The Washington Post

Ask Boswell: Redskins, Caps, Nationals and more

Nov 19, 2012

Attention readers: Due to Monday's holiday, Boz chatted with readers Tuesday at 11 a.m. ET. He will return to his regularly scheduled time of Mondays at 11 a.m. ET next week. Thank you.

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

Good to see the Skins soundly beat an NFC East rival, but let's not get crazy here. The Iggles are in full-on meltdown, and started a rookie QB. Big picture: Season's not lost yet, but that game-losing bomb to Cruz looks even worse right now. Question: Would Brandon Banks have a roster spot anywhere else in the NFL? Not sure I see what he's brining to the table for this team.

The Skins despite all their injuries now have outscored their foes by 257-254. With neutral luck, breaks, they'd be a 5-5 team vs. a slightly positive "strength of schedule" (+0.2 pts/g). 

If Skins truly have moved past Eagles, and it certainly looks like that's virtually c ertain, and they can pull even with the Cowboys this year, then I'd say that's a lot of progress for a team with little depth, a huge salary cap penalty and injuries. But can they?

Pokes were 8-8 last year, 5-5 now. That's who they are at this point. If Skins split with them, then you've passed the Eagles and moved eye-to-eye with Dallas in the division. Everybody in D.C. always wants to yell, "Playoffs, playoffs!" That's not where the Skins are now. They have only had three "good" seasons in 10 years __10-6, 9-7, 8-8. If they gain ground within the division, that will show up for years to come as they im prove all their weaker positions.

Don't just look at the Turkey Day game, though a win in that would certain excite folks. If they split with Dallas and sweep Eagles, it's a sea-change for this team when you look out over the whole up-coming RGIII period. But they have to do it. This is a team that has had a knack of spitting on opportunities for years.

But I think RGIII changes that. He really is special.

Boz, I really enjoyed Mike Lombardi's insight on the Skins, courtesy of Dan Steinberg.  Looking back fondly at the Jack Kent Cooke era, it seems obvious that, given similar circumstances, Snyder would not take a chance on an unproven Joe Gibbs-type coach. Of course, Cooke had a real GM to advise him. Will this always be the Skins fate under Snyder?

I thought that was a smart piece, too.

As many have said, it's rare to find a head coach who can also be a successful GM. Shanahan has had trouble putting together good defensive teams __in his last years in Denver and with Skins.

BUT he can really pick mid-round running backs! Morris (6th round) would be his FOURTH 1,000-yard rusher who was picked between the 4th and 6th round.

And, if you are going to blame him for the QB decisions in the past __McNabb, Beck, Grossman__ then you have to give him credit for being the central voice in the Pay Anything For RGIII decision. He'll never make a bigger personnel move and his evaluation of Griffin looks absolutely correct. 

Sure the Redskins and us fans needed a win, but... still too many penalties, not good enough on 3rd down, and the Eagles owned the ball nearly the entire first half. Good thing we caught a badly fading team with a QB making his first start. Can we surmise only that the bleeding has stopped then look for progress on Thursday?

I watched the tape again this a.m. to see if I was too hard on the Eagles or perhaps didn't give Skins enough credit in my 50/50 analysis: Skins played well but Eagles stunk. 

If anything, I thought the Skins made more mistakes (13 penalties) and had more good breaks __the Moss 61-yard TD between two taller defenders and a emi-near INT on RGIII's only incompletion__ than I thought. The Eagles just GAVE them a lot.

But this is a team that needed not just a win but a 31-6 type win for confidence.  

Boz, Assume you are Mike Rizzo for a day, what would you give up to get Stanton?

The Marlins have Stanton under team control for FOUR more years. He's not going anywhere. So the point is moot. Of course, you'd give a king's ransom.

This would be like, two years from now, saying, "What would it take to get Bryce Harper away from the Nats?" It would never happen because, like Stanton now, he'd still be nunder control for four more years. Marlins were smart and brought up in '10 in time to get 100 games and 22 homers from him at 20. But he didn't get enough service time to count as a year against free agency. That's how you get almost seven seasons, at a low price, out of a young star player. 

