Boz, I have the over/under on Skins wins at 10 (which assumes a healthy RG3 for the season). That's 4-2 in the division, defeats on the road to The Pack, Broncs, Falcons and a home loss the the hers. They beat Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit, The Bolts, Chiefs and Raidas. Am I looking at this through burgundy colored glasses?
Assuming RGIII is 100 percent or very close (and I do), then I think 10 wins is a good over/under. Trying to go game-by-game is always tempting but teams change identity so much from one year to the next in the NFL that it's hard to do.
The Skins should be better in two areas because of returning players. Getting Brian Orakpo back to put on the other side from Ryan Kerrigan gives the Skins hope of a better pass rush which they very much need to take heat off their weak secondary -- the obvious hole in the team. Also, Helu looked excellent vs the Bills first team defense; Keiland Williams also looked quick, too, especially hitting holes hard then making his first cut decisively once past the line of scrimmage. The Skins are going to need a significant amount of rushing yardage from somebody besides Morris and RGIII. Nobody thinks he'll run 120 times again -- ~70 would be plenty, including scrambles, in my book.
BTW, one of the most bogus things I've ever heard is the way the Shannies keep saying that RGIII was hurt all three times last year (including Atlanta and Ravens) on scrambles, not their designed Pistol runs -- so their offensive scheme and their play calling isn't to blame. Give me a break. Once you decide to run -- whether it's a scramble or a designed play -- it's 90-some percent the SAME thing. You're running full speed. They are running full speed at you. Then a football crash happens. When you are sacked in the pocket, you aren't able to defend yourself as well and your knees are more vulnerable. BUT the guy sacking you -- yeah, I was good at getting sacked in high school and getting crunched on option runs, too -- is seldom moving anywhere near full speed and you are stationary. So less force in the hit.
The Shannies can say what they want but it's easier to avoid getting hit on a scramble, either by going out of bounds or sliding. On the option, RGIII is going to be forced to cut back into the flow at times and he isn't always going to see who has him lined up or get down fast enough. So, the TOTAL number of RGIII runs -- compared to last year's total of 120 carries -- IS a good reference. It needs to come down a lot. Less called runs -- save them for crucial third-down plays in the 2nd half or in the red zone -- and much less bravado from RGIII in trying to "finish" runs.
A QB who tries to "finish his runs," as RGIII often does, is begging to "finish" his career.
You'll notice that Bryce Harper hasn't even come close to crashing into a wall since he learned his lesson in LA. So, even super talented, super hyped players with a "tough" image can adapt and learn to survive. I think that one incident, because it was so bad ands so scary to Harper, may have added years to his career. He learned a BIG lesson in his second season without, apparently, a big injury to show for it. I think that Haloti Ngata will be the Dodger Stadium Scoreboard of RGIII's career -- the painful reference point that lets him adapt his style of play while he's still very young in the pro game.
Around baseball, there seem to be more relievers throwing 97 MPH or faster now than there have been in a long time. Is that true? And are the Nats hurt by the fact their guys seem to top out at 94 MPH or so? (And I'm not advocating for the return of Henry Rodriguez, to be clear.)
You are correct on both points. In mid-season Werth was holding court at his locker one day talking about everybody in every bullpen seemed to be throwing 95, at least, and many teams had a couple of guys who could touch 100. There's no question that it's a key trend in the game. The Nats were ahead of it a couple of years ago with a Power Pen when H-Rod threw 101 sometimes and Storen hit 97. But now the Nats have fallen back in the pack. Part of the trend is to take fairly hard throwing starters and turn them into relievers who can throw 2-3-4 mph harder in 1 IP than they coluld for 90+ pitches. The Orioles Tommy Hunter is a good example.He's not the 19th fastest pitcher in baseball.
Right now, Stephen Strasburg ranks 30th -- yes, only 30th -- in averagae fastball velocity at 95.4 mph. Of those ahead of him, 24 are relievers, led by Bruce Rondon (99.4), Kelvin Herrera (98.1) who was hitting 101 vs the Nats in Kansas City, Aroldis Chapman (98.1), Nate Jones (CWS, 97.6), Trevor Rosenthal (97.3 who gave the Nats fits in the DS last year) and then Henry Rodriguez (97.1) and Craig Kimbrel (96.8). This includes all pitchers who've worked at least 10 IP this yearer.
