Archives for posts with tag: Masters

Say what you will about the Washington Nationals breaking out the brooms against everybody not wearing an A on their cap– they’re simply tenants in the subdivision currently run by the landlords known as the Atlanta Braves.  The Nats may very well be the team to beat for the second straight season… but the Braves are the team that’s beating them.  The pounding over the first two weekends of the 2014 season (losing 5 of 6 by the composite score of 32-16) reminds the DC faithful that they remain the bug and Atlanta remains the windshield of the NL East.

The preseason favorites were outscored (allowing 6+ runs in four of the six games), shut down (held to 1 or 2 runs in four of the six games), squeaked by (a 7-6  extra inning loss Friday) or blown out (a 10-2 thumping Sunday).  Leadoff hitter Denard Span went 1 for 15 against Braves pitching before missing two games with a concussion…and staff ace Stephen Strasburg posted a 6.23 ERA against Atlanta’s lineup that currently ranks 16th in hitting and 22nd in runs scored.  These games have been lost thanks in part to butchered base running (on multiple counts)…instant replay (Ian Desmond’s inside the park home run that became a double)…and faulty fielding (3 errors the first weekend…7 more in the second).  They’ve had one starter get to the seventh inning (Taylor Jordan) in six games…and have hit .164 with runners in scoring position (stranding 7.5 runners a game) against their nemesis to the south.  Tough to find any silver lining in these hurricane clouds.

The good news is they won’t see the Braves for over two months (June 19-22 they host the NL East leaders)…while the bad news is that this bunch will be banged up for some time.  Ryan Zimmerman (broken thumb, 4-6 weeks) joins Wilson Ramos on the disabled list while Denard Span (concussion) and Scott Hairston (sore knee) missed time this past weekend.  So let them get fat against the Marlins…and good luck when St Louis comes to town.  Because even though there are only 19 games against the Braves this year, the Nationals will be chasing Atlanta even if they pass them.

 

Capitals Close Shop– for the first time since 2007… there will be no postseason hockey in the district.  Now this isn’t like most six-year playoff runs:  the Caps never were able to get past the second round/conference semifinal round–twice losing in seven games and the other time getting swept.  Last May’s first round stumble to the NY Rangers (in one of the worst game seven efforts ever-next to the collapse against Pittsburgh in 2009) was the team’s fourth game seven loss at home during the current “run”.  Or should I say stagger.  Alex Ovechkin’s chase of 50 goals while boasting the worst plus-minus in the league was mind-boggling.  Hands-down the the most hollow DC-area stat since Bruce Smith notched the career sack record (at least the Caps didn’t sell Ovie coins).  Will GM George McPhee and/or coach Adam Oates survive the April evaluations?  This team doesn’t need new leadership as much as it needs quality defensemen.  The blue line was a sore spot the entire season…and for a team that has a preponderance of potential line combinations the fact that the goaltender du jour didn’t have consistent quality in front of him can’t be ignored.

 

Masters remains a “tradition unlike any other”.  Especially with Jim Nantz’s “overused catchphrase unlike any other”.  Was anyone else hoping for Jimmy Walker to make a run at the green jacket just to see if Nantz would be tempted to say “Dy-no-mite”?  As if he would.  Veteran Bubba Watson outdueled 20-year old Jordan Spieth (who shined for the first two rounds last June at the AT&T National) for his second green jacket in three years.  What next?  We often project the run a major champion will have (Mark O’Meara in 1998, Padraig Harrington in 2007-08).  But often they end up like Jim Furyk…still searching for their second major almost to the point that we forget their first.  Watson’s won just four PGA tournaments in his pro career.  Same as José María Olazábal when he won at Augusta National in 1994 and ’99.  Including his run at the Masters, Bubba has just four top ten finishes in Majors (Masters wins in 2012 & 14, 2nd PGA 2010, T5 US Open 2007).  Just like Sandy Lyle.  Will Spieth become the next great thing?  Sergio Garcia finished second in a major at 19–and we’re still waiting on the now 34-year old.  Unfortunately the mixed cocktail of no Tiger, Phil missing the cut and sunny skies on the east coast resulted in the lowest TV ratings in a decade.  Just like the NBA never really got ready for the post-Jordan boom…golf doesn’t have that next big magnet that brings in non-golf fans.  But on the bright side…Bubba celebrated his Masters win by eating at Waffle House and tweeted a picture with the hashtag “hashbrowns”.  Now those are traditions unlike any other.

