Ask Boswell: All things Washington sports

Oct 02, 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

Tom: I was a Senators fan in the 1960s. They were truly terrible. It is so exciting that the Nats clinched the National League East!!! A friend and I were at the Nats spring training in Viera, FL in March. Little did we know we were looking at a future playoff team. Go Nats!!!!!!

I fell for both Nats and Skins as a kid in late '55 and springt '56. Been a long time for a lot of people. Chatting with Ted Lerner on the field after the clinch you could tell how much it meant to him. The "home town" stuff with him is 100% legit.

Great night. But more and better to come.

Bos - Wouldn't it be a nice gesture for the winning team playing away to not have the regular post game celebration when their opponents find out they are division winners? I've never seen that situation so I was just wondering. I know they won the game and all but it seems kind of silly. MASN didn't show the Phillies after they won so maybe they didn't do anything?

Everything was done right.

The Phils played a AAA team & were out of any race. So, do what you want. Kinda surprised Nats didn't relax and score 3 in bottom of ninth!

I doubt you'll see another game that flat out of the Nats in the playoffs. The stress of the first clinch is usually quite a bit higher than the pressure of the first couple of DS games.

 

Tom, The last 2 Super Bowl winners had last ranked D's yet won the whole thing. The Giants and Pakers were awful on D but had good to excellent O's to carry the day. Sounds like the Skins, huh?

Maybe sounds like the Skins in a couple of years if everything on earth went right.

I've seen this Skins team before __in Jurgensen's first 5 years. They never got the defense right. He was 30-37-1 before they finally did. His pattern was amazing shootouts, lots of wins like the two RGIII already has. But when Sonny's teams played the top teams, they usually got smoked by 2 or 3 TDs. RGIII is going to be better than Sonny, if he stays healthy (I assume). But when the sked gets tough we'll have to see if RGIII, with almost no skill players who are any good except Alfred Morris, who looks like a 1,000 (but not 1,300-yard) back, can still keep games close.

They better get a kicker. At the 1st possible excuse, cut Cundiff. You can't have a kicker like that in the back of your players' minds. He'd have to go on an ungodly good streak, starting immediately, to save his job, imo. But maybe he will.

They may have only boughtone World Series title in the past decade, but they've gone t the playoffs every year but once and averaged 95 wins while doing so. Those of us who hate them just have to learn to live with it.

I've hated them all my life, though some of my favorite players, managers, even coaches have been Yankees. Lot of great people. Just an awful unfair advantage in their wealth, now TV money.

As I wrote earlier this year, I think the Phils, Red Sox and Yanks are in big trouble and will all need multi-year rebuilds. Obviously became true with Red Sox. The Phils lineup last night shows what they have in the top of their minors __close to nada. They're not going to look like a prime destination this winter. The Yanks have classy leaders and may have one more nice October but they're not going to win any World Series this year. And time will take down big stars one by one. I said the 3 franchises would come down from near-.600 levels (combined) to having a tough time being .550 as a group. That's about right. But maybe a little lower than that the next 2-3 years.

Did you ever think there would be such a quite triple crown season?

Q"uiet," I assume.

Cabrera deserves more credit than he's getting. And the new stat folks are having too much of a field day showing their power by trying to talk him out of the MVP with "WAR" stats which are very imperfect in their own right.

If Cabrera's in the post-season and Trout isn't, then Cabrera's MVP with a triple crown. Trout has tailed off __still wonderful but not MVP__ for the last six weeks. Since August 22, Trout has hit .272 with merely good .828 OPS. Harper's OPS from 8/29 to late night was 1.106 (2nd best in MLB) with the most extra-base hits in MLB, most runs scored. Harper has had a far better pennant race push than Trout.

There's no way that a guy like Trout with 13 RBI in last 37 games and .272 can be MVP when his team does NOT even pull out a wildcard spot.

