Ask Boswell: All things Washington sports

Sep 17, 2012

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

I don't care what they paid for him. Cut Josh Morgan now.

Plenty will feel that way. You can't cut him but that's as bad a penalty as any Skin has taken in the last two minutes of a game. It's not the worst. But it's on the short list.

Josh (Please, Gimme 15) Morgan now takes his place with Headbutt Frerotte, Double-Time-Out Gibbs, Swinging-Gate Zorn, Keep-Your-Hat-On Westbrook, and the botched PAT snap vs Tampa Bay in the final seconds to produce a (17-16) loss.

Here's what amazes me. In the Post's Sunday sports section (D8), Mark Maske quoted Morgan on his matchup with Cortland Finnegan. Maske wrote: "Finnegan has a reputation for trying to draw opposing wide receivers into confrontations. Said Morgan: "He's the ultimate competitor...He's one of those guys that plays __you know how they say play to the whistler? He's one of those guys that plays until you walk back to the huddle."

Then Maske adds: "The key, according to Morgan, is to play your game and not allow Finnegan to get to you."

So, Morgan COMPLETELY knew the deal, yet he still cost the Skins the chance for a game-tieing 47-yard field goal that Cundiff probably makes 70-75% of the time. It's not a case of "maybe" the Skins tie with 1:15 to play. It's that they PROBABLY tie.

However, among many "killer plays," Aldrick Robinson's drop of a 60-yard bomb to the Rams 10-yard line when he was open and the ball hit him in the chest has to stand out. It's tough to see in that dome. And he turned around at the last second. But, still, come on, that's awful. RGIII can't throw 'em and catch 'em, too. 

Hiccup or concern?

Both.

The Nats needed one win in Atlanta to essentially clinch the N.L. East crown. A 7 1/2-game lead, and 8 in the lost column, with 16 games to play isn't a lock in terms of arithmatic. But in baseball reality, it's very close to 100 percent.

And it makes the rest of the schedule, especially with the next seven games at home, a perfect time to come very close to clinching. It would have made this week a celebration of the team's strengths, not an examination of its potential weaknesses.

But they lost all three, the most important being Sunday with their post-Stras ace, Gio Gonzalez, against inconsistent Mike Minor. Gio was nibbling or wild from the start, lots of 3-2 counts even when they weren't walks, and set a poor tone that continued the shakey play of the 1st two games.

It's almost hard to believe how much difference one win makes __the difference between 7 1/2 and 5 1/2.

OTOH, the Nats went on a 6 game road trip with a 5 1/2-game lead, went 3-3 (which is okay) and came home with the same 5 1/2-game lead __and a week off the schedule.

But Chipper Jones gets it: "You like to leave a sour taste in the other team's mouth as they're leaving. We can stand toe-to-toe with them." Season series: DC 10, Atla 8. That's a good tie-breaker. But it shows that the Nats don't dominate the Braves. If they meet in post-season: tough series.

And then everybody has to wait to hear the results of Espinosa's left-shoulder MRI this afternoon. He was killing it for the previous 36 games (.864 OPS) and since the All-Star and, really, since mid-May. But his left shoulder was killing him in his awful Braves series.  A real injury hurts quite a bit, even though they have Lombardozzi as a fine replacement. 

So, all in all, change that answer to "concern." But you can be sure Davey and the veterans know how important it is to underline how big a 5 1/2-game lead is and how they'll be playing teams the last 16 games that ALL face more pressure than the Nats because they are all in desperate races for a division or wildcard spot. Nobody they play has anything like a 5 1/2-game cushion and some will be especially demoralized by loses to the Nats because they will feel their season slipping away. 

The "refs" don't seem to know the rules and are easily intimidated by the coaches. It's a bad combination, and the NFL needs to fix it immediately.

As I tweeted yesterday, the fake refs are a joke. They're causing huge damage to the NFL product, plus brawls, long games, boring arguments. This is classic NFL arrogance: We can do anything we want and the whole world will still watch our product, so you refs can just fold up your tent and do as we say. Not working, is it? In another month, the NFL may be on its knees begging the Real Refs back.

I've "only" watched about six NFL games so far this year. Every one has been the same: seriously damaged by the refs. The Eagles-Ravens games was a complete ref-induced mess from the 1Q on. No control of players, dirty play, bad calls, confused on rules, bad spots, can't even get the numbers of players who committed penalties correct.

