Comparing apples, oranges and lemons

May 06, 2011 | Keith Melchior

It’s like comparing apples to oranges but people do it all the time in sports, i.e. “if the Orioles were in the AL Central, they’d be able to compete for the division title” and, “he hit 35 home runs in Arizona, he should hit 50 here”  You know, stuff like that. I shouldn’t make the comparison, but for sh*ts  and giggles (and bashing by the local Caps fans,)  I’ll do it anyway.

A history lesson:

The Washington Capitals have played in the NHL for 37 years (not including the lockout season) They have made the playoffs 21 times including a stretch of 14 straight years (1983 – 1996) but only 3 times from 1996 to 2008, and recently 4 straight playoff appearances since 2008.  They made it to the conference finals twice, getting swept by Boston in 1990, and after finishing in 3rd place in the Patrick division with 82 points, beating Buffalo in a game 6 overtime in 1998 to make their only trip to the Stanley Cup finals in which they were swept by a superior Detroit Red Wing club.

In 2004 they drafted a very talented Russian player named Alexander Ovechkin, but since there was no 2004/2005 season they had to wait until 2006 to see the rookie play in his first NHL game. Ovechkin quickly established himself as a franchise player and scorer the Capitals desperately needed by netting close to 100 goals his first two seasons. 2008 would mark the run of 4 straight playoff appearances, all of which ended in bitter disappointment, with three straight  game 7 defeats on home ice and this year being swept in 4 games by #5 seed Tampa Bay.

Capital fans are up in arms and bashing the team along with certain players who seem to disappear come playoff time, i.e. Alex Semin and Mike Green, as well as  their head coach Bruce Boudreau for not making adjustments to stop Tampa’s speedy forward lines and by having his top scorer Ovechkin stationed out by the blue line in Capital power play situations.  With all the talent and finishing as the top seed in the East Conference in 2010 and 2011, there is always something preventing them from going over the top and winning the Stanley Cup.  I’d like to think it’s the curse I put on them in 1997 when they moved from the cozy confines of the Capital Center to downtown Washington, D.C. but it’s way more than that.  Scoring droughts, bad coaching decisions, questionable goaltending, defensive brain farts, and flat out bad bounces, to name a few reasons extend the futility for the boys in red, white, and blue (still the coolest looking uniforms in the NHL)

We, in Baltimore, can appreciate what fans of the Washington Capitals are going through.

After winning the Super Bowl in 2000, the Ravens were a roller coaster team until 2008 when John Harbaugh led them to the first of 3 straight playoff appearances, all of which ended in disappointment and all on the road.  Until they prove they can beat playoff nemesis’ Pittsburgh and Indianapolis when it counts and secure some home playoff games for a run at the Super Bowl, they cannot consider themselves winners. Hey, at least the Caps get home playoff games.

The Orioles are another story. After winning the World Series in 1983 the O’s have made the playoffs twice,  and only finished with a better than .500 record 8 times in those 27 years. Talk about futility.  Suffering through a club record 13 straight losing seasons, the Orioles appeared to be on the right track to the postseason by making a managerial change, signing a few proven veteran hitters, and continuing the  growth and maturation of it’s young players. 2011 is a season of hope and, compared to 2010, looks like a tremendous positive  for the franchise, although after a hot start they find themselves a few games under .500 as they are home for a 6 game stand. Time will tell as we get into the 1/3 point of the season, but they can’t be any worse than they were the  last 5 years.

So, can we compare the Capitals to the Ravens and Orioles? Sure we can.

Are there similarities in all 3 franchises? Yes, Coaching changes, franchise player developments and bold moves by ownership can turn a team in the right direction.

Do we consider the Ravens playoff chokers much like they do the Capitals?  No. The Ravens have not had a home playoff game since 2006 and not being able to win their division are forced to go on the road for playoff games. The Caps, on the other hand, have been the top seed in their conference a few times and have had home ice advantage 4 straight years only to find ways to lose in a building that has been kind to them and a nemesis to their opponents.  The Capitals are the NHL version of the Chicago Cubs of the last 38 years, close but no ultimate cigar. But at least they got close a few times. That’s more than we can say for the guys in black and orange (and I’m not talking about the Philadelphia Flyers)

With young pitching talent, can the Orioles pull off some upsets within their division? No. The Orioles need a solid veteran pitchers in the starting rotation, guys who can teach Matusz, Tillman, Arietta, Bergesen and Britton HOW to pitch in certain situations so they can avoid hitting the 100 pitch benchmark in the 5th inning and maybe get out of an early jam by challenging hitters. Of those 5 probably 3 will turn out to be mid-level talent and career .500 pitching records.

What moves will the Capitals make in the off season? Will they stick with their core players or dump the likes of Semin and Green to try and find the right combination to go deeper in the playoffs?  First thing I would do is look to get rid of Semin and Green. Those guys put up the numbers in the regular season but somehow suffer a power failure come mid-April and fall off the radar.

I would entertain trade requests for Ovechkin. The guy is a super talent and considered by many to be the top player in the world. If I am Nanny McPhee and another team puts together a decent package deal that will benefit my club, I’m all in. They haven’t won anything with Ovechkin, why not try to win without him. The best player in the world looked like the worst player in history the final few minutes of game 3 vs Tampa.

Apples, oranges and lemons. Yeah, I guess they can be compared.  It just depends on what your tastes are.