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April 8, 2014

10:49
A.M.

Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Total Responses: 32

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.

DeSean Jackson

Wise hates it. Reid loves it. I see Deion Sanders and Albert Haynesworth all over again. What do you think?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I like it.

But that requires a couple of presumptions. 1) Jackson left the Eagles because of a personality conflict with Chip Kelly, not because of anything sinister. 2) He's still the same 59 catch, 1020 yard, 5 TD receiver he's been for the last six years and durable enough to continue average 14.5 games a yr. Those are fairly big assumptions since nobody seems certain about his character issues except that there seem to be some.

My reasoning is pretty elementary. I like it when it's that way! Jay Gruden has been an offensive coach his whole life. That's what he brings. The Skins key player, by far, is RGIII, so to succeed you have to give him tools. So build an offense FIRST. With Jackson the Skins have a 114-catch receiver in Garcon, an injury-prone but talented TE in Reed and a big-time 1200-to-1600-yard RB in Morris. Evcerybody says "What about the OLine?" Skill players can make lifee easier for linemen, not just the other way around. You'll see less blitzers and pass rushers if a defense is scared of deep threats like Jackson.

The defense and special teams will still be big problems. But I don't think this is JUST a flash trade, though it is a flash trade. It has a concrete constructive team-building purpose.

If Jackson is a total Problem Player, then it's not just a small disaster, but a big expensive embarrassing one. Are the Skins capable of doing real NFL due diligence? I have my doubts. "Good football judgment" is not a phrase I associate with them. 

But Jackson is probably one of the 15 best receivers in the NFL. Here are the players who have averaged more than Jacksopn's 1019.5 yards a year.

Demarius Thomas (1432) the last 2 yrs.

Calvin Johnson 1428 (the last SIX years), just amazing and avg 10.3 TD catches to Jackson's 5.3.

AJ Green (1277)_ last 3 yrs. Brandon Marshall 1249 the last 7 yrs. Josh Gordon 1226 the last 2 yrs.

Thensome  in the 1100's-a-year: Andre Johnson -- 1151 the last 11 (!) yrs, Dez Bryaant 1181, 3 yrs. Ericker Decker, Jimmy Graham, Gordy Nelson, Larry Fitzgerald (11137 for 10 yrs).  Antonio Brown.

Others ahead of Jackson, but not by much, are Anquan Boldin (10311 for 11 yrs) and Vincent Jackson).

Jackson has done it longer than most of them -- a plus since he's still young enough.  

I use these comparisons to make two points. Jackson isn't The Best, he's just very good. He's not a one-man team transformer. How much -- in additional wins -- is an 1020-yard receiver worth versus the kind of 700-yard mediocrities the Skins have sent out to at least one of the WR positions for the last 20 years? Yes, Jackson helps Garcin, RGIII in vague ways as a "threat." But the actual impact may not be huge -- just a nice help.

Put another way, I think adding Jackson was a risk for the sake of a player who might improve you by one win. That is a LOT in a sport with a 16-game season!

At least they'll be more fun to watch on the field. I hope very little of the morbid kind of entertainment value is "off" the field. 

– April 08, 2014 10:59 AM
Q.

Not the Ace

Based on a trip through the rotation, Strasburg is having the worst results. What happened to the calm, cool, mature, ready to take on the world SS we read about in spring training? What's up with him?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Strasburg's velocity was down a little in his first start although all three of his off-speed pitchers were excellent. So I was a tiny bit interested if his arm was 100 percent. In his second start he had dominant stuff -- 96, 97 early with excellent movement on everything else -- he just didn't have good results. Three runs were unearned. That was actually one of the most encouraging things I've seen so far -- Strasburg with four pitches. Because the slider is already a real addition that has led to seeveral K's of good hitters like Wright and Justin Upton.

The results will come. The Nats have problems -- like Ramos ' hand and Zimmerman's shoulder. And until Fister is back that's a concern. But Strasburg is healthy with sharp stuff. That should take care of itself.

– April 08, 2014 11:00 AM
Q.

Injuries

Perhaps a naive question but do athletes, especially the Nats lie about their injuries? Ryan Zimmerman has been providing happy talk about his are for the last 2+ years. I can see lying to the press but if he's giving Nats medical personnell the same lines, well that could be a problem.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

How on earth could you lie to a team doctor??? THEY have the machines! You go to them to find out what's wrong with you. When the doctor gets the MRI back can the player say, "Well, your medical degrees say that that's a bad injury but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night and I read that MRI as 'Clean bill of health.'"

