Auto Load Responses: 
Font Size: 

January 13, 2014

11
A.M.

Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Total Responses: 26

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.

Gruden

I haven't seen any comments on your take of the Jay Gruden hire for the Skins and I was interested in your thoughts. Thanks again for your Monday chats! They are perfect to start off the week!!
A.
Thomas Boswell :

If you don't like Jay Gruden, then you'd probably hiss at "It's a Wonderful Life."

As a person, from what we know, I don't know how he could be much more appealing. This is a guy who spent most of the last 25 years in the football minors leagues -- the ARENA Football League and UFL. Come on, seriously, here's a guy who preferred to say near his Floirida home and roots, raise his family and make the Hall of Fame -- in the INDOOR AFL. THEN, after age 40, he started focusing more on NFL career possibilities and, after three good years working with Andy Dalton in Cincy, got the Skins job. Jay is all plucky, not Chucky. Jon was an obsessive type-A achiever. Jay wanted to be an NFL QB, chased the dream as long as he could, but a little lack of arm strength, a bad leg injury and, maybe a few extra pounds, kept him from getting chances. Well, that's his version. Maybe he just wasn't good enough even to get a real shot. He's as close to the football equivalent of Bull Druham's Crash Davis as you could cook up -- wins bush league titles as a QB (and coach) -- then dreams of making the Show as a manager/coach. Well, Jay got there. Seriously, please him somebody, anybody who isn't rooting for him -- take your lunch, 'cause it'll be an all-day job. 

He's the Anti-Shanny. I'll deal with that, and other things, in a Skins column. It's "Our Way": Jay -- the empathetic communicator, not "My Way" Mike, the martinet.

There's no doubt that Jay gruden knows offesnive football -- the pro game -- inside and out. His father was on the offensive staff of the Bucs in the NFL. Jay was on the headphones (from the press box) to brother Jon on the sideline for seven years. And he was OC for the last three years in Cincy.

Well, that takes care of about 20 percent of being an NFL head coach.

Can he construct a staff? Can he connect with RGIII and improve him? Will he retain 12-season-losing-streak Haslett, who hired him with the Tuskers in the minors, the job that eventyually set him you to get the OC gig in Cincy. Can he cope with being a distant fourth in the chain of power on the Skins behind Snyder, Allen and RGIII. Or is that Snyder, RGIII and Allen in front of Gruden? Can he motivate his men despite never playing at their level?

Spurrier and Zorn were both NFL quarterbacks, Zorn a good one, who arrived with a Score Points edict. Neither had been an NFL head coach. Zorn hadn't been a head coach anywhere.

I'd say that, with hindsight, Gruden may be better prepared for the pro game that Spurrier, with his college system, or Zorn, with no head coaching experience, not even in the minors. 

But coaches with jam-packed resumes -- Schottenheimer, Gibbs II and Shanny -- have found this job too tough for them . So a LOT of patience needs to be shown with Gruden. Will that happen? 

– January 13, 2014 11:02 AM
Q.

RGIII

Tom -- Could RGIII be similar to Tim Tebow, i.e., a QB with superior running skills but without consistent passing ability? Seems that the league learned how to defend against both QBs pretty quickly.

A.
Thomas Boswell :

No. With all due respect, I don't think there is any comparison at all. Tebow had the longest, slowest delivery you'll ever see, waved the ball all around, and still couldn't hit the broad side of a house. He had enormous will, toughest, running ability and charisma (when things were going right). But as a passer the experts were right -- he was awful.

As a rookie, RGIII showed that he had a strong and accurate arm. Coming out of college, he was praised, correctly, as a Michael Vick-quality runner with an equally strong arm but far better mechanics, quick release and accuracy. This year, he looked like he'd had little off-season work on throwing and, with concern about his knee, he started throwing from a weak base. He didn't step into throws like he did in '12.

My best guess is that, next year, without a knee brace, with a summer to improve his knee and work on his throwing mechanics, he will -- as a passer -- almost entirely resemble the Griffin on '12. As a runner, no. We're probably not going to see any more 800-yard rushing seasons. Maybe not a 500.

But I can't wait to hear people next year as they claim, "Oh, I never doubted that Griffin was a first-rate accurate passer. No, no, I never said that."

