The "State" of Sports in DC

A couple thoughts on my mind as the Redskins cut Hunter Smith and the Nationals trade Josh Willingham.

First, the Redskins. Coach Mike Shanahan claims that the botched hold in the team’s 17-16 loss to Tampa Bay last Sunday was not the reason the Redskins cut holder/punter Hunter Smith. Shanahan claims Smith’s hang time has not been up to par. My reaction: riiiiiiiiiiight… the timing is just a funny coincidence. I call BS on this one. If he’s been bad all year, why would you wait 13 games and get knocked out of playoff contention before you cut him? This team is just a mess; has been for years, will be for years to come, and this move is pretty typical.

Now, the Nationals. OF Josh Willingham was traded for Corey Brown, a 25-year-old outfielder who has never made it past AAA and never played well higher than AA, and Henry Rodriguez, a 23-year-old relief pitcher who can throw fast. An uninspiring haul; maybe the reliever will work out (and he did throw 27 2/3 innings in the Major Leagues last year), but the team’s weakness is not the bullpen. Realistically, however, if they had to trade Willingham, they probably got the most they could. But consider, Willingham spent two years in DC, during which he reached base 38% of the time with 40 home runs – pretty good numbers. He is, of course, also 31 (32 by the beginning of next season) and injury-prone. This sounds far too much like someone to whom the Nationals just gave 126 million dollars, but in the case of Willingham it makes him expendable.

Regardless, the Nats’ moves have been justifiable if they continue to change the roster. They still desperately need a first baseman (they already had a pretty good one, but didn’t want to commit 3-4 more years to him). And the current lineup is pretty uninspiring after 3B Ryan Zimmerman and their $126-million-man. Plus, they could use some starting pitchers, although there aren’t any available that are much better than what they have, unless they want to trade away half their prospects.

In general, however, at least there’s a chance the moves the Nationals have made will all work out in the end. That’s far more than can be said for their NFL counterparts.

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