Reflections from a reporter born in 1987

Archive for October 2010

Redskins-Bears: Second quarter thoughts

October 24, 2010 - 02:35 PM
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The first Redskins possession started at their own 23. That's been their worst field position of the afternoon so far. Their other drives have started at the 50, the Washington 39, the Washington 28,  the 50, the 50 again, the Washington 44, and the Washington 30. On top of all that, the Redskins have outgained the Bears 176-84. And they trail 14-10 at halftime.

Even more disconcertingly, each of the Redskins last three drives of the first half (not counting the one-play kneeldown at the very end of the second quarter) ended in three-and-outs, as the Bears began to get more consistent pressure on Donovan McNabb (11/23, 145 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception). A big reason for the stalling of the Redskins offense has been the relative lack of traction on the ground. Ryan Torain has only picked up 32 yards on 10 carries, and 23 of Kyle Shanahan's 35 play calls have been for pass plays.

On the other side, Jay Cutler and Chicago offensive co-ordinator Mike Martz have adjusted the Redskins pressure, which had previously produced three sacks of Cutler, by utilizing a series of quick throws to Devin Hester, Earl Bennett and Johnny Knox. The last pass, a nine-yard play from Cutler to Knox gave Chicago their halftime lead and capped a 7-play, 70-yard drive that was very much out of character with Chicago's earlier offensive display.

The Bears will get the ball to start the second half, and it's crucial that the Redskins defense stop them. However, it's even more essential that the Redskins offense figure out a way to get jump-started again.

 

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Redskins-Bears: First quarter thoughts

October 24, 2010 - 01:43 PM
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The Redskins defense did their job in the first quarter, holding the Bears to -5 total yards and two three-and-outs. Yes, you read that right. -5 total yards.

But in football, one bad decision can undo lots of good work. And so it was with McNabb's decision to attempt a pass to the hot route while still in the grasp of Bears defensive back D.J. Moore. The pass was deflected by defensive tackle Israel Idonije and fluttered into the waiting arms of Moore, who took it back 54 yards for the only score of the game so far.

It was an uncharacteristically poor decision by McNabb, who had guided the Redskins to the Chicago 22 before a Jammal Brown holding penalty set the visitors back 10 yards the play before the interception. Not only did McNabb not eat the ball and take the sack, he didn't recognize the edge rush by Moore until it was much too late.

However, the Redskins showed great character in driving 72 yards in 9 plays to answer the Bears touchdown with a 24-yard strike from McNabb to Santana Moss. However, the Redskins will feel that they should be ahead, and they're absolutely right about that.

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Redskins-Bears pregame

October 24, 2010 - 12:10 PM
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In less then an hour, the Washington Redskins will look to get back above .500 against the Chicago Bears. These two legendary franchises have played some memorable games over the years. Who can forget the 1940 NFL Championship?

And a happier memory for Redskins, the 1987 NFC Divisional Playoff Game.

 

My TBD colleague Mike Jones is in Chicago this afternoon, and you can catch his running recap of this afternoon's action over on the TBD Skins blog. While there, you can also check out Mike's Sunday Conversation with Redskins cornerback Phillip Buchanon, as well as the matchups to watch this afternoon, five keys to the game, and the Redskins inactives. And don't forget to chime in on our Redskins live chat.

I'm not in Chicago, but I'll still be chiming in with my quarterly thoughts on this blog, as well as after the game with my Sunday superlatives and Turning Point pieces. For my look at the Chicago Bears, check out the newly rechristened "Know Thy Foe" feature.

So, sit back, relax, and enjoy the game. And remember, lock in TBD.com for the best Redskins coverage.

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NFL Review: The week in big (and illegal) hits

October 22, 2010 - 04:30 PM
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Well, what a week it was in the NFL. Let's do a quick review:

Sunday: A rash of helmet-to-helmet hits knock several prominent players out of Week 6 NFL games. After Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker James Harrison knocks out two Cleveland Browns minutes apart, he tells reporters he's not trying to injure players, but he will "try to hurt people."