The Orioles did a wonderful thing this season, commissioning larger than lifesize statues of their 6 HOFers and honoring each with a special day. Brooks was last on Sat. andit was the first time al 6 were there together. Clearly all of them, even Weaver and Palmer, sre a very special bond with each o ther and with the fans. frank was the first retired number so he leads everything off. The ovations clearly got to all of them and there was't a dry eye in the stadium. So my question is,when are the Nationals going to do something similar? After all;, he started the team on its road to success and has been very gracious about how happy he is that they are in the playoffs. He's not getting any younger. Give him a day!

The O's statue days were apparently great. I'd love to have been free to go to all of them, especially Earl because I don't get to see him otherwise. The others I do.  I think the window closed on a Frank Day when it might have happened in the first year after he left as manager. Not the best hour for Bowden or Kasten. Frank was thorny and hardly made it easy to get done, but it should have happened, no matter what. And Frank should have been offered a nice concultants job, imo. Ancient history now. If a Frank Day ever happens, great. But just glad all the O's days went off so well, especially in the year when they are REALLY having a "magic" season.

However, as I've said, the first ~100 magiuc days are over. They are a much better team now with Manny M and other additions panning out. They can raise hell in the next couple of weeks, especially if they edge Yanks (!!!) and avoid the WC-WC game.

I think we'll find out very quickly that the best team on paper in WC-WC won't have any edge in a one game format and that the WC-WC winner will be at a significant disadvantage in the division series.

Odd as it sounds, the Nats really should focus on winning the next two nights. Yes, rest a couple each night. But playing the WC-WC winner I make the Nats a slight favorite over either Cards or Atl. If they finish behind Reds for best record, SF is tougher. Still an even battle, but harder.

BTW, Nats win a best-record tie-breaker vs Reds. So, Nats are now "ahead" even though they are both 96-64. The Nats magic number for home field through the end of post-season, including hypothetical LCS and WS is two. Tonight's game may have two AAA lineups. But it MATTERS. If you are there, cheering might be a good idea.

Personally, I want nothing to do with the Braves, even if they have to burn Medlen in the Wild Card round. Let the Reds deal with them and I'll take my chances against the Giants.

Giants, Cards and Atlanta have ALL at various times in recent weeks said that it is one of their goals to shopw the Nats that they can "play with the Nationals." Not "crush 'em," just show they belong on the same field. Cards and Braves have had good recent series vs Nats. But don't read too much into it. It was Gotta-win teams vs a Wanna-win team (Nats).

As I'ver said, still think the Reds are a slight favorite over Nats. Nats a slight favorite over the others. BUT the entire five-team NL field, assuming St. L is in is "cover-'em-with-a-blanket tight. Any of the five could easily end up in Series. It's just who plays well, gets a couple of hot hitters, doesn't have a couple of starters implode (the Nats worry in Games 3-4 vs anybody in DS) and, of course, gets a break or two.

Nats have hot hitters in Harper, Z'mann, Desmond, LaRoche and Morse maybe looking better. And Gio and Z'mann on roll, too, and now lined up for DS Games 1 and 2 on the road, just as you'd like. If either Jackson or Detwiler gets turned around and pitches well in DS, Nats could really get rolling. But Jax has always been "light out or knocked out." But very good far more often than very bad. Detwiler will be the mystery. What do the last two starts mean? He's had some clutch good starts. I think the Clinch Hero roll didn't suit him. They games where you have a chance to feel wonderful and take a lot of bows. But they were not Big Games with huge pressure, just huge opportunity to have fun. I suspect a normal Big Game may suit him better. He got all flustered to beat the Phils in Philly and the Cards at St. Louis where he grew up. He may get rattled in DS, too. But don't be too sure. The odds always favor the established solid pitcher have a decent-to-good oputting rather than a bad one, especially in October when pressure really eats up hitters. 

I am curious on your take on who should and who will the Cy Young. While Gio is our hometown favorite and has the most wins - he also has the best team (much, much better team in the case of Dickey). Among the three, Gio is third is strikeouts and innings pitched. Kershaw leads in ERA and WHIP is 3rd in wins (by a lot), has the most loses, and is 2nd in strikeouts. Dickey has the most strikeouts, innings pitched, and the fewest loses , while he is 2nd in ERA and WHIP. To me Dickey has the best case because he is, among the three, first or second in every category. Regardless of the merits, I see him as the most likely to win because he has the best story. I would love to hear your take. What is the best case for Gio?

