Ask Boswell: Nationals, Redskins and more

Oct 15, 2012

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

If you could go back in time and change one decision Davey made in Game 5, which would it be?

Great question. But you'd NEED a time machine to know these words need to be said. Storen is NOT a nibbler or a pitcher who tries to "avoid the bat" or "doesn't trust his stuff." But in HUGE spots (the kind you haven't been in before), there is an unconscious (or something) impulse to avoid the bat, DON'T LET 'EM HIT IT. IOW, make perfect pitches. Take control of the game. Don't let bad luck or anything prevent the victory.

The problem: You CAN'T have that degree of control over the outcome __ever. And it often leads to disaster if you try.

So, with the hindsight of the time machine, tell him, "Drew, remember, picth like you always do: Go After 'Em. Trust your stuff. Attack. Throw strikes. Put the weight of being behind on them. Then live with whatever happen."

One of the great baseball phrases is: Lose the right way.

You can't avoid the possibility of loss. But walking the tying and winning runs, after you are ahead in the count and have your control, pretty much defines losing the "wrong way."

But that's so easy to say when you don't have to throw the pitches.

Also, KNOWING that Kozma got a hit, it's easy to say, "Well, walk him and get to this .250-hitter Cruz." But that's all Kozma is __a career .235 hitter in the minors. But, sure, if you knew the future, you'd make somebody else beat you.

But Kozma is Buddy Biancalana ('85 WS). You can't manage thinking: "Well, we can't let the great Pete Kozma beat us." Come on, Storen etas that guy up. Except he didn't.

Funny game. Just not real amusing at times. To say the least. 

Note: Davey refered to Kozma as "Cosmos" before the game. I guess that makes it a cosmic slip of the tongue.

I just can't put this behind me. Last night's game made it hurt even more. I kept picturing myself at Nationals Park on a beautiful Sunday evening as we took a 1-0 lead in the NLCS. I am certain that we would have beaten the Giants and gone to the World Series. My wife says that last night showed just how good the Cardinals are and that we should be proud that we came so close. I used to be a life-long Cardinals fan, but now I just want them to go away. Do you lean more toward my my view or my wife's? And how can I get on with my life? (Your column on Saturday helped briefly, but then I regressed.)

The Nats played well against the Giants in the regular season (5-1). BUT the Giants are playing MUCH better now than they were then. They've been better without Melky Cabrera (!?). I'd have called that LCS a toss up or slightly the Nats way.

The Giants prefer to face LH pitchers. So, this is the series when, I think, the Nats would have felt the absence of Strasburg. How would Z'mann in Game 1 and Jackson in Game 2 have reacted to pitching in relief on their throw days? It was a strong strategy. Jackson's power style __basically just fastball, slider__ has always been more suited to relief than starting.  But his command isn't good enough to be a closer. So your choice is to see him as an innings eating, inconsistent, hard-throwing, well-liked 4th starter who'll be .500 or using him as a 7th or (maybe) 8th inning guy. So, he's more valuable as a starter. But he and Z'mann really are good power-arm fits for the 7th inning in a playoiff game. 

So, the Giants would have seen Gio twice in a 7-game LCS. He's a great match vs Braves, Phils, Mets in the NL East. And against most teams. But Cards and Giants are two of the best lopsided kill-lefties teams. Also, Detwiler would probably have pitched Game 4 on the road. He was wonderful in Game4 at home. But would he have been as good in S.F. vs that lineup? Maybe.

Anyway, if it makes you feel less terrible, neither the Gaints or Tigers (assuming they win) would have been an easy road for Nats, especially minus Stras in a 7-game series.

But you sure would like to have seen it. And Z'mann might have pitched very well vs the Giants.

BTW, just to make you feel worse, the SF starting rotation isn't as good as it was in '10. They now prosper in their own huge park but are mediocre (at best) on the road. The Nats would've had home field advantage in the NLCS and their power bats might have done quitye a bit of damage to the SF pitchers away from PacBell.

I've seen SOOOO many teams in SOOOO many towns have brutal season-ending loses. This was rough, but it was also typical of the pattern.

Everybody latches onto one stat: Nobody has ever blown more than a four-run lead in a winner-take-all post-season game. That's true. Amd it's bad.

But not that many teams have ever even played in a winner-take-all game: only 82 in history. And a much smaller number have had a 4-5-6 run lead to protect. So it's a very small sample.

Oh, a big "by the way," the Senators/Nats lost Game Seven of the '25 World Series by the same score: 9-7. And they blew an early 4-0 lead. And they blew a ead as late as the 8t5h inning __and not ion a DS but in the WS.

Who was the BUM who pitched that game and gave up those runs? Walter Johnson (20-7) gave up all 9 runs.

It happens to the best of 'em.