Tuesday: NFL vice president of officiating Ray Anderson tells ESPN Radio that the league would be cracking down on illegal hits to the head and neck. He says that the league is not changing any rules, merely enforcing the ones they already have. Harrison is fined $75,000 for his hit on Mohamed Massaquoi of Cleveland. Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather is docked $50,000 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Baltimore's Todd Heap, as is Atlanta cornerback Dontay Robinson for a hit on Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson.

Wednesday: Harrison says he's contemplating retirement. Members of the Redskins tell TBD's Mike Jones the league's new directives are confusing.

Thursday: Harrison rejoins the Steelers, but appeals his fine. The NFL sends a video to all 32 teams, narrated by Anderson, telling players on each team that they are "on notice," and that helmet-to-helmet hits will not be tolerated.

Here's some more round-ups of the blowback generated by this controversy.

NFLPA president Kevin Mawae: "I cannot, I've told our Executive Committee and our members, that I cannot and will not support the Commissioner for fining our players for making hits that are within the legal rules in the NFL game."

Pro Football Talk had a useful summary of the rules surrounding helmet-to-helmet contact.

NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: "With all due respect, the hits over the weekend has gotten more press coverage than the fact that 5,000, 6,000 family members in the National Football League will lose their health insurance in March."

Chicago Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer: "It's too easy to slap a fine on a player and ignore the fact that every other incentive in his football universe rewards that same aggression. The onus is not just on the players. The whole culture of football has to change to really make the game safer."

Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita: “I’m absolutely saying they are being completely hypocriti­cal. No doubt about it. I like the idea of trying to protect players. But it’s the same NFL that’s trying to make us play 18 games, and that’s not going to help the safety.”

Lots to ponder. Enjoy the weekend, folks, and I hope that everyone who's playing the game this weekend stays safe out there. But before you go, here's the link to that new NFL video released this week. What do you folks think? Is the league being unreasonable, or do hard hits really need to be cracked down on?

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Caps keep their heads after double blow from Boston

October 22, 2010 - 01:15 PM
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Tim Thomas stopped 73 of the 75 shots the Caps threw at him over the past two games. (Photo: Associated Press)

The Capitals were back on the ice at Kettler this morning, some thirteen and a half hours after falling 4-1 to the Boston Bruins, the second of two straight losses to their Eastern Conference rivals.

Head coach Bruce Boudreau spent the vast majority of the session working on special teams. The Capitals saw their perfect penalty-killing record go by the boards Thursday night in Boston, as the Bruins scored three power play goals in four opportunities. Meanwhile, the Capitals power play continues to struggle, scoring just four goals in 30 opportunities on the season.

When Boudreau was asked what he took from the last two losses, in which the Caps were outscored 7-2, he said, "Boston's a good team, with good goaltending, and we have to get better on special teams. [On the power play], we need to be taking shots, winning battles, and showing more determination. If the power play is working, other teams can't take liberties with you. If you're playing a team, like an old Philadelphia team, that just wants to intimidate you, and you don't have the power play to beat them, you're in trouble."

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Know thy foe: Chicago Bears

October 22, 2010 - 09:30 AM
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9: 50 a.m.- Author's note: In the spirit of journalistic experimentation, the title of this long-running feature has been changed at the suggestion of TBD Arts editor Andrew Beaujon, who suggested something "more biblical, forbidding. Maybe even a little Medieval."

Because it's Friday...

Let's get to know the foe.

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Charles Smith shot in Bowie; was involved in fatal 1991 hit-and-run

October 21, 2010 - 06:55 PM
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In case you missed it over at TBD Latest, former Georgetown Hoya  and NBA player Charles Smith was shot today in Bowie. The motive for the shooting is not clear at this time, though one law enforcement source said it could have stemmed from a gambling debt.

