Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Apr 29, 2013

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

So why will/will not this year's Caps playoff season be similar to recent ones? I think they need to win two series for this to be a succesful year. The poor start has been wiped away and there are no excuses. This team should be a final four team.

Incorrect, imo. Local fans tend to be myopic and only see what their team "should do" from their hometown perspective. The Caps are scorching on an 11-1-1 streak inwhich they have outscored foes by 47-29 -- a huge goal differential and a measure of how dominant they have been. But the Rangers are almost as hot at 10-3-1, a span in which they have an even larger goal differential of 52-28. The Rangers will be a tough toss-up series, imo. Like most Torts-coahced teams, Rangers are big, physical, don't take many penalties and force you into low-scoring games where anything can happen and nerves or jinxs can come into play.

If seedings hold, Caps would have to play Rangers, Montreal and Pens to reach Stanley Cup. We've probably already seen the most important aspects of the Caps season -- unless, of course, they go on a long run -- in the revival of Alex Ovechkin, who just wrapped up another goal-scoring crown, and the emergence of Adam Oates as a first-rate coach, probably for a long time. Youy have a superstar, thought to be in an inexorable slide, who's "back" at 27 and a well-respected smart young coach. You need to ave your superstar and your coach entirely on the same page. Three months ago, few (including me) would have given two cents for the chances of Oates and Ovechkin to be completely in sync with his switch to right wing after such a glorious career on the other side. That was The Big News of this season. It keeps the Caps window open. And any team that finishes 14-2-2 since March 21 can make a run.

But don't DEMAND it. Maybe we should enjoy the Caps for a change -- see them as a surprise, as "it's all gravy because we thought the season was toast." Rather than the usual, and I think very misguided, habit of Washington fans picking a high/sane goal and then proclaiming it "the minimum" achievement or they'll throw a fit. This is, probably, the im pact of sports talk radio which loves to ask artificial, negatively slanted questions like, "How far does Team X have to go so they won't be a disappointment to you."

Perception is a big part of our reality and we have a national habit these days of casting questions and issues in ways that predispose us to have negative reactions to a large majority of outcomes, including many perfectly acceptable outcomes. (In Washington terms, sometimes called a political compromise.)

In the short run,Tebow to another NFL team or CFL or what? And will Sanchez stay with the Jets beyond this season, whether or not he plays?

Tebow insistrs he wants to continue trying to be an NFL QB. Nobody seems to want him, at any price, at that position. Jacksonville has stated strongly that they don't want him.

IMO, Tebow should switch to TE. Several teams are interested in him __if he'll switch.

Does he want to be an NFL player or not? Would he rather retire as the very famous but "spurned" QB and use his (perhaps) higher "Q" rating to draw more attention to his religious works. Is he a good guy who is also a glory hog __those can co-exist in athletes?

What makes Tebow so special? He got his shot at QB. If yhou want to be a football player, then switch position like hundreds have done in various sports. I suspect he'll tough out the QB Search for a while, then switch to TE. If he just retires or goes to Canada, seems like a sad end as an athlete. 

Last Monday the Nats seemed to be reeling, which was confirmed, as they got swept at home by the Cards. But as you and many others preached patience, the 3-1 handling of the Reds, coupled with the Braves' slump presents the opportunity for the Nats to deliver a rebuttal to the Braves and take over the NL East lead. The key will be to see how Strasburg sets the tone against the Braves. Did he learn anything from watching Gio's and JZimm's efficient starts against the Reds? It's too early to be stressing about records and division standings, but it is good to see the fan base so invested!

Strasburg probably learned his lesson, if it is learnable, in the first inning against the Cards. It was the fourth straight game where he'd had trouble throwing Strike One and his 4th straight loss. By the third inning (not 2nd), he'd gotten in a strike-throwing groove and rolled. Gio, Jordan, Haren and Detwiler followed suit. Detwiler got lucky with about seven junk hits off him Sunday. But Gonzalez and Zimmermann had a few breaks in their back-to-back one hitters.

