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.

Loverro on the Curse of Teddy Roosevelt

We’ve been saying it here for 2 seasons — the dishonor being done by the Washington Nationals to the legacy of Teddy Roosevelt has got to stop. What we didn’t realize back in 2007 was that it came along with a curse.

Are the Washington Nationals suffering from the curse of Teddy Roosevelt?But how can you deny it?

In today’s Washington Times, columnist Thom Loverro finally comes to the unfortunately simple conclusion that the Nationals are suffering from the curse of Teddy Roosevelt.

As Loverro points out, the Nationals were surprisingly respectable contenders before the live presidents race started in 2006. Since Teddy lost his first race, the team is a horrific 176-262. This is not just the record of a rebuilding team; It’s the record of a cursed franchise, snakebitten by everything from freak injuries to timely bad weather to misspelled uniforms.

If you’ve been watching the Washington Nationals closely this year, can there be any doubt that this team is cursed? It’s time to end the curse and let Teddy win!

Photo by Scott Ableman

Barack Obama to throw out the first pitch at Nationals home opener

Barack Obama will throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park for the Washington Nationals home opener on April 13.Ben Goessling reports in Saturday’s Washington Times that president Barack Obama will throw out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals home opener against the Phillies on April 13.

The Times cites a club source who spoke “on the condition of anonymity” because no announcement has been made.

Team president Stan Kasten and various members of the Natosphere have hoped that Obama will make the presidential first pitch an annual tradition in Washington. That seems more likely than converting Obama into a Nationals fan — at least in the short-term.

Lots of tickets still available at Nationals.com.

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