Now, let me make one thing clear. This Charles Smith IS NOT, I repeat, IS NOT this guy:

That was Charles Daniel Smith. The man who was wounded in Bowie was Charles Edward Smith, who won the Big East Player of the Year Award for the 1988-89 season. This is also not Charles E. Smith's first brush with trouble.

From the New York Times for March 13, 1992:

The former Boston Celtics guard CHARLES SMITH was convicted yesterday of vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of a crime in the hit-and-run deaths of two Boston University students. He was acquitted of the more serious charge of manslaughter.

Smith, 24 years old, who was a standout player at Georgetown, had been charged in the deaths of Michelle Dartley, 20, of Ridgewood, N.J., and An Trinh, 21, of Placentia, Calif. They were struck on Commonwealth Avenue, a busy street near the university, on the night of March 22, 1991.

The jury convicted Smith of two counts of motor-vehicle homicide while operating to endanger, not under the influence of alcohol. He also was found guilty of two counts of leaving the scene of an accident.

 In all, Smith played for all or part of three NBA seasons (1989-1991 with Boston, and 1995-96 with Minnesota). In total, he played 73 career NBA games, averaging 2.5 points and 1.5 assists in that time. The vast majority of Smith's professional career, which lasted from 1989-2001, was spent with the Continental Basketball Association, as well as with pro clubs in Serbia, Greece, Spain, Puerto Rico, Italy, Argentina, and Belgium.

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Photo of the Day: John Wall serves hors d'ouvres

October 21, 2010 - 06:00 PM
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Yup, that's Wizards rookie point guard John Wall holding a plate of hors d'ouvres just out of shot (trust me, they're there) and smiling for the cameras.

Wall was part of a group of Wizards that served a gourmet dinner at Morton's steakhouse on Connecticut Avenue to over 200 combat veterans and wounded service personnel, their families, and their caretakers at the team's second annual "Salute to the Stars" event. Other members of the Wizards family who participated included Andray Blatche, Josh Howard, Nick Young (referred to by Blatche as "Radio" during the introductions), Hamady N'diaye, Trevor Booker, assistant coaches Ryan Saunders and Wes Unseld Jr., TV broadcaster Phil Chenier, and executive vice president of business operations Greg Bibb.

"This is a great event," Wall said. "These guys did a great job serving to protect not just their families, but our whole country. And for them to be happy to see us is really special."

After the serving of hors d'ouvres, Wall and other players took their places at various serving stations in a buffet line. Wall got to serve the meat. "I think my cutting skills and my basketball skills are about the same," he said with a laugh.

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And now, the Jaime Moreno tribute (video)

October 21, 2010 - 05:30 PM
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Let's be frank. If a Redskin, Wizard, or Capital had been anywhere near as much of a productive fixture in this town as Jaime Moreno has been for the last decade-and-a-half, the fact that his last game is just two days away would be a much bigger deal.

The fact that the soccer-loving DMV public's last memory of Moreno will be as a substitute on a last-place team is a shame, but it shouldn't detract from the many wonderful things he's done as a United player, some of which are described after the jump.

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NFLPA launches NFLLockout.com, invites fans to sign petition

October 21, 2010 - 02:00 PM
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I've written in the past about the NFL lockout that is set to begin in March of next year, unless some kind of negotiating miracle happens.

Now, the NFLPA is taking its drive for public support to the internet with NFLLockout.com. The site's main feature is an online petition (most often used by fans of canceled TV shows), which NFL fans are encouraged to sign. There's also a relatively informative set of tabs, conveniently titled, "What is this Lockout about?" and "What is this lockout NOT about?" They're essentially a distilled version of the union's talking points mentioned in the first link, but they're still worth a look.

There are also some cartoons that would not be out of place in a Ben Shahn collection (if, of course, Ben Shahn was alive and accepting commissions from the NFLPA).

