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Washington Nationals Stars Will Be On Display in Colorado

The Washington Nationals didn’t have a spectacular first half of their season, but a few of their players were rewarded individually, as Juan Soto will compete in the Home Run Derby tonight, and Soto, Trea Turner and Max Scherzer will each participate in the All-Star game tomorrow night.

Home Run Derby

Soto was one of the final players to accept an invite to the derby, which makes sense, considering he’d only hit 10 home runs at the time of the announcement.

There might be a reason why others with similar qualifications decided to not participate, though – and not just the theory that swinging for the fences can negatively impact a hitter’s swing.

Soto will be the No. 8 seed in the tournament-style event. His first opponent will be Japanese two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani, who enters the break with a league-high 33 home runs.

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Mike Elias Sticking To His Guns In Drafting Colton Cowser

You’ve got to give Mike Elias credit for sticking to his guns.

The Orioles’ general manager has developed a strong modus operandi through his first three drafts as Head Oriole — use your first-round draft pick on an uber-productive college player, particularly productive hitters.

Elias followed his rubric again Sunday night, drafting Sam Houston State outfielder Colton Cowser.

Don’t tell Elias that he reached for Cowser, because you’d be wasting your time. Cowser more than earned his slot with the Orioles as a college center fielder, sporting an OPS higher than 1.000 in both of his two full seasons as a collegiate player.

Cowser’s always been good with the bat, batting .361 in 2019 and .374 in 2021. He slugged over .600 both of those seasons and in 2021, Cowser hit 16 home runs. He hit just seven in 2019.

The scouts agree with the numbers.

“One of the best bats in the college class, Cowser has a pure left-handed stroke and repeatedly finds the barrel,” according to his MLB Pipeline profile. “His quick hands allow him to pepper line drives all over the field as he executes a very controlled approach.”

The Southland Conference Player of the Year should be able to stick in center field too, increasing his value.

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Kicking The Can Down The Road On A New Name. Again.

There are certain phrases in history people have learned to be skeptical about. Like I’ll pay you tomorrow. Or the check is in the mail.

Then there’s the one we all hear when football season is about to start: The NFL team in Washington is going to soon announce its new nickname.

That happened this weekend when team president Jason Wright – who from everything I’ve seen and heard is an extremely intelligent good and honorable man – said the team nickname would be decided by 2022. I believe he meant this and has every intention of seeing that it happens.

I just don’t believe it.

Instead, it smacks of kicking the can down the road – again – and that the team doesn’t really want to announce a new name. I said this the day the team announced it was retiring the Redskins name, and I based it on the belief Dan Snyder would like to have things both ways.

With the absence of any new name, people continue their habits of the past. In my house when the team scores a touchdown, we sing “Hail To The Redskins.” When we talk about the primary game to watch on TV on a Sunday, we talk about the “Redskins” game. The mountain of shirts, sweatshirts, jackets and other objects accumulated from over 50 years of being a fan of the team all use that name and have the previous logo all over it.

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Recent Comments
Dave Fulton

Titans

You're right. Of course I doubt fans of any persuation forget the Washington Redskins as quickly as they forgot the New York Titan... Read More
Monday, 12 July 2021 11:18
Dave Scarangella

That's a good example

That first year some people probably still called them the Titans, as it takes a couple of years for the old name to die out and t... Read More
Monday, 12 July 2021 11:33
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Brady House Finds New Home In Nationals Organization

With the No. 11 pick in the MLB First-Year Player Draft, the Washington Nationals selected shortstop Brady House from Winder-Barrow High School in Georgia.

House, a University of Tennessee commit, doesn’t fit the description of the typical Mike Rizzo first-round pick – a right-handed college pitcher who throws hard and has tons of upside. Perhaps they made an active effort to steer away from a negative trend with those types of prospects, but regardless, House is an intriguing talent.

In their early years, the Nationals had a lot of picks near the top of the draft, which makes their track record somewhat deceiving. They selected Stephen Strasburg (2009) and Bryce Harper (2010) with No. 1 overall picks, followed by Anthony Rendon at No. 6 ten years ago. Since then, they’ve been unable to draft star players.

Here’s a look at Washington’s first-round selections since Rendon:

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Hokies Reloading The Wagon On The Offensive Line

Virginia Tech added another commitment to their Class of 2022 on Monday, earning a pledge from South Carolina offensive lineman Xavier Chaplin.

Chaplin’s a big guy — the 370-pounder stands at 6-foot-6 and likely will need a year or two before he can seriously compete for a starting spot. But he does not lack the size necessary to play, that much is for certain.

Chaplin is now the fourth commitment along the offensive line for the Hokies, a sure sign that Vance Vice is trying to backfill some of his misses over the years. That number could go to five if Braelin Moore plays offensive line instead of defensive line.

