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September 10, 2012

11
A.M.

Ask Boswell: All things Washington sports

Total Responses: 20

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, the Capitals, the Nationals, the rest of D.C. sports and more.

Past Ask Boswell chats
Q.

Has DC sports ever had a moment like this?

Could it be that, at long last, the wheel has turned? RGIII shows up. Incredible physical gifts, but also, apparently, incredible mental ones, self-belief, and a willingness to put in as much work as needed to succeed. You saw it in the little things: the way he faked a hand-off, the respect the veterans gave him in the huddle, the way he extended plays with his legs to get a man open down field. It was wonderful, it was exciting, and it reminded me of someone else, also a rookie, also playing as hard as he can, naturally skilled, but with the mind to think the game: Bryce Harper. RGIII and Bryce Harper under the tree in the same year? What are the odds?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Great point!

This is a morning for exclamation points. So lets start with RG!!!

We all remember the first time we saw great players. Sometimes we're wrong. They actually aren't real great, just very good and we got a little too excited. But I'd much rather live being a bit too excited at times than never give myself up to "the shock of the new."

My first impression, and we'll all have many others, but first impressions have their own value, is that Robert Griffin III will be the most important and successful Redskin player since Sammy Baugh.

The universal question for rookies is: How will he adjust to the SPEED of the NFL.

That is speed in all its forms. The speed of huge defenders __D linemen who move as quickly as college linebackers, NFL linebackers as agile at college DBs. And NFL DBs who are faster than anything you've ever imagined. That's why everybody says, "Wait. Any of these high-pick QB hot shots can fail."

After Sunday, I think the question has been reversed. How will the NFL adjust to the speed of RGIII? And will it be able to.

I mean speed in all its forms, not just straight ahead sprinting speed where Griffin is already measurably as fast as anybody who ever played QB. It's also the quickness of all his movements, every gesture, his footwork, ability to sreset the pocket a few yards left or right in a blink (and reset it more than once), the speed of his fakes that happen so quickly you think "who has the ball!" It's speed of the ball as he delivers it like a 98 mph fastball (you knew there'd be a baseball reference). But it's also the speed with which his mind works and the speed at which he processes what he sees in front of him.

A rookie REALLY should not be able to digest so much offense so quickly __boots, options, read on the run, drop backs__ so quickly.

Griffin's first TD, the 88-yarder, was released in a blink as a blitzing DB hit him. "Too late!" RGIII just flat out USED safety Malcolm Jenkins all afternoon, including that play. He shook off his tackles or took his hits as he threw as if he were the 15-year-old in a game with 12-year-olds.

In the whole game, Griffin only seemed slightly confused by what he saw a couple of times. And he only made a couple of physical mistakes __the fumbled handoff which he recovered and the sack when he was tripped by his own back. Both times he was poised.

Joe Gibbs talked about "football intelligence." We all know how smart RGIII is in the everyday meaning of the term. He speaks so well on his feet you wonder if he won't run for office someday. Gibbs was talking about something different. He said he could spot it __or the absence of it__ as soon as he used a projector in a film room to talk about plays that were shown on an overhead screen or in practice when players had to recognize what they had seen diagrammed in playbooks or seen on those screen. He told me, "It's an entirely different form of intelligence __it's instant recongition of what football LOOKS LIKE at high speed." And he gave examples of "smart guys" who were actually football dumb and players who seemed not-so-bright who processed everything instantly. RGIII seems to have both kinds.

Whern Roger Staubach first came into the NFL, and quickly showed how wonderful he was, coaches said, "Staubnach can run any play you can diagram. Plus some others that he invents." 

That's probably going to apply to RGIII, too.

Staubach had a big accurate arm and could gun throws into small windows. He could put air under the deep ball. He could scramble and also sprint straight up field. And he was probably better on broken plays than even RGIII will be.

But Griffin showed almost everything __except the deep ball. He still hasn't hit one. That may be a minor issue. He missed three on 'em in his last exhibition work. His most im pressive play __I was watching the tape, there was about 2:25 left, Skins ahead 40-32, 2nd and 13__ and I thought, "Jeez, the Saints actually probably got the ball back with plenty of time left. How did the defense stop Brees?"

Then Griffin just rifled a perfect pass to Logan Paulsen over the middle for a 22-yard gain. It was so perfect, in the numbers, that he might as well have caught the ball for Paulsen, too. I actually gasped and gave out the manditory, "Holy (....)!"

No veteran ever made that super-confident, over-the-middle, quick read unstoppable clutch throw any better.