Let me preface my question with the knowledge that Davey has forgotten more about baseball than myself or the vast majority of fans will know. That said Gio started struggling right before the 100 pitch count and it was pretty obvious to us in the stands he was just spent. Why did it take so long to get someone else up? Aren't managers supposed to have a quicker hook in the playoffs? Also since the problem was that Storen was being too cute, why didn't the pitching staff tell him to go out ant just throw strikes. Davey said so much in the postgame speech, it would have been more helpful to say this DURING the game to storen. I know he virtually never comes out except to pull a pitcher, but his calmness and fatherly way would have gone a long way out there and exceptions can be made for the playoffs.

I think I already semi-answered the second part of your question.

The 1st part, about Gio, is fascinating. Davey is still managing to develop young star players for a long Nationals run as well as managing in the present instant, too. There is NO BIGGER PIECE of the Nats p;uzzle than Gio, who is under team control through 2018 __SIX more years through age 32, his entire prime. Gio had an awful meltdown in St. Louis. Looked very rattled, "beside himself." You just cxan't let that become a pattern. Taking Gio out __while still in the lead and before he got 5 innings__ would have been a show of little confidence. And there's no guarantee you get out of the inning with even a 6-3 lead.

I'm not sure there is ANY other manager who would have had the guts to stick with Gio through the entire 5th inning. If Mo;lina hads hit a hommer on that final 2-0 pitch for a grand slam to put the Cards up 7-6, it would have been called the worst example of managing in the history of baseball. And you can bet Davey knew it. Why leave him in? Because Johnson has his players' backs in the broadest sense. Gio escaped. Now, instead of "Gio meltdown in  Game One and got knocked out in Game Five," it will be, "Gio gutted his way through 5 wild innings in Game One and helped the Nats win (sort of) AND he left in a winning position __giving the bullpen a nice 6-3 lead__ but THEY blew it and the stupid manager couldn't figure out how to get the last 12 outs.

I assume Gio goes on to have a great career. He's nver been hurt. He was the second-hardest-to-hit pitcher in MLB this year. You can't have a more valuable pitching commodity thasn that. If you had to pick between Gio, already a 21-game winner with three straight 200-inning excellent seasons and Strsburg, with his injury history, it would be a tough call on which has the betyter future. Considering the Nats control Gio for six years and Stras for three, I'd say Gio is the more important piece of the future. Well, Davey knows this and he left himself out on the skinniest limb __with Gio sawing behind him with every walk and WP. Let me make it simple: Davey took an enormous personal risk to save Gio's wild ass. And it worked. Gio should say, "Thank you" every time he sees Davey for the rest of his life.

I might have yanked him off the field (in shame) after he walked the scrawny pinch-hitter Robinson on five pitches to load the bases with no outs and a 6-1 lead. And it would have been entirely the wrong thing to do.  Certainly long term, and maybe even short term, too. They DID get out of the inning with a 6-3 lead.

When it comes to the managing of that game, I can tell you what 29 other managers would say (in private): Johnson got them to the 9th with a two-run lead and gave the ball to his closer. That's the manager's job. Doesn't matter how. His task is to take that 6-0 lead and make sure, no matteer what, that he somehow gets them to a high-probability winning position in the ninth with his closer. He did it.

Re Storen: Remember, he was 2 inches away from being a hero __twice. And if Desmond makes a great play behind second __if he snags the Descalso ball he has time to throw him out, because it was smoked__ then Storen's a hero that way, too. And Desmond gets carried off the field. He was, BTW, shielded by the runner on second base. Maybe Desmond didn't realize that the Card runner's secondary lead would place him exactly in Desmond's line of vision to the hitter. Maybe Desmond would have moved a step closer to second after he realized it. But Descalso hit the 0-0 pitch. Desmond never knew until it was too late that he was in a blind spot __for an instant__ behind the runner. You can see him lean leftfor a millisecond __uncertain__ before he dashes to his right.  

Folks, it's a brutal game. Get used to it. The regular season is a ball. There is almost nothing "fair" about the post-season. Base was born and flourished as a 154-game sport with a World Series that was a kind of lets-make-a-few-more-bucks exhibition at the end of the season. It was originally best-of-9 more than 100 years ago. That shows you how little The Founders, like John McGraw, thought of a "short series."

But it sure is exciting. (Especially if Freese doesn't check his swing by an inch.)

Boz, I was at the game on Friday -- sitting in the section right below you, actually -- and wonder what your take was on Alfonzo Marquez's strike zone. I saw at various points that Zimmerman, Kurt Suzuki and McCatty were having what looked to be animated discussions with Marquez and everyone around me was getting more and more upset with what seemed to be a shrinking strke zone, but the reality is that we were in the upper deck and had no clue what the zone was. I suppose I could go back and watch the game, but I have no stomach for it. So, did the crowd have a legit beef with the ump? I'm not trying to find excuses for a horribly blown lead, but is it true as some folks were saying as we left the stadium that Storen really should have had a strike three called to end the game before the final unraveling?