As for the public, we're been told he had major shoulder surgery as well as other shoulder procedures. So it hasn't been aa secret: bad shoulder. And we actually have our eyes, too: OMG, this guy can't throw. Come on, this has been plain as day. It's just been a question of "can he get better? Will surgery, plus rest fix it?" (I'll hide this deep in a chat. But there have been plenty of games when Z'man did not have as strong a throwing arm overhand as I did when I was 20. Now that is BAD.)

I think what we're learning is that the actual PAIN may be worse than we thought, not just weakness or weakness recovering from surgery. It pushes the first base discussion into the public eye. If he rests and can throw as well as he did last September, he can play third -- only adequately because he has to play so shallow, but he can play.  Can he get back to the September level? If he does, can he play 150+ games at third and not have the shoulder flare up again? Could he protect his arm and still play maybe 100 games at third, then go to first next year?

The last point was my position: Nurse the shoulder back to Sept. '13 level or as close as possible, then find 50 games for him to play 1st or DH.

As I said in the column, even that may be optimistic. There's a tiny chance, I suppose, that he surprises everybody when the weather gets warm and throws decently. I think that's daydreaming. Time to figure out Plan B and hope you don't have to go all the way to Plan C (trade LaRoche, move Z'man to first fulltime).

– April 08, 2014 11:12 AM
Q.

Zim/LaRoche/Rendon

You're right. It's time for Zim to move over to first, where he'll be a perennial gold glove first baseman. But how do you manage moving/benching LaRoche? Rendon should be great at third, but would Espinosa be able to cut it at second this year? Lots of questions.

A.
Thomas Boswell :

It's a tough one. Baseball isn't "fair." LaRoche is off to a good start. He's very popular and a leader on the team. But he has no other position. And Z'man hit LHed pitchers VASTLY better than LaRoche. Zim vs LHers in his career: .310/.396/.503 vs LaRoche career vs L:Hers: .245/.301/.430.

So, it is 100 percent IMPOSSIBLE for LaRoche to play first EVER against a lefthander while Z'man (if healthy enough to play 1st base) sits.

How do you handle it? You say, "Adam, you're from a baseball family. You know how they works. You have to platoon w Zim at first because we HAVE to have his bat in the lineup vs southpaws. And we also HAVE to rest his arm some or it'll be so bad he'll have to go on the DL."

They don't want to have this conversation yet. I don't blame them. It's a rotten conveersation. So, looks like they will give Z''man another chance to get his shoulder calmed down, throw less except in the games themselves and hold their breath that he can play third every day. I hope it works out that way. There's always a chance. (But it won't.)   

– April 08, 2014 11:18 AM
Q.

Strasburg's Composure

Boz, Is this a major concern? Over the weekend, he imploded after Zimmerman's error behind him, while Jordan Taylor did not. We keep hearing that he is a young pitcher, etc., but others younger than he is do not appear to have this problem.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The Z'man error didn't bother him. I HOPE that it bothered him that he threw back-to-back 94 mph fastballs over the plate to Teheran, a pitcher who can't hit anything else, who slapped the second one to RF for a two-run hit.

The only time I thought Strasburg was almost rattled was when he didn't get a 3-2 call in the next inning against Justin Upton (I think). He started to yell, but stopped after "Where was..." Then he gave up four-straight hits. But most weren't off bad pitches. The Braves are good. And they have a bunch of guys who have always seen Strasburg's stuff well. His career ERA vs Atlanta is 3.86 in a lot olf starts (14, I think). The Braves don't "own him" the way the Cards seem to own Z'man, but Strasburg needs a few things to go his way to be excellent vs Atlanta. The Z'man throwing error, the Harper (again) opver-throw the cutoff man error and the third-K pitch that didn't go his way erased his margin of error and the Braves got to him. They're good.

What is just as interesting, perhaps, is that the Braves do NOT enjoy hitting either Roark or Taylor Jordan. Roark has shut them out for 13 innings over three games (two in relief) and Jordan now has two good start against them, including 6.1-6-1-1-2-3 in an important 2-1 win Sunday.

And the Braves RHed hitters don't enjoy rookie Aaron Barrett either who snapped off five sliders to Uggla and Gattis -- just challenge sliders "here it is, you have no chance against me"--  and fanned them both.

So, Detwiler likes facing the Braves. Now, so do Roark, Jordan and Barrett. That balances, to a degree, against the fact that the Braves seem to cope with Strasburg -- making him a merely good pitcher against them -- than other teams. 

– April 08, 2014 11:27 AM
Q.

MLB Opening in Australia

Curious as to whether or not you thought it was an advantage to playing regular season games in Australia a week before anyone else begins. I realize that travel would be a huge disadvantage, but teams that play two games over there can have their two best pitchers start two times each in the first four games of the regular season, since there will be enough rest in between to have them start the first two games in the States as well. It seems like a way to get one extra start out of your two best pitchers (unless one, e.g., Kershaw, gets injured). It just seems like a crazy idea for MLB to do. Besides competitive advantage issues, a lot of people here didn't even realized the games counted. Is this really a money maker for MLB? Would you want the Nats to participate or not?

