WASHINGTON — What’s the best way to do a year in review?
There were individual moments that will stick in the mind, like Bryce Harper’s final blast of the Home Run Derby, or Braden Holtby’s physics-defying save that swung the Stanley Cup Finals. You could pick out only the positive moments, but that would ignore some of the most important stories of the year.
In the end, we decided the best way to look at 2018 was to acknowledge all the biggest stories, for better and for worse, from a broader lens.
Before we get to the Top 10, here are a few honorable mentions that just missed the cut:
The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad O’s
The Baltimore Orioles had three win streaks of at least three games this year. In fact, in late August, they swept the Toronto Blue Jays. Unfortunately, that’s about as good as things got for the O’s, who lost a franchise record 115 games. Just how bad were they? They scored 3.84 runs per game, fewest in the American League, while allowing 5.51, the most in the AL. They finished further out of first place (61 games) than any team since 1942. Chris Davis, their highest-paid player, posted the 20, by wins above replacement, in the history of Major League Baseball. They cleaned house at season’s end, replacing both their field and general manager, so expect a much different-looking Orioles team in 2019.
(AP Photo/Gail Burton, File)
Ernie Grunfeld’s secret extension revealed
We could have picked any number of Wizards moments, but as anyone who follows the team knows, no substantive change will occur so long as the long-tenured GM stays in charge. While the extension itself reportedly happened in the fall of 2017, it didn’t leak to the public until May. That secrecy should tell you everything you need to know about what the team expected the public perception of the deal to be. Despite craning their necks to stay under the salary cap, this team isn’t one piece from anywhere, and just traded away another draft pick for bench player and one of its only young talents for an older role player. Sticking with Grunfeld has doomed the team to this mediocre cycle in which the payroll continues to bloat without improvement to the roster, in which the future looks more and more bleak.
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Frances Tiafoe wins first ATP title
While he has yet to make a major breakthrough in a grand slam event, College Park native Frances Tiafoe tasted victory on the ATP Tour for the first time as a 20-year-old, knocking off a pair of Top 30 players to take down the Delray Beach Open in February. He nearly won a second tournament two months later in Portugal, and finished 2018 with a winning record on tour and a Top 40 ranking, after entering the year at 79. Those next 39 spots won’t come anywhere near as easily, but as the next wave of young talent establishes itself, Tiafoe has put his name in the conversation.
(AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
Rooney signing keys United’s run from cellar to playoffs
MLS has earned a reputation as something of a retirement home for European soccer superstars looking for one final, cushy paycheck. So nobody could blame fans who were skeptical when D.C. United signed Wayne Rooney, even with his pedigree, even though he’s still on the young side of 35. But Rooney’s and United’s meteoric rise up the standings, from last place into the playoffs, helped fans quickly forget Audi Field’s inauspicious opening, transforming the team’s new home into the fortress they’d hoped for and giving hope for years to come.
(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Burgundy & Gold quarterback drama
One year ago, Kirk Cousins was still the starting quarterback in Washington. That’s how much things have changed since then, starting with the Alex Smith trade. Two broken legs later, the team has already cycled through Colt McCoy and Mark Sanchez before landing on Josh Johnson to try to (unsuccessfully) salvage another doomed season. All the while, the specter of Colin Kaepernick loomed in the ether, especially with the Ravens’ wildly successful midseason about-face behind Lamar Jackson.
(AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Bryce Harper’s long, heart-rending farewell (?)
When the Nationals took Bryce Harper with the first overall pick in 2010, just one year after snagging Stephen Strasburg, you could forgive Washington baseball fans for dreaming of the day the two of them would hold a World Series trophy aloft on South Capitol Street. But while Strasburg signed an extension, with Harper hitting free agency this winter, might his high point in D.C. have been this year’s dramatic, Home Run Derby win? It might have given him a symbolic moment in a Nationals uniform, but not a truly meaningful one, having still never won so much as a single playoff series. With his future still in doubt, is this really it for Bryce in Washington?
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
UMBC wins upset for the ages
It may all seem so obvious now, that a 16-seed would eventually topple a 1-seed. But THAT 16-seed? The one people kept calling by the wrong name? That Seth Davis crossed out in ink at tip-off? Against the top overall seed, the Virginia Cavaliers? Buried in the last window of the first round, late on a Friday night? Not by some fluke, but in a systematic, ruthless deconstruction? Yeah, those guys, with whom the names David and Goliath will always be associated in the history of not just college basketball, but all American sports.
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Maryland football debacle
The preventable death of an athlete is a tragedy we continue to see play out far too often. But the way the University of Maryland bungled everything that happened through and after Jordan McNair’s death put a spotlight on just how broken our systems are and how out-of-alignment our values are when it comes to the sport of football. The school eventually purged itself of D.J. Durkin, but not before making a national disgrace of itself.
Caps win Cup, party all summer
Any team that quenched Washington’s championship drought was going to stake its claim to the hearts of D.C. sports fans. But the Caps’ endless summer of celebration, from which they barely seemed to come up for air in time to start the next season, did as much to cement the title in D.C. sports lore as the title itself. We learned, despite our well-earned cynicism, that it was alright to believe. We watched the weight lift from Alex Ovechkin’s shoulders as he likewise shed any chance of owning the best-player-never-to-win-a-title tag. No matter what comes next, he’ll always have this one, and so will Washington.
(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)