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April 23, 2012

11:06
A.M.

Ask Boswell about the Washington Nationals, spring training, the Capitals, the Redskins and all Washington sports

Total Responses: 37

About the hosts

About the host

Host: Thomas Boswell

Thomas Boswell

A Washington Post columnist since 1984, Thomas Boswell is known for the many books he has written on baseball, including "How Life Imitates the World Series" and "Why Time Begins on Opening Day."

About the topic

Washington Post Sports Columnist Tom Boswell answered your questions about the Redskins' game, the Capitals, the Nationals, the rest of D.C. sports and more.

Past Ask Boswell chats
Q.

Does game 7 favor Caps or Boston?

I thought the tight turnaround on this weekened's games favored the Caps, what with Tim Thomas being 38 and not doing much to economize energy early in Sunday's game. So does Boston benefit more from the days off until game 7 on Wednesday? Do you think the Caps pull this one off? Tell me what I want to hear!
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I was in New England last weekend to take care of some family affairs. On Saturday, I have never seen such gloom and doom everywhere we went. In a restaurant bar, I had a 30-year-old cop from Boxford on one side of me __he said the Red Sox were "doomed" and the Bruins were "finished" against the Caps. We visited my 91-year-old father-in-law and he and his elderly friends were all in Sox/Bruins despair. He was even wearing a ball cap with a combo logo ___Red Sox "B" but Bruins colors__ for good luck and made me wear it.

So, "gloom" about a big Game Seven is not unique to D.C. I think the karma pressure is greater on the Bruins back in Boston, though Caps fans may not realize it.

Playing at TW helps the Caps more than Bruins __especially if it's a close spooky game. My pick: Caps in Seven. And a deep run in the playoffs if all the upsets keep panning out, like the Vancouver elimination last night.

– April 23, 2012 11:06 AM
Q.

Three hot streaks

Hi Tom, The Nats' great start has been a real pleasure to watch. But I can't help remember that last year a completely average team was able to post two hot streaks where they were 12-4 and 13-4. How would you interpret the meaning of this year' streak vs 2011?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Streaks where a team plays 10-or-more games over .500 are the core of almost every good-to-excelleent season I've ever seen. So, when you see 13-2 or 15-3 or 21-7 for a team, that is not a fluke or freak event; it is central to baseball.

I once spent a ridiculous amount of time analyzing the past seasons of 90-to-100 win teams. If you have three +10s and only one -10 (like 2-13), you'll win 90 games. In all parts of the season that are not VERY hot or VERY cold, almost all teams play around .500.

So, the Nats __who are currently on a 10-2 run after a 2-2 start__ should keep pushing to turn this into one of those +10- streaks, like the ones so many Davey Johnson teams have had in the past.  You always level off. And you always have bad spots. But NOTHING is more important to reaching the playoffs than milking streaks like the one they are on now. And 12-4, though an excellent start, should be seen as a chance for a REAL streak __more like 20-8 or some such.

It doesn't matter whether the streak feels lucky __with a lot of one-run wins or a mysterious ability to overcome injuries (at least temporarily) or a knack for ignoring the negatives that often derail a team (like two blown saves by Lidge). That's almost ALWAYS how it feels. Sooner or later, the Nats starters will stop having ridficulous ERA's __like the combined ~1.25 for Strasburg, Gonzalez, jZ'mann and Detwiler. But you want it to be later, even if that means just staying on this current torrid form for one or two more turns through the rotation.

No, of course, they're not "this good." But it looks like they ARE good enough to run off two or three +10 streaks in a season; outstanding rotations make that easier. The next question will be: Does the streak turn instantly into a slump. That happens a TON. So, you want to go from hot to mediocre, not hot to horrid.  

– April 23, 2012 11:07 AM
Q.