There was a point in time where Tech looked locked and loaded on the offensive front for the foreseeable future. Tech added four offensive linemen in 2018 — Christian Darrisaw, Luke Tenuta, Walker Culver and John Harris — but only one remains in the program. Vice brought in four-stars Doug Nester and Bryan Hudson for the 2019 cycle, but both have since transferred.

William Pritchard, another offensive lineman from that class, medically retired from football last season. Only Jesse Hanson remains from the Class of 2019.

So to recap, Tech lost five offensive lineman over two seasons to medical retirements and transfers. That’s enough to decimate a program’s depth.

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Decision Day Is Rapidly Approaching For DC Teams

Two teams in Washington find themselves reaching a critical point toward the future of their organizations.

The Nationals are in the midst of a tough seven-game West Coast road trip, after having lost four straight home games to the Dodgers. And of course, they’re also riddled with injuries

As for the Wizards, the NBA Draft is drawing near, but they haven’t hired a new head coach yet. It’s tough to imagine they’ll let this drag out much longer, but it isn’t entirely clear what direction they’re leaning.

The National Disaster

Let’s start with some quick good news: Kyle Schwarber, Trea Turner and Juan Soto were each named first-time All-Stars earlier this weekend. Max Scherzer was a noticeable omission, despite posting a 7-4 record, 2.10 ERA and 127 strikeouts through his first 16 starts of this season. Keep in mind there is a rule that grants every team in the league at least one All-Star, and the benefactors from that stipulation were disproportionally pitchers. Taking them (particularly German Marquez of the Rockies) out of the equation, Scherzer’s “snub” isn’t egregious, and he’ll certainly make his way onto the roster – as either an injury replacement or a substitute for someone who pitches the day before the All-Star break, which a couple guys always do.

Now for the on-field stuff: As discussed late last week, the injury rat – as Scherzer so eloquently described it – has struck the Nationals, and it feels like it’s still hiding somewhere in the attic. Schwarber and backup catcher Alex Avila were both placed on the 10-day Injured List, and Washington was forced to turn to Yadiel Hernandez, Tres Barrera and journeyman shortstop Alcides Escobar – who started in place of Trea Turner (finger) after being acquired from the Kansas City Royals and replacing Humberto Arteaga (designated for assignment) on the active roster.

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Injuries Highlight Nationals’ Depth, Roster Construction

Even with as well as June went for the Nationals, adversity was bound to strike them at some point.

It now has. The surprising aspect, however, is how quickly it came.

In addition to a quartet of high-leverage relief pitchers who are already on the Injured List, Trea Turner (finger) and Kyle Schwarber (hamstring) are currently day-to-day, and Jordy Mercer (quadriceps) will be sidelined for a longer period. Although injuries of such magnitude are difficult to withstand, they also raise questions about roster construction – specifically, whether the Nats have the right types of players on their team.

For most of this season, Washington has been carrying 14 pitchers (nine relievers) and 12 position players (four bench bats). That’s one more pitcher and one fewer hitter than most teams keep at a given time.

Although that probably seems negligible, it’s compounded by some other variables. For example, the Nationals also have two players (Josh Bell and Ryan Zimmerman) who can only play one position (first base), and obviously catchers are catchers. That leaves two bench players (Mercer and the fourth outfielder – a rotation of Andrew Stevenson, Yadiel Hernandez and Gerardo Parra) who can provide some degree of versatility, although Josh Harrison can also play in the outfield if needed.

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One Of Roanoke's Most Colorful Characters Is Retiring

The University of North Florida has announced the retirement of Lee Moon, the athletic director at UNF since 2009, and one of the true characters to come out of the Roanoke Valley.

Moon played football at William Fleming High School in Roanoke before heading to VMI, where he was an offensive lineman between 1966-69.

Moon later served as a graduate assistant at Virginia from 1972-73 and as a full-time assistant to then-UVa coach Dick Bestwick.

Moon later had full-time coaching stints at Duke, UVa, Mississippi and Kansas State, where he was the interim head coach.

Moon later served as the interim athletic director at Kansas State and was the AD at Marshall and Wyoming.

Moon's decision to retire, announced earlier in the spring, became official this week

"For the past 12 years, Coach Lee Moon has served the university with great distinction, integrity and devotion to our student-athletes, coaches and athletic programming," UNF President David Szymanski said in a statement. "Under his leadership, UNF Athletics has fostered a strong culture of athletic excellence, high academic achievement and great respect that has directly contributed to the remarkable growth and success of UNF's sports programs. His legacy will leave a long-lasting impact on our Osprey community."