The five staters who are faster than Strasburg are Danny Salazar (Clev 96.3), Nathan Eovaldi (Marlins, who'll face the Nats this week, I think), Gerrit Cole, the Pirates No. 1 pick the year the Nats got Rendon, Matt Harvey and the O's Kevin Gausman.
The Nats still have a Big Fastball rotation, but not as "big" as it was before Harvey and other young starters began rivaling Strasburg's speed. But, because of his curve and changeup, Strasburg, along with Harvey and Kershaw, is still among the half-dozen best pure stuff pitchers in the game, imo.
Thanks for a great question.
Boz - I haven't made it to Fedex this preseason, but on TV the upper deck looks unchanged from last year. Is the seat removal/"party deck" project complete? If so, what a hack job. With the exposed beams, cheap looking Fedex fencing lining the upper rim, and generally awkward lines, I sure hope it looks better in person than it does on TV.
I try never to look up when I'm at FedEx!
I managed to continue that tradition on Saturday. (I'll try to check out the upper deck next time.)
As a fan for coming up on 40 years, I can say with certainty that nothing good happens in August. We get injuries, suspensions, promises, and false hope. Care to disagree???
The only good thing that can happen in August in the NFL is...nothing. Meaning: Nothing in the way of huge injuries to one of your very best players. So far, knock on wood, the Skins have had injuries, like Crawford's season-ender on Saturday, but they haven't lost any of their dozen most central players. When Morris got the last of his four carries and came out against the Bills, I thought, "Good. Maybe that's his last carry of pre-season."
Only three NFL teams are 3-0. And it means absolutely nothoing. (But they are Skins, Saints and Seahawks.)
If the 18 game schedule is dead or dying, does that mean the four-game preseason is with us forever?
One way or the other, you gotta pay the rent.
And, in the NFL, that literally means that YOU have to pay THEIR rent.
You know you have a nice monopoly when you can force people to buy tickets to games everybody knows they won't bother to attend and nobody cares or can do anything about it. Still, there WERE 62,000 people at FedEx on a beautiful Saturday afternoon when you could have been doing any outdoor activity. So a lot of people must not have thought that a meaningless pre-season game was beneath their notice.
In a sport that is SO concerned about injuries -- and should be -- you would really think that they would minimize pre-season games as a away to preserve "corporate assets." They must really love those extra $$$.
What happened in the bottom of the eighth inning yesterday should be impossible at the major league level. First Stammen becomes a spectator and doesn't cover first bases, then Zimmerman has a senior moment and doesn't cover third base? Has Davey been too easy on them or are the player concentrating on their stock portfolios more than on baseball?
Forgetting to cover first base is so basic that you can't blame it on anybody but the pitcher himself. That's Little League. BUT the Nats don't get chewed out enough on the bench -- by coaches or other players -- after those basic mistakes. The barking match in the dugout between Werth and Gio Gonzalez a while back was, as I get it, at least in part because Gio forgot (again) to cover first base. I've never seen a pitcher forget so often. He falls off the mound in the other direction which should make him MORE cponcerned about correcting the problem. That is the FIRST time I have seen anybody -- player or coach -- visibly and verbally jump on somebody's XXX after a bonehead play all year. There should be more of it, not less.
One reason the Nats are considering a no-nonsense managerff next year -- perhaps a Matt Williams type -- is because he'll presumably get in people's faces. BUT that should already be the job of veterans like Werth (who does it the most, though not often in public), LaRoche, Desmond and Zimmerman.
But sometimes it's the vets making the bonehead fundamental mistakes. So it's hard for them to pipe up. Zimmerman neglecting third base wasn't as bad as Stammen because it's a more unusual play. BUT, once Z'man knows that he can't get the ball, where else does he have to go except back toward third? So he still should have made the play.
Those were mistakes that lost what may, in retrospect, be one of the Nats last chances to make a semi-realistic run at the wild card. If they'd won, they'd have trailed by 7 1/2 games with 32 to play -- still awful odds. BUT the Nats next 12 games are all against losers, including three with the Marlins, whilee the Reds have 13 straight games against the Cards (7), Dodgers and Rockies in Colorado. THAT is a tough 13 games where any team could play fairly decently and still go 6-7 or 5-8. Hypothetically, put a 6-7 by the Reds together with a 9-3 by the Nats and -- if they'd won Sunday -- they'd be only three games out in the lost column. Sure, if, if, if...