I thought the same words that Harper used in his welcome-to-DC text to RGII: Hashtag "He'sReal."

I realize how large a statement that Baugh comparison is. Of course, like everybody, we'll reexamine all of this 100 times. But I do have a frame of reference.

Pre-game Skins shows yesterday were pointing out that Griffin was the 1st Skins QB to start in the first game of his rookie season since Norm Snead in fifty years ago in '61.

That kind of stunned me. I remember the Snead debut. (He ended '61 with 11 TDs and 22 Ints.) I was even the QB of my high school frosh team that year, so you can bet I was into it. (For all I know I probably tried to wear No. 16).Snead turned out to be the absolute master of the perfect spiral 65-yard bomb incompletion. He failed prettier than anybody ytou ever saw. And he ALWAYS missed.

I think RGIII, if healthy, of course, can and probably will be better than Sonny. I know, that's 10 years premature. I think this is the ONE day for premature. We can reign back later. Sonny wasn't exactly a team player or great game-manager until his one year with Lombardi as coach __as he's the first to say. So, he never won anything big in the NFL. Given time, I assume RGIII will.

I said the Skins would go about 6-10 and mentioned that no player drafted 1-2-or-3 overall had EVER had even a .500 record as a rookie. George Shaw in the '50's __at 5-6-1__ was the best.

Well, I now think RGIII will be the first. Better than 8-8? Lets give it at least a couple of weeks! But he's so inspriational __and the defensive front put so much pressure on Brees!!!__ that I'm not sure a winning season is that much of a reach.

And, yes, the last few weeks has convinced me that Harper can adjust to the league and, though a streaky hitter, take instruction to come out of slumps. His offensive numbers (now around 450 AB) are IDENTICAL to Mickey Mantle and Ken Griffey, Jr., at 19 and Willie Myas at 20. Harper also plays CF like Mantle __on athleticism, not a natural feel for the position. Mantle seldom got as great jump, but he "closed" like a maniac. So does harper. But Bryce has a much strong and MUCH more accurate arm.

Yes, it's an amazing moment in D.C. spots. We all waited for it long enough, didn't we?

Everybody deserves this __the Skins with hope, the Nats a .600 team. All of it and, if they can pull themselves back together, the Caps, too.

– September 10, 2012 11:02 AM
Q.

Strasburg (a different approach, seriously)

I know we're all sick of hearing about the Strasburg shutdown (for what it's worth, I agree with the Nationals' approach, and as an attorney who's done insurance work I thought Boras made a great point about how ignoring the doctors' advice could well put the Nationals' insurance coverage at risk). But I have a slightly different question now that it's done and we've seen Strasburg's comments. What do you make of them? I can't tell if he's truly livid to the point where he might carry a grudge over it (which would concern me) or whether his anger comes from the natural competitive instinct a pro athlete has to get out there and play (which is important, and if a guy doesn't have that, you probably don't want him on your team...remember Randy Moss saying some days he shows up to play?). Which do you think it is? My concern about Strasburg's anger is based on the notion that if it's more than just competitive fire, might it come back to hurt the Nationals down the road come contract negotiation time? Or do you think if Strasburg DOES come back next year with a strong season like Zimmermann did, all will be forgiven?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I was a few feet away when he spoke and my take is that he holds no grudge against the team. He's just a fierce competitior who is furious that he can't compete, even though he understands why. He really was shocked that Davey and Rizzo shut him down one start early. Davey did not like his body language in the 3 IP knockout on Friday night. Johnson has total sympathy for what he's gone through __all the moronic comments by ex-players especially about how he should be tougher. But also wants to keep Strasburg's confidence and focus at its usual astronomical level.

On this one, I think everybody did everything just about as well as it could be done __including Strasburg letting (some of) his true anger and frustration out.

But he did it all in context __left out in some reports__ of playing many years in Washington and grasping what the Nats were trying to do for him. "It is what it is. It sucks." But he didn't say "The nats suck." It's the nature of the situation that drives him nuts.

– September 10, 2012 11:04 AM
Q.

RG3

Boz, I would temper anything said about what happened in New Orleans yesterday by saying this--that even in their championship season, the Saints' defense wasn't a knock 'em flat type defense. They got a LOT of turnovers in 2009, and converted those turnovers into points either directly on on the ensuing drive by the offense. But having said that...this was still a regular season game, and when everyone was burying the 'Skins on Friday after the suspensions of Vilma and Smith were lifted, all we got...was a rookie QB going into that noisy place and shredding a team in a game that COUNTS. Yes, Washington, there's a light at the end of the tunnel for the Redskins--and for once, it does not appear to be an oncoming train.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Good points. But the Skins were still 10 point underdogs on the road in one of the loudest buildings anywhere vs Brees and a team that went 13-3 last year. We can add all the "but...but...buts" we want. But it was VERY impressive.

