Ask Boswell about the Washington Nationals, spring training, the Capitals, the Redskins and all Washington sports

Apr 30, 2012

Washington Post Sports Columnist Tom Boswell answered your questions about the Redskins' game, the Capitals, the Nationals, the rest of D.C. sports and more.

Past Ask Boswell chats

So on my ride into work today, I for some reason switched over to ESPN 980 with Mike and Mike. The sportscaster turned host Mike (who looks like he wears lip gloss) said that Washington was the absolute worst place Cousins could have gone. To me this makes no sense. 1) he's pretty much guaranteed to be in the NFL 4 years, that to me is good enough 2) in that time he's going to be learning from a coach with a reputation for developing quarterbacks 3) he has no pressure on him to save a franchise 4) god willing he will never have to play AND his body will not take any punishment 5) either he'll become a good piece to trade after four years or MS just put him on a path to be a serviceable backup for 12-15 years (poor guy).

     This is Washington. This is the Redskins. So, nobody ever seems to want to get any facts. (Not your job "Blessing." But it should be mine.)

     In my Sunday column I called the Redskins drafting of Kirk Cousins in the 4th round as “moronic.”

      I’d like to change my tune this morning: it was “utterly moronic.”

      Cut to the chase. Since ’91 more than two-thirds of all quarterbacks taken in the 4th round have been complete busts; and less than 10 percent of those 4th-rd quarterbacks have had significant careers __Kyle Orton, David Garrard and Aaron Brooks out of 31 quarterbacks taken in the 4th rd. Only one even made a Pro Bowl __Garrard, once.

     IOW, there's about a 70 per cent chance Cousins will never even throw 5 TD passes in the NFL. So, where's this mysterious "four-year value?"

      What if the Redskins had drafted for need and taken an offensive guard or tackle in the 4th round? Since ’91, 55 percent of all guards and tackles taken in the fourth round have become NFL starters __50 of 91. That’s f-i-f-t-y f-i-v-e percent. And many have been starters through long useful careers.

       So, if you already relinquished three No. 1 picks and a second-round pick for RGIII, and you’re offensive line is weak, how stupid is it to draft a quarterback again in the 4th round? It shows such a stunning lack of basic understanding of the odds-of-success in the draft that you wonder where Draft Research stops and Egos On The Loose start in the Skins draft room.

       Say it again: You have less than a 10 percent chance to get an Orton-Garrard, Brooks-level quarterback. But you have a 55 percent chance to draft on offensive lineman who will someday become one of your starters.

       Here are the other quarterbacks who have been drafted in the 4th round, starting in ’91: Mike Kafka, Stephen McGee, Isiah Stanback, Brad Smith, Stefan Lefors, Luke McCown, Seneca Wallace, Rohan Davey, Chris Weinke, Sage Rosenfels, Jesse Palmer, Joe Germaine, Danny Wuerffel, Pat Barnes, Jeff Lewis, Danny Kanell, Ron Johnson, Chad May, Dave Barr, Steve Stenstrom, Perry Klein, Doug Nussmeier, Casey Weldon, Will Furrer, Chris Hakel, Scott Zolak, Donald Hollas and Bill Musgrave.

       So why on earth would the Redskins think they could get a special QB in the 4th round? Back in the mists of time, when the NFL had less teams and a 4th round pick was more like a 2nd round pick is today, the 4th round actually did produce two QBs of note __and only two__ Joe Theismann in ’71 and Sonny Jurgensen in ’57.

      Gosh, both Redskins, both still in the local spotlight and with access to the era of decision makers. That can’t be the reason. More likely, it’s a case of Draft Board Worship. (We spent a zillion hours creating it. We’ve evaluated Cousins as a steal. We’ll show ‘em how smart we are.)

     When the Redskins do something which, on the surface, looks dumb but, on inspection, looks even dumber, it sometimes takes years to figure out why it happened. But the answer is usually pretty amusing.





Tom, While I am enjoying the Caps remaining in the playoffs, I am astounded at how utterly boring this brand of playoff hockey is. Aside from the Flyers/Pens debacle, every series is much like a tractor pull. Dump and chase. Left wing lock...yada yada yada. Absolutely mind numbingly boring. How do you see it?

