The Washington Post

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

May 17, 2010

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

Feelin' a Monday grab bag coming on. Nicklas Backstrom reportedly has signed an extension. The Celtics won again, this time in Game 1 against Orlando. The Habs begin play against their next victim opponent, Philadelphia.

And then there's this. Only four games separate the bottom from the top of the NL East -- and that bottom is not the Washington Nationals. And Drew Storen has been called up. Oh happy day. Let's talk about any old thing you want.

Will the Post provide ANY coverage of the Tour of California? First stage of this 8 stage/8 day race completed yesterday. World class field, good story lines, and in yesterday's first stage race, an exciting sprint finish! How 'bout it?

I thought I'd start here because my mailbag seems full of complaints today so let's just get 'em out of the way.

Is this a bike race? I'm assuming so given the word "stage". Well, the answer is, probably not a lot of coverage. That would be the type of event relegated to the Page 2 roundup. Sorry. There's one disappointed customer. Let's see who else is out there.

Hi Tracee -- Some have questioned the zeal (or lack thereof) of the Post's hockey coverage. I was a bit skeptical of this but not anymore -- yesterday the paper didn't deem the Stanley Cup playoffs worthy of being listing in the Sports section TV/radio listings -- you had Cubs vs Pittsburgh listed and Phillies vs Brewers listed -- both games of extremely limited local interest. The hockey games were ignored -- heck, even an NHRA event and a girls lacross game were listed (albeit a UVA team was playing) before the hockey. It's like they were trying to fnd stuff to fill the section so they wouldn't have to list the hockey. That just seems crazy given the surge in interest in this area for the sport -- were Wilbon or Wise in charge of doing that portion of the sports page yesterday?

Of all the features in the Sports section, none draws as much comment and frustration as the radio/tv listings. That is a tremendous screwup and I'll mention it to someone who's actually in charge when I get in to the office today.

Tracee: Last week, I brought up the Catch-22 that is women's sports -- does no one care because media doesn't cover it , or does media not cover it because no one cares? Here's a prime example of my position -- I'm submitting on Sunday, and on the front of the sports section (dead tree version) is the header with inside content. The Mystics season opener, which they won, is referenced to the last page.Oh, by the way, the title? Pro Football. Nice. I suppose that's one way to get people to read it.

Well, the Pro Football header is inexcusable. I will say that we used to put the Mystics on the front page routinely. They just never moved the needle. Sorry, but we have a lot of ways of judging this, and the numbers don't lie.

Your Ernie Harwell tribute column was top-quality work, and seemed (since I've never met you) to come from the heart, as does all good writing. This was the kind of writing that is becoming all too rare in the superficial blare of the short-attention-span Internet. I love baseball on the radio; I was spoiled growing up in the Boston area listening to Ned Martin (Red Sox), Johnny Most (Celtics), Bob Wilson (Bruins) and Gil Santos (Patriots). Do you know of any links to Ernie Harwell game calls or other audio? I'd sure love to hear that wonderful voice again....after all, I need to know if that gentleman from Lincoln Park is going to take home a souvenir... PS: It must be said, even by someone who grew up in the Boston area and saw several games in Fenway Park before it got all tarted up for the yuppies...Tiger Stadium was the best place to watch a ballgame that I've ever seen. Yes, better than that lyric little bandbox. There. I have said it.

Thank you very much. I've had more email on that column than any I've written, which was very gratifying. I think you'll find some Ernie clips here; I'm definitely going to order these CDs but I don't think they include his lovely start to spring training (the voice of the turtle) and that's too bad. I'll have to find that elsewhere.

The first year after I left Detroit, the guys in the office recorded Ernie's spring training opening lines and mailed me the tape. That was pretty great.

The old Tiger Stadium was a perfect ballpark. Not a bad seat in the house -- well, some obstructed view seats, but not many. I sat all over that ballpark in 10 years and never had a bad outing.

So, the Flyers looked like world-beaters last night. What is Montreal even doing in this series? Heh, heh, heh. Halak's got 'em right where he wants 'em.