Are the Marlins a "special case" where the owner is so bizarre that you might try a many-for-one deal? Only a remote possibility. But feel free to make suggestions.

Looks like slow-rolling from Selig gave Angelos another offseason of getting rich off of the Nationals via the MASN situation. Selig seems to fold like a cheap tent when lawsuits with discovery motions are bandied by Angelos, so when are the Lerners going to do some sabre-rattling and prod MLB to give them a fair deal?

That is everybody's first reaction __why no deal! How can Nats make $$$ off-season plans if they don't know the size of MASN money?

I'm not sure that's entirely right. The Nats, after a great '12, know that they are going to have increased attendance in '13 and plenty of revenue to sign anybody in the current free agent class that they might want. It's not going to inhibit a LaRoche, Bourn or even Greinke bid.

On the other hand, the Dodgers are working on a huge new TV deal. And the longer you wait (in the Nats position), the more likely you can use that deal as a comp of sorts. No, DC isn't LA. But it's still useful. Do a tought experiment. If you were the Nats, why would you be in a hurry now to do a reset deal __or an entirely new deal__ that impacts 5-to-20 years? Now that you are 98-win rolling and all your metrics __attendance, TV rating, etc__ are likely to shoot up, why don't you want to give all that Good News a chance to be reflected in the RSN deal? The assumption is that when the old deal runs out you have to have a new deal immediately __like a drop dead date. Remember, all of this is baseball backroom wrerstling in a "dispute b etween two clubs." And both are big boys with all the "lawyers, guns and money" to take care of themselves in the in fighting. I doubt this is possible, but I'd be tempted to say: Lets wait until the All-Star game in '13, then look at all the relevant Nats data and do a deal then. MASN can always send us a big check for the first half of the '13 season. We have plenty of cash gto tun our operation. Lets just get this right __and make sure the success of our franchise is reflected in our deal.

A year ago, when the Nats were 80-81, naturally they wanted to get a deal done so it would help them in off-season decisions. But isn't the shoe on the other foot now? Yes, "fariness" says, Get a Deal Done. But doesn't goods strategy dictate that you get Nats As Booming Franchise into the argument?

As I've always said, I suspect Bud will just have to step in at some point and use his powers as commissioner. As for the Nats, the Lerners are the richest owners in baseball. They can sound off about this any time they want.   

In the 2nd, he scrambled about 20 yards deep, changed directions something like 14 times, and still turned it into a 2 yard gain. Just breath-taking athleticism that makes NFLers look like the JV squad.

The ease with which he scramble3s is amazing. He picked up a 3rd-aand-15 up the left sideline that was so smooth you hardly sensed it was happning. And he got it by plenty.

However, it's the wrinkles off the option that I love. Because we used the triple4 option in high school, and our coach spoke around the country at clinics a few years later as he was one of the first Veer innovators, I've always enjoyed following the development of the option offense theory. Paul Johnson's Flexbone at Navy was a joy to watch. They had so many twists off basic plays it was unbelievable __far more than you see in the NFL. 

Now, the Pistol Spread Option offense has new aspects. If you want to see every formation and most of the plays that the Skins use in their Pistol, just google the Bakersfield (Cal) High School playbook. Yes, the Skins use a lot of plays that are now used in high school (and even "youth league") as well as colleges like Indiana, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and other in recent years. 

The NFL teams, like Carolina and the Skins, actually use simpler versions in some ways because their huge 320+-pounde offensive linemen are much less suited to trap blocks and pulls. It's rare to see an "interesting" Skins blocking pattern.You're not going to see a zone-read triple optio n with a pitch back or a zone-read triple with a bubble screen __but you might in a top high school game. 