But many are saying it. Write it down and hit me over the head with it next: Griffin will be a high-quality passer -- for accuracy, arm strength, ability to hit the deep ball (on which he was terrible with overthrows this year) as well as the tough deep out routes and the slants. Will he learn to read defenses better? Manage the clock better? Go deeper into his progressions? Learn to audible? Run a hurry-up well? Will he learn to protect himself better (slide) and stay healthy?

Now THOSE are good, tough questions. We'll find out the answers.

But, as a passer, RGIII is what you want -- as long as he gets his mechanics and confidence back to '12 levels. I don't see why he wouldn't.

– January 13, 2014 11:02 AM
Q.

Paul Blair

I don't look forward to reading notices about the passing of players like Paul Blair from a bygone era and truly remarkable O's history. I didn't see him play a lot but when I did he always managed to to do something to support his great reputation. I'd love to hear any reflections/stories you may have.

A.
Thomas Boswell :

Blair played the shallowest CF I ever saw. And he ranked with Ken Griffey, Jr., Andrew Jones and only a couple of others for getting perfect jumps, gliding to the ball at a controled full speed and making the actually catch itself look like an inevitable afterthought.

I only covered him one year -- his last with the O's when he couldn't hit any more (after a beaning) and was being pushed aside, though graciously, by Weaver. Paul wasn't happy about it. So, as a youngster on the beat I didn't get to know Blair well and didn't get to see all the gregariousness and fun that all his teammates loved him for. But everybody who knew him broke out in a grin as soon as his name was mentioned. And for several years in his prime he was a good hitter and a core part of truly great teams.

– January 13, 2014 11:06 AM
Q.

Heading to Viera!

Bos, I took your advice from last year and am attending Spring Training the weekend before games start and I also got my hotel at Cocoa Beach. Now that I have my flight and lodging squared away, what come next for the Bos Plan for Spring Training? When should I get to the park? Where's the best place to meet players? Where should I go to see pitchers throw side sessions? Lastly, will I see you there? Thanks!
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Congrats. Before games start, practices are EARLY and generally end by 1 p.m. You're looking at 8 a.m., or earlier to get a word with players, and probably four hours of workouts from ~9-to-1. Then they chat and usually sign afterwards.

There are four fields about 300 yards froim the Viera Stadium, with a parking lot right beside the practice complex. You'll see batting practice, fielding drills and, my favorite, the throwing sessions which are as far back on that complex as you can go. But it's a very short walk. Just ask "where do the pitchers do their throwing?" That usually sgtarts about 10 a.m.  BUT every manager keeps a different schedule. What will Matt Williams format be? Don't know. I'm sure I'll chat from Viera, probably around the 17th and let everybody know what the deal is.

Yes, I'm down there for about 10 days usually -- five days early and five days in the middle of camp when questions start to get answered. (This team doesn't have many questions, but there are always some.) Glad to chat. Just so you know, as I'm sure you do, that I'm working. EVEN THOUGH IT SURE DOESN'T LOOK OR FEEL LIKE IT! Oh, sorry, just a little spring training enthusiasm creeping out. I think we're exactly one month from Pitchers and Catchers Report. 

– January 13, 2014 11:15 AM
Q.

Skins new approach

We haven't tried this before--a real GM who hires a coach and tries to put him in a position to suceed. At least they're not re-hashing an old star coach.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The Skins are saying the right words. Will they do the right deeds?

As you may see in a column that will be up on the Post site soon, the Skins need to cope with the most-likely scenario for the next couple of year -- not much success. In NFL history, all teams that have gone 3-13 have, on average, had a combined record of 13-19 over the next two years. Can Snyder cope with a modest level of improvement like that? After all, Spurrier and Zorn were both pushed out or quit after a big premature build up and a 12-20 record after two years. Will the Ashburn Hype Machine seduce good judgment again and set expectations so high that -- historically speaking -- Gruden only has about a 20 percent chance of getting within sight of them?

A FEW 3-13 team were transformed quickly. Peyton Manning took the Colts to 23-9 the next two years. Atlanta went to the Super Bowl two years after it went 3-13 in '96. That could happen. Maybe Allen-Gruden-RGII click. But you have to prepare yourself as owner to cope with hard times -- be a leader, internal realistic tone setter and adult -- not an emotional-mood-swing fan who happens to own the team.