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At 27, Don't Be A Knucklehead...But DO Chase Your Dreams

As my wife will tell you, I have a knack for remembering obscure dates. Can’t remember when my next doctor’s appointment is, but I can tell you the date of a memorable sporting event and every detail of it.

Today, there is a convergence of two dates that are bringing back warm memories. One was yesterday, when Ricky LaBlue celebrated his 27th birthday. As is always the case between two people at the two ends of the age spectrum, Ricky thinks turning 27 means he’s too old. I think at 27 he’s still way too young.

It’s why we get along so well. Yeah, I edit his stories and drive him crazy by rewriting every lead he’s ever put on paper (I confess I kind of do that to everyone), but it’s more than that. He also graciously allows me to bore him with stories of when I was his age, as I try to prevent him from doing the same knucklehead things I – and just about every other guy on the planet – did at that age.

His turning 27 reminded me yesterday of what I was doing in my 27th year, which leads me to the second date. Once out of college, I went into the field of journalism, working as a sportswriter for a relatively large daily called the Roanoke Times. I met my wife there and was doing OK, but then foolishly decided to leave and go to a newspaper that was about a tenth the size for no more money than I was making at the time.

Why? Because I wanted to cover ACC basketball. I couldn’t in Roanoke. I could in Martinsville.

“So,” my Dad said when I told him this. “You’re leaving going from one place to a smaller place for no raise in pay just so you can watch a basketball game that's on television any way? For less money than you could make driving a truck? What are you, some kind of chadrool?”

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Dave Fulton

27

I was 27 when my first daughter was born - scheduled for Christmas day, Gwyn couldn't wait for Santa and arrived on December 9. Em... Read More
Friday, 02 July 2021 12:24
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Now That 24 Hours Have Passed, Picture Becomes Clearer

When it was announced yesterday that Virginia Tech’s Tyrece Radford had entered the transfer portal, my first thought was “this can’t be related to basketball.”

Coach Mike Young and Radford have great affection and respect for each other. Young refused to throw him under the bus when Radford had legal issues with DUI and gun charges and was suspended from the team, vocally going to bat for him. That the two would part company because Radford wanted to play somewhere else didn’t make any sense.

Since the announcement, however, a picture of why the Hokies’ second-leading scorer (12.2 points per game, 5.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists) would enter the transfer portal has emerged. Will Stewart of Techsideline.com tweeted a screenshot of two court dates Radford has in August, and both are hearings on the possible revocation of the probation he received on his DUI and gun charges earlier in the year. The agreement that resulted in the probation allowed Radford to return to the team after missing a number of games.

One date lists an August 9 hearing at 10 AM for “SC/IMPOSE SUSPENDED SENTENCE” and the other lists another 10 AM hearing for “SC/REVOKE VASAP.” I have since learned VASAP is a program that includes restricting your driver’s license after having an incident involving drinking and driving, and includes an ignition interlock system attached to your car. It monitors a person so if the device monitors a blood alcohol level above a certain limit, the car won’t start.

Obviously, words like “impose” and “revoke” strongly imply that on August 9, a possibility exists where everything rolls back to the original sentence, which includes jail time. Radford was found guilty on Feb. 3, reached a plea agreement, and was sentenced to a 60-day suspended jail sentence, $1,000 fine ($750 suspended) and 12 months of probation. He was suspended from the team on Jan. 25, missed four games, and was reinstated on Feb. 23.

Mark Berman in the Roanoke Times offered even more evidence of that in a story today, talking to Radford’s attorney, Jimmy Turk. The uber-defender of Hokie athletes over the years, Turk acknowledged there was a positive reading on the ignition interlock system. Radford wasn’t supposed to have any alcohol, Turk said, and the device said he did.

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Orioles Better Not Be Thinking About Trading Trey Mancini

Don’t you do it, Mike Elias. Don’t. You. Do. It.

If Elias wants to completely alienate the fanbase — slow progress from the farm system is doing that already — then he should go ahead and trade Trey Mancini.

But if he does it, good luck keeping this O’s fan interested.

Mancini’s story has been well-covered at this point — the man lost an entire year of his life after being diagnosed with colon cancer, was forced to endure it during the COVID-19 pandemic and through it all, he’s back in Baltimore hitting homers and driving in runs.

Mancini is reliable as the day is long. Pencil him in the lineup and reap the benefits.

Obviously, Mancini’s prowess as a hitter — his OPS of .789 is above the league average and he’s hit 14 homers this season — isn’t translating to wins. Mancini and Cedric Mullins are the only two reliable O’s in the lineup and as good as they’ve been — both Mancini and Mullins might represent Baltimore in the Midsummer Classic — they can’t win games by themselves.

As the Orioles continue to call the AL East cellar home, the organization is clearly still in “tank mode.” But how far is the organization willing to go?

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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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