Ask Boswell: Nationals, Redskins and more

Oct 22, 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

They can do so much with the threat of the run on every play. On that first 4th down and 3, RG3 took just one step forward and drew in all 4 linebackers, then he stepped back and completed the slant pass. The Shanny's are doing so much to be creative. All things are possible with RG3, agree?

Yes, I agree.

I'll put some offensive stats in a post later. But RGIII's passing __by early measure__ is No. 1-2-or-3 in the league for completion percentage, avg-yards-per-attempt, etc. And the rushing offense is No. 1, just ahead of the 49ers.

However, let me start by saying that Pro-Football has a nice stat for measuring team strength called Simple Rating System. It includes strength of schedule. You can use it yo predict future games. If you use it with hindsight, it would "predict" that the Skins would be 3-4 now, as they are.

If you look at it for future games, it sees lots of very close games. But it also has the Skins fin ishing 10-6!

I'll give more later.

So who is to blame on the Victor Cruz go ahead TD? The coaches not coaching up the players in the situation of the game being on the line to at least impede the receiver coming off the line to mess with his timing or the player not having enough smarts to remember once they are in the game to do it? Somebody should have hit cruz coming off the line. No defender even stood in front of him before the play started.

I thought the Skins public reaction was a total cop-out. Paraphrase: He was double-covered, but they 'made a play.' In other words, don't blame the coaches 'cause we had him "double covered," so what else can we do? But don't blame the players because it was just a great play by the Giants.

Give me a break.

Who won the Super Bowl last season? The Giants.

Who was the Giants receiving leader in receptions (82), yards (1536) and touchdowns (9)? Answer: Victory Cruz.

Was anybody CLOSE to Cruz in receiving yardage for the Giants either last year or this year? Answer: NO! This season, BEFORE the 77-yard TD catch, Cruz had more TD catches (6) than ALL the other Giants receivers COMBINED (5).

Is Cruz known to catch long TD passes. Lets see, he had one of 99 yards last year. THAT'S PRETTY LONG! He already had one this year of 80.

So, with less than two minutes to play and a 23-20 lead, the Redskins have to stop ONE PLAYER before they stop anybody else: Victor Cruz. He's their No. 1 responsibility.

The Giants did NOT make a "great play." Cruz ran free. He just sprinted down the field. Eli did not hit him perfectly in stride. The ball had a tad underthrown. Fine pass. Not knocking it. But Cruz had to reach back, not out in front of him. He was so open that he didn't even have to break stride to adjust to the ball. 

So, the Giants made a correct "read" __as ESPN showed this morning. And they made a good offensive play.

The Redskins made a horrible "that-can't-happen" play to lose the game. That is one of the worst "WTF!!!" game-losing long-pass plays in the last two minutes that I've seen in 50+ years of Redskins games. Yes, there have been plenty of them. But it's got to be in the Bottom 10 worst-bombs allowed. Second and 8. Hey, lets just throw a bomb down the middle and maybe our best receiver can just get open deep for an untouched 77-yard score.  

It's not a play you shrug off with "they won it."

I understand: The Redskins were weak at safety before they had injuries and a full-season drug suspension. But that is all the MORE reason that you don't let Cruz BEHIND you.

Maybe the Skins are just so banged up and weak-to-begin-with in the secondary that they have to play "tendencies" and hope they don't get caught wrong, as they were by Cruz. I sympathize.

But there is ONE WAY you don't lose in that situation __getting beat over the top by a receiver who had 1500 yards last year, is on a 1400+ paace this year and has almost as much yardage this year as the next TWO Giants combined.

What does it remind me of? What is the worst way to lose a winner-take-all post-season game in MLB? I guess my answer would be: walk eight men, seven of whom contribute to five free runs for the other team and cap it off by walking the potential tying and winning runs in the 9th inning.

The Skins need to stop watching the Nats.