It will be fascinating to see what Allen does with the authority he says he's been given. The Skins better hope that Morrocco Brown doesn't get the Tampa Bay job. It's tough to replace a right-hand-man in your personnel department. A lot of institutional knoweldge would go out the door -- not only about every player on your own team, but your years of collective evaluation of every player in the NFL and all the best NFL prospects in college.

If you are really putting Allen in charge, then you should also work hard -- with whatever it takes ($$) --to keep his top associates. Now if the Bucs offer him a GM job that is hard to trun down. But I assume the Skins need to think of every way possible to keep Brown. Will he turn out to be good when he, too, is given far more say than he had under Shanahan? Don't know. But you have to assume that your own peoiple are competent. And you DON'T want to lose your top personnel evaluator when that has never been Allen's role with any team.

– January 13, 2014 11:27 AM
Q.

A-Roid

This guy can't disappear fast enough, can he? Hopefully the sports media will ignore his litigation too.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

This is either a very short answer: "Good riddance to bad rubbish" or a very long one.

MLB certainly appears to have taken an ends-justifies-the-mean stance on their nail-him-to-the-wall hunt to get A-Rod. And debating those means is worth doing.

But pro sports is also a result-oriented world. And the results -- for MLB -- are extremely good. The sport, and Bud Selig have proven beyond any doubt that they will use their full powers to enforce and then defend their anti-PED rules. Remember, arbitrators have sided with baseball players MANY times. I'd say more often than not, especially on huge decisions, like the one that finally ended the '94 Strike. An arbitrator let Ryan Braun beat the system on a chain-of-custody issue a year ago. So A-Rod was operating not in a court of law facing some felony charge but in a WORKPLACE dispute about whether he broke the rules that players and owners had collectively agree to. And he was doing it in a framework where you make your ultimate case to an arbitrator, not a jury. That's the system. One that has been favorable to players and defended their rights many times.

In that context, all 12 other players that MLB suspended in the Biogenesis case ACCEPTED their penalties. They said, in effect, I did it and I'm taking my suspension. A-Rod was deemed to be the worst offender -- worse than a dozen who didn't even fight the final MLB decision. He had every resource of a man who's made a vast fortune -- and he's used it.

And baseball still got a full-season suspension upheld by an arbitrator. 

As every legal expert is now saying, it is extremely unusual for the courts to overtune an arbitrator's decision in an industry where collective-bargaining rules and stanbdards obtain. I'd say A-Rod's chances of getting any ultimate vindication are close to zero.

But he's desperate. AND the Yankees still owe him $61-million, all guaranteed, for '15-'16-and-'17. If he makes himself a big enough pain in the neck -- and he's been trying to set a world record for months -- with the Steinbrenners just say, "Here is your money. We realse you. GO AWAY." Then A-Rod has the cash, can say, "They railroaded me. I never did it" and might even get some time like the Marlins to sign him in '15 (though I doubt it). 

When you get caught, cash is a good friend. When you face a lifetime of accusations, it's the best among bad cholices to be able to say, "I never admitted it." And when you hate baseball, Selig and the Yankees as much as Rodriguez now does, anything you can do to embarass or anger them probably feels better than a sharp stick in the eye.

A-Rod has said: Selig "hates my guts....It's about his legacy...(He wants to) put me on his mantel...That's a hell of a trophy."

That is correct. Shouldn't baseball hate his guts for what he's done AFTER he already admitted to PED use in '01-'03 in texas? After he got the biggest contract in the game's history? After he tried to make it to 800 homers by cheating -- and cheating LONG after the game said THIS IS CHEATING.

Looks like Alex is ready to be stuffed and mounted.

It was an ugly hunt. Baseball probably shouldn't be proud of its methods. But because they showed they'd use them this time perhaps they won't need to do it again. Yes, more ends-justifying-means.

But the last few days have been good for baseball with far more long-term benefits outweighing short-term black eyes.

– January 13, 2014 11:46 AM
Q.

Espinosa

The Nats keep signing utility infielders. Is it safe to assume the organization wants to move Espinosa before the season starts?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

That would certainly be a traditional interpretation.

But they value him as highly as you can value a guy who had an OPS+ of 28 last year -- 72 percent below the offensive contribution of an average player.

