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Sep
03

After Watching The Good, Bad and Ugly, Let's See How Pry Adjusts

I have to admit, I’ve been conflicted all day thinking about last night’s Virginia Tech game.

I mean, I love what I’ve seen of Brent Pry so far. He seems like the right guy for the job and he has consistently hit the right notes in interviews and conversations with the players, fan base and administration.

But there was one concern I had when he was hired, and that was that he had been a career assistant. In talking with several people I know and trust over the years that have been in that situation, they freely admit that becoming the head guy quickly teaches you about all the things you didn’t know you didn’t know, and it can overwhelm you at first.

I became a company president years ago after decades as a sales and marketing executive, and I thought I was ready. But it soon became apparent that while in previous jobs I was only responsible for sales and product, I was now responsible for EVERYTHING. And you soon learned that no matter what you knew about one area of the business, the success of the overall entirely depends on your ability to hold people accountable for the smaller parts.

That was kind of my impression of the Hokies and Pry last night. The defense – Pry’s specialty – was impressive at times. There was a renewed vigor when it came to attacking gaps and – as Frank Beamer used to say – getting after people. The spirit of Virginia Tech defenses past seemed to be out on the field in Norfolk.

But there were also problems with some of the other parts of the team, with penalties heading up the list. Virginia Tech committed 15 penalties for 106 yards, which means the Hokies committed more penalties than Old Dominion completed passes. A large number of penalties has always been thought of among coaches as a sign of sloppiness, lack of mental preparation, you choose the description, but it isn’t good. There will always be more than an average number of penalties in an opener, but not 15.

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Aug
28

Nationals Mailbag No. 2: MASN and Some Other Minutiae...

Since we’ve hit another point where there isn’t much “news” as I would define it for the Nationals, we’ve opened up the mailbag again.

While ownership-related questions have continued to pop up, we’re pleased to see that there is still interest in Washington’s on-field product. It’s a reminder that even in a season when the team has little hope for anything other than the No. 1 overall draft pick, there are plenty of story lines and reasons to keep tuning in.

Let’s dive into it!

Give us a primer on the MASN deal and the likely paths forward (or lack thereof) – Justin R. (@young_jred on Twitter): We’ll start with this question, since it’s the one that’s been the most on my mind. In fact, I’ve circled around it in some of my recent writing.

Keep in mind that Peter Angelos and the Orioles own the MASN television contract. A new owner would likely ramp up MASN negotiations, but a new owner does not automatically make the contract void.

Enter Ted Leonsis into this discussion.

As we’ve discussed, he and Monumental Sports & Entertainment are acquiring NBC Sports Washington. That’s the network that currently broadcasts (among other programming) Wizards and Capitals games, both of which are franchises that Leonsis owns.

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Aug
25

Three Big Things All Nationals Fans Should Be Following...

Despite how monotonous the 2022 season has felt, Wednesday was a very interesting day for the Washington Nationals.

They announced that their top pitching prospect will be making his major debut later this week, announced that one of their best starters would be skipped in the rotation, and had big news in the hunt for a new owner of the franchise.

Cavalli is Coming

After spending a few more months in Triple-A Rochester than he probably needed to, No. 58 overall prospect Cade Cavalli has earned a promotion to the big leagues. His first start for the Nationals will come at home on Friday night against the Cincinnati Reds.

Ever since he was drafted in the first round in 2020, the spotlight has been on the right-handed flamethrower. Aside from the brief period when Josiah Gray first joined the team from the Dodgers, Cavalli has been Washington’s highest-touted pitching prospect, and for good reason.

Cavalli boasts three pitches in his arsenal that scouts consider significantly above average, topped off by a fastball that sits in the high-90s and touches triple digits.

Cavalli sped through the low ranks of the minor leagues, but struggled initially at the Triple-A level – as expressed in his 7.30 ERA for Rochester in six starts last season.

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Aug
17

Five Finalists For New Ownership Of Nationals Have Emerged

With every decision or organizational failure that the Nationals have committed this season, we’ve stated that fans should wait for one thing before jumping to conclusions: a new ownership group.