But something entertaining could still happen. I didn't say "make the playoffs," just cause a little ruckus. But NOT winning their sixth in a row changes the "feel" of this chunk of the season. A comeback win -- with homer-single-homer (Harper) on three consecutive pitches to tie at 4-4 -- would have brought a different tone. And different chat questions, too, I bet!
Two things lead me to this question: 1) your column about Ramos' ability to call a game, and 2) Davey's removal of Storen in the 9th inning of an eventual 11-10 victory. Davey apparently wasn't happy with Storen's pitch selection, but isn't that sort of up to Ramos? Who ultimately is responsible for deciding what to throw? Do pitchers always have veto power over the fingers the catcher puts down or do they have to earn that privilege? If I read an article about a pitcher changing his approach and throwing Pitch X more, shouldn't his catcher get a big chunk of the credit?
The pitcher almost always has the ultimate responsibility for what he throws. A rookie might be told to "trust your catcher," a curt way of saying, "Don't shake this guy off more than once or two." But Storen has the last say.
Johnson was annoyed, and for one of the few times this year made it very clear, because Storen walked the leadoff man with a four-run lead in the ninth and then fell behind the nexty hitter 3-0 before being forced to throw nothing but strikes and allowing a double.
On this one, Johnson was entirely right. Nothing is more fundamental to being a late-inning reliever than being able to throw strikes when you have a 2-3-4-run lead and there is nobody on base. If you throw 100, like H-Rod did, maybe you tolerate too many walks. But Storen has good enough stuff that he should always be able to challenge in challenge situatioons; but he doesn't have the find of otherworldly stuff that might allow a manager to ignore a walk and a 3-0 count with a four-run lead.
As usual, Davey is giving his veterans EVERY chance to fail before making any changes in their status -- in this case, sticking with Soriano as closer. But if, a few days from now, the Nats win a few in a row and the Reds stumble, don't you have to Clippard (2.04 ERA sin ce the All-Star break) as closer rather than Soriano (7.98 since AS game)?
Seriously, who saved 32 games for the 98-win team last year? Clippard. He got tired by the end and Storen picked him up wonderfully. (Until Game Five Storen had allowed one run in over 20 games.) The Nats hate to take anybody out of a role in which they are very successful. But Clippard has allowed 28 hits in 58.1 innings. Soriano has allowed 58 hits in 54.2 innings. You tell me who looks like the closer for '14? Contracts shouldn't determine roles.
As in, Thank Goodness Boz Is Back! Looks like the Cards run differential is wearing out the Bucs lead. How do you see the NL that shaking out?
Braves, Cards and Dodgers win divisions with Pirates and Reds as WCs with Nats four behind Reds at the end (and kicking themselves).
You're right, the NL Central is a delusion. Run differentials: Cards +149, Reds +76, Pirates +50. There's still five weeks for it to continue to even out. Cards and Reds have been five and two wins unlucky, respectively. Pirates have been five wins lucky.
Now Shanny says the team won't be happy unless they reach the Super Bowl. Why not, it's been working out great for the Nationals.
I realize that there was "context" for Shanahan's remark. I read and reread it. And it was at a team feel-good function. But I still hated his choice of the word "failure" for a season without a Super Bowl.
It's not nearly as risky a thing to say as "World Series or Bust." But it was unnecessary to go that far. And so much in the Redskin tradition of setting astronomical expectations. The NFL has a point differential formula for how many games you "should" have won. For the Skins, it was 9-7 last year, not 10-6. And the Skins +17 in turnovers-takeaways will be very hard to match.
The Skins and their fans don't need to duplicate the Nats (and Caps and past Skins) mistake of setting the best possible outcome as the minimum requirement for happiness.
The Nats "excuse" is that they led MLB in wins and run differentialin '12, then added key free agents (in theory. Span and Soriano haven't worked out that way.) Last year, the Skins had the NINTH best record and were 11TH in point-differential. It's not the same.