The Caps used to be exciting. And get knocked out and mocked in the playoffs where defense, diving shot blocking, jamming the crease, etc., is the approved style.

Now the Caps are working hard to be boring __like Hunter's effective '90's Caps__ but successful in the post-season because they conform to what works in the NHL playoffs.

No, I don't like boring hockey. I loved watching the "old" young guns. The reason these 1-1 games are exciting is because so much is at stake. BUT if the Caps current games were between two teams I didn't care about, they'd be tough to watch. (No NHL fan will admit this.)


Boz, I know that writers have expressed mixed feelings about the Skins picking Cousins, but with so many holes to fill, and a dearth of draft picks, why in the world would anyone use that pick on another QB? They're just asking for a QB controversy. Another example of how this team never misses a chance to screw something up.

That bothers me, too. Mike Shanahan is (obviously) a control freak. This gives him more control (power) over the QB position and doesn't let RGIII get "too big" too soon. But that doesn't really make much sense to me. His future and the whole RGIII trade are now so connected.

I know if you look at his statistics, he has been very solid this season. But watching Wilson Ramos this season (even excluding Saturday night 9th inning), I haven't been as impressed with his defense. He seems to drop a lot of balls and guys steal on him. The bat is definitely getting there, no issues with that, but his defense worries me...

Again, facts help. Ramos is a hitter and may become an even better one. Last year .267/.779 OPS (VERY high for a rookie catcher). In '11, Ramos threw out 32% of base stealers __very good. His fielding % was .993 with 3 passed balls. This yr, .993 again, but has only thrown out 1-of-13 base stealers in 15 starts behind plate. What's up with that? He's always had a minor problem w catching throws to the plate. But you'll trade 2-3-4 of those a yr for a 15-to-20+ homer catcher any day.

People like to say nice things in the spring, so they said them about Flores. I probably did, too. Last year his OPS was .567, this year it's .561. That's bad. He's hitting .240. He has 1 HR in 111 ABs in '11-'12 combined. No indication he'll ever have Ramos power. Flores is 2-for-2 in throwing out runners in his seven starts.

Flores is getting plenty of playing time __1/3 of games so far. He'll get to show what he's got. Ramos needs to throw out more stealers. But that is also connected to who's pitch/holding runners. I think Flores usually catches Gio, a lefty. That helps him.

In short, they're being used properly now. Ramos needs to catch more pitches cleanly. You don't want them yelling at you from the other dugout, "Hey, just box-and-crate 'em if you can't catch 'em."

Boz, Does Zimmerman have problems going to his left? I was at opening day a couple of weeks ago and every time the ball was hit up the third base line, Zim looked awful. Not only did he not get to them, but he looked bad doing it. I'm not looking for Brooks Robinson here - but I am a little worried. Is this something he's working on?

You saw the one game in Z'man's career when he didn't go to both his left and right  exceptionally well. Within a week, Davey Johnson said (of a smash down the line), "Brooks doesn't get that ball." Then, in one of his sly asides, he said, "Brooksie couldn't go (to the line)." Well, there's a World Series highlight film (Lee May) proving he could. But Z'man range __left, right and in__ is one of the Nats biggest strengths.

A differetn pair of questions would be: Will Z'man ever really fix his throwing? Every time he throws overhand it's downright scary for a Gold Glover. LaRoche crosses the bag into foul ground so smoothly that you don't notice that accuracy on routine plays is still a problem.

Much more important than a couple of throwing errors by an all-around amazing defensive third baseman is the question of whether Z'man can stay healthy over the years of his loooong contract if he keeps throwing himself all over the field headfirst __playing third or running the bases (his latest injury may have been, in part, from a head-first slide into home plate).

Long-term, this is a big deal. Nats have LaRoche now and an option on '13. If Rendon is ever healthy, maybe he is your 3rd baseman by  '14. But the more games Z'man misses with injuries, the more 1st base will be calling. You can't have your No. 3 hitter missing 15-to-60 games on the DL no matter how wonderful he looks at 3rd on his great plays. 