Of course, the Nats pressbox was full of Skins talk. Consensus, Skins could only win if they rushed for 175 yards, won the turnovers, got special teams help. NOBODY said, "They can win, despite a blocked punt TD by New Orleans, because RGIII w2ill run THE WHOLE OFFENSE almost flawlessly and shred the Saints defense for 320 passing, 42 running, plus 96 rushing by a rookie RB!

Whennobody comes within a light year of "calling" waht happens, then you know something Big probably just happened.

Now the NFL has game film to see what the Skins have cooked up for Robert. I wish them luck. They're gonna need it. 

– September 10, 2012 11:06 AM
Q.

game plan

With all the excitement with the win and RGIII, it should be noted that the offensive game plan and play calling was outstanding. Do you agree?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Absolutely.

The Shanahans will finally get to show off their brain power as offensive thinkers. If they can diagram it, they can now run it.

– September 10, 2012 11:06 AM
Q.

RG3 is Wow.

What a difference a QB makes. My goodness. How have we watched football for 20 years thinking we had a chance before now? It's only one game, but the poise, the footwork, the arm, the accuracy, the decision-making, it's all as good or better than advertised. There will be rough patches and growing pains, no doubt, but holy cow - RG3 is must see TV.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The NFL is a QB and head coach medium, as everybody says. Now the Skins have a QB. And they have had some putrid ones. Over the last 19 years, as I've pointed out many times, the Skins have the second or third LEAST points per game of any NFL team.

Those days are over. Last year's high __28 points. Now, 40 in one game.

But, no, don't expect 40 on a regular basis. The Saints defense is poor. But they still had the edge of the Skins barely being able to hear pl,ays calls.

– September 10, 2012 11:08 AM
Q.

Art Modell

Do you think that Art Modell should be enshrined in the Hall of Fame? Yes, he did a lot for the league, but he also moved a great franchise. Isn't it enough that he made a fortune off his investment, but is disappointed that he is not a member of the Club? Leave the HOF to owners like Mara and Rooney.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I agree. Keep HOF standards high.

But he deserves all the appreciation that's being shown now.

– September 10, 2012 11:10 AM
Q.

Strasburg vs RGIII -- Best Start?

Is it even POSSIBLE to compare RGIII's rookie debut with Strasburg's? Even if it isn't, what da heck -- give it your best shot.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Yes, it is more than possible. It is obvious, I'd say.

You can see Strasburg and say, "When he pitches like that, or close to that, very few are going to hit him. If healthy, nothing stops him from winning.

He just went 15-6 in 159 IP. No reason he can't win 17-to-20 starting in '13.

It's the same with an NFL QB or an NBA center like Shaq. You could see Shaq ONCE (or Wilt, yeah, I saw him as a rookie) and say, "Nobody is going to stop this monster.)

Like any QB, enough pressure in his face can stop him. You can't pass for 320 yds on your back. (Though he did pass for 88 from very close to his back!)

It was clear that Ovechkin, as long as healthy and motivated, would be one of the NHL's great scorers. It's obviouys, as long as healthy, Strasburg will K 200-to-250 every year and Harper, as soon as next year, will probably be getting Top 20 MVP votes. It might be higher than that. A sign of development is that Harper is come comfortable enough to PULL most of his HRs. Though his bomb over the LF bullpen last week was improessive opo-bopo. Can't believe I'm saying this, but Harper's going to hit 20 this year and probably 30 next year.

Going into Sunday, since August 17th, Mike Trout's slash line was .279/.347/.453 for 20 games. He's cooling off a little. Harper's was .263/.320/.526. He's out of is slump and has hit six homers in his last 12 games.

It's no coincidence that Werth returned on August 17th and Harper has responded. They love playing next to eachother. On Sunday, the sky was as bad as it ever gets for fly balls. Two routine flies were dropped/missed (one by Harper) and two others barely caught. Werth told Harper that he'd take all the balls he could reach in the RF gap because he'd have a better angle looking into the sun. 

Harper said to Werth, "Yeah, good. I think we are OK."

Werth said he thought to himself, "Were NOT OK." Said it was the worst sun field he'd ever seen. And not long after Harper missed a ball that gave the Fish two runs and really led to Edwin Jackson's bad day.

– September 10, 2012 11:20 AM
Q.