Strasburg was asked to be a "stopper" to prevent the sweep at home by the Cards and couldn't. Believe it or not, that was the first time since the formation of the Expo/Nats franchise that St. Louis EVEN swept a series in the Expos/Nats home park. Shows how ugly that Cards sweep was on the back of the three-game sweep in Nats Park by the Braves.

Yes, as you say, first three games in Atlanta are very big -- well, for April 29-30, May 1 -- with the top of the Nats rotation against Braves' fifth starter Julio Teheran (5.48 ERA), a rookie they hit hard this month, Tim Hudson (4.50) who has been iffy except one great start and Paul Maholm who was red hot then gave up eight runs in his last start.

If Nats get to Thursday with a bad series in process, then Atlanta has a chance to finish doing serious damage: Kris Medlen (1-2), who seems to have come back to earth after his 10-1 year, vs Dan Haren, who has improved a lot sequentially in his last two starts but is still a finesse guy re-finding his '11 form.

Many Post columnists have come out strongly against the Skins official nickname (my temporary solution is to refer to them as simply Skins). There is also national attention towards the name. Is there the same scrutiny over the Braves fans doing what seems like a very inappropriate gesture (the tomahawk chop)? As much as I can't stand Phillies fans coming to DC and acting obnoxious (and for some, drunk), I don't understand how Braves fans think what they are doing is OK? Am I being too sensitive or biased?

There is a big difference between the overtones associated with Braves and Redskins across the arc of U.S. history. Redskins was certainly very negatively "charged" for a long time.

Boz, I am a little confused as to why this is now on somebody's radar. Blocking the plate has always been part of the game, right? Isn't it the catcher who has the better chance of being injured (especially if the runner is Pete Rose in the all star game). And what about the O's catcher? Does he ever block the plate, or is his "swipe tag" used for collision-avoidance? IMO that second before slide, tumble, or impact is one of thoise hold your breath moments that make the game special.

Those explosions at home plate may be memorable but I prefer the methods taught by some team that try to save the catcher's health. Carlton Fisk, after a couple of bad early-career injuries, told the Red Sox that he was finished blocking th plate, not because he lacked the guts but because he was smart and thought it was a ridiculous play on a risk-reward basis for either the player or the franchise.

Most teams teach catcher to give the runner the outside ~4 inches of the plate so he has "somewhere to run" besides right through you. Most/all runners will take it. And be happy to have the choice. Suzuki makes a really good quick swipe tag. But, sometimes, he also blocks the plate. As big as Wilson Ramos is, I don't even want to see him block the plate. He has too much upside as an offensive player.

Good Morning Tom, What will you be watching for in the upcoming series with the Rangers. Aside from Ovie's continued production, who needs to step up in order for us to advance?

Caps may need better distribution of goal scoring. "Ovi," see how everybody is happy to call him "Ovi" again, had as many goals (32) as the next two Caps comibined, Brouwer (19) and Ribeiro (13). After that, it's Mike Green, largely on the PP. Backstrom had a good season with 48 points in 48 games, but only eight goals. If he stepped up a little, that would help. But he and Ovechkin are clicking since Oates put them back together on the same line. So, just take what comes, don't force it. 

We always see much more shot blocking as soon as the NHL playoffs start which can sometimes frustrate "pure scorers" like Ovechkin. The Caps may need to have more traffic in front of the net to screen Ranger goalie King H and score on rebounds. Goals will be tough to get in this series, especially for snipers, so cheap ones matter even more.

Bos, any idea why Solano caught only one game since Ramos went on the DL. Can't remember a catcher playing as often as Suzuki has the last two weeks. And Kurt isn't hitting right now. If Davey has zero confidence in Solano behind the plate, why not bring up Sandy Leon, who is rated a better defensive catcher?

