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February 25, 2013

11
A.M.

Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Total Responses: 29

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.

RG3 - when ?

Do you think he's back and ready (key word here!) by week 1, and if he's not, does it matter if they shelve him until say week 5 - might that make him better suited to go deeper - assuming that they are in contention?

A.
Thomas Boswell :

I was talking with a friend of mine who is a doctor and we both found the "information flow" on RGIII to be curious. Seems perilously close to double talk to me. Dr. Andrews says he is "ahead of schedule" now or "way ahead." BUT there will be extreme caution shown not to rush him back for the Opener. Yet the impression has ALWAYS been given by the Skins that RGIII was probably going to be ready for the Opener.

There could be a half-dozen mind-reading exercises. Or maybe everything should just be taken at face value. But one thought comes to mind. 1) The damage of the original injury was downplayed to prevent more fuss about how RGIII was left on the field vs the Seahawks. So, there was internal doubt about when he'd come back next season. 2) But he really IS ahead of the (internal) schedule. Yet even THAT doesn't make him a lock to be back for the Opener. That brings us to "3)." So how bad WAS the original evaluation of the knee injury if Fast Progress still doesn't insure a Game 1 return?

That is one of 50 interpretations. Have fun reading tea leaves between now and Sept.

– February 25, 2013 11:00 AM
Q.

Spring training

Given that the Nats know almost every player making the roster out of Spring Training, do the players/coaches approach the 6 weeks differently?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

They're going to take a lot of Nats naps.

Considering that ST is a week longer than normal to accomodate the World Baseball Classic, it is an enormous waste of time, and extra chance for injury, for the top teams that can already name their 25-man roster (or close to it.)

However, the Nats have a lot of players they'd love to get ABs and IPs for in the spring. And they'll be able to see a lot of Anthony Rendon (3d), as well as Chris Marrerro, Matt Skole and Tyler Moore (at 1st) who play exactly the same positions as Ryan Zimmerman (coming back from shoulder surgery) and Adam LaRoche (in no need of ABs in February). Also, Lombardozzi and various catchers will get PT because Espinosa (shoulder) and Ramos (knee) don't need to be worked too hard too early.

Also, with Gio Gonzalez and Ross Detwiler pitching in the WBC, there will be plenty of IPs for Zach Duke, 6-foot-10 Chris Young (nice pick up) and others, including Christian Garcia in a couple of weeks, to show who could be the 6th, 7th, 8th starter.

So, all in all, it works out decently. Except Nats would certainly like a week less of ST and about 100-miles per bus trip LESS to travel.

– February 25, 2013 11:01 AM
Q.

Ball Four

Hi Tom, I've spent the offseason reading Ball Four to help get my baseball fix. Do you have a sense about how different things are now? Obvously, there's a lot more money, and I suspect that players are less exploited, but how much has anything else changed? Personally, I was struck by how clueless some coaches came off, even looking past Bouton's personal feelings. Thanks!

A.
Thomas Boswell :

Loved "Ball Four." In general, managers, coaches are smarter now than when I first covered MLB in '76. The smartest are no smarter. (And the dumbest no dumber!) But the norm has gone up, imo.

Coaches are now generally sharp. The Nats and O's staffs are examples of that.

– February 25, 2013 11:01 AM
Q.

Projecting Nats Park Attendance This Year

This morning's front page Post story on Nats fans flocking to spring training this year has me wondering how the Nats will do at the gate this year. In 2012, they averaged 30,000 fans a game. This year, reports indicate the season ticket base, which also serves as a floor for each game's attendance, is near 20,000. So will they crack the 35,000 average? With one of the best teams in baseball, exciting young talent, and a very well-off market, shouldn't they be averaging close to sellouts every night?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

They'll have to haver a very good season and go hard to hit 35,000 this year. Big attendance jumps usually come after remarkable post-seasons when a team reaches the Series or wins it. (See the progression in Texas with the Rangers.) But it seems like the Nats have gotten a little ahead of the normal curve because D.C. area was starved for a baseball winner (or any winner) and the team has a lot of appealing or magnetic stars (#34, #37).

– February 25, 2013 11:01 AM
Q.

Nationals

Looking forward to a fun season for the Nats. Thinking every game is winnable is a great way to go through a season! I don't want to overreact to every little 3 game losing streak or bad hitting in April, but what are the types of things in April/May that would be worrisome? Other than obvious injuries, are there any things that can happen in the first quarter of the year that you would find to be troubling?