Holding baserunners

Please say something interesting about the Nats' tendency to allow stolen bases. How can one staff have developed a team-wide problem like that? Is it something that these particular pitchers would have in common even if they pitched for different teams? Is it something about the way they are coached in this organization -- focus on the batter and trust your stuff, especially when you're young? Would there be a tradeoff if they were to pay more attention to baserunners?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

It's just as bad as it looks, especially for some of the relievers who have some of the slowest times to 1st base in baseball, like Storen.

They need to throw to 1st more often and, more important (especially in Stras' case next year), they need to stop this "go on first movement" by BREAKING FROM THE RUBBER. You don't have to throw to home or first. You can quick-step off and the runner, if he breaks, is dead. Edwin Jackson, I think, finally did it recently.

On the whole, the Nats are willing to sacrifice some SB for the sake of extra stuff on the ball because they are such a huge power staff. That's probably part of Davey's confidence/intimidation makeup. But there's a limit.

There are 2 proper measures. The % your throw out. And how many steals you allow per game. The Nats are awful at throwing out theives (102 of 120 successful). But 102 SB in  140 games isn't bad, more like "poor." But it's getting worse as foes figure it out. So, it's a significant problem, especially in lower-scoring post-season games; but not a huge one __yet.

Here are the good, the bad and the ugly vs base stealers. Remember that relievers pitch only 40% as many innings as staters.

Steals and thrown out stealing for starters:

Strasburg...14-2

Gio Gonzalez...10-1 (bad for a lefty)

Z'mann...9-2

Jackson...7-4

Detwiler...3-2 (exellent. Only one steal of 2nd base in '12).

Only good move in bullpen is Matthues...2-0.

Stammen...12-1

Clippard & Burnett both 6-0. Storen 5-0. Gorzelanny (lefty) 5-1.

Bet you didn't know you could find such stats. Sadly for me, you can now find ANYTHING ON EARTH.

 

– September 10, 2012 11:32 AM
Q.

Stephen Strasburg

Will Stras be allowed in the dugout during post season games if he's not on the post-season roster?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

He'll be in the dugout the rest of the regular season and might even pinch-hit (I assume) in the 15th inning.

I'm find out about post-season. That's not a question that has been asked in DC in 79 years.

The Nats are now 86-54. That means, if they go 0-22 (I'm not serious, just pointing out how well they have done), they would tie the '68 Nats of Ted Williams for most DC wins since WWII.

Also, at 86-76 their win % would be .531. Right now, the Dodgers have the second wildcard spot w a .525 mark. So, you can see that with one or two wins in 22 games (or even none) it's plausible that the Nats would still make the 2nd wild card. (This assumes that if the Nats collapse, the Braves win the NL East and the wild card "battle" would be between the Nats, Cards and Dodgers.) Of course, the Nats want to win the NL East and, if possible, have best overall record or even win 100. Those are the proper goals.

But they ARE going to the playoffs. Just check that off on your list. And it is almost certain that they would have won the OLD wild card, they way it was set up last year. If the Braves passed the Nats in the NL East, then the first wild card battle would be between the Nats and Cards. The Nats are 11 games ahead of the Cards.

So, this is what is GOING to happen. The Nats will either win the N.L. East or they will end pretty ugly and be the first wild card with the WC vs WC game at Nats Park. This isn't "speculation." It's like 99 percent what's going to happen. But, ok, not 100%.

– September 10, 2012 11:43 AM
Q.

1st Base in 2013

Mr. Boswell, If you were the Nats, would you try to sign LaRoche to a multi-year deal if it could be done reasonably? Morse was better at first than I expected him to be last year and I've not seen enough of Tyler Moore playing there, but it seems to me that LaRoche's glove goes a long way to mitigate Ryan Zimmerman's sometimes crazy throws. And his offense is not bad either if the contract is on the shorter side of things so there's not tremendous risk of his skills eroding as he ages. If we keep LaRoche, does Morse become trade bait?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

LaRoche is having a wonder under-praised year. I hope to remedy this soon. He is tied with Albert Pujols for the most homers by a full-time 1st baseman (29) and is tied with Pujols for third place in RBI by 1st basemen with 94 just behind Adrian Gonzalez (96) and that guy Prince Fielder (95) that "everybody" thought the Nats should spend $200M on __and probably not have money left to extend a bunch of their current players.

The Nats and LaR have a "mutual option." The Nats should __no question in my opinion__ pick up LaRoche's $10M option for '13. LaRoche could accept or use his option to decide to become a free agent.