Exactly what I was thinking. And the Flyers made the mistake of winning one of the first three games. This is shaping up to be the Habs, all the way. :)

When will Storen get his first start?

So either you mean Strasburg, or you don't realize Storen isn't a starter, so if you're asking about Strasburg, the answer is, we don't know yet. If you're asking about Storen, the answer is, I hope, never. However, we could see him pitch in relief as early as tonight.

Is it still your bet that Strasburg will come up to the bigs during the first home stand in June? To hedge my bet, I probably should buy tickets 19 - 23.

That's still the conventional wisdom, but they haven't said yet. If they don't draw some epic crowds on these days in question, it's their own fault.

I'm as excited as anybody that the Nationals called up Drew Storen. That being said, do you think they would use him in STL tonight or tomorrow if the situation presented itself? Or, do you think they prefer to wait until Wednesday when they return home to consider his debut. Go Nats!

I don't think they'll wait to use Drew; if the situation comes up, he'll go in.

So the line has been that the Nats couldn't bring Strasburg up before June because it would cost them $18 million in arbitration down the road -- what's the price on Storen's head? Don't get me wrong, I'm excited to see him called up, but I wonder what the predictions are for the cost to the Nats in a few years?

Sorry I don't know off the top of my head and it's a 30-minute chat so no time for research. However, remember that Storen signed well before Strasburg and I think that makes a difference. Seem to recall he signed June 8 or 10,  something like that. And of course for much less. He very wisely wanted no delay because he believed the sooner he went down, the sooner he'd be up. He's a smart kid with a plan.

So if Strasburg is Jesus, and Storen is almost as good and is getting here just before him, does that make Storen John the Baptist?

Pay the man, Shirley. Oh wait, that's Norman's thing. I believe in my heart and head that Storen will be very, very good. And the fans are going to eat him up with a spoon. Very good move for this team.

Ms. H: OK, Celtics fan, are the "Irish" now the favorites for the East (and maybe even money for the whole thing)?

I believe so, yes, if they remain in fairly good health. I mean for the Eastern title. Can they win the whole thing? I think they CAN. What a story that would be.

So, I saw the end of the Celtics-Magic game yesterday. And I remembered why I don't watch basketball. The last 2 minutes take an hour to play. Why are the teams given, what is it?, 100 time outs per game? Are basketball players simply incapable of playing the game without the coach telling them exactly what to do every 5 seconds? It is sooooo boring. Basketball is a game that shouldn't be boring.

I feel this way often during the regular season, but I admit to enjoying the playoffs. Then again, I have no choice -- for the next three weeks, my dad controls the remote. Lot of poker in my future, too.

The timeouts are excessive but a lot of that seems to be due to television. They know a lot of people don't tune in until the end of NBA games, so they need to sell sell sell while they can.

I'm admitting that I want to watch the press conference regarding Nicklas Backstrom's re-signing, but the filters on my work computer block NHL streaming and anything off the Caps site. Do you know of any radio stations who are going to air the audio from the press conference live and who provide live online streaming?

Try 106.7 FM. Not sure but they might have it. They were the Caps' broadcast partner for the playoffs.

I am not a horse racing fan except for the big three, and I know its not your specialty, but what happened to Supersaver Saturday? And, now I understand that neither the Derby or Preakness winners will be at Belmont. Why watch? BTW, I think you are awesome! Love your column/discussion and think it should be changed to It's Hamiltime! (PS The fact that own felonius felines puts me in awe of your awesomeness.)

Definitely not my specialty. I love watching horses run, but the sport is so gambling-centric that I have lost a lot of love. When I was a kid, I never missed these races but I also didn't understand the lines and the payouts and just ignored them. The horses just seem so secondary to the betting windows now.

Maybe we can have a play date for our felonious felines! Poor Phog; he's quite upset about being in the paper.

I read Andrew Beyer's piece last week and a good friend of mine is a horse racing fanatic of the highest order. It seems that the "trainers" are ruining the sport. I thought "thoroughbred" horses were built to run. But these guys coddle these poor horses and refuse to let them go out on the track and do what they are supposed to do. Are the horses just such poor stock anymore that they can't handle running? My friend thinks too many of the horses share too much of the same ancestory and have become weaker as a result, especially compared to the horses of old who ran all the time.