A.
Thomas Boswell :

Nats will have to be careful about the excessive expectations surrounding them __don't internalize them. They'll be measured against 98 wins. The Red Sox, for example, have only won more than 98 games ONCE in the last 60 years. Many teams have not done it at all since the start of 162-game seasons 50 years ago. Nats could be better, and play slightly better, and win less than 98. They'll aim high. But they, and their fans, should remember that numb ers below 98 work just fine. No franchise can, or should, be compared to the 14-in-a-row 1st-place Braves. But, without, any comparisons, Atlanta shows the RANGE of "super good." In seven of the 14 years, Braves won 94, 90, 96, 95, 88, 96 and 90 and finished 1st

Yes, and they also won MORE than 100 SIX times in those 14 years. (Amazing. Just looked it up. Didn't know they were THAT good.)

Johnson's best teams have tended to get off to very good starts, in part because he does not wear them out in March. Last year's hot start was a cushion for the whole season. Nats do NOT have an easy start. By May 2d, they've played Marlins and Mets 9 times, but they will have played the Braves (6), Reds (6), Cards (3) and White Sox (3) a total of 18 times!

So a good start would mean even more but also be even harder to achieve. We'll get a lot of info in a hurry.

– February 25, 2013 11:01 AM
Q.

PEDs - Gio - based on what's now known...

Did he or didn't he? I'd like to think the latter - but, want your 2 cents. If it is the latter, then what the heck happened - or how? Kinda stinks that we are now tuned after years of coverage to automatically believe the worst.

A.
Thomas Boswell :

Right now I think that the MLB player with the greatest chance of b eing clean is the one who just passed a surprise out-of-season blood-and-urine drug test just two days after his name surfaced in a PED story: Gio Gonzalez. 

Nobody else in baseball, who was not under suspicion, has had such an out-of-the-blue no-time-to-clean-up-your-system test and then passed it.

Anybody could show up dirty in any sport at any time. In sports these days, "the other shoe" falls for somebody new every month. But Gio Gonzal;ez deserves more than the benefit of the doubt at this point. There will be more investigation of Biogenesis and those connected to it __so anybody (or nobody) could get dragged in. But MLB has named Gio to the U.S. team in the WBC. MLB has informed him that his drug test was negative. And there have been (published) leaks that Gonzalez was the ONLY player named in the original Miami New Times story who was NOT connected to the PEDs. 

Looks like the original version fo the story from Gio was true. His father went to an anti-aging clinic to get stuff to help prevent aging.

Amazing, maybe a player said, "I'm innocent" and the lowest probability outcome turned out to be true __he was telling the truth.

As I indicated from Florida in a column on Gio, the Nats were not worried. They'd (according to a source) been told "not to worry." And, as several Nats pointed out in that story, Gio's personality, training methods and past statistical history were all the ones you'd expect of a NON-PED user.

So I think that is the correct assumption to operate under now. Should be a huge load off Gonzalez back. But, right now, it looks like he and his family went through a lot of hell for what, at this time, can only be described as nothing.

Anybody can get "caught" tomorrow. And eventually there will be Nats and Orioles players who have "positives." Every team will have that issue periodically. (For example, on last year's Nats team, there were two players on the Oepning Day roster who were in the Mitchell Report for past PED issues. I'd name them __no secret__ but I don't want to do it from memory and don't have time to dig out the Mitchell during a chat.)

So, you're right that everybody now "believes the worst." MLB EARNED that. But Gio Gonzalez didn't.

– February 25, 2013 11:17 AM
Q.

The Sky Is NOT Falling!

Bos, I realize the collective IQ ofmost radio call-in chatters is about the same as that of a tree, but Good Grief. After 2 ST games, Stras has been hit hard and Storen blew another save!!! The Nats will be hard pressed to win 50 games this year!!! Fortunately some(but not all) hosts have a bit more sense. But as someone who roots for a team that has no chance of getting anywhere close to the playoffs, I'd be happy to trade teams with you in a heartbeat.

A.
Thomas Boswell :

Perhaps the nicest aspect of writing a sports column is that you only have to say something when there is something worth saying.

Of course, if you write something dumb, it's an unforced error. 

In a recent column I mentioned the book "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain. It's wonderful. (That's why it's a best-seller.) One of the early chapters deals with the evolution of cultural history of America and how the 19th-century "Culture of Characater" (think Abe Lincoln) became the "Culture of Personality" (think Tony Robbins and obnoxious "alpha" Harvard Business School grads __she just destroys them as "The Spiritual Capital of Extroversion." 

