chances even though the Red Bulls had more possession.  It didn’t hurt that Thierry Henry jsut quick on his team.  I loved the dude from his days with the French team, but let’s face it, aside from 6 great years in the English league, he never did it on a big stage even though he accumulated a lot of goals.  Not that Saturday night was such a big stage, but he really isn’t all that to be embarrassing himself and his teammates like he did Saturday night.

Anyway, United gets a huge win after a couple of disappointing ties and look more formidable than ever this year with De Rosario, Wolff and Najar up front.  In a league like MLS where defense is at a premium, a strong front five with continued better play from our back four could take us far.

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As I like to  focus  primarily on teams that are playing games, I will start with the Nats.  At this point, this team seems incapable of winning more than one game in a row since they are just not getting any kind of hitting at all.  Add to that the comedy of errors which this team is making, highlighted  today with the Shark and Jason Werth doing their best Abbott and Costello imitation in letting a fly ball drop right between them (how was that not charged an error incidentally?) and it seems unlikely that the Nats can do nothing more except tread water until they get healthy and start hitting.  If you consider that the Z Man and Morse (a.k.a Jus) were not in the lineup at all today, it was a miracle that we won the game even though we were facing a AAA call-up.  Then again, you could look at Werth’s final score on homeplate as the baseball gods just paying us back after we gifted the Cubs two runs in the 4th inning on the fly ball I mentioned above.

I took my daughter to the double-header on Saturday and I noticed the home-crowd booing  Werth.  As I’ve mentioned here many times, I am not a booer, but I understand why people boo.  It doesn’t make us bad fans, it just means we care.  And I’m happy to see that the Nats fans care a lot more as the crowds have been big on this homestand and the last.    For what it’s worth, (no pun intended), I think Werth does not deserved to be booed because he’s not dogging it.  (Although, I did notice from my right field corner seats that he is prone to biting his nails between pitches as opposed to hitting his glove with his throwing hand).  Anyway,  his play today, while not a signature move of a guy making $127 million dollars, but rather of a guy who’s hustling and cares about winning and thinking on his feet, is something which is emblematic of why this team is more successful than in recent memory – it has a lot of fight.

Taking 2 out of the next 3 against Cubs would be nice too.

Double vision: The Caps added a lot of guys, all of , except for Brouwer, are above 30 which is somewhat unusual for GMGM and the whole Leonsis philosophy of staying young.  Hamrlik is a tough guy who will fit in well on this team, probably with Mike Green.  He will replace Scott Hannan who is a similar player, but Hamrlik has more offensive production.  The addition of  Halpern will replace the void of Gordo and Stecks from last year.  He’s just as good at faceoffs at Gordo, less good than Steckel, but much better offensively than either.  Then of course we got Joel Ward.  Which line will he go to?   With him, Knuble and Brouwer, we have three guys who like to crash the net, all of whom could compliment the top line with Ovie and Nicky, the 2nd line with Johannson and Semin and the 3rd line with Laich and Chimera.  It will be interesting to see who ends up where.

Finally, flipping a dime (in sports salary terms) to Vokoun was quite a coup for the Caps.  People can say all they want about how him and Neuvy will get along, but let’s face it, Neuvy must be a little pissed.  As soon as his main competition in Varly is shipped to Denver, the Caps bring in Vokoun for one year and what we all hope is a trip to the finals.  After that, Holtby, who will have another year of training at Hershey, will be licking his chops to displace Neuvy.  Even if Neuvy is the “#1”, as soon as he has a bad stretch or a bad game in the playoffs, we know the hook will be quick from Boudreau.  The other way around may also be true, but with Thomas and Rolson having big playoffs this year, having a vet like Vokoun is definitely a good thing.

All of these acquisitions make me think back to what Laich said when he spoke after signing his new big contract. He said that guys in the locker room, no matter how much they are paid, need to start buying into the system.  Basically, they need to start playing tough.  Who could he be talking about?  Ovie?  Probably not since we all see his desire and aggression on the ice.  Although, maybe he free-lances still more than me, or many of us, can see.   Nicky?  Maybe.  Semin?  Definitely.  Mike Green?  I don’t know.  I think Green gets a bad rap.  He’s pretty tough.  But whether you question any of last year’s Caps’ toughness, what is clear is that the Caps have added a group of guys that will make us much more grittier and nastier to play come playoff time.  And maybe, finally, we will have the results we have all longed for for what now seems like an eternity.

Triple vision:  I like Jason Reid a lot more before he became a columnist.  He used to be more down-to-earth.  Now everything he writes sounds smug and has a tone of “I’m smarter than all of you”.  Even though what he wrote about Shanny and the ‘ Skins for tomorrow’s paper is true, he’s already said in about 3 articles during the strike and it just sounds like he’s so damn smart.  I say hold on to McNabb for as long as we want to get a bidding war going between the Vikings, Cardinals and 49ers and let’s get the most we can.  We don’t owe him squat, especially after he went and embarrassed all Redskins fans by practicing with the Eagles which symbolically was a gigantic kick in the nuts against all of us.  While Shanny embarassed us with his benching of McNabb and his subsequent comments during the season,  this was worse because fraternizing with the enemy is being an enemy.  And there is no grey area when dealing with the NFC East, especially the Eagles.  So stop acting like a journalist who cares so much about the feelings about athletes who are being paid tons of money and frankly, like McNabb, were not that good last year and start thinking about this team.  McNabb can practice with us during the off-season.  What happens if the boy-wonder Beck and Sexy Rexy both blow their knees out?  #5 will be back here and we will all be sleeping with the enemy.

Way too much D.C. sports vision:  I watched D.C. United again surrender a late goal on Saturday night and again lost a chance at 3 points.  No matter how gifted we are in the midfield and with our forwards, unless we get our defense shored up, we will not make the playoffs this year.  I know this is not breaking news, but once again this week, we gave way too much space to Philadelphia in the game’s final 10 minutes.  Should Ben Olsen be criticized for putting Fred instead of a more defensive player after we went ahead 2-1?  Maybe.  But at the same time, the back 4 just have to play better.   We’ll see how it pans out, but for now, with 4 points on this homestand pissed away, the playoffs seem more and more like a remote dream for the soccer faithful in D.C.

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