The one play the Skins used twice on Sunday (a stapple at lower levels) and which worked beautifully was the "back-side read option." That didn't exist until fairly recent times. Because the QB or tailback (whatever yopu want to call him) is facing the line of scrimmage when he takes the snap, he can "read" both the strong and weak side of the formation. When you take the ball from center, your back is to defenders and it's much harder to do this. Griffin "reads" the end man __DE or LB__ on the weak side and rides Morris into the hole. If the man who's being read craches the ballcarrier, RGIII pulls it out and, in one case, ran about 20 yards uncontested because there were so few defenders on the back side.

If the Skins ever actually become a good team, they are just going to be hell to stop in crucial third and fourth-down short-=to-mid yardage situations because RGIII will have so many option choices.

Sorry to get off on this. But once a coach has told you that you can beat a bigger, more talented team not by blocking the defender at the point of attack, but simply by "reading" him, it's such a beautiful concept that you never get over it. The triple option, and all its variations, is like the pick-and-roll in basketball. If you do it right, polish it, have variatipons off it, then it can work __for generations of different players over many decades.  The roots of the stuff you see with RGIII on the pistol spread option go all the way back to Rockne's time with the direct snap and the "box" backfield and all the faking in the '20's.    

Didn't you always think, like me, that College Park was a Big 10 town in waiting?

Oh, boy. I see they've made the change!

I asked my son, the recent Maryland grad and big Terps sports fan, what he thought last night about switching from ACC to Big 10. He said, "Worst idea ever. But that's just me." Why? "We've always been a basketball school in a basketball conference and we usually struggle in football. So now we're going to switch to a footbnall conference where we'll get killed forever? And our basketball rivalries and identity may  (deteriorate)."

That's going to be the first reaction of a lot of Term alums. I've been reading the arguments botyh ways for the last couple of days. I see both sides. I hate it when that happens. It's more fun to have a violent opinion. Maryland often got the short end of the stick in a Carolina-biased conference.

My gut level reaction is that it will work out badly. Maryland has tried a mil;lion ways to be a better football school. It's not going to happen by moving to the Big 10 (or 13). If you eventually lose Turgeon as coach __he's exceptional__  then you may go backwards in basketball, too.

And will the sports that got erased because of budget be brought back? If restoring those sports isn't part of the plan, then that weakens the case.

This will be an endless debate. We'll know if it was smart in...five years...1o years? Right now,. I'm in the "lets learn more" stage. But thenever a fair accompli is presented and everything __from first news to "it's decided"__ all happens in less than 100 hours, I'm suspicious.

If it's such a break idea, now did it all come to pass go quickly and with so little imput from those with a long-time history with Maryland __like, for instance, its graduates? 

RG3 will not disappoint in his first game back in TX. More than that he will lift his team up. We'll just see if the defense can keep up its end.

Lets like the Bye Week got RGIII freshened up. He'd taken a lot of sicks. The Eagles didn't punish him much. I suspect Pokes will have their hands full.

The Eagles did a lot to stop themselves on Sunday. Will the Cowboys be equally helpful? Romo's late game fumble could have lost that game. If nothing else, Tony is defendibly undependible.

Liz Clarke wrote a great article about the potential jump to the Big 10. She and Junior point out how bad it looks to cut 7 sports due to a deficit, yet can somehow pay $50 million (equal to the entire athletic budget) to depart the ACC. The football team will go from being a loser in the ACC to being a better paid loser in the Big 10. Len Elmore decries the money grab by a president and athletic director that have no appreciation of school tradition. What do you think?

It's worrisome that very few of the key people making decisions have deep roots to Maryland. And some have more of a Big 10 history.

There's also the Big Booster factor. Is Under Armor going to make sure Maryland has as good a future for the next 59 years __as good for teams and good for the university itself__ as the ACC provided for the last 59 years as Maryland grew from a school that got modest respect to a formidable institution?

Many major colleges find the disorientation of the current conferences to be scary. When your desperate and don't want to be left behind, it's tempting to grab a seat in the musical chairs game. And greed is an incentive, too. 

But the Big 10 is excellent, both in football and basketball, as well as many other sports, research, etc. The question is: Is it excellent FOR MARYLAND?

