February 1, 2015

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press and is a copy editor for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, WA. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

Three Stars: Washington Capitals 0, Montreal Canadiens 1 (OT)

First Star: Braden Holtby. Kind of misplayed the goal, giving too much of the post on the tip, but c’mon. After his stretch of four-goal games he’s come back strong again and got some help from his defense in this one. If this Caps team can remember to play defense down the stretch and into the first round, they could scare or surprise someone. If they don’t, they’ll be watching again from the outside.

Second Star: Alex Ovechkin. Eight shots on goal, five hits, 25:18 TOI including a four-plus minute shift in the second. Russian Machine.

Third Star: Marcus Johansson. Three shots on goal but was in the play, especially in the third period. I thought he did  nice job of trying to carry the puck and create.

Washington Capitals Game 49 Recap: Caps fall to Canadiens 1-0 in overtime

Entering play 1-3-1 in their last five games, the Washington Capitals traveled to one of the least hospitable arenas in the league looking to get back on track, especially defensively. For much of the game, they were successful in that regard.

A taut, scoreless game went to overtime, where a defensive breakdown by two of the teams best-paid players cost the team a point, and the Caps fell to the Montreal Canadiens 1-0 on Saturday. [Read more…]

District Sports Daily Jan. 30: Werth gets jail, Redskins hire Grimm (not that one)

NATIONALS: Jayson Werth drops appeal of circuit court conviction for reckless driving, pleas out to five days in jail. (WaPo)

Nats have No. 9 system and six players land on ESPN.com’s Keith Law’s Top 100 Prospects, led by Lucas Giolito at No. 8 overall, and first pitcher on the list. (Federal Baseball)

CAPITALS: Caps have a lot of decisions coming about regarding free agents, both restricted and unrestricted. Who should stay and who should go? (DSP Take, RMNB)

REDSKINS: Redskins hire Russ Grimm’s son Chad as Defensive Quality Control coach. Yeah. (WaPo)

WIZARDS: Otto Porter had a nice night in the Wiz los to Phoenix Wednesday. Should he be getting more playing time? (Truth About It)

District Sports Daily: Caps blank Pens, Wiz lose in Phoenix

CAPITALS: Behind two goals from Alex Ovechkin and 27 saves from Braden Holtby, the Caps blanked the Penguins 4-0 at Verizon Center. (DSP Gamer, DSP Three Stars)

WIZARDS: Garrett Temple spurred fourth quarter comeback falls short as Wizards lose in Phoenix 106-98 as Otto Porter and Marcin Gortat scored 14 points apiece. (DSP Gamer)

NATIONALS: Nats sign veteran reliever Casey Janssen to help cover Tyler Clippard’s late-game innings. (DSP Take, Fangraphs)

Nats potential new spring training home faces hurdles about water pollution concerns. (WaPo)

REDSKINS: Redskins try a novel idea, hire Matt Cavanaugh as quarterback coach. Skins were just one of two NFL teams without one last year. (WaPo)

Nats take flier, add Casey Janssen to bullpen

From MLB.com:

Two weeks after trading dependable setup man Tyler Clippard, the Nationals filled a hole in their bullpen by agreeing to a one-year contract with free agent Casey Janssen on Wednesday, a source confirmed to MLB.com. The deal, which the club has not confirmed, guarantees Janssen $5 million, including a buyout for a 2016 mutual option, according to FOXSports.com.

Janssen, a 33-year old right-hander, has experience closing, with 90 career saves to his credit. He probably won’t be asked to do that in DC with Drew Storen the incumbent. But what Janssen could do is take up some of the innings that Tyler Clippard used to eat.

I say could on purpose. Janssen had some big problems last season, as his velocity, K rate and ground ball rates all dropped precipitously in the middle of the season. Some think that might have to do with the severe food poisoning he contracted during last year’s All-Star break.

