Thursday, April 29, 2010

Caps Fans: We Must Move On

A kick in the gut.  Devastating.  A loss for words.  Or as Capitals forward Jason Chimera said, "If someone came to your work and stepped on your desk or punched you in the head, that's how it feels."

This post is not about blame, bad calls, a dreadful power play or a brick wall-like goaltender.  Nor is it about what the Caps do off season to make any necessary changes.  I leave that up to the pundits, sports radio and sportswriters to debate in the coming weeks and months.

Over the last 12 hours or so, I've been thinking about how best the community of Caps Nation can move on from such a devastating defeat after a season where we had the best record in the league.  For inspiration, I sought out the insights of a former colleague, Andrew Cuneo, a Red Sox fan who until 2004 experienced gut-wrenching defeats almost year after year. He had this to say:

"It hurts.  Sure it hurts.  I still to this day say seeing Aaron Boone's homer in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS is the closest I've ever come to crying over a sporting event.  But I can say this. The greatest part about losing like this is knowing that once it does happen (and it will) winning will be that much sweeter.  The feeling in 2004 was so unreal I honestly STILL haven't come down from it.  '07 was nice, but that 2004 club will go down as the greatest sports moment of my life.  Losing hurts...and you feel [just awful].  But then you start to realize the day will come when we can all celebrate.  It has to."

Thank you Andy.  Your words are dead on. 

I am an Orioles fan too.  Just shy of my 10th birthday in 1979, I experienced my first "kick in the gut" sports moment. That year I attended my first post-season game in Game 2 of the ALCS when Jim Palmer pitched against Nolan Ryan -- one of my fondest childhood memories.  We went on to win that series to play the Pirates.  Like the Caps, the O's went up 3-1.  Then suddenly hall of a famer Willie Stargell led the charge and they came back to take the series.  To this day, the song "We are Family" makes me cringe.  Then in 1982, we were -- if memory serves -- three games behind the Brewers going into the last series of the season.  As fate would have it, we played the Brewers in a four game series at home.  We won a double header and then won the third game -- only to lose the AL East on the very last day of the season.  But then I experienced such joy in 1983 when the O's took the World Series.  The image of Cal Ripken catching that last out will always be in my memory.

I also am a Terps fan.  They were up 20 points on Duke in the 2001 Final Four only to lose.  But then they came back the next year to win the whole thing.  That win was sure sweet.

So Caps Nation, we too can learn to move on as the days turn to weeks and months.  Again, the team may change before October, but we can hope and have faith that we too one day will see Ovie and the boys lift that Stanley Cup.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Watching the 2010 O's Reminds me of Swingers

There's a scene in the film Swingers where the character Mike, played by Jon Favreau, decides to call the girl he just met at a bar that night.  It begins innocently enough, but then he's not sure if the answering machine cut him off or not before leaving all of his digits. So he calls back again, and again, and again. And just when you think it's over, he calls again.  And finally a last time when the girl picks up and says, "Mike, don't ever call me again!"  While hysterical, the scene is so painful to watch.  So are the 2010 Orioles.

Just when you believe they cannot possibly think of another way to lose, they surprise you.  Let's see... yesterday...17 hits, a lead and then two three-run homers by Boston in the seventh.  Friday, I believe the bullpen walked in the winning run.  Opening Day in Tampa, their closer can't hold a lead with one out in the ninth.  That's just three; there's probably at least a half dozen more losses like this in the O's dreadful 2-16 2010 season, the worst start since 1988 when they went 0-21.

I'm not sure what the problem is.  Sure, their bullpen is the primary culprit.  But there is a lot of talent on this team; and from what I understand some real solid young players in the farm system.  So what gives?

Prior to the start of this season, pundits in newspaper columns and radio shows said the O's were good, but would be better in another division.  That's a load of &^%%$$.  You play up to your competition.  Just look at all the teams that play Duke in college basketball. Every team plays their best against them.  So it should be true for the O's against the Red Sox and Yankees.  One only needs to look at Tampa, a team that almost won the World Series two years ago. 

I heard another pundit say that O's Skipper Dave Trembley needed to have at least a .500 season to keep his job.  .500!  Are you kidding me?!  What kind of goal is that?!  That kind of mentality has kept the O's in mediocrity and loserville since 1998.  I truly believe that their woes are primarily due to a lack of leadership from players, coaches and ownership.  Their mission and culture needs to be about winning as a team and nothing else.  If that means letting Trembley go to send a message or find a replacement who can light a fire in players' bellies, then so be it. They need someone like a Davey Johnson.  Oh wait...Peter Angeles fired him after the 1997 season when the O's were AL East wire-to-wire champs.

And apparently Angelos allegedly shunned Cal Ripken's offer to help the younger players.  A report that I believe is true because Angelos rarely talks to the press.  However, he made sure to come out and immediately deny the reports.  By the way, are we still paying Albert Belle's contract?