Nats: Looking at the Long Haul

Boz: Davy left Gorzelanny in against the Astros even though he was getting hammered (as Vin Scully would say: "twisting in the wind"). He did it, apparently, to save the bullpen for the Marlins series (and it WORKED). Do you think this kind of forward thinking is what separates the great managers from the adequate ones?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

It's what seperates Davey Johnson from ME, that's for sure. I tweeted at the time that Davey left Gorzolanny in the game SEVEN batters too long. Yes, I knew Davey was probably trying to set up "the next series." He has ALWAYS had a knack for for doing this. It's one reason that the Pythag stat for the number of games a team is "supposed" to win, based on run differential, often doesn't work for his teams for entire seasons at a time. The same was tue of Weaver. Davey seems to have a feel for how to "win close" a lot and "lose big" a few times to help line up his A and B pens for a win streak.

– April 23, 2012 11:07 AM
Q.

Nats!

How great was it to see the Nats take 2 from the FISH! What do you think it is going to take to get our offense going? Or is this what it is going to be like for the entire year?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The hitting will get a little better. Nats are 12th out of 16 in runs/game in N.L. And pitching will revert to "very good." Remember, if Nats just played .500 the rest of the season, they'd be 85-77 and probably be in the wild card race until the last two weeks. \

And, as badly as several potential WC teams are doing, you may see the 5th playoff team get in with 85-86-87 wins, not 88-89-90 as you'd assume/guess.

– April 23, 2012 11:19 AM
Q.

National's pitching

I know it is early in the season and 16 games is a small sample, but from what you have seen so far is the strength of the Nationals pitching enough to over come the mediocre offense and let this team make the playoffs?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

A few things jump out at me quickly. The Detwiler development is a big deal __if it continues. And he's now had 12 fine starts in a row going back to last year. That gives the Nats a fourth quality starter who is under team control, in Det's case, through '16. A Big Four??! That cushions you, to a degree, to an injury to one of the other three. When Wang is healthy, that may be a tough decision.

It also matters that Henry Rodriguez. who truly has closer stiff, has continued to develop, not regress. Again, from a multi-season viewpoint __which is how I look at it with this team, similar to the Caps Ovechkin-Backstrom-Etc "window"__ that is a big "piece" to add. Also, the three hitters you worried about most __Werth, LaRoche and Desmond__ are all off to good starts. If you stabalize SS with Desmond as a very good player, not just an athletic "good enough" player, that's important. A Werth rebound probably means you get 2-3-4 more yrs of satisfactory performance from him. (BTW, it's starting to look like Adam Dunn may be headed back toward a normal season, by his standards, in '12. And LaR gives you value now, a possible Deadline Trade when Morse returns or a player you can have for '13 (pick up option).

So, your question, though a good one __and the one that is universally asked now__ is probably not the line of thinking that most baseball people who apply to the 1st 10% of a season. Anything can still happen in '12 __good or poor. But nothing BIG has gone wrong __I assume Storen and Morse will eventually be fine__ while several things have gone wright. Also, the mesh between Johnson and the team is bettyer than I thought it would be. He's a slightly different manager/person than he was 11 years ago __but it's possible that it's a slightly BETTER mix of intensity, strategy, etc.

– April 23, 2012 11:26 AM
Q.

The Masters and Easter

A couple of weeks ago someone asked why the Sunday of the Masters falls on Easter. It doesn't all that often, although it has in the last few years. The Masters ends on the second Sunday in April. Easter can fall anywhere between March 23rd and April 25th, I believe. The next time the Masters and Easter will coincide is in the year 2020, by my calculations.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Not my area. But interesting. I've never had a problem with the Masters and Easter falling on the same day. (The leaders don't go off until 2:40!)

– April 23, 2012 11:28 AM
Q.

Desi, Werth, and LaRoche

Is there any better trio of hitters to have hitting gangbusters right out of the gate? Each for their own reasons, but I couldn't have possibly hoped for their bats to light up like they have so far. Desi in particular looks so comfortable in his role, and if he keeps making plays like that ridiculous back-handed coverage and rifle to second on Saturday, a few points less OBP at the top of the lineup aren't going to hurt that much.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Don't see how things could have started off much better, given Storen/Morse. And almost everybodyt seems to have big injuries this year. Cliff Lee is now on DL after working 10 shutout innings with an ab strain. Could be "not much," but you never know.

