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Jul
15

Will Nationals Choose Youth or Experience With No. 5 Pick?

There hasn’t been a whole lot to get excited about for the Washington Nationals this season, as some young players like Josiah Gray and Luis Garcia have made strides at the major league level, but most veteran players on the roster – including Juan Soto – have struggled throughout most of the first half of 2022.

The team will continue to get younger at next month’s Trade Deadline, but their most impactful young player will likely be added via the MLB First-Year Player Draft Sunday night.

The Nationals own the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, and it’s the highest pick they’ve had since selecting Bryce Harper first overall in 2010. With their top pick, they’re almost certain to select a position player for the second consecutive year (Brady House in 2021). Last season was a departure from their typical approach, which had been to select a high-risk, high-reward pitcher. I discussed Washington’s recent draft history last year, and NexGen Nats offered a harsh but fair critique of the team’s failures in the first round since 2012.

This time around, they won’t really even have the option of taking a pitcher, because this year’s group is rather subpar.

The consensus top two prospects in this year’s crop are outfielder Druw Jones and shortstop Jackson Holliday – both of whom are sons of long-time, highly productive Major Leaguers (Andruw Jones and Matt Holliday). Beyond that, there’s less agreement within the draft community. However, there’s a group of four players from whom Washington’s selection seems most likely to come.

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Jul
14

Man, I Can't Wait Until Ricky Turns 40 :)

College football is quite unstable, and this uncertainty makes it difficult to have fun conversations about the sport knowing that it all might be tilted onto its head over the next 10 years.

So instead, I’d like to write a little about the past. After all, now that I’m the ripe age of 28, I can start providing some historical context that I actually lived through and didn’t just read about.

My journey to Virginia Tech football fandom began in earnest in the early-to-mid 2000s. I could start to understand the game at this age, and NCAA Football 2005 was the never-ending fix I never knew I wanted.

This was an exciting time for the Hokies. The National Championship Game berth wasn’t that long ago, the Hokies were moving into a larger conference with a better future and Tech was always competing for conference championships. BCS bowl games were a regularity. Something was amiss if Bud Foster’s defense wasn’t one of the best in the nation.

Two linchpins of Foster’s defenses in that era are two of my favorite players to ever watch — Xavier Adibi and Vince Hall. Adibi was inducted into Tech’s Sports Hall of Fame last year and this coming fall, we’ll watch his battery mate join him.

Adibi and Hall combined with James Anderson to create one of the best and most explosive linebacking corps in the country. Adibi and Hall, in particular, were especially intimidating up front. The pair started together for the first time in 2005, immediately helping the Hokies finish first in the nation in yards allowed and second in scoring defense. Tech finished first in scoring defense the following season and in 2007, the pair’s final season, Tech finished third in scoring and fourth in yards allowed.

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Jul
06

Will Latest Expansion Cause CFB Fans To Say "I've Had Enough"?

Euphemisms can be a funny thing.

Comedian George Carlin put together a whole bit on euphemistic language back in his prime, and while that segment isn’t appropriate to link to, you can find it on YouTube as he cuts through the spin and tells you what the words really mean. I mention this because if Carlin were alive today, he undoubtedly would include the latest euphemism being funneled into our brains - “market forces” - which is essentially a replacement for people wanting to make more money.

This is certainly true when it comes to college football and the seismic news that both Southern California and U-C Los Angeles are joining the Great Lakes Conference Big Ten in 2024.

The Big Ten’s annexation of the two largest brands in California is just the latest in the Big Ten and SEC’s war on college football as we know it. And if the war continues in the direction it is going, the entire sport will devolve into a fiscal free-for-all that assuredly will destroy the college football that we know and love.

Think about this — what was the original purpose of a conference anyway? It seems to me that it provided schools nearby like-minded opponents that could be used as a way to elevate each institution’s national profile. Virginia Tech benefits from playing Clemson, Wake Forest benefits from playing North Carolina and Northwestern benefits from playing Michigan.