I suspect Dickey will get it. But it should count that Gio won big games in Sept where he had a sub-2.00 ERA.

But, no, I haven't studied it as much as I will __yet.

If every NFL and MLB player in DC and Baltimore were up for grabs, who are the top 10 picks?

Great question. Need an hour to even begin to answer.

But 1st impression: GRIII (The Position and young).

Harper (19, hitters seldom have career-changing injuries, just season-changing injuries).

Ill let everybody else fight it out. But great question. Strasburg, Weiters, Gio, Adam Jones. NFL players have much shorter careers, so hard to put them at very top unless it's a YOUNG Ray Lewis or Ed Reed.  

Seems clear to me that the Nats would rather face the Giants than the Braves in the NLDS. I think Davey agrees with this based on his comments. Do the Nats rest Gio tomorrow and assume he will pitch in SF on Saturday and Jordan on Sunday?I think the Braves are the team to beat now with Medlen and Kimball pitching so well. Maybe the Reds will take them out in the NLDS and Nats get the Reds instead in the NLCS. That's the best path to the World Series.

The Braves are very good, but minus Medlen in game one, they are beatable. Great closers, like Braves and Reds havbe, don't help much if you are behind. And a K-K-K 9th isn't any better than a 6-3, 6, 4-3 9th.

The Giants have played VERY well without Melky Cabrera. Posey's had a huge year. Never seen a team shrug off such a big "hit" as the Cabrera 50-gamer. Do Giants bench Lincecum in post-season. They should. He's awful __full year and last start, too. Over 5.00 ERA and just isn't the same pitcher. Cain and Bumgarner vs Z'mann and Gio!!! Now that's some playoff baseball.

Another reason the NL East clinch was big: Nats now start Gio and Z'mann in 1st two on road. "Only" need a split. Then Jackson and Detwiler get to pitch at home with fans behind them.

Detwiler at Nats Park: 8-2, 2.59 ERA

Road: 2-6, 4.38 ERA.

Jackson 3.50 ERA at home, 4.78 away.

Might want to read those numbers a coupla times!

Was it wise to sign Edwin Jackson, when it looks like John Lannan would have had pretty much the same type of year or better if given the spot in the rotation?

It was a great idea. The Nats never had a starting pitcher get hurt for a long period. Many teams do. If that had happened to Nats, they would have needed both Jackson and Lannan in the rotation. Then having them both might have been the difference between being a playoff team or not. Or between winning NL East or not.

Even though I'm a huge golf fan, between baseball and football on Sunday, I did so much channel surfing I pretty much forgot about the Ryder Cup. I was stunned to see the Europeans had come back to win it. What the heck happened?

There was a whole lot of Ryder Cup following and watching (on computer) during awful Nats game in St. Louis on Sunday. And a bunch of baseball scribes, Barry and I, just stood by the elevator to the press box (on deadline) for last 5 minutes to see putts by Kaymer and Stricker. Glad nobody had to relive what Langer did after missing last 5 foot putt at Kiawah in War By The Shore. I still remember Cal in tears after awful closing holes with cross wind blowing his "fades" toward the ocean on drive after drive.

Really sorry that time seems to have caught up with Jim Furyk, a great guy, excellent analyst of everything, in the majors and Ryder Cup this year. He took "B" Tour talent and turned it into an "A" career. But the last few months, the game has just gotten him in a small dark room and beaten him with a pipe.

Hey Boz, I know you're going to get hammered with questions with the Skins winning and the Nats clinching the division last night...I hope you find time to give us your thoughts on the Ryder Cup...what an awesome weekend for golf fans.

The Ryder Cup is a huge WORLD sports event. I think it's No. 3 overall. (Maybe 4.)

Just one more step back toward the rest of the world's "merely human" golfers for Tiger with only half-a-point and benched for a match on Saturday.

Tom: Will there be a travel day between the first two road playoff games and when the Nats play their first home playoff game? Thanks. Nats Fan

Yes.