If that’s all it was and it just took him the better part of the summer to regain his full strength, that’s one thing and he can be a valuable arm in the back of the Nats bullpen for a relative bargain price and little long-term investment.

However, if that’s just narrative and he was a) injured and hiding it; or b) is washed up, he’ll be just another in the long line of veteran bullpen arms Mike Rizzo has brought into DC on the cheap hoping to strike gold.

Washington Wizards Game 47 Review: Wiz fourth quarter comeback stalls against Suns

The road-weary Washington Wizards started slowly, gained momentum, almost pulled even, but eventually faltered, as their fourth quarter comeback stalled and the Wizards fell to the Phoenix Suns 106-98 on Wednesday.

The Wizards (31-16) ended  up splitting their West Coast swing, sandwiching wins against Denver and the Lakers with losses to Portland and the Suns. [Read more…]

Washington Wizards Game 46 Review: Wall rallies Wiz over Lakers

WIZARDS SEND LAKERS TO NINTH STRAIGHT LOSS

John Wall scored 21 points with 13 assists and nine rebounds and the Washington Wizards rallied from a 19-point deficit to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 98-92 on Tuesday, sending the once-proud Lakers to their ninth straight loss.

Wall was 8 of 12 from the floor, but just 5 of 12 from the line and did not attempt a 3-pointer. Bradely Beal added 19 points, Otto Porter — who started in place of Paul Pierce — had 12 points in 29 minutes and Marcin Gortat ended with 11 points.

Pierce missed the game with a nagging left toe injury. Kobe Bryant (torn rotator cuff) and Nick Young (ankle) were out for Los Angeles.

Wayne Ellington had a career-high 28 points for the Lakers and rookie Jordan Clarkson added a career-high 18, who are on their longest losing streak since 1994.

The Wizards trailed by 19 during the second quarter as they came out flat and seemingly unmotivated to paly against one of the more struggling franchises going. But they scored the final six points of the quarter, with Wall going to the bucket for layups twice, and went into the break down 57-46.

Washington used a 12-0 run in the third quarter — punctuated by an ally-oop from Wall to Gortat — to further cut into the deficit and the Lakers clung to a one-point lead at the end of the frame.

Rasual Butler gave the Wizards their first lead of the game since early in the first quarter with a 3-pointer with 10:30 left I the game. But it wasn’t decided until the final two minutes.

Ellington’s reverse layup with 2:21 brought the Lakers within three points. Porter’s put-back off a miss by Nene put the Wiz back up five with 1:56 left. On the next possession, Beal stroked a pull-up and the next trip down Wall made 1 of 2 at the line to seal it. L.A. missed four consecutive shots during the sequence to help matters out.

The Wizards get no time to savor the win, as they take on Phoenix Wednesday night in the last of the four-game West Coast swing.

Nats Nightly: Nationals sign Max Scherzer for 7-year/$210M

Dave Nichols of District Sports Page and Patrick Reddington of Federal Baseball discuss the big Max Scherzer deal, what the next steps may (or may not) be and the Yunel Escobar trade.

Check Out Baseball Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with District Sports Page Nats Nightly on BlogTalkRadio

Report: Washington Nationals sign Max Scherzer

According to the Washington Post, the Washington Nationals have completed a deal with free agent starter Max Scherzer. While terms were not revealed, Scherzer rejected a $160 million dollar offer and reports earlier Sunday evening indicated the sides were contemplating a seven-year deal for $180 million.

Barring any other moves (which seems unlikely), the Nats rotation is, in a word, fearsome. Scherzer joins Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister and Tanner Roark in a deep, talented and expensive rotation.

Even before talk of Scherzer came to light Sunday, the Nats were rumored to be entertaining offers on Zimmermann and Ian Desmond, potential free agents at season’s end. It becomes likely, if not prohibitive, that one of the potential free agents (including Doug Fister and Denard Span), or another expensive player — such as Strasburg — could be moved for prospects or to bolster the roster.