 

I grew up an hour north of Boston.  I’ve covered the Marathon.  My sister was on the same block as the explosions yesterday…and my cousin’s wife was at the finish line with her 1 and 3 year old until a half hour before the blasts.  One reason why I fell into sports journalism is that it’s fun…aka the toy department… and I can try to be mildly amusing when talking about Toronto playing Tampa Bay by saying “You can call them Rays, you can call them Jays”.  Again, the focus is more on mild than amusing.  But one can’t be sarcastic about train accidents, trials or war.  I’m the comedic relief.  It’s tough when the nasty world invades my own…I was covering Otto Porter Jr’s announcement he was headed to the NBA when the Marathon went from sporting spectacle to a day of disaster.  I scrambled to reach my sister and although she was safe she was understandably shaken.  I’ve heard her happy and sad over the years–but never in terror…and as a big brother that shook the hell out of me.  I feel for the victims.  I’m happy friends and family are safe.  And I hope justice comes in finding who’s responsible for this.  Now it’s time for another press conference (Maryland’s Alex Len going pro)…and afternoon drive updates on WTOP, where I try to be mildly amusing.  To paraphrase Lorne Michaels and Rudy Guiliani, “Can I be funny?”–“Why start now?”.

Miami makes everything go down better– Seems as thought all the Nationals needed was a trip to South Beach to cure their recent ills…getting swept by Atlanta. It’s a long season, but it’s never good to be broomed at home by one of your division rivals.  Bullpen issues (13th in the National League in OBP, 14th SLG, 3rd in blown saves) catching injuries (Ramos on the shelf in a strange sense of deja vu) and the inability to beat playoff teams (1-5 against teams that made the 2013 postseason) have to temper whatever Nattitude was as full steam after the opening series sweep of the AAA Miami Marlins.  I almost want to downgrade the Marlins to a minor league city like “Dade County Dipsy Doodles” until they get their act together.  And with another three-spot against this mess of a franchise, the Marlins may be the worst thing for this club right now–giving the Nats false confidence when they still have a ways to go to get back to last year’s level.  If you win, so what– these are the Marlins.  And when you can’t beat the worst team in the league like Tuesday night, what are you to do?  A key early stretch is on the horizon–from April 22nd to May 2nd the Nats play 11 games against St. Louis, Cincinnati and Atlanta.  Brace yourselves.

Capital Blossoms– last week I compared the Capitals to the Cherry Blossoms in DC… blooming in early April before becoming an afterthought by mid-May.  Now they have been on a tear as of late… but how much of that is a byproduct of being in the softest division of the NHL (let the record show they are 14-3 against the Southeast Division)? Can this team compete effectively over a seven game series against a legitimately good team?  Tuesday’s 5-1 thumping of Toronto was the 10th out of division win for the team this season (10-14-2) in 26 games…how tired were the Maple Leafs after last night’s 2-0 win over New Jersey?  In a season that’s given us plenty of schedule quirks (like consecutive nights in Winnipeg)… the Caps have started a five game stretch against teams from Canada.  But more importantly they play their final three games at home–including a duel with second place Winnipeg Tuesday April 23rd (Jets trail the Caps by 4 points with 5 games remaining).  Eight straight wins… is there any room left on the bandwagon?

Moving Days– Sophomores Otto Porter, Jr. and Alex Len declare for the NBA one day apart while Georgetown and Maryland wish them well.  Coach John Thompson III wasn’t shocked:  “We weren’t caught off guard…we expected Otto to move on after this year.”  Coach Mark Turgeon knew it was time:  “Alex has been a pro since he set foot on campus…the way the practices, the way he takes care of himself”.  While the Hoyas and Terps would be much better next winter with Porter and Len, the lure of first round guaranteed money was too good to pass up.  Even if the 7-foot-1 Len turns out to be a project.  Even if Porter has trouble finding minutes or an ideal position for his skill set.  Each coach heralds their respective sophomore’s work ethic…which is a huge key in making the transition from college to pro basketball.  One hopes they find their way to solid organizations with non-cancerous locker rooms where they can learn, grow and thrive.

Masters– Ah, yes. Tiger’s drop and a 14 year old’s tardiness overshadowed the best weekend for an Australian since George Lazenby landed the role of James Bond.  Tiger tailed off after being in the hunt for most of the first two rounds. Was there golf karma in taking the longer drop? The US Open will be the fifth anniversary of Tiger’s most recent Major championship. Jack Nicklaus’ longest gap during his run?  He had two “droughts”– just under three years (1967-70) and just over five years (1980 PGA-1986 Masters).  One feels it’s only a matter of time before Woods wins another and with conditioning what it is now there appears to be a larger window for him to win 4 or 5 more– but for every Lee Trevino that wins a PGA at 45, there’s a Tom Watson who stops winning majors at 33.  Oh– and congratulations to Adam Scott for winning the tournament.

Standing Pat–  Broadcast legend Pat Summerall passes away at 82.  The voice of the NFL on CBS and FOX called 16 Super Bowls for the two networks over four decades.  His booming voice dominated game opens (check them out on youtube)… and his economy of words made him the perfect complement to John Madden.  In 1981, Summerall and Vin Scully were competing for the #1 play-by-play job at CBS and while Scully painted better word pictures, Summerall didn’t bring the easel as much as set the stage for Madden’s “BOOM’s” and the telestrator.  He said more in five words than most said in fifteen.  I fell for the NFL of Summerall/Madden.  And he made announcing something a 13 year old want to dream about doing.