A.
Thomas Boswell :

It's a disadvantage about 10 different ways. It's hurt the Dodgers, along with Kershaw/Wilson/Beckett/Ellis (catcher) all on the DL.

It's stupid. Don't do it again. (So you know they will. Or at least more punishment trips to Asia for somebody.)

– April 08, 2014 11:30 AM
Q.

Tommy John Surgery

My son, a college sophomore, is a promising though not top tier MLB pitching prospect. It helps that he's lefthanded. He's had discussions with 4-5 scouts, two of whom told him to anticipate that he'll need TJ surgery at some point in his career, probably sooner rather than later. He's part of a pretty good team, and his teammates report similar conversations. At least three of his HS teammates have had the surgery that we know of. His mother and I are more unnverved than he is; as he points out he'd be paid while on the DL.  Is this truly the wave of the future? I would hope there are studies into why this is happening and how to prevent it, but this sounds like this is just part of a pitcher's normal development. That's pretty scary.

A.
Thomas Boswell :

A third of the pitchers in the majors last year had had TJ surgery. Just a fact of this era. Rays were scared to death that Matt Moore might have hurt his elbow last night. They seem to think he escaped. Haven't seeen this a.m.'s reports. Your son, if he has the surgery, probably has a 90 percent chance of a full recovery if he works like a fanatic -- within the rehab parameters.

It's widely thought (among doctors, maybe not ballplayers) that the reason some pitchers come back with better stuff after surgery is that they spent the 12-18 months of rehab  working their butts off because they thought their careers were at stake -- and they'd never worked that hard before. So their whole body, core strength, improved and THAT is why their stuff improved. They THOUGHT they had worked hard before TJ. But fear does amazing motivational things. Does anyone doubnt that 99 percent of all human could run at least a LITTLE bit faster if they really were chased by a lion?

Well, TJ surgery -- and that big ugly red scar you see every day on your own elbow -- is a kind of baseball "lion" chasing you.

Hope your son doesn't have to go through it. If he does, at least he was born in the right generation of pitchers after the surgery had not only been invented but perfected for 40 years. That's a good break within a larger bad break.

– April 08, 2014 11:37 AM
Q.

Nats pitchers lack of confidence?

Do you think they feel the need to push too hard for strike outs and shutouts based on the teams lack of both consistent defense and scoring against quality pitchers? Strasburg would especially seem vulnerable to wanting to be perfect on his own.

A.
Thomas Boswell :

Ehhh, the Ramos, Zimmermann and Fister problems are very real. But 10 of the 12 guys on the pitching staff look like they are flat out rolling to me. Strasburg is close. Clippard is thrlwing 93-94 so his arm is fine. He's just gotten dinged a couple of times -- the Braves DO have a very good record of chipping Clip. So, don't worry about the pitching right now. Just enjoy it, I'd say.

No team is anywhere close to the Nats in strikeouts per game. Their K/W ratio is great. Soriano will make you nuts, but his command is underrated. He can spot his fastball in a teacup -- and did on five of his six strikes to both Uggla and Heyward in the ninth on Sunday for Ks to start and end the innings. He knew they both had holes up-and-in, just keep it above the belt and a tad "in" and they can't even touch his 90. Miss by six inches and they both might hit one 450'. He went there seven times -- two were "chase" fastballs above shoulders that they didn't swing at. All the others -- air. Then, last pitch of game, he threw Heyward an 83 mph slider that looked just like that same fastball. He missed it by several inches (that's a lot).

Gotta say that his cutter and slider didn't look too wonderful. Not much movement visible to me. But they are late-break pitches for him. So, we'll see w Soriano. His election is still too close to call.  

– April 08, 2014 11:47 AM
Q.

Nats Stadium - Not Ready for Prime Time?

Boz - thanks for the chats. Just returned from the Nats' home opener, a good game with a tough loss for our boys. I was surprised that the speakers up the third base/left field line didn't work for the first half of the game. Despite sitting about 100 feet from James Brown (we were behind the visitors' dugout, we could not hear a word of the entire opening ceremony or the National Anthem - a bit of a disappointment for Opening Day, to say the least. Also - the curly W clock on the Jumbotron wall in the outfield was missing its hour and minute hands.... Hunh? I know the Lerners say the team is "tapped out," but couldn't the team at least have its stadium ready for the home opener?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Thanks. Interesting points. Their PA system never seems up to MLB standards to me when I'm in the park with my own tickets. The press box is on the moon so that doesn't even count.