Which team in your opinion had the worst post-season meltdown? The Yankees? The Texas Rangers (this includes the last season with the Angels)? The Reds? The Nationals? The Braves? I would say the Yankees, but I could agree with a vote for Texas also. Also with performances like those by Sabathia & Linthicum(?), I think JZimm, Edwin Jackson, and Drew Storen weren't so bad after all. You?

Texas, to me, was worst because they lost three in a row to Oakland to blow the AL West, then lost to the Orioles in Texas in the WC/WC. That's a four-way parley. And they had the experience of being in the last two World Series and a veteran lineup.

I guess the Reds take 2nd place for losing three in a row, all AT HOME to blow their DS. I think you get more discredit for losing a streak of game than for any one blown game.

But give the Nats credit. That was a very bad blown game. The more I look for past comparables, the more it stands out. Though it's far from unique in post-season. (It's unique among the 82 winner-take-all post season games. There have been no other blown 6-run leads.)

A couple of disasters, for much higher stakes, so they'll be remembered a lot longer: In the '02 World Series, the Giants led the Angels 5-0 going to the bottom of the 7th. That's the famous game where Dusty Baker (who's waved in a reliver) calls starting pitcher Russ Ortiz back to the mound so he can give him the ball for his trophy case because he'll be the winning pitcher in the Series. The Angels' David Eckstein (brother of Nats hitting coach Rick) sees it and goes crazy on the bench: Look what they just did! Angels come back to win 6-5, then win Game 7, 4-1.

Also, in Game 4 of the '96 World Series, the Braves led 2-games-to-1 and had a 6-0 lead in the 5th inning with Denny Neagle (16-9, 3.50) pitching. Atlanta, which started the Series with two wins IN NYC loses the last four in a row.

Yes, there's Game 4 of the '94 Series when the Phils led Toronto 12-7 in the eighth __hey, that's worse than blowing 7-5 in the 9th, isn't it...well, maybe?__ then Mitch Williams torched the joint, the Jays won 15-14 and went on the win the Series. If they'd held the lead, it would have been 2-2 in games.

Anyway, there are worse blown leads than 6-0 in the 3rd, like the Nats. Tampa Bay blew a 7-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh in Game 5 of the '08 ALCS and lost 8-7. BUT they won the whole ALCS and went to the Series.

So, the Nats loss is "not so bad after all," is not the way I'm leaning. But maybe part of that is because maybe they would be in Game 7 of the NLCS TONIGHT at Nationals Park vs the Giants to see who goes to the Series.

Come on, hard not to have that in mind tonite4. You can bet plenty of Nats will if they can bring themselves to watch.

This is too negative! Lets have some balance here! positives

NLCS, Game 5, bottom of 2nd. Cards have runners on 2nd and 3rd, Kozma at the plate. Bochy walked Kozma, pitched to pitcher. Doubleplay. You think Davey was watching, and learning?

Noi. The Cards were not going to PH that early in the game even though they were behind.

The Kozma-Storen matchup was based on Storen's amazing <.160 batting-average-against RH hitters. He eats them alive, as well as almost any pitcher in baseball. Davey said (last week) that he didn't want to walk the bases full and risk walking in the winning run. What he didn't say is that a .167 pitcher vs a rookie hitter ought to be an overmatch.

It wasn't. 

After the Nats one strike away choke and the Skins defensive gaffe yesterday are Washington sports doomed to painful defeat forever or is the glass half full and we are seeing young teams going through necessary growing pains with joy awaiting one glorious day?