Awful. 

...they couldn't get him out of Boston fast enough, now he's turned around a 15-year curse in Baltimore.

Yes, definitely. Good stories have been done in Boston __now that Theo Epstein is gone and the team is a wreck__ that point out how many of the '04 Series-winning Red Sox were Duquette's players.

Dan is an intellectual, kind of introverted by nature, not a natural with media. Boston was the worst place __with hindsight__ for his skill set. Easy to say now. Baltimore is perfect. They have been so battered by bad teams that they'll hug you for any sign of improvement. 

The O's team of two months ago probably really was lucky and playing over it's head. Okay, they ARE lucky. They have the best record in one-run games in MLB HISTORY. There is no METHOD that gives you a 27-8 record in one-run games, no matter how good your bullpen is and how smart your manager.

But the O's needed, maybe deserved a season with a huge break to get off their backs. Now, they have it. And since Machado came up, Reynolds went to first, Duquette made some more trades, the result is an Orioles team that probably can go into '13 thinking of itself as a better than .500 team.

But the O's need plenty of improvement. They have some "miraclke" feeling to them. They're interested in LaRoche. He'd fit in that park. He's not a tape-measure slugger. But he'd love both the convenient wall in RF and the cozy LF alley.

That could be interesting since Davey Johnson said, "We need him (LaRoche) back more than we need me back."

The Nats won't get LaRoche cheaply and the Orioles are one reason, I suspect. They didn't sense much interest from him two years ago when he was a free agent __a classic case of the Orioles money really being "Confederate Money." They'll see if players will now look at their offers as worth 100 cents on the dollar.

The Nats have probably reached the point where their $1.00 is worth $1.05 or $1.10 to a free agent. When they signed Werth, maybe it was only worth $80 on the dollar.  

Every single team has legitimate beefs about one or more blown calls. Is this any way to run a professional sport? No, it is not. Bring back the pros before something even more egregious happens.

Bad refs lead to dirty play which leads to injuries.

The cheap shot by 306-pound Quinn Ojinnaka on the Skins' London Fletcher was as bad as you'll see. The play was over, Fletcher was rolling on his back, both feet up in the air, and Ojinnaka ran and did a piledrive on him LONG after the play was over. Could have injured any part of either leg or, don't even want to think about it, his neck.

On the NEXT play, Fletcher made the kind of play that SHOULD put him in the Hall of Fame. He blasted ball carrier Daryl Richardson, who was carrying the ball fairly properly, and knocked it out anyway. Hall recovered with ~2:30 left and, instead of being almost dead as Rans run down clock, the Skins had a perfectly good chance to drive for a tie or win. 

Until Morgan. And that play was, in a way, an outgrowth of a dirty, badly-officiated game. I'll say the Rams were dirtier, but like Eagles-Ravens it shows that when the cops/refs aren't in charge __and they might as well have played those two games without refs__ the crooks go crazy and the good citizens have to defend themselves the best they can.

All in all, it disgraces the league and brings out all its violence. Talk about an "image" problem. All commissioner's are at least 80% empty suits who are doing what their owners order. So, look at the owners to solve the problem. And they hate to admit any mistake. 

As if the NFL didn't have enough problems with "bounties" and concussion issues. Now it has 3:30-to-3:45 regulation-time games that are decided by bad calls and dirty play.  

The owners are practically printing money and then they put replacements on the field and hope for the best. What gives with these cheapskates?

The arrogance of power.

 

Tom, by what standard do you measure the Nats as a team heading toward the playoffs? They are streaky and they can be shut down. In close playoff ball, weaknesses are magnified. We saw much of that this weekend and I do not think for a moment that they are prepared to play in that cauldren of playoff intensity. Do you?

Look at ALL the other teams. Everybody has tons of problems, injuries, weaknesses. The Dodgers don't know when/if they'll get Kershaw back. Lilly and Billingsley are out for the season. The Cards have lost Berkman and Fucal for the year. Guys like Chris Carpenter are trying to stagger back to help with barely any rehab. The Rangers look soundest and they're no lock.