The clock never seemed to work, or not for long. Rizzo: "It was right twice a day." I'd just leave the "W" with the 12 thingamajigs around it (and say there are 12 of 'em because that's how manay men they seemed to leave on base in every home game last year).

Nobody in my son's generation, except my son, can tell time by a clock anyway. Hey, dude, check your phone (digital). In five years, young fans will be asking, "Hey, mom, dad, what is that crazy thing with the sticks that go 'round and 'round."

And the Nats have a "cursive" curling "W" just as cursive writing is also becoming extinct.

Neither the clock face nor the cursive writing is a loss to mankind, imo. However, there are interesting recent studies that -- maybe -- spending your life reading on the internet -- as you are doing now -- makes your brain incapable of reading and comprehending more difficult, complex and valuable kinds of writing (that are often found in...shudder...books.) We may be dumbing ourselves down at the basic neurological level. The brain can be trained. And it can, apparently, forget the ability to read Henry James -- James was one of the examples in the story I read on this subject.

I thought he was an extremely bad example of "difficult writing" that has value hidden within its syntactical complexity. I hated Henry James. In a 19th century novel course in college, I despised reading (manditory) "Portrait of a Lady" so much that I edited it as I read it -- as if I were the proffessor editing a bad paper from a student. Why not turn the tables once? So, the book ended up with thousands of lines crossed out and a few comments in the margin like "cut this, tighten this section, this is awful, cut this, too, get to the point if you have one." I probably cut 200 pages and the book was, imo, much improved. But I never had the guts to give it to the English Prof. Come on, Henry James was his SPECIALTY. I wasn't suicidal. I suspect that thinking half of Henry James is pure dross is a pretty good leading indicator of a future sports writer -- in both a good and bad way.

– April 08, 2014 12:07 PM
Q.

It's time, isn't it?

Boz, I thought your column laid out the most logical, realistic way forward for the Nationals to deal with Ryan Zimmerman. In an ideal world, you would move Zim to first now, trade LaRoche, play some combination of Espinosa, Frandsen, and Walters, and hope for the best. But you'd probably get next to nothing close to fair value for LaRoche, you still need his left handed power and Zim's probably not ready to play 1B full time. So I think you've nailed it. Two questions: 1) If what Matt Williams said last night is true, that Zimmerman has an arthritic shoulder, why would he or the Nationals think he could play through that? That seems to make the move to first inevitable, doesn't it? Shouldn't they have made the move in the offseason? 2) Is Zim fighting this for purely professional reasons ("I can gut it out") or is ego a factor?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Getting the word "arthritic" into the conversation seemed to Advance the Story and also speed up the time line for taking some kind of action. Some teams would simply not see a problem here. They'd see LaRoche's line vs RHers -- .271/.349/.489 -- which is a good No. 5-6 hitter, but also see the lifetime line against lefties and say, "This guy plays everyday on a bad team and maybe a .500 team. But he should platooned, if possible, on a contender -- that's how you get added value out of him.

I'd make a bad manager. I'd say, "You're a 'B+' platoon player, but a C+ everyday player. I've got all the C+ I can stand. So, you're in a platoon henceforth where you'll be very valuable to us. The whole team thanks you and appreciates your understanding in this matter."

Think that'd work? No, I doubt it, too.

– April 08, 2014 12:15 PM
Q.

Tiger and Bryce

Do you think your recent column on Tiger applies equally to Bryce Harper? Harper seems to bring a football mentality to his game, which may not be good for playing 150 games a year.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Good point. But Tiger still trained in a way that would not damage a normal NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL player for at least 10 years, maybe 15 -- very hard, but not crazy.  But, in the case of golf, if you are a Jones, Nikcklaus, Woods who is great at a young age, your career can last 20-to-25 years, not 10-to-15, if you are kinder to your body. (Jones only quit because he was bored at winning every thing and wanted to use his three college degrees -- English, law and, I believe, engineering -- to do other things, perhaps involving more money than you could get as an amateur golfer (or a pro).

Harper's problem, so far, is that he combines a football attitude with a ton of heart, but unpolished skills in basic areas that he never learned in the minors. He ran into the wall because he was totally lost. And he knocked himself silly in NYC because he slid too late. He got hit in the head. But he's lucky he still has two ankles that work.

He DID play 163 games, majors, minors and playoffs, in '12. So we can carry this "he gets hurt" thing too far.

There's been a lot of comment about all the muscle he added over the winter -- then drew attention to with his "PED-Free" T-shirt in spring training.

Plenty of players proved in the '90's that you could add huge amounts of muscle and still have an effective baseball swing. BUT it's possible that Harper may have to tweak his swing so that it matches his altered body. Don't know. Just a guess. He's so streaky anyway that he could go nuts at any time and, 10 days later, everybody would be praising his new bulk.