The Nats glass is WAY more than half full. They just won the NL East and led MLB in wins! Are ya kiddin'? Just teasing. The Nats didn't handle the BIG pressure of a winner-take-all game well at all. Though they stood up to an elimination game just fine. That's the usual progression. It's easier to play well when you are desperate. "Gotta win, gotta focus." But the double-edged win-or-lose with everything in the balance is a much tougher psychological problem. On a small scale, it's like the way you see EVERY good basketball team that EVER fell behind by 20 points suddenly "get hot" and cut the lead to five. That's "desperattion focusing the mind." But once you can win OR lose, you tend to tighten up again. There's no question several Nats tightened up. But you knew that was going to happen at some point __or I did. I certainly mentioned it enough in these chats. It was VERY important for them not to have their problem on a BIG scale, like not winning the NL East. That would have doner lasting damage to some players, I suspect. Maybe not. But that's a huge blow. Because they had such a great win in Game Four, I doubt Game Five will have much carryover effect __except to make them more determined.

As for the Redskins, if you put an 8-8 tyeam around RGIII, he will make it a 10-6, 1-5 or 12-4 team. I don't know which. But his value is enromous. After the New Orleans wins, everyb ody went pretty crazy but I think I was one of the crazier, writing that RGIII would be the most important Skins player since Sammy Baugh.

A few times I wondered if I'd lost my mind. But you have to type what you think. When you're wrong, just say you're wrong. Well, after those three plays in a row yesterday __the 4th-down scramble pass, the run down the right sideline and the beautiful "touch bomb" to Moss for the go-ahead TD, you gotta cross your fingers for old Sammy B. In a couple of years (or months), how good is Griffin going to be?

Okay, so we can be optimistic, let me explain the Simple Rating System __yeah, it's called "simple" because it's not physics. But Pro-Football reference is part of the same site as the great

The SRS incorporates won-lost record, point differential and strength of schedule (I believe). The best SRS is the Bears at 15.4, but that's suspect because they've only played five games. The more data, the more reliable (or the less unreliable). Next is  S.F. at 11.3 __meaning that all other things being equal, they are 11.3 points better than an average team on a neutral field. The Texans are second at 11.2.

The Skins are +2.1. Next week, they play the Steelers who have played a very weak schedule (-4.3 to the Skins +1.7). The Steelers SRS is -2.2. The game is at Pittsburgh. So, if you want, give the Steelers 3 pts for that. Add it all up: Skins SRS +2.1, Steelers SRS -2.2 and Skins +3 for home field = +1.3 pts.

Obviously, this is a guesstimate. I don't endorse it in any sense except to get a very broad brush pitcure of how the Skins might do against the rest of their schedule. I won't give the exact numbers because it seems to imply I think they mean something! But the Skins would favorites over Pittsburgh, Carolina, Phila (home), Balt (home), at Cleveland, at Phila (!!??) and Dallas home. They'd be underdogs at Dallas and vs Giants at home.

If the Skins lost 30-0 next week, all this would be blown sky high and SRS would probably say they finish 6-10, not 10-6.

But I wanted to make you feel good.

The $36M cap hit really hurts the Skins ability to put a solid team around RGIII this year AND next year. And the injuries just get more and more brutal. People keep going down and nobody is coming back __not Garcon so far, that's for sure. Glad that Cooley gets another shot. But teams will be able to game plan better for the Skins in the weeks after an in jury because they know the weakened points to attack.

But RGIII __whose completion % is now 70.4 (!!!) and whose QB ratiung is 101.8, not even counting his 468 yards rushing (a pace for 1,070!)__ has just been insanely good so far. His three intercep[tions in  189 passes is very good. Because the Skins run options, and because RGIII has coughed up the ball when clobbered a couple of times, he does have 7 fumbles (three of which he recovered).

RGIII BY HIMSELF constitutes a half-full glass. What can you add to him? Right now, the Skins defense is as bad as its offense is good. And, imo, RGIII is m aking the skill players look far better than they would with any of the last 136 Skins quarterbacks.

Griffin did throw a very easy Int yesterday. And he lost a fumble. So, for the sake of not going too far over the moon, there is that. And when he's hit in the pocket he's not big enough to rip away from tacklers like some 6-5, 240-pound QBs. If you get to him before he can use his speed, he can be sacked. But he reads defenses so well that few teams want to blitz him. Who was the last rookie you could say that about.

