Some observations on Washington’s pro sports teams

The Nationals

The Nats died eight weeks ago, done in during a weekend series against the Mets in late July, two ships passing in opposite directions during the night.  The Nats proved to be an overrated, underachieving team that clearly lacked team chemistry.  The question now is whether to keep manager Matt Williams.  Based on my own observation from a couple of visits to Nats Park this year, I’d say no.  The manager/player chemistry was missing, so important during the long grind of a 162 game season.  If you don’t think a manager is important, look at the Cubs.  During a June visit to Nats Park (when my wife was able to get lower level, club level seats from her company), I noticed Cubs manager Joe Maddon had an easy, healthy rapport with his players and staff.  He was clearly a communicator and a teacher.   Contrast that with Williams and his apparent uneasy body language with his players and you’re on to something.  Age caught up to Jason Werth, too; happens to everybody.  With Werth’s long term contract, I’m not sure how the team can address that.  Stay tuned.  One last note on team chemistry.  It came to my attention this week that the great Yankee teams of the late 40s and early 50s (five straight World Series championships) did not have the best pitchers in baseball, yet their staff was clearly the most effective.  Why?  Catcher Yogi Berra, who passed away this week, apparently had great rapport with his pitchers and knew how to call a game.

The Redskins

The Redskins are in what I’d call a state of ‘organizational purgatory’.  They’re trying.  They’re trying to change the culture.  Whether they really can with Dan Snyder remains to be seen.  Jay Gruden’s a good man, maybe not the best coach, too vanilla, but he did make the decision to go with Kirk Cousins this season.  Problems remain, however.   RGIII is still on the team, and until the organization makes a clean break, the potential for unneeded drama is there.  The coaching staff also lacks cohesion.  They may have talent and reputations, but coaches don’t come to Washington to win, they come to get paid.  The team needs a sense of urgency, a work ethos.  Stop listening to the Washington media and your enablers, and get to work.

The Capitals

The model for a good organization in this town right now is the Capitals.  They don’t panic.  They continue to make good moves.  Barry Trotz is exactly the coach this veteran team needs with Alex Ovechkin turning 30.  He’s a taskmaster, disciplined, a leader.  And with the acquisition of former Olympic star T.J. Oshie, this team is going to be fun to watch.  There are no guarantees in sports, but this is a legitimate, solid team with few weaknesses.

I’ll get to the Wizards soon!

September Saturdays

As I look out through the screen door onto our deck, I see a light fog moving in through the hazy, green foliage of the trees.  It’s a September Saturday morning in early fall.  The ‘beauty’ run is over, the first cup of coffee is the best, and you’ve got two hours to enjoy reading the Saturday morning paper.  Can’t beat that.  Oh, and since it’s football season (the Nats died weeks ago), you’ve got a full slate of college and pro games to enjoy, not to mention the full complement of your fantasy football lineup set to go—even if they are destined to put up negative numbers.

Since I’ll always be a college football junkie, my bucket list being a night game visit to Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, an October Saturday in South Bend, Indiana, with the ‘golden’ fall foliage in the background, and a New Year’s day visit to the Rose Bowl to see the southern California sun setting over the San Gabriel mountains, I’ll make a couple of predictions:

Ole Miss will not beat Alabama tonight.  This game could be close, and Ole Miss is a good team, but when I heard ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ fire up the gym rats in the locker room yesterday morning at work, I knew that was probably good karma for the Crimson Tide this weekend.

Georgia Tech will beat Notre Dame in South Bend.  Another tough call, but after a scare in Charlottesville last weekend against an inferior UVA team (and losing their starting quarterback), the Fighting Irish will fall to a quality, legitimate Ramblin Wreck football team.

P.S. I’m usually wrong about these predictions, as I am about choosing my fantasy football team on draft day, but it’s a beautiful September Saturday in early fall, the coffee’s great, and there’s hope!  Enjoy your weekend!

Back to School and Welcome Fall

As the mornings turn cooler, the days grow shorter, and the murmur of the crickets portends the change of seasons from summer to fall, we’re reminded once again that a new school year is upon us.  For us aging baby boomers on the 9 to 5 grind,  we’ll always be on the school schedule.  Maybe we’re even nostalgic for it.  The first day of school, the site and sound of those yellow school buses (still ugly and as reliable as ever).  The first week of school is always the best:  a short week following the long Labor Day weekend,  Friday night high school football, college football on Saturday, and the first Sunday pro games (along with a neighborhood afternoon pot luck block party to boot).  A new, exciting season is upon us.

Enjoy the last day of summer and the anticipation of the fall, feel better knowing the Redskins are better off with Kirk Cousins at the helm than RGIII, and hope that this murmur of a late season Nationals run (yes, the Nationals really are still playing) is not some sort of a tease to lure fans back to Nationals Park with glimmers of playoff hopes.  We’ll find out soon enough with this series against the Mets.  Have a great fall.