Local Teams Show Signs of Life

With the drafting of superstar point guard John Wall in the 2010 NBA Draft, many locals are beginning to stop and take notice of the upstart Wizards. Photo by Streeter Lecka

With the drafting of superstar point guard John Wall in the 2010 NBA Draft, many locals are beginning to stop and take notice of the upstart Wizards. Photo by Streeter Lecka

by Michael Natelli ‘14

Anyone who has been a D.C./Baltimore sports fan for the past decade knows that there has been little to cheer about, other than perhaps the 2000 Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens. The Orioles haven’t had a winning season in 13 years, the Nationals have had only one non-losing season (81-81 in inaugural season, 2005), and the Wizards, well, don’t even get me started. The Capitals have been the No. 1 overall seed each of the past two seasons, but have managed to get out-goalied by Montreal and swept by Tampa Bay in the playoffs the past two years. But despite all of this bad mojo, there is hope, my fellow sports fans, there is hope.

Let’s start with baseball. This offseason, the Nationals made a big splash, adding star outfielder Jayson Werth and consistent journeyman first baseman Adam LaRoche. Werth will add some fame and production to the unproductive, unknown Nationals outfield. LaRoche will replace Adam Dunn, which is a plus because there was no clear replacement for him otherwise. Jumping ahead to 2012, superstar pitcher Steven Strasburg will return from Tommy John Surgery, and Bryce Harper might also get a chance to hit in the Bigs.

The Orioles are also starting to learn what it takes to win, courtesy of the man himself, Buck Showalter. Showalter took a struggling 2010 Orioles club, which was 34-48 heading into the All-Star Break, and led them to the second best Post-Break record in the American League. Buck has managed to keep this year’s Orioles hovering around the .500 mark, which is an impressive feat when you have a team full of players who are either just getting started or filling out their retirement papers. The Orioles will be looking to add chips either mid-season or during the offseason, not to mention that their excess of young talent will only improve. So, look for the Orioles to be on the right side of .500 next year.

Now on to football. The Redskins struggled last year, as newly acquired quarterback Donovan McNabb was not quite the savior the Redskins so desperately needed. This proved the often-mentioned theory that Donovan McNabb only put up great numbers because of the many elite talents that surrounded him. Rex Grossman did show some promise in the few appearances he made, and he will probably be the starting quarterback come next season (whenever that is…). Upstart unknown quarterback John Beck will also have a strong chance to lead the team next year if he puts in the effort and can beat out Grossman for the job. Regardless of who is under center, they will have many new talents surrounding them. The ‘Skins drafted three wide receivers, led by Leonard Hankerson out of the University of Miami. They also drafted two running backs: Roy Helu and Evan Royster. The ‘Skins also continued building up their defense this offseason, using their first round pick on defensive end Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue), and their second round pick on defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins (Clemson). They also signed OJ Atogwe to team up with DeAngelo Hall, Carlos Rogers and LaRon Landry to create a solid defensive backfield.

The Wizards have scared away fans for the past several seasons, filling Verizon Center with troubled former All-Stars (see: Gilbert Arenas) and players who were supposed to be great, but never were (see: Kwame Brown, Oleksiy Pecherov). But, don’t give up on them just yet. The Wizards will be flashing a new look next year, with improved youngsters and also literally with flashing new retro jerseys. Owner Ted Leonsis clearly knows what he’s doing changing back to the red, white and blue Jerseys, as that already worked for his hockey team, the Washington Capitals, back in the 2007-2008 season. The Wizards hit the jackpot last offseason, winning the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft Lottery to pick on Kentucky superstar John Wall. The Wizards also got a nice surprise, when unknown rookie Jordan Crawford began playing like an All-Star. The Crawford/Wall combo will be fun to watch next year, as they work with Rashard Lewis, and whatever young studs they select with the No. 6 and No. 18 picks in this year’s draft.