I'm 35 years old and lifelong resident of Maryland. I'm a DC sports fan and I rooted for the Orioles as a kid because I had no other local choice. To see this team win the division after finishing with 59 wins a few years ago is something I can't put into words! To me, the rest is just gravy...it won't change the pride I have for this team. It really feels like a family.

I'd have said, "The rest is gravy" two months ago. But now they'd have a real chance in a DS if they get there. Both O's and A's have been very hot teams (including run differential) for significant periods of time now. They belong. Maybe the O's can't keep it up __like for 162 in '13. But they can keep if up in October, especially if they somehow edge out the Yanks. Only team they don't think they can match up with and give a battle in DS is Texas.

Boz, I was at the game last night (wouldn't have missed that one for the world) and I saw something I haven't seen in months - Stephen Strasburg was smiling! I'm so glad to see he feels as much a part of this as the fans feel he does. For unadulterated joy, though, it's hard to beat seeing Gio. I thought the man was going to explode. One aspect of this team I think may be overlooked is that, not only are they great ballplayers, they're really likeable. The chemistry is unmistakable and Rizzo can really be proud of what he's put together. I LOVE this team!

Everywhere I go sports people, writers always talk about how easy it is to like the Nats or "impossible not to like 'em." If they advance, they will get a big national following. Over the next 2-3 years they could be one of the few teams that is adopted around the country.

Yes, Rizzo has a PhD in baseball chemisty.

Bos, at last our long national nightmare is over and the Nationals have proven they are for real. However, it can't be denied that they have not been playing at quite the same level as earlier in the season (.500 is good, but not great). What is your opinion of teams needing to come into the post-season hot? It seems to me that it doesn't matter for most teams, but every once in a while a team exceeds all expectations and takes the playoffs by storm. Of course, most of the examples that come to mind are in the NHL or NFL (think the Giants last year). Does this apply in baseball? Should the Nationals fear the Braves' recent uptick in performance?

The Nats have had their first "appointment with anxiety" in the last week, especially the last four games when they have had some of their ugliest baseball of the year. Even the 6-4 win in 10 IPs was a scary game that should have been won much more easily.

So it's certainly possible that the Nats have started to grip the bat too tight, try too hard and that without Strasburg, with Jax bad for a month and Detwiler shakey his last two starts they could get swept in the DS. Could certainly happen.

I doubt that's what WILL happen. Big picture, it helps to come into playolffs hot.

OTOH, the Nats are not an overachieving team. They are a real 96-64, .600 team. And they are in as perfect health as you ever see on Oct. 2. (Yes, minus Stras.)

They could get stun-gunned real fast in the DS. But if they get their feet under them, they have a bunch of players who were either A+ excellent the last 5 weeks __Z'man, Desmond, LaRoche, Harper, Gio, Z'mann, Storen__ or have a track record in post-season (Werth).

How will they react to the first two games on the road? If they come home 1-1, they'll be hard to handle and could easily go deep in the LCS. If they come home 0-2,  well, get your playoff ticket. It's been a great season, no matter what, but the range of sane outcomes for this team is uncharacteristically large, all the way from a quick exit in the DS to a solid showing (yes, far down the road) in WS. What we've seen in recent days is that Nats clearly do have a "pressure point." I assumed they did. Never seen a young team that didn't. That makes it hard for me to put "wins WS" in the range. If they ever got close, it'd probably just be too much for them. Luckily, they buy the one-at-a-time mantra of Davey. 

Right now, they have the perfect manageable but hard opportunity in front of them __a division series against a team that will be very good, but with their rotation set up the best it can be and games 3-4-5, if necessary at Nats Park.

The DS should just be huge fun.  Let them win ONE GAME and it'll be a beautiful battle the rest of that series.

Boz, The Nats limped to the Division Finish Line. The position players have played almost every game in September -- almost none of them having experienced this kind of pressure for an extended period of time. Detwiler has never pitched more than 75 innings and is now at 164 and looks awful. Zmann hadn't pitched a 100 innings pitched until last year's 161 and now sits at 195. Jackson and Gio have a history of 200 innings per year. The Nat's play has been spotty. Have the Nats hit a wall? Will the few days of rest solve the problem? All the other playoff teams are ending the year hot.