If Gio and Jordan Z are just working through a bad patch __Gio with command and Z'mann w over-throwing and poor mechanics on his slider__ then the Nats havee the pitching to go deep. Gio, Jordan, Jackson and Detwiler, who really stood up well vs Mewdlen and has improved his curveball, are more than good enough to go to, or win, an LCS.

But will they round into form? Nats have shown nerves in series where they were swept by Yanks, at Phils and at Braves. BUT they still have the best record in baseball by 1 1/2 games. All towns tend to see their team's flaws more clearly, especially in baseball because you lose 40 percent of your games. In Atlanta, the Braves were ripped all summer.

Nats are on 98-win pace, have exciting team with tons of talent and almost EVERYBODY who is central under team control through '13-'14-'15. I've never seen a team that can name almost its entire team three yeatrs into the future. They have to LEARN to be champions. And this pressure is part of the learning.

Here are some of the '15 Nats who are under control: Strasburg (thru '16), Z'mann, GioG (thru '18), Detwiler, Clippard, Storen ('16), Stammen ('16), Mattheus ('17), Desmond, Espinosa ('16), Z'man ('19), Harper ('18), Werth ('17), Ramos ('16), Moore ('18), Lombardozzi ('17), Bernadina. And others.

This team is going to be together a LONG time. And our experience of this team is going to take year. So, relax. Enjoy a playoff team. And think along with Rizzo, Johnson, the Lerners, etc., as they try to figure out how to maximize this season and the next several as well.

During last week's Broncos-Steelers game, the analysts briefly mentioned the trade that brought Champ to the Broncos for Portis. Of course, they said that Champ is a 13 time pro bowler and said it seemed to be a fair trade. To me, the Broncos clearly got the better end of the deal as Champ has been a model superstar player and is still playing at a high level, not to mention the Broncos also got 2 draft picks from us. Portis of course, was in the spotlight briefly and was known more for his hijinks, his self denial in being a me-first player, a flopper, and a guy towards the end of his career searching for a team that would allow him to get his 10K yards. In the end, I'd wish the Skins had kept Champ instead.

Denver won the trade, in my opinion. But bthat doesn't mean Portis didn't have four MONSTER years when he was healthy and gained 1,315, 1,516, 1,262 and 1,487 yards with 36 rushing touchdowns in just those four years. Many of those seven Portis years were bleak. He caused some problems, had some injuries and did some crazy goofy funny things. It's not his fault Champ is a total champ. And whatever are you going to remember with a smile from those seven years? Okay, there were some good things. But at least Southeast Jerome (etc) was fun.

Boz, when is the last time that calling a timeout to "ice" a kicker actually worked? And, when is the last time a kicker missed a FG, but the opposing coach had called timeout, giving the kicker another chance which was then made? YESTERDAY! Seriously, does it really work? Any feeling around the league or among journalists or stats guys about whether it really works? We sure could have used that 3-point miss.

"Icing" is a perfectly good strategy. In part, it may have something to do with how you think the other kicker will react to it. It would be nice to know the actual stats. Do they even exist?

Of course, the "ciing" call backfired yesterday. A hot young kicker (Zuerlein) with a huge leg missed right after Shanahan called time. Then he powered one barely inside the left upright the second time. Same mistake both times, but not as bad the second time.

I don't consider that a coaching mistake at all. Especially early in the season. Get it on film that "the Skins still ice the kicker...sometimes." Put it in the back of the kicker's mind __"is this the real kick or will I have to do it again?"

Espinosa had turned around his season (hitting-wise) but still was prone to stiking out a lot. But I believe he was 0-11 with 9 strikeouts against the Braves. So he is having an MRI on his shoulder. My question is what is the likelihood that his soreness/weakness can be improved with a little rest or is it more likely to be a more serious injury that will require surgery/missing the rest of the season? Is Davey optomistic or corncerned?

Don't know. Davey seems concerned. Espinosa is a tough guy and invested in being a tough guy. So it has to be a real pain for him to admit to it. This late in season, maybe you try a shot __like Z'man's. But that is a doctor/player decision. And we don't even know the nature of the injury. Apparently, from Adam's story, Espinoisa asked LaRoche what his labrum injury (surgery, months of rehab) felt like when he was first hurt. LaRoche just couldn't get around on the fastball at all, so he had to cheat, then couldn't hit anything else either.