My guess is that LaRoche, 33 in November, could a 3-yr deal for $35M-to-$40M. Maybe this is my view of his value. The market may have its own. He's never been given xcredit for what is obviously Gold Glove lev el defense and, at least as a Nat, major influence as a club house leader and example.

If I were the Nats, and I have no idea what their plans are, I'd offer LaRoche 2yrs/$25M. If you only pick up his $10M 1-yr option, I think he probably has to leave and take the bigger bucks. He might even get 4 yrs. If you offer two yrs, maybe he thinks, "I've already made $36M in my career. That guarantees I'll m ake more than $60M with this deal. I'm a bow-and-arrow-hunter guy, not a mansion guy. That's enough. I'll take it so I can play on a could of Series con tenders in DC in '13-'14."

That's pure WAG. I haven't talked to him ab out it. And I promise, 90%+ of players in his spot would just go FA with a 30-100 year and take the best contract. But he's a bit of a different cat and loves this clubhouse.

Even at a 2-yr deal, that wouldn't block others in the minors, like Rendon. Morse can certainly play LF in '13. And, sometimes, I think you just need to do the decent thing and say, "Look, we know you'll probably go someplace else because we can't give you 3 or 4 yrs because it just clogs up too many of our options, like moving Z'amn to 1st base if his throwing problem gets worse. But you DESERVE at least a two-yr OFFER from us. We understand if you don't take it. But we'd really like you to stay and win here."

No, baseball doesn't usually work in this "nice" way.

Morse hasn't hit as well as last year. But the season isn't over yet. He's a legit slugger and you have him at $5M next year. That sure doesn't look like trade bait to me. Looks like your LFer or 1st baseman.

Tyler Moore's natural position is 1st. This guy can hit. Maybe as well as LaRohe. But LaR hits LHed and the Nats need balance in their lineup. The Nats have some amazingly good "problems." 

– September 10, 2012 11:57 AM
Q.

RGIII of course

Now that the league has had a chance to finally see how the Shanahan's plan to use RGIII, will his impact be lessened as other teams adjust? We saw this happen to Cam Newton last year and even yesterday as Tampa Bay contained him.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

A good point. But Griffin can do more things in the NFL version of option offense and bootlegs than Newton.

Still, Cam can take a hit in the pocket. How will RGIII react when he gets his first real pounding. Comne on, nobody keeps a clean jersey for long in the NFL. Some teams will just Send The House to see how he reacts.

But "speed kills." And as I pointed out, Griffin appears to have all the various kinds of physical and mental speed __including the fastball that gets through "the window" in a hurry.

Look, I (we) get to be carried away with this guy for a day. But I don't honestly think iot's just a day or a week. He'll have bad games. But6 I think he'll produce as a rookie the way many other fine hi-pick QBs have performed in their SECOND year. I think he's that adavnced. So I'm gonna go look at W-L records of top hi-pick QBs in the their second year. There are a few 10-6's and better. Skins can't be that good that fasty (cvan they?)

But beating N.O. on the roasd probably means that they can, on a good day, beat bad-to-decent teams on the road some of the time and bad-decent teams most of the time at home. And they may even beat a good team or two when they comes to FedEx. That adds up.

– September 10, 2012 12:03 PM
Q.

Zimmerman's Throwing

Boz, I'm beginning to think Zimmerman is a head case. When he has no time to think his throws are almost always amazing and on the mark. When has has even half a second, it seems like it's 50/50 it's going either to bounce or sail. Why did he overhaul his mechanics in the first place? Are his current problems fixable?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

He overhauled his throwing motion because he had the same problem BEFORE. The Nats had their "field instructor" in town for a few days last week to talk to, work with Z'man. I said to Ryan that, even though his overall fielding percentage (~.956) is right at his career level (and normal for his position), and his total defensive value at 3rd is large,  "People notice when a routine throw hits the tarp."

"So do I," he said.

He's open about it. He knows. Everybody has some problem in their game. This is his. It's a big glaring one that could be scary in October. It's in his (goofy looking) two-piece throwing mechanics and in his head, too. Duh. Obviously. Small college 3rd basemen manke those throws without even thinking about them.

He's such a fine person that everybody wants this to work out or be a mangeable issue. Remember, in the end, if he wants to swallow his pride, he could probably turn most of these "routine plays" into manageable ones __for him__ by simply fielding the ball, crow-hopping toward 1st a few steps, then throwing sidearm. It wouldn't look good. But neither do the current hgigh, low and wide right throws now.