"I've had ab strains, but nothing like this," Lee said. "It's on my left side. I felt a little something in the game, and I didn't think really much about it, to be honest with you. The next day, it was sore -- and when I threw, it lingered around."

His pitch total was only 102, so Manuel didn't kill him. Lee may be back to face the Nats early next month in the "Take Back the Park" series. But it shows how fast the Phils could fall far behind the Nats or Braves. They're 7-9 to the Nats 12-4 and the Braves, to their surprise, are hitting well.

You want to identify your strength up the middle on a contending club. The Nats have alreadfy assumed that is Desmond. Now m ayeb everybody else (including me) is seeing it. If you have Ramos/Flores, Desmond, Espinosa/Lombardozzi all young and "established" by late this season, then that only elaves CF and the eventual arrival of Harper.

– April 23, 2012 11:33 AM
Q.

Caps Collapsing Defense

While the Caps have definitely (for once) exceeded expectations in the playoffs, a few things have bothered me about the series vs. the Bruins: 1. The collapsing defense. Time and time again the Caps fall back deep in the zone (even 5 v 5) and leave Boston huge amounts of room at the points. Nobody challenges the point men or tries to cutoff passing lanes. 2. The play of Wideman and Green has been horrific. Both make blind, awful passes and offer little in the D zone. 3. Ovechkin again seems to play only when he wants to and has missed several open nets at key times..i.e. in game 6. I hope the Caps win game 7, but after 29 years of playoff disasters I am ready for anything.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

This is a great series between a reigning champ that's still mighty tough and a very talented Caps team that finally has its four best players healthy, plus a good young goalie. We should, imo, he enjoying this __a lot__ not looking for dark clouds. This is an elite big-time hockey series and the winner on Weds will probably go a long way in this post-season.

Two yrs ago, after the Caps lost to Montreal, I wrote the next day that I thought the Caps were built to be exciting and effective in the regular season but were ill-constructed for NHL playoff-style hockey which is radically different __as everybody constantly discusses. Since then, I've wondered if that point of view __which the Caps eventually adopted with a more defensive style,  more muscle, more mid-'90's Hunter-Caps approach__ was such a hot idea. But, right now, I'd say it's paying off. 

If you assume, as I do, that Ovechkin is still a wonderful player, not the force of nature that he was in his MVP years, then you needed to make this style shift at some point because you couldn't play run-and-gun forever unless the Great 8's line was a terror.

So, painful as it has been, and less-exciting-to-watch, too, maybe this was necessary. I think the whole town was sick of playoff failure by the Caps. Their current style has a better than in April-May, imo, and the team deserves credit for being ahead of the curve and realizing that the Young Guns approach wouldn't work as well when they were no longer NHL-Young but more like "mature."

At any rate, they have avoided a blow-'em-up disaster season and Hunter has his dignity back. But I'd love to see them advance just so FOR ONCE they could be on the opposite side of the underdog-hot-goalie-team-on-a-roll trend that seems to be so important in the NHL playoffs.

Lets make somebody else suffer for a change. Believe me, Bosston will suffer if they lose Weds and that knowledge will work against them. That area is so sports-nuts that the failures of one team are seen as omens for other teams. TONS of people think the Red Sox utter mortification since last Sept 1 is a "sign" that the Bruins will lose, too. Such negative __nobody in Washington would ever be guilty of that, of course. 

– April 23, 2012 11:44 AM
Q.

Game 7

Two weeks ago, we'd have gladly taken it. Now we wonder why we had to let it go this far. Caps have controlled large portions of the last two games and seem to be a different team from the regular season and the early games of the series. They have an opportunity to go places, please dont waste it
A.
Thomas Boswell :

In Boston, they talk constantly about how the Bruins only led for less-than15-minutes in the whole first five games. That changed in Game Six. But that's an enormously hockey-savvy town and they see the Caps as underrated, talented, dangerous and (finally) awakened after an underachieving season. Bruin fans, by and large, seem to think that Tim Thomas __"reasons 1-thru-10" for their Cup last year__ is playing at a considerably lower level, especially after two VERY soft goals on Saturday. 