It took 150-years of devolution to reach the point where sports talk radio could thrive. Will it take another 150 years for it to disappear.Okay, that's too extreme. But it was fun to type. Sort of a "sports talk worthy" comment on sports talk.

There are good "talk" shows. But by and large it is a cultural artifact that future American historians will look back on with a gasp and covered eyes. It's often just relentless artificial extroversion. Those who do it well really have a gift because it is a tough medium that's designed to make everybody involved look like a dope.

JMO. And, yes, I've gone on plenty of sports talk shows and still do. 

– February 25, 2013 11:31 AM
Q.

Wiz - over the Nat's like Hump?

Ready to win just enough to pique interest, and next year screw it up for some other teams? Or, is the coach just doing his best Laranaga imitation!

A.
Thomas Boswell :

I'm a big fan of Randy Wittman and not surprised that he could turn an awful-looking team into one that is now 17-37 and ahead of three teams in win-%. I'd stopped watching them __it took them 30 years to force me to scream "No More Wiz For Me." As soon as I swore off them completely, they started playing .500 with Wall back. And, yes, I've started watchjing them again __in small doses.

John Wall is playing better, but is shooting is still just amazingly bad for his whole career with no indication that it's getting better at all. His turnovers per 36 minutes have gone UP every year from 3.6 to 3.8 to 4.4 this year.

But the shooting percentages are what make me wonder how good the Wiz can be with Wall at the center of the team. FG% .409, .423 to .411 this year. But it's really worse than that because Wall has given up even trying to have a 3-pt shot. As a rookie, he shot .296 in 3s, then .071 and .077 this year.

Seriously, a .074 shooting percentage on 3s for the last two years.

That one weakness has dragged his True Shooting % (including shots for 2, 3 and 1 point) and his Effective FG % down to the very bottom of the NBA. TS% .494--.502 and .486 this year. eFG% = .427-.424-.413. These are no longer "advanced" stats. Everybody uses them. An eFG% of .413 for a player who controls the ball so much is incredibly bad.

What's impressive is that Wall does enough other things well, and Wittman uses what he has so efficiently, that the Wiz have playing ~.500 for weeks __for now.

– February 25, 2013 11:43 AM
Q.

Caps - seem close to being out of it

So, if they are out of it, do you blow up the team? If you do, what do you do with 8?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

With that albatross contract the Caps just have to do everything possible to get the best out of Ovechkin because he's not going anywhere __and his hat trick the other night might get him going.

I thought Hunter's exoduc put them in a tough spot __rookie coach, lockout, almost no chance to install a new3 system. And I think Hunter's good friend McPhee thought he'd be back.

But I never thought they'd be tied for the 2nd-lowest pt total in the NHL. They really need to salvage THIS season, not write it off as a one-time-only worst-case nightmare.

– February 25, 2013 11:48 AM
Q.

Grunfeld and the Wiz

Hypothetically the Wiz continue to play 500 or better basketball for the rest of the year (very realistic given how great they look). Did Grunfeld really just earn himself another year? The start to this season was simply horrific, but these past 20 games have been good enough to put them in the top 6-8 teams in the East and it really doesn't look like a mirage. At the same time, the WORST place to be in the NBA is as a team that has no chance at a title but also isn't tanking. Where do we go this offseason? My head is spinning....
A.
Thomas Boswell :

1) Just decent enough to decrease the odds of getting a great player in the draft.

2) Just decent enough to keep a mediocre-to-poor GM in his job for ANOTHER year.

I saw this movie already __it was the "Wes Unseld as GM" era. It lasted 7,124 years. Abe loved Wes. Who didn't. Ted loves everyboldy, fires nobody. Glad to see the Wiz doing better. But it can also be Fool's Gold.

I will not be wearing a "Save Ernie" T-Shirt.

– February 25, 2013 11:53 AM
Q.

Nats

Favorites ? Any truth to the idea that they had stealth last year? And, if they did, they sure don't now, so without it - are they a 98 win team again?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

As Storen pointed out recently, by the time he got back from the DL after the All-Star game, the Nats were not sneaking up on ANYBODY.

"People" say the Nats are "better on paper" this year because of Soriano, Span, Haren and liklihood of less major injuries than '12 with Werth, Ramos, Morse, Storen, Desmond, Z'man shoulder, etc.