On Saturday, Z'man's throw pulled LaR off the bag, but he had time to run, catch it and run back to the bag for the out. These days, everything gets recorded by various Nat or stat groups. They have a category for throws that are good, or bounce or are high or force the 1st baseman to "abandon the bag." I asked what the category was for "abandon the bag and still have time to return for the out."

"We haven't got that one," said the guy. 

They never needed it before.

– September 10, 2012 12:11 PM
Q.

Nationals

Boswell, you've talked me off the ledge before about the Nats, can you do it again? It just seems like they are not playing well, and the Braves and Phillies are on fire. I am trying to stay positive, but I am feeling very nervous about their chances to make the playoffs, let alone go deep in them. (Just a note, I've been a Nats fan since the day they announced that baseball was returning to DC, so I am by no means a fair-weather fan).
A.
Thomas Boswell :

This is just sad. They don't have a problem with performing. You have a (well-meaning) problem with your perception. The Nats are on a 9-3 sgtreak since Johnson held his team meeting. They are 33-15 __re hot__ over a longer time frame. What on earth are you looking at?

But I do think that Chipper Jones walk-off homer vs Papelbon and the Phils on 9/2 ignited their current 7-1 run. That's why Werth's homer in the bottom of the ninth, after the 2 1/2-hour rain delay, which set up a win in a game that looked like it would be a rain-endedn defeat, was a real emotional answer.

I've always hoped that Washington would get to experience a pennant race. But you have to have a LITTLE distance or you won't get the pleasure of it, just the anxiety.

The journalist in me, I have to admit, would like to see this go down to the wire because I know how amzing the feelings __the roller coaster__ can be. That's how people go from indifferent to fans to fanatics (almost against their will.) If the nats didn't clinch until the last weekend, or even fell into the wildcard on the last weekend, the intensity of it would surprise a whole lot of people in this area. A clinch with a week to go would have the pleasure, but not the intensity.

The Nats face some tough pitchers this week __Dickey vs Z'amnn in NYC and Lannan vs hot rookie Harvey as well as "Next-Maddox" rookie Medlen in Atlanta. But the Nats also have their best pitcher, including SS, to start the first and last games of this 6-game trip __Gio Gonzalez. Versus Collin McHugh (rookie) and Mike  Minor (great-or-bad) on Sunday. Big pressure games for Gio. He might as well get used to 'em now. He and Z'amnn (who faces Dickey on Tuesday) will get them in October.

– September 10, 2012 12:22 PM
Q.

Redskins vs. Nats

Boz -- the Post's Saturday article on Skins and Nats fans was one of the dumbest things I've ever read in its pages. Why did the article treat the two teams as mutually exclusive? I'm a HUGE Skins fan. I'm also a HUGE Nats fan. I'm also a HUGE Wizards fan, as well as a fan of the Caps and Terps. Is our town such a pathetic sports town that people here can't actually root for all of our teams?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I don't get it either. But that's just me. I bought my first Topps cards in late '55 to get Redskins players. I got my first baseball cards in '56, to get Senators. In high school, I wore the numbers of favorite Nats and Skins players at my positions when I was on the varsity. When Lefty came to Md, I became a terps hoop fan. When John Thompson got to GU, I covered the Hoyas a few years and thought that was great. I know you're not suppoosed to like both GU and Md. Well, take a hike. I always have. Same for the Caps when they finally got good __in the '90's, not the Ovechkin teams.  I got a huge kick out of covering them into the Stanley Cup Finals. We don't wroite much about the Orioles anymore because newspapers are having a lousy time of it and you have to focus your coverage on beat/stories that you can "own" __translation, usually intense local focus. Or, in other sections, national politics for us. But I still watch or tape O's games. I have so much useless info in my head about the O's __useless to me professionally__ that it's crazy. I enjoy appreciating good teams and players. I really don't get much of a kick out of waking up in the morning and thinking, "Who can I hate today?" unless its a player, team or...hmmmm....owner or commissioner that deserves some bricks thrown in that direction. Gotta to admit I enjoying taking on big targets, who can take care of themselves, and who merit critics.

But "pick" between local team on the rise? That strikes me as crazy. And that's how I've felt all my life. It's not like since (before I was born) Washington has had so many wonderful teams since WWII. Oh, we've had plenty, enough, quite a few. But not so many that I feel like chucking some of 'em in the trash. 

– September 10, 2012 12:32 PM
Q.