– April 23, 2012 11:46 AM
Q.

I am so sick of the Yankees and Red Sox!

Of course show the 100th anniversary of Fenway, but they were the game of the week the last two Saturdays and the Sunday night game the last two Sundays. Even Red Sox fans don't want to watch, and the Yankees are just pure evil. Why not the Rangers and Tigers? Why not the Nats? Why not other up and coming teams? Thanks for letting me vent!
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I was surrounded by Red Sox fans all day  Saturday everywhere I went with my family. The 100th anniversary was a stunningly powerful event which even surprised me. Huge cheers for Francona and they just killed Bobby V.

But the Red Sox-Yankees mania is going to fade fast. At least at the nutty level of the last MANY years. The Red Sox just aren't very good anymore. I';d much rather have the future of 6-to-8 other teams over the next five years as Boston gets older and older. And on a 5-yr basis, I'd take the Nats win total over the Red Sox. Granted, they have infinite $$ to spend.

But the shift is on. Texas-vs-Angels is already a better rivalry __based on talent and Series-winning potential. We're seeing a changing of the guard __the Yankees have systemic problems, too__ and the Nats are part of that shift of power, though it may take them another year or two to get right in the middle of the biggest battles.

– April 23, 2012 11:51 AM
Q.

Caps

If that was the Capitals last home game this season, I think they acquitted themselves quite well. Unfortunately, given their recent history in game 7's and the Bruins' experience, I don't foresee good things for them Wednesday night. Here's hoping they can carry this series's effort over into the next few seasons before this team's window slams shut.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

If the Caps are in the midst of a style-shift, as well as a tougher more mature lockerroom under Hunter, then that window might not be closing so fast at all. If McPhee/Leonsis manage an adjust-on-the-fly season that leaves them strong for the future, that's a fine accomplishment. I'm far from ready to salute that verdict. Huge parts of the regular season were just too dismal. But this series shows where they are trying to go and how they can play at their best. Holtby is a huge key. He's certainly not the first "Goal Tender of the Future" for the Caps; but, hopefully, he is the last for quite a while. 

– April 23, 2012 11:55 AM
Q.

the benefits of NOT having home ice advantage

Mercifully, game 7 this year isn't at home. Don't think I could go to another game 7 where the Capitals blow it. So I'm starting to see the benefits of losing some games during the regular season. Hopefully, the Bruins can be the ones to choke at home this year.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

As I've said, I think it's harder for them to play a Game 7 at home right now __given the "mood" up there. I expect a great close game and don't think the Caps will play like they are "haunted by the past." 

In past Game 7 horrors, going back 25 yrs, the Caps have a tendency to give up unbelievably bad early goals that tip you off that they are still in the control of their bad playoff history. I mean in  the first 5 minutes. If they can just play a competitive first period, I'll say they win.

– April 23, 2012 11:57 AM
Q.

The Caps - I have seen this before!

Bos, The Caps have exceeded my expectations in this series, but I see another Game 7 lose approaching. As a long time Caps fan, I feel like they have been breaking my hearts since 1985 against the Islanders. Yesterday, in OT, the Caps barely had the puck and the Bruins seemed to have "more legs" than the Caps, wanted it more and seemed to create multiple scoring opportunities. I do not see Game 7 being any different and the Caps will began another long offseason with lots of questions.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I have covered so many sad Game Seven loses and so many "blown leads" in past series when the Caps were up 3-games-to-1, etc., that I really have little interest in writing the same damn thing again. So I choose to believe it isn't going to happen. 

Franchise histories really do take fundamental shifts. For generations the Red Sox and Phils always failed. Then, suddenly, they didn't. The Caps don't always have to choke. The Redskins don't always have to be sucked down by bad Snyder karma. Washington doesn't always have to have bad baseball teams. And (well, maybe), the Wizards don't always have to be cursed.

I'm not as confident of the last sentence.

– April 23, 2012 12:01 PM
Q.