Michael B. Kim

Although there still isn’t a clear frontrunner, many of the names we’ve heard have emerged as true contenders to purchase the franchise.

Owen Poindexter of Front Office Sports has reported that among at least five parties expected to place a bid by the end of this season are Ted Leonsis, Larry Lucchino, Josh Harris, Michael B. Kim and Stanley Middleman.

One of the key findings in the report was that the Nationals are estimated to be valued at $2 billion, just shy of the $2.4 billion that Steve Cohen purchased the Mets for nearly two years ago. Additionally, the Angelos family is exploring selling the Orioles.

Now back to the candidates! As the owner of the Capitals, Wizards, and Mystics among other local sports teams, Leonsis is someone who most of this fanbase is very familiar with. We also discussed Lucchino – and his potential link to Theo Epstein – nearly three months ago. At their heights, Lucchino and Epstein were co-running operations for the Boston Red Sox during the 2000s. Currently, Lucchino is the chairman of the Triple-A Worcester Red Sox, while Epstein is a consultant for Major League Baseball, but both are openly interested in jumping back into leading a big league franchise.

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Aug
17

Robert Hassell III Headlines Updated Nationals Prospect Rankings

Whether you view acquiring minor league talent as the ideal way of building your major league roster or as a method of stockpiling assets towards making trades for established major leaguers, the last couple days should’ve grabbed your attention.

Tuesday, MLB Pipeline and ESPN both updated their MLB prospect rankings. We’ve talked about how the additions of outfielder Elijah Green and the players received in exchange for Juan Soto have elevated the Nationals farm system into the top 10 – and perhaps the top 5 – in the sport. But we now also have a better sense for how individual players stack up against each other and might be prioritized as time goes on.

How We Got Here

Entering this season, two players (starting pitcher Cade Cavalli and shortstop Brady House) were viewed as consensus top 100 prospects in the league – the general baseline for what constitutes a likely productive, everyday major league starter. Beyond them and perhaps pitcher Cole Henry, the organization boasted few potential, ideal big league contributors.

Selecting Elijah Green with the No. 5 overall pick in the First-Year Players Draft – and rightfully so, in our opinion – provided an easy boost to the system, but that took place fivefold in the Soto trade. In exchange for the generational hitter, the Nationals added five outstanding prospects (although two of them have graduated from official prospect status) that could absolutely become core pieces of their next contending roster – which I opined, in a recent podcast episode, will likely come in 2025, although there’s a chance that they’ll become a .500 team as soon as 2024.

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Aug
14

Nationals Continue Search for Serviceable Starting Pitching

It’s no mystery that the Nationals, who have struggled in many areas throughout 2022, have lacked the quality starting rotation that often carried them from 2012-19.

Lately, however, the situation has snowballed with no obvious solution in sight.

Washington has collectively tossed one quality start (six innings with three or fewer earned runs allowed) since the All-Star break. Patrick Corbin has allowed six runs without getting out of the first inning in two of his last three starts, and the rest of the rotation has also tossed bad outings than good ones since the break.

We all knew that the beginning of the post-Juan Soto era would probably be ugly, but that had more to do with losing two very solid – if not elite – hitters than pitching woes.

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Aug
10

So Now The ACC's Bold Plan Is To Hire Consultants?

I will admit, I have not been impressed with new ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips since hearing his comments at ACC Media Days last month.

Work in Corporate America long enough and you’ll see certain types of people in charge. Some are leaders, ready to charge the next hill and find a way to get their company to the top. Some are dreamers, not necessarily being all that interested in all the numbers on the profit and loss statement, but always asking “why can’t WE do that?” and pushing the envelope at every turn.

Then there are some that just want to be the person in charge. Many get there because of longevity, as someone left and it was “their turn.” They generally make sure the lights are on and the doors are open, and they serve as an ambassador for their business at meetings with customers and the community, but they don’t really add a lot. If there’s a problem, they talk in terms of studying the problem, maybe even appointing a committee to figure it out.