But, please, if he stays healthy __knock on wood, head, everything else__ this guy has a chance to be historic. His numbers right now are neck and neck with Rodgers  P Manning foir best in the league __and that's just in passing efficiency, not rushing.

The last time I remember a Washington team going into the top of the 9th with a 7 to 5 lead, then losing when the opponent totalled 9 runs, was the last game of 1971. This time was bitter, but at least we won't have to wait 33 years to have another try at it. Here's Shirley's take on the Senators' last game.

Wow! Nice dig. I'd forgotten it was 7-5 when the fans stormed the field with two outs in the top of the ninth. My dad and I were in the third base stands. No, I didn't run on the field. Hondo hit a homer. Because the Yankees were given the win by forfeit there were no winning or losing pitchers. So Dick Bosman lost a "W."

I'm not sure about what the official "final score" is. Baseball-reference lists it as 7-5 Nats, but with an asterisk for the forfeit. I'll look at your Povich link later. Thanks.


Isn't keeping LaRoche a no-brainer? He was our best hitter this year, bailed out Zimm more often than I'd like to think about, and said he wants to come back. There's no better FA out there. Moving Morse/Moore to 1B would be a big hit defensively and would remove a LHB from the lineup. I understand that there might be an infield logjam in a few years, but (a) that's a nice problem to have and (b) we're built to win in 2013. Any thoughts as to how this will play out? This seems like the Nats' most pressing hot stove league issue (with Edwin Jackson close behind).

This is the Nats biggest issue, by far. Bigger than any free agent signing. This is a generally weak free agent class, imo. Those who are good have some serious odinjury, age or makeup issues. Aside from Josh hamilton, LaRoche is the best LHed power bat. He sure picked the best possible year to be slightly above his previous best __but not out of line with his career norms. Per 162 games, LaRoche has averaged 27 homers and 93 RBI for his career. But nobody except Cal Jr actually plays 162 every year. So, it's lower. But LaRoche hit .271 with an .853 OPS this year and his career numbers are .268 and .820.

This is really a tough call. He and the nats really like eachother. His defense helps everybody. His LHed bat gives balance to a lineup that needs it. OTOH, a lot of the Nats RH hitters don't have much troulke hitting RHed pitching. So the "lefty power bat" angle isn't as big as it seems. But it's big to Davey. Lots of rival teams said the Nats were tough because of their L-R balance in both pitching and hitting.

The Nats have exclussive negotiating rights with him until 5 days after the World Series. That's the time frame in which they really need to try to get this done if they seriously want him. Once you're "free" and in demand, few players end up coming back to their old teams. Yes, you can spend the LaRoche Money in some other way. But he certainly is a good fit, probably for at least two years. His best "comparisons" are to LH hitters with similar numbers at 32 who aged well, like Paul O'Neill and Tino Martinez. B ut there are a lot that didn't age well or still hit when they were healthy, but didn't stay healthy.

The only LH power bat in the farm system is Skole (3rd baseman) __minor league Nat player of year. But that requires a LOT of extrapolating.

OTOH, there are a ton of pretty good free agent pitchers who couldadd length to Strasburg, Z'mann, Gio, Detwiler. A few (in no order): Peavy, Dempster, Greinke, Lohse, Marcum, Saunders, Ervin Santana, EJackson, Correia, Harden, Kuroda, McCarthy. And a dozen more. Peavy will get mentioned with the Nats. I kind of like Dempster as a fit. Doubt thyey'll go hard after Greinke. We'll see. Way too early to know.

Every day that goes by without either a commitment to Davey Johnson or an announcement that he is leaving the team is another day we can't put 2012 in the rear-view mirror and start focusing on repeating the success in 2013. By all accounts Johnson wants to return, is there some kind of hold up on the Nationals' part?