Changes In Park Effect

As I was sitting in the stands on Saturday, I looked toward the Capitol and noticed more building than there were last year. I wonder whether these new buildings, as well as those to come, have an impact on the wind currents that make the park easier or harder to hit a home run than if center field faced just open space.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Interesting. That's a "we'll see. The whole Ballpark Area has already changed a great deal and will continue to change __pretty fasty in '12, then accelerating, I suspect.

A couple points. Parking is very good __not a problem at all, even for crowds of 30-35K. Safety is not, and has never, been an issue. It's somewhere between Very Safe and Ridiculously Safe. There's not a more-than-a-mile walk that you can take beside the Anacostia that includes a six-acre park and the sites of future "build out." It's very pretty, immaculate and goes all the way past the Navy ships you see when you look out of the ballpark. Also, the views from the 300-level looking back behind the Park across the river, now that Florida  Sand and Gravel is finally gone, are "pretty frickin' bueno."

– April 23, 2012 12:07 PM
Q.

Pudge

Too bad that Pudge won't quite get to 3,000 hits. Safe to assume that he's HOF-bound anyway?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

First ballot. I'd say the only question is where you rate him among the top four catchers in history. I still have Johnny Bench at No. 1. 

There have been reports that Pudge could have signed, as a backup, with K.C. but only wanted to play with a contender. I don't know if that is right.

With Flores, you can see why the Nats couldn't find a place for him. Also, Nats didn't put Derek Norris in the Gio Gonzalez trade until they'd seen what an excellent winter-ball season Flores had produced. The Nats have a lot of "good eyes" in that organization and it's let them make a lot of solid decisions in the last 2-3 years. 

– April 23, 2012 12:10 PM
Q.

Lidge

I'm not trying to throw the guy under the bus yet but he's blown at least 2 saves now. With every game coming down to 1 run how much of a leash should Davey give him? H-Rod worries me too but he's closed out games. Come back soon Storen!
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Maybe Lidge regains the commoand of his slider that he had late last season and in spring training. Then the "problem" takes care of itself. If he doesn't, then at some point you have to make a change at the back of the bullpen. Make H-rod the full-time closer? But Davey NEVER wants to take players out of their "comfort zone" roles just to shore up one temporary problem area. For example, you don't take an excellent set-up man like Clippard and make him your closer __temporarily__ only to jerk him back to his previous role whern Storen returns.

The Nats have several solid pieces in the pen __Burnett, ever since he got to town, Mattheus, the New Stammen. Man, do the red Sox wish they had some of that bullpen.

– April 23, 2012 12:13 PM
Q.

The Redskins don't always have to be sucked down by bad Snyder karma.

So which happens first, then? The Cubs win the World Series or Snyder wins the Super Bowl?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I'm REALLY looking forward to the RGIII era. I'll admit I've been a cheerleader for him long before they made the trade with St. Louis. You just watch him and say, "Where IS his ceiling?" I'd just add that the history of QBs who were drafted 1/1 __and became good to great__ was NOT good at all in their rookie season. RGIII may go 8-8 next year. Or he might go 4-12. And EITHER way, he might still be a wonderful NFL QB. Don't be too quick to judge. By the third full season ('14), you WILL have the answer. And probably by the middle of the second season.

I did (finally) kind somebody who knew somebody in Oklahoma who's a knowledgeable college football nut who watched a lot of RGIII'sd games who did NOT think he was a lock to be a big success. Will he be accurate enough? Does he protect himself well enough when he scrambles to avoid injury. If was almost a relief to find ONE mild doubter! Nobody is a lock in the NFL. Root for RGIII all you want __he certainly sounds like a great young man__ but have some patience, too.

Appreciate what we (finally) have to watch: Strasburg, RGIII, Ovechkin. Then Gio, Z'man, Z'mann, Nicky B, Wall (no, I don't think he's at the Strasburg, RGIII, No. 8 level or ever will be).

But it's going to take the Redskins years to fix the talent-deficit around RGIII. I'm amused at the enthusiasm for players like Garcon and Morgan who are perfectly okay, but far from stars. I mean, if you never have an 800-yard receiving season when you play w P Manning (Garcon), you're going top go for 1,200 with RGIII as a rookie? Come on. We're going to need a lot of Redskin Sanity reminders around here for the '12 season. GETTING RGIII is great. But letting him develop takes a while.