I've watched the 9th three times. First, the TBS strike-zone camera is a friggin' useless disgrace. Everybody in baseball knows it is inaccurate and a joke. One exec, in the middle of the series, said, "The umps don't mind the TBS box because it is so awful. They might not like the PitchFX (or MLB-Gameday) box to be shown on TV because IT'S ACTUALLY CORRECT.

So, ignore the TBS box. It's off-center.

I just used common sense. I didn't think the Nats got squeezed. But when Gio came off after the 5th, he was screaming at Marquez about strikes. That's not a good idea for your teammates for the rest of the game. He kn ows he's out (with 100+ pitches). But the other guys still have to deal with it. The only way Gio got the shaft is if the strike zone got moved to high-and-outside before Game Five. He battled. Much better than Game One. But I don't think the ump got him.

They erase the MLB-Gameday pitch-by-pitch after the game is over __at least I don't know how to recapture it. I wish I could see those pitch tracks because they are very useful. So, it's possible Marquez had a poor noight. But I don't think so.  

That's what the Nats meltdown reminded me of, one pitch away then it all fell apart. Fair comparison?

Yes and no. Come on, folks, this was only a DS game. There are maybe/probably going to be LCS and WS games in the future. But there have been SEVEN Game-Five showdowns in the Division Series in the last TWO years. How many, except the Nats and O's, can you remember and break down the way you can a Game Six or Game seven of a World Series.

The Nats lost a medium sized  Big Game. It just seems huge in D.C. because we haven't been to the party since '33. The Braves have lost in the Division Series SEVEN times since '00!!! The God-Almighgty Yankees have lost in the Division Series FIVE times since '02.

Learn to love the entire season and, if you choke away a Division title __like the NL East this year__ now THAT is something to get the "red-gas" about. But the things that happen in post-season are almost beyond belief.

There are comparisons to the '86 game, which Davey's team won. But look at Game Six of the '11 World Series __probably the most exciting (not best) WS game ever.

You think the Nats blew leads! They were ahead 7-4 going to the bottom of the eighth. They were ahead 7-5 going to the bottom of the ninth. They were ahead 9-to-7 (on Josh Hamilton's 2-run homer in the top of th 10th) going to the bottom of the 10th.

Then they lose it on Freese's walk-off homer to lead off the 11th. THAT __when you also lost the Series the year before and your team isn't young anymore__ is a tough loss.

By the way, when does David Freese run out of magic dust? He's clutch-clutch-clutch. But Cruz misjudged his famous triple to save Game Six in '11 and now he has the 1-or-2 inch checked swing. Freese hit .421 vs the Nats. He had a two-run HR off Bumgarner last nite. Yeah, October is just too big a stage for this guy. And Beltran, who hit .444 vs the Nats, also had a two-run homer vs the Giants. Beltran has a higher post-season career OPS than either Ruth or Gehrig.

Beltran now has a .370 average and a 1.305 OPS (!!!!!) in 108 post-season at bats with 14 home runs. That's 29 games. He's one of the greatest post-season performers in any spot ever.

The Nats ran into some tough customers, including Carpernter, 10-2 in post-season. They took 'em to the last strike FIVE times.

Game 5 was such a heartbreaker. I had to listen to the game on the radio as I drove 80 miles to my home. The radio announcers kept repeating that the homeplate umpire would not call strikes in the top of the ninth on pitches at the knees over the plate, but had been calling this same pitch a strike a couple of innings earlier. Is this typical in the playoffs, that the umpire forces the pitcher to throw the ball up the hitter can hit it, since low strikes in the strike zone are called balls. Do the umpires make the strike zone smaller when the game is on the line?

The 1-0 pitch to Freese was a klnee-high strike. But that's the only bad one I saw. Storen's slider was so sharp Suzuki had trouble "framing" it. But they were probably balls. If we complain about one 1-0 pitch, we'll complain about anything.

The bigger the game, the LESS you bitch __if you want to win. Whining just gets into your OWN head. And it doesn't change anything. At the very top level of sports you have to "play above the breaks." Or at least you have to think that way. You can't think, "Oh, that was a bad break, a bad call." Somehow, you have to think, "Bleep 'em all. You can't stop me. Go on, make it even tougher. I'm going to win."

You see this in the greatest tennis players who go through marathon matches and just, time after time, have to will themsellves into the mind set of: "Go on, throw a couple of more match polints at me. I just WILL NOT lose."

Now maybe you and I can't do that (cue the laugh track), but some of the people that we spend big-bucks-per-ticket to watch can do it. Sometimes.

By the way, lets get to some Robert (OMG) Griffin III.

I showed my wife (the non-football fan) the replay of RGII's 76-yard run. She said, "Is that fair?"

He really is almost unfair.

And he was NOT protected in any way shape or form in that Viking game. He had runs called UP THE MIDDLE on QB draws on the goal line twice. He had designed runs on crucial 3rd downs, like the 76 yarder. He ran 14 times, plus pocket hits.