You're missing huge parts of the puzzle. With just the few days rest that they now have until Sat or Sun, they will enter playoffs as perhaps THE most rested team I've ever seen. Morse missed 50 games, Werth missed 10 weeks, Desmond missed a month, Z'man was on DL, etc. Nobody except Espinosa, who's very tough, has played a lot of games. LaRoche has had some rest. And the pitch counts for every starter have been kept low. Storen got rolling at exactly the right time. As I said, IF they get their feet under them and Detwiler has a good game in the DS at home, then the Nats aill be a very tough team for any N.L. club to beat. But will it work that way? We shall see. The main thing: It's NEVER as much fun as the first time. So ENJOY.  

In the 2nd quarter with the Redskins deep in their own territory, RGIII runs a play like a running back. Mark Barron has the nerve to actually tackle RGIII and gets flagged for an unnecessary roughness penalty. Should RGIII get a different colored jersey so the players can know when he is a running back and when he is a quarterback. Because even the real referees are confused.

You're missing the point. Defenders are always going to  be overeager to crush RGIII, so he's always going to draw more flags than most QBs. Also add that >40 yd pass interference penalty to his passing and rushing totals.

I just watched the Skins tape. That was RGIII's best game. Just amazing, like a 3rd or 4th year pro. They joke down in Texas that "the skinny post is always open." He can zip that thing on the numbers over the middle at 12-15-18 yards deep as well as ANYBODY I;ve ever seen. It's like Harper's bat spped. You seriously think, who else is on the list with this guy?

Many have noted, including me, that RGIII is just incredibly accurate at every distance, except maybe the deep ball where he has tons of arm but maybe just average accuracy. And he's so nimble on screens, quick outs, that he's a nightmare to defend. And the QB draw on the goal line is ALWAYS going to be there unless NFL teams completely rethink how they defend inside the 10-yard line. He makes the Skins an exceptional red zone team even without skill players around him. (Hankerson had a drop on the numbers.) What happens if he ever actually gets a WR who can get seperation? Right now, the ball is catching the receivers.

Anyway, the RGIII haters or even RGIII is protected crowd won't get much traction here. Every top QB in the NFL plays with about half of a do-not-touch practice jersey. RGIII is in that group after four games, imo. So, he gets a phoney Protect The Shield shirt, too. Skins opponents can learn to live with it.      

So, has anyone else noticed that he has had potential game winning or tying drives in the last two minutes for the past three games? I think that's what is impressing me / giving me the most hope.

Unless I'm completely confused, he's smarter at football than Bill Gates is at computers.

When they blitz him, they get toasted (as in final drive). His "hot read" seems to be "any of my five elligible guys."

Okay, kidding. But I was knocked out by watching every play of Skins game in 1 hour. It's just, "Nice play, kid. Great good throw, son. Wow, I think maybe after that one I'll just call you Mr. Griffin from now on." 

I know that there's never a good time for a cold streak, but this seems like a really really bad time for the Nats to have one.

Define "hot." Nats have been over .500 every month __the only team that has. Going backwards, they are 7-7, 10-10 and 19-12. And the 19-12 includes 20 games with Cards, Atl, Dodgers, Milw and Phils when they were in contention. 

Earl said, "Momnetum is the next day's starting pitcher." Well, in the playoffs, moment is your Game 1 and Gasme 2 pitchers. They can set, or change, a team's tone/nerves in 24-48 hours. 

I've seen countless teams come into the post-season with some stumbles, usually because clinching is so nerve-wracking, and then play beautifully.

Don't spoil your anticipation by looking at the last four games. Look at all 160 so far. This is a really good team. Nobody knows how any team will do in a fiuve-game series. But I suspect Davey will say, olr not say, the right words.

I saw Susan Johnson in the tunnel near the clubhouse after the game. She just grinned and said, "He knows how to do this." That was the whole conversation because we both know that he does __and better than any of the other managers who'll be left on the N.L. side. Not saying they're bad. But Davey is probably the only lock Hall of Famer in that room right now. And this NL East crown probably inked him for Cooperstown. Big success in four different places __Mets, Cincy, Balt and Wash. And all with different stytles, ages, payrolls, etc.