Too bad about Tiger. The game needs him, REALLY needs him with Mickelson aging and few dynamic stars. Woods needs the game, REALLY needs the game after everything he put himself (and others) through. If he uses this neck surgery as an opportunity to reevaluate his meethods at 38, I think he could have another good phase and win a couple of majors. Who knows exactly how many. But if he keeps driving himself as he has in recent years, I'll be concerned about how well and how often his body will hold up. It's going to be very unsatisfactory (to me, at least) if Tiger doesn't find a way to adjust and have at least one Last Phase.

– April 08, 2014 12:29 PM
Q.

Zimmerman

What about moving Zim to second base? He has played shortstop and he has the fielding range. The throw is much easier. Sidearm throwing comes in handy when turning two. And then Rendon can be moved to third permanently. It also allows Zim to move to first when lefties are pitching.

A.
Thomas Boswell :

Imagine him trying to turn the 6-4-3 DP pivot  -- which demands a strong throw that is ALL ARM and very little lower body help. Sorry, it's a non-starter. He at least has some chance at third. He'd have no chance at second. Going to his left to backhand, then jump and throw with no momentum? It hurt me just to think about it.

– April 08, 2014 12:32 PM
Q.

Lerner/Rizzo Friction?

Boz, Great column today. How much stock do you put on Ted Lerner's statement last week about the Nats exceeding their budget? Is this indicative of serious friction between the owners and GM? What does this portend to Nats chances of extending contracts with Desmond, Zimmermann, Strasburg and Harper? Are they all gone?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Mark Lerner, I think, was just noting that the Nats are now ninth in MLB in payroll and perhaps patting management on the back a little.

The Nats set a budget. That's always own ership's job. Rizzo meets it. Maybe makes the case for more in special situations. Every GM would like to have more dough. Not a problem.

The four Nats you name are a facinating group. Desmond and Z'mann actually are polished stars. You know what they are and can make a sensible, if expensive, attempt to extend one or both of them. Harper and Strasburg are still part fame and part performance. Neither is a polished, completed star. Harpoer has never had more than 60 RBI.

My point: I wouldn't "save" for the Strasburg or Harper contracts in the future because you don't know where their ceilings actually are. You know where the SI-cover hype is. But what is reality. Still unknown for both. Very good, yes. Better than that? To be determined. But you can evaluate -- and thus value -- Desmond and Z'mann and pay them with only one X factor. That X factor is injury, which is a mystery for any player. With Stras and harp, you also have the Y Factor: will they ever max out their talent? Will olne but not the other? Makeup, durability and adaptability are also parts of talent.     

– April 08, 2014 12:41 PM
Q.

STRASBURG VS. FERNANDEZ

Boz--with the Marlins in town, curious to get your answer---who would you take on your team right now, Stephen Strasburg or Jose Fernandez?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Strasburg. Of course it's close. SS personality is excellent, though introverted -- mostly needs to tone down the perfectionism. Fernandez has a big extroverted personality and I don't have enough info (maybe nobody does) to know if it will be a plus or minus. Injury factor? These days with pitchers, who knows. So, throw that out. Strasburg has had the same stuff/mechanics for several years in a row. Fernandez probably will. But you don't know yet.

But Fernandez is wonderful. Nats are lucky to miss him this week. But they won't miss him many times.

Good question. If Matt Harvey comes back 100 percent, there may be some intyeresting Harvey, Strasburg, Fernandez debates. Last year, I thought Harvey had the best total stuff -- five "plus" or plus-plus pitches and command, too -- that I'd ever seen. Even at their best, I've never seen Strasburg or Fernandez as dominant as Harvey. Assume/hope he makes it all the way back.

– April 08, 2014 12:47 PM
Q.

Ovechkin

Do you agree that he must go if the Capitals fail to make the playoffs this year? I would imagine the Capitals could build a solid team around either draft choices or proven veterans they would receive in a trade for him.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I believe someone once said, "Buy low, sell high." Trading Ovechkin now pretty much defines "selling low." 

You could have sold him high in the past. Didn't. You might be able to sell him pretty high in future. A risk.

Invert the question: If you were ANOTHER team wouldn't you LOVE to try to trade for Ovechklin based on the consensus of the moment -- that he is the worst defensive 5-on-5 player on earth (which gives too much credit to +/- stat), that he's a coach killer, a non-existent force as a captain and The Problem with the Caps. You'd be licking your chops thinking, "NHL's leading goal scorer. Big hitter. Three time MVP. Yeah, he's pretty awful. And I ight be ablewe to get him cheap!"

This is how you turn a poor situation into a bad situation.