He didn't get hurt. But he was put in every bit as much of a position to take big hits as in any game this season. He just didn't happen to TAKE a big hit.

Tom: I'm sure you saw the recent USA Today piece quoting unnamed National League GMs spewing their hate of the Nationals for the Strasburg shut-down, e.g., "hope they never win another game," "anybody but the Nationals," etc. I get that they may have handled the situation differently for their teams. But why do they care -- and care so much -- about a Nationals' personnel decision? If they're right and Rizzo was wrong, they should be applauding the move because it improved their chances by diminishing ours. I just don't get it. Do you? Was in Memorial Stadium for Games 1, 2, 6, 7 of '79 WS, and games 3 and 5 of '12 NLDS. Heartbreaking. Will I get to see my team celebrate the deciding win someday? It's really tough. GO NATS!!

A few blind sources rip a team that finished AHEAD of them? Seriously, you build a "most hated team" thesis on the basis of GMs who have every reason to be jealous or threatened because the Nats aren't doing things the way they do them? That day Rizzo said, "Jez, I guess a lotta other GMs must hate me." He was grinning. That so-maybe-I'm-doing-something-right look.

The Nats do threaten the front offices of other teams. That is true. And if they continue to succeed, I suspect the hostility will grow. The Nats don't buy Moneyball as the main template for team building. They think it's now a secondary tool because EVERYBODY has it. Where is the big edge in that? (Though the A's this year were amazing and it m akes you think that Billy B does more WITH the stats than anybody else.)

The Nats come right out and say that anybody __with effort and the right math-mind hires__ can incorporate the New Stats (which the Nats use); but they think that 65-35 emphasis on scouting is where you can now get an edge because the stat-fad wisdom swung so far.

Also, the Nats are STILL killing people by getting "unsignable" players to sign in the amateur draft (Giolitto this year). It wasn't just the huge bhaul; in the '11 draft with four high-ceilinjg players.

In two years, Giolitto will be back from TJ surgery and still only be 19. If you are a GM, how do you explain to your owner that you said, "Nah, we can't sign Giolitto. And if we do, he's got a bad elbow already." The Nats just signed him and never CARED if he'd need TJ surgery some day. They planned on that likelihood. That doesn't make other GMs comfortable.

Also, the Nats think Boras is a tough agent. They yell and scream at/with him for weeks before they get deals done. BUT the Nats and Boras Corp have a mutual respect. Boras thinks he and his people are MIUCH better scouts than MLB teams have. He once told me (paraphrase): You have to understand, the players we represent are DIFFERENT. They are BETTER because we are better scouts and evaluators than the teams or other agents. And then he'll give you 10,000 examples. Judst about the only person he seems to respect, maybe even want to p;ick his brain on players, is Rizzo and the Rizzo team of scouts. He can't talk down to Rizzo or Mike just tells him to go take a leap because he thinks the Nats collective opinion is at least as valid as the Boras Corp's evluation. 

TONS of GMs have told their owners that Boras Is The Devil, you can't deal with him, he's evil. Now, what it looks like, is that THOSE GMs can't deal with him but, somehow, the Nats can quite often.

I wrote a column earlier this year about all the ways in which the Nats run their franchise different and barely disguise their disdain for the way many other teams are run. And both Rizzo and Davey enjoy having a chip on their shoulder. Davey less with the years, but iut's still there. His Mets were Most Hated and he relished it.

Also, the Strasburg decision was made on principle!! What's best for the player and the team LONG term. When was the last time a team did that in ANY sport. And imagine how threatening that is to the people who run rival teams: You mean we have Win Now and have principles, too? God, it was tough enouigh before. Now that damn Rizzo says we should Act Right and, you know, just act like actual leaders and live with the consequences.  Thanks, Mike.

"Pssst, I hear that the Nats are the most HATED team in baseball. I hope they never win. But don't quote me." 

Tom, thanks for your contributions to the great NLDS coverage provided by the Post sports team. After the euphoria of Game 4, the gut punch in Game 5 left a lot of hard questions -- starting with the pitching rotation. What do you make of their collapse? Only one starter (Ross Detwiler, the unlikliest) showed up with the right stuff. Jackson probably pitched himself out of the2013 discussion. We all love Gio -- but is he really an ace? He had a career best regular season, but have we learned something about his big game ability and make-up? He seems a level or two below the standard of elite, big game pitchers like Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Verlander or Sabathia. What should the Nats do -- trade for or sign another starting pitcher for the 2013 rotation, or stand pat with Strasburg, Gio, Jordan, Detwiler and Lannan? Another starter (better than Jackson) might make sense for insurance against injuries as well as to bolster 2013 post-season prospects.

Strasburg, Gonzalez, Z'mann and now Detwiler looks just fine, thanks. If there is a PATTERN of post-season problems from any of them in future, then analyze it.