It's done, apparently. So, lets hope so.

What's your gut tell you? Can (will?) they resign him?

LaRoche and the Nats (Rizzo) have a very warm relationship with mutual respect. But, as I've said for months, I just doubt that it's a fit for either. Every day, the chances are lower. No deal by Thanksgiving?

After 33 homers, 100 RBI, a Gold Glove and some MVP votes, LaRoche will probably get a better deal than the Nats can reasonably afford __like Dunn's four-year $50M. Davey Johnson is right to say that losing such a LH bat really unbalances the Nats offense and, best case, even if they get Bourn, you lose power. 

If you saw the Arizona Fall League championship game Saturday, then you saw Anthony Rendon, Brian Goodwin and 6-4, 230-pound LH hitter Matt Skole (30 homers, 119 RBI at various levels in '12). They are all fine prospects. None are ready in early '13 and maybe not until September '13 callups.


From what it sounds like the Nats are moving on from Edwin. Who will be the target for next pitcher? Will it be a Greinke, or will they go in house with a Lannan or Garcia?

The general feeling is that Jackson, Lannan and Wang will not be back. Garcia looked good, but, as a SP, that's just a flier. If the Nats subtract those three staters, they absolutely have to sign a free agent pitcher. The list is about a dozen long. The Nats saw with Lannan how important it was to be at least six deep in starting pitchers. The right number is seven or eight. The Nats had the third-highest number of starts (150) from their top five starters. Obviously, that's a very high (healthy) total.  

It disturbs me that the voters didn't think he deserved to win it. The Mets being out of the race by July, Dickey didn't have the pressure (or the Braves) every fifth start. When will the voters realize that winning games in the heat of a pennant chase is harder than winning a game when you are 20 games out ? Gio deserved the Cy Young, not third place

Gio got what he deserved __major recognition, but third place. His PER-INNING ratios and averages were great __No. 1 in lowest batting average, slugging average and OPS against. But, at 199.1 IP, he just didn't pitch enough innings. He averaged a full inning less per start than Dickey and Kershaw. That's a flaw in an "ace." Too many pitches per inning.

His wildness hurt his innings, just as his wildness got worse in his two playoff starts. The voting took place before the post-season but I was glad to see Dickey, a great story and deservoing winner, get the CYA and it would have been uncomfortable to see Gonzalez get the absolute top award possible after his two staggering starts vs St. Louis. Gio took a step up from All-Star in Oakland to 20-game winner and Cy Young finalist. But he needs to take ANOTHER step up to get to the very top rung.

Boz, What do you want the Nats to do in centerfield next year? I prefer keeping Bryce there through at least 2013 - maximizing his value to the team. As between BJ Upton and Bourn, I much prefer Upton - he's young and Bourn's value is dependent almost entirely on his speed, which is certainly going to decrease and will possibly decrease quickly. Do you think there's a real risk the Nats go after Bourn?

The market numbers mentioned for Upton and Born seem very high to me. Part of that is because MLB is flush with new sources of revenue. Will/should the Nats react to such a rising market?

Davey says he only has one more year so it's "World Series or bust" to him. For the franchise, it isn't, of course. But he'll be hard to replace.

Bottom line: Nats need to come to camp with a stronger 25-man roster. It's not enough to settle for replacing LaRoche, Jackson, Burnett with young internal candidates like Moore. The window is open. Don't ignore it or say, "Oh, there is plenty of time." 

No matter how wonderful '12 was __up until the last game__ you can't finish on that painful a note and then not improve. I assume the Nats will add net-net. 



Boz, Why shouldn't the Nats go after Greinke? He's elite and he wouldn't be the staff ace, which seems like a role he shies away from. And pitching depth is imperative. We can't really count on all 5 starters being around for the playoffs each year, which suggests it's a mistake to begin the season with a shaky No. 5 (i.e., Lannan or someone similar) who may end up being a playoff starter. And the Cardinals playoff series proved (at least to me) that the town will support a winner, which suggests some payroll flexibility. What do you think?

