First Things First -- Tracee Hamilton on the latest sports news

Apr 30, 2010

Every morning, Post columnist Tracee Hamilton discusses the most amazing and outrageous news from the world of sports.

Well, well, well. I depart the land of pucks to find that those pesky Washington Nats are 12-10, the scourge of the NL East. Look at Livan and that crazy 0.87 ERA. See Tyler Clippard with three wins. Matt Capps has 10 saves, putting him on pace for … a crazy number of saves. And who the heck is Luis Atilano? I want to party with you, cowboy.

That’s not all: Drew Storen’s gone to Syracuse, Stephen Strasburg should be joining him shortly, and that’s just the pitching! It’s enough to make a girl’s heart go pitter-pat. Let’s discuss it, shall we?

Doesn't this feel like the morning after the Northern Iowa game?

This is a day old, but it's a good place to start, since Caps angst isn't over. For Caps fans, I'm sure it felt like the day after Northern Iowa. For me, it didn't, but I was disappointed because I was totally getting into hockey -- a relatively new sport for me -- and wanted more.

The cops just called me; someone turned my cat in for biting a tech at the place he had surgery. This is the first I'm hearing of it, a week later. My cat is going to have a record. I'm incredibly unhappy about this. (I might add he's completely up to date on everything so no one's life was endanged by Dr. Forrest C. "Phog" Allen.)

Hope all of you are having a better morning than Phog and me. Grrrrr. I'm going there after we're done and *I* may bite someone.

Is Zimmdogg coming back today as expected? Do you believe his hamstrings will bother him throughout the season?

As far as I've heard, and yes. Hammies tend to be persistent.

I'm returning to Washington in August. What's your prediction on where the Nats will be at that point? Still hanging around .500? Pennant race (if only marginally)? Fading badly? Cheers from Bratislava!

If I had a nickel for every greeting I've gotten from Bratislava ... I'd have change for a dime.

I'm not sure .500 is sustainable but after this start, I'm not sure it's not. They're doing this with an injured Ryan Zimmerman, after all, and no Wang, and Strasburg and Storen (and oh I wish, Wilkie) to come. I think you'll get back to town to see a team that's pretty fun to watch.

Someone remind me, did I predict them to win 72 or 75? I can't remember. I think I said 72. Might have low-balled a bit.

I went to Target Field last week, and I still found myself checking the Nats score on my phone. A winning April! Without Zimmerman, an average offensive RF, a productive Dunn, and (thankfully) a Hanley Ramirez sighting. And this winning month comes with two games where the Nats gave up ten runs before the fourth inning. They've thrown up some real stinkers, but they're only two games behind (the Mets?). They only have two real relievers, but have had four different third basemen step in and produce defensively. Strasburg, Storen, Wang, and Detwiler have yet to play in the bigs in 2010, but Capps is 10-10 in saves and Hernandez has a .87 ERA. What the hell is going on here, Tracee? Did I buy the wrong cable package (Center Ice instead of Extra Innings)?

If this is John in Minneapolis, I'm happy. If not, I'm still happy. Do you know John?

Yes, you bought the wrong cable package. And Detwiler -- thanks for reminding me! Good golly, how could I ever have criticized them for having no right fielder. I take it back. All is forgiven.

Ms. H: That's it - only one day to grieve and vent? We can't go on for weeks screaming "choking dogs" and "fire the coach?" (plus Semin and Green). You can't let "the greatest collapse in Washington sports history" - from the Boz no less - fade away this quickly. We demand more time!!

Oh, we've all debated this, and I think it WAS the greatest collapse in Washington sports history. We're not done with the Caps by any stretch but I thought maybe a change was in order. They will be making moves and stuff will be happening and we'll talk about them again. Maybe we'll even debate this "greatest collapse in Washington sports history" one day next week. Not that that will make anyone feel better...

Now, back to the Nats.

When the Nats moved here in '05 I said it would be 2012 before they challenged for a pennant. Despite the previous two seasons and the Lerners they seem to be moving in that direction. What do you think?

I think 2012 is very achievable and they might surprise some folks in 2011. I think they'll be very fun to watch in 2010.

So, should we all say "I love it when a plan comes together"? Or look for a bucket of cold water to throw. I know the statheads think this is all smoke and mirrors given the Pythagorean number, WHIP v. ERA, etc. But it is unexpected fun. Maybe the return of Zimm, the hoped for Dunn surge and the pitching help that is on the way (not just you know who) will balance out the inevitable Livo, Capps and Pudge slowdowns. Can the Nats actually win the hearts of DC sports fans this summer if this continues?