But this analysis misses one major point. The Nats were, and are, a team built on starting pitching and especially Strasburg, Gonzalez and Z'mann. That's what makes them special. And they got 150 starts from their Top Five. Star SPs are VERY hard to replace in mid-season. It is MUCH easy for an average-hitting team __like the '12 Nats__ to replace hitters like Werth, Ramos and get reasonable production than it is to replace any of their Big Three for a long time. 

If Strasburg, Gonzalez and Z'mann make ~92 starts (the '12 total, even with SS shutdown), you can work around almost anything else because the Nats have so much depth __everywhere. But like any team built on a Big Three starting staff , you are virtually invulnerable or quite vulnerable, depending on the health/performance of those three. Ask Phils about Cliff Lee's 6-9 season or Roy Halladay's 4.49 ERA. Sure, injuries to regulars hurt a lot. But so did Halladay's unexpected decline.

 

 

– February 25, 2013 12:02 PM
Q.

Sec 114, Row E

The weight of expectations. This makes me so happy to have Davey Johnson as our manager.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Davey has a wonderful record, but an unusual one. Like Earl Weaver, Davey has a 5-5 record in post-season series. Johnson's post-season record is 25-26. Not nearly as good as his .564 W-L% in regular season which is 3rd best since WWII. He now has more career wins than Whitey Herfzog or Billy Martin. Also, winning a world title innoculates any manager/coach from "can't win the big one."

But there is an oddity in Johnson's record. He has had the best record in his league FOUR times which, obviously, would have translated into four pennants in the 1903-to-1968 period. But because Davey is 3-1 in division series, but 1-4 in LCS, he's only been to one World Series.

He's an exceptional manager, especially for this team. But he and the Natds will both have something to prove if they get back to October. They all have a chip on their shoulder in Viera. Davey used the phrase "early out" to describe losing in the first round. He said it like he had a mouth full of pickle juice.

– February 25, 2013 12:08 PM
Q.

Nationals Fan Counselor and Nats Starting Rotation

Tom, will you agree to be the main counselor for Nationals fans? There are going to be a lot of fans that are new to this game with a 162 game season and are going to panic after the first 3 game losing streak. We will need you to be a steady voice of reason throughout the year. Also, how would you rate the Nats starting rotation, spot by spot, compared to the rest of the Major Leagues? Below is how I rate them. How would you differ with my opinion? Strasburg - one of the top 5 #1 starters Gio - the best #2 starter? Certainly in the top 3 Zimmermann - One of the top 3 #3 starters Detweiler - the potential to be perhaps the best #4 starter? At least in the top 3, right? Haren - the best #5 starter
A.
Thomas Boswell :

You're drinking the Kool-Aid.

Strasburg has never pitched 162 innings. How will his stamina (not just his elbow or shoulder) hold up over what will be by far his longest season?

Gio is the real deal __three straight years in Top 10 in ERA. Nobody has a better No. 2. But some are just as good. How will be deal with the stress of Biogenesis (past) or WBC (coming up).

Z'mann is a very good No. 3. But his two "big" seasons are the last two: 8-11, 12-8.

Detwiler has never thrown more than 2600 pitches in a season. (Haren's average almost 3,600 for the last seven years.) This year will be a much larger load for Detwiler. He's old enough to handle it, but still a beanpole.

Haren could be 15-11 or 5-9 and gone. I'd go with 10-11, 4.02 in 189 IP. Familiar? Those are Edwin Jackson's numbers last year.

The Nats rotation and team have a VERY high ceiling. But because Gonzalez is the only one with a multi-year track record of ripping off a streak of almost identical durable excellent seasons, they all have to establish themselves as rotation FIXTURES. 

They probably will. But they haven't yet. 

– February 25, 2013 12:17 PM
Q.

Rendon in 13/14/15

There seems to be two camps (at least on twitter) debating Anthony Rendon's future. One side sees him as only a third baseman or first baseman and therefore will only start for the Nats when/if Zimmerman makes the move to first base or LaRoche is gone in 2015. The other side thinks his bat is too strong to wait and should therefore be converted to a second baseman as early as 2014. With Rizzo being an avid Espinosa supporter and Zimmerman seemingly entrenched for a few more years at third at least, where do you think Rendon (if healthy) will help the club this September and in 2014/2015? Previously you and other writers have said "let's wait and see..." Anything you care to predict? Thanks.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

If Rednon stays healthy, he will hit. If he hits, Davey (who thinks he is Can't-Miss exceptional) will want him up __maybe after the All-Star break when he has a good base of ABs in the minors. Johnson loves to help young players get established.