Last thing you need with a team not playing well is to bench the smart veteran catcher (Suzuki) and let a rookie -- any rookie -- handle your staff. Ramos should be back off the DL for tonight's game and may start. He seemed cheerful and ready to go in the clubhouse last evening. Got a couple of hits in AA on Saturday. Says that RH SP Nathan Karns, 29 Ks in 21 IP, looks sharp down there, throwing 95. 

If you were betting on a team to win the next World Championship in DC who would be that team?

1) Caps. (NHL season ends in July, probably)

2) Nats. (World Series ends in late Oct)

3) Skins. (Super Bowl not until next Feb. They have to wait their turn.)

What, you don't think DC is going to win the Stanley Cup, Series and Lombardi Trophy in the same cycle? What's wrong with ya?

This is the first time in a LOOOONG time that you could even speculate about such things.

The real list, in terms of probability, is Nats, Caps, Redskins. Nats are obvious, if healthy and continue to improve their play. Caps are second because they are so hot and healthy at the right time -- right NOW! Ovi just led league in scoring, has a shot at MVP.

In contrast, Skins have to wait for RGIII to prove he's back. I assume he will be. But he's obviously the whole key to their future. It's great that he did "jumping jacks" for the draft-day fans/faithful at Fed Ex, but that's not quite the read option.

Growing up an Orioles fan in the '70s and early '80s, I thought every year was supposed to be like those magical times. I have lived in south Florida since 1991 and am now stuck in baseball purgatory. The new ballpark is fantastic but ownership has destroyed any fanbase that existed since 2003. Any chance Bud steps in ala with the Dodgers and Frank McCourt and forces Loria's to sell the team?

Anything Selig does to Loria is merited. BTW, apparently the Nats-MASN dispute has now gone to "the commissioner's office" for the next stage of Whatever-It-Is. Commissioner's Office = Bud. He was presiding when this mess happened. He needs to man up and get a resolution before he leaves at the end of 2014. If it's a good deal, then both sides will hate it.

Cornerback Amerson was taken in the second round by the 'Skins at No. 51. Outside of D.C., the pick has been slammed. Pundits are saying that Amerson cannot cover. So, if he was picked in the third or fourth rounds, would these same people be praising the 'skins' choice?

"Expert NFL draft analysis" always makes me shake my head. Talk about an inexact science.

Let me give you an example of how hard it is to get impact players after the first round, which means it is very unlikely that the Skins just drafted any future stars or even long-term standouts.

I went back at random to look at the '03 draft -- 10 years ago. How many, in each round, have so far accumulated a "Weighted Career Approximate Value of 50 or more?" Troy Polamalu is an 88, for example. But 50 is very good, somebody who really improves your team.

In the first round, there were 14 of 32 who have a "CarAv" of 50 or more.

Second round = 4.

Third round= 2.

Fourth round = 4.

Fifth round = 2.

Sixth and seventh round = 0.

Without a first-round pick this year, it's barely 50-50 that any of the current Skins draft picks will be even a standout. But the fact that they took three shots at improving their secondary shows you where they think they are most vulnerable.

No OL? I know, acquire by other methods. I was still surprised. 

Not too long ago you were comparing the Nats to the Caps, and arguing that the Nats, all other things being equal, should not have the eternal post-season disappointments that the Caps have had, because the temperament in the locker room is different. I love the Nats, and think they will be fine this year and excellent for the next 7-10, but I always thought that was a little unfair to the Caps. The Caps have had a pretty stunning run of success, which the Nats are still looking up at. After first winning the division, they went onto a couple of stellar regular season campaigns, and keep winning division championships and making the playoffs year after year. The post-season success hasn't been there; but at least they've won SOME in the postseason. The Nats won one division title after years of being awful, and promptly proceeded to get bounced out of the playoffs in a performance that was borderline embarrassing (getting blown out twice, and then blowing a huge Game 5 lead). And after an offseason of expectations, the team with the great makeup has appeared to be overwhelmed early on. Let's give the Caps their due for a run of success, the likes of which the Nats would be lucky to achieve.