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Jul
04

Work Can Wait: Here's To Wishing Everyone A Happy July 4th

It took 65 years, but I finally replicated the 4th of July cookout I grew up with.

The old man loved his holidays, and food was a big part of it. Christmas would see Southern Italian foods that you wouldn’t get a chance to taste at other times of the year; Thanksgiving was the same basic fare everyone else had, but he’d throw in his own twist with a fruit salad he’d had as a kid that I’ve never had anything similar to since.

Independence Day to him meant a cookout. Didn’t matter if it was 70 degrees or 170 degrees outside, we were grilling. If you didn’t fill every part of the grill with every kind of meat you could get, you weren’t trying. He had a platter that was about the size of a small boat that he would just stack up what he cooked throughout the afternoon, and when everything was done, he’d bring that surfboard of a plate inside, put it in the middle of the table, and we’d all eat.

My memory advises it was always hot, but growing up in Norfolk, there was always a cool breeze blowing, or as my Dad liked to say, in Norfolk if you don’t like the weather, wait an hour. It will change. These were the days before cable television and wall-to-wall sports on TV, so I’d occasionally have a transistor radio with a baseball game on.

The mood was relaxing, the pace was slow, and the smell of smoke and grilled burgers, hot dogs, sausages and chicken ended up being seared in your memory. That was the smell of the 4th of July.

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Jun
13

While Loss Was Disappointing, Season Meant Something For Hokies

If you've seen the movie "Moneyball", you may remember when Brad Pitt - who portrays Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane - masterfully delivers this blunt quote in the middle of the film:

“If you lose the last game of the season," Beane says, "nobody gives a s***.”

While this quote oversimplifies every team’s season but the one left standing at the end, the sad reality is that there is some truth to it. No matter how outstanding a team may play for a majority of the year, losing the last game of the season puts a damper on everyone's memories of the journey to get there.

Virginia Tech baseball is experiencing this sad truth right now. The Hokies’ 11-2 defeat to Oklahoma in Game 3 of their NCAA Super Regional series will probably leave a bit of a bad taste in the mouths of everyone associated with the program. Fans will undoubtedly be disappointed in how things ended, but nobody will be more upset than the players and coaches who lost the game.

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Jun
08

This Could Be A Special Weekend For VT's Hammerin' Hokies

In case you haven’t noticed, Virginia Tech baseball is on the cusp of doing something that's never been done and shattering the program's glass ceiling: doing something of national relevance.

The Hokies entered the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship tournament last weekend as the No. 4 team in the country and hosts of a regional in the first round. They scored a combined 39 runs in their first two games, and then defeated Columbia 7-2 to earn a trip to the Super Regionals – which they will also host at English Field, starting Friday at 3 PM.

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Jun
08

Mancini's Career Year Hasn't Affected His Uncertain Future

If this is really the end for Trey Mancini’s career in Baltimore, he sure is going out with a boom.

The 30-year-old slugger is having one of the best seasons of his career, slashing .303/.374/.448 and sporting a career-high 138 OPS+. Baseball Savant, which measures advanced metrics, tells a similar story, as Mancini sits in the 96th percentile in expected batting average and in the 92nd percentile in expected slugging.

Sadly, Mancini’s resurgence has been marred by the elephant in the room — the Orioles’ refusal to commit to Mancini long term.

The Orioles and Mancini agreed to a one-year deal this offseason with a mutual option of $10 million for next year. Even as Mancini puts together the best performance of his career, the chances of a rebuilding club committing to $10 million for a 31-year-old first baseman/designated hitter is quite low.

It isn’t like the Orioles couldn’t afford him. The club carries an $11 million club option on journeyman starter Jordan Lyles, who’s been relatively reliable this season. Outside of Lyles and John Means’ $2.9 million contract, no other money is currently on the books for the Orioles.