The Nats have played through a lot of injuries. Lets hope that both Morse and espinosa are back in a few days or a week. Or two weeks. Odds are still VERY high that Nats win NLEast. Who's healthy on Oct 6-7? That's what, in hindsight, will probably matter most.

99, as in the over/under for the # of times you will read "Same old Redskins" in the chat today. Seriously, losing the game didn't matter... the fact that the game was close in the 4th quarter was enough to tell me how this season will go. Is there ANYTHING you see about this team, other than RG3, that tells you this version is any different from the past 7 Redskin teams that follow up a big win with a choke loss to a weaker team? We've seen this for 7 years in a row now and we know the end result: 4-12.

"Except RGIII ??????"

Griffin looked very good again. Not "A+" like Week One. But still exceptional. Gettinga young quarterback who is ALREADY very good is HUGE for any bad team. And any 5-11 team is bad. So he improves their chances every week.

But is the rest of the team better? It looked like the front 7 was quite good vs New Orleans. Now we ask, "How good is N.O.?" And without Carriker and/or Orakpo the best part opf the defense will be hindered.

The Redskins had little depth to start with. Partly because of salary cap constraints. They've had a lot of injuries already. So, right now, you have big issues with the quality of the RGIII supporting cast. I assume Garcon is back next week. But he only lasted one game before he was hurt?

Looks like RGIII, and the scheme the Shanahans have constructed for him, is ahead of schedule. Only one RGIII turnover in two games is excellent as well as all the yardage gained, points scored. As for the rest of the team, depending on the level of injuries post-St. Louis, it has plenty of problems.

Oh, and having a punt blocked every week __okay, 2 for 2__ doesn't help. 

From looking at the schedule and DJ doesn't make a change to the rotation, the last four games starters will be Det, EJax, Gio and Zimm. When does DJ adjust so that he will have Gio/Zimm to open the NLDS? Thanks

Clinch even two days early and the problem goes away, right!?

And if you have to go to the last day to clinch (or not), then you have to go to the last day.

If Braves use Medlen in a wildcard game, it perfectly illustrates why you DON'T want to be a wildcard anymore. He's easily their best. Would Hudson have better nerves? Probably. But who'd want to face the Braves in a five-game series with Medeln pitching Games 1 and 5?Yes, he is 85% of Maddox right now. (Though maybe not as 13K perfect as the Nats made him look.  Maddux could go whole games, in his prime, and barely miss a spot. Medlen goes whole innings where every pitch is dotted.)

Yet another reason the Nats want the N.L. East.

After Bradford torched the Skins all first half why did Haslett not change his defensive scheme to man to man or something other than that soft zone junk!

Haslett doesn't exactly have that all-knowing, all-seeing Lombardi look on the sideline, does he? But he's built some good pressuring defenses. Subtract two of his best pressure-creating defenders and it's going to be a long day. 

How many regime changes has this guy survived? And why? The Redskins special teams have not been that good. And blocked kicks, blocked punts, "swinging gate," and all other manner of terrible things have happened on his watch. How does he still have a job? I mean, it's nice that he chews his gum super hard and yells at people...but maybe it's time to move on from this guy?

Oh, you folks should see all the Skins questions this morning. EVERYONE ON THE STAFF has been fired SEVERAL times!

And they have only lost one game, on the road, by three points.

But it does sting more when the other coach benches his star (Steven Jackson) for getting a 15-yard penalty (tantrum) on the goal line and then the Redskins throw away their last good chance for the same thing (a tantrum at the worst time).

Lets not fire more than three-quarters of the staff __and release 10 or 15 players__ until they lose at least one game at home.

This isn't really as hard as it looks: They got the quarterback. Now they have to build the team.

If they had had extremely good luck with injuries, maybe they could have given the impression that they'd already built quite a bit of that team. Hasn't worked out that way so far.

The Nats don't seem to play as well when on national TV (Fox, ESPN). Is this a coincidence, or a problem?

Just an accident.

BTW, could the Fox baseball play-by-play guys be any worse? I had to turn off the sound by the 3rd inning. Even though I like Francona, I had to dump the ESPN sound, too. After two days of Terps football __hey, nice clock management, guys__ Nats & O's baseball, more college football, Ravens, Skins and everyother damn game on TV I wonder how fans manage to stagger to work on Monday a.m. By accident, I actually had a fall weekend at home. Even a Sat nite dinner out with wife, friends. But I feel like i went 20 rounds (or about 20 hours) with my TV set and remote. And the TV won.

