Category Archives: Guest Posts

Taking Stock of the Nats Coming Out of the Break

Following our first-half Winners & Losers, here’s Bryan Frantz with a look at this Nats’ season so far, and what lies ahead.

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Nats fans should be encouraged by the team’s showing, and Matt Williams has got to be pleased with the team’s 51-42 record. When you consider all of the factors — offensive stagnancy for stretches, so many impact players missing time with injury, Bryce Harper struggling with both of the aforementioned, Ian Desmond spending time atop the leaderboard for fielding errors, Ryan Zimmerman being unable to play the position he’s held for years, a consistent inability to beat the Braves (3-7 so far) — it’s easy to see how the Nationals could be sitting at 42-51 (or worse).

But thanks to a bounce-back year from Adam LaRoche, a breakout season from Anthony Rendon (who’s apparently not a baseball fan), Desmond regaining his fielding acumen and some flat-out dominant pitching, the Nats hold a slim lead for first in the NL East, third in the NL and seventh in MLB.

Let me throw some numbers at you to show how good this team’s pitching has been compared to the rest of MLB:

*lowest ERA
*fewest walks allowed
*second in HRs allowed
*best strikeout/walk ratio

The Nats don’t have any impressive stats to show off when it comes to team batting or fielding, though, unless they’re bragging about how good their record is despite those things.

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Gortat’s New Deal Is The Same Old Grunfeld

Here’s guest writer Bryan Frantz, back with another crack for Mr. Irrelevant.

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So, the Wiz re-signed Marcin Gortat, as you may have heard.

That’s fine, he was a huge part of the team last season, and he brings a toughness and interior presence that nobody else on the roster can offer. His 13.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game were vital to the Wizards’ regular-season run, as was his particularly stellar play in April and May, and there was little else available in free agency if they didn’t bring him back.

However, did you see those numbers? Five years and $60 million? For a 30-year-old big man? The wrath of Ernie Grunfeld strikes again.

A deal for $12 million annually is a bit much, but it wouldn’t be an issue if Washington was off the hook in 2017 or maybe 2018. Instead, the Gortat is on the books until 2019, when he’ll be 35.

This is a win-now move, but is Gortat really the player that they need to contend for a title? Does Grunfeld believe that this team, as currently assembled, is one role player away from a championship? Because it’s not.

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Nats Save The Day From Going Full D.C. Sports

Please welcome back guest contributor Bryan Frantz to Mr. Irrelevant.

This was not a good day for D.C. sports. The Wizards lost to the Bobcats and put a serious damper on their chances of playing anybody but the Pacers or Heat in the playoffs, and the Capitals were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. It was almost a truly, one-for-the-ages miserable day when the Nationals got very close to losing a heartbreaker to the Marlins, but the local baseball team managed to put together something close to a miracle and salvage hope for the city’s sports teams.

The Nats game was eerily similar to the Wiz game. Both teams were playing at home. Both opponents have recently been somewhat of a laughingstock. Both games saw the home team face a large deficit early — Wiz were down 20 in the first half, Nats were down five after two innings. Both teams mounted an improbable comeback to take the lead. Both teams then watched that lead disappear.

After that, the two took opposite paths. The basketball game went to overtime, where the Wizards put up, somewhat incredibly, one point. Home team loses 94-88. The Caps were on the brink of being eliminated from the playoffs, a reality that was solidified a few minutes later when the Red Wings and Blue Jackets both earned points in their games.

Meanwhile, in the baseball game, Bryce Harper pulled himself out of his season-opening slump with a three-run monster of a home run that capped off a 10-pitch AB. Shortly thereafter, the Nats picked up a few more runs that put them in the lead, 6-5. But, because this is D.C., the home team had to make the game as difficult on itself as possible. Newly designated RP Ross Detwiler came on in the seventh to give up a leadoff solo shot to bring the game back to a tie, then Tyler Clippard gave up two walks and a double in the eighth to put the Nats behind again.

After the Wiz had just watched their impressive rally end in disappointment, the Nats seemed destined for a similar fate. But they’re the Nats. They certainly have had their share of “D.C. moments,” but they’ve had some success over recent years. (You could argue the Caps had more, but I would counter that the Nats have compiled more talent and have more promise, while the Caps just have Alex Ovechkin.)

And so Jayson Werth, as he’s done before, came up huge for the Nats. Down 7-6 in the bottom of the eighth, they had the bases loaded with one out and Werth at the plate. You know what’s coming. He crushed a fastball into the left field dugout of Nats Park to put the Nats ahead for good.

Werth, Harper, Anthony Rendon and the rest of the Natss managed to salvage what was almost a heartbreaking day for D.C. sports with a thrilling victory, against a division rival, no less. Once again, they’re providing Washington sports fans hope and entertainment for the months leading up to football season. Now, about football season …

Three Reasons The Nats Will Be Better In 2014

Please welcome back guest contributor Bryan Frantz to Mr. Irrelevant. Here he is on your 2014 Washington Nationals.