At some point, I suspect you have to find out if Rendon can played 2d and whether he can survive there. You don't wait for '15 __when LaRoche is gone, to put him in the lineup if he is as good as everybody thinks.

Johnson knows this situation. Bobby Grich demolished AAA two years in a row and Davey, a three-time All-Star (better than any Nats 2nd baseman has ever done), was traded after '72 to make room for him.

BUT Rendon has had Glass Ankles __two major injuries. I've never heard of a player with that problem. One time he snapped an ankle just putting on the brakes rounding 1st base in college. It's on YouTube. Scary looking. Not an "injuury" type of play.

I just want him to be healthy to see if he is everything the Nats think. There have been a lot of remarkable "wrist" hitters who were his m odest size __6-feet, 190. Hius HR to RF yesterday was impressive __just a flick of the bat. Was the wind blowing out? I couldn't tell.

Anyway, looking out a year or two, the Nats would love for him to hit in front of Harper for a long time. Sure, he might end up hitting anywhere. But he looks like a No. 2 hitter now.

– February 25, 2013 12:26 PM
Q.

Questions 47 & 48

Hi Tom, is there any way the Nats can stop Detwiler and Gio from pitching in that baseball 'classic'? I see a disaster waiting to happen. Luis Ayala was never the same after getting hurt pitching in that thing.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

As long as they don't act like it's October in March, they should be OK. But Gio is excitable. And Detwiler visited troops in the off-season and will be inspired by wearing USA I assume. Cross your fingers. It's an excellent event. Someday has to pitch. It's a nice bridge __potentially__ for Detwiler to talk his Game Four start and build on his confiodence.

Oh, I rewatched his performance in Gme Four again the other day. Very calm, worked in his curve and changeup. But what amazed me was the crowd. The crowd started going n ust when he ended the sixth inning. But by the time Z'mann struck out the side in the seventh, the entire lower deck was standing and never sat down. I timed how long they stood. It was EXACTLY 60 minutes __within a few seconds one way or the other__ until Werth's game-winning homer. Then they were still standing five minutes later when the national TV cut away. My guess was "over an hour." But I was pretty surprised that it was exactly 1:00 to the homer. Very memorable, to say the least.  

– February 25, 2013 12:32 PM
Q.

Harper

Do you think Bryce has it in him to be national league mvp? - Jay, Alexandria, Va.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Yes __someday.

The odds are very much against '13, no matter how good you think he'll be.

BUT Harper is very aware that a LOT of great players have had huge years at 20. Not just the Trout Year looking him in th4e face but Frank Robinson, A-Rod, Mantle and 8-to-10 other Big Names.

But I'd say that age 21-22-23 are going to be special years.  At 20, it's just too soon to lay that on him. You can be sure that Davey disagrees and thinks '13 will be a big breakout year for Harper __and he'll do everything p;ossible toestablish Harper in the No. 3 hole as long as Bryce hits well enough to allow it.

– February 25, 2013 12:36 PM
Q.

RG3 Safety

What is safer? Rushing him to play in the opener, or holding him back so he can make his starts after the field has disintegrated?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Ouch.

– February 25, 2013 12:37 PM
Q.

Defense

On paper, the Nats have a defense for the ages (of course we'll see how that plays out). How many wins per year would you estimate a a stellar defense adds to a teams win total over the course of a season?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

A few, over an average defense.

But not a lot. Because even an average defense has two or three brilliant fielders.

However, it's beautiful to watch.

We still have to find out how the shoulders of Z'man and Espinosa work out this spring. "Everybody" assumes neither is an issue. I'm not crazy about assumptions. Espinosa will get fixed, one way or the other, eventually. He thinks it's "no problem" as of right now.

Z'man is a big issue with a lot of up side. He's had cover-your-eyes throwing problems for years. If he wasn't at least half-way to Chuck Knoblach/Steve Sax Throwing Disease nobody ever was. He truly gutted it out.

If he can get back to a "normal" motion on routine throws __and is accurate__ he's a Gold Glove thrid baseman for several more years. Now I DO assume that  a "fixed throwing motion" is the 90%+ probability outcome. But it's not 100% yet.

– February 25, 2013 12:42 PM
Q.