Anyway, if you know nothing about the gathering storm, and want a quick and dirty look at the players' side of things, there aren't many better places to go than NFLLockout.com

 

 

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Ted Leonsis vs. the Washington Examiner

October 21, 2010 - 12:39 PM
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So, this item from the Washington Examiner's "Yeas & Nays" blog caught our eye this morning. It seems that fashion mogul Tommy Hilfiger held a charity fashion show, "Fashion's Fight Against MS" at the Washington Club Tuesday night.

Here is the second sentence of the Examiner piece:

About 200 people showed up to support the event, but "confirmed notables" Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis and Washington Capitals and Wizards owner Ted Leonsis were no-shows.

This morning, on his Ted's Take blog, Leonsis felt the need to respond to the Examiner article, with a post titled "Setting the Record Straight." It's quoted in full after the jump.

 

 

 

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Bryce Harper makes it rain in Arizona Fall League debut

October 21, 2010 - 09:15 AM
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UPDATE-9:35 P.M. CSN Washington has video of Harper's double alongside Mark Zuckerman's recap.

Bryce Harper made his Arizona Fall League debut for the Scottsdale Scorpions last night, going 1-for-4 with two RBIs on a bases-loaded 7th inning ground-rule double in a 6-3 victory over the Mesa Solar Sox. The win upped Scottsdale's record to 6-2 in the AFL American Division, putting them in first place by a game over Mesa.

MLB.com has the full play-by-play of Harper's debut here, and the box score here.

But the most memorable aspect of Harper's debut might have been a timely bit of meteorological phenomenon. From MLB.com:

Harper's first at-bat had the fans at the park smiling. The phenom hit a sky-high fly on the first pitch he saw from Mesa Solar Sox starter Josh Zeid in the second inning and as if on cue, it began to rain as soon as shortstop Andrew Romine caught the ball for the out.

And there you have it, folks. Our first (and to this point, only) piece of evidence that Bryce Harper can control the weather.

Harper's next scheduled AFL appearance will come on Saturday against Phoenix. That game will begin at 12:35 local time.

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Caps notes: No Green in Boston, and other notes from practice

October 20, 2010 - 01:10 PM
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The Capitals returned to practice this morning with a nearly-full complement of players. Of the 23 skaters on the Washington roster, 22 were on the ice for all or part of the morning practice at the Kettler Iceplex.

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Bounces go against Caps in 3-1 loss to Boston

October 19, 2010 - 11:05 PM
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Tuesday night was one of those nights for the Washington Capitals. They happen every so often in hockey, driving fans to screaming fits of frustration and leaving coaches struggling for an explanation.

The Capitals outshot the Boston Bruins 36-21, outhit them 33-23, and recorded 10 takeaways to just one for the Bruins. Yet they still lost 3-1, and in the process suffered their first home loss of the season in their fourth home game.

"I thought in the first 10 minutes, we played as hard as we played all year," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said after the game. "But you make a mistake and it's in the net."

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Caps beaten by Bruins, suffer first home loss of season

October 19, 2010 - 10:00 PM
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Despite entering the third period facing just a 2-1 deficit, the Capitals were unable to summon the same spirit of their other come-from-behind wins this season, and fell 3-1 to the Boston Bruins tonight at the Verizon Center.

After falling behind 2-0 after one period, the Capitals had cut their deficit to 2-1 thanks to Marcus Johansson's first career NHL goal at 7:42 of the second. But before the Capitals had time to really dig their heels into another third-period comeback, Boston struck. Matt Hunwick flung a shot from the point past a well-screened Semyon Varlamov to put Boston in front 3-1 at 2:08 of the period.

The Capitals did manage to put the puck in the Boston net at the midway point of the third period, but the officials immediately ruled that Alex Ovechkin, in trying to control the puck with his hand and bring it to his stick, had inadvertently thrown it past Tim Thomas. To his credit, Ovechkin seemed to know what he had done immediately, and did not launch into  any of his normal wild celebrations.