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It says a lot about the Nats’ expectations that an 86-win 2013 season was considered a bitter disappointment. Going into this season, the song remains the same: They’re projected to go to the playoffs, Bryce Harper is an MVP candidate and the starting rotation is spoiled with Cy Young candidates.

The optimism is slightly different in 2014, though: bottom-of-the-roster holes have been filled, a new manager takes over the talented team and the glaring injury problems seem to be resolved (knock on wood).

Without further ado, here are three reasons the Nats are poised to win at least 90 games this season. Tomorrow, we’ll list why they won’t.

1. New Additions

One of the biggest problems last season was bench support. GM Mike Rizzo addressed that by adding outfielder Nate McLouth and catcher Jose Lobaton, both of whom provide depth at positions where the team had significant injury problems. McLouth will back up Harper and Jayson Werth, who missed a combined 77 games. Lobaton, a switch-hitter acquired from the Rays, will back up Wilson Ramos, who has only played in 80 or more games once in four seasons.

The most significant addition comes in the form of Doug Fister. Fister, acquired in an early winter deal with the Tigers, takes over the No. 4 spot, left vacant by the departure of the wildly inconsistent Dan Haren.

Fister brings playoff experience and reliability, as well as consistency. Last season, he finished with a 3.67 ERA and, in 32 starts, lasted at least six innings 27 times. Conversely, Haren finished last season with a 4.67 ERA and pitched six or more innings just 18 times.

Fister would be a No. 2 on most teams and has the potential to make the Nationals’ rotation the best in the MLB. He does start the season on the DL, though.

2. Pitching Changes

Rizzo and new manager Matt Williams have made a few other changes to the pitching staff, moving Ross Detwiler to the bullpen and adding lefty reliever Jerry Blevins. The Detwiler move leaves the No. 5 spot available, and righties Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan are the frontrunners. The Blevins move gives the bullpen its only left-hander other than Detwiler.

Roark, 27, made his major league debut last year and put up a 7-1 record with a 1.51 ERA. Jordan, 25, also made his debut last season, going 1-3 with a 3.66 ERA. Both have looked solid this spring and could provide an upgrade to the back of the rotation, which was unreliable last season.

Blevins has been solid for Oakland the past two seasons, and he’s been sharp this spring. He should help upgrade a bullpen that was inconsistent last season after a strong 2012.

3. Improving Young Core

Strasburg, 25, and Harper, 21, are the present and the future of the Nats. Despite notable improvement last year, they still suffered hiccups.

Strasburg’s win-loss record was unimpressive, though that can be attributed to a lack of run support. Harper was on an absolute tear until he literally hit a wall, then his season fell back to normal human level.

Spring has brought Nats fans a Strasburg slider and bulkier Harper, showing the work they put in during their longer-than-expected offseasons. All indications are they’ll be better than ever in 2014.

John Wall Is Shooting The Wizards To The Playoffs

Please welcome guest contributor Bryan Frantz to Mr. Irrelevant. Here he is on John Wall and your Washington Wizards.

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The Wizards are having their best season in years. They stand at 33-31, sixth place in the East and 3.5 games away from third. The five seasons before this Washington went 19-63, 26-56, 23-59, 20-46 (lockout-shortened season) and 29-53.

The collective misery of the Eastern conference, arrival of Marcin Gortat, improved health of Bradley Beal and improved play of Trevor Ariza are obvious contributors to the success. One topic that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, though, is John Wall’s jumper.

His shooting has never been something to brag about; his career shooting percentage sits at a modest 42.5 percent, and his three-point percentage hovers around 29.5 percent. Wall is making 33.9 percent of threes this season, though, and he’s shooting 3.7 per game (two more than his previous career high). Take a look at the shot charts:

John Wall’s 2012-13 Shot Chart

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John Wall’s 2013-14 Shot Chart

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His three-point shooting has become a legitimate weapon, to the point that defenses have to respect his jumper. This spreads the floor and opens up Ariza and Beal in ways that simply didn’t exist last season, which leads to more quality shots all around. The Wizards, as a team, are shooting 38.6 percent from three this season, up from 36.5 percent last season.

But it’s not just open threes the Wizards are getting. Washington is shooting 45.6 percent overall from the floor, tied for 11th in the league. That’s a huge increase from 43.5 percent of last season, when they were tied for 27th.

Shockingly enough, making more shots leads to more points. Washington is scoring a respectable 100.5 points per game this season, which is astounding considering they tied for last a year ago with 93.2 points per contest.