Rizzo Long Term

Any reason to think he's NOT going to be the GM for a long time? Because I can't think of many others who have done as good a job in all of baseball.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

When is the team going to pick up his two option years for (if I remember correctly) '14 and '15.

What does he have to do? It's ridiculous, imo. Most other teams would have just picked up the options and said, "Thanks a million." Once the Lerners have a contract in place, they have a very hard time tearing it up __when they don't have to__ just because it might have vague beneficial effects in the future. 

You want Strasburg, Harper, etc., to be happy. You want Rizzo happy __and respected, too. He's not thin-skinned (like Riggleman about managing without a contract for the nexty year).

If his option years have been picked up and I just haven't heard about it, sorry. Rizzo's not pushing, as far as I know. But I'd say that it would be standard MLB practice __opr close to it__ to pick up those two years for someone who just got Executive of the Year.

– February 25, 2013 12:48 PM
Q.

Ted did fire somebody

Bruce Boudreau. And it seems like that was the worst decision he ever made.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Or maybe they should have fired him after the previous season's playoff collapse so they had an entire off-season to pick the next coach and install a system. Their 100% backing of him at the time stunned me.

The team position was "No problem here. Bad luck. Get 'em next year." With hindsight, it seems like a lot of problems had already shown up. The Caps have been in a constant fire drill mode ever since the mid-season Boudreau firing.

– February 25, 2013 12:52 PM
Q.

Ramos

How is Ramos looking thus far? 100%? Suzuki is a professional and seems to be a good guy, do you get a feel for how well he and Ramos interact? How great would it be to generate some power/runs from the catcher spot this year.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Ramos looked good blocking balls in the dirt in side sessions when I was down in Viera. That was "ahead of schedule."  He was beaming.

 I hope he follows Carlton Fisk's example. Early in his career, after a could of knee injuries, Fisk told the Red Sox that he wasn't going to block home plate aggressively anymore because he thought it was a bad risk-reward proposition for the rest of his career. They got it, didn't mind. Fisk played about 20 more years. He had plenty of guts. But he gave the runner a part of the plate and used sweeping tags if he had to. It was a career decision. Wouldn't bother me if Ramos, big as he is, did the same. And I hope I never seee Buster Posey block the plate again. Give the runner his six inches of the outside corner. 

– February 25, 2013 12:57 PM
Q.

RGIII

Here's an idea: Let's enjoy the Nats for a season, and then (and only then) start worrying somewhere around training camp about  how the knee has rehabbed. And if it hasn't: That's why there's Capable Cousins.

A.
Thomas Boswell :

Okay. Fine by me.

– February 25, 2013 12:57 PM
Q.

Ninety Percent of the Game is Half Mental

Do you think that the comments by Peter DeBoer and some of the Devils concerning the learning curve for the system that the Devils took a while to get and that the Caps are trying to get helped the Caps relax a bit and play more instinctually yesterday? They did seem to be running on all cylinders. It helped that Ovie found the back of the net, too.

A.
Thomas Boswell :

I read those comments. You just absolutely have to give Oates a ton of time to install his system __beyond this season. You can't switch AGAIN.

– February 25, 2013 12:59 PM
Q.

WGC

Boz, I love the formats of the WGC. Match play is so cool. But, the PGA, or whomever is in charge needs to change the venue from the mountains of Tucson. Every year it looks like they are playing in Antarctica. Wednesday was a debacle. Yesterday was nasty. Same thing a couple years ago. Are there options as to future venues?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

How many layers were Matt Kuchar and Hunter Mahan wearing in the finals! It looked like they were getting ready for a moon landing. The course looks like the moon already.

I got so cold just watching them that I clicked away before Kuchar locked it up.

Man, the four No. 1 seeds got knocked out fast. I like the format but understand why it's so dicey for TV ratings. Kuchar-Mahan may do it for me, but not for a lof of others. The snow storm pictures were cool.

– February 25, 2013 1:03 PM
Q.

Run differential

O's run differential for 2012 = +7. Played way above pythagorean record. However, Matusz, Hunter, Arrieta started 54 games in the first half. -70 run differential in those starts. All were demoted to AAA (eventually returning as respectable relievers) and the O's had the 2nd best run differential in the AL in the 2nd half and the best record the last two months. It took a while for the Duke to assemble his roster. Breaking it down their RDiff like that makes them look more legit in '13. Fair assessment?