But he did get exposed on defense all year. And the Caps ended up at the lower end of my expectation. I thought they were average with a tough row to hoe with the SE disappearing. They turned out to be less than mediocre.

This is the point when Ted Leonsis -- "This team has no weaknesses" -- needs to have a simple honest minute with himself. Columnists have them all the time. You write something incredibly stupid or wrong and you have to say, "If I can be THIS wrong, then I need to rethink this whole subject and be more modest."

Ted missed a fairly big point: The Capitals had no major strengths, either. Superior offense? No, not since the Boudxreau days. Great goal tending? No. Great defense or leadership or energy or chemikstry or consistency night-to-night? No. Just kind of in the middle of the pack in everything. When the owner is THAT wrong about the state of his business it accidentally -- nobody intends it to work this way -- shades the way that everybody elsed under him sees the business. Unconsciously, the survival instincts that we all have reshape our view of reality so that it isn't totally at odds wsith the boss. It's easy for fans and media to think, "Oh, that Ted, he sure is a funny guy -- Mr. Happy Happy Workplace. He can't possibly believe that." But if you worked for the Caps, what would you say? Anything?

There are few things harder than clear-sightedness. And few things are harder to see clearly than the things/people that we love or that we own and are identified with us. Leonsis loves and owns the Caps. Like all owners/kings, he is set up to see things wrong -- and not have anybody tell him. It's one of the biggest problems in sports because it's part of human nature. The Skins have suffered from it throughout Snyder's years. He sees things the way he wishes they were. Or the way his most positive-minded employee tells him he is entitled to see them.

Self-delusion is a tough starting point. In business, it gets punished so fast that you have to face your problems. In sports, there are always "so many ways to see it" -- excuses, injuries, rationalizations, luck, evil playoff refs. 

To whatever degree fans and media allow themselves to get hysterical and overreact, they probably do a little unintentional damage, too. Dispassion isn't much fun. Very few people are good at it or even want to be. I'm good at it -- some.

 

– April 08, 2014 1:14 PM
Q.

Jackson

Tom, Good morning. I find it surprising that folks are taking shots at the Redskins for signing Jackson and comparing him to Albert Haynesworth. There were a ton of teams lining up to sign this 27 year old gifted receiver/return man. For a Skins fan, this signing was fantastic. What are your thoughts on this signing?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The negativity surprises me. But you have to see Jackson in the comntext of so many "looks great" Skins decisions that blew up.

Seriously, I would say that signing of Jackson looks almost as good -- not a lock, but good -- as the trade for Donovan McNabb, a QB (not old on paper) who'd led his team to five NFC Championship games.

Plenty of others, I suspect, have the same reaction: Didn't the Eagles just "know something" about McNabb's limits, issues that the Skins didn't know? Differrent cases. Oh, man, hope not a variation on the same outcome.

One or two more. Thanks for all the outstanding questions. I'll chat next Monday after the Masters. BTW, there probably is no real favorite in the Masters for the first time in forever. You have entire eras where the first pick in the Masters Draft is automatic -- Palmer, Nicklaus, Watson, Ballesteros, Norman, Faldo, Tiger, Phil and a half-dozen otherss who had the place wired and "owned it" for a decade at a time, always in the top three or top five. Now, there isn't a Masters vacuum, but even McIlroy, imo, isn't in that category. There may be a column in this for later in the week. Will somebody step up soon and not just win a Masters but show that he and the place -- the course, the ethos, whatever -- have a natural love affair so that he can be a dominate player at Augusta for the next ~10 years.   

– April 08, 2014 1:26 PM
Q.

Baseball Fandom Temperament

Boz, It seems there are some folks who lack the temperament to be baseball fans, if the comments to stories about the Nats the last week are an indication. After the second loss to the Braves there were all kinds of people delcaring the seaons over. The Braves have our number. The Nats aren't hitting. Harper is overrated. Zimmerman should be released. Strasburg is an average pitcher. And so on. For the love of all that is holy in Cooperstown, it's a long season, people! There are storylines we can't even imagine coming in June, July, August, and September. Just sit back and enjoy it. Sheesh.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Yawn....

Oh, sorry, that IS the ideal baseball fan temperament! At least in spring. Only 156 more games to ENJOY.

Man, if a fan can't anticipate all the fun, crazy possibilities of this season, that's sad...

 

– April 08, 2014 1:29 PM
Q.

NCAA Championship

UConn men's team has won four titles and is arguably the most successful team over the past 15 years. When UConn loses on the road, the home fans rarely storm the court. When a KY or a Duke lose, the opposing fans inevitably storm the court. Why is UConn viewed so differently?

A.
Thomas Boswell :

Interesting point. Thanks. Maybe a chatter can answer this next week for us.