Davey will be the manager next year. This isn't "news." It's common sense. Everybody wants it to happen. But I will say that the Nats tend to make many decisions more slowly than they should. OTOH, if they acted quickly, maybe they'd have extended Riggleman and they wouldn't have Davey. Ah, irony. Right now Jim Leyland doesn't have a contract for '13 and he's in the World Series.

This will get done. Relax. But the sooner really would be the better.   

To nullify the Freeman-to-Williams would-be TD was a shame. I'm content with the rule against a WR being first to touch the ball (usually, catch a pass) after going out of bounds. It puts the kibosh on Veeckian efforts to sneak an unearned advantage. Because QB Freeman was out of the pocket, it was within the rules for the defender to push the Bucs' Williams out of bounds. How deflating, even for those like me who didn't care about the winner, for the game to end with Williams penalized for coming back in bounds to catch the fourth down pass despite clearly having no intention to go out of bounds in the first place, much less to deceive. Whaddya say, there, Boz?

I watched the play in real time. It's a good rule. And it's good to make it clear cut. If you step out, you're out for the rest of the play, no matter whether you were pushed or did it on your own.

Boz, as a SS/SA alum and senators fan, I am wondering what your best guess is as to who we need to bring in to give the Nats the best chance of going even farther in the playoffs in '13. Would Hamilton be too risky?

Hamilton is fascinating __in the abstract. In reality, you have an exceptionally close clubhouse that has grown together and will get better together. (The Nats have "characters." They aren't bland.) When I saw Hamilton's dropped fly in center and his fuss with Ron Washington in the last loss to Oakland, my gut feeling was, "I wouldn't  touch that guy with a 100-foot pole."

I'll cut the length of that pole down to 10 feet. But it would still be a mighty long pole.

The Nats afford to subtract Jackson, Lannan and Wang, too. You need at least 7 starting pitchers, and some say eight, so that you end up with five as the season goes along and you almost alwsays have injuries.

Next year, the Nats lineup may have less injuries, but maybe the rotation has more. You absolutely can't count on 150 starts from your top five pitchers __as the Nats got this year. The Nats shouldn't think of themselves as a 98-win team __that's too aggressive. You need more margin of error in your planning. They need to come to camp with two established starting pitchers in addition to SS, GG, JZ and RD. If one of them is Jackson, okay. They should remember hos essential the Lannan insurance policy was. In a more normal season, you might have seen Lannan for 20+ starts.

In 2014, Harper moves to right, Werth to left, and a centerfielder (Goodwin, Hood, Perez?) comes up. Zimmerman looks increasingly likely to head to first sooner than later. With both these things being said, how shocked would it be to see Morse, Moore, or both, traded this offseason? And what would the return be like for either of these very good players?

Morse doesn't get the respect he deserves because he looks like a wild swinger and doesn't walk much. But he keeps hitting (.294 in 4 yrs in DC). You can't get full value for him, imo. Also, the Nats love Moore. But, again, he only has limited ABs at AAA (but 10 HR in no time) and limited ABs in MLB (but 10 HR in no time).

Throw Rendon into the mix at some point. It's a complex puzzle. But a very nice one. The Nats depth almost everywhere (with Alex Meyer, the RH pitcher in the wings, too) and compare it to a rebuilding team like the Skins who cover their eyes after every injury. Amazing that, three years ago, the Nats were far lower __in every respect__ than the Skins are now. Things can change fast. 

So that was double coverage, huh? Hate to see what their prevent defense looks like. We Washington fans tend to be overly dramatic, as if everything that happens here is either the best or the worst thing to happen to any football team ever. But realistically, how many teams in the NFL have a worse secondary than the Redskins?

They were weak when they were at full health.

My son and I, and a few friends, watched the game yesterday. Someone said, "Watch how easily Eli reads the Redskins defense. He just looks for 'No. 23.'"