See above. I do think there is some merit in the argument about blood lines, and they tinker with these poor animals like they are car engines. Like I said, the sport has lost a lot of its appeal for me.

How important is it for the Nats not to dip below .500 at this point in the year in order to keep building momentum and confidence?

I think the Nats will yo-yo around the .500 mark much of the season. I think they are going to be streaky as well. I just don't think they are going to have really long streaks, of either variety. They are more stable, I guess. I don't think dipping below the line is a reason for panic, this season.

Do you get out to see any of the local sports teams? Are you a season ticket holder for any? What are your personal favorite sports to watch just as a fan and who are your teams?

I am not a season ticket holder for any teams. I probably like baseball and the NFL better than any other sports, but I'll admit hockey is moving up the list rapidly. I like the NBA and hope Washington will have a team one day (rimshot).

I like going to games but I also like to get away from games sometimes. Yesterday, for instance, I saw "The Liar" at the Shakespeare Theater and it was brilliant.

I am not a fan of any team in town, for obvious reasons. Just easier to keep my distance. In the NFL, I am a Chiefs fan. Baseball: Tigers and Royals. NBA: Pistons. NHL: Wings.

I don't follow soccer. I don't dislike it but I don't love it, either. I should give it more of a chance, I guess.

Any inside dope on when He will make His first start?

I love your use of capitals. No, no inside dope, no outside dope. I think the team is going to keep you all guessing for awhile yet.

Ok, Bryce Harper may or may not be the second coming of Babe Ruth, but before he gets here will someone please teach him how to properly apply eye black? Did you see the picture of him accompanying the Post's article? I'm not sure if our presumed #1 draft pick is a baseball player, or the lead singer for an Alice Cooper cover band.

That's one of the things some Crash Davis will get after him about when he gets to the minors, I'm guessing. Let's hope.

Watching three-year old horses races is the equivalent of watching high school baseball. There are stronger, faster horses out there in other races, so why watch the babies? What if no one paid attention to the actual World Series and only watched the Little League World Series?

I'm sure that's true, but this is what's available to viewers, this plus the Breeders Cup.

I feel the same way. . .horse racing here is just. . .seedy. My wife is from Ireland and horse racing there is far more approachable. More quanit, more of a community/cultural experience. There's still betting but it's just. . .different.

There just seems to be a disconnect between the fan and the animal itself. Love the animals. Not so much the bettors.


I have not seen anything about it. Am I the only one who gets excited for the three days where those crab cake eating, hairspray covered birdbrains and their fans make their way down to our polished city?

The first few years of this were pretty hyped but it doesn't seem like such a big deal now. It would help if both teams were better.

RF Smackdown - Kaline or Dwight Evans? You're On The Clock, TH.....

Well, I'm going Kaline. That's tough, though.

Any talk of putting Bryce on the big team from the get go? A hitter of his caliber should need lees time to adjust to MLB pitching than a pitcher to hitting, yes?

Whoo, I would think not. I am opposed to such moves with any player. I think the minors are there for a reason. I don't think it's hurt Strasburg to start there and I sure wouldn't rush Harper. Can't speak for Rizzo but I'd sure be surprised if that was even considered.

Nationals attendance is way off last year's middling totals, despite the vastly improved product on the field. With an above-.500 team, Gifford's Ice Cream is no longer the only good reason to come to the ballpark! Nats fans, where are you?

Good question. Very good question. School's still in, and that makes a difference. But still...

So the Nats don't care about Storen's clock...??

Like I said, the money's a little different. There also was a good reason for Strasburg to start in the minors beyond that, and that is that he isn't a fan of all the hoopla.

Storen's a different guy, a different personality.

Sorry, we should have done the whole chat on this question! Anyway, there's always tomorrow. Meanwhile, Wilbon's chatting at 1:30 if you'd care to join him. Let's talk again in the morning, aka Getaway Day for Hamiltime!

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