As I've said, I have the cliche view of Calipari. There have always been a few low-road scoundrels in college basketball, from Tark the Shark on. I don't want them to drive off a pier. I just prefer that they don't win the big one.

So, I was rooting wholeheartedly for UConn -- and its eight percent graduation rate over the last 500 years.

That was some seriously bad (but exciting) basketball last night. And anybody that thinks Kentucky should have gone from 1:08 to 0:14 without taking a single shot -- because they didn't think fouling was the right strategy -- well, how'd that work out for ya.

– April 08, 2014 1:36 PM
Q.

A Baseball Town?

Bos, last Monday the Nats opened the season with a thrilling come-from-behind victory over the Mets. I turned on Comcast SportsNet that evening, sure that the lead story would be about Opening Day. Instead, it was about DeSean Jackson's visit to Redskin Park. It was just a visit. He didn't sign until the next day. I know this town is Redskin-obsessed, but the Nats can't even get top billing on Opening Day vs. a free agent visit to Redskin Park! Will this ever be a baseball town? Maybe it will take a World Series victory.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Going to the World Series would be a start.

The Skins mania is just a self-perpetuating local-yokel comedy. I've been around it, or part of it, all my life and always get a kick out of it.

Where else could the addition of the 15th-best wide receiver in the league be seen as worth -- oh -- about eight wins, from 3-13 to 11-5. Remember, that's 11-5 minimum!

– April 08, 2014 1:41 PM
Q.

Shanny/Jackson

Tom, Do you think there is anyway that Jackson would have signed if Shanny was still here? Or would Shanny never gone after him in the first place.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Both.

– April 08, 2014 1:41 PM
Q.

Upton

I thought about asking a question, but I just gave up and threw up my arms.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Barry and I should have been out there with a ruler to measure the clearance between the ball and the pad.

– April 08, 2014 1:43 PM
Q.

Possible LaRoche Trade

I've heard that there is a team in New York who has a chronically ailing first baseman, and plays in a park that makes left-handed batter salivate. But what would we get for LaRoche?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The Yankee farm system is the equivalent of Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl. They might want him. Who are they going to give you?

– April 08, 2014 1:45 PM
Q.

Blake Treinen

After a great spring, he threw six scoreless at AAA last night. He'll be up this season yes? Trade bait?

A.
Thomas Boswell :

Big arm. Lotta velo and movement in throw sessions in Viera. Man, the Nats have some arms. They also have an injured catcher (again) and an arthritic third baseman. The game giveth and the game....

– April 08, 2014 1:47 PM
Q.

Dead Horse Beating at the Home Opener

Not to beat a dead horse, but the Braves are the most obnoxious team (maybe even = Philthies) in the majors. You hit our best young hitter twice last year and don't get punished. Your former catcher (appropriately now with the Yankees) cops an attitude so much that the player couldn't even touch home plate (he just stood there and argued). Now at the Home Opener, first they complain to the umpire that Desmond's hit was lodged (it rolled against the opening; how can it be lodged?) and then puts the ball in play. MAKE UP YOUR (EXPLETIVE DELETED) MIND! If the ball should be dead and a ground rule double then halt play and call it. Then challenge. Otherwise play the ball. DON'T DO BOTH! Sorry but the umpires in NY (they must be Braves lovers since they got one of them) got it wrong. You run until they tag you. If it's a ground rule double then call it immediately. If it's playable (which obviously it was!) then play it. Don't allow Desmond to score and then Challenge!!!
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Thanks. That was better than a Red Bull. My eyes are bolt open!

– April 08, 2014 1:49 PM
Q.

Espinosa

You a believer that Danny Espinosa is born again hard core? He looks like he is making much better contact from both sides of the plate. I think I'm on board.

A.
Thomas Boswell :

He looks much better. If he keeps making consistent contact -- and his current approach probably will allow it -- his hits will fall. Will he be patient enough to stick to it? He is finally learning to slow the game down during his at bats -- even muttering to himself or stepping out to regather. He still hass a lot of tools. And he's got that real good post-abyss attitude. 

– April 08, 2014 1:51 PM
Q.

Baseball!!!

Sorry, I'm a little excited about it being baseball season. Spring is in the air, flowers are blooming, going 4-4 can improve your batting average by 300 points, and anything is possible. Going into the season, I said that the Mets are going to surprise this season, being tougher than people expected. So far, I have been quite wrong. However, it seems like the Marlins are going to be the team to beat. The Marlins! Is this an early season surge, or are they the first-half-of-2005-Nats?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The Marlins can flat-out pitch. I doubt McGehee will end the season leading the majors in every offensive category. But he might still lead at the end of April.

– April 08, 2014 1:52 PM
Q.