The Lerners

After initially thinking that maybe we had another bad owner in town (I mean, who refuses to pay rent for a new stadium?), the Lerners have been a pleasant surprise the past couple of years, just cutting checks and seemingly staying out of the way. Do you think they'll change now that they're dealing with a winning team and a bigger fanbase? Their reluctance to pay to keep Metro open late is troubling, and with Snyder, we've seen what happens when an owner knows he can abuse fans as much as he wants, and they'll still keep coming back. Any reason for concern?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

It's part of my job to keep an eye on whether local franchises act like good citizens in dealings with their patrons (fans) who are also our readers.

That damn Metro problem better get fixed BEFORE the playoffs __and the Nats better not say, "Well, the 75th graph of our contract doesn't say we absolutely have to help out"__ or you'll see feathers fly.

This October, whether the Nats win the N.L. East or end up a wild card, will be the town/team's "coming out party" for a national audience. The SE Waterfront is much better, but nothing like what it will be in a few years. So, the "coming out" is also a year or two early. The Nats better not say, "Gosh, it caught us by surprise." You have ONE MONTH. Get ready in every possible way. And that includes Metro for games that may not even start until after 8 p.m. and, with post-season commercials/etc, OFTEN don't end until 11:20-to-12 p.m.

– September 10, 2012 12:37 PM
Q.

Excited??

Wow. In the first answer you compared RG3 favorably to Baugh, Staubach, and Jurgensen. And gave the Skins three more wins than the prediction you had for them at 12:59 sunday. Oh, and for good measure compared Harper to Griffey and Mantle. Fun Monday, huh? I suppose that's what sports are for.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Aw, come on. Get in the spirit of the thing!

We all know that the great athletes have 10-15-20 years careers. They have to dodge injury, bad personal lives, bad habits, lost motivation or being surrounded by bad teams. We all know ALL the bad things that CAN happen.

Here is what is absolutely different. It is incredibly rare to see an athlete come to a town who even COULD turn into one of those guys. Ovechkin did. You could see it immediately. He won two MVPs. But, already, it doesn't look like he is going to be an the very top of the NHL history books. Still excellent.

When Baltimore was the closest baseball team, we actually got to see all or huge chunks of the careers of Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken (HOFers) and Mike Mussina (near HOF). You could tell very quickly that they COULD be that good. Would they? Wait amny years.

IMO, both RGIII and Harper and Strasburg are in that Ripken, Art Monk, Darrell Green, Ripken, Ovechkin, Murray class __they COULD be MVPs or HOF, based on talent, plus luck, plus many years of dedication.Even Ryan Zimmerman, if he played until 40, might be a 3,000 hit type HOFer. Probably not. But he might. And it is that "might" which excites us and, in many cases, grabs us for years.

Gus Frerotte and Patrick Ramsey and Ramon Ortiz didn't make you feel that way.

Sports is, largely, about possibility.

Right now, Washington has several athletes for whom almost anything might be possible. We get to see how much of that is eventually fulfilled.

– September 10, 2012 12:46 PM
Q.

Christian Garcia

This man has been absurdly impressive. Am I missing something, because he looks like he should be pitching in the 7th or 8th inning every night.

A.
Thomas Boswell :

Looks like he may fill the Henry Rodriguez role fairly soon __adding depth and good matchups along with Burnett, Mattheus, etc.

Best development of weekend. I wondered if Storen would get back his '11 slider __which is his best and key pitch. I thought it might take until '13 for his elbow (srugery for chips) gave him that deep late break. He had it Saturday along with 97-96 on the black and a swing-back two-seamer at 94-95. He won't alwasys be that sharp. But he was for one night. Which means there are more of them to come. How many? How consistently? Don't know. But he could really strengthen the bullpen a lot in a hurry.

But, you're right,  Garcia helps, too. Another Rizzo front office steal __from the Yanks (always nice). He's had TWO TJ surguries. Rare to come back from No. 2. But he's throwing 96-to-98 with a sharp breaking ball and a good hi-80's changeup. You don't get a sub 1.00 ERA in AA and AAA without bringing something to the table.      

– September 10, 2012 12:51 PM
Q.

Toss Up

Which is the more insufferable Monday morning sport pundit blather? RGIII doubters-to-bandwagoners overnight converts or non-DC-non-medical Strasburg-less Nationals doomsday predictions?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Ha! Glad I'm not either.

Like most people, I've been a Go-After-RGII believer. But, man, I don't think I believed that he'd look this good in his opening game of '13, much less '12.

I've been wrong on some of my first impressions. But I'd say my record on indentifying individuals is very good as opposed to "picking games" which I can't do any better than anybody else. I saw Adsrain Dantley in 9th grade, Molses Malone and Patrick Ewings in high school, Ripken in batting practice in spring training as a rookie and Allen Iverson in a pre-season game his first year at GU. And I said, and in some cases wrote, that they would be greats __not "goods."

