This was a wild week in D.C. sports. It featured Jim Riggleman's shot heard round the Beltway, Davey Johnson taking over, the beginning of the Washington Capitals' off-season retooling and the Washington Wizards getting lots of post-NBA Draft love before the league's long labor dispute.
Walk Off 'Take This Job and Shove It' Moment for Riggleman
Jim Riggleman did not burn bridges when he quit on the Nationals a week ago; he blew them up. Let me make this clear: he quit. I don't care if the he was on a one-year deal or not, because nobody forced him to sign it? At the very least, he could have sucked it up until the All-Star break before bolting. Jim Leyland is dealing with the same thing in Detroit with a much better resume, and you don't hear him whinning. Could you imagine the outcry if a player pulled this?
I'm not here to apologize for the Nationals' front office. They have made plenty of mistakes with their handling of managers dating back to former GM Jim Bowden making Frank Robinson twist for too long. However, there is no excuse for Riggleman, no matter how you spin it. We never heard anything about the contract before the winning streak, did we?
Now that he's gone, 68 year old Davey Johnson comes down from the front office to save the day. But is he a savior? Johnson has a stellar resume, but has not been in the big-league grind in over a decade. Does Johnson still have enough juice to keep the Nationals in the race? It has been a rocky start, as the Nationals were swept in Anaheim. The same problems still exist. Jayson Werth can't hit, there is no lead off hitter and no consistent offense.
Ultimately, it may not matter much who fills out the lineup card with this offense. But had Riggleman stuck it out and the team went .500 or close to it, there would have been a deal for him either here or elsewhere next season. By quitting, he gets nothing except satisfaction of telling his boss to stick it. Let's hope that pays the bills for him.
A Lot to Like (Laich) About Caps Off-Season
Capitals General Manager George McPhee did not waste much time getting things done at the draft last week. He dealt the team's first-round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for veteran forward Troy Brouwer, who was on the Stanley Cup Championship team from two years ago. Brouwer's scouting report says versatile, physical and skilled.
Then GMGM locked up Brooks Laich with a six-year contract extension worth $27 million. It is hard not to like Laich. Not only would he change a flat tire after a tough loss for a fan, but he is productive, with 85 goals in last four seasons. He likes D.C. too.
"There was never a serious consideration to go anywhere else," Laich said. "My main goal was to get back with Washington. All along I didn't pay any attention to that buzz of going to this team or going to that team because I knew it wasn't happening. I knew all along that Washington wanted me back, and I knew I wanted to be back. It was just a matter of figuring out the details."
Goalie Problem Solved
It appears Semyon Varlamov's time in D.C. is up, as he is reportedly headed to the KHL in Russia. Meanwhile, GMGM had a pretty clear message to the oft-injured netminder: don't let the door hit you on the way out.
"If he wants to go to the KHL, let him go," McPhee said in a bit of posturing. "This is the best league in the world, and most players want to play here."
The truth of the matter is the Capitals do not need him because of the emergence of Michael Neuvrith and Braden Holtby. Plus, for all of Varly's talent, the injuries slowed down his progress.
Wizards' Draft Getting High Marks
It is the summer for blockbuster movies, and if the Wizards were a blockbuster movie, the reviews would read something like "Two Thumbs Up" or "one of the best Ernie Grunfeld Drafts Yet." The Wizards, by most all accounts. hit needs and picked players that seem to be the right fit. Here's my problem with slobbering all over the Wizards draft: raise your hand if you have actually seen Jan Veseley play in a game? YouTube is not a great indicator of a player's ability in the NBA, and neither are international stats.
You have to rely on what the scouts are telling you, and they are not bulletproof. There are so many things that can go wrong for rookies, let alone rookies moving overseas away from their cultural comfort zones. It is much easier to evaluate Chris Singleton and Shelvin Mack, and even that certainly does not guarantee anything.
It is a big offseason for the Wizards' growth, and sadly it could be a historically horrible offseason for the NBA as they get ready for what is predicted to be a long lockout. Until they find labor peace, let's bask in the glow on the reviews. ESPN's NBA Insider Chad Ford was very complimentary of the Wizards' draft-night work.
Analysis: This was a critical summer for the Wizards. Drafting John Wall last year was easy. This year, the challenge was to surround him with players who complement his talents. Mission accomplished.
Vesely was one of the most athletic forwards in the draft and should be great flying up and down the floor with Wall. Singleton is also a terrific athlete and the best defender in the draft. Factor in Mack as a solid backup guard at No. 34, and the Wizards came away more athletic and tougher. That's a great draft.
Round 1:Jan Vesely (6); Chris Singleton (18)
Round 2:Shelvin Mack (34)
I'm not sure anyone fared better than the Wizards -- who picked up a pair of potential starters and a quality backup in Mack. Singleton can play immediately -- with his skills defensively -- and I'm shocked he slipped to No. 18. Vesely, a big-time athlete who is 21 years old, is ready to come in and play right away.
Si.com thought the Wizards were one of the top three teams on draft night (or in this case, 3b).
3b. Wizards.The Wizards were locked in on Jan Vesely, an NBA-ready Euro who relishes contact and can finish at the rim. And they landed a badly needed defensive stopper at No. 18 in two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year Chris Singleton. Toss in Butler's Shelvin Mack, whose stock soared after a strong NCAA tournament, and the Wiz can pat themselves on the back after this one.