They have a good team. And good teams can have a max-out season. But don't even hint that a max-out is your default setting for a decent year. Shanny came a little too close to that stance to suit me. Okay, he's won two Super Bowls, so he's entitled to frame it any way he wants. But Davey has won a Series, but "Series or Bust" didn't help him.
I just can't watch it, not even a little. Seems like exploitation of the young guys, all in the name of TV ratings. I wish some of us adults could do better by them.
I haven't watched it in many years. I did long ago. Can't say what the true state of things is or whether it's exploitation. But it makes me feel uneasy. I did see a highlight on ESPN this a.m. of a U.S. player grounding into a double play to end a 6-4 loss in the final.
Seems a little young for you to see yourself hitting into a DP to end a U.S.A. loss. On the one-in-a-million chance that the Little League GIDP boy reads this: You did great, kid. Forget about it.
The older I get, the less I can stand it. Hypocrisy, amateurism, the NCAA, "student-athletes," and it just gets dirtier every year. Makes for entertaining games on Saturdays but why don't they just quit the charade and start calling it university-sponsored semi-pro football? At least the pros have universal rules and a hard-nosed leader.
There is no solution, imo. The going rate to "sign" a superstar basketball player out of high school in the '70's was $35,000-a-year. I covered preps then for years. I know it, but I couldn't prove it then (or now) so I never wrote the names of the schools. If it was that high then for a player who ended up in the NBA for years after college, then what is it now for the colleges that offer it (through boosters or however) and the players who want to take it?
If you offer the student athlete $1,000 or $2,000 or $10,000 a year, then that just becomes the baseline on top of which the cheating starts all over again. "Here, son, we'll give you $XX,XXX on top of the $X,XXX that you get the "clean" way.
Maybe it's better to pay something -- to every big-sport college athlete -- than nothing. Just so you know that for the real stars there will be attempts (by some schools, not all by any means) to make big payments or give big cars to the very top high school stars.
The Post's Ken Denlinger and Len Shapiro wrote an excellent book -- "Athletes for Sale" -- about the high school meat market way back in the '70's. And big-time college sports had pay offs more than 100 years ago.
...it's brutal. 49ers, Packers, Falcons, Vikings, Broncos, plus the usual suspects. Just going by that it will be tough to find 10 wins again. What say you?
Yes, when you win your division the NFC punishes you the next year. I'm looking forward to going to Green Bay for what may be the first big litmus test game.
The Chip Kelly offense now in Philly should be entertaining. For a while. It may be tougher to play them early, as the Skins do, than later. Most college guys who arrive with the Genius Coach tag and a "system" that will change the game are flops. Steve Spurrier won his debut, 31-23, started the season 4-4 and had two games when the Skins scored 31 points. Man, did he look smart. Just wait until he gets some good players to run his Ol' Ball Coach style. After that, he went 8-16 and only had one more 30-point game. But he did get shutout at home by Dallas.
I'll believe Kelly is the next Bill Walsh when I see it.
Hi Tom, I was wondering... is the RG3 and KC1 combination the best pair of No. 1 and No. 2 quarterbacks that this team has had since Sonny/Billy? Seems like a good problem to have.
Cousins has looked good, but his 101.6 QB rating last year was on only 48 passes. So lets not put him ahead of Sonny OR Billy yet. They both had more accomplishments by the time they were a QB controversy. But Cousins hasn't done anything yet to make you think he couldn't be a starting NFL QB. That's different than RGIII who hasn't done anything yet (except get hurt) that makes you think that -- with luck and time -- he might not be one of the best QBs we'll ever see.
In a desperate attempt to say something nice about Rex Grossman in the press box on Saturday, I asked my colleagues, "Has there ever been a third-string quarterback who started a Super Bowl and was still only 32 and healthy?" Of course, they laughed at me. And Rex immediately threw what should have been a falling-backwards "pick-six" interception, except the Bills dropped it.
But I do think Rex is the best THIRD string QB in Skins history. Only someone who's lived in Washington their whole life could type that without laughing, then deleting it.
Tom, What percent do you put that Haren will be traded? And if traded, what player value can we expect? Thanks.
Since he came back from the DL, Haren has a 2.53 ERA in 10 games (nine starts) and all his "ratios" indicate that he is pitching very well, not just being lucky -- 43 hits in 57 innings and a 54-11 K-to-Walk ratio. He's probably been a little lucky in BABIP.