The Nats have had one postseason disappointment. It's the Caps' specialty, including the current team. Getting knocked out by No. 8 seed Montreal in Game Seven after leading the NHL in points, certainly competes, unfortunately for both teams, with the Nats blowing a 6-0 lead in Game Five against the Cardinals. 

Let's see some DC teams, any of them, start getting teams' postseason hurdles, not smack running into them. At least they're getting the chance.

When he gets sent down next week, would you be surprised if he played second base exclusively given that Espinosa is now struggling with the bat and glove?

I talked yesterday with a scout whom I respect who thinks that Rendon could make the transition to second base fairly easily if the Nats chose to go that route.

We've now seen enough of him to know he has very quick reflexes at third, has a good first step in either direction, can make acrobatic snags and has a very strong arm. He charges and barehands the ball well. All-in-all, his defense has been the eye-opener. Everyone has said it was very good, but you have to see it to believe it. He also has made some rookie mistakes: Threw to second for a failed force once when he should have come home; pulled LaRoche off the bag twice yesterday, once after what would have been an amazing diving-left-bounce-up-and-throw play.

I assume this is a discussion for another season, not '12. But if Rendon eats up AAA (where I assume he's going) he may be in the picture at second next spring at 23. He's gotten hurt a lot. There is more danger turning the pivot at second.

Since the '11 All-Star game, Espinosa has played 247 games with 914 at-bats and has this slash line: .236/.307/.385. He's a Gold-Glove-caliber fielder. So that's an adequate combination, but nothing special and less than the Nats think he's eventually capable of doing. BUT he now has 1505 career PAs -- a lot. And his line is still only slightly above adequate for a slick second baseman: .236/.311/.719.

What Lombardozzi's supporters don't seem to get is that he isn't as good a fielder at Espinosa -- less speed/range/arm -- but he's also the same level hitter as Espinosa with a slash line for '12-'13 of .272/.313/.352. Neither one gets on base enough. At least Espinosa has power when he connects. Would Lombardozzi hit better if he played every day? Don't know. But he'd have to hit a lot better to displace Espinosa -- or deserve to displace him, imo.

Espinosa needs to take control of the position this year. It's his time, as it was Desmond's last year.

But Rendon can pick it and gun it. And I know that the Nats think he could eventually play any of the four infield positions, though maybe not shortstop at the MLB level.

"Anthony has not looked overmatched. And he has faced some very good pitchers and had good at abts, like Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller. That's what you look for most: his comfort level up here," said Mike Rizzo yesterday after Rendon was the only Nat to reach base three times with a hard single, a line out and two walks, including a walk vs. Aroldis Chapman.

I assume Rendon is going back down. But he's made a good impression. Not like Harper last year, but good.

Mr. Boswell, why did Davey insert Rendon instead of Lombardozzi (following Ryan's injury) into the lineup and why did he not allow Tyler Moore to start Sunday with Cingrani on the bump?

Rendon played with Cingrani at Rice for two years and, presumably, might have a good idea of what he throws. And Rendon had a -7 and W vs him.

Davey took a chance that showing confidence in LaRoche might pay off with a breakout day against a real LH phenom in Cingrani who has had "Strasburg Stats" at every level, including MLB in a few starts. Cingarni is funky, expands the zone, but also hit 96 mph. LaRoche failed the test with three strikeouts, including one against Cingrani with the bases loaded. Would Moore have done better? He pinch hit and also struck out against Cing. If he'd played the whole game he couldn't have done worse than LaRoche's 0-for-4. Yes, I'd have started Mooire. Easy 2nd guess. In fact, until LaRoche gets back in snyc, I'd start Moore vs LHers. But Davey hates to unsettle his core veterans. He knows that slumps have a natural shelf life. At 0-for-26, LaRoche is about due. Okay, over due. 