Not only has Mancini been the Orioles’ best hitter this season, but he isn’t blocking anyone in the minors. Mancini has spelled his comrades in the field just 23 times this season, compared to 30 games when Mancini has served as the designated hitter. Nobody in the minors has proven they’re ready for that role yet — the closest option has been Tyler Nevin, a Mark Trumbo-style fielder with an OPS+ of 74.

Despite all of this, Mancini sounds like he’s accepted that his time in Baltimore is limited.

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Jun
04

A Wild Week Of Promotions In Washington

Before last night's 8-5 win over Cincinnati, the Washington Nationals had lost four consecutive games. Earlier this week, they were also held scoreless for 26 innings in a row – almost three complete games.

It’s been tough to watch.

It’s unfortunately nothing new, but as it turns out, the slump from the batter’s box hasn’t been the most important story this week.

Star performers at all levels of the Nationals organization have been rewarded this week. Left-handed pitcher Evan Lee made his major league debut, infielder Luis Garcia returned to the big stage, and plenty of other notable minor league prospects moved up a level as a result of their excellent performance during the first two months of this season.

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Jun
03

Nobody Is Laughing At The Baltimore Orioles Anymore

The greater baseball world has spent the better part of the last three years clowning the Baltimore Orioles, mocking the club’s poor performance and low payrolls, while the franchise attempts to reinvent itself and collect younger talent.

To be clear, the on-field product in Baltimore has been awful since 2018. After a disappointing 2017 season, the Orioles flat-lined in 2018 with a 47-115 record. The club hasn’t won more than 54 games since and in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, the Orioles still only won 41 percent of their games.

Those outside Baltimore expected the same in 2022, but fans knew differently. We knew the curve was beginning to turn, and with the arrival of The Savior (Adley Rutschman) and some all-around growth, suddenly nobody is laughing at the Orioles anymore.

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May
29

Once Again, It’s Time For A Nationals Youth Movement

In the past few days, two contractual developments have converged for the Washington Nationals, and both point toward the Nationals getting younger, something fans have been pleading for on social media.

First, infielder Luis Garcia exceeded the required time in the minor leagues for the Nationals to gain a season of club control (if you don’t understand what that means or how they got it, I’ll explain it in a moment).

Then following Saturday’s doubleheader, the Nationals designated starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez for assignment. This was partially done due to his poor performance (an 8.33 ERA through seven starts), but the need for a sixth starter later this week prior to Sanchez’s spot in the rotation coming up again also made it tougher to justify holding onto him.

There’s some further roster maneuvering that needs to happen in the coming days – although DFAing Sanchez was an important step. Allow me to explain the options the Nationals have to fill these two spots...

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May
20

Could Larry Lucchino and Theo Epstein Be Coming to DC?

Despite how bad the Nationals are, there’s certainly a plethora of storylines surrounding the team these days.

Juan Soto is scuffling, with rumors – realistic or not – surfacing that he could soon be traded. Nelson Cruz is still in a funk, the team’s defense stinks, Luis Garcia could be promoted next week, Carter Kieboom is officially sidelined for the rest of the season, and Washington is facing Trea Turner and the Dodgers next week.

Yet none of those stories are what I’m currently most intrigued by.

As Barry Svrluga reported a month ago, the Lerner family is weighing the option of selling the Washington Nationals. While no sale is imminent, some frontrunners have emerged. including Ted Leonsis, the owner of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, and thereby the Wizards, Capitals and most other professional sports teams in the nation’s capital.

Although I’m intrigued by Leonsis as an option, especially since the MLB feels more like the NHL than the NBA in terms of roster construction and access to superstar players, he’s not who I’m most in favor of as a buyer.

Instead, I’d like to see Larry Lucchino - who Mike Rosenbaum of NJ.com has reported is interested - take the reins.

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Ricky LaBlue

Ricky LaBlue

A longtime sports fanatic, Ricky is now channeling that passion into the world of sports media. Meet Ricky LaBlue.

Stephen Newman

Stephen Newman

The only things he loves more than following Virginia Tech and Washington sports teams are dogs. Meet Stephen Newman.

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