But that kind of hot streak from a classy veteran who could easily be a lot of teams' fourth starter in the playoffs should have real value.
If you get a very good offer now, just jump at it. What is "very good?" Someone you rate at least as high as Taylor Jordan or Tanner Roark -- a real candidate for your rotation in the future.
Otherwise, wait a little. He could still get six or seven more starts. That's a lot of value in a pennant race. I'm weak on the latest rules on the date by which you have to get a waiver-claim player so that he's eligible for post-season. I think it's before Sept. 1. If so, that could be the decision date for the nats on Haren.
What if the Nats win five in a row and the Reds lose a few? Ha! More interesting headaches for Rizzo. The biggest consideration is: "What do we get back?" If the answer is "a lot," then make the deal for the future rather than take the longshot on making the last WC.
Did you notice that Moore cracked the .200 average this weekend by getting a hit off Luis Mendoza? You can't make this stuff up! I like they way he is hitting now. Just wish that the Nats could have concentrated through the end of the game, they looked like they were headed for a win before the fielding gaffes.
Nice! Didn't notice. Thanks.
Two of my favorite Nats, and IMHO two of the hardest playing, are Ian Desmond and Tyler Clippard, both of whom went straight into the minors instead of into college. Do you notice any difference between the ones who did and did not go to college, and/or between the ones who had some college (e.g. Bryce Harper) and the ones who stayed and graduated?
I''ve never noticed a pattern.
Your mention of Harper reminds me that it looks like he's going on one of his hot streaks. Once they start, they usually don't stop for at least a month. Right now, if he had enough at bats to qualify for the leaders lists (and he will in about two weeks), he'd be seventh in the N.L. in OPS (.888), 10th in slugging and 12th in on-base percentage. If you subtract the at bats Harper had from the time he hit the wall and the time he got his stroke back after a month on the DL, his OPS this year is about .930 -- close to what Mike Trout had at age 20. I suspect Harper will end up '13 over .900 -- he does have far to go -- and may bring his OPS up 100 pts from his rookie year of .815. If so, that's a huge improvement in a gimpy year. Even at .888, that's a big jump up -- it just hasn't gotten much attention because of his injury and the Nats bad year.
Werth, if he stays healthy, will be on those leader lists this week: he'd be fourth in batting average, third in on-base percentage, fifth in slugging and FOURTH in OPS (.935). IMO, that's an amazing comeback from his contract-slump season in '11 and his BADLY broken wrist in '12.
Did you see the ESPN story about the doctor who used to be in charge of the league's head injury committee? What makes it even more interesting is how the NFL forced ESPN to back out of a documentary with Frontline. This story isn't going away, is it?
It took many years for the extent of head injuries in the NFL to come to light. But once it's out in the open, it's like PEDs in baseball. It's not going to go away for MANY years. Like, maybe, 15 or 20 years, like MLB and PEDs. And it shouldn't.
Football has the much bigger problem. In baseball, if you got rid of 100 percent of the PED users, you'd still have the same great game. It was great before PEDs were invented.
If you decrease violence in the NFL to the point where concussions and brain damage are at a socially acceptable level -- whatever that turns out to be -- do you still have a game with the same appeal? It's a violent game. And nobody pays to watch flag football. The NFL has a very tough balancing act to pull off. But, to this point, the NFL's indifference to the health of its players -- even their sanity or survival as they age -- puts to shame ANY bad-faith behavior by any other major sport.
I have a friendly wager on the Nats finishing with a better record than the Phillies for this season. What do you think the odds are the Nats hold up and finish ahead of them in the standings?
Make up six games in five weeks with all the problems the Phils have? At least 95 percent. But one thing with an even lower probability is that the Nats catch the Reds.
I think a big part of the Skins' recent continuity is Snyder's evolution as an owner. I think he's finally figured out it's best to let the football people run the football side of the business.
George Steinbrenner III finally figured it out, too.
It takes a lot of pain to change a basic part of your personality, especially when you have been successful in other areas and you are SURE that your motives are good -- to help the team win. It's the football corollary to Crash Davis' line: "Don't think. You can only hurt the ballclub." In the NFL, it's "Don't make football decisions. You can only kill your own team."