The Capitals did not seriously threaten Bruins goalie Tim Thomas again, despite outshooting the Bruins 36-21 in the game, and fell to their first home loss of the season (they are now 3-1 at the Verizon Center).

I'll have much more from this game in just a little bit, including all the reaction from the players and head coach Bruce Boudreau, as well as the three stars and turning point of the game. So stay tuned for that.

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Capitals-Bruins: second period summary

October 19, 2010 - 09:08 PM
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Johansson (center) celebrates his first NHL goal, which cut the Capitals deficit to 2-1. (Photo: Associated Press)

Regardless of how the game ends up, tonight will be a night that Marcus Johansson remembers for the rest of his life. The 20-year-old Swedish center scored his first NHL goal on a quickfire wrist shot from the face-off circle to Boston goalie Tim Thomas's left at 7:42 of the second period. As a result, the Caps face a more manageable 2-1 deficit after two periods of play at the Verizon Center.

Johansson's goal came as the result of a defensive misplay behind the Boston net by Matt Hunwick. Jason Chimera took possession and fired a quick centering pass to a streaking Johansson, who fired home past the pads of Thomas.

The Capitals were able to keep the defict at one goal with some sterling penalty killing in the second period. The home team was able to kill off 53 seconds of a Boston two-man advantage midway through the period. With Tomas Fleischmann already off for hooking at 8:59, John Erskine mistakenly sent the puck into the crowd from his defensive zone, earning a delay of game penalty at 10:06. The Bruins were only able to get one shot on net during the two-man advantage, and the Capitals kept their 100% record of killing penalties alive.

In all, Capitals opponents have had 25 power plays so far this season, and the Capitals have killed off all 25 of them.

As has often been the case so far this season, it looks like we're in for a great finish to this one, so stay tuned for the third period.

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Capitals-Bruins: first period summary

October 19, 2010 - 08:16 PM
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Michal Neuvirth, caught in no-man's land on Lucic's first period goal. He would later leave the game with an illness (Photo: Associated Press)

UPDATE-8:30 P.M.- The Capitals have just announced that Michal Neuvirth was pulled from tonight's game because he is suffering from the flu. So, there you have it.

Original Story-The pattern of slow starts continued for the Washington Capitals, as they've conceded the opening goal for the fourth time in the six games they've played this season, and trail the Boston Bruins 2-0 after one period of play.

The Verizon Center was close to full and was jumping tonight for the visit of the Boston Bruins, but the team did not reward the crowd's enthusiasm, as they started slowly once again.

The Bruins scored the first goal of the game at 9:12 of the first period, as too many Capitals were caught in their offensive zone. That created a 2-on-1 with Nathan Horton and David Krejci bearing down on Tyler Sloan. Horton slid the puck across to Krejci, who made no mistake from close range to make it 1-0 Boston. 

A second Boston goal came just 2:45 later, as defenseman Johnny Boychuck worked his way down the right-hand wall, and fired a shot that went off the pads of Michal Neuvirth.  The Czech netminder was unable to control the rebound, which went right to the stick of big Milan Lucic. Lucic also made no mistake, backhanding the puck past a sprawling Neuvirth into an open net.

That was to be the last shot Neuvirth saw, as he was pulled 45 seconds later by Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, and Semyon Varlamov was brought in for his first action of the regular season. The Russian netminder stopped the only shot he saw.

As expected, Mike Green was scratched from tonight's game with a stinger, while Boyd Gordon was a healthy scratch. Matt Bradley is missing his third consecutive game for the Capitals with a lower body injury.

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Nationals ink GM Rizzo to five-year extension, give him new title

October 19, 2010 - 02:55 PM
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The Washington Nationals announced today that the club had signed general manager Mike Rizzo to a five-year contract extension, and had promoted him to Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager.

"It's a huge opportunity," Rizzo said in a conference call with reporters this afternoon. "It's a huge responsibility. I'm going to embrace it. I'm very humbled by it."