– January 13, 2014 11:48 AM
Q.

Minor League Coach

Overall, Jay Gruden seems to have basically made a name for himself in the minor football leagues -- Arena, UFL, etc. This shows a real love for the game, but it's rare to see a NFL head coach with this type of resume. In baseball it happens more often. How do minor league managers generally fair in the majorsl?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Actually, in baseball, many great managers have come up through the minors rather than being star players who became coaches, then managers.

Perhaps I identify wih Jay Gruden as a possible fine coach because he so exactly mirrors the kind of can't-get-the-game-out-of-my-blood guy in baseball who learns every detail, tries to get every edge and ends up in the top job at 46.

But three years as OC in Cincy --and helping his brother call plays for seven years in TB (when Jon probably didn't need much help) -- is pretty much his NFL CV for a top job. And that's not the usual career path.

I think there's a good chance he'd be a good coach with a normal NFL team. The Skins are not in any meaningful way a normal NFL team. So, how will that work out. I hope well. There is nothing more boring than re-telling the same sad story over and over. I just hope that five-year contract means that Snyder is willing to back him even if his progression is 7-9 (inspired by a fresh start) then 5-11 (reality and some bad luck returns). The word is "rebuilding." The Skins don't have to say it in public. But if they don't realize it internally, if they keep pedaling this "we're close" stuff TO THEMSELVES we'll just see a slightly different spin on an old bad B movie.

My gut? Firts impression, I like Gruden and I think Allen is an average competent NFL exec. If he delegates well, if RGIII turns out to be a franchise quarterback -- and I think that IS the most likely outcome in a couple of years -- then this can be a New Movie.

Yes, I'm spitting on my own advice and coming far too close to "buying in" far too soon. You see, it's not just people who grew up in D.C. area as Skins fans -- like both Snyder and me -- but the whole fanatical fan base that creates this "we're close" level of expectation that does no good when things turn out well but does plenty of harm in the team's decision-making when exaggerated expectations are not met.

But, to answer you directly, Jay's minor league background isn't nearly as important as his whole lifetime of being in an NFL family, from his dad the ex-Bucs assistant coach to Jon. Can he (head) coach (in the NFL)? We'll just have to wish him luck and see.

– January 13, 2014 12:04 PM
Q.

woodbridge

LeGarrette Blount is my new favorite player, ha ha! Welker who?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Everybody says "Blount instrument." But that doesn't mean it isn't a good line.

Belichick has never done a better job. He's even starting to show a little more of himself in interviews (like one with Cowher over the weekend). 

As I've mentioned before, I lived for eight years in a part of Annapolis that was less than 1,000 yards from the Navy football stadium and ONE BLOCK from the house where Belichick grew up and where (I believe -- this was 10 years ago) his family still lived. So I heard "Bill" stories from people who actually knew him growing up or met him when he came back to Annapolis. He got great reviews as a nice person, funny enough, smart and NOT defensive or walled up. As is so often the case, the person that the star athlete or coach presents to the public is a creation that only shows the part of himself or herself that is chosen for display. There is often much more of the iceberg of personality UNDER the surface than above.

As a reporter, you constantly have to remember: I am probably looking at a mask. Ask yourself: Does the public know as little about this person as most people, who aren't my family or close friends, know about me?

My profile of Greg Maddux last week was an example. I assumed, even though he was famous and the best pitcher in baseball, that it was possible that I didn 't know ANYTHING that really mattered about him or about how and why he pitched the way he did. I still have no idea who he really is as a person. He clearly doesn't want to share that. But, though it took a week and a lot of waiting for him to realize that I wasn't going away, that I was going to say, "Hello (I'm baaack)" every day at 7:45 a.m. and that I really cared about his craft, we finally had a couple of really long good sessions where he enjoyed himself and talked about "How I Do It."   

– January 13, 2014 12:14 PM
Q.

Mussina for HOF?

Morning! I was surprised Moose didn't get more support for the HOF than he did. My friend (who is a Yankees fan but is otherwise all right) said Mussina's career may look like Palmer's, but he didn't have the big seasons Palmer did. I said, well, 1) Palmer AVERAGED 38 starts in his eight 20-win seasons; Mussina NEVER started 38 games in a season; and 2) even though Palmer won 50.3 percent of his starts, Mussina was just as good, winning 50.4 percent of his starts. It's not Mike's fault he pitched in the era of five-man rotations. Your thoughts?