Again, this is not entirely attributed to Wall improving his shot. But a point guard needs to have an outside shot to become elite. Derrick Rose, injuries aside, makes for a great case study. In his rookie season, Rose averaged 0.9 three-point attempts per game and made just 22.2 percent. He improved mildly in his second season, and by his third season he had turned his three-point shot into a weapon. That year Rose shot 4.8 threes per game, knocking them down at a rate of 33.2 percent.

So while Wall has always been able to get his points — he’s never dropped below 16 per game — he now gets them from all over the floor. Defenses have a new element to defend, and his teammates benefit from it. The Wizards win.

Hire Danny Smith (GUEST POST)

Michael McElroy (@mikeyvanilli) won our Predictions contest yet again, so he gets another guest post. We don’t endorse this whatsoever!

This post may be the most un-Mr.Irrelevant post ever submitted. Actually, scratch that, some dude was just writing about how much he loved the Cowboys, so I think I’m safe.

Either way, the Skins should hire Danny Smith, and this is why: The Skins have tried just about every type of head coaching hire in the Dan Snyder era. Let’s recap:

1. The “Interim Coach”

Poor Terry Robiskie wasn’t HC long enough for me to write a full sentence abo

2. The “Old School Coach”

Marty Schottenheimer was a mean man who made his players run extra laps at the end of practice and scary stuff like that. He was like Tom Coughlin before Tom Coughlin became the fun-grandpa that he is today. But Marty picked on the greatest Redskin of the past 20 years and for that most of us will hate him forever.

3. The “College Legend”

Steve Spurrier brought us the Fun & Gun, which seemed like it was gonna be really awesome, until we realized that Spurrier’s “gun” was kind of like wielding a dollar-store water pistol when all of your friends have super-soakers.

4. The “Return to Glory”

Two moments will always stick with me as a young D.C. sports fan. I will always remember where I was when I found out that Michael Jordan was hired to help run the Wizards, and when I heard that Gibbs would be returning to coach the Redskins. And they both worked out … kind of … if you consider playoff-type situations to be working out. Either way, we can’t go this route again because none of our other great coaches are alive anymore.

5. The “Guru Coordinator”

Ok, so “coordinator” may be a bit of a misnomer here, but I think Jim Zorn was technically the team’s OC for a few weeks. Unfortunately, all of the slip ‘n’ slides in the world couldn’t keep Jason Campbell from looking like an octopus falling out of a tree when he slid, and no bingo-callers could help Zorny choose the right plays on Sunday, so, nice guy that he was, he was a failure.

6. The “Veteran Head Coach”

In Denver, Mike Shanahan was a solid coach who won Super Bowls and collected 1,000-yard running backs like Pogs. With us, well, he found a pretty great Slammer in Alfred Morris, but not quite as many Super Bowl wins. Oh, and he broke RGIII. Go fishing with your son, motherf***er!

So that brings us to lucky No. 7. In my opinion, we’ve tried nearly type of head coach, every type except …

The Special Teams Expert!

Danny Smith:

A) Seems like a nice guy. (Shanny seemed like a D-bag.)

B) Is good at clock management. (Reports always said that he was in charge of clock management for Zorn and Shanny.)

C) Actually wants to be here, which is crazy, because why would anyone want to coach this franchise?

So that’s why I, a random Skins fan whose opinion is probably in no way reflected by the editors of Mr. Irrelevant, am endorsing Danny Smith for Head Coach ’14.

Oh wait, it has just come to my attention that Danny Smith drew up this play. I take it all back.

A Dallas Cowboys Fan Introduces The Concept Of Romotanking

Here with a different point of view is Mr. Irrelevant Caps and Terps correspondent Brad Parker, who — *gasp* — doubles as a Cowboys fan.

I’m not that guy you hate. You know, the one that can’t find Dallas on a map but still roots for the Cowboys. You’ll probably still hate me but at least I was born in Fort Worth and have been to many a Thanksgiving game in person. So yes, I live in the D.C. area, and I love the Dallas Cowboys.

I also love Tony Romo. As soon as I heard the news Monday the Kubler-Ross stages of grief hit the ground running. Depression took a little more time than the rest, but I still got to acceptance in record speed.

Then something came out of nowhere. Looking forward to another winner-take-all Week 17 game it dawned on me: Dallas fans need the Cowboys to lose. I’m not talking about fantanking, actively rooting against my favorite team hoping for a better draft pick. (No matter which pick we end up with Jerry Jones will make the selection; the guy he takes at 20 could be the exact same guy he’d take at 11.)

Dallas fans need the Cowboys to lose for one simple reason: If Kyle Orton wins where Romo has lost before, I can’t even begin to imagine what would happen to the narrative.

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Redskins-Chargers Winners & Losers

Guest writer and longtime Skins fan Kevin Stroop fills in to hand out labels following Washington’s 30-24 victory over San Diego.