Nats

I know baseball is a long season but doesn't it seem like there was an awful lot of drama and tragedy crammed into those first six games? Hell, the first game had it all. We know about the injuries and concerns, what were the three most positive things to take away from the first six games?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan.

Anthony Rendon.

And Aaron Barrett may turn out to be a Reel Big Fish. (Sorry, music joke.)

– April 08, 2014 1:55 PM
Q.

Wizards

Is it crazy to think that the Wizards could win a first round playoff series and possible steal the second round from a battered Indiana team? I don't see them beating the Heat but it sure would be fun to watch. Since this post relates to the playoffs, I'll leave the Caps out of it.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Wiz need to focus vs Charlotte head-to-head, hold onto sixth spot. Wiz DO NOT want to play Indiana in the first round just because the Pacers have been in a recent 7-12 slump and are fussing at each other. Pacers are a quality team about to get seriously ticked off to start the playoffs: Get out of their path, if at all possible.

– April 08, 2014 1:57 PM
Q.

reporting from a golf tournament

How do you cover a major golf tournament like the Masters? If you are out on the course, I assume that the average TV viewer will know much more than you. But if you just watch the telecast, you aren't giving us anything that we don't already know. I don't mean this question to be rude. I just don't know how a reporter would cover an event where all the action is simultaneously taking place in so many different places. Thanks for your insight.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I have a monitor in front of me at my seat that lets me watch four TVs at once -- I can chose any hole from 10-through-18 (live) or use any of the four channels to get any CBS, ESPN or other Masters feed. And I can get any Masters stat -- on any player, the course, anything imaginable. Also, there are nine huge wall monitors which show live play on nine holes at once. If I take that watch-it-all-'til-you-go-blind choice I have far more info on more shots by more players than any TV viewer possibly could. It's not even remotely close.

When I'm not watching the four montiors in front of me or the nine huge monitors on the massive wall of the Barlett Lounge -- only the Masters provides that to every seat in the press room -- I can interview players after their round or talk to therm in the clubhouse. (Or have lunch with them.  And I frequently walk the course with key players at key times when, especially on trouble shots, I may be 10 feet from  their ball.

There is almost no limit to how well you could cover the Masters. But I still prefer the U.S. Open  because you can follow players INSIDE the ropes and be closer to the action -- by far -- than in any other sport. When Phil Pholded in the Open at Winged Foot I wasn't more than 20 feet from him when he hit any shot on the last four holes. And when he ran up the hill to see where his shot landed at 17, I was running (okay jogging) behind him. (God, is he slow.)

So, no worries, if my columns stink, it's my own fault. They shouldn't.

– April 08, 2014 2:09 PM
Q.

Soriano in a teacup

Please don't use his strikes on Sunday as an example of what he can do. He was lucky to survive. All of his strikes to Heyward and Uggla were fat fastballs up and over the center of the plate. Those should have landed on half street. Soriano is a very poor closer in the game of baseball, and his '13 stats show it.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I once saw Scott McGregor throw nine straight 85 mph "meatballs" right down the middle to Reggie Jackson for three strikeouts. I asked him how he did it. He said that Reeggie had a "hole" in his swing at exactly that point just a LITTLE up and a LITTLE in. Almost down the middle but really just a little up-and-in. He couldn't lay off it and he couldn't it. But if you missed, it was gone. Rule of thumb: a hitter's biggest power and the hole in his swing (if he has one) are usually right together. Reggie told me he almost burst all the buttons off his shirt swinging at those pitches.

Soriano is lucky sometimes. He wasn't lucky Sunday.   

– April 08, 2014 2:14 PM
Q.

Babe Ruth vs Walter Johnson

Did you happen to see the "find" that was discovered at the University of South Carolina Moving Image Research Collections? It was part of the Fox Movietone News outtakes. After much research it was determined that it is footage of an at bat Babe Ruth had against Walter Johnson on June 1, 1925. Two things stood out - how far back the catcher and umpire were and how big Ruth's bat was. Here's a link from baseball researcher http://baseballresearcher.blogspot.com/2014/03/some-very-fortunate-footage.html
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Thanks!!

Modern players cannot believe the size of the bats Ruth used.

That's it for today. Can't get to all the great questions or even all the good subjects. Thanks again.

– April 08, 2014 2:16 PM
Q.

Response to Henry James answer

I taught writing for a while and I thought you may be interested in this even though it's not sports-related, it's kind of related to your Henry James answer. This report is real academic-y and it's a little dated. The writer says that students today are reading and writing more than ever before because of texting, gchat, facebook, twitter, blogs etc. We're not dumbing ourselves down, kids are writing with different conventions. They're just not aware of the conventions of standard english. https://ssw.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/3Cs_article.pdf
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Thanks. Will check it out.

– April 08, 2014 2:21 PM
Q.

 

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