Looks like the Nats don't need a CF because Harper belongs there. You'd hope they could sign LaRoche to an extension, but it's a tough fit. They certainly have the payrool room to go after any starter. I think the first-round "out" will help motivate the Lerners to think of the team as a club that still needs a key piece or two. If they'd gone deep into the LCS __which you want__ it might have the counter-intuitive result of encouraging the team to stand pat and just wait for a full year of Strasburg and Harper. And the arrival of Alex Meyer in '13 or '14. Now, I think they'll see that how hard it is in October and they need to end up __net-net, after whatever players they lose__ with at least one more major part than they had at the end of this year. It's just not going to cut it to let LaRoche and Jackson go and say, "Moore and Lannan and the kids on the farm are good enough. We'll be back." No, they won't. They need to add more than they lose.

Point of interest (gto me): in the last 14b years, what happened to the team with The  Best Record in Baseball in its nEXT season?

There have been 17 such teams (there were 3 ties for best record). Four of them went to the World Series the next year. One won. Four of them won 100 games and ANOTHER 6 had at least 95 wins. Also, a 94, 93 and 90. Only two of 17 flopped __both back to 81-81.

BUT thoise teams won an average of 93.5 games the next year. So they tended to come down a notch in regular-season wins, though they stayed very good. And plen ty of them remained powers for years __especially the ones that were youngish. None, to the best of my checking, was as young as the Nats.

So, very promising. But not such a sure thing that you don't want to "add" this off-season instead of subtracting.

Yes, 2012 was a great achievement for the Nationals. And, yes, the team has evidently planted the seeds to be a contender for five to ten years. Good for baseball. Great for Washington! However, we should not overlook that our pitchers, especially Clippard and Storen, did not display any swagger in Game 5. Five runs in two innings?!! If the pitchers had aggressively gone after the Cardinals and failed, then the lost would be far easier to accept. Instead, the team lost trying not to lose instead of striving to win. If they want to be champions down the road, then the Nats will need, inter alia, a closer and a set-up man who regularly go after hitters with their respective best stuff, not nibble and fritz away leads.

Clippard and Storen had 5 K's in an elimination game the day before. Lotta swagger that day. And Storen had excellent stuff and, if you look at him on the mound in replays, a lot of composure right through the Descalso hit. He was "too fine" which a by-product of big pressure but the EASIEST of the stress-problems to solve.

The Nats have a lot of big arms that you didn't see in Game Five. Meyer, Henry Rodriguez post-surgery (don't laugh) and Christian Garcia.

I think Storen had better stuff in late '12 than he did in '11. He'd added a better sinker and a changeup. I think you have to see how good he can be in a full year of closing in '13. And hope he gets a re-do in the playoffs. Then you have enough info to decide. He was very good in saving Game One and winning Game Four.

There are VERY FEW relievers better than Storen has been in '11-'12 combined. A 2.64 ERA in 110 games. That's a big sample. Compare it to the greatest relivers ever. Only about a half-dozen, like Rivera, are clearly better. MOST are worse. Be careful. This guy is very good. And he learns. So he can get better, too. 


Will Drew Storen be OK? Gregg Olsen was never the same after the two wild pitches in the 1989 finale, Wild Thing was never the same after Joe Carter, Donnie Moore after the 1986 Red Sox, etc.

Gregg Olsen actually was exactly the same __or better__ in the next four seasons ('90-'93_) with 133 saves and a 2.41 ERA! His elbow blew out after five exceptional years. It took him years, but he still came back and saved 30 in '98.

Storen will be fine. Just an opinion. But a firm one.

Predictions? This year got just over 30,000 per game and the success was somewhat of a surprise. Now people got a taste of what real baseball is like. I rather enjoy seeing the park full.

I'll guess just under 34,000. Might be more.

But what's different, I suspect, is that fairly quiet Nats crowds suddenly became among the very loudest in baseball in Games Four and Five. I underrated my own town! I admity I was shocked. It really did rival RFK when the Redskins were good and the loudest Caps crowds. (Of course, they ARE the SAME people __D.C. fans.)

Of course, a game in May isn't going to get the reaction of a playoff game. But I bet that Nats crowds are considerably more active in '13. Now they understand the VERY significant impact that they can have on games. (You couldn't hear yourself think. The Cards have great crowds and I'm not sure which was louder.)

Also, I heard no complaints (so far) about all the SRO people __the last crowd was almost 46,000 in the park that holds ~41,600 seating. Those "railbird" perchs __like standing at a bar but with a decen t view of the game__ must have worked out OK or maybe well. Larry Lucchino said he envied that way of adding extra capacity __and still giving a legit view__ and wished he could figure a way to do it at Fenway, but there was no room.