How do you all do it? 5-hour energy drinks every 3 hours. (Okay, okay, it was fun. I was just trying to see EVERYTHING, and keep up with five-or-more other games at the same time, because I don't usually get to and I overdid it a little.)

Boz, The Nats were buzzed by what is right now, the ML's best pitching staff. The fact that the Nats may win the East is little salve right now knowing that they will probably play the Braves in the first round of the playoffs. I do not think they match up well at this time and I sure as heck know they don't want to mess with Medlen. Kimbrel as well. What hope is there kind sir?

With all due respect, has everybody lost their mind?

The Nats have less problems than any team in baseball, except the Rangers and maybe the Giants. The Reds are worried sick about Aroldid Chapman. Even the Giants wonder when they'll start to miss Melky. The Braves got swept while the Nats were sweeping the Mets. Atlanta didn't handle that opportunity too well.

The EASIEST time to play any sport is when you are way behind and desperate. The hardest time to play is when you have a big lead and, subconsciously, are trying to hold it instead of just playing properly.

The Nats need to focus on the game, play aggressively, not "protect" but attack, as they have all year. Davey is expecially good at underlining this and helping it happen. How will it work out the next 16 games? We'll see.

For years, I've said that I wished Washington could experience a REAL pennant race. Well, if they'd won two-of-three in Atlanta, you'd never have seen one this year __just a runaway. Now, maybe, we'll get to see the real thing. Believe me, a 5 1/2 game lead with 16 games left and 10 of them at home is NOT high pennant race tension. But it'll put some chill and thrill in the air at Nats Park this week and next Monday. 

Baseball does not have an every-game-is-death mentality. Even in a pennant race.

remember, losing feels twice as bad as winning feels good. Try to factor that into your manic reactions. The key (for players, but a little bit for fans) is not feeling bad after a loss __every good team "wears" a loss. The issue is: Do you bounce back with a fresh mind the next day? If you can't wipe your mind clean, you can't play the game. And fans need to do it, too.

If you have just become a baseball fan, or are considering it, use this test. If, by sometime today, you are not happy that your excellent baseball team has a game on Tuesday, then you probably shouldn't be a baseball fan.  Edward Bennett Williams was just eaten up by owning the Orioles, which he found much more stressful tahn being President of the Redskins.

The pleasures in baseball are in the details, not the huge silly pronouncements every day. On Tuesday, I want to see if Z'mann has cured any of his slider/mechanics problems. If he has, you may have a very strong post-season pitcher who hits a good streak. I thought Harper was so anxious to kill Tommy Hanson's meatballs on Saturday that he got a little hitch/loop in his swing, fouled off 3 pitches he knew he should have crushed. We that take him out of his recent very-hot streak? Or will he calm down and get back within hiumself in this homestand. Like a lot of young Nats, he's going to have to learn to control his emotions, not be used by them; iow, he has to have the feelings of an athlete, not a fan. 

Also, on Weds, I'm curious about Lannan. He's been a little lucky in the early innings of all 3 of his starts. But I think I also see signs that he may have used his time in AAA, and the harsh experience, to make himself a somewhat better pitcher. If he just moves up one level in confidence, polish, just looking mature and defiant, he has a chance to be like McGregor, Gura, Bud Black, Tom Browning, Moey and about a dozen others who were really implacable speed-changing sinkerball winners.

Also, Ryan Zimmerman is a big psychological core piece for the Nats and his throwing problems, which may be showing up in other parts of his defense, need to get back under control. He's hitting very well. But his mistakes seem to be unnerving to others. He has streaks of bad throws, then gets it fixed. Will that happen again now?

Lot of interesting questions. And ones that get answered best when they are answered under the most intense pressure.

 

Tom, Given Strasburg being out for the season, who has the better pitching now, Braves or Nats? Braves bullpen is scary good, while the Nats relievers are just plain scary many times. With the Nats starters faltering lately, I rank the starters about even.

I'll take Gonzalez, Z'mann, Jackson, Detwiler over Medlen, Hudson, Minor (4.31 ERA, erratic), Maholm or maybe Hanson.

