The quote, "I'd rather be lucky than good" is commonly attributed to Lefty Gomez, who pitched for the Yankees in the 30s and early 40s. During his career, he certainly had his share of luck and good. He was fortunate enough to play with Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio during his time as a Yankee, so he was certainly lucky. But he also led the league in ERA twice, pitched 25 complete games in 1934 and led the league in strikeouts three times, so he certainly did enough to earn his keep and eventually make it all the way to Cooperstown.
After 13 seasons in New York, Gomez signed with the Washington Senators and promptly stopped being lucky or good. In his first game with the Senators, he gave up seven hits and five runs in less than five innings as the Senators fell to the White Sox 5-1. Gomez retired after the game, while his former team would wind up winning the World Series that fall.
Since then, Washington has struggled being lucky or good for any extended amount of time when it comes to sports. But if the last year has shown us anything, it's that Washington is starting to get better at being lucky. And when Washington is lucky, it's certainly been a lot better than when they've been good this year. Let's take a look.
What happened when the Redskins were good?
- Donovan McNabb's best outing of the season, where he threw for 426 yards, was a loss.
- Ryan Torain's best outing of the season, where he ran for 172 yards, was also a loss.
- McNabb had two multiple-touchdown games this season. In the first game, the Redskins lost by 31 to the Eagles. In the second, the Redskins botched an extra point that would have forced overtime.
- The Redskins scored over 20 points five times this season. They lost all five games.
- The Redskins held two teams under 200 yards passing this season (the Giants and Vikings), and lost both of those games as well.
What happened when the Redskins were lucky?
- Tashard Choice has only fumbled one time since high school. Luckily for Washington, that fumble came at a perfect time.
- Ryan Torain, the Redskins' leading rusher this season, and Brandon Banks, the team's most explosive special teams threat, both spent time on the practice squad early in the season, and at one point Banks was released. Imagine how dismal this season would have been and how much worse the outlook for the future would be if those two had been plucked off the practice squad.
What happened when the Capitals were good?
Most of you have memorized these honors several times by now, but in case you forgot, here's the award rundown from last season:
- Most wins in franchise history.
- Most points in franchise history.
- First President's Trophy in franchise history.
- A franchise record 14 game winning streak.
Of course, the reason we all remember that is because the Capitals found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time once the playoffs started.
What happened when the Capitals didn't have luck?
Over the course of an NHL season, goalies are going to have hot streaks. When goalies get hot during the regular season, they can spread the punishment around to whomever is unlucky enough to face them during their streak. In the playoffs, however, you're stuck facing that lucky goalie until you can find a way to get a goal past him or he knocks you out of the playoffs.
Jaroslav Halak forced the Capitals to choose the second option during their series this spring. During the 2009-10 season the Capitals had 23 games where they had at least 37 shot attempts, and they scored at least four goals in 16 of those games and at least two in all 23. In the final three games of their first round series against Montreal, they attempted at least 37 shots in all three games (including a season high 54 in Game 6) and only came away with one goal in each game. In all, he turned away 131 of the Capitals' last 134 shots over the final three games of the series.
In his very next game, he allowed five of the Penguins' first 20 shots to find the net. Of course he did.
What happened when the Wizards were good?
- Any time Andray Blatche snags 18 rebounds, you would think that would be enough to help the Wizards get a win, right? Too bad it didn't happen. Despite a stellar performance from Blatche, the Wizards wound up losing.
- You would also think anytime the Wizards get over 30 assists as a team that would be an automatic win. Too bad it didn't happen. Despite having six more assists in this game than any other during the 2009-10 season, the Wizards still lost. What's even more amazing is that Blatche's career high in rebounding and the team's season high in assists came in the same game and they still managed to lose.
- The Wizards shot 58.7 percent from the floor against the Hornets, their highest mark of the season, and still wound up losing by five.
- The Wizards made a season-high 12 three pointers in two games this year. They made a dozen against the Bobcats in March, and they connected on twelve against the Bulls in November. They lost both games.
What happened when the Wizards were lucky?
John Wall happened.
What happened when the Nationals were good?
- Ryan Zimmerman had a season-high four hits against the Phillies. Did he single-handedly lift the Nationals to a victory? No, they still lost by eight runs.
- The Nationals gave up only three hits against the Marlins on Aug. 31, which tied for a season-low on the season. They lost 1-0.
- The Nationals lost all three games where they had five or more doubles.
- The Nationals got an impressive 8-1 win against the Phillies in Philadelphia in August. All it cost them was Stephen Strasburg's arm.
What happened when the Nationals were lucky?
- No one was expecting much when the Nationals signed Matt Capps, a reliever who flamed out in Pittsburgh, to amount to much in Washington. But he turned an impressive Spring Training performance into a spot as the team's closer heading into the season. Thanks to a bounty of early season save opportunities, Capps was able to make a name for himself early in the season, and the Nationals were able to flip him at the trade deadline for a top prospect in Wilson Ramos. The Nationals rolled the dice on Capps and wound up with a developed prospect ready for the big leagues who can learn from Ivan Rodriguez for the next year.
- The Nationals also lucked out when Livan Hernandez, who they signed to a minor league contract in late February, panned out far better than anyone could have expected. After finishing with ERA's above five for the last two seasons, he finished this season with an ERA of 3.66, pitched over 200 innings and led all starters with 10 wins in 2010. On a team with lots of young arms, Hernandez's penchant for gobbling up innings is a huge asset for a team that can't afford to have their young relievers pitching more innings than they have to because of poor starting pitching.