 

Boz, You wrote about Strasburg and his first-pitch strike issue. I think it goes WAY beyond that. Ever since he hurt his arm, he has been bombarded by innings count, pitch count, pitch to contact etc. Everything except be the power pitcher he is and blow people away with his best stuff and being agressive, I think the Nats have over managed Strasburg and gotten into his head. What do you think?

I think one reason I wrote that column was to say, "Keep it simple. Attack. Throw strikes. Trust your stuff. " Which Gio and Z'mann did the next two days and pitched one-hitters vs the Reds. Probably a coincidence.

When you used to be the Orioles beat reporter, was there an American League city that you always looked forward to visiting? After so much travel, would you still look forward to a certain ballpark or hotel or restaurant? Or does it become one amorphous blob going from airport to hotel to ball park and back again?

Thirty-plus years ago, I once spent three days in Cleveland on a long road trip, came back to DC, had to do my expense account and sat there for 10 minutes and COULD NOT REMEMBER CLEVELAND. Not which hotel, not whether I rented a car, not the restaurants. Nothing. Scary. Then it came back to me.

I love Boston, San Francisco, Chicago (Cubs), Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Seattle, San Diego and Philadelphia, largely because I love the parks and, in most cases, the whole city. I like New York, L.A. and even St. Lous. Maybe the first person ever to lump St. Louis with those two! I'm trying to think of a city/park in baseball that I don't like. I guess Atlanta is  "blah." You can have Cleveland, though the park is nice. KC has some great museums. But maybe one reason I still enjoy it so much is that I'm not tired of it. I'm looking forward to the All-Star game so I can see the Mets' new park.   

Boz, The last couple of weeks have been the perfect encapsulation of how baseball goes. Swept by the Cards, in a series where Nats' batted balls seemed always to find Cardinal gloves and Cards' hits found unlikely gaps - despair. Three-of-four from the Reds to take the season series where Nats bats found lucky gaps and the Reds couldn't buy a base hit - joy. We're still making errors, but the pitching is coming around - yay Haren! - and as you pointed out in your column this morning, LaRoche will hit again. Zim's coming back by the end of the week, Ramos sooner. We'll still have some ugly periods, no doubt, but at least we're seeing good baseball again.

I agree. As far as "how the Nats are playing," they certainly seemed to turn the corner in the last seven days even though they went 3-4. One of those baseball paradoxes. It's the Braves who are really worried right now. They are in a huge team hitting slump and have been thru their current 2-6 skid. The Tigers just scored 25 runs in three games and beat Maholm, Medlen and Minor.

Fans seldom sense other teams' problems. Heyward is hitting .121 (!!), BJ Upton .151, Dan Uggla .160, SS Simmons .228. Corner infielder Chris Johnson (.387) has saved them. And he's a good hitter. But his career fielding percentage at third is .932, which is very ugly. Z'man, in a bad year, was .950 last year. 

The Nats need to jump on a team that's coming off a really tough road trip (one game in Colorado was 23 degrees at game time) and a real thumping in Detroit. The Strasburg-Delgado matchup tonight "should" be an overmatch. Of course, there is no such thing in baseball. Wouldn't be surprised to see tonight's winner go 3-1 in the series.

I guess if you had to put money on any Nats' pitcher that could hit himself with his own wild pitch, you'd pick Henry. Can they send him down to Syracuse to work out his issues or would they have to cut him? Any other bullpen moves on the horizon?

The wild pitch was memorable. Hit the backstop and bounced all the way back to the foot of the mound on the fly and landed at H-Rod's feet, surprising him.

How come they didn't think of that for "Bull Durham"?

The career batting average AGAINST Henry is .211. That's hard to come by. If he has his control, so to speak, three times out of four, you can get some good use out of him as the 11th or 12 man on the staff. But he can't keep "walking the house" like he did yesterday.