Once Davey gets in, he's not a quick "out."

Please tell me the Nationals will get rid of him. I honestly think he's lost it.

Don't kick a man when he's down. Made an amazing recovery to get as far as he did. Never saw never about pitchers. Yes, I assume he won't be back in D.C. But did you see how got the win the other day for Toronto vs the Yankees? Ex-Nat whose injuries, double Tommy John, should have had him back retired in Canada years ago __Shawn Hill!

Baseball people tend to think that the true bowling-ball sinker never dies, it just goes on sabbaticals. 

As a lifelong washingtonian who has suffered endlessly these past 20 years with our sports teams, I hope all nats fans will be able to embrace and appreciate this team, regardless of what transpires during the playoffs. The team has given us so many great memories this season, and now the payoff, a NL East championship, and we get to live through a play off series! Do you think all of our redskins misery has made us too cynical and negative as a fan base to be able to just enjoy the playoff experience? I want the nats to win as badly as anyone, but a first round loss would not ruin this season for me. Am I crazy?

Amen.

It's the age that is especially cynical. Long ago, a wise writer said, "The times are permanently bad." Or they always seem bad to those who are living through them.

It's probably a good idea not to let the tone of your times define YOUR view.

The Nats have had an amazing, wonderful year. They are as good as any team in the playoffs. They're going to be a good, very good or even better than that team for the next several years. Don't over analyze.

And a negative bias at a time like this is more than ample reason to look at yourself in the mirror and think, "What's wrong with me?"

The way we react to things outside ourselves is a large clue toward revealing how we feel about things when we look inside ourselves. Try that test when seeing how friends, etc., react to this glass-96-wins-full moment.

Looking at the stands last night, it seemed to me there were a lot of folks who, like me, have been Nats fans since the 1950's. I was in college in Wisconsin with Mr. Short stole my baseball team from me. I never forgave him. I'm forgiving him now. I was fortunate to live in the Los Angeles area during the 1960's and the Dodgers were about the best team in baseball for many of those years. However, nothing those Dodgers did gives me the satisfaction that I'm getting from the Nats' amazing season. I'm sure you have about the same emotions (I've read about every column you've written since the mid-1970's or so.) Your column about the Morse phantom home run swing was one of my favorites. So, since I should ask a question, do you think the Nats will come out of their little end of season funk and storm the baseball world in the playoffs? And last comment, I've watched a few celebrations over the years and never have I seen such openly displayed love for one's teammates as I saw and heard last night. It gave me goosebumps and tears. Waiting with rabid anticipation for your columns on the playoffs.

A young reporter asked me last night how many champagne locker rooms I'd been in. I said, "Maybe not 100, but close." The last 37 World Series, more than 50 LCS (sometimes you get lucky and cover the deciding game in both), plus others.

Your description is apt. Also, and I haven't seen it noted elsewhere, as enthusiastic as that celebration was, it was the semi-muted kind that you see from teams that REALLY think that they have not reached the high polint of their season. For the first 45 minutes, my reaction was, "Man, are they taking this in stride. 'Going deeper' is really in thier minds."

That doesn't mean it will happen. But champagne celebrations really do tip you off to a team's sense of itself. This team thinks it is really, really talented and just wants to let that talent express itself.

It's a whole lot better for that first expression of talent to come in a five-game series, short as it is, rather than a one-gamer, which Davey absoluterly hates. He just wants his team to get a half-decent chance to "play itself into" the post-season. Then he'll be glad to take his chances with this group. This is an almost off-the-charts athletic baseball team. Plain old-fashioned I'm-more-gifted-than-you athleticism helps in post-season.

I doubt that very many teams with Bryce Harper are ever going to be a "quick out." From the team meeting in Miami on August 29 to last night, he slugged .700. On therecent road trip, he hit .500 (12 for 24). Last night he had a double off the CF wall and a walk. Asked about how he'd played "down the stretch," he said, "We still have more games." He intends to be the best player on the field. Hot streaks stop. But I'm not at all sure that he's close to cooling down.