Can't he SLIGHTLY adapt his diving style at 3rd and STOP any head-first slides ever? If he could, it makes him much more valuable, long-term, at third.

Oh, and I wish he'd stop playing smashed to his left sidesaddle. He believes in it. Come on, he probably knows himself far better than I do. Still makes me nuts because it is one of those habits that show up (as a problem) in big September, October games someday.

Hey, Boz, thanks for doing this chat. Should Rizzo try to trade for a slugger once Wang is ready to re-join the rotation? Seems to me that there is just no place for him right now, because Detwiler has arrived earlier than expected, and should'nt be moved out of the rotation, imho. Your thoughts on the Nats' woeful hitting of late?

Short-term, losing your 3-4-5 hitters (Z'man, Morse and Werth yesterday) will cripple any lineup. Assuming Werth is in a day or three, Zimmerman is "only" as bad as a 15-day DL trip (I'll believe he's back when I see him at 3wrd base) and Harper adds a little something, I think the offense will be poor-but-adequate by the day Zim returns. When you add Morse __don't ask me when, I assume about July 1__ then things could get interesting. Johnson keeps saying that he can't believe this lineup (when semi-healthy) doesn't hit more. Not hit a LOT, but hit pretty well. We'll see because Ramos/Flores at catcher, Z'man-LaRoche at corners, Desmond/Espinosa/Lombardozzi in middle-inf and Morse/Werth/Harper plus others in the OF SHOULD be at least an average offense. And when Harper matures, a good (not great) hitting team.

But these 3-2 and 2-1 games aren't going to stop any time soon. 

Are you ready for an I-95 World Series Hon? Seriously though, why must the O's tease us like this? What are scouts telling you about Hammel? Guy throws 90 all his life now he's 95 with movement?!

Hammel looks like a steal and Lindstrom has helped, too, making the Gutherie trade go from being mocked when it was made to praised now. Chen doesn't look like a fluke. But the rest of the rotation may limit them in A.L. East. But they are definitely better. Their pitching got so bad it seemed pointless to watch them. No lead safe, blown out of games. But NO the Orioles will not have anything like a 3.06 ERA at the end of the season. They'll regress. But, you'd hope, still have a shot at a .500 year.

If I gave you 3 to 1 odds that Cousins would play more than Griffin this year, would you take the bet?

I've got a bet for you, based on history, not Cousins. 50-50 he doesn't throw 50 TD passes in his career. (The real odds, based on the last 50 years of drafts,  should be 50-50 he doesn't throw FIVE TD passes in his career. But I don't want to insult him. He might be Kyle Orton.)

Tom: Love your chats. 2 Questions: Is S. Strasburg a rookie? Also, once Zimm and Morse return, would you charterize the Nats line-up (also including Harper) as scary, pretty good, or major league competent? Cliff

It is very hard not to think of the potential  '13 Opening Day roster after seeing how comfortable Harper looked in L.A. But you always have to assume "good health." So many teams are so banged up this spring that the Nats almost seem normal.

What you do NOT want is huge disaster injuries, like Michael Pineda's SHOULDER injury w the Yanks that may change his whole career. So far, assuming Storen's bone chips are the usual minor career delay, the Nats have dodged all the big long-term bullets. But they've gotten nicked every time you turn around __yet they just finished a 14-8 April.

That underlines, once again, that outstanding starting pitching and good defense put a limit on how bad you can be and always give you the potential for upside even when you aren't hitting. In every sport, offense comes and goes, but defense never sleeps. And FIVE talented starting pitchers (and Wang coming back) is the best defense possible because starters can pitch 70 per cent of all your innings.

To answer your question! "Pretty good." No GREAT mid-order 35-homer, 115 RBI bat, unless Harper becomes that by age 21-22-23.

A link to performance of all MLB teenagers who played 100+ games in a season.

Harper has been impressive, but glance at these numbers __and they are THE BEST, not a cross-section of teenagers who TRIED to play in MLB__ and you'll get more realistic expectations.