A.
Thomas Boswell :

I think you might enjoy a few facts about the fate of excellent players -- like Mussina -- who got about 20 percent of the vote in their first year of eligibility.

Here's a list of them from recent decades, first those who did not get in (and their 1st yr %) and then those that did make the Hall.

Didn't or haven't yet made the HOF: Larry Walker (20.3%), McGriff (21.5), Tim Raines (24.3), McGwire (23.5), Trammell (15.7), Don Mattingly (28.2), Jack Morris (22.2), Dale Murphy (19.3), Dave Parker (17.5), Tommy John (21.3), Jim Kaat (19.5), Mickey Lolich (19.7), Maury Wills (30.3), Roger Maris (21.4).

All that looks like bad news for Moose.

But these guys DID make the Hall of Fame after comparably inauspicious starts: Blyleven (17.5), Bruce Sutter (23.9), Billy Williams (23.4), Orlando Cepeda (12.5!), Don Drysdale (21.0), Duke Snider (17.0), Red Schoendienst (19.1).

The pattern, if any? I have no clue.

– January 13, 2014 12:21 PM
Q.

Mark Turgeon and the ACC

It was another UGLY loss by the Terps last night. Should Turgeon be on the hot seat? Seems like he has funds ($$$$) available that Coach Williams never had - assistant coaches budget, for sure - but is failing miserably on the court. He's getting the AAU stars and that's the way they are playing - NO DEFENSE. Also, No. 16 Duke lost to unranked Clemson last week and they may fall out of the Top 20 - the updated poll is due out today, I wonder when the last time no original ACC team was in the Top 20. What happened to the ACC?

A.
Thomas Boswell :

I watched a LOT of ball the last few days, but not that game. I repost your question because it makes so many interesting points. I did see Coach K's face as he flashed across my screen while going to an NFL game and I thought, "He's losing and he sure hates it. Must not be a top opponent." The score flashed and (unranked) Clemson was comfortably up late. 

– January 13, 2014 12:25 PM
Q.

A-Fraud -- done?

Mr Boswell Do you think he will ever play another game in MLB ? MVMD
A.
Thomas Boswell :

A-Rod has 654 homers, six shy of beloved Willie Mays. he has 2,939 hits, 61 shy of 3,000. And everybody in baseball hates him. After a certain point, would anybody touch Canseco? He probably didn't deserve another chance with another team. But he kept saying he was blackballed. But he never played another game, in part because everybody in the sport would have said, or thought, "Why did you do that? The guy can't play anymore. Why not just spit in everybody's eye."

So, no, I don't think A-Rod will ever play another MLB game until/unless something unexpected -- in court, perhaps -- changes the picture significantly.

What an ugly goodbye. And he causes trouble for everybody who touches him or his issues. Now the union and MLB are fussing about who should, or should not have appeared on "60 Minutes" to tell baseball's side. 

I remember in Cal Ripken's last All-Star game, A-Rod, who said Cal was his childhood hero, was the shortstop and Ripken was at third. But in the first inning, Alex went over and insisted that he and Cal switch positions so Ripken could have one last inning at shortstop. I seem to remember it was A-Rod's idea. Does that show a good side of him? Or was it also self-serving? "Look at what a noble idea I had."

Now, every time anybody thinks about anything he did, it will, in part, be seen through this dark PED lens. That's a lifelife punishment. And it's sad. But it's also the reason why future baseball players will look at Bonds, Clemens, A-Rod and the rest -- and listen to other current players who are REALLY against PED cheats and say so -- and think, "If I get caught, the punishment does NOT fit the crime. The total punishment -- not just games suspended -- may end up being far worse than trying to get an edge that's against the rules. So, why would I want to take that risk?"

I doubt that any other major sport is anywhere close to that tough-on-PEDS state of affairs.  

– January 13, 2014 12:35 PM
Q.