Art Donovan passed away when you were off. Not only one of the great players from a different era, but truly a wonderful guy who I had the pleasure to know. Nothing phony about Art and the guy who was on Letterman and other shows was the same Art I knew. I hope you knew him as one of the great Colts and one of Baltimore's favorite people
Thanks for the mention of Art. Met him, didn't really know him. Glad to hear he was the same guy on Letterman and with you.
A rarified Wizards question: what on earth are Ernie Grunfeld, and by extension, Grunfeld's enabler Leonsis doing? First, they unnecessarily re-sign John Wall for the super-max, when Wall has zero leverage at this point, the Wizards could just match any offer in restricted free agency next year, and Wall's production to this point does not merit a max contract. Second, they draft a local product in Otto Porter whose best case scenario is Tayshawn Prince, and who just looked terrible in Summer League. Third, the team wastes a huge contract on Martell Webster, a feel-good veteran story, who nonetheless has a career of injury issues, and even when fully healthy still isn't an average NBA starter. What gives?
Wow, the trifecta! One of us is WRONG!
I liked all three decisions. I think the last 20 games of last season were Wall's Break Out event. If that's wrong, then the Wiz are REALLY wrong. But he played at a Wade level. Porter isn't a franchise changer, but he'll be a fine pro and fit in whatever role is needed, imo. And Martell Webster is exactly the kind of team leader the Wiz have lacked for years. Randy Wittman needs people in the room that are in sync with his team-first message. That's Webster.
Sure hope I'm not wrong on all three! I'm sure you'll get back to me if I am.
Hey Boz, slightly off-target. In reading some of your fellow WaPo columnists articles lately, I happen to see some reader comments. I am amazed at the tone and downright meanness of some of these readers. It's really disturbing to see the anger some people have over a column. I hope you and your fellow writers have thick skin and just learn to ignore them.
Let me do my best Iverson imitation: "Comments? We're talking about comments, man??? We're not even talking about a player threatening to stuff you in a trash can or a manager screaming in your face or a rich owner who's mad at you or an angry commissioner or somebody threatening to sue you -- the actual job, when it matters. We're talking about comments???"
That was kinda fun. That's all for today. I have to go back and read the comments on my Redskins column. You never know when you might be able to steal a good column idea from a SMART comment.
See you all next week.
Boz, you've been my favorite Post columnist for decades. But this (below) is one of the dumbest things I've ever heard you say. The hyperbole alone would make it silly even if it was mostly accurate. But it's also just wrong. You wanna rethink this one at all? "BTW, one of the most bogus things I've ever heard is the way the Shannies keep saying that RGIII was hurt all three times last year (including Atlanta and Ravens) on scrambles, not their designed Pistol runs -- so their offensive scheme and their play calling isn't to blame."
Noted. Hey, you could be right.
But, imo, if RGIII runs 120 times this year, he's just as likely to get hurt on three Pistol plays as three scrambles. It's the number of times that you run full-speed into NFL harms way -- the way that the play ENDS -- that determines the risk factor. Not how the play STARTED.
If Rex Ryan was 'just trying to win the game', why didn't he also put his first-string line back into the game when Sanchez went in? This seems like a very serious lapse for any coach, but especially in the New York market, and I wonder how either management or the players can have any confidence in him after this decision and his post-game 'performance'.
Rex Ryan is STILL the coach of the Jets!???
Let me turn my back and say, "He shoulda been fired LAST year."
Tom, on Saturday I was switching channels between the Skins game and golf. Maybe it is just because of the two sports I was trying to watch, one with lush green grass and the other a football field, but the turf at FedEx looked almost the same as the last football game played there. Was anything done this spring/summer to improve the field at FedEx? Would hate to see any more injuries by players on either team do to poor turf conditions.
The field looks better. How could it not? I'll try to get more info from players.
I thought the way Tiger sucked it up at the Barclays after it looked like he'd collapsed -- birdied 16 and 17, then almost holed out at 18 to force a playoff with Adam Scott -- was truly remarkable. I don't think there was an iota of self-serving dramatics in the back spasm that brought him to his knees. I think it was 100 percent real. (And not exactly a good omen for his golf health in his 40s.) He's a lot of things. One of them is: One of the mentally toughest athletes ever.