- The Washington Times
Tuesday, December 27, 2016

There is a core question at the conclusion of any sporting event: What did they say?

As part of our year-end look at Washington sports, the Washington Times went back through a successful — for the most part -— year of athletics in the area. There were playoffs losses — lots of playoff losses — surprises, controversy and comedy.

There is no shortage of commentary from conversational coaches in charge of the four major sports in town. Dusty Baker, Jay Gruden, Scott Brooks and Barry Trotz may form the most accommodating and talkative foursome in the country. Throw-in local stars, and you have a year in which words defined the deeds in District sports.


“It’s frustrating, obviously. You feel sick for obviously the players, the fans, the organization. A lot of opportunities we didn’t take advantage of, quite frankly. It’s unfortunate, plays that we normally would make and had been making in our win streak, we just didn’t make for whatever reason.” — Redskins coach Jay Gruden a day after losing to the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs, ending Washington’s season.

“They tell me after the game I’m going to go. I just ask Nicky how you fly in, and they booked the flight and fly to Nashville.” — Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov on his first All-Star Game appearance, as an injury replacement for Alex Ovechkin and with an assist from Nicklas Backstrom.


“I want this to be a big year for me. I want to make a lot of strides in my game as well as progress in the system.” — Former Nationals top prospect Lucas Giolito at spring training. He would be traded in December.

“I don’t know no Dipo.” — New Nationals manager Dusty Baker, still learning the organization, when asked if minor-league infielder Wilmer Difo was yet to report to spring training because of visa problems.

“With what happened last year, I was in the wrong. It should have never went down that way, and I understand that.” — Former Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon, who choked Bryce Harper at the end of 2015.

“I’ve never met that guy. I’ve never heard of that guy. The guy that supposedly helps me train in the offseason. So, yeah, none of that stuff is true. I’ve never done any of that. I’ve never thought about doing any of that.” — Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman on Charlie Sly and the Al Jazeera America documentary, “The Dark Side”, in which Sly claimed he gave Zimmerman performance-enhancing drugs. An MLB investigation cleared Zimmerman of PED use. The first baseman’s libel suit against Al Jazeera is ongoing.


“I don’t know if it’s an old church song or not, but it says weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning. We will have some tough nights because you’re so close you could taste it, but absolutely joy will come in the morning for what these guys have established for Virginia basketball.” — Virginia coach Tony Bennett after the Cavaliers dominated the first half against Syracuse, only to be ousted from the NCAA Tournament one step from the Final Four.

“We lost to the best team in the country, 33-4 now, No. 1 seed in the tournament. They’re playing really well. They’ve just crushed people lately. And in the end, it looks like they crushed us.” — Maryland coach Mark Turgeon following the Terrapins’ 79-63 loss to Kansas in the Sweet 16.

“I just have such an empty feeling that we never got the ultimate goal.” — Former Capitals center Brooks Laich, who was traded to Toronto after 12 seasons in Washington.


“I love this job. I’m going to come to work until they tell me I can’t. I love this job. I’m proud of what we’ve done here. I took over four-and-a-half years ago, and this was a sideshow. All right? And we slowly changed the culture of this team. We had a slip-up this year.” — Former Wizards coach Randy Wittman minutes before he was fired.

“I’m sure you all woke up this morning thinking you can’t wait to hear me talk.” — New Wizards coach Scott Brooks instantly injecting self-deprecation into his position the day he was introduced to the media.

“If we had varied from the plan, and the plan didn’t work, then I think I would have been within my realm of responsibility to take a look. But, we were executing a plan we agreed to when I bought the team five years ago.” — Wizards owner Ted Leonsis on why he has made multiple changes at coach but has not replaced the general manager.

“Yeah, [expletive], yeah!” — Baker atop the dugout steps following a Bryce Harper double.

“I’m sure my momma is gonna be on the phone,” — Baker about 30 minutes later when informed in the postgame press conference cameras caught him shouting a swear word.


“Just trying to get my ‘A’ swing off.” — Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy, with his repeated answer for the repeated question of how to explain his success last season. Murphy finished second in the MVP race.


“It was a slam dunk.” — Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan on drafting wide receiver Josh Doctson in the first round. Doctson played two games this season before being placed on injured reserve because of Achilles tendon pain.

“We made some progress but obviously not enough. We need to get through this round. That’s part of the deal. That will always be thrown at us until we get through that.” — Capitals coach Barry Trotz after his team was eliminated in the Eastern Conference semifinals by the Pittsburgh Penguins.


“I just wanted to feel like myself. Playing with this the last three years and it getting worse and worse and hurting. … It was time for me to come back healthy.” — Wizards point guard John Wall on why he opted to have surgery on each knee in the offseason.


“It means that I have a huge responsibility in terms of being a leader, in terms of being one of the best players on the team. It’s required of me to be able to have a great game almost every night. It requires me to play 80-plus games throughout the year. I have to be able to withstand all those responsibilities because they made a commitment to me. They believe I can help lead this franchise to where we’re trying to get to.” — Wizards guard Bradley Beal after signing a maximum contract for $128 million.

“We have areas we can improve on in the next couple of weeks and hopefully that will pay off in Rio.” — Katie Ledecky at the U.S. swim trials before winning four gold medals and setting two world records at the Summer Olympics a month later.


“It was a baseball decision.” — Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo on releasing Papelbon.

“I think my kids are most excited about the presidents’ race.” — Then-Nationals closer Mark Melancon following the trade that brought him to Washington from Pittsburgh.


“We’re a baby-making team.” — Baker when pinch-hitter Chris Heisey left the team for the birth of his child shortly after former shortstop Danny Espinosa’s wife had a baby.

“”The ligament is good.” — Nationals trainer Paul Lessard in his opening comments about Stephen Strasburg’s arm injury.

“It’s easy for you to get lined up but the other guys, it’s difficult and that’s why most of the time, people get talked out of it, especially with offenses that move their guy around.” — Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry, rationalizing his decision to not have cornerback Josh Norman trail the other team’s best receiver. He later changed his mind.


“You feel like you get right there and you get it taken away from you right at the last second. This one’s tough, it hurts. It was a crazy series. We battled, they battled. It was right there. Right there for us to get. Didn’t get it done, man. It sucks.” — Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth after losing Game 5 of the NLDS, which lasted 4:32 and was closed out by Clayton Kershaw.

“It will get better.” — Baker in his office after being eliminated.

“It definitely feels more like a loss than a win, because we moved the ball so well and had so many opportunities to win.” — Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins after Washington tied Cincinnati in London.


“There’s a couple Twitter battles that I really don’t even read anyway.” — Gruden on managing Norman, which he said was not an issue in his eyes.

“[Have you] seen my body?” — Gruden when asked why he was doing pushups before a Redskins practice.

“It just verifies everything I try to do out there and set out to achieve, and the method I try to go out there and do it. By winning the second one confirms that everything I try to do works.” -— Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer on winning his second Cy Young Award.


“We felt we reached as far as we were going to reach for the trade, and we fell short.” — Rizzo after the Boston Red Sox stunned baseball by acquiring pitcher Chris Sale, whom the Nationals made a big offer for.

“We knew what we had at stake, we knew what we had on our hands and we can’t really talk about playoffs until we handle who we need to handle and play better.” — Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson following a loss on Monday Night Football against the Carolina Panthers.

“We’ve played really well at times, and not played well at times. It’s kind of been like our own mini roller coaster ride, to be honest with you. But, I like where we are. We have a chance in the final game of the season.” — Gruden

• Todd Dybas can be reached at tdybas@washingtontimes.com.

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