 

– April 23, 2012 12:23 PM
Q.

Ovechkin

Regardless of the Game 7 outcome, does Ovechkin's diminishing role on defense merit a discussion for a new Captain?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Good point. He sure seems like a defensive liability at some key times and, if third-period minutes in tie-game situations is an indication, Hunter sees it, too. Seems like, late-and-locked-up, he suspects that Ovie is almost as likely to lose it as win it with one play. I have no opinion on that. Just noting the PT trend. Last in a Game Seven, regardless of score, Ovechkin has to be on the ice much as possible, imo.

– April 23, 2012 12:26 PM
Q.

Best Caps Playoff Performance to Date?

Bos, Regardless of the outcome of Wednesday's game, can we all at least agree that this is the best Playoff Hockey we've seen out of this club since the lockout? Boston is so disproportionately more talented than us, but this series is going to a game 7 with no game decided by more than one goal. I wasn't particularly enamored with coach Hunter's regular season performance, but I think he's proven why he was hired and would like to see what he can do next year with some better players...
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Fans, writers and hockey commentators in New REngland don't see as much talent gap as you do. They think Caps dogged it on Bruce, had a lot of injuries and are now closer to "whole" and playing near their ability. They also LOVE Ovechkin's violence, the way he WANTS to blow up a Bruin including Mr. 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara.

– April 23, 2012 12:28 PM
Q.

Pudge

Why not offer him a job to be a coach somewhere in the organization and train him to be a manager?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Certainly a possibility. You have to "read" the big personalities in the game __how would they fit in a new role. Livan, someday, wants to work for the Nats, too. You'd think they could only help.

– April 23, 2012 12:30 PM
Q.

Nats getting respect

I live in in Brooklyn, and for the first time ever someone saw my Nats hat and took it as a threat, not a joke. I was getting a bagel when the guy selling to me jokingly said they don't serve Nats fans - then defended his discrimination by explaining to another worker that they were in first place. I've only gotten sympathy before when wearing my cap. No one's ever reacted like that here. We're finally getting respect!
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Nice story!

I've always thought the word "curly" in "curly 'W'" was a little meek for a powerful team, if any such team should ever actually appear on South Capital Street.

But I think Curly W is here to stay. Everybody seems to love it, except me. And I don't dislike it. Much.

– April 23, 2012 12:32 PM
Q.

Rangers vs everyone else

Tom, The Rangers are sporting a +52 in run differential through Sunday. As what I think is a good indicator of how good a team is (of course this is a small sample), does this mean that Texas is that much better than everyone else? Their schedule hasnt exactly been a cake walk. BTW, the Braves have 2nd best at +25.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Rangers, ex-expansion Senators, are a powerhouse. I still haven't seen Darvish __driving me nuts!

Braves will be defined by pitching. How good with Hudson be when he gets back? Will Beachy stay exceptional (0.47 ERA in 3 starts). He's a major prospect. What is wrong with Jair Jurrjens whose numbers look awful and who tailed off at the end of last year, too. He's supposed to be their No. 1 or 2 starter. And their phenom Randall Delgado has gotten knocked around and been wild. So, I'd say the Braves are a good well-built team, but with flaws.

The N.L. East may end with four teams with 85-to-90 wins at the top. I still have the least confidence in the Fish, but Zambrano has been good...so far. Josh Johnson, awful twice, then very good once, is still their key. If he has a poor/hurt year, they aren't even a .500 team.

– April 23, 2012 12:39 PM
Q.

NHL Playoffs

Is there any other sport where the playoff seeding seems to matter as little as it does in the NHL? It seems that all you need to do is get in and play hot for the last couple weeks of the season and you can get the Stanley Cup.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

That is far too close to being the truth. It's one of the NHL's biggest flaws. But it sure makes the post-season crazy. It's long overdue for the Caps to be on the right side of the coin.