Boz, this might not be exactly in your wheelhouse, but I don't know who else to ask: Does one tip the "ushers" at Nats Park? At Orioles games in the old Memorial Stadium, somebody always checked your ticket, wiped off the seats (whether they needed it or not) and stuck out his hand for a tip. The people wearing the "Ask Me" shirts at Nats Park are far more attentive; but, there didn't seem to be any opportunity to hand the one managing my section any money. Nor did she solicit any in any manner whatsoever. I haven't seen any tip jars in the food kiosks, either. I have to say that in the times I've been to see a game there, I've been terribly impressed with every park employee I've come in contact with. Just a wonderful experience all around (except for the cost and quality of the food for sale there). What's the deal with tipping at the Park?

I've never seen a hand out at Nats Park either. But I have put money in a few hands and they didn't give it back.

Yes, they are friendly. I'd say quality and avriety of food is very good, but prices are absolutely high. (But my wife and I have searched out the food we like. We love the Shawarma under the CF scoreboard. )

Sports Illustrated just posted on their website that Jason Collins just came out. While he is still an active NBA player, he isn't currently signed. Do you think the recent news will have any impact on his free agent status? I am of the opinion that he can still help teams with his size, knowledge, and based on the most recent news, his courage.

Takes courage. It shouldn't. But it does.

What's a good ratio for balls to strikes? I always follow the counts on the scoreboard at Nats park, but I don't know what I should be looking for. I get that you should always throw a strike at 0-0 and never at 0-2, but I've never seen anything about overall ratios. Friday, Zimmermann threw 59 strikes in 91 pitches.

A good goal is 65% both on 0-0 and total pitches.

With the early season struggles of Storen, and to a lesser extent Clippard, I guess Rizzo's signing of Rafael Soriano was right in that you can never have too many closers. Do you think Soriano's presence is helping or hurting Storen?

I'm not big on coddling MLB players after they've been up for a couple of years. They aren't kids anymore. Yes, be "nice" to rookies and second year, too. After that, do your job. Don't worry about how you "feel."

The Nats had a chance to get a high-quality proven closer who saved 42 games for the YANKEES last year, replacing the greatest reliever who ever lived in the toughest home park anywhere (with a cheap home run porch in RF) in a strong hitting A.L. East in a league with the DH. What do you want!!! And he's been uniformally good for 10 years. It was a steal. They HAD to grab him. Anybody who can't get their mind around it -- and I think Storen and Clippard certainly can -- need to think harder.

Soriano's not a fireballer anymore but has excellent command, good variety (cutter, split). Someday he'll get old. This year? He looks pretty good. He's an acquired taste since so many closers throw 98 mph now. But he was a smart get.

So, building off of your thoughts of which DC team has the best chance to bring a championship to DC, which sport do you think has the closest correlation between regular season record/victories and winning a championship? Football seems to be out, the team with the best regular season record rarely seems to win the Super Bowl. But, NHL, NBA, and MLB all seem like there are some correlations. MLB probably ranks the lowest, maybe NHL the highest?

Unfortunately for the NBA, it is the NBA.

What a non-competitive league. Far too many awful teams. And far too many years when you think you can name the finalists, or even the champion, before the playoffs even start. If the Heat win in a walk this year, some people may ask, "Remind me again, why am I watching this?"

Solano questioner here. Not suggesting "benching" Suzuki. Just found it odd that he played every day but one for two weeks. No other catcher in MLB did so in that time period. Wondered why. Other teams, like Reds, have catchers on DL as well.

Nats knew exactly when Ramos would be back and figured Suzuki could keep it together, even playing every day, for that long. Looks like he did, though his bat got a little tired. The Nats have an option on Suzuki for next year but at (I think) $12 million. So he may be a free agent after this year. You'd assume he's glad to get every AB he can to build up a stat case for himself. 

I guess I'm not entirely clear why Tebow has been written off as a QB. When he got "his shot," he rescued his team's season, got them into the playoffs, and then put in one of the all-time great performances in winning a playoff game. I know his overall completion percentage is very poor, but, when he's played, he's won. What am I missing?