The contract extension will run through the 2015 season, while the promotion to Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations will give Rizzo the baseball-related duties of former Nationals President Stan Kasten, who tendered his resignation at the end of this past season.

In a statement released this afternoon, Nationals owner Ted Lerner said: "Mike Rizzo is unquestionably one of the best baseball minds in the game. He has a unique ability to see player talent for what it is, what it can be, and how it fits into building a winning team. Mike has been one of the architects of the rebuilding of the entire Nationals player system, from scouting, to player development, to big league signings. We believe the talent foundation we are establishing on and off the field will make the Nationals one of baseball's most exciting teams over the next several seasons."

Rizzo has been with the Nationals since 2006, when he was hired by then-general manager Jim Bowden to be an assistant general manager and vice president of baseball operations. Rizzo was named acting general manager of the Nationals prior to the 2009 season, after Bowden was forced to resign as a result of the Smiley Gonzalez scandal, and was made the full-time general manager in August of that year.

Prior to coming to the Nationals, Rizzo served as the Director of Scouting for the Arizona Diamondbacks from 2000 to 2006.

"It'll be my baby," Rizzo said of the Nationals. "My fingerprints will be all over the organization even more than they are already."

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Nationals Notes: Potential Nats target Darvish says he'll stay in Japan

October 19, 2010 - 01:00 PM
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At the end of this past season, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo announced that the team's top priority this season would be a top-of-the-line starter. This led many to believe that the Nationals would make an all-out effort to land Cliff Lee, the only free-agent MLB pitcher who reasonably fits that description.

However, a couple of weeks ago, Adam Kilgore raised the idea that the Nationals could go in a different direction in their pursuit of an ace: all the way to Japan and highly-touted pitcher Yu Darvish. Kilgore wrote on October 1:

It would be speculative at this point to gauge the Nationals' interest in Darvish, but he is on their radar. Nationals scouts have seen Darvish pitch in person at least nine times, including several games in Japan, and they have been impressed enough to recommend to the front office that he is worth trying to sign.

Unfortunately for the Nationals and other interested teams, Darvish appeared to shoot down any possibility of a move to America on his blog "Thoughts of Yu" (don't laugh, here's a link to the original Japanese if you don't believe me).

If you can't read Japanese, Patrick Newman at NPB Tracker has this translation:

Next year…

I’ll be wearing a Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters uniform.

The 24-year-old Darvish has been openly pursued by MLB teams since 2004, but has so far resisted any temptation to follow the likes of Hideo Nomo and Daisuke Matsuzaka to America. The Nippon Ham Fighters do have the option of posting Darvish, which would precipitate a bidding war among MLB teams for the exclusive right to negotiate directly with the player for a period of thirty days.

 

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Capitals ride the hot hand as Neuvirth starts again tonight

October 19, 2010 - 11:25 AM
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Goalie Michal Neuvirth will make his sixth consecutive start tonight as the Washington Capitals host the Boston Bruins at the Verizon Center (7:30 p.m., national broadcast on Versus).

Neuvirth has started in each of the Capitals' first five games to start the season, and recorded a 4-1 record with a 2.16 GAA and a .930 save percentage.

In other news, head coach Bruce Boudreau reported that defenseman Tom Poti is set to return to action tonight after missing the last three games with a lower-body injury. Defenseman Mike Green, who picked up a stinger in last Wednesday night's 2-1 win over the New York Islanders, was described by Boudreau as a game-time decision. However, Green was one of the last skaters left on the ice after today's morning skate (along with backup goaltender Semyon Varlamov), a sign that he is unlikely to play.

Definitely out for tonight's game is Matt Bradley, who will miss his third straight game with a lower-body injury, while fourth-liner Boyd Gordon is another game-time decision.

My colleague Dan Rowinski and I will have full coverage of tonight's match-up, so stay with us on TBD.com.

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