Remember, Rizzo has a history of being very flexible and having Plans B and C, as well as a Plan A. When he didn't get Buehrle, he traded for Gio. When Jackson needed a soft place to land, he got a 1-yr $11M deal __very opportunistic.

I loved Abe Pollin but let's face it, he followed his heart more than his head in running the Wizards. So I had high hopes when Ted Leonsis took over. B they're now even worse! W/no NHL to distract him, couldn't Ted do a little somethin9 to improve them? Even my elderly bed-ridden father, whose days are spent watching sports on TV, finds it impossible to watch them.

Correct: The Wizards are impossible to watch.

The NHL situation looks absolutely dismal. The NHL owners, from their public disparaging comments toward Don Fehr, are making a mikstake if they think their pattern of behavior will weaken the NHL union. Fehr always gets many players to attend all negotiating sessions. They then spread the word out to other players. As a result, players know Fehr is getting the correct story out to them and ignore the disinformation from owners. Last week, Fehr noted that "we had 19 players" at a contentious meeting with owners.

I covered all 32 years of Fehr's career as top lawyer, then boss of the MLB players union. He and Marvin Miller invented that play book. EVERYTHING looks and feels EXACTLY like the early stages of a long MLB work stoppage. The owners precipitated it. They "asked for it." Every shred of my experience with Fehr says, "Watch out. You're going get a lot more thasn you expected." 

The MLB union went through eight work stoppages. They were undefeated with perhaps one "tie." Time after time after time, the owners misunderstood labor law or had a "worst-case" outcome that was comically optimistic. Those who represented MLB owners made big salaries and seldom told bad news to their bosses during all those disasters. The owners would jolly themselves up into a war mood, then get their heads handed to them by the rational, patient, stubborn MLB union.

EVERY TIME I read statements by NHL owners or responses from Don or Steve Fehr, I just shake my head. It is all IDENTICAL in tone and pace as every MLB showdown that Fehr's side won.

Fehr summarized the NHL owners position as: "The owners want more because they want more because they want more." He only says that when he thinks his members understand the proposals that have been presented to them, reject them and are unified.

I hope there is a break through. But, remember, in '94-'95, the MLB union was still holding it's ground the NEXT season when a judge (now on the Supreme Court) made a decision in their favor. MLB owners never even saw that as a possibility. Fehr and the union saw the general shape of how the battle eventually ended more than a YEAR before the owners knew what hit them.    

In a past chat, I related to you a story about me observing Gio during BP in Baltimore. I told how nice he was to the fans, big smile on his face ect. You said that was Gio - 24/7 365 days a year. I bring that up because last month I was listening to "Mr.Tony's" radio show and he had a national baseball reporter on and they talked Gio. The reporter said that he had talked to a member Oakland's front office and asked him why they traded Gio. The front office person said one of the reason was that they thought Gio was just too nice a guy and they weren't sure if had that killer instinct - especially in the postseason. Thoughts?

I think Gio is everything he appears to be. I also think he enjoyed having Strasburg as the ace in front of him. If the Nats are in the post-season next year, Strasburg loves the staff leader role. And Gio may relax and perform better with The Big orse in front of him. The personalities of Strasburg-Gio-Z'mann and Detwiler fit together very well. Subtract Strasburg, and the rotation chemistry doesn't work as well. Z'mann overthrew in Game Two. He didn't lose his control, but he lost his command. They'll all be helped by Strasburg as Ace.

Assuming that the shutdown may actually have improved Strasburg's chances to stay healthy for the next several years, there is a secondary benefit: the rest of the rotation loves pitching BEHIND him. That's why they call pitchers like Verlander __and probably Strasburg next year__ an "ace."

Boz, RGII Are there any similarities between RGIII and Fran Tarkenton? It would be great if he was as durable for so many years as Fran. Also, if the Skins decide to build through the draft, how many years do you think it will take for them to compete for a playoff spot? Thanks

Tarkenton was a better scrambler. Much better. And RGIII is amazing. But Griffin is way, way, way faster. And he's already as good or better as a pocket passer. RGIII will change the game __if he hasn't already__ more than Tarkenton.