Could you address the vitriol that has been heaped on Mike Rizzo and the Nats for shutting down Strasburg? I don't mean the disagreement but the condemnation and ridicule he has received for daring to think the Nats can get back to the playoffs in the future. The attitude is that Rizzo is a fool at best and arrogant at worst. The so-called unnamed GM in USA Today is a good example of this attitude. I don't think these people know what or who they are talking about. It sometimes seems as if some in the baseball world think the Nats are supposed to know their place and stay bad forever.

Good points.

You can say that it's a wise decision and pretty darn clear that it's the smart long-term decision. That's my position.

You can say that it's a tough call but the Nats made a decision based on lots of info and good iuntentions __both for Strasburg and the franchise (and th4ee fans.)

Those are the only two positions.

Those who try to pretend that the Nationals have done something awful or evil or threatening to baseball or all the rest of this stuff are borderline nuts. The question is: What is WRONG with THOSE people that they would take such a nutty stand on such an issue?

If Strasburg comes back next year and has a big season, just as Z'm,ann had an even better season, I suspect that the large majority of Nats fans will say, "Great. I get to see this amazing Starsburg guy every fifth day. I'm glad they took care of him. But I'll never know if he could've pitch through all of '12. But, hey, they didn't even make it oiut of the DS. They got outscored 32-16. We need to focus on getting better.  It's not like it cost us the World Series."

And iof Strasburg blows out (knock on wood), it's going to make it all the more obvious why the Nats had good reason to try to follow best medical advice. "At least they tried."

It's hard to believe that, within 10-12 years of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior that you can get such a reaction. 

Boz - a big thanks to you, Adam Kilgore, and the rest of the Post staff for your exceptional coverage of a very special baseball season here in DC. From facts, opinions, chats, and photos, the Post narrative was a worthy companion to all the on-field magic we were treated to this year. Job well done! As an organization, the Nationals certainly raised the bar this year and let the baseball world know it's serious about fielding championship-caliber teams. I can't help but conclude that the DC fan base responded in-kind, with record attendance, TV ratings, merchandise sales, etc. Is it a stretch think that DC fans contributed in a measureable way that will soon result in, 1) finally a fair and equitable contract with MASN, and 2) an All-Star game in DC for the first time since 1969?

Thanks. I thought our Post sections stood up against the best that I've ever seen in traveling to other cities for every post-season since '75.

As for Nats fans, they came up as big as Detwiler!

The MASN mess will be off-season misery for Bud. But the crowds, ratings, etc., will help the Nats case.

So, Boz, should the Nats resign Edwin Jackson? I assume he could command more than 5th-starter money elsewhere. And it seems that's all the Nats should pay him. Are there other free-agent pitchers who might be a better fit?

Jackson's a great guy, popular teammate and dependable. He's a durable 59-56 pitcher with an ERA just over 4.00 the last 5 years. That's who he is.

I suspect the Nats think their pipeline has young pitchers who can develop to be better than that. So I'd have a hard time figuring out how you could offer more than a one-year deal. He can do better than that elsewhere.  Wish him well, if that's how it works out. 10-11, 4.03 and 189 innings is what you got him for. His DS probably means he's leaving. No inside info on that though. JMO.  

Bos, how hard was it for you, Barry, Adam et al to rewrite your stories on deadline after the 9th nning on Friday night? I know it's your job, but I couldn't have written a post card under those circumstances. Good work.

Thanks. I had two different columns written before the game ended (at 12:29 a.m.) But neither, sure as hell, was the column I ended up writing between ~12:20 and ~12:50 when it was filed! That's what you get for ~30 minutes.

There was very fast (and good) editing, too. I think the column was on the web at 1:09 a.m.

You realize, of course, that if the Nats had scored three in the bottom of the ninth, we'd all have had to have stories/columns ready for THAT, too. It's a very strange profession. It's the old-fashioned "Front Page" from the '30-'40's movies, but on steroids. Oh, I mean lots of coffee. (At least in my case. I just line 'em up like ducks in a row.)

Everybody in the Post row in the press box was smokin' after midnight, that's for sure. I came back, rewatched theparts of the game that I might have screwed up, and got to bed at 4 a.m. But that's only about an hour later than most of the great World Series games __like the amazing ones last year. You reset your sleep clock to get to bed at 2-3-4 a.m.

You folks should realize that Adam Kilgore has to do MUCH more than the great baseball beat writers of past eras. He's blogging, tweeting, living with a 24/7 news cylce. Right now, he is the best. And we've got a ROY candidate in James Wagner. Being able to call Barry Svrluga, too, is just ridiculous. And even some  from Dave Sheinin, who's killin' it with RGIII.

Sorry I didn't get to more Redskins, but I am informed that they have 10 more games!

RGIII __by himself__ has made them a really fun team to watch again. It's been a while since the word "fun" came to mind.

I realize that all "prevent defenses" are awful __by design. But, surely, there must be some limit to how much yardage you can give up __in next to no time at all__ and still be considered to be "preventing" anything.

What the Skins played in the 4th quarter looked more like the Invite Disaster Defense. Too bad, because they made two huge plays to score or set up 14 points.