Boz, I've watched more hockey in the last two weeks than in the previous two years, so I'm no expert. But when I watch, Ovechkin doesn't stand out. I don't see amazing moves or shots or passes and a lot of time, I'm not even especially aware if he's on the ice. Is he closer to being just another player than he is to being a star now?

Partly it's him. Partly it's Hunter's system. BUT Ovechkin ended the regular season very strong with his scoring touch back. He needs to regain it against the Rangers, starting...oh, like tonight!

The Rangers defense isn't nearly as big and intimidating as Chara and the rest of the Bruins. NY plays fine defense __the Caps only got 18 shots in Game 1__ but there ought to be enough room for Ovechkin, Backstrom and Semin to be forces.

Granted, it is sad when you watch a game and forget Ovechkin is even out there. And, as everyone knows, he tends to wander on defense. Every time people jump on him __where is the Great 8__ he seems to show up pretty soon thereafter. Does he change in a phone booth?

However he does it, he better do it again __fast. You don't want to go down 2-0 to the No. 1 seed, even if you have beaten them a couple of times in the recent past. This is a faster and better Ranger team.

Is it just me, or is Strasburg starting to show his nasty side (in a good way)? It seemed like Matt Kemp had no chance against him. If he's not the best pitcher in baseball, he will be soon.

I tweeted your last sentence, almost word for word, after his last start.

In '11 J Z'mann gained arm strength & speed from Apr to June. He didn't have ALL his stuff until almost mid-season. Partly, warm weather helps. Strasburg, maybe the same progression. In his 1st 3 starts: 95.9, 95.0, 95.8 mph. On Saturday, when he was just utterly dominant without even using his best pitch __the changeup__ he averaged 96.6.

He's turning out to be everything anyone could hope. But more efficient with slightly less Ks and therefore less pitches.

As the season goes on, you'll see more 7 or 8 IP Strasburg starts and less 6 or 7 IP starts because Davey will allow him to go back out for another IP with 90 pitches through 6 or 7.

The whole starting staff is being used very carefully __low pitch counts. They can, as a group, average 5-to-10 more pitches game in warm weather and take even more weight off the bullpen.

In a few years when this April is remembered for the Nats, only two things will stand out. The Nats had one of the lowest team ERAs for the month of April in history (2.33) and a POTENTIALLY superior rotation actually exceeded expectations. And, second, Harper made his debut.

Of course, you can't be as certain of Harper as you can of Strasburg. Strasburg is like Shaq __the first time you see them, you say, "Nobody's going to stop this guy from being great. It's just a question of how great." No pitcher with stuff and command is going to get hit very much. Period. Harper's development is a different matter. A 500-foot BP homer doesn't count in the same way that a 100 mph fastball in the bullpen translates to the field. He looks like he's "seeing the ball" very well right now. He took close pitches with confidence in LA. And Capuano, who is the definition of the kind of LHer with a big breaking ball who should eat up a 19-yr-old LH hitter, didn't dominante him.

My view on Harper __yeah, after TWO games__ is that he looks ridiculously at ease and should stay in MLB until the pitchers tell you __loud and clear__ that you have to send him down. That may be "never." But there is NO HURRY to send Harper down as long as Morse is hurt and nobody else has been worth a damn in LF. Unless he really struggles, give him LF (and starts in CF against LHers so you can platoon Ankiel) until Morse returns. Then decide. Hope Harper makes it a tough decision.

At one point in one of the games this weekend (I think it was Sunday), the camera showed Harper standing in the outfield, taking in the crowd with a sweeping gaze. He didn't seemed overwhelmed, he looked like he was just absorbing it all. He just looks like he's ready for the big stage, even now.

For now, it looks like Davey nailed this one: The kid is ready and he'll probably develop better and faster at the MLB level than in AAA. Johnson always says that's how it worked with Dwight Gooden. "If you are ready, you're ready." Then you can almost hear Davey screaming inside his own head; "And Harper is READY. Are all you people blind?"

I have to keep reminding myself that he is 19 YEARS OLD! How does that work in the clubhouse and dugout? Are other players mentoring or protecting him or are they basically saying "Hey Mr. on the Cover of SI at 16 - Figure it out"?