The Skins have allowed 2299 passing yards __that makes them the worst by 269 yards! IOW, they have given up a full EXTRA GAME worth of passing yardage over the NEXT WORST team.

In the same number of games, they have given up more than a THOUSAND more passing yards than the 49ers. And the Skins also are tied for the NFL lead in most TD passes allowed.

BUT they are only third worst in total defense! To be fair, four teams have given up more point-per-game than the Skins and the defense has also scored some points. More important, the Skins rank FIFTH in the NFL in takeaways (16). That makes up for a lot of yardage sins.

But it doesn't make up for letting Victor Cruz get BEHIND you in the last two minutes from 77 yards out... Don't get me going again.

I don't recall neither Davey Johnson nor Steve McCatty going out to talk to Drew Storen during the ninth inning of his game five outing. Why wouldn't they? I understand why Davey wouldn't pull him - loyalty, long-term impact, etc. I get that. But I don't understand why neither one would talk to him to settle him down, etc. Your thoughts?

McCatty went out. I think before the Descalso at bats.

I'll have to double check that. Because Descalso hit the first pitch to tie the game. And you always assume the visit was to remind the pitcher that "Babe Ruth is dead. Throw strikes." 

1. Not enough pressure on the QB with Orakpo and Carriker gone 2. Lack of tight coverage and physicality in the secondary 3. Too much focus on running and lack of passing attack 4. London can't hang with the top TE's...can't cover

We all know the answers. Skins have a bad defense. Injuries are part of it. But they have an amazing offense thanks to one player. Some of us grew up on this with Sonny J. It's very exciting. It's a heckuva lot better than what we've been watching in most of the last 20 years when, every couple of years, I have to write a different version of the column that say, "The Redskins have one of the three lowest-scoring offenses in the NFL in the last 18 years."

Everybody throws up their hands and says, "I didn't know we were that bad. Are you sure?"

Once you have a frame of reference for just how bad something really is, then it annoys you even more. At least that problem is solved. Only one thing will be remembered about the Redskins this year: A player who might become one of the greatest of his generation came into the NFL. How good was he? How fast did he get even better? What is his ceiling? Was he used properly so that the Skins had at least a chance of keeping him intact until they could put a team around him?

That's what my buddy and I decided to call it. After that, when the Skins would have had first down on the 12, there were three straight turnovers. Shockingly bad call that led to a big turnaround.

Bad call. It was a "leg tap."

Can we now refer to our prized cornerback as Angelo Hall? Obviously he has no clue what D represents on a football field.

I suspect that line has been used before. But it never gets old.

However, Hall does __get old, that is. He's still a "play maker." How long does one counter-balance the other? 

While of course I'm delighted they swept the Yankees, until that series weren't they, too, an underperforming overpaid team? USA Today lists them as the 5th highest paid MLB team, and t hey play in far and away the weakest Division in baseball. They have outstanding starting pitching led by a true # 1 ace, a decent closer, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder,and they didn't clinch until the next to last day of the season. They should have won that Division by 2n games, not two. They hen took 5 games and 2 wins by Verlander to defeat the Oakland A's, who have the next to lowest MLB payroll. Sure, all is forgiven since they're now in the World Series, but up to a week ago they, too, looked like a high-priced (relative) frailure.

ALL season the two "sleeping giants" in baseball were the Tigers, because of their obvious talent and the addition of Fielder, and the Cards, because their run differential was so much better than their record and their experience could make them tough in September and October.

Well, they both woke up.

We could have two 88-win teams in the World Series. That would mean that two teams that tied for 11th __eleventh__ in wins in the regular season will play for the title.

If the Nats were a team from 1,000 miles away, I'm pretty sure what I'd think about them. I'd think that they were a perfect illustration of why the 162-game regular season is for baseball fans and the post-season is for the sport to make money off a TV extravaganza that measures who hot, experienced and/or lucky.

