Musings on a day when the Nationals conclude Washington's first baseball season in 34 years, the Redskins have a "must-win" home game against Seattle, the Capitals get set to open the NHL season Wednesday night, the Wizards are two days from the start of training camp and D.C. United looks to repeat as MLS champion.

For the Nats, a frustrating final three months take away from the accomplishments of a bunch of scrappy guys contending for a playoff berth until the final week of the season -- capturing the hearts of a baseball-starved area that proved once and for all it deserves a baseball team.

The final count will show more than 2.7 million Nats tickets sold for RFK Stadium. That's remarkable when you consider the club did not become operational until February and renovations to the 44-year-old stadium continued through this weekend. Also, an annoying impasse between Comcast SportsNet and the Peter Angelos-controlled Mid-Atlantic Sports Network greatly restricted television viewing of the games so necessary in the marketing of any sports team.

If fewer than 2.7 million fans actually sat in the seats, as cynics observe, so what? Every team posts tickets sold -- not turnstile count -- and the Nationals finished 13th out of the 30 major league teams in attendance. The fans were supportive and delighted to see Frank Robinson's charges accomplish feats no one expected.

Chad Cordero, Livan Hernandez, John Patterson and Esteban Loaiza drew standing ovations. Brian Schneider, Nick Johnson, Jose Guillen, Jose Vidro, Preston Wilson, Brad Wilkerson, Jamey Carroll, Vinny Castilla and Marlon Byrd brought fans out of their seats. And Cristian Guzman taught us patience and understanding.

Together, a salary arbitrator might note, this bunch -- put together in part by GM Jim Bowden under the direction of team president Tony Tavares -- will fetch about $450 million for Major League Baseball. The same bunch that took control of them four years ago when they were the Montreal Expos and could have been had for about $125 million.

That brings us to the final days (weeks?) of this endless auction, with all eight bidding groups still in play, if you believe MLB, and one potential owner, Jeffrey Smulyan of Indianapolis, in town last week shaking more hands than Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. at Angelos's tribute to Ehrlich last Tuesday before thousands of Yankees fans at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

A paranoid Washington baseball fan would wonder about selling the Nats to someone from a town without a major league baseball team, at the time when our baseball-committed mayor might be looking at California condo brochures while his possible successors who don't know Gary Majewski from Luis Ayala probably are mischievously perusing the lease for the new stadium. And, as we join with Ryan Church in ushering in the New Year, we can only hope My Main Man, Bud Selig, doesn't pull the rug out from under us.

To Landover

The 2-0 Redskins, flush with their stunning 14-13 come-from-behind victory over the Dallas Cowboys nearly two weeks ago, need today's game, what with road trips to Denver and Kansas City upcoming in the next two weeks. Mark Brunell's arm strength and mobility have been validated, as have Santana Moss's speed and ability to make a tough catch. But the key for the Redskins in this game -- and perhaps for the rest of the season -- is whether the offensive line can help Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts run the ball successfully and give Brunell time as it did late in the game against the Cowboys.

My favorite Redskins QB, Sonny Jurgensen, returns to the broadcast booth after recent gall bladder surgery, convinced what happened in Dallas bodes well for the rest of the season.


* No other sport ever has missed a full season because of a labor dispute, as hockey did in 2004-05. So it will be interesting to see how the NHL, now on OLN-TV nationally, will bounce back. The Capitals open their season Wednesday against Columbus at MCI Center picked by one national publication -- Sports Illustrated -- as 29th-best in the 30-team NHL (the Rangers were picked last).

So the team that only a few years ago featured Jaromir Jagr, Olie Kolzig, Peter Bondra, Robert Lang, Kono and the rest of a $50 million roster is now a $25 million collection of promising kids, supported by the distinguished goalie Kolzig. With veteran defenseman Brendan Witt telling The Post's Tarik El-Bashir he'd be better off traded if the Caps were rebuilding, and Kolzig telling SI basically the same thing, this could be a long year.

"I think we'll be better than people expect," said GM George McPhee. "We have some young players fans will enjoy watching and who will keep us competitive."

Owner Ted Leonsis's strategy of building with youngsters -- particularly Alexander Ovechkin and Mike Green -- sounds good in August but when they start dropping the puck this week things could get ugly. As they said in the movie "Fargo," "ah, geez."

* Meanwhile, prospects for the Wizards are much brighter than for the Capitals. While the departure of Larry Hughes to Cleveland and Juan Dixon to Portland were big losses, GM Ernie Grunfeld did well in hopes of improving on last season's success, adding Caron Butler, Chucky Atkins, Calvin Booth and Antonio Daniels to the squad.

"We lost a great player in Larry," said swingman Jarvis Hayes, fully recovered from a knee injury. "But we're better overall defensively and with ball movement. I love the team."

Observed Grunfeld: "We're deeper, more experienced and more versatile than we were last year. We'll also be better defensively and tougher."

Plus, Grunfeld added, "We've got our two all-stars" Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison and remained hopeful of rookie Andray Blatche making a full recovery from a gunshot wound. That's optimism. I like optimism.

* D.C. United is gearing up for the MLS playoffs that start too late (Oct. 22) in a season that runs too long. The addition of Argentines Christian Gomez, Facundo Erpen and Lucio Filomeno (he needs a work permit) give United a better chance at a fifth MLS championship in the league's 10th season. Coach Peter Nowak has forwards Jaime Moreno and Santino Quaranta primed, with Freddy Adu about to break out one of these days.

Give United credit for a good season and working well with sports commission officials, with very little whining, while sharing RFK Stadium with the Nats.

Have a comment or question? Reach me at And remember, you represent Washington out there today.

Pitcher John Patterson takes his hat off to Washington fans at RFK. The team sold over 2.7 million tickets in its first season; the club is expected to be sold for around $450 million.