Last spring, there was distance between Harper and vets. Now, at least in spring training, there is none. They love his attitude and talent. They have little problem with his 19-yr-old aspects, though you can bet that Z'man, Werth, Davey, DeRosa and others have his respect.

Strasburg REALLY likes him, already refers to him as "Harp." (He doesn't have to act nice. No underwrtitten rule about it.) Totally different personality types, but huge athletic arrogance, desire to dominate. I wondered if they'd be oil and water __which ain't good. Looks like they may be fire and ice __which works just fine, because  other teams can die of either heat or cold.

A huge part of the right kind of leadership is the will to dominate. Think: Frank Robinson. Of course Harper is way too young for that __though 20-21 isn't too young to be an elite everyday player, just not an elite team leader. But Strasburg already has "ace" bearing and presence. You just hope they stay in one piece. It's gonna be interesting. But a LOT of bumps and tests along the way __even little ones like getting out of this four-game losing streak before it becomes significant and erases the 12-2 good streak.

Right now, in different ways, you're seeing Espinosa and Ramos go through classic Sophomore Jinx issues as they try to live up to '11 instead of just playing with exhuberance and job at being in MLB, the way they did last year. Then, expectations were set by their own view of themselves. Now, they are judged AGAINST themselves __the stat line. They all have to go through it.

Hey Boz. Even the best pitching in baseball will lose every game without some run support. It's a waste to have this staff. I say let's trade Zimmermann and/or Detwiler and get a front-line, power-hitting outfielder or second baseman. Must give up quality to get quality. Retreads and minor leaguers are not the answer. Nor is it a new problem. I can't stand another season of 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 losses. Your thoughts?


Patience, patience. Everything that MATTERS __multi-year__ is going great or at least OK. The problems are temporary, a matter of a couple of months at most w Storen and Morse.

LaRoche __all the way back.  Makes him tradeable or "keepable." Gonzalez __absolutely worth the 4-for-1 trade. And the SS, GG, JZ __Big Three__ look as good as you could hope, and they seem to interact well with Gio the smile between the two determined flatliners. Werth __looks pretty good, getting some fan respect. Henry Rodriguez __way ahead of schedule. Mine anyway. I've watched every flamethrower from Mesa to Benitez to Gossage to I-don't-know-how-many. In an amazing game where he felt responsibility not to screw up Strasburg's win and Harper's debut, he got really nervous and lost control. So what? He needs all those steps (and failures). You're looking for pieces for an eventualy October team. You want them stressed to the cracking point __many times__ so that their acceptable stress load becomes higher and higher.

People, this team's ceiling is VERY high and they know it. Doesn't mean they get there. Two or three awful injuries, career collapses to the wrong players and that changes. But, for now, you have to keep lookoing for answers to long-term issues. Can Tyler Moore be a surprise semi-late bloomer? With Morse out, maybe he gets enough ABs, for awhile, to give good data. You NEVER klnow about hitters until you see MLB pitchers work them over.

Get used to 3-2. And even 1-0. The Giants won the World Series in '10 with a season full of them. You have to learn how to play those type games.

But, in time, you hope some 7-2 wins get thrown in. 

Let's see where this team is on July 4th. Assume that all of the injured players will be back by then and have had some time to get back up to speed. IMHO, the Nats should be happy to be five games over .500 at that point. If they are, I think they'll defintely be in the playoffs.

That's probably correct. Several big "ifs." But probably right. 

True or false: If RG3 doesn't pan out, the Redskins are SOL for the next 3-5 years.

If Memorial Bridge collapses...

The Skins may go 5-11 next year. Or whatever. But RGIII __assuming he stays in one piece__ WILL pan out.

The talent is the talent. You can see it, grade it, measure it __as all the scouts, experts have.

It's the makeup, personality, background that make it VERY hard for me to believe that RGIII will be less than a very good quarterback. "Great" is something entirely different. Last two minutes. Big third downs. Facing criticsm after bad games. Etc. Also, going to Super Bowls, and all that big talk, is totally different, too.