Jay Gruden vs. Jay [something else]

Ok, straight up yes or no. If Jay Gruden's last name wasn't Gruden (or Parcells or Cowher), would he be Washington's head coach today? Just to be clear, this is a different question from a question about whether or not he's qualified.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Yes, I think he would be -- if he'd had the same connection to Bruce Allen in their Tampa Bay days. And, given his good college career and Arena success, I don't think it's hard to see him getting that job even if Jon hadn't been the Bucs head coach.

IOW, I think Allen's comfort level with Jay was a bigger factor -- maybe by far--  than the gruden buzz.

BUT we are talking about the Skins. It's a problem that everybody at that Park knows what Snyder wants -- without being told -- "off-season buzz, sell hope to the fan base, if humanly possible." When Snyder himself keeps an Allen as GM, maybe that Allen doesn't think it would be such a bad idea to hire a Gruden.

Team Culture shows itself everywhere and it always starts at the top.

– January 13, 2014 12:39 PM
Q.

Ballot

If you still voted, what would your ballot have looked like? I would have had 10 -- Bonds, Clemens, Maddux, Thomas, Raines, Trammell, Biggio, Piazza, Bagwell, and Glavine.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Maddux, Glavine, Thomas, Biggio, Piazza, Bagwell. But I was a very tough voter.

The year Drysdale was voted in I was on a national TV show as the guy who would say, "He was very good, but he doesn't belong in the Hall." The TV feed had people from several cities. I think I was in an Arizona studio (I think) for some reason. And there were TWO chairs on the set looking into the camera. I said, "So, who's the other person who's on with me?"

The producer said, "Drysdale."

Oh, that was fun. (He was gracious.)

If I actually DID still vote, I'd study up much harder on the arguments for Raines, Mussina, E Martinez, Schilling, maybe even McGriff and, by his third or fourth year, Kent. It's a poor use of time and energy if you don't vote. So, see, I'm ducking. But my gut-level -- not statistical --view, based on "I was there covering for his whole career" -- would be that Raines, Schilling, Martinez and McGriff are all in the "not quite" category. Mussina is still "too tough to call." I'm leaning toward "probably" on that one.

So, go on and throw the bricks. I'll duck and say, "You have a point. And if I had a vote I'd study up more and we'd talk about it for an hour."

– January 13, 2014 12:49 PM
Q.

2015 Ballot

Randy Johnson is a no-brainer. Pedro Martinez should be a no-brainer, but some writers may balk at some light career numbers -- 219 wins, 2827.1 IP, which would be near the bottom for starting pitchers. What about the rest of the new additions? Does Gary Sheffield fall into the very good, but not great category?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

"At his best, and for a significant number of years, he was one of the very greatest of the greats" trumps all other considerations for HOF, imo. Even if the stat totals are smallish.

That makes Pedro a no-brainer first-timer. Koufax is the model for that vote. But Martinez lasted a lot longer than Sandy while also having an unbelievable prime.

– January 13, 2014 12:51 PM
Q.

Grantland

I don't know if you saw the piece in Grantland, where you were referenced about steroids. Any reaction to Ray Ratto stating "That's when Boswell was the swinging d*** in the country," said Ratto. "When he said stuff, people stopped and listened. There's always one guy on the East Coast who gets to be that guy for a while. Back then, he was that guy." http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/10261642/mlb-hall-fame-voting-steroid-era
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Thanks, Ray.

(But I think he was just young and impressionable back then when I was on the baseball beat.)

– January 13, 2014 12:57 PM
Q.

Getting the most out of a ST Trip

Last year I think you said that going to ST before the games start could be the best time to go. Can you confirm/expand on that? And if so, is it better to go at the beginning (e.g., when the position players report) or maybe a week or so later.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Everybody is different. It always worries me to tell fans that I enjoy it more before the games begin. "Hey, you dope, I went and Nothing Happened!" A LOT of people like to have that game in the middle of the day. You have to be pretty serious, or nutty fan to go watch ballplayers go through drills, BP and side sessions. But, as a rule, they are more approachable then. Though the Nats have a good reputation for being friendly whenever you catch them at Space Coast stadium. 

– January 13, 2014 1:00 PM
Q.

Maddux article

I really enjoyed reading your article on Greg Maddux. As a lapsed baseball fan who saw lots of Maddux games on TBS even though I lived far from Atlanta, I was impressed with your reporting on his mindset. That really drove home the point about how mental the game of baseball is. Why do you think so few people have ben successful using the same method as Maddux?

