Reporting David Elfin
Six weeks ago, I wrote a column in which I dubbed Washington “Loserville” compared to the 10 other metropolitan areas that compete in the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NHL.
Amazingly , we’ve gone downhill since then. In mid-February, the Nats had yet to start spring training, Georgetown, George Mason and AU all had NCAA hopes while the Hoyas women and their Maryland counterparts dreamed of going far in the tournament. The Wizards had made progress under interim coach Randy Wittman and the Caps, were scuffling along, but were going to make the playoffs because, well, they’re the Caps.
But look at us now. Spring is springing, but we’re falling back.
Michael Morse, Adam LaRoche and Rick Ankiel, all of whom are supposed to be in the Nats’ everyday lineup, have spent most of the spring injured. Washington’s 7-14 Grapefruit League record would bring up the rear in the National League if not for the hapless New York Mets. Davey Johnson’s club is on a 2-11-1 slide. All five members of the rotation have earned run averages over 4.11 while third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is the only regular batting over .286. I know spring training stats don’t count for much, but the season starts a week from tomorrow and the Nats seem far from ready.
Meanwhile, the Caps, who are supposed to be tuning up for the playoffs, are looking they won’t even get there for the first time since 2007. They delivered another clunker of a performance last night in their most meaningful regular season game of the last four seasons, losing 5-1 at home to Buffalo which took the last Eastern Conference playoff spot back from Washington and has the easier schedule with just five games remaining for both teams.
Sure, sweet-passing center Nicklas Backstrom hasn’t played in a game in almost three months, but Sidney Crosby has missed 22 more games for Pittsburgh and the Penguins are in fourth place, a whopping 16 points ahead of the Craps, er Caps.
The other major Verizon Center tenant, the Wizards, have managed to make an ugly season even more horrific by blowing double-digit leads while losing three consecutive home games in the final minute despite the addition of new big man Nene. The team’s best player, point guard John Wall, could’ve won each game or forced overtime and failed on each occasion. Only Charlotte has a worse record than Washington’s 11-38, but at least JaVale McGee and Nick Young are now ex-Wizards.
Georgetown’s men and women did make the NCAAs, but neither managed to reach the Sweet 16. AU’s men and women lost in the Patriot League semifinals while Mason’s men were spurned by the NCAA and the NIT after getting crushed by VCU in the CAA semis. And while the Maryland women did win the ACC Tournament and advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time in four years, they were pulverized by Notre Dame last night.
So after sending five men’s or women’s teams to the Final Four from 2001-07 while winning two titles, Washington hasn’t been part of the final college hoops weekend since.
DC United, which hasn’t made the playoffs since 2007, is off to an 0-2-1 start, having scored just two goals.
The Redskins did trade up for the No. 2 pick in next month’s draft to ensure the arrival of a heralded young quarterback for the first time in 18 years, but they’ve also had $36 million shaved off their salary cap this year and next for alleged misbehavior in 2010 which will affect the supporting cast for Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck. More than two weeks into free agency, the Redskins have yet to re-sign three-time Pro Bowl inside linebacker/top tackler/captain London Fletcher.
Washington has also been involved in the NFL’s BountyGate scandal because of allegations that suspended defensive coordinator Gregg Williams offered inducements to injure opponents when he coached here from 2004-07 as he did in New Orleans from 2009-11.
And by the way, the last time the Redskins used such a high draft pick on a quarterback in 1994, his name was Heath Shuler. He was a disaster just like Washington sports have become. If the Caps miss the playoffs, we’ll join Minneapolis-St. Paul as the only areas with all four major pro sports that didn’t have any of their teams reach postseason in 2011-12.
Well, at least we can be proud that we’re home to Congress, the body in which Shuler now serves …
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of the new book: “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last two Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since March.