But it has been eons since the Redskins had a Very Good QB to BUILD AROUND. My baseline is probably 6-10, 8-8, 10-6 for the team but with RGIII's ability obvious long before that.

Can the Redskins screw it up. The last decade has made everybody incredibly gunshy about D.C. sports in general and the Redskins in particular. Gotta wait and see. But you have a coach in Shanahan who has PROVEN he can coach. Spurrier and Zorn were...I won't say far over their eyeballs for their head coaching duties.

But, yeah, sure, if, somehow, reality decides that I'm wrong __would that be the first time, I tend to forget, oh, the 10,000th time, sorry__ then the Skins are shafted for years. But that's not how this ends, imo. 

Strasburg-Gio-Zimann-Detwiler-Greinke! Make it happen Boz. Use your influence!

Questions we never dreamed we'd see.

Detwiler hung in, 3-2 through 6 IP, with Clayton Kershaw after a 1st IP HR in L.A. That's a quality start with some meat on it, even if it's a loss. 

Does any other team have a comparable battle for the No. 5 spot in their rotation where a young LHer w No.6-overall stuff__ like Detwiler with a ~3.00 ERA in his last 13 starts, may have to go to the bullpen?


He's doing well enough at the plate but I'm loving Harper's Defense and that's something that will only approve over time. As interesting as batting practice would be, I'd love to watch Harper and Ankiel fire missles from CF to home plate

We knew Harper had a cannon. But the accuracy late in a 1-0 game to defend a Strasburg lead on the road __that's got "clutch" on it. So did the SF to put the Nats ahead in the ninth. And the catch Sunday __I'm glad the centerfield wall was injured badly__ was crucial at the time in a 0-0 game that looked like it could end 1-0 or 2-0 (and did).

Repeat: "It's only two days, it's only two days." What you like is his pleasure in the pre3ssure and spotlight. Whether he has to go back down for 300 more at bats, or whatever, it's vital that he RELISH the competition at the top level. Strasburg did, from Day 1. Looks like Harper does, too. So, it's mostly a countdown to when his skills are polished enough to play everyday. And whether that poilishing is best accomplished at Nats Park or AAA or some of both this year.  

It seems Shanahan has bought into the "take the best available player" theory of drafting. But to do that, isn't he comparing apples and oranges? How do you know if a guard is better than a linebacker? How does he know Cousins was the best talent left on the board? And what if the best players all happen to be punters. Would he draft four punters? Some of suggested he picked him up to trade later. But why trade later for something you can get and use now? Utterly moronic isn't nearly strong enough.

This is the team that drafted three receivers in a row __when it had needs everywhere__ and ended up with two of them total busts. Hey, the Board, built entirely by geniuses, said to keep picking receivers. When they came out to announce the picks, Zorn's face looked like, "What have I gotten myself into?"

I heard Rizzo on MLB network on Fri. and he talked about how the Nats are "deviating fro the plan" concerning Harper (I know you wrote about it). He also also said they were "In the business of winning". After the interview, Billy Ripken brought up an interesting point when he wondered if this meant the Nats would deviate from Strasburg's innings limit plan. What do you think?

You probably can't do too much damage to a top hitting talent by rushing him A LITTLE as long as you don't let him flounder for months. But if you wreck Strasburg's SHOULDER before he's 25, and after he's already had TJ surgery and while every "expert" on earth is moaning about his "inverted W," then you should be taken out and...

Strasburg will pitch in turn, get shut down around 160-170 innings and that is that. There'll be no discussion. Part of the reason the Nats do well with Boras clients is because he has so much faith in Rizzo's ability as a responsible developer of young talent. If you try to make some bogus make-the-fans-happy run for the last wildcard spot and throw Strasburg 200 IP, Boras will/should draw a huge "X" through the name "Washington," regardless of whether Strasburg is hurt or not.

Strasburgh could be one of the best pitcher ever. Two years ago, that was hype. Now, it's obvious. IMO, he has a "right" to get a fair shot at living out that professional destiny. Right now, the method used with JZ'amnn after TJ surgery, and many others, is clearly viewed as "best medical practice." That's all you can go with __the best current state of medical oppinion and evidence.