A.
Thomas Boswell :

Greg doesn't preach about his methods. He couldn't care less (I assume) about being a pitching coach.

But it's fun to watch a pitcher when he finally figures it out. *What pitches can I REALLY command? Even if there are only two of them and my stuff is just "good," not great. *And what would happen if I TRUSTED those pitches in those spot completely.

That happened to Craig Stammen. He only really throws two pitches -- fastball, slider. And the fastball is often right at the knees and the slider dives lower. But it works. He never gives in, never comes over the middle of the platew, no matter what the count -- just pounds the corners with two trusted pitches -- even that means if he walks 3.3 per nine innings. The result: he has a 2.45 ERA in his last 121 games with low WHIP (1.208) and high K's (8.9 per 9 IP).   

– January 13, 2014 1:06 PM
Q.

Pitt Ranking?

Hi, Tom. First of all let me say that I miss the feminine half of the sports chat team, but I'm glad you are still with us. That being said, my husband's alma mater, Pitt, is 15-1 (3-0 in the ACC), having lost its game by one point(!) to Cincinnati, who is now 15-2. Shouldn't Pitt finally be ranked? Duke has lost four games, for goodness sake!

A.
Thomas Boswell :

Yes, I'll miss her chats and her columns, too. But after working with Tracee for many years as my editor, it'll be great to have her back. Great with story ideas, news judgment, the whole package and willing to say, "I don't think this work" -- whether a phrase, sentence, organization of a column or, a few times, the whole damn column. Then you talk about it. The Post has a long history of amazing editors in the sports department.

Her "baseball team" -- just one of her duties -- is having a brain-storming lunch in about 10 days. That'll be old times, good times for sure.

Kilgore doesn't know what his future holds. (Just kidding.)

– January 13, 2014 1:13 PM
Q.

In the Net

So Grubauer is apparently the No. 1 netminder now? He seems like a fine player...but that much better than Holtby...who, in turn, wasn't really that much better than Neuvirth? Seems like the Caps expend way too much time developing rookie goalies, year after year..

A.
Thomas Boswell :

I keep saying I'm going to report this out and write about it -- and not doing it. It's probably going to have to wait now until after some winter vacation, which starts later this week.

– January 13, 2014 1:14 PM
Q.

Super Bowl Wins and QB Legacies

There has been a lot of talk about Peyton Manning's performances in the playoffs and how he has only won one Super Bowl. In basketball, with only five players playing at a time, and playing both offense and defense, one player can have a huge impact on the game. But how much impact can one player, even the QB have on a game. Given that there are 22 players starting (excluding the specialists, and they, especially the kicker, can have an impact), there is only so much impact one player can have. Was it Manning's fault last year that the Denver CB (Rahim Moore) made a bonehead play that allowed Jacoby Jones to tie up the AFC Championship game? Do we think Eli Manning is a better QB than his brother because he has more Super Bowl rings? Yesterday, I heard Shannon Sharpe talk about how QBs are measured by Super Bowl wins and you can't be consisidered to be great without one, even as Dan Marino is sitting just a few feet away! Do we think Trent Dilfer was a better QB than Dan Marino? Football is a team game and judging any individual based on Super Bowl wins seems idiotic to me. Am I wrong?

A.
Thomas Boswell :

You're right and wrong, I guess, which is why everybody argues about it forever. A QB has enormous impact -- like a pitcher in baseball, except that he can pitch EVERY game. But a great team can carry an average QB to a Super Bowl, if he's a good game manager. Can a great QB carry an average team to a QB? I think it's MUCH harder. But it's a good discussion point. I'd love to see the list of examples both ways.

Peyton Must have been fighting a here-it-comes-again heart attack in the 4Q yesterday. He made ton of the best clutch throws of his career to pick up 3rd-and-17 and 3rd-and-6 to keep the last clock killing drive alive and keep the ball away from Rivers and the Chargers.

I thought the deep out for 21 yards to Julius Thomas on 3rd-and-17 about 3:00 left was a signature play. Manning had to adjust the pocket, had three rushers triangulating him from bad-breath distance and at the last instant had enough arm strength -- supposedly still a bit of an issue because of his neck -- to get the ball out fast and strong enough for Thomas to catch it and tap the sidelines. A real Double Wow moment. (yes, Thomas WAS wide open. But Manning was sifting through other receivers under pressure before he read down to Thomas.