I assume, those dangerous words, that the Skins are not a playoff team this year. That is the wrong expectation to measure them by. They look like 7-9 or 8-8 at best. And I think the Giants win the NFC East.

My best guess, and that's all it is, is that the Redskins have a good shot at being a playoff team in '14. More important, if they reach that level, and RGIII stays healthy, then they remain a playoff team.

The more the Eagles and, perhaps, Cowboys continue to fade, the more likely that projection becomes.

The Giants organoizational competence, patience, willingness to seperate coach/GM jobs (Accorsi to Reese) and ability to draft __for the last 1,000 years__ means they aren't going anywhere any time soon. The Skins need to become a MUCH better-run organization with a much better drafting record over several years to match the Giants as a franchise.

Tom - how do you see the chances of Rizzo and the Lerners bagging Greinke this offseason? You could argue that they have higher needs elsewhere, but it seems like he fits Rizzo's MO, plus that rotation would cover a lot of line up holes for several years. 3 $100m contracts would be tough for any team to handle, but their payroll obligations elsewhere could be ok for the next three to four years, no?

The Los Angeles big money is now fully in play (with Kasten sure to spend keep huge with the Dodgers). So, I wonder if Greinke will leave L.A., and the Angels, at all. After you spend a zillion for Pujols and Wilson, then trade for Greinke, how can you let him get away?  You can't, if it's humanly possible to help it.

And Greinke pitched solidly in L.A. (6-2, 3.53 ERA, 13 starts). Some wondered if he would. So he may want to stay.

I confess that I'm more interested in the Nationals than in all other sports put together. I'm trying to think of questions that I've asked in past chats that you haven't gotten to answer, but why bother? Here's my question: Could you please say something interesting about the Nats, anything? I'm bored.

The Nats keep stealing talent like Tyler Moore (16th round) and (fifth-round) Matt Skole deep in the draft. It's great for them that they got lucky that Strasburg and Harper were available when they had back-to-back No. 1 overall picks. But it was all the other good decisions __trades like Mike Morse, Gio, Suzuki, draft of Z'mann, etc__which they made that led to 98 wins in a year when Strasburg "only" won 15 with 159 innings and Harper had a .270-22-59 line.

Here's what's interesting. How good will they be in a few years if Strasburg and Harper develop as well as Gooden and Strawberry did in New York in the '80's? There were the baby-years production for #34 and #37.

I'm surprised at how easily I've accepted the fact that Maryland will move from its rivalries with Duke and UNC. Guess it's a sign of how jaded I am, after so many other similar moves in the past. But isn't this likely to be one of those moves that makes sense on paper but will never work in reality? I suspect the increased TV revenues (even without the pipe dream money the Big 10 is hoping to pull from the DC/Baltimore/New York markets) and the cut of attendance from those games in 100,000+ seat stadia will help Maryland balance the books. Maybe. But how likely is it they will ever be relevant in football again? The climb was steep enough in the ACC. Now how do they do it? Are we prepared for home games against Ohio State "selling out" with the stands half full of Buckeye fans? Even in basketball, they come in as a top half of the league team, but not a top team. Turgeon looks like a good coach but his job got monumentally tougher. I know we should look at this long term and it may work out fine, but when I look at my vision of the future, I see Maryland falling in line somewhere between Iowa and Indiana: very good in basketball, next to invisible in football. A one-trick pony school in over its head. What do you see?

I see that YOU have a LOT of good overview points.

Looks like both seasons are over? NHL full season lost? Wiz - on strike for remainder of this one? Or, will we see them pull out of free fall?

Don't remind me. My head hurts just thinking about it.

Bozzz, the Cowboys o-line is looking pretty shaky going into Thursday's game considering Tyron Smith and their starting center will probably be out. Do you see another week of an effective Redskin's pass rush? And do you think Merriweather was that effective, giving our defense the spark it needed? Or Nick Foles was that bad?