Perhaps you are "missing" the infallible expertise of the NFL, where coaches and evaluators can look at a player and decide exactly how good he is -- even if the actual results of games may contradict their views!

The NFL has a high opinion of itself and there's a lot of Herd Think. Tebow is on the wrong side of it. Maybe he should be. But it will be tough to buck.

How long 'til Scioscia and Gibbons(?!?) are feeling the heat?

Sciposcia is an institution, like LaRussa. "Fire" Josh Hamilton.

BTW, since last August it really does look like Mike Trout is coming back down to earth as perhaps an .850 OPS hitter while Bryce Harper -- near 1.100 since last Aug. 15 -- may already be a .900 or .950 player. "Too soon to call," but more precincts are reporting all the time.

I love the Nats and all the players, and I want the best for all of them. However, I look at Henry Rodriguez and just wonder what can be done. I've seen the Good Henry (aka-Pretty Frickin' Bueno) and I've seen the Bad Henry (aka SMHRod). Yesterday was awful. I think they let him load the bases only because they wanted to give Mattheus more time (although I wonder if Suzuki is allow to go out there after every pitch or not, that could have stalled things a bit). I know the Nats don't want to give up on him, or have it come back to bit them in the end, but something has to be done.

We'll always have "Pretty Frickin' Bueno."

I'm the person who asked several weeks ago about Harper's BB:K ratio compared to some of the Hall of Fame hitters who broke out in their sophomore years in part by starting to draw as many walks as times they struck out. It's only April 29, but it looks like Harper is on his way, with 13 walks and 15 strikeouts to go with his 1.200 OPS.

I remember your question and have been keeping an eye on it. If he stays near 13:15, he's going to hit WAY over .300 with his speed, the ever distribution of his hits to all fields and his determination to be a pain in the rear end with two strikes.

But to what degree is he just amazing hot right now -- and "on" every pitch while taking the near-miss pitches -- and to what degree is this "just him."

Nobody is a .360 hitter and .754 slugger, not even Babe Ruth. So, enjoy it while it lasts. But everybody is, excitedly, reevaluating their "ceiling" for Harper, even those who already had it very high. I think I mentioned last week that Storen said, "He's just a completely different hitter this year." He spits on pitcher's pitches (and takes his walks) and kills the rest. If you want to know what a "good at-bat" looks like, watch Harper right now. Well, up until now. The whole sport hopes it continues, though don't expect five more months like this April. This was special.

I noticed you didn't list the Wizards.

I finally stopped holding my breath at the 33-year mark.

That's it for today. So many good topics. Thanks again. See you all next Monday.

 

This season he looks totally in control. What are the chances he doesn't finish in the top five in MVP voting?

Top 5. I'll say he will. There is plenty of precedent for great years at 20, as I wrote in a spring training column. That is, if you're Ty Cobb, Al Kaline, Mel Ott, Frank Robinson, Alex Rodriguez or Tony Conigliaro, it's not so tough! Is he one of those guys? Ssshhhhhhhh.

Bos - I was at the game Friday and witnessed what I thought perfectly showed that Washington is becoming a baseball town. At the end of the eighth inning, Jordan Zimmermann emerged from the dugout with a bat on his shoulder and the crowd went wild. They got it. They immediately understood that Davey was going to let him go for the complete game shutout. Quick question: The Nats' attendance surpassed a half-million for the year with yesterday's game - is this where you saw attendance being? Better? Worse? Thanks!

Nats attendance is averaging 31,812, up 23.3% versus '12 after the same number of dates (16). I doubt that a 23.3% increase can continue. That means they'd have to average about 38,400 the rest of the season. Not going to happen, im.

But you will seecrowds continue to go up with each homestand for a while. That's how it is every year in D.C. Each city has its own patterns. When school is out and tourists are in Nats attendance goes up. For example, this was the graduyal increase in attendance __by series__ in '12. I exceluded Opening Day.

22,912

25,589

30,852

32,955

34,834

Then it levels off for the second half of the season. Cheers.

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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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