It's almost like two different sports. You have to make your peace with it. Some teams __like the 14-first-place-finishes-in-a-row BRAVES__ refused to admit that post-season was just a very different animal. They never got the dominant closers that they needed and kept losing with a Mike Reardon.

Rizzo gets it. That's why he's built his team around three power-arm starters in SS, GG and JZ. That's the post-season formula. And, yes, they need to find out if the back end of their bullpen is good enough the next time around.

But the Nats 98 wins and division title are a seperate and valid distinction __just a different method to measure excellence. Next, you have to see what needs to be tweaked for the different sport __October Ball. For example, you can't walk 29 Cards in 44 IP!


Against which team, Giants or Cardinals, do you think the Tigers best match up against?

Tigers have all RH starting pitchers.

Bothe Cards and Giants do BETTER against LH pitchers.

So Tigers have a big edge __on paper__ against either team.

Some Cards, like Carpenter, are running on fumes. The Giants rotation may be less roasted and toasted, so better able to cope with Tigers and DH. But Detroit will be a b ig favorite __just like the Rangers were in '10 when NOBODY picked the Giants.

With Davis out. It appears that Chris Cooley will be back. Do you think he will be able to help the team? I did not see him play much in pre-season, Is he able fill Davis' role?

He helps. RGIII makes anybody look better. I'd say Chris DESERVES to play with Griffin for a while __as a reward for all the lousy QB's that he made look better than they were.

Really hate the way he's back with the team, but I'm glad Chris has a chance to play again and, just as importantly, get the goodbye from the fans he deserves.


Boz, all athletes (except maybe Barry Bonds) express appreciation for the fans. I'm sure a lot of them phone it in, but with the Nats players it seems more sincere. Am I seeing what I want to see or am I really reading it right?

You're right.

And they were really impressed by the increased crowd volume late in the season and especially in the last two playoff games.

I hate to admit it, but I was shocked. I thought a DC baseball crowd might reach that decibel level in '14. I guess people know when there is something worth getting excited about and I underestimated 'em. Sorry.

It took me a whole week to get over the way the season came to an end. As painful as that was, that was the most incredible ride I've ever been on as a sports fan. I want more of that, even if it ends that painfully. I can't wait til we get this thing rolling again.

A lot feel that way. Imagine what it's like __exhausting is one of the words__ when a team does what the Cards have: win the DS in the ninth inning of Game Five, then go the full seven games in the NLCS and THEN (maybe) go to the World Series.

Just the DS plus NLCS ride, one after the other, is fairly amazing. I suspect Nats fans will probably experience it __not for sure, but probably__ in the next few years.

Boz, Last week you called me the "one mentally-healthy person in town." I don't know about that since I'm already planning a trip to Viera for Spring Training. I've never been and I realize it's probably too early for you to think about, but when would you say is the best time to go to meet players/get autographs. I don't necessarily need to see any games - I have season tickets for next year. Thanks!

Go BEFORE the first exhibition game. There are lot of drills, BP, you can get close to pitchers throwing side sessions (some at 95 mph on this team). And anybody who shows up BEFORE there is even an exhibition game to watch is assumed to be a True Fan and gets plenty of autographs (with conversation and appreciation, too).

Will there be any pro hockey this season? How does Gary Bettman keep his job?

1) I don't know.

2) I don't know.

How important will personality be in evaluating players to add to the Nats in the off season?

Very important. Once you get team chemistry, you don't say, "How did we do that?" (Because it's always partly accidental. What you say is, "Somehow, we got 'it.' For cryin' out loud, don't mess this up."

Who wins tonight, and why. Bonus points, if it's SF, do the Nats kick themselves? If it's the Cards do they oddly breathe a sigh of awkward relief? Could any of them beat Detroit?

This is another example of The Game that the home team has won EVERY TIME since 1975 __except the Mets vs Cards in the NLCS a few years ago and the Nats...ohhhh...pretty recently.