– April 23, 2012 12:40 PM
Q.

Can RGIII be next Jef George

The last time a team made so many trades to get a QB in the draft was the Colts when they did so for Jeff George. We all know how that turned out. But at least the Colts eventually found their Manning.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I hope that is the last time I ever see "RGIII" and "Jef(f) George" within two words of each other.

– April 23, 2012 12:41 PM
Q.

Pudge, HOF, PED

Does PED enter the equation for Pudge and the Hall? I know Canseco's mention doesn't count, but to me, Pudge wasn't passing the eyeball test when he was mashing in the HR Derby at Comerica. Plus Sheinin's reference over the weekend re the unreleased test results.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

That will be discussed, I suspect Haven't seen Dave's piece yet. I'll look it up.

– April 23, 2012 12:42 PM
Q.

Best Caps Playoff Performance to Date?

This is the kind of "good enough" talk that will always doom the Caps. Who cares that they played the Bruins close enough if they lose in Game 7? You want "close enough," go back to youth soccer where everyone gets a trophy.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I agree totally. No "jinx" crap. No "good enough."

Go to Boston. Beat the Bruins. Period.

– April 23, 2012 12:43 PM
Q.

Are they really 12-4?

The only thing i'm concerned about is the fact that half of the Nats wins were by one run. They could very easily be 6-10. But I suppose that's what shows improvement - when you win the close ones you used to lose. But if they don't get some more offense, those one run wins could go the other way.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The big question about the Nats is whether their pitching, especially their starting pitching, is whether it will be __over the whole season__ good, very good or great. I've assumed it was too soon to talk about even the possibility of "great." But they have been so far. If they stay "very good," they'll be in the playoff hunt all year in a weakened N.L. East and a generally "beatable" N.L. where it looks like any team that gets ointo the playoffs could find a way to reach the Series.

Part of success is you. Part is the competition. The N.L. competition, at the top, is looking about a manageable in '12 as it ever gets.

– April 23, 2012 12:46 PM
Q.

The mystery of run support

Why do some pitchers just not get any run support when they're on the mound? Does it matter if its not their fault? Would it be insane to trade a pitcher like Zimmermann simply because the bats don't support him here for some reason? I think he's great, but what can you do about Karma?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

It always evens out over a whole career. Okay, ALMOST always. I have found a couple of career-unlucky guys. I'll try to find my list of 'em. No reason to think J Z'mann is one of them. If he stays healthy, in a year with above-average run support, he can win 20. These days, there aren't many you can say that about. 

– April 23, 2012 12:48 PM
Q.

W comparisons

Which do you dislike more, Curly W or Inverted W?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

!!!

I HATE "Inverted W."

– April 23, 2012 12:48 PM
Q.

Nats - Rangers World Series

DC Can't lose!
A.
Thomas Boswell :

It's crossed my m ind __someday. But lets not get way, way, way ahead of ourselves. I PROMISE the Nats will have a 4-12 losing period at some p;oint this season. It's a game of streaks. Milk the good ones, breaking the losing ones. That's ANOTHER reason that three "stoppers" in one rotation is so important __it breaks that "negative momentum" before it can get ugly.

– April 23, 2012 12:50 PM
Q.

Run Differential

Asking myself whether the Nats winning ways are sustainable, I took a look at their run differential and compared it to the five other 10+ win teams. While the Nats differential of 58-45 seems scant to support 12 wins, the Dodgers are actually slightly worse at 68-58, and Detroit (10-6) looks luckiest of all, at 70-65. The other three teams with 10+ wins have differentials very much in keeping with their records: Tex 94-42, StL 82-46, and Atl 91-66. So, I guess, if the Nats are headed for a karmic rebound, they may at least have company with Detroit and LAD.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

So far, Nats are "two wins lucky."

In his first year as a manager, in '84 with the Mets, Davey Johnson took over a 68-94 win teams from '83. In '84, the Mets "should" have won 78 games, based on run differential. In reality, they were 12 wins lucky!!! They won 90. Interesting things happen when Davey is around. 