Braves have best closer. Overall bullpen about the same. Nats better defense and, when both teams are healthy, a slightly bettr, more powerful offense. Overall, a slight edge to the Nats (10-8 season edge), but they'd have a helluva series. Nats have beaten the Braves when they really needed to. They didn't really need to win in Atlanta, just wanted to win a whol lot. Braves had to win. Much easier to play that way.

Nats and Braves are going to see a lot of each other the next few years. Get used to it. Like any good rivalry --Giants-Dodgers, Rangers-Angels, Yanks-RedSox (in the old days)-- it swings all over the place depending on pitching matchups, injuries, hot hitters. Baseball teams are never static. The next time the Nats see the Braves, if it's in Oct, they won't be quite the same teams.

You totally jinxed the Nats going into Atlanta by saying the sportswriter in you was hoping for the race to get a little bit tighter down the stretch. So, thanks for that. Now Morse's injuries is lingering, Espinosa is afraid he might need serious shoulder surgery and the Nats can't get a starter out of the 6th inning without 100+ pitches to save their lives. Can you wish for a something a little more positive this time?!

You're welcome!

I always wish for everybody to be healthy. Well, okay, if the Yankees have a few hangnails at crucial times I don't cry. But I hope the contenders stay at least as healthy as they are --certainly Morse and Espinosa.

FWIW, the Nats aren't the Caps. They have much more responsible young players and a much more seasoned analytical manager. We'll see how much that helps.

Shocked that Shanahan decided to try a 62 yard field goal instead of going for it on 4th and 16. Cundiff has made a total of ONE field goal over 50 yards in the last 6 years (1 for 7 last year) and his career long is 56 yards. 4th and 16 is no doubt a tough conversion but isn't that the type of situation where a coach allows his franchise player to at least give it a shot? The odds of converting that play are much better than allowing a kicker who in his entire career has shown zero potential of making a 62 yard field goal. At the very least it lets RG III know that Shanahan has full trust in him and provides a lesson to draw on for future late game situations. It's well know that the Skin's future success depends largely on RG III, so isn't Shanahan allowing his most dynamic player the chance to make a game saving play part of that ongoing devlopment?

The Skins lined up to go for it on 4th-and-16, almost got the snap off, then the refs (I believe) called time. After the time out, the Skins went for the 62-yarder.

 

I'd be interested to hear Shanahan's thinking. Tough call. Cundiff's kickoffs had been very long. Maybe a factor. 

Do we need a new statistic? Z-mann, Jackson, and Detwiler are 10-8, 9-10, and 9-6, but they're pitching much better than that. For example, when I read the game log for Z-mann, I see that the Nats are 18-11 in the games he started. While it makes sense that he'd lose games where he was behind when he left, the 8-3 record on non decisions is a bit surprising. I come from the "old school" where good teams had multiple pitchers with 10 to 15 CGs.

"Run support" is usually the answer.

Gio Gonzalez is 19-8 mostly because he's had an excellent season, but he was also in the tophalf-dozen in the N.L. in run support going into Sunday's game. Maybe, in your mind, spread three or four of Gio's eventual 20 or maybe 21 wins out to Z'mann, Jax and National Det. (Yes, pretty cute play on words that people have been using. It'll get old, but not yet.)

If history is the best predictor of the future, we're looking at a 5 win season are we not? Every recent Redskins team has started off like this: big win early, then an absurdly inexcusable loss to a weak team, sprinkle in some key injuries, and boom: 5-11. The 2012 Redskins are following the EXACT same script as the past 5 or 6 Redskins teams. Why should we think this year will be any different?

I didn't realize the Redskins played all 15 of their remaining games on one day on Sunday.

Don't they get to play 14 more weeks?

As long as RGIII stays upright (knock on wood), this is a Must Watch team with plenty of current problems but a long-term future. 

I will only say this once. All the people who want to dismiss the rest of this season by patting themselves on the back and saying, "Same old Redskins," should have their TV sets and tickets confiscated and given to people who actually enjoys sports.

 

Bigger blow - if Espinosa is lost for year with serious shoulder injury or if Morse just never really makes it back this season with his bone bruise?

Because of Lombardozzi and Tyler Moore the Nats could actually absorb both injuires for the rest of this season. They don't want to. But few other teams could even consider doing it.