As you say, the non-DC non-medical Strasburg "analysis" may be some kind of all-time low for public discussion OF ANYTHING. 

Got to say, now that all the "votes" are in, I'd say it proved to be about a 95% accurate "Nincompoop Meter."

Noticed that Tom Verducci and Joe Posnanski both came to the conclussion that Nats made a sensible decision that took a lot of backbone and will help define the franchise __positively__ in the future. All in all, I like the company I'm in on this one.

Poor Jim Kaat, Tim McCarver and Cal Ripken, all long-time friends, please tell them to get away from this issue as fast and far as possible.

Have to point out the irony of Cal giving a view on another player's CAREER-THREATENING injury that kn ocked him out of a YEAR of his career. Cal was tough, but he was also the luckiest player in MLB history on juries __HE NEVER HAD ONE. You can call him an Iron Man, but he ain't made of iron. His back killed him at the end of his career and he took plenty of games off. So how would be know? He had aches and pains but never ONE real injury anything like Strasburg's.

Also, Ripken isn't the person to be telling anybody that they should make a fuss about being put in the lineup and making something akin to demands. This is the guy who wouldn't move from SS to 3rd base late in his career for at least one extra year, even though it probably hurt the Orioles. Davey Johnson, then O's manager, had to boot him to 3rd in '97 for Mike Bordick and the O's immediately got better.

I was always in favor of Cal continuing the streak __for one thing, the O's weren't going to win any pennants in mostof those years that were focused on The Streak. But you can find people who think that Cal's "I'm playing today" stand wasn't a team-first position. Strasburg is 24 and has had TJ sdurgery. It's not his place to be TELLING his team that "I'm pitching." Strasburg acted right. Cal's free advice, in the same week he was getting his new statue at Camden Yards, put unnecessary pressure on a great young player who was in a tough spot and had no options.

– September 10, 2012 1:05 PM
Q.

Tiger

Good morning Tom, Will Tiger Woods win another major or has he morphed into the 'Tom Kite' of his generation - good enough to always finish big in the money but not win much?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

He's now so consistently near the top in regular events that I assume he'll break through and win a major. Five more? I doubt it. Four more? Maybe. But McIlroy and others don't fear him any more than they would other Top players. He has no intimidation edge any more. Or not much. And __now__ he knows he can lose. Then lose again the next time and the next, just like anybody else who's near the top but not The Top Guy by himself.

It's good to have Tiger back. But it's also nice to see McIlroy, Mickelson, Westwood and others right there wil him. For golf, it's probably best for him to be part of the b attle but not above the battle.

Should contribute to making the Ryder Cup interesting.

– September 10, 2012 1:08 PM
Q.

Nats' bullpen

As Nats fans, should we be worried about our bullpen, especially if the Nats make it to the playoffs? On paper, they're not bad - 5th in the NL and 11th overall. Watching them this season, however, I think they're lucky to be so highly ranked. They're not so much relief pitchers as they are escape artists. Or am I being unfair?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Nats have good bullpen. Better if Storen keeps pitching as he did Saturday. But bullpen are enormously important in post-season. Cincy has the best. There's no reason to "worry" about any aspect of Nats in post-season. It's a crapshoot. Talking to an ex-MLBer yesterday and we were making a list of all the ridiculous things that turn playoffs series. He said, "It's a joke." I said, "It's an entertaining joke."

Inside baseball, he measure of a team is the regular season and the measure of standing up to pressure is the pennant race even more than post-season because it is longer and therefore more fair. 

Anthing can befall you __or break right__ in post-season. Hot bats or cold. But if you must "worry," then worry about the bullpen more than Strasburg. We'll see how it looks in 3 weeks after Burnett gets some rest, Storen has time to get sharper and Cl.ippard, who has actually looked good for weeks, gets over his bad game Friday.

What a great week. Porr O's, never quite got to them. Hope the Markakis injury doesn't kill them flat. If they can get through tough games this week with Rays and A's, then they are in it to the end. But can they? Not sure I ever thought I'd see them draw 40K to 46K for four straight games when THEY, not the visitor, were the main attraction. Great year for Buck and Dan Duquette. See you next week.

What will we all think after TWO games of RGIII and three Nats-Braves games in Atlanta?! (Will it still be a day for exclamation points? What the hell, lets say "Yes" until/if we have to say "No." )

– September 10, 2012 1:19 PM
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