Or, GM Mike Rizzo could very well keep everyone in an effort to capture the World Series for 89-year-old owner Ted Lerner, then deal with the repercussions following the season.

Scherzer, 30, was simply the top free agent on this year’s market and one of the top five pitchers of the past two seasons for the Detroit Tigers. He’s been an All-Star the past two seasons, Cy Young in ’13 and fifth in ballots last year. He’s 91-50 with a 3.58 ERA and 1.219 WHIP in his career, which obviously includes some difficult seasons early as he learned to command his precious fastball.

In ’13, Scherzer was 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA and last season went 18-5, 3.15. Scherzer has a lifetime K rate of 9.6 and BB rate of 2.8, and the past two seasons he’s been on the right side of both (above Ks, below BBs).

Additionally, moving back to the N.L. at this stage in his career should be a boon to his strikeout numbers.

There will be plenty more written about this mega-deal, but the fallout — if there is any — will be fascinating to watch. Rizzo had some big decisions even before this happened, and they become even more intriguing.

It’s been no secret around Nats Park that Jordan Zimmermann would test the free agent waters when he became eligible. Scherzer could very well be Rizzo’s idea to replace the stoic right-hander.

There were plenty of rumors and suggestions by national media Sunday evening that Strasburg could be dangled as a trade target, as he’s due for free agency in the very near future.

Or, Rizzo (and potentially more likely, Scott Boras — Scherzer’s agent) got to the Lerners and said ‘You’ve got a chance here to win it all’ and convinced the wealthy but cautious family to go “all-in” and give themselves the best chance at a championship over the next couple of seasons.

Either way, a competitive and interesting team got more so on Sunday, when most of the country was watching the NFL Conference title games. What comes next could make for spectacular drama, adding to this fascinating and intriguing development.

Nats, Scherzer “close” according to sources

Late Sunday, the internet blew up. Yes, most of it nationally was centered around the Seattle Seahawks kind of ridiculous comeback against the Green Bay Packers. But locally in DC, it’s when first rumors, then unconfirmed sources, then actual reports surfaced: the Washington Nationals were indeed “in” on free agent starting pitcher Max Scherzer.

Scherzer, 30, is simply the top free agent on this year’s market. He’s been an All-Star the past two seasons, Cy Young in ’13 and fifth in ballots last year. He’s 91-50 with a 3.58 ERA and 1.219 WHIP in his career, which obviously includes some difficult seasons early as he learned to command his precious fastball.

In ’13, Scherzer was 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA and last season went 18-5, 3.15. Scherzer has a lifetime K rate of 9.6 and BB rate of 2.8, and the past two seasons he’s been on the right side of both (above Ks, below BBs).

If you’re going all-in on a guy that you think puts you over the top as a contender, there are none better available.

Of course, there are repercussions.

All winter long, Mike Rizzo’s been making moves that appeared to be stabilizing salary. He didn’t chase down a big bat to fill the second base hole, rather he traded one of the most reliable set-up men in the country for an average at-best shortstop (with a maturity history) to do so. He stayed out of the bidding when other big-name free agents came off the board.

In fact, everyone knows the Nats have some hard choices to make with Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and Denard Span all free agents after the season is over, and with Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper approaching that status more quickly than any of us would care to think about.

Adding Scherzer to the equation would change the calculus dramatically.

It would seem that by adding a pitcher for seven years at $180 million (the rumored offer at this point), the Nats are making the decision an offseason early, and that they’d allow all that money to come off the books.

There have been trade rumors flying around all winter regarding Desmond and Zimmermann, and if this deal goes through, we can expect those to intensify. Rizzo could use either/both to restock the system with close-to-MLB talent to fill the holes created when those players walk.

Or, Rizzo could stand pat with a rotation of Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez and Doug Fister, move Tanner Roark into the bullpen, and try to win a World Series before the “group of four” go out as free agents.

By the time you read this Monday morning, we may already have an answer. But this will be fascinating to watch play out.

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