2012 was one of the best years in D.C. sports history. Then came 2013, a reminder of the decades of hardship this fan base has endured. But let’s not dwell on the past. We’re a glass-half-full newspaper, so let’s look at the 10 reasons to think positively about Washington’s pro sports teams in 2014.
1. Misery loves company: In each of the four major sports, Washington is in one of the worst divisions or conferences. In the NFL, the NFC East winner has had 10 or fewer victories the past four seasons. In baseball, the NL East was the only division in 2013 with three teams with fewer than 75 wins. In the NBA, there have been times this season when only two Eastern Conference teams were above .500. And in the NHL, the Metropolitan division is by far the worst. So it won’t take much to get back in the playoff mix.
2. More spending options: The Redskins had a $36 million salary-cap sanction, which they split over the past two years. Next year, the Redskins’ spending handcuffs come off, so glaring needs like safety, offensive line and inside linebacker can be addressed through free agency.
3. A healthy offseason: Robert Griffin III set the bar pretty high for himself with his record-setting rookie year. His 2013 season was, well, very underwhelming. But cut the guy some slack. He missed an entire offseason’s workouts as he rehabbed from his knee injury. Heading into this offseason healthy should give RGIII an edge for 2014.
4. Major upgrade: With the addition of pitcher Doug Fister, the Nationals may have the best starting rotation in the majors. Fister was 14-9 with a 3.67 ERA last season. The starter he’ll replace in the rotation, Dan Haren, was 10-14 with a 4.67 ERA in 2013.
5. A promising second half: The Nationals had one of the worst offenses in the NL in the first half of the season, ranking 13th out of 15 teams in runs scored. But after the All-Star break, they scored the second-most runs in the NL. Their starting lineup remains intact for 2014 and is fully capable of being a top run-scoring group.
6. Making the jump: John Wall and Bradley Beal have missed significant time over the past two years, but if each can stay healthy, the Wizards will have one of the top young backcourts in the NBA. This season, Beal has taken the responsibility of being the team’s best scorer, while Wall is developing into one of the top all-around point guards in the league.
7. No bad deals: Here’s who’s under contract for the Wizards in 2014-15: Nene, John Wall, Martell Webster, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr. and Glen Rice Jr. (Eric Maynor has a player option). They’re not all great contracts, but the Wizards no longer have any debilitating deals like they had in the past with Gilbert Arenas, Rashard Lewis and Andray Blatche.
8. Ovechkin is still great: Capitals star Alex Ovechkin has powered past a little lull in his career and is back to being one of the best players in the NHL. After two down seasons (by his standards), Ovechkin led the league in goals and won his third Hart Trophy last year. And he hasn’t slowed down; he’s on pace to set a career record in goals this year. He’s been the first to reach 30 goals in back-to-back seasons.
9. Coaching stability: The Caps went from Bruce Boudreau to Dale Hunter in the middle of the 2011-12 season. Then Hunter didn’t return, so they hired Adam Oates for the lockout-shortened 2012-13. That’s a lot of change in philosophy and leadership over a short period of time. With Oates now having his first full season to work with the team, there’s finally a sense of stability on the bench.
10. United has done it before: From 2010 to 2011, D.C. United had a total of 15 wins and missed the playoffs both years. Then they bounced back to go 17-10-7 and make the Eastern Conference finals in 2012. So why can’t they rebound from the dregs of the MLS standings again? Acquiring U.S. national team forward Eddie Johnson, who led the Seattle Sounders in goals the past two seasons, should help.