That's it for this week. Man, lot of tap the next few days! Cheers.

– April 23, 2012 12:53 PM
Q.

Atmosphere for NON-REDSOX fans

Hi Boz, I'm going to Fenway this summer when the O's and NATS are there. Never been. What is the reaction of Boston fans towards those who DON'T root root root for the Home team? If they don't win, it's fantastic!
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Very friendly. Unless you are a Yankee fan in the bleachers. Then something quite different might happen to you.

– April 23, 2012 12:54 PM
Q.

Wizards recent success

Hey Boz, late season fool's gold or do they have the makings of a decent roster?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Fool's gold. Long long way to go. Unmerited optimism is poison to bad teams. Better to sell yourself a little bit short than fool yourself into "Oh, we're not as bad as our record." They are that bad and should realize. I think they do.

– April 23, 2012 12:56 PM
Q.

Nats Attendance

Hi Boz, Saw some numbers last week that didn't look that great irt the Nats attendance figures to date. I went Friday night and the crowd was good and into the game. There's a different vibe this year - an expectation that the Nats will be in most every game. I would describe the Nats crowd as mostly knowledgeable but polite. I think this is the year where a true fan base is established that will carry into future years. We need to establish some unique traditions and mature as a fan base. Takes time, me thinks.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The real crowds start to show up one year AFTER you actually DO something. Not a 12-4 start but a trip to the playoffs or a 90-win season. They'll draw better. But I'll be very surprised if this is the "bandwagon" season that every team in every sports wants to get. There are a lot of "general fans" who just don't want to go to the trouble to invest __financially or emotionally__ in a team until it is certified by success. This is just human nature, not a character flaw.

Okay, that is IT. See you next week.

– April 23, 2012 1:01 PM
Q.

12-4

The last time Washington's baseball team had a 12-4 (or better) record to start the season... 1932. The Walter Johnson managed Sens went on to win 93 games but finish well behind a pretty decent Yankees club with 107 wins. Gehrig 151 RBI, Ruth 137, Lazerri 113, Chapman 107. No question, just wanted to say how much I love Baseball Reference.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Thanks.

– April 23, 2012 1:03 PM
Q.

Jayson Werth on DC

I just read the excerpts from Werth's interview with John Feinstein this weekend, from Feinstein's radio show (Sports Bog posted them) and I think he is spot on in his appraisal. This should become a very exciting sports town for the next five years or so, with the Caps, Skins and Nats all showing varying signs of potential and each with rising stars. He's also correct, IMO, in pointing out the biggest drawback to fan support for the local teams is that many of the people here aren't local. They bring an allegiance with them that takes time to overcome. Do you agree with that? Also, you were a leader in promoting the idea of a potentially strong fan base for a baseball team if one arrived in DC. Do you think you underestimated the challenge of converting the baseball fans that are here into Nats fans?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Sorry to add one more answer. I FINALLY, after a lifetime, have seen the correct stats on the degree to which the Washington Greater Metro Area is "transient. This area is now so HUGE (>5.5M) __biggesr than Boston GMA and soon to pass Philly__ that the % of transients in a couple of sectors (government/militray) is quite small.

The Washington GMA __which is the total fan base__ is now NORMAL for the U.S. in terms of percentage of the population that is truly  "hometown." The just-passing-through folks are down to 25% __the national average.

– April 23, 2012 1:11 PM
Q.

Nationals Pitching

I heard an old retired coach state the following: "you cant schedule opportunity". Tom, do you think this starting rotation can be historically good this year? It's just breathtaking watching these guys.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I love "you can't schedule opportunity."

I wrote a column along those lines earlier this spring. You shouldn't "expect" great things from the Nats this year. But you shouldn't rule out the possibility. That's one reason the Nats signed Jackson for $11M. "What if" things fall in place? Well, Jackson is one more piece so that your rotation might not fall apart in Sept when Strasburg is shut down, as he will be and should be. Getting Jax was a signal to the whole team: Don't cop out by saying, ''Wait 'til next year.' Win now and see where it takes you.

– April 23, 2012 1:16 PM
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