That’s the vibe Phillips gave off when asked what the ACC would do in the face of the Big Ten poaching UCLA and USC from the PAC-12. He spoke in analytical verbiage, all but said everything was fine, and that the ACC would not be left behind.

About the only thing Phillips didn’t do that day was say the ACC would hire consultants to make sure everything turned out fine.

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Aug
08

Pry's First Season Will Show Us A Lot About The Hokies' Future...

First-year coaches generally get a pass in college football, but I’m taking a different approach this year with Virginia Tech’s new Head Hokie Brent Pry.

The future of the Virginia Tech football program will become a lot clearer this year. Pry has his work cut out for him — the Hokies weren’t very good last year and many of the returners from that roster have been inconsistent throughout their careers.

Theoretically, this will be the worst roster Pry ever coaches while in Blacksburg, but it is also the perfect time for us to get a framework of the kind of coach Brent Pry can be. Rather than coast on the traditional hall pass that is Year One, we should be able to see Pry flexing his coaching acumen.

The strength of the decisions he makes, as well as wins and losses, will matter quite a bit this year.

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3
Aug
05

It's Going To Be Tough Watching Mancini In An Astros Jersey...

I had been looking forward to Monday night for weeks. It was Aug. 1, which meant one of my favorite bands, a Scottish group called CHVRCHES, was coming to The NorVa on their most recent American tour.

I left my apartment and started towards my friend’s place, as we were carpooling. And it was at that moment that I checked a notification on my phone that immediately dampened my mood.

Trey Mancini had been traded to the Houston Astros.

I spent the remainder of the drive trying to exorcise my feelings of disappointment and frustration, hoping to get rid of them all before arriving at the 7:30 p.m. concert. The performance was spectacular and I had an amazing time, but the following day forced me to fully confront my displeasure with the Mancini trade head-on.

Sure, the Orioles received a couple of pitching prospects, and those prospects have names and abilities that may one day help Baltimore win their first World Series since 1983. But it’s hard to comprehend that at the moment.

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Aug
03

Rest In Peace, Vin Scully: The Greatest Of All Time

Many times over the last few years, an old friend – the late Wendy Rieger – and I would commiserate over getting old. One of her favorite lines about our advancing in age was saying “it seems like the only thing I’m getting better at is learning how to deal with a sense of loss.”

I could hear her saying those words in my head this morning when I turned on my computer and saw that at the age of 94, Vin Scully had passed away.

To say Scully was the greatest baseball announcer that ever lived is both true, but an incomplete answer. He was much more than a baseball man, or a broadcaster, for that matter. In an age where the strength of an announcer’s voice has been at times more important than his substance, Scully was the full package of a smooth voice combined with a substance that far exceeded the bounds of chalk lines and green grass.

If you grew up in the 50s and 60s like I did, radio announcers held a special standing in your sports world. Every game ever played wasn’t on television so you were dependent on the sounds of a person you’d never meet coming through a tiny transistor radio to paint the pictures of what was going on with your favorite team in a town hundreds of miles away. You grew dependent on that person every night, to the point he eventually became part of the family.

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Aug
03

Preller Proves To Be Rizzo’s Padre At Trade Deadline

If you asked me entering this season who the Nationals were likely to trade at this year’s deadline, I would’ve spewed off a somewhat extensive list of names. Some of them materialized, while many of them did not.

I would’ve never included Juan Soto, though.

Yet here we are, with Soto and Josh Bell both heading out west to San Diego, adding to a lineup that already includes Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr.

The struggles of the team, combined with Scott Boras once again puffing out his chest in contract negotiations, arguably severed the long-term relationship between Soto and the Nationals. After their camp rejected a 15-year, $440 million new contract, it became clear that reaching free agency was inevitable and a priority for Soto and Boras – and we’ve all seen how risky that game is.

Given these financial demands and poor overall outlook for the franchise, it wasn’t too difficult to understand that the Nationals should start fielding offers on Soto – mostly to just do their due diligence.

But to pull the trigger still sounded far-fetched.

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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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