That's it for now. Gotta write a column or two.

Hope you're loving all this as much as I am. If you are a baseball fan __or in grave danger of becoming one quite soon__ it jujst doesn't get better than Nats in playoffs, Orioles down to the wire with Yanks and 10 teams in the playoff that are about as equal as I've ever seen. The Rangers and Yanks are very beatable.

Enjoy! 

It came 12 years too late for Shirley to see it, in fact he didn't live to see baseball return to Washington, but didn't he cover the last pennant Washington won? What do you think he's thinking now?

Yes, Shirley covered in '24.

I worked at the Post in the sports department with him  from '69 until his death. He never stopped writing columns. Judged by that nearly 30 years, lets just say, "Shirley approves."

We could not stop watching the Nats celebrate their winning of the NL East last night. They all turned back into little boys running around wild in pure unbriddled joy. But what I loved the most was when they all came out (especially Morse) to celebrate with the fans -- showering them with beer too! Somehow I just don't think other teams would do that so sincerely and spontaneously. Am I wrong or do we in fact have the most appreciative club in the league?

You've got it right.

This year Trout and Harper are having seasons even better than Mays and Mantle's rookie years in 1951. Do you think that we are seeing a similar birth of two stellar careers?

If I had to give a one-word answer, it would be, "Yes."

Stammen said after the game last night about Harper: "It's fun to watch him. With him, it's not (just) about his stats. That kid was in every big play we had (down the stretch). He stepped up when it counted. When the lights are on, that boy shows up. That's just the way it is."  

The Washington Nationals are the National League's Eastern Division Champion. I will never get tired of saying that out loud. I'm a local and I recognize the long history of baseball in Washington. But for a moment I'm only going to address this iteration of the Washington Nationals and how great it feels to see this plan from the Lerners come to fruition. This club that they allowed Rizzo to put together is simply terrific from top to bottom. This is a truly solid organization with an incredibly bright future. In only eight seasons we've come so far from the MLB owned days. I can remember clear as day sitting behind third base in RFK on our very first opportunity to see our new club in DC, an exhibition game against the Mets, when we booed Vinny Castilla for a lack of effort (and maybe a sore hammy) in not running out a ground ball to first. We were hungry for baseball - good baseball - and now it's here. So awesome!

Check.

Boz, I believe we'll be reminiscing about Bryce's teenage year for decades in this town. He is a superstar. Why would the deciders deny him his NL Rookie of the Year?

He's N.L. ROY. Others were excellent. He carried his team, as much or more than  anyone the last five weeks. And to an NL East title and maybe best record. Period.

The flowers ripped from the LF wall planters and showered on the players as they walked by. Not exactly ticker tape, but cool nonetheless.

Yup.

Boz, I hear the Nats have asked Frank Robinson to throw out a ball at a playoff game and he has agreed to do it. I think that is a great idea. I would also like the Nats to dedicate one game to the 60's Senators and try to get as many old Senators to come. I would love to cheer for my boyhood hero, Frank Howard, the most humble player ever!

Hope so.

Tom, I think that no one has kept baseball alive for DC more than you. You have written intelligently, taken on the Commissioner, lobbied the new owners, you praised the new stadium in Baltimore, but always kept us thinking that it could happen here. The Post has had some good sports writers, but 2 of them picked up and went to TV. You have stayed, always been eloquent and sincere, and now DC has a baseball winner. Thanks!!

I try NEVER to publish these. Change that to the Post has had a LOT of great sports writers and a lot of great BASEBALL writers who helped keep D.C. in baseball's eye as still a baseball town. Justice, Sheinin, Maske, Svrluga, Kilgore, oh, God, I'm blanking, must be getting up at 5:15 a.m. in St. Louis...and sports editor GEORGE SOLOMON who pushed for 28 years. He was relentless. And Shirley, in person or spirit, was always behind it all.

The idiots on MLB Network came up with this conspiracy theory that the Nats are going to pitch Strasburg and they were waiting until they clinched to announce it. Question, does MLB own the network? They are turning into a laughingstock.

They're idiots. Ignore 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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