A.
Thomas Boswell :

I like it. They were a much different, and better team as the season went on. The one-run win and extra-inning win numbers were a hard-won fluke. But they looked like a good team, not just a lucky one, down to the wire.

– February 25, 2013 1:05 PM
Q.

Rendon

If Rendon tears it up after September call-up, what does the Nats 2014 infield look like?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

If he hits, I wouldn't be surprised to see him up in July. Where? Don't know. But if he's hitting >.320, Davey will be begging for him.

– February 25, 2013 1:06 PM
Q.

Cuff trouble

Tom, In 1982 I fell while skiing and tore my right rotator cuff. PAINFUL. Back then, surgery was more invasive so I elected to rehab it. For a year I tried. Some days were better than others. Finally, after re-injuring it sliding the bases while playing softball, I had the surgery. I am not an elite athlete but I think the Nats, and Danny Espinosa are whistling past the graveyard if they think a completely torn left rotator cuff will not seriously affect Danny's play. Your take?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

At this point, I'd say it is one of the team's more serious concerns. They don't say so. I just think __as you do__ that no matter how tough Espinosa is (and he is VERY tough) it sounds like a significant injury that wasn't caught at the time. 

It seems obvious (though probably not to Espinosa) that he should take games off periodically to rest the shoulder, especially if he is playing well. Protect it for September/October. And that lets Lombardozzi play more and stay sharp. What's the right number? I have no idea. But there is nothing wrong with a target of 130 or 140, not 162.  

– February 25, 2013 1:10 PM
Q.

Instant Impressions

In just over a week of camp, can you hand out a few superlatives? -Most impressive? -Most concerning? -Most improved? -Player who may have to be cut but who you hate to lose?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I want to see Christian Garcia pitch so well, after his forearm gets better, to force his way onto the MLB roster. Great story. After two TJ surgeries, how many b ullets left in his arm? Maybe a lot, maybe not. But he has amazing stuff now. So use it out of the bullpen and then stretch him out as a 5th starter if that becomes necessary.

Oh, so no questions about the Daytona 500? Didn't you know I'd covered stock car racing long ago and the Indy 500 and went to the Indy 500 once just as a fan?

Thought Danica did very well with Top 10 finish. But didn't she get pushed around a lot coming out of the pits, etc? She certainly didn't get much "help" from other drivers. And in NADCAR there are times when it helps you to help somebody else.

It's about 100 times easier to pass on I-95 than it is at Daytona. That's the most hours I've ever spent watching cars run in a straight line.

That's it for this week. Sorry we didn't get to Otto Porter's amazing 33 points against Syracuse in the Hoyas 11-point win. At 6-8, 205, he just has such a smooth efficient well-round game. Knows his limits. Doesn't get the ball stolen from him in the open court by trying to take everything to the rim. Instead, will pull up for jumper or pass. Does some of everything. Sense of the court. I'll intyerested to see where Georgetown lands in the Top10. Nobody except Porter had a remarkable game. But you won't see many teams go into the Dome with the Orangemen on a 38-game winning streak on that court and play with so much patience/poise, especially after they fell behind 12-4 and trailed at half. Syracuse was the rattled team, firing far to many long 3's.

See you all next week. Lotta fun. Thanks for all the questions.

– February 25, 2013 1:20 PM
Q.

Strasburg's delivery

Is McCatty working with Strasburg on correcting his inverted W delivery? Strasburg also has footstrike issues, as he tends to plant his foot and then whip his arm, which puts a ton of strain on his shoulder. I'm concerned if he doesn't correct this, his shoulder will give out this season or next. Are the Nats worried about this? Are they working on cleaning up his delivery at all?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The Nats and Strasburg (and other "inverted W" Nats pitchers who don't get mentioned) think everything you are bringing up, including "footstrike," is nonsense and just the latest fad in trying to sound smart about pitching injuries. They aren't changing anything.

I know it is not YOUR theory. You see it everywhere. So do the Nats. They say, "Nuts." Davey watched a lot of deliveries from pitchers in the '60's-'70's who pitched 250-to-325 innings. If he thought he saw a "made for injury" delivery, he'd pipe up. He hasn't.

But I am watching. If Strasburg stays healthy for years, the "inverted W" crowd will NEVER MENTION that they were totally wrong (in his case, at least). If he gets hurt, they will all break their arms patting themselves on the back. (The "self-back-pat" is really tuff on the cuff.)

Cheers. 

– February 25, 2013 1:30 PM
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