If you come back home, down 2-1 in a 5-game series or 3-2 in a seven game series, then WIN TO FORCE a winner-take-all game, the home team has an incredible record of winning. BUT from '45 through '75, it ran the other way! Nobody knows why.

I suspect Cain and the Giants conform to the pattern and win, though baseball writers will be torn between the easier travel of St. Louis-Detroit and the charm of S.F.

Do you play 'man-to'man' or all your DBs up? Or (trick question) do you leave a SAFETY in the back (DUH) to ensure NO ONE SCORES? Oy, is it me?

Oh, but he was "double covered." If that's double coverage, what does WIDE OPEN look like?

It's clear that RGIII is a transcendent player & best thing to happen to the Redskins in a generation. Now, how many years before he has an adequate supporting cast... and can he survive that long?

Correct premise. Correct questions.

My crystal ball, however, remains cloudy.

Boz, As a long-time (and long-suffering) 'Skins fan who has also become increasingly horrified by the toll that CTE and the game's brutality more generally has taken (and is taking) on players, this was the year I was going to finally stop following the 'Skins. A funny thing happened, though - I accidentally (truly - had a game on for background noise, and the feed switched over) caught the end of the Tampa Bay game. And when I saw the 'Skins were close going into the fourth quarter this past week: well, there I was. This is not a good team - the defense is too injured and too thin (boy would Champ Bailey *still* be great to have back there), the offensive line can't protect RGIII enough, and RGIII himself made some mistakes in not getting down or throwing the ball away. But: this is a FUN team. Even as the Giants marched down the field late in the 4th, I *knew* RGIII was going to have a great shot of putting the 'Skins back on top. That he did it "too quickly" was a shame, and that the 'Skins' secondary would allow Cruz to get behind them at that point was crazy. But it was fun. And it's been a LONG time since the 'Skins were any fun to watch. So there is that, even if I cringe at least half-a-dozen times a game with the slow-motion replays of concussive hits.

Can't disagree with much of that.

Especially the "fun" part. I think we were kind of due for that, right?

"Everybody" said that RGIII, Strasburg and Harper were going to be at the center of a lot of good times. Looks like they were right. And we get to find out how much more we get from Ovechkin and, maybe, Wall, though I don't think it's fair to hold him to that standard. Just let Wall try to become a very good guard.

Should the Cardinals lose tonight the old Greek word hubris will come to mind: Overbearing pride or arrogance, punished by the gods. After their comments about the Nats in Game 5 (deer in the headlights, scared, deep breaths, etc.) blowing a 3-1 lead would be just and fitting. Next time, act like you are defending Worlds Champs. (If the Cards win, just ignore this comment and let's talk RGIII...)

Good points.

What the Cards said was true. Or true enough. But you seldom hear it said.

I've covered a lot of those "comeback" post-season series and losing after being up 3-1 is considerably harder to take than blowing any one game. You can rationalize one game, or in the Nats case "one stroke away on five pitches." It's tough to say the words, "We had three shots and we couldn't win any of them."

If the Colts had to do it again, would they still pick Luck?

I bet they would NOT. And I bet the Rams wouldn't make the trade w the Skins, either.

When does the DC area sports curse end? What game, what person, what play will turn our decades long losing streak around? My guess is RG3. Do you think it will be RG or the NATS next year or the Caps if they ever play.....

What world are you living in!!!??? It's over. Waaaay over. RGIII is a once-a-generation QB in DC. And the Nats JUST won more games than any team in baseball.

Anybody who thinks this is anything but a VERY good time to be a Washington sports fan has some serious cognition issues. This is CLEAR. Open eyes. Enjoy. Don't demand the Super Bowl or World Series every year "or else I will be disappointed and say we are cursed."

Davey often deflects criticism of his players at news conferences. Why's it so wrong for Shanahan to say "Cruz made a play" instead of "our secondary sucks"?

That's a good point. And I'll let it be the last word.

See you next week.

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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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