Moore has actually been a little better than Morse this year, per at bat, though you'd rather have the veteran. The quality of the Nats starting rotation, especially GG and JZ getting back to Best Form, and their bullpen getting sharp (Storen looks better) matters more than the relatively small differences between Espinosa and Lombo or Morse and Moore.

How does the NFL justify replacement refs?

I can watch a game that I really WANT to watch and endure these bogus refs. But I will NOT watch the "optional" NFL game __the one I might or might not have watched__ until the real refs are back.

IOW, on my own time, I don't have to put up with this crud. You want to talk about a sport that is s-s-l-l-o-o-o-o-w-w, it is the 3:40 NFL game with a million time outs, replays, scuffles and screwups.

Tyler Polumbus must be looking for the license plate number of the truck that was Chris Long yesterday. Clearly overmatched by Long, why did the Redskins leave themselves in such a vulnerable position at RT (and please don't say Jamaal Brown was supposed to return to Pro bowl form) ?

Good question. Answer: $18M in lost salary cap, imo. Brown's health was always a total gamble. Polumbus seems like an illustration of "Make do." But Long is going to make a lot of good tackles look awful. So that's not a good measure of Polumbus. But it's PART of the measurement.

Sure glad they got that home-town-discount on Morgan. I'm going to limit myself to a one-day-beatdown-moratorium on Josh. But he's a 5-year vet. He deserves to have one Very Bad Day. Then let the guy up and don't boo him next week. (Hey, do what you want. I think the good fan gets it out of his/her system, then moves on.) 

Every team I root for lost: Nats, lost 3....Skins lost...Hokies lost. On the positive side, I know the Nats had one more slump before the end of the season. I would rather have the slump now than October. At least Josh Morgan did not head butt the stadium, and Pitt is not an ACC team

It's just one bad weekend.

Two weeks ago, if you'd told me the Skins would win a game 40-32 and lose a game 31-28, that RGIII would look Very-Good-To-Fabulous in both and that the Nats would still have the best record in baseball and a 5 1/2-game lead on the Braves, I'd have said, 'Wow, looks like we're going to have one hell of an entertaining fall!"

Here's what greatest about sports. NOBODY knows what the tone of this chat will be in two MORE weeks.

But, big picture, RGIII will still be a franchise changing QB. And the Nats will be a playoff team with about 10 more wins this season than anybody expected. That's not looking on the bright side. That's looking at reality.

Thanks for ALL the questions and see you next week!

After decades of bad or no baseball in DC, the Nats are killing it (last three games notwithstanding), and look like they might be built to contend for at least the next four or five years. The Redskins seem to be heading in the right direction and at the very least have a player that makes them fun to watch. Orioles are doing well. We all have cycles when our work is more enjoyable, and from the tone of your columns you appear to be having a blast. Are you having as much fun as it seems right now?

Yes! Thanks.

And the last few days didn't change it.

The thing I noticed about yesterday's game was that Shanahan lost his cool while Fisher didn't. He pulled Jackson out of the game when he spiked the ball and got a penalty. Their different attitudes may have been one reason that the Skins lost. Given that, I have never complained about refs before - but yesterday, even I could see how bad those refs were. Yikes.

I watched the tape again. When he's mad, Shanahan looks like he's going nuts. But 10 seconds later, he's totally under control. And he was very composed in all the big moments. 

Can you help me and my football loving/watching group of neighbors understand what the heck is the issue with the NFL and the real refs? After watching the games yesterday, we were all struggling to understand exactly what the issue is - and Google told us that basically, the owners want the refs to take a pay cut/benefits cut/make concessions that would save each team $60k PER SEASON!?! Can that possibly be right? And that the refs aren't really asking for anything other than the status quo? Are we completely wrong in our understanding? Please say yes, because otherwise, the NFL is run by bigger morons that are currently out there calling (and not calling) plays.

Oooh, I think you have the relative size of the morons involved in the proper proportions.

If you were the refs, wouldn't you START making demands and say, We didn't have any demands before, but, hey, we sure do now. Here's OUR proposal. And it will go UP by 10% each week until YOU accept our deal. We didn't know how essential we were. But you showed us. Thanks."

Hey, just a helpful thought. Outta here.

