Lincoln holds off challengers to take his 3rd title as the Nationals racing presidents bid farewell to Stan Kasten

In the end, it was no contest.

After a back and forth month in which both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson made strong runs at first place in the presidents race standings, back-to-back repeat champion Abraham Lincoln held off all challengers in the final race of the season, pulling away for a convincing victory and claiming the presidents race title for the third year in a row.

More importantly, the race marked the fifth straight season of futility for #26, Teddy Roosevelt, who failed to deliver in the final home game for Nationals president Stan Kasten, the aleged architect of the anti-Teddy conspiracy.

Racing presidents farewell to Stan KastenNo sooner had Nationals mascot Screech declared Lincoln the winner, when he joined the presidents in holding up signs of appreciation for Kasten, who announced last week that he would be leaving the team at the end of the season.

During his five year tenure with the Nationals, Kasten has been both praised and criticized for his marketing of the team and the Nationals Park experience, including the now-famous 4th-inning presidents race. A Nationals Park farewell tribute was punctuated by a presentation of cupcakes to Kasten by Teddy Roosevelt.

The racing presidents will carry some compelling story lines into the off season. After three straight titles, is it fair now to declare this a presidents race dynasty for the Great Emancipator? With Kasten departing, will we see the team take a tougher stance on Abe’s cheating? Most importantly, with new management in place, will 2011 be the year the Nationals finally let Teddy win?

Video courtesy of YouTube member lfahome (whose video of Tuesday’s race was featured tonight on ESPN)

The Grinch steals victory from Teddy Roosevelt

The final homestand of the season at Nationals Park has been filled with surprises for loyal Washington Nationals fans, with myriad promotions and giveaways as part of the team’s fan appreciation month.

But those fans lamenting another goose egg of a season by a certain racing president were merely teased by the prospect of getting the ultimate gift — a Teddy Roosevelt victory.

The Grinch prevents Teddy Roosevelt from winning the presidents raceOn Sunday at Nationals Park, that gift was dangled in front of them as it appeared outgoing team president Stan Kasten was finally going to let Teddy win. Roosevelt pulled away from the pack and appeared un-catchable heading into the home stretch.

Perhaps it was Kasten who was waiting in ambush, wearing a Grinch costume.

The Grinch flew onto the field from the first base stands, plowing into Teddy, knocking his glasses off and ensuring that the losing streak would remain intact.

Video courtesy of YouTube member lfahome

Calling for a Teddy victory Friday night

DC-based musician, blogger, and fellow marketing professional Mike Holden writes in his blog Thursday that Stan Kasten and the Nationals should consider restoring a little dignity for the 40,000-or-so fans who snapped up tickets to Friday night’s game against the Cincinnati Reds based on reports that pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg would be making his major league debut that night.

“What better way is there to reward those in attendance for this non-Strasburg start,” Holden writes, “than with something that’s just as rare as Pitching Jesus?” A Teddy Roosevelt victory, says Holden, still gives the fans “something that some will proudly say they were there in-person for.”

Our readers have speculated variously that Teddy’s mounting losses will come to an end when the the Nats win the division, or make the playoffs, or win the World Series, or even when Strasburg makes his debut; but I’m in Mike’s camp. Reward the faithful. End the suffering. Give us something special. Let Teddy Win tonight!

Nats fans rewarded for braving the cold

With wind chills in the single digits and a fresh blanket of snow covering DC, Washington Nationals fans proved their loyalty as they braved the ice and snow to line up for the 11:00am opening of today’s 2nd annual NatsFest at Nationals Park.

For those suffering from withdrawal after four months without baseball, the day offered a full slate of player interaction, hot stove talk, and optimism about the season ahead.

Fans got an opportunity meet many many of the team’s high-profile off-season roster acquisitions, including Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, Jason Marquis, and Brian Bruney, at scheduled photo opportunities and autograph sessions. The team also had Ryan Zimmerman’s Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards on display in the Lexus Presidents Club.

Rob Dibble was the lively host of a series of Q&A sessions running all afternoon in the Red Porch restaurant and simulcast live on the HD scoreboard and on TVs throughout the ball park. The sessions featured General Manager Mike Rizzo, Manager Jim Riggleman, team president Stan Kasten, and baseball know-it-all George Will.

Dibble did a great job of driving the discussion, and set the panelists up with a few questions of his own. Rizzo, Riggleman, and Katzen offered no surprises (if you haven’t heard, they are looking for a middle infielder and don’t want to rush Stephen Strasburg, Jesus Flores, or Ian Desmond) . They received few hardball questions from the fans, who are enjoying a honeymoon with the newly-named GM and Manager, but the relative lack of surprises felt welcome when compared to previous years under Jim Bowden.