Then he hit Thomas with a nice slant on the 3rd and 6.

One more and out of here. Probably chat next in early February, the Monday before pitcher and catchcers report.

– January 13, 2014 1:22 PM
Q.

Shanahan post-mortem damage caused by drafting Cousins

Hi Boz-your chats are the best part of Monday! One aspect of Shanahan's mismanagement that I believe has been underreported is the effect of drafting Cousins in the same draft as RGIII. Playing armchair psychologist-Clearly, there was a lack of trust in coach/quarterback relationship and I suspect he was puzzled/hurt by drafting Cousins and because of this, wouldn't come off the field when hurt and we know what happened in the Seattle game. This led to the offseason drama and then RGIII pushing too much to play in Week One. Doesn't this all come back to drafting Cousins? Who really cares if he was at the top of your 4th round draft board? You undermined the confidence of your future franchise quarterback and what is the precedent for this? Troy Aikman/Steve Walsh?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

That's one of the things I said about the Cousins draft pick at the time. It didn't just feel like an injury-insurance policy. It felt like...maybe...RGIII is the owner's guy and THIS is my kind of guy. What it DEFINITELY felt like was: I am the coach and I'm going to draft this guy in the fourth round as leverage to make sure this RGIII knows who's boss. Not good. Wrestling for turf, imo, before the draft is even over. Insecurity? Ego? Whatever.

Yet when using Colusins might have won the Seattle game and saved RGIII's knee, Shanny couldn't get himself to pull the trigger. That will always be remembered ast the worst decision of his career.

And if I answer even one more question, that will be my worst decision of the day. Thanks again. Now I get to the worst part of my day -- getting to questions thqat came in late or that I didn't get to scan. I hate that because there's always good stuff left over. Much appreciated. Cheers.

– January 13, 2014 1:28 PM
Q.

Maddux story

I heard once that Greg Maddux was being visited on the by Mazzone after getting into a bit of jam. He apparently told Mazzone to not worry, because he was going to make the next batter pop out foul to third. And sure enough, that's exactly what he did. Had you heard that story in your travels? It seems like the kind of thing that could easily be apocryphal, but could just as easily be true given what I've read about Maddux.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

There are MANY Maddux-sees-the-future stories.

Kasten told one the other day that I couldn't use for space reasons. When the Braves opened their new (current) park, there was worry that there would be less foul territory and it would cost the Atlanta pitching staff valuable outs. So Maddux visited the park the night before Opening Day along with team officials, including Stan. Maddux asked for all the fence distances, walked around the place, did some back of the envelope figuring in his head on the number of foul balls hit in an average game relative to the total area in foul territory. 

"He said, 'Don't worry. It will only work out to one foul ball a week that we can't reach and catch,'" said Kasten. "He wasn't showing off. It was all casual. But he did stuff like that all the time that just left you shaking your head." 

– January 13, 2014 1:32 PM
Q.

Morroco Brown

Since Morroco Brown is getting interviews in other organizations for the GM job (possibly just to cover the Rooney Rule), shouldn't the Redskins protect their organization and make Bruce Allen President of Football Operations with Brown as GM?

A.
Thomas Boswell :

That works in baseball as a finesse. In the NFL?

– January 13, 2014 1:33 PM
Q.

Winter Olympics ???

Please tell me the Post is NOT sending you to Russia during the start of Spring Training ???
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I've done about eight Olympics I think but not this one. Bad use of resources! Though I've always been fascinated by the five You Can Die sports in the Winter Games: Luge, bobsled, downhill skiing, ski jumping and...arrrgh...can't think of the fifth where athletes have actually died in competition. They all make a Sunday in the NFL look safe.

– January 13, 2014 1:36 PM
Q.

Strasburg

Should we read anything into the fact the Nats and Boras were quietly and amicably able to avoid arbitration with Strasburg. Does it bode well for negotiations on an extension or is this a non-story? In general, it seems Rizzo has been able to avoid nasty arbitration battles thus far with most players.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

It's a good sign. I was pleasantly surprised.

– January 13, 2014 1:38 PM
Q.

 

A.
Host: