Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Sep 09, 2014

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

Wow, King Roger suspends Rice for only two games because he only saw the video of Ray dragging his unconscious wife out of the elevator. How did he think she became unconscious? Condi needs to take over this mess.

The whole Ray Rice/NFL disgrace is simply a continuation of the leagues profound problems with the most basic issues of ethics, decent conduct and willingness to confront difficult issues rather than cover them up or spin them.

Last sedason I wrote about this huge problem for the NFL with the Incognito scandal as the latest news hook. But you could run it again today with Ray Rice's name.

http://wapo.st/WMuyrm

Goodell has always been a half-empty suit in my book. It'll be interesting to see if he keeps his job after this. I assume he will. But it won't matter. The NFL is still at least 10 years away from recognizing the depth of its long-term problems. It's incredible how long pro leagues can keep their head in the sand about there biggest problems. MLB tried to act like eight-for-eight labor stoppages was some kind of mirage and the need to deal with the MLBPA within normal U.S. legal boundaries would disappear. It took more than 20 years for them to get the message and start to change. PEDs were ignored or white-washed for more than 15 years.

The NFL better wake up.

How important is it to get the No. 1 seed and play the winner of the wild card, who will presumably have just used their best pitcher, versus playing STL or LA?

Very important. Best record also help if you reach the League Championship Series round.

In the NL, the Nats are a percentage point ahead of the Dodgers (iow, tied): 81-61 to 82-62. The Cards are two games behind that and SF 3 1/3 out if they managed to win the NL West.

In the AL, the Orioles have an outside shot to get home field edge throughout the A.L. playoffs. They are four games behind the Angels.

Best Record matters most if one or more of the teams in the wildcard-wildcard game has a monster starter that that is much better than their No. 2 and No. 3 starters. The Dodgers are an extreme case because Kershaw is already lined up in the L.A. rotation to pitcher either the last game of the season (if it's a "must win") or the WC/WC game or Game I of the Division Series. The Dodgers also have Greinke, so they are tough in any context, but you'd rather face anybody in Games One and Fived of a five-game series than Kershaw.

Also, Madison Bumgarner of SF is, Jon Lester of Oakland, Scherzer/Price of Detroit, Wainwright of the Cards are aces that you'd love to avoid. The Nats have an odd situation. Who would you start in Games 1-2-3 if you could set it up any way you wanted -- which looks like it will be the case with an eight-game lead over Atlanta. Fister, Z'mann, Strasburg -- the way they have this Braves series lined up? Or Strasburg No. 1 on the grounds that his pure stuff on a good day might be the most dominant. Or Z'mann because he is so good and also competitive -- a combination of Strasburg's stuff and Fister's poise though maybe not quite as much of either?

Storen is the closer from now on, right?

He sure looks like he wants it. And is ready for it.

I  had a long talk with him a couple of weeks ago about everything he has learned about pitching in the last two seasons. It's a LOT. He's gone to his two-seam sinker as his fastball in most circumstances  because mistakes with that pitch result in less homers than a four-seam FB. He's added a very good change-up. If he'd had a third quality pitch against the Cards in Game 5 of the '12 DS, then tough hitters like Yadier Molina might not have been able to out-battle him in long at bats.

It's interesting that, since '12, both Storen and Clippard have understood that during your career, as the league sees you more often, you need a third or even fourth pitch -- even for a reliever --unless you throw 99, plus one other pitch. Clip has polished his curve which is now good and nasty a nasty split. How much do you trust those pitches in season-on-the-line situations? I suspect they are both very close to trusting them a lot and no longer consider them just "show" pitches to put in the back of a hitter's mind. The further you go in post-season, the better the total quality of a relievers repertoire is tested because lineups get tougher.

I think the Nats ended up handling their bullpen issue, which grew for six weeks as Soriano kept floundering, about as well as you could. They gave Soriano, a proven veteran, every opportunity to keep his closer job. By the time he blew last Friday's game, he was ready to be on the same page with Williams that he needed to study film, work on mechanics and get his slider back where it's been when he's at his best. Williams post-game remarks were a perfect balance of -- it's a problem and we'll address it -- but Soriano is still a crucial part of our team/bullpen and we need to get him fixed. That was the most impressed I've been with Williams -- and I've been impressed in general.

There's no need for teams to get weeks ahead of themselves in a pennant race with playoffs coming up. You never know whom you'll need and in what role. I noted in a column some of the average closers who had helped teams get to the World Series since '01. But three or four of that group also lost their closer jobs late in the season or in the post-season. Except for the greatest closers, you often see these guys go hot and cold. You want the hot hand when it matters most.

Rizzo mentioned a few weeks ago that Storen had been very lightly used this year. Partly, just by accident. But I also suspect to keep one of their three potential October closers fresh. For example, as of a couple of days ago, Rosenthal had thrown about 1150 pitches this year, Clippard a hair over 1,000, Kimbrel 945 and Storen only 640.

Fans always want An Answer, A solution that pleases them emotionally. That's not how it should work. These are people, not objects. Be flexible. They to give everybody proper rest (especially Clippard) before October. Then see where you are. 

But, yes, to keep it simple, Storen seems determined to do everything possible to make him the logical choice. Fanning Byrd and Howard to end one game, then coming back the next night to strike out the side -- one by change-up, one by slider and one by fastball slider -- makes a powerful case. And he's been doing it -- pitching with a sub-2.00 ERA since August of 2013 when he got back from the minors.

But remember the big view. Very few teams ever get to the post-season with THREE pitchers who have proven themselves as closer, plus Thornton, who done a bit of it. Cultivate that strength. Don't be in a hurry to send anybody to Siberia. Get them all as sharp and confident as possible.

Hi Tom, I got the sense last night that there was a lot of redemption going on at Nats Park last night during Droooo's 3-K shutdown of the Braves. At least among the crowd. Any thoughts about how the dugout felt about it?

Like many people, over the last two years, I've said offhandedly to Storen, "There'll come a day."

The game almost always comes back around; the question is whether you are ready for the moment when the wheel turns and the phone rings for you.

Storen and Clippard (who gave up a homer in the eigth inning of Game 5) have spent two years working on their craft so that they can be better pitchers -- specifically better prepared for the challenges of October -- when/if the same situations recur. That doesn't insure a different outcome. But it sure helps your odds!

I guess nothing will ever change. On Sunday, the Nats won a critical game towards the end of the season and the 'Skins lost their opening day game and both sports radio stations on Monday morning seemed to all be talking about the 'Skins and nothing about the Nats. I'm beginning to think that even if the Nats won three consecutive World Series and the 'Skins went 0-16 three straight seasons, the 'Skins would still get more coverage on the radio, in part because very few local sports radio personalities really follow baseball. Is there really no hope?

With a few notable exceptions, why would you listen to them or care what they said?

Over the years I've seen the Dallas media swing from total Cowboys obsession (and football in general) to a perfectly knowledge base of commentators about the Rangers. Of course, going to two World Series was the catalyst.

If the center of gravity in fan interest can shift significantly in the center of Football Country, it can shift anywhere. All things being equal, football wins. But when all things are NOT equal -- like the two Ranger World Series years -- you got off the plane in Dallas and Topic 1 was the Rangers. The Cowboys were No. 2, but frequently as a source of bleak humor.

It is true that in 10-20-or-30 years NOBODY reading this chat is probably going to remember anything about sports in the D.C. area in the fall of '14 except what happens to the Nationals. The local NFL season will be almost entirely forgotten. How do I know? Because I've lived here all my life. When you have a great or near-great team, that's all you remember whether it is the George Allen Era or Joe Gibbs Era teams or the Patrick Ewing Hoyas or the late-'70's Big E, Wes Bullets who won an NBA title or the Gary Williams Terps that went to a Final Four then won it all.

When the Wiz won the NBA title, what did any other major team in town do that year? Nothing whatsoever comes to my mind. When the Terps won, what was our NFL record? I'd have to think hard.

If the Nats go to a Series this year or next, that's what you'll remember -- in detail -- when the rest is mostly a blur. And that includes the most ardent football, basketball and hockey fans. Because almost all of us are SPORTS fans first, and we lean toward what gives us the most satisfaction, drama, pleasure. If the Wiz or Caps reach a Finals, it'll be the same deal. That's just how it works.

Don't worry about the bandwagon. It always fills up. And the people who jump on shouldn't have to apologize for it. Everybody can't love every sport. There aren't enough hours in the day. When the Caps got good I paid much more attention to them (and wrote more about them) -- including watching more of their games just for fun than I could ever have imagined. You say to yourself, "Hey, this is great stuff."  If somebody said, ""Oooohhh, NOW you care about the Caps," I'd just say, "Yes, I do." That's how human nature -- and news coverage -- works.

Have you seen the piece by Susan Reimer in the Sun? I think ravens management are all cowards. Didn't they just get done saying how much they cared? They Could have kept him and gotten him help. Isn't it great how nonviolent rest of NFL is?

Here is a link to the story you reference. I've read a lot of Rice pieces in the last 24 hours but not this one. Sorry.

The Ravens did the right thing yesterday -- when it was obvious they had no (sane) choice. But they look awful in their handling of the Rice assault before that.

I asked my wife what her impressions, as a non-football, non-sports fan was to the revelations yesterday. I expected her to make some general comment on progress or lack-of-progress on domestic abuse issues over the years. She was giving money to the House of Ruth 30 years ago when I first met her. Instead, she kept it pretty simple.

"What would you expect -- Monday-through- Saturday -- from people who play a sport where they are taught to knock each other unconscious on Sunday? The NFL is a culture of violence."

This is just another example of You Reap What You Sow. What could the NFL have done differently over the decades to face a central issue of their sport -- how do we  keep this from becoming known as The Notorious Felons League? Hard to say. Lets flip the question: How could they have done LESS? The whole concussion issue, going back decades, tells you where the NFL's conscience is -- right in its hip pocket, tucked deep inside its wallet.

Good but dangerous game; utterly shameless business.   

While it's not ideal that Soriano pitched himself out of the closer's job, Storen did everything he could to make the job his. He deserves it, and it'll be great to see him redeem those awful calls from Game 5 this year when he closes out the WS.

Nobody's going to miss that feel-good angle. But the core power of sports is that they are real, not scripted. Your notion of baseball karma may prevail. (Or not.)

These guys don't run into burning buildings to save lives, but, emotionally and psychologically, they certainly stand in the fire and deserve respect for it. (Yes, so does a surgeon and many other professions.) 

This doesn't rank with the "serious" questions of whether Storen is now the closer going forward and what's wrong with Clip, but, I really liked Steinberg's piece on the N-A-T-S cheer at Nats Park. I know some fans don't like it for various reasons, stolen from the Jets and Caps, for instance. But, it's actually something that came from the fans. The scoreboard doesn't light up with it after a run is scored, the Nat Pack doesn't get it going. It's a bunch of fans in 313 who start it, and have been doing it in relative obscurity for years. Until now. I just hope that the team created sign on the back wall of 313 and Mark Lerner's involvement in that doesn't signal a move toward "official" appropriation of the cheer. Let it grow on its own.

Thanks for the link.

It takes more than 10 years to rebuild a "baseball town." But there are lots of signs of progress. This is one.

But what creates fans -- and gets fan bases to understand the power of their involvement -- is always the post-season. In Game 4 in '12, the crowd stood when Jordan Zimmermann came out of the bullpen, throwing harder than he ever had as a starter, and got the first strikeout of a blow-away inning. And the entire lower deck they never had a chance to sit down again. I timed it off my TV recording -- the standing and yelling lasted EXACTLY one solid hour from the Z'mann ovation to the moment when Werth's home run left the park to win the game.

I'm not sure I've ever seen an entire lower deck stand for an hour to cheer. Maybe. But if the Nats get deep into an NLCS, you're going to see some crazy day-after-day-after-day stuff. And if there's a Nats-Orioles World Series -- of course the odds are against it, but they are also obviously two of the five most likely teams to get there -- it's going to be one nuts fortnight.

I came to the DC area in the 80s, during the glory years. It's amazing that the Redskins are now such a joke that the NFL's worst team from last year (Houston), and another terrible team, the Jaguars, actually look forward to the Redskins as a win on the schedule. Maybe the solution is to let Griffin run all he wants, and in five years, toss him away like Gale Sayers.

Point taken about the team's place in the NFL scheme of things. But, after watching the Texans game again, I don't think they are going to be terribly bad. No, not good. But, assuming they beat the Jags here at FedEx -- which they just HAVE to do -- I can see them finding about five wins, give or take a little, as they get back some respectability.

Gruden's bright and honest. Yes, I can heard some of you muttering, "Well, that ought to go over great out at The Park. Ha!"

Looking at the game again, there were even more (familiar) mistakes than I thought. Griffin, for a third-year player, still has a poor sense of game situations and of his own limitations. He waited too long to make a throw-away decision and took a third-and-12 sack that prevented a 51-yard field goal attempt in an indoor stadium where those kicks have become much more than 50 percent successful. He also got an intentional grounding call in addition to committing a turnover in the red zone ON FIRST DOWN.

Norv Turner once said to me that just about the worst sin in the NFL was a turnover near the goal line on FIRST down because "you've got TWO more downs." You can't turn it over, EVER, when you already "have points" in the red zone and it's first down. That should be in an NFL QB's DNA. So should: Don't take a third down sack to throw away a field goal attempt. Especially in a low-scoring game.

Part of Griffin's problem is that he still thinks he's Superman. Or that he should be Superman. Or that people will be disappointed in him -- and he is just DYING to please other people to the point where it is both a major personality strength AND weakness -- if he doesn't TRY to be Superman.

He has a lot of talent. But he hasn't "broken the mold" for his position. What applies to other fast, mobile but not superhuman NFL QBs also applies to him and he needs to figure it out and ACT on. He's special but he ISN'T "different." Bryce Harper (who's gotten hot) has the same problem. Like RGIII, he was told so often so young that nobody ever played the game like he could/would someday that it's hard -- once you get to the big show -- to realize, "I could be really good. But all that stuff about fundamentals and playing smart and knowing the details about all those boring "situational strategies" in my sport -- that applies to ME, too."

So ESPN puts on Ray Lewis yesterday to talk about Ray Rice. Lewis is convicted of Obstruction of Justice in a double murder in Atlanta. Now he's going to publicly advise Rice. Please get this guy off my TV.

I saw it. An uncomfortable moment.

But perhaps deservedly uncomfortable.

What are your true feelings about the chances of a Nats-Os World Series: 1) as an objective reporter; 2) as a fan ...

Today, I'd guess that both the Nats and O's are about 5-to-2 or 3-to-1 to get to the World Series. IOW, less than 50 percent but very good because they are playing their best at the right time. So, the odds on both making it would be about 1-in-6.

On this one, what I think and feel are the same. Neither the Nats or O's are EVER going to have a significantly better chance to make a Series both because of their own talent but also because the huge-spending teams are no invincible and key teams in their path have injuries or problems.

The Nats seem to be past their Braves "jinx." The Cards are good and experienced, but not THAT good. The Dodgers have Kershaw, but also plenty of head cases and gimpy players. Mattingly is a long-time favorite of mine, but in a 7-game series he could lose one for you in the late innings.

(I'm starting to think the Nats got a very good one in Matt Williams. He still has lots of basic Managerial Bleepstorms to get through. Star Hates Me. Total Team Gag No Matter What Button I Push. I Screwed Up Big Time, Now How Do I React. All that stuff happens to the best. But this has hardly been an easy first season.)

O's are likely to have to get through Oakland and/or Angels. They play both of them well the last two years. Don't know why. (A's CRUSHED Nats early this year.)

The O's biggest problems are that their rotation isn't October Dominant and their offense (all home runs) is slightly overrated -- they've only outscored the Nats 624-606 and the Birds get to use a DH.

Nats biggest problems are their history of nerves -- you can't prove you've gotten past the big-stage jitters until, well, until you've DONE it -- and the reality of Kershaw, who IS Sandy Koufax or Randy Johnson in terms of dominance relative to the era in which they pitched (ERA+).

It can happen. It's on the board. And there will never be a year when it is MORE likely. But all that adds up to maybe a 15-to-20 percent chance.

Tom last week I asked a question about RGIII, his ability to be a top NFL QB, and you lit into me ... which I understand, it's early, he's been hurt, etc etc, and I'd rather be lit into by someone in the know like you than by the ignoramuses in the Post forums (fora?). So let me put it another way: How long do we wait to see one shred of evidence that he's anything but a mediocre QB? There are a lot of excuses ... bad O-line, the injury, new coach, he didn't fumble the ball Sunday ... but the hype so far is all off-field marketing/PR and zero on-field production. Bottom line he just led his team to a loss against a 2-14 team. The Emperor has no clothes. Why am I wrong?

I certainly didn't mean it personally. So, sorry for any sting.

Just about my first rule for practical living -- you know, just getting through life without messing lots of stuff up -- is: Figure out what the real situation is, don't pretend it's something else (just because you wish it would be that way), then make the best of it. Yes, I know millions of people try to do this. But when we turn into sports fans, this sort of annoying realism isn't much fun or much entertainment.

With Griffin -- and I'm going to try to stop calling him RGIII until he's done enough post-knee-surgery to deserve an NFL nickname -- you have to digest the high probability that he is never going to be worth what was paid for him in draft picks or match the promise (and production) of his first dozen NFL games.

That is a very tough swallow.

But he didn't pay those draft picks for himself. Snyder and Shanahan both swore up and down at the time that they were in incomplete agreement on Griffin's value. I can hardly think of two people in sports who, if they said, "We agree 100 percent," you'd immediately think, "I wonder what the Vegas line on that is? Even money? Nah, probably less than that." But they are permanently stuck with it.

So, instead of thinking of him as Mr. 1+1+1+2, I just think of him as a normal highly-hyped 1/1 pick who is going to have to learn to play QB in the NFL. 

He's good at the quick-passing game that you saw on Sunday because he has quick feet and good enough accuracy on those throws. He's evasive. Not like a Vick or Staubach, but fast-shifty enough to make plays our of broken plays. He's courageous. He's smart. I don't think he's NFL smart yet because he was put in an offense intended to maximize his impact immediately rather than develop him as a semi-normal NFL QB. That's probably part of the franchise's pattern of searching for the Most Destructive Possible Long-Term Plan, Just So It Gets Everybody Off Our Back Today.

He was an average NFL QB on Sunday, including his mistakes. I think that's the base line. How much better can he be than average? Well, he needs to stop saying foolish things like, "I need to be great so that we can be..."

He doesn't need to be great. He needs to know you can't turn the ball over on first down at the seven-yard line when you haven't even been touched. He needs to know that he's in field goal range but a guy named JJ Watt plays on the other team so he, in about three seconds, may have to chuck the ball away.

Griffin needs time. Sunday was his first NFL game as a "normal" quarterback. He has skill players to help him. But, against any good defensive front, his O-line is at least 50-50 to stink to high heaven in that game.

Relax. Give Griffin time to find out what his ceiling really is.

Or, of course, you can scream for Cousins. Then you will probably get a very nice diligent young man who can become an average QB and remain an average QB -- somewhere along the career arc of Jason Campbell, Patrick Ramsey and Gus Frerotte. I've seen that movie.

I haven't seen the Griffin movie yet. It might have a semi-happy ending. I'd like to endorse the idea of allowing that to happen. Which takes time. Like this year and next year. Could he just get so beat up and demoralized that you just have to change. I guess so. But that's not what I saw Sunday. He wasn't as good as a 96.7 quarterback rating on the road against Watt, Cushing, Swearinger and a half of Clowney. But it was a first step toward progress. JMHO.

Obviously he doesn't want to come off the bench, but it doesn't seem worth it to let him injure himself and possibly make the injury a long-term issue. He wouldn't be an awful bench bat either!

The Nats say he's not coming back until/if his hamstring is 100 percent -- as in 100 percent, like, you know, on Opening Day. Then he can play anywhere, do anything, including play 3rd.

I'll believe he's 100 percent when I see him on the field playing that way. He has a bad injury. And nobody knows the exact timetable with hamstrings. They refuse to tell you. However, it's pretty hard to believe, given progress to date, that he couldn't be a bat off the bench in the playoffs and a DH if such a thing ever came to pass.

I haven't been really enamored with the new manager's management of games this season--just good enough in most cases. But last night's move to leave Fister in was a veteran move by a rookie manager I was not expecting. That was leadership at the right time. But does Williams lose games because of his style?

The (apparent) exchange between Williams and Fister is an instant classic.

Williams: "You want this guy?"

Fister: "Yeah, baby." Looked like he added, "I got you."

Mound conference timed at two seconds, total, and several grins.

Half the games in baseball are decided by one or two runs. This ~50 percent doesn't vary year-to-year or decade-to-decade. In the modern game, the toughest manager's decisions come in the sixth and seventh innings. Much of the rest is formula or making sure you don't grind your bullpen to dust. Almost EVERY move in those innings is second-guessable -- it's one of the big attractions of baseball. Manage along with the manager. I've been managing along with them in real time, then talking to them about it afterwards, and before the next game, for 40 years. The list of Indisputably Dumb Moves by Matt Williams this season is pretty darn short, in my book, and dwindling by the month. You can't always be right, but you can always have a sensible reason. His players think he does.   

So, with this latest fiasco with the NFL, we're supposed to believe that nobody from the league saw the whole video before the initial two game suspension. Does anybody have any reason to believe that? Even worse, if they did see that video, how can they justify only a two game suspension? But, then again, this is a league that has in the past, and continues to lie to its players and the public about the dangers of head trauma inherent to football, and this is also a league that turns a blind eye to painkiller abuse, while dropping the hammer on players who smoke marijuana, which is much less dangerous. I'm beginning to wonder if Roger Goodell is Bud Selig without a moral compass.

A lot of good points.

BTW, Bud was walking down the street one day in 1995 when (future Supreme Court Justice) Sonia Sotomayor dropped a legal anvil out of a 20th story window on him and the rest of baseball's owners. They'd "taken a strike" and lost a World Series for nothing. Lo and behold, when Bud awoke, he discovered "A Moral Compass" attached to the anvil. He put it in his pocket. Gradually, over the next 15 years, he did a better and better job of learning how to read it -- in a job where having a moral compass makes your work harder. 

Roger just got his anvil to the head yesterday morning. We'll see how he reacts.

Bos, he has not been himself lately. Last night he gave up a hit and a base on balls; this eventually lead to an earned run (fortunately not a blown save). I imagine his WHIP is going way up along with his ERA. He did have two strikeouts, but he seems to have lost a lot of his edge. Will we see the old Clip again? What's the problem?

The season of many fine relievers (not named "Mariano") look like a sine wave in math. Not a straight line. Davey Johnson used to talk about a team or player being on "the up-slope" or "the down-slope of the sine curve."

Clippard has three weeks to get back on the next up-slope. He's pitched a lot. He needs work to stay sharp. But an eight-game lead ought to mean you can use him exactly as often as suits him best from now until October. 

I know she's knowlegible in Football and everything, but what really gives her a good resume to handle America's Favorite League? (sorry baseball)

She said (long ago, I think in 2002) that she wanted to be NFL Commissioner someday. I doubt she was kidding. I think she'd do a good job. I know her slightly. The first time she set foot on Augusta National to see the Masters she needed somebody to show her around, tell her the history/anecdotes, etc. Through a mutual friend, it turned out to be me. The Secretary and I had a very nice day. She's a huge knowledgeable sports fan, especially football. She eventually became one of the first two women members of Augusta National where everybody (that I've talked to) likes her. I actually think it would be a comfortable fit.

But I don't think she'd be the figurehead that NFL owners usually want. It's a sport that was at its apex just a couple of years ago but it has very big problems over the next 10-to-20 years. I think the question might be: Would she even want the job?

How much has he regressed?

Well, compared to most games last season, and certainly to this preseason, he PROgressed on Sunday.

That was his first game in a new offensive system for a new coach. Gee, think maybe it would be smart to give him a little while longer to master it?

If the Orioles make the playoffs, which team would you rather they play against in the first ALDS? How about the Nats in the NLDS?

Best case: Royals at O's -- AL Central winner vs AL East winner.

(WC-WC winner) Pirates at Nats. (Or, more realistically) (WC-WC winner) Giants at Nats.

But there's no easy road.

Yankees coming to town next year but only a two-game series? Schedule makers don't want the Nats to make more money?

They just don't want the Yankees confidence to be damaged too badly by their traumatic visit to Nats Park.

Dodgers, not the Braves, but still pretty close. Do you have another wish for this week?!

I'd like to see...world peace. Or a zero-calorie, non-fat chocolate sundae that tastes exactly like the real thing.

For me, it would be a tough call.

Let's see... horrendous special teams blunders, a blown coverage deep for a score, and a mostly sputtering offense. The more things change, the more they stay the same, apparently. Did you see any reason after Week 1 to hope that this year will be any better than last (other than a lack of coach/QB drama)?

Yes.

Aside from one incredible blunder by Helu -- come on, the only rule is "don't let him release to the inside" -- the special teams looked much better. The defense looks better. Rambo seems useless and Amerson gets picked out on third down. But they're generally active. And perhaps you heard that the QB was 29-for-37 for 267 yards and no interceptions. Except for two fumbles at the 7-yard line (one by the QB), they might have won, say, 20-17. Then the discussion would be much different. 

However, as perhaps the best (and insufficiently used) player, Alfred Morris, said, "Shoulda, coulda, wouda doesn't win games."

I know, I know--it's not like what columnists or fans do that drive a team's success. But I do wish folks would stop looking at the Nats and proclaiming how great they are every time they go on a short roll. Against the Phillies, the Nats looked anything *but* World Series worthy with sloppy play, (un)timely hitting etc. Thank goodness they scraped out a win in the last one! So yes, the Nats have a shot at going to the World Series. But after the crashing end to 2012 and the disappointment of 2013, can we declare a moratorium on Nats and World Series talk--no matter how carefully caveated--until they actually, you know, get there?

They look like a WS team to me. That's not an opinion, once you finally reached it, that you're supposed to keep to yourself. Doesn't mean it's right. But if that's what you really think then you are supposed to open your mouth -- and risk sticking your foot into it -- and say it.

Of course, there are at least three other teams that look that way to me and the Cards may soon join the list. Tiny banquet table, big guest list.

OMG they could go 0-16. Really, are they this bad??

I just love Washington.

I don't get Jayson's swing. He appears not to roll his wrists over at and after impact. Do you see that? Not being critical...just don't understand how he gets the power he does. Thanks.

It's unique. Or close to it. It's taken him years to figure it out. And he can talk a looooong time explaining it. It keeps his bat going through the zone as long as possible. And it sure works for him.

Do the Nats pick up his option for next season?

He's having an amazing season, especially in clutch or symbolic spots. This may be his one best chance to get a ring. But the Nats need first place as a spot to put Z'man or perhaps eventually Werth. LaRoche can certainly get a multi-year deal after the year he's had -- but that wouldn't work for the Nats I wouldn't think.

The game often has surprises, but just enjoy him while you've got him. You're seeing why Davey bought beef from him, spent a whole off-season courting him to come back after '12.

Do you think that MLB is secretly (secretly) hoping for a Nats/O's World Series? Sounds like Yankees vs Dodgers to me.

They are hoping for almost anything ELSE. Like one or both L.A. teams reaching the World Series. 

Boz, I know you have said previously that you think a beltway world series is highly unlikely but the O's pitching seems to have stabilized and the Angels lost their No. 1 starter and the Nats have seemingly ironed out the closer issue for now. Both teams seem to be playing at almost top form for the end of the season?

Yup. Gotta root for it -- regardless of how you feel about the O's. Amazing if you like 'em both, delicious if you want to beat 'em.

At the beginning of the season, the comments on the Nats were they beat up on the weaklings (Mets), but lost to the good teams (Dodgers, ATL, etc). Since the All Star Game, the Nats have won series against the Pirates, Brewers, Giants, Mariners, Dodgers and Giants (and a few weak teams). They lost to the Phillies and Marlins (and Braves). They seam to be able to turn it on for a big series, when they have to.

Now it's easy to say, "It was just a matter of time."

Long way to go. Lots of twists in the road. Either this year, or some year (2047), we'll get to see the whole three-ring circus -- DS, NLCS, WS -- and it'll still be more than we expect.

Should we be concerned that the Nats lost 5 of 6 to the Phillies?

No.

It may have helped sort out the closer situation and also give Soriano time to get himself sharp (and he was sharp in the first half.)

But I SHOULD be concerned about what time it is. Sorry to slight the tennis U.S. Open. Here's a link to Dave Sheinin's match report: http://www.washingtonpost.com/1779f7c6-37c0-11e4-a023-1d61f7f31a05_story.html

See you next Monday at 11 a.m. Loved the questions. Cheers.

 

Has anybody noticed that he can't seem to get away from anybody?

I'd say my biggest concern is that, without the supposedly awful knee brace, he doesn't look much faster. Where is the "extra gear?" Maybe he just hasn't had a chance to turn it up.

Do you believe that the Ravens and/or NFL didn't see that video?

Hard to believe they didn't see it if they WANTED to see it.

Easy to believe that they didn't want to see, only made perfunctory noises about, "Hey, can we see it," and were delighted to hear the "No" that they expected.

Never took it personally, nothing to apologize for.

Cool.

...but two 3:1 odds makes for 9:1 odds, not 6:1. I'd love to see it happen!

Thanks. I went with 40% chance for each. 40% x 40% = 16% (1 in 6) as my guess.

But you're right that 3:1 for each is more reasonable -- even a bit optimistic -- and 9:1 odds more realistic.

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Thomas Boswell
A Washington Post columnist since 1984, Thomas Boswell is known for the many books he has written on baseball, including "How Life Imitates the World Series" and "Why Time Begins on Opening Day."
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