The format was a nice improvement over last year, and gave each executive a chance to focus on his area of expertise. Riggleman talked game management philosophy, and Kasten fielded a bevy of questions about marketing and broadcast deals (all but promising expanded radio reach by 2011).

After skipping the Winter Caravan, the Nationals racing presidents made their first official team event appearance of the year, greeting guests as they entered the ball park and cavorting around the Club level through the afternoon. Teddy appeared well-rested and fully-recovered from last season’s hamstring injury, and was caught silently assuring many inquiring fans that 2010 would be his year.

Schedule for Sunday’s NatsFest 2010

The week-long Washington Nationals Winter Caravan comes to a climactic end this Sunday, January 31 with the second annual NatsFest at Nationals Park.

Ryan Zimmerman at NatsFest, photo by Eve Roytshteyn MLB.comNationals fans who caught last year’s inaugural event were treated to an unusual level of access to players and management, as well as behind-the-scenes opportunities to visit the home and visitor clubhouses, batting cage, Lexus Presidents Club and more. This is a can’t-miss event for the true Nats fan.

General admission tickets are available at nationals.com for $10 (adults) and $5 (kids), and include parking in the B & C garages adjacent to the centerfield plaza. Season ticket holders have until midnight Saturday night to claim their tickets for free.

The full schedule of events is available for download here. This year’s schedule includes photo and autograph sessions with players, clubhouse tours, batting cage sessions, a Kids Zone with the Nationals racing presidents, various giveaways & charity auctions, plus Q&A sessions with GM Mike Rizzo, Manager Jim Riggleman, team President Stan Kasten, and journalists George Will and Tim Kurkjian.

Last year’s Q&A sessions drew packed crowds, so this year, the sessions have been moved to the Red Porch Restaurant, and guests are being asked to register on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 11:00am in the Exxon Strike Zone. If you don’t want to ask a question yourself, don’t worry. Each session will be simulcast throughout the stadium. In fact, last year when we failed to get into Manny Acta’s Q&A session, we watched from the comfort of the Nats’ clubhouse. Nice!

Photo of Ryan Zimmerman by Eve Roytshteyn/MLB.com.

Nationals blogs forced to fill the print gap

With the Washington Nationals preparing for their most highly-anticipated spring training since the team moved to DC, the oft-snakebitten franchise finds itself without a voice at DC’s major newspapers.

The Washington Times today announced restructuring and layoffs that include drastic cut-backs in local news and sports reporting. The staff reductions of over 40% mean the Times is throwing in the towel on local print news to focus on national politics.

The announcement comes after Washington Post Nationals reporter Chico Harlan reported that he is leaving the Nationals beat as soon as the Post can find a replacement.

Of course, anybody paying attention saw it coming. Two seasons ago, when Harlan took over the Nats beat, he made it clear he wouldn’t stay in the job more than a couple of years. As for the Times, even their most tenured sports reporters have been interviewing for jobs this year as they watched readership drop and were continually asked to do more for less.

Nats followers will surely miss Mark Zuckerman and Ben Goessling’s Chatter, and the commentary of Thom Loverro, who last season so eloquently argued that the Nats must Let Teddy Win in order to escape the curse of Teddy Roosevelt.

But I’m going to miss Chico the most. Harlan won me over in his first weeks on the job, but the humor and eloquence with which he chronicled last year’s train wreck of a season merits a plaque in the sportswriter’s hall of fame.

As for the Nats, the sad reality is that come opening day, the Nationals Park press box will be home to just one full-time print journalist who has never covered the team.

Nationals president Stan Kasten has always had a love/hate relationship with bloggers, but his decision last season to embrace the Natosphere is looking mighty prescient. As print coverage continues to wither, a small army of loyal and dedicated Nationals bloggers continues to cover the team’s every move. The team has followed up this off-season with conference calls and invitations to press conferences as the Nats announced their skipper and GM.

The Natosphere is remarkably strong for such a young franchise. For better or worse, it represents the most consistent local coverage of our favorite team. Kudos to the Nats for recognizing the growing role of blogs in local coverage.

Stan, has it come to this already?

Stan KastenOMG.

Only one day into the season and Nationals president Stan “Nats Town” Kasten is on the radio in Philadelphia this morning inviting Phillies fans to come down to DC for the Nationals’ opening series vs. the Phillies at Nationals Park!.

My lord. I want the team to fill its coffers, but how about doing a little better job marketing right here in DC before stooping so low! Kudos to Dan Steinberg at D.C. Sports Bog for bringing this to the attention of Nationals fans.

Stan, we love the plan, but this is not the way to win the hearts of DC fans.

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