Who can really tell who's good and who's not in the NFL? And how good they'll be, or how injured, in Novermber or December. Of course, that injury thing applies to the Skins and RGIII, too.

But when Griffin is healthy, I suspect that 3-3 record and 178-173 in points is about what they are. That is a LOT better than almost anybody expected, especially if you''d included the injuries (Orakpo, etc.) and a cut kickler already.

That's it for today. Sorry, sort of, about so much Nats. But once every 79 years is kind of unique. And the last two games at Nats Park changed the entertainment-value quotient of the Washington sports scene. And probably for quite a while.


Someone used the roller coaster metaphor for Friday night. I think it was more like being in an elevator that drops from the 50th floor to the 25th, and then stops (when Suzuki gets that RBI). Just when you think you're safe and all is well, the last cable is severed and that's all she wrote. I can't remember being at a more heartbreaking sports event. I do want to commend the writers at the Post, especially you Boz. The columns the next morning in Philly or New York would have been brutal, ripping everyone from Storen to Davey to Screech. You and Wise set just the right tone for a fanbase in pain. Thanks for that. The analysis can come later.

Great elevator metaphor. Gotta steal that sometime.

Game 4 was hands-down the best baseball game I've ever attended, and game 5 was the greatest punch in the gut I've ever had. Forty-eight hours truly provided the extremes of the sports emotional spectrum. I spent all of Saturday in funk that was borderline clinical, but on Sunday I looked at this year's Spring Training calendar to calculate when pitchers and catchers report to Viera and by my estimates it's about 125 days from today. As I look at my sheet of unused and unneeded NLCS and WS tickets, instead of lamenting their uselessness, I marvel that they were ever even printed. The truth is, I never thought we'd have been in a position to lose game 5 of the NLDS this year - few people did outside of the organization, IMO. For the rest of my life I will remember the 2012 Nats as magical, and for the first time since probably the Roosevelt administration we'll have an Opening Day next year full of not just hope, but expectation. Can't wait.

I knew there was one mentally-healthy person in town.

(I've never included myself in that  group.)

What else could have forced that epic collapse? I'm still in pain.

When Teddy won for the third straight time...

No, it's not Teddy's fault.

Boz, I was born and raised in Virginia, and by the time my second birthday rolled around there was no major league baseball in Washington. I followed the Yankees (sorry) because my dad was an Orioles fan (petulance of youth), but I always said if the Senators came back I’d switch. I had no idea just how emotionally invested I could become in a sports team until now. I love the - Skins - even had season tickets for a few years – but it was nothing like this. I thought I was a sports fan, but this year's Nats really put the hook in me. After my wife talked me off the figurative ledge after Friday's disaster, all I can say is thanks. What. A. Season.

Yes, baseball is probably the most dangerous sport.

For fans.

Heartbreaking, gut wrenching loss. However, if there's anyone who can take a devastating punch and get up and fight again, it's Davey Johnson. It was a disappointing end to the season, but the future is bright for the Washington Nationals.

I will add one thing about Davey. Long ago he told me his view of managing, "Get me through sixth inning, boys, and I'll figure a way to win it for us in the last three."

He laughed. But he meant it. He will relive that Game 5 more times than any thousand fans. After Game Four, Susan Johnson walked past and said, "Old guys rule." She's going to have to remember to say it a lot this winter. They don't get there without Gio, without Strasburg, without LaRoche, without....but they REALLY don't get there without Davey.

Boz, how absolutely needed was that win yesterday for D.C. sports fans? When RG3 took off on that 76-yard run - and managed to elude the grasp of the Vikes' safety - I felt a huge weight lift off of my shoulders. It was the first time in two days I felt like I could actually breathe. Thank goodness for that wonderful moment.

I watched it about 10 times. Therapy, probably.

Tom, The way I normally handle events like Friday night are to go into a self-imposed media black-out. Basically, I turn off the game, and MLB, for that matter, until Opening Day next year. Maybe it's denial, maybe it's why I would make a horrible replacement for Mike Rizzo, but it keeps me otherwise functional. Which doesn't explain what I am doing here. [Sigh.]

Okay, that's funny.

Bos, that was the most painful sports moment of my life. I was at the game, and celebrated wildly with 45,000 of my best friends as the Nats crushed balls out of the park and jumped to a 6-0 lead, then nervously watched as they blew said lead, cheered wildly again when Suzuki got the "insurance" run, and waited to explode with 2 outs and 2 strikes in the 9th. Then....pain. Agony. Pure unadulterated grief. To rub salt in the would, I had a buddy send me FREE NLCS tickets to the first two home games, that package arrived Saturday morning. OOF. I turned on my phone to find a text message from a buddy who has followed the Red Sox since the 1970's that said "now you are a true baseball fan." I thought I was before, but apparently I've gained some new credibility. So what happens next year? Will ALR and Jackson be back? Which minor leaguers will factor in? Brian Goodwin? Alex Meyer perhaps? Will Anthony Rendon force a decision on Espinosa? Thanks for all your columns this year, it's been a real treat.