Now is the time for the Nats to strike, while there is literally no competition. No Caps, no Wiz, little Skins. Catching fire in August in too late because the NFL will dominate again. I think the Nats do have a shot at picking up some fans this summer. Strasburg will obviously help but right now, I'm eager to go see Atilano and Livan as well. And Capps! Who knew? I freely admit, not me.

Really, somebody ratted out your kitty? Nice.

Not my regular vet, the hospital, but they have been beyond awesome so this is just puzzling. I have talked to people there probably 20 times since this incident and no one mentioned it. Well, in about an hour there's going to be an explosion in Vienna. As you can tell, I'm fired up.

After such a depressing game, isn't the Brooks Laich tire change story great?

(Brooks Laich changes a tire after Game 7)

 

According to my wife who knows the folks in the car, Laich apparently gave no thought to messing up his suit while changing the tire. My hat's off to the guy.

Now on to the Nats. Get a grip people! It's not even May yet and Boswell is saying these guys are legit. They are a .500 team...now. Wait until August when injuries and rain outs expose them for what they are: a .400 to .450 team, at best. Strasburg? I hate to tell you this but he was not born in a manger!

The Nats are better but good is a year or two away. And the only pennants your going to see around here for a while are at concession stands and little kids' bedroom walls. Agreed?

Agree on everything except Strasburg, who WAS born in a manger. Seriously, of course, if they finished the season at .500 it would be a serious overachievement. But it sure is fun right now, and don't we need some fun?

(The Laich story is awesome, by the way.)

With the somehow resurgent New York Metropolitans going into Philadelphia this weekend for a series, is it too early in the season to call this a critical series for the Mets?

Oh, it's never too early for hyperbole. Hey, that rhymes! These early-season division matchups are very important.

What parts of this successful April are sustainable for the whole season? What parts are going to fall apart and bring the Nats back to earth in the NL East basement? I'm confident they won't be worst in MLB this year, but I can't believe they will hang around the top of the division for long...right?

Probably not. I am not sure Livan and Capps can sustain this, or Atilano either, although I will withhold judgment until I see him pitch.

Dunn had a slow start, and Zim's been hurt, so you factor that in, and I think there is some reason for optimism. Not finishing in the basement of the NL East would be an accomplishment and I believe well within reach.

Just wanted to say thanks for all these chats. Instead of just being an outlet for frustrated fans, hopefully you get some benefit for your column also.

You're welcome. Thanks for joining in. I do get some benefit for my columns; it's interesting to get a lot of takes on different subjects.

For instance, this next person...

I want to know WHY you and the most of the sports reporters in this town hate both the local teams and the fans of those teams .....You all seem to take great joy in the failures ...the Capitals reporting being just the latest ....WHY is this the default position in this town

Well, that's the craziest damn thing I've ever heard. Let me assure you, I wouldn't take a job where I was forced to watch teams I hated. Who would?

Joy in the Caps' failures? Really? I don't see it. Remember, it's not our job to be boosters, though. We're supposed to be impartial. I am, thus far, impartial about the local teams. I am not, by comparison, impartial about the Jayhawks. There is a huge difference. I am not going to cry and moan when the Caps lose because that's not my job. I'm going to say why I think it happened. If you want commiseration, go to the fan boards. Yeesh.

When reporters and columnists and editors become fans of the teams they cover, the coverage ceases to be of value. It's not my job to be rah-rah. That's your job.

What is the chance that newsroom enthusiasm for the once transcendent Caps will seep into the prose describing the Nats? Nice piece on Livan today. I hope the start of less snarky attitude. As you say, there's lots of cool stuff in Rizzo's cupboard.

The Post contigent at the Caps game Wednesday night was joking that we'd see each other again next week at the Nats, where we'll be fighting for seats. I'm very eager to get out and see this team. I am not sure I agree with the "snarky attitude" remark, but ... see previous answer, I guess.

Next door to Tebow of Nazareth, right?

Ha!

Why are you and other Post writers so surprised with the Nats? Has everyone forgotten that Mike Rizzo is not Jim Bowden, who really worked against what Stan Kasten wanted to correctly build?

Um, there is nothing I like better than to be lumped into a group like this. I'm not surprised Rizzo is succeeding. I defy you to find a negative word I've written about Rizzo thus far, other than to say that perhaps they could have found a starting right fielder before Opening Day. I've been a big proponent of The Plan. I am surprised by the 12-10 start against a tough schedule and I'll bet Rizzo and Kasten are a little surprised, too. Is this "Willfully Misinterpreted" day? Because I didn't mark it on my calendar.

When do you think we will see Strasburg arrive? This June 6th start seems like a no brainer to me for many reasons.

And will it also be the day Teddy wins?

I think that's the conventional wisdom at the moment.

Having Teddy win that day would be brilliant. But can they ever really have Teddy win? Because then what?

He is a fan of the Royals and covers the Royals. Is his coverage not good?

He's excellent. How do you know he's a Royals fan? Because he tells you so, right? That's the difference. If I was in the tank for any local team, I would have to say it. Currently, I'm not. I will try not to be. When I am, I will reveal it. That's all.

This is obviously rank speculation, but ten bucks says that your cat is now America's most wanted feline because some lazy tech is looking for a little workers comp handout. If it's anything like people hospitals, once these things get in the system the paperwork makes it impossible to delete. Critical thinking goes out the window.

Ugh. Hope that's not the case but you may be right.

Hi Tracee, Just a quick off-topic note: Even a cat with up-to-date shots can inflict serious damage on a human because of the bacteria emitted in their saliva when they are attacking prey or defending themselves (it's the same bacteria as a Gila Monster lizard). It's part of their natural defense when in the wild. I found this out the hard way, I once spent 8 hours in an ER on an antibacterial IV drip due to two bites from a perfectly healthy cat (my own cat, as I was saving him from a dog attack), and I know of a veterinarian who lost his arm due to a cat bite.

Oh, I'm not shirking responsibility or diminishing the risks. But why oh why didn't they call and ask me about his rabies vaccine? Instead, they waited EIGHT DAYS and then had the police call. If they were so worried about the effects, wouldn't they ask about the rabies vaccine? I know some people don't even bother with them, especially for indoor cats. I feel terrible someone was bitten. I'm angry the police were told before me.

Why does every single discussion, chat, message board, etc....degenerate into something about the Penguins? I think I even saw one on a Nats board.

No, every single discussion degenerates into a chat about my cat. :) Is that better? (And yes, you did see a Penguins contribution on Nats Journal. I saw it too.)

Tracee, I know it is early, but the Nats play the Marlins 6 of the next 9 games. They always have trouble with those pesky Marlins.. If we can take 4 of those 6 games I will have a very good feeling about this year (until we play Philly again in late July at least.) Thoughts?

Four of six against the Marlins would be good; you are right, they always have trouble with them. Getting excited to get to the Park! (Even though I hate everything and everyone associated with Washington sports.)

They Let Teddy beat the Oriole Bird when I saw them play the O's. Letting Teddy win could be the statement that change is afoot when Mr. Strasburg arrives

Devil's advocate: Teddy wins. Strasburg gets hammered. Then what? Poor Teddy.

With Livan giving the performance of an ace and Clip 'n Save dominating in the bullpen, there's gonna be no pressure on Storen and Strasburg when they come up in about a month, right? Gonna be a big non-event, right?

In all seriousness, we miss you a bit on NatsJournal, but hope you're having fun with all the sports you get to write about.

Yes, I think Strasburg probably won't get called up. No room on the roster. :)

I miss the Nats and Nats Journal, too. I'll be back. In the meantime, I've got to get my very angry cat out of the bathroom and get to the vet's office where his very angry owner is going to tee off.

This was fun! Let's talk again Monday. Topic tba, but greatest collapses in D.C. sports history is possible some day next week. Until then... may your cats continue to elude the authorities.

In This Chat
Tracee Hamilton
Tracee Hamilton has worked at the Post since 1993, toiling in office obscurity as an editor before someone said, "Hey, you've got a lot of opinions and can write a little. Why don't you become a columnist?"

Her interests range from genealogy to Nordic combined to Kansas basketball. If ever there were a Jayhawk who once flew off a ski jump, she'd know where he was buried.

Her list of pet peeves is considerably longer, but includes Missouri basketball and poor subway etiquette. She welcomes dissenting opinions -- in the way Great Whites welcome open-water swimmers.

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