I really didn't think Harper would be able to contribute anything for a while and would have been happy just seeing him hit it out of the infield. Did you think he'd get an RBI and a hit in his debut? Also, what does it mean that he came up this early. Does this mean we can lose a year of him down the road?

No, the Nats do NOT lose a year down the road. My wording on this point in my column was awkward. (Nice goin'.) They brought Harper up one day AFTER the deadline that would have made him eligible for free agency a year early. By doing it they way they did, they get the max number of years; if he never went back to the minors for a day, he'd be under Nats control through '12-'13-'14'-15'-16-'17-'18. 

Doesn't that look pleasant, all typed out.

If Washington hadn't given up their 2013 and 14 and first round picks to move up for RG III, you could almost defend the Cousins pick. But without those future picks, they needed to add solid depth with every pick this year. Servicable backup QBs are dime a dozen. Hell, undrafted Kellen Moore is probably more pro-ready than Cousins.

Rex Grossman is a first-rate BACKUP quarterback. A gun slinger. Bold. Crazy. Hot or cold. Experienced. Went to a SUPER BOWL. Still low mileage.

Hey, what the heck, they probably only squandered a 5-6-7 year starter on their offensive line. No big deal.

Are we looking at another 2nd-Round heartbreak? Don't get me wrong, given all that's happened, I still think this season is a success. But I'm getting worried; Holtby did not look capable of keeping up with King Henrik. Your thoughts? My biggest fear: that GMGM will use the end-of-season rally as an excuse to ignore the still-glaring need to upgrade the team at C & D next season. What do you think?

I think if they win tonite in NYC, the Caps go on to win the series because they've thought __but never say__ that they match well with the Rangers. But it'll be long and tough.

Even if they lose, I don't think they roll over and die like they did last year. They're healthier __no "injured defensemen" excuses__ and they're still the nunderdog, so they have the what-the-heck edge.

Just hope the Caps are NOT happy w themselves because they won one round. They still have a lot to answer for __this year, previous post-seasons.

What matters most in playoff hockey. I jotted down, "Talent, effort, focus, confidence, luck." (Hot goalie would fall under a few of those categories.) I didn't add "coaching." Caps have the talent to advance. In the regular season, their effort and focus was inconsistent while the Rangers were exceptioanlly intense all year __a trait that tends to carry over. Past failures may hurt confidence, but the Bruins series is fresh in mind. Luck __aren't the Caps about 30 yrs over due for a double dose of it.

Looking forward to Caps tonite, Harper debut in DC on Tuesday and, oh, don't the PHILLIES come to town this weekend!? Purely by accident, I'm sure, the Nats rotation sets up this way for the offensively-challenged Phils: Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann.

Cheers. Outta here. Thanks.

Seriously...what's the upside of giving him another contract? I can't think of any. Grunfeld deserved the unemployment line. It's easier to dismantle a team than to build a good one. Ernie supporters need to ease up on the accolades on that, especially since he's dismantling a team that has his fingerprints all over it. Also, people need to ease up on how good the current players are. Good players don't necessarily make a good, cohesive team that wins some of the tough games and most of the easy ones. You ship players out, you ship coaches out....who else to blame but the Grunfeld himself? Most of the easy work has been done. I wouldn't trust Ernie to do the hard work. He's already failed miserably at that few times.

Ernie may be able to evaluate players and coaches. But it seems documented that he hasn't evaluated PEOPLE very well. Why would that change now? Good luck anyway. Always glad to be wrong.

I was at the O's game Sat. when they honored Frank Robinson. Any thoughts you would like to share about him? I think he was the greatest Oriole of them all.

As a player, manager and person, Frank's one of the handful of people in baseball that I've respected and admired the most in my career.

We had enough spats, with me covering his managing in two cities, that I doubt he suspects it. Hey, Frank, they shoulda made that big 'ol statue twice as tall __and it still wouldn't have been Life Size.

Read my comment one more time champ. This is a blessing for Cousins NOT the redskins. Did I say this was a good pick for the Skins? I said it was good for Cousins. Next time you want to flame someone, why don't you stay on their topic.

You get, and deserve, the last word.

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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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