A longtime Cards fan sent me a loist of the incredible gut-kick loses that St. Louis has suffered back to '85 with Don Denkinger's blown call. It bwas an incredibly long list, including SIX teams that won 95 games and didn't go all the way. Some didn't go far at all, even with veteran teams. He's convinced that '06 and '11 are pay back for the 105-win and 100-win LaRussa teams in '04 and '05 that ended ugly.

Baseball's always a saga, folks. You have to enjoy the process. Like the '77-'83 Orioles that averaged 96 wins, but had to wait until '83 to win the Series.

With some distance (which journalists are cursed with) and some sense of odds, you KNOW how improbable it is to go to or win a Series. But that is not how it FEELS to players or fans. It just kills the players, most of them anyway. But, I'm afraid, the pain is also part of what binds people so tightly to their favorite sports and teams.

See you next week.

Amazing season for the Orioles.Was it a fluke? Or do you see them winning 90+ games again and competing for the AL East again?

They were amazing. But only 1% of questions were O's. Their ending was nothing like as dramatic/traumatic. I suspect it's another indication that while plenty of people still like the O's (and some very much don't), Washington is probably now even more of a Nationals town than it was a week.

I've never been so upset over a sports loss in my life like I was upset over game 5. I'm a realist. I enjoy sports and try not to get too involved seeing how I don't personally know any of these people. I haven't been able to watch any of the rest of the MLB playoffs since Friday, and won't. And today is the first day I've had the stomach to even look at the Post online. Is this part of being a baseball town now?

In '04, when the Yankees were ahead of the Red Sox three-games-to-none, I had a phone message from a friend who was, probably, the more rabid/knowledgeable Red Sox rooters I know. And I know a lot of 'em.

All his message said was, "They killed my father. And now they're coming after me."

The Red Sox, of course, ended up winning the World Seriez.

Will this guy ever become a better hitter? K after K. Swing for the fences all the time. Never seems able to be a situational hitter. Should he be the starter? Should he give up batting LH? He is a major week link in the offense.

Just saw this. A lot of you know about WAR (Wins Above Replacement) for measuring a players total value, including defense, base-running as well as hitting, pitching. Great idea, far from perfected yet. But it's pretty good on big-picture stuff. I averaged two of the most-used WAR stats __baseball-reference and FanGraphs for the most valuable Nats. Note Espinosa.

Gio Gonzalez...5.0 WAR. Harper...5.0. Desmond...4.3. Zimmerman...4.2. Zimmermann...4.0. Strasburg...3.9. LaRoche...3.9. Espinosa...3.1.

Only two other Nats __Jackson and Detwiler__ over 1.4 



The batters have a lot to do with what's perceived as "attacking" vs what's "nibbling". The Cards were chasing Storen's slider in game 4, so he was "attacking" then. They had some great takes in game 5 of pitches barely off the plate, so he was "nibbling" then. And of course if he throws it over the plate and it gets clobbered, then it's "you can't just toss the ball down the middle of the plate against major league hitters".


In "Ball Four," Jim Bouton wrote about how much he hated his manager (Joe Schultz) for coming to the mound and always saying, "THROW STRIKES....But don't give 'em anything good to hit."

It's kind of a problem in baseball.

Maybe that's THE problem. And why it's so hard. You have to do both. But if the Cards chase just one borderline pitch and make the third out, you're a hero. 

It helps to have a cosmic sense of humor. (No, not Kozmic.)

I don't think you're totally in line with this thought, but that painful loss completes the process of making the Nationals a real franchise now. They now have some history, the painful kind. As an Orioles fan of long standing, 1969 was important to appreciate 1970 and 1982 made 1983 sweet. Given the size of the crowds, the emotions they exhibited, the end result and the talent on hand, it's hard not to see the Nationals becoming a major part of Washington sports for years to come.

Yeah, there's that. Definitely true.

But I'd kind of like to cover an NLCS game against the Giants at Nats Park TONIGHT, you know?

I love advanced statistical analysis of baseball, but I feel its limitations are personified by Derek Jeter. Statheads hate Jeter because he isn't Ozzie Smith in the field, but numbers don't measure clutch play, toughness and leadership. The sight of him being helped off the field Friday has to be one of the most poignant moments in recent baseball history. As someone who appreciates the viewpoints of both the stats people and the insiders, where do you come down on Jeter. Very good player helped by Yankee myth? Or truly one of the all-time greats?

All-time great. What you said.

As they were helping him off, I almost tweeted that I thought his leg was broken at the time. But I was guessing and somebody might take it the wrong way. So I didn't. Really hurts the ALCS for me. Makes it too easy for Tigers. Makes Yanks a poor Series team if they somehow make it.

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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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