Results tagged ‘ Ted Leonsis ’

From the Desk of Mark Lerner: Districtly Speaking

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Hello Nationals fans,

I figured it was a great time to check in.

Before jumping into our 14-4 start, I want to talk about the Capitals and how their playoff run created its own set of challenges for me personally. I am on the West Coast with the ballclub and Wednesday’s  first pitch came just one hour before the Caps faceoff in Boston. A dilemma for sure, but one that could be overcome by technology.

The Caps moments after their game seven, overtime win. (Washington Capitals/Getty Images)

I had a heck of a time shifting between the game in front of me and the Caps game, which I was watching (between pitches) on my iPad. But, as day gave way to night, all of my hard work was rewarded as both the Nationals and Caps won. Later, I noticed that the Wizards won their 5th straight game for the first time since 2007. What an evening for DC sports fans!

As everyone reading this knows, Game 7s are special no matter the sport. However, it seems as if Game 7s in hockey are almost holy in nature. The Caps play last night certainly matched the game’s stakes.

Intense, physical, smart and concerted is how I would describe last night’s effort in a season-saving, 2-1 victory in Boston. And really, it had to be that way in order to advance.

The Bruins were game. This was hardly the case of a satisfied defending champ going through the motions. My eyes told me that the Bruins played well in each game of the series. But our Caps won the closest playoff series in NHL history against the defending Stanley Cup champions because they played slightly better. One goal better, in fact.

I am so happy for my friend, Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis, General Manager George McPhee, head coach Dale Hunter and all of the players. I don’t think any DC sports fans will forget this series, Joel Ward’s goal or Braden Holtby’s playoff arrival.

Xavier Nady rounds third after his game-tying home run on April 13.

But now comes the hard part. Our Caps work is not done. We only know that they could play, under various scenarios, either the Rangers, Flyers or Devils in the second round. But before looking ahead, I hope for one night at least, the Caps enjoyed their spoils.

Back on the diamond, things are going well on all fronts, outside of the injury bug that has bitten our cleanup hitter (Morse), our closer (Storen), our most experienced starting pitcher (Wang) and now our best player (Zimmerman). Thankfully, we entered the season with depth all around the diamond. 162 games in six months is a grind and it is folly to believe that any club can go injury-free or even close to it.

But the bench has been up to the task. Through just 18 games, Chad Tracy (game-winning hits on Tuesday in San Diego and on April 7 at Wrigley Field), Xavier Nady (April 13 game-tying pinch homer vs. Reds, rally-sparking double on Tuesday at San Diego) and Steve Lombardozzi (4-for-5, 2 RBI on April 16 vs. Houston) have already played integral roles in victories this season.

There is also depth on the pitching staff. While we thankfully have not yet had to call upon our obvious rotation depth, it should be noted that all seven relievers have pitched important innings in close games this season. There really have been no exceptions. Winning streaks will do that and thus far our bullpen has more than held its own in contributing to our early season success.

Stephen Strasburg leads the best starting staff in baseball.

Which brings me to the starting rotation. There has been none better in baseball. And the gap is widening with seemingly every start. There really is not much to say other than Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Jackson and Detwiler have collectively been beyond exceptional.

The formula from my seat has been a healthy share of strikeouts, precious few walks and keeping the ball in the ballpark.

And despite this early-season dominance, Davey knows we are in this for the long haul. The five starters have combined to throw just 110.2 innings this season. That ranks 16th in MLB and does not suggest even a whiff of overuse.

One thing that I have noted about Davey is his innate ability to balance tonight’s result with “tomorrow.” That is, an understanding of where we are in the scope of a game, a series, the season, and just as importantly, where these pitchers are in terms of their careers.

I am looking forward to our series this weekend against the Dodgers, who are playing as well as they have in a few years. I never miss our trip to Dodger Stadium, which really is on any short list of the top venues in all of sports. The place is oozing with history, the backdrop is spectacular and the fans are always knowledgeable.

Tonight’s finale at Petco Park is my 16th straight game. I hope we can finish off the sweep and keep the good vibes rolling.

Let’s go CAPS! … Let’s go NATS! …

From The Desk Of Mark Lerner – Capital Pride

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Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2012 Grapefruit League Season from Viera, bringing his own unique perspective of the goings-on at Nats Spring Training.

Good Afternoon Nats Fans:

On Monday afternoon, I took in Chien-Ming Wang’s 2012 debut, as he participated in the first intra-squad game of the spring over at our Minor League Complex. This contest was part of our Accelerated Development Program, which consists of our best and brightest prospects.

As many of you know, we have invested a lot of time and energy the last five years in building our minor league system from the ground up. Being named the No. 1 system last month by Baseball America was really a great accomplishment and a benchmark of how far our organization has come along.

There is definitely a different energy and expectation this Spring Training. If the 2011 season was about promise, then 2012 should be about performance. This Nationals team believes it’s ready to win and expects to win.

Both GM Mike Rizzo and Manager Davey Johnson say this team should be playing meaningful games in September. This is the season our loyal fans have been waiting for.

As I glanced around the diamond yesterday, I noticed various names I had heard previously (and some I’d seen) during brief visits to Hagerstown, Potomac and Harrisburg.

Names like Jeff Kobernus, Blake Kelso and Matt Skole are familiar to me, as are their games. Same with Michael Taylor and Destin Hood, who are two of our finest outfield prospects. All were scattered around the field. But I was especially interested in two players in particular: Chien-Ming Wang and Brian Goodwin, one of our top picks in the 2011 draft. As fate would have it, they squared off to start the game.

Score one for the youngster, as Goodwin put a nice swing on Wang offering and legged out a leadoff double.

Wang did not disappoint either, as he fanned 3 in 2.0 innings. He allowed one run on three hits, throwing 31 pitches, 24 for strikes. But his fastball sat consistently at 89-90 and hit 91 on occasion. What’s more, Davey and Mike were pleased. They both liked how strong he was right out of the chute. Last year, in his first 5-6 starts with us, Wang took an inning or two to really get loose and transfer that strength into his pitches. No so yesterday. He was strong right from the start. That’s why Goodwin’s double was impressive. It came on a good pitch.

As an aside… I also  saw pitcher Alex Meyer our second pick in the  first round last year out of Kentucky on another field. He is one large man at 6’9”.

Last night’s game in Port St. Lucie resulted in our first win of the Grapefruit League season, a 3-1 victory over the Mets. Rick Ankiel, the pride of Port St. Lucie High School, went deep to provide his home crowd, including a few former teachers and administrators, a great moment. John Lannan (one earned run in 3.0 innings) also pitched very well in his Grapefruit League debut. Bryce Harper and Eury Perez also continue to look great.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank my dear friend, Ted Leonsis, for the kind words he wrote yesterday in his blog regards to our new “Natitude” marketing campaign.

I know how much Ted enjoys baseball and is excited for our season ahead. Likewise, I have an eye on our Capitals and their playoff pursuits. I am thinking that their best hockey is yet to come. I know if I were a Bruins or Rangers fan that I would not relish facing the Caps in the first round.

I am off to Disney’s Wide World of Sports for today’s game against the Braves. But the real draw is that Gio Gonzalez will be making his Spring Training and Nationals debut. It will be a thrill to see our 26-year-old southpaw finally take the mound wearing our Nationals red, white and blue.

Trust me on this one… Nats fans are going to fall in love with this young man.

Until we blog again.

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