Thanks to the lockout of the regular refs, NFL games have become almost unwatchable. And of course, thanks to the idiocy of the owners of NHL franchises the NHL will not be watched at all. Everybody is losing money, except me who is now getting less than 0.1% monthly interest on my season tickets deposit to the Capitals. Hurray! Have these bonehead owners learned nothing from 8 years ago?

I never thought I'd see the day when baseball was the least-screwed-up sport. These things go in cycles. Baseball USED ALL THE MISTAKES it was humanly possibly to make. Now, all the other sports are copying baseball's proven blunders, plus new ones.

Who says you can't learn from other people's mistakes? Apparently sports owners learn by COPYING the mistakes of others.

Long ago, I had my first conversation with a new baseball commissioner.  I told him that everything I had ever heard about his owners was that, with some exceptions, they were an absolute nightmare __vain, stubborn, constantly feuding, holding grudges and plotting. I said, "It can't poossibly be as bad as I've heard. In a year I'll ask you how it compares with my second-hand impressions."

A year later, I asked.

"It's worse than you think," he said. 

Good morning, Bos, and thanks so much for doing these chats. Mondays just aren't the same when you're not online. Presumably you're acquainted with Larry Lucchino from his time in Baltimore. How much of the Red Sox debacle should be laid at his feet, and with 'the worst roster in the history of September baseball', where do they go from here?

Bobby V has done everything to get fired except bring a note from his doctor saying that he should be excused from school.

Larry, Theo and John Henry should have permanent sainthood status in New England for ending the Curse.

But that franchise is now totally screwed up. They may be BEHIND the ORIOLES for (a few) years and their near future isn't within sight of the Nationals. And it all happened in the last 365 days! It's unbelievable. So, wild guess, everybody did a lousy job. And Murphy's Law must have been a thing to behold from the inside.

Hi Bos, Thanks again for the great chats. I have one simple question. How is Davey Johnson not in the Hall of Fame? Did I miss something? He won Mets only World Series. Was great with the Reds and above average for the Dodgers - Kevin Malone was more the problem there. He was great for the Orioles - who just now are recovering. He's been great with the Nats. Doesn't he have the 5th best winning percentage of living managers or something ridiculous like that? Plus he'll tie Billy Martin as only manager to lead 4 teams to division title and likely will have won an AL manager of the year award and NL manager of the year award after this year. ESPN said last night they expect him to manage again next year, which I think is great.

All good pts. 3rd highest % among living mgrs.

Boz, loved seeing the article about the birds last week - an acknowledgement of the insanity taking place up the road was a sight for sore O's fans' eyes. When you factor in their division, their run differential and their payroll, the Oriole's record turns into a mathematical phenomenon. And while a lot of people deserve credit for this improbable run, I thought you were remiss not to mention the MVP of the team: Matt Wieters. His offensive numbers may be met with a shrug (.248, 21 hrs, 76 rbi), but he's guided a staff of castoffs and misfits game after game through the brutal AL East. When you watch the man behind the plate call a game, the Oriole's first winning season in 15 years makes a little more sense.

So many of your questions are better than my answers. And it takes a long time to read all the questions! Sorry for the late posts.

Tom: Like you, I'm a born and raised Washingtonian and about the same age. Our office group have been Nats season ticket-holders from day one. So, why can't I enjoy this? I've spent the whole season waiting for the wheels to fall off the cart. I "watch" every game, whether in person or on TV, but usually with my eyes closed, pacing, or simultaneously recording/watching the game so I can switch back and forth when it's "safe" to do so. Is it just going to take time to develop a thicker skin and some confidence? Right now it's torture, and I'm afraid that the anxiety of the playoffs will kill me! I've got the agony in spades. The ecstasy? Not so much.

You're making rookie mistakes.

Have you tried: Watching with only your left eye? Watching with only your right eye? Holding your breath? Okay, how about 10-year-old Scotch?

If I understand it correctly, the hangup is because the league wants to cut back on the pension payments it gives to the refs, not because of a pay raise issue. Is that correct? If so, that's mindboggling. Is the league doing that badly? What next, Jerry Jones will have to clean his own glasses?

Here's the last of 10 zillion "questions" about the awful refs. Thanks. I've been laughing at all of them.

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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."
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