The Washington Nationals continued their march to their first ever postseason and divisional title as they swept through the Big Apple this week and ran their winning streak at Citi Field to eight games.
The hot streak has helped overshadow the fact that the Stephen Strasburg shutdown has taken place. Although it was not their intent, the Nats played the shutdown perfectly announcing it on a Saturday morning. (However, is it still a shutdown if Strasburg comes to bat as a pinch hitter?)
The Worldwide Leader, ESPN, was in the middle of wall-to-wall coverage of college football. Then Sunday was all about previewing the NFL, and Monday was all about reviewing it. Sure, there was some Strasburg coverage by the Baseball Tonight crew, but they get second-class treatment in Bristol now that football is underway.
As for the local coverage ... well, the Nationals can thank a certain Redskins rookie for knocking them off the top spot of the list of trending topics in sports.
In this week's edition of "Chain Reactions," we hit on that rookie's historic debut and give some love to Stephen Strasburg's replacement.
RGIII is Historically Good, For Starters
RGIII not only lived up to the hype, he added another level of it with his historic Week 1 performance in New Orleans. He picked up NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors (the first rookie to do so) and is on the cover of Sports Illustrated! Before you scream "Jinx!" it is a regional cover. Peyton Manning is seen throughout most of the nation.
They say you only get one chance to make a first impression, and the No. 2 overall pick certainly made a positive one on Redskins Nation and the NFL: A perfect QB Rating in the first half and over 300 yards passing and two touchdowns in a win at the hostile Superdome.
It does not get any better than that. Griffin, as usual, did not let the success and accolades go to his head. There is nothing not to like about this guy. Every situation he is put in, he thrives in. The only negative may be this lame "Griffining" thing, which is not his fault.
I know, don't begrudge fans their fun. Tebowing, which is actually praying, was the craze a year ago and before that the stupid planking thing that jumped the shark when JaVale McGee did it. Fans are excited, I get it, but these kinds of things eventually fade away.
We want RGIII to be relevant for many years to come, like the fist bump and Michael Jordan (the Bulls version). Plus, people should not sit on the floor in public places. There's too many germs and flu season is coming up!
Anyway, back to my point about RGIII remaining grounded. He has a great family around him, including two military parents that are not going to allow him to go Hollywood. He also has a head coach that is trying to tap the brakes on the hoopla.
"Let's not get carried away with all this," Mike Shanahan said. "It's a first game, and it's a growing experience, and each game you'll experience different things. ... He'll see different defenses, different blitzes. People will try to keep him a little off-balance. It usually takes the quarterback a couple years to feel comfortable in the system. I don't care who you are."
Teams will adjust now that they have actual game tape to watch as opposed to the vanilla stuff we saw in the preseason. This offseason, the media was forbidden to discuss what the team worked on each morning in the bubble at Redskins Park. I watched many morning practices while wondering, "Can they really do this in the NFL and not get their quarterback killed?'
Well, for at least a week, the answer is "Yes, they can!" This week, though, the Redskins face one of the NFL's best defensive coaches in Jeff Fisher. Thank goodness Gregg Williams is not coaching because the Rams would be looking to "kill RGIII's head" if he was.
The adjustment stuff is a two-way street, though, because the Shanahans (Mike and Kyle) have a few things still up their sleeves for the prized rookie.
"The coaches are coming up with new concepts every day," Griffin said. "Their imaginations are running wild. It'll be fun to see what we do. I just go out there and execute it."
It just makes your mind race with ideas. Could RGIII dropkick, throw left-handed, try quadruple reverse throwbacks, or snap the ball to himself?
Whatever the Shanahans have in mind, you have to trust that they will look to minimize hits on their young quarterback, as they did in Week 1. For all the crap that both Mike and Kyle Shanahan have taken in years one and two (much of it deserved), you have to acknowledge they did a great job devising a game plan that suited RGIII's talents (sorry DMac).
However, like the head coach said, "let's not get carried away." It is just one week. But as former Redskin Doc Walker told me this week on ESPN 980, "Redskin fans have earned the right to run naked in the streets if they want." If he plays like he did in week 1 in St. Louis I might just do that too.
Let's Appreciate Lannan
While the rest of the nation is still knocking the Nats for the "shutdown" of Stephen Strasburg, the team continued to play ball at a high level, sweeping their way through New York (the city that never sleeps except at Mets games).
The Nats have a lot of great stories this season: Ian Desmond, Adam LaRoche, Gio Gonzalez, and we could go on and on. One guy that should not be overlooked is the guy replacing Stephen Strasburg, veteran lefty John Lannan.
He was unceremoniously sent to AAA Syracuse to start the season, which was a tough pill to swallow for a former Opening Day starter and 200-inning pitcher (in 2009). He is now 3-0 after Wednesday night's win and has the right mental approach.
"This rotation's different," Lannan said. "There's something about it. Every five days when Stephen was in it, it's just different. Day after day, there's no giving up. I go out there and I had to just not try to do what they do. I'm not necessarily that type of pitcher, but I do like to compete. And that's the one thing I did see: them competing. And I can do that."
Lannan is not your typical Nats starter. He does not throw 90 mph fastballs or thrive on strikeouts. He is a pitch-to-contact guy (Steve McCatty's dream). He did win perhaps the biggest of the year against the Braves on July 21st. He is smart and, you've gotta figure, very hungry after what he went through this season.
The Nats are hardly a lock without Strasburg, but let's be real; they were not a lock with him, either. Every year, someone seems to surprise us in the MLB postseason. It is just a matter of peaking at the right time, like Lannan seems to be peaking right now.