Winners

Pierre Garcon –- A week after criticizing the offense, he delivered. Along with seven catches for 172 yards, he had highlight reel one-handed catches and caught a critical pass in OT on a 1st-and-20. More of that this week, please.

Alfred Morris –- Ho, hum FroMo with 25 carries, 121 yards and a TD. Ran hard all day. More of that this week too, please.

Darrel Young -– I think it’s a rule that if you score touchdowns on 60% of your carries, you are a winner.

Defense (goal line-stand edition) –- Maybe the Chargers playcalling had more to do with what happened at the end of the fourth, but nevertheless the defense saved the day. Granted, the defense vanished the second half of the quarter, but they somehow prevented a team from scoring a TD from the six-inch line on three downs.

Losers

Kai Forbath –- Having two FGs blocked by a franchise that had not blocked a FG in 175 games is not good. Four misses this year is worst in the league and also not good. Kickoffs still do not result in touchbacks. He did have a clutch 47-yarder. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some kickers show up at Redskins Park soon.

Josh Morgan –- As a kick returner, it’s not working. He can’t get past the 20 on kickoffs and doesn’t seem to know when to field a punt vs. let it go.

Defensive line – -I don’t understand how a guy as immobile as Rivers eluded the Redskins pass rush so easily. I thought the D-line would be a strength, but it didn’t show on Sunday.

Fred Davis -– The Redskins ran packages with 3 TEs. All three of them caught a pass on Sunday. Sleepy wasn’t one of them.

Medium

RGIII –- After a terrible showing vs. Denver, he came back with a solid game. He didn’t have gaudy stats but did guide the offense to 500 yards and 12-17 on third downs. Made a dangerous/exciting run late in the third quarter and seemed to make smart decisions throughout. Four batted balls including one in his own end zone resulting in a zero-yard pick-six was weird, though.

David Amerson –- Pros: another interception; was critical in keeping Woodhead out of the end zone leading to that goal line stand. Cons: still gets lost on the field it seems; burned on a number of occasions.

DeAngelo Hall –- I’m told by Deion Sanders he’s playing CB as well as anyone in the league. Fair enough, but he still collected a ridiculous unnecessary roughness penalty after E.J. Biggers’ interception.

George Wallace, Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond On ‘Redskins’ (GUEST POST)

Here with a not-at-all incendiary guest post for winning our Redskins-Lions Prediction contest is Jon.

First off, I’d like to thank Jamie for giving me the opportunity to write a little something about our beloved Washington Football Team. I have to apologize, though. I couldn’t come up with a #hottake on the state of the team. All I have is this transcript of George Wallace, Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond talking about the name change down in Hell (way to drop the ball, Steinz).

Take it away, boys!

Governor Wallace: What’s this bullshit about the liberal media trying to change the name from the Redskins to some stupid name like the Griffins or Warriors?

Senator Helms: I don’t know, George. This country is going straight to hell. There’s not enough troops in the Army to force true Redskins fans to change the name and allow shitty names like the Warriors, Griffins or Renegades into our stadium, into our practice facility, into our Joe Gibbs Memorial Bubble, into our fancy new training facility in the capitol of our Confederacy or into our homes!

Senator Thurmond: HOOWEE, I’m with you on that one, Jesse! You know, I think the Redskins Name Guardians are the greatest minority in this nation! They deserve consideration and understanding instead of the persecution of twisted Costasian propaganda.

Governor Wallace: Amen, Strom. Amen. If I was the owner, I’d resist any calls for changing the name, even to the point of standing at the stadium gates in person, if necessary.

Senator Thurmond: I’d do exactly the same, George. It’s not that I’m prejudiced against Native Americans. When I was governor, I did more to help the Native Americans in our state than any previous governor, and I think you can find Native Americans in the state who will attest to this fact.

Senator Helms: Like that Indian chief Mister Snyder found in Alaska, right??? I love that guy!

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‘My Kids Aren’t Growing Up In A House Divided’ (Guest Post)

Here with a guest post for nailing his Redskins-Eagles prediction is Mr. Irrelevant reader Kevin Stroop.

One of my first, if not the first, conscious decisions I made was to become a fan of the Washington Redskins.

When I was 4 I realized I lived in a house divided. My mom and her side of the family rooted for the Baltimore Colts, a team that once existed. My dad rooted for the Skins.

Every time my family got together, I noticed my dad was on an island –- constant ribbing, including my older brother. I decided I will support my old man. I, too, will root for the Redskins.

I remember telling him this with great pride that I had made this life choice, although I’m sure at the time he figured my devotion to his football team was as fleeting as whatever T-shirt my mom put on me.

Being a fan of the Skins in the ’80s was not difficult. They won the Super Bowl the first year I rooted for them; I was a good luck charm. The next year they were back, but we all know what happened there. By then the die was cast.

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