Cowboys look vulnerable, worried. Merriweather hit hard. Didn't seem worried about his ankle after game. Foles didn't look like he can fool anybody. He'll get better. But, even the second time, he didn't look good. The Eagles can always run good screens. Other than that, they had nuttin'.

That's it for this week. Thanks again. Have a great Thanksgiving and see everybody  next Monday.

The NHL lockout is rapidly going from stupid to insane. I guess they don't want our money after all. The most crazy thing to me was how owners were handing out huge contracts in summer 2012, knowing that there would be a lockout. How can you offer, say, Dennis Wideman $26M over 5 years, and then ask for a lot of that money back 2 months later?

Gosh, that's one of the questions the NHL players (and Fehr) are asking, too.

But could it also have to do with Angelos/Orioles wanting LaRoche and making it 'harder' on the Nats to focus on resigning him if they are dealing with MASN?

The O's are interested in LaRoche, from an excellent source. But Nats have plenty of money if they want him. Is it a fit? And will LaR take what will probably be a year less to play for the Nats.

I was reading John Schulian's "Sometimes They Even Shook Your Hand" this morning and his essay on Gene Mauch defiant attitude about pitching decisions put me in mind of Davey. Mauch's mistake in 1964 with the Phillies was pitching Jim Bunning and Chris Short on short rest, blowing a 6 1/2 game with 12 games lef (to the Cardinals!) in 1964m producing "The Phold." He did the same thing in 1982 with Tommy John and Bruce Kison to lose to the Brewers in game 5 of the ALCS. He, like Davey, was unreprentant. I know righties were .067 againts Storen, but when he loaded 'em up, we were seeing Storen "regress to the mean" before our eyes. The ump was not going to call the low strike that Storen needs. Do you really believe that Storen should have been allowed to pitch to Descalso and Kozma, who were on fire? If Davey had it to do all over again, doesn't he have Gonzalez or J Zimm - who looked like a closer the night before - warming in the pen?

Always read John any time you can on any subject he touches, like his appreciation of the late extremely-hard-boiled James Crumley! My wife and I still talk about road-tripping with him, including a Songwriters Night at the Bluebird in Nashville, a few months ago.

Mauch, the most up-tight plazyer-doubting brilliant over-manager, and Davey, the most hang-loose player-trusting brilliant under-manager, are opposites.

Davey empowers the players. Then they have to do the job, or in Storen's case, grow into the job. They don't mature and move through tough situations unless you trust 'em. And he does. So, his players, especially young ones, grow. Gene was one of my favorites, but he suffered so much, analyzed every game to dust. He showed me one of his notebooks __he wrote longhand accounts of decisions in every game of his career, he said.

I've picked apart Game Five 12 ways from Sunday. Davey didn't make any Strategic Mistakes __except losing. The question isn't, "What did he do wrong?" The question perhaps is, "Was there some smart thing he could have done or said that would hav e helped?"

The Nats had a 96% chance of winning after Morse's homer. They still had a 96% chace of winning when Molina had two strikes on him with two outs. Seems to me l,ike the manager is pretty much off the hook if he has a 96% chance with 18 outs to go and stioll has his team in a 96% porisiton with one strike to go.

But, knowing Davey, I bet he is harder on himself than that.

Interesting article the other day by Sheinin on Cabrera vs Trout/old school vs new school for the MVP. I find that one key stat that the number crunchers fail to include is the FIS, or Fannies In Seats. Some players have it in spades and other don't. Think of Orr, Lafleur and Ovechkin in hockey. Bird, Magic and of course Michael Jordan in basketball. There are some intangibles that numbers simply don't describe.

I'm a Trout guy.

Among other things, my old Total Average, which includes speed __SB/CS and GIDP__ has Trout far ahead of Cabrera strictly as an offensive players: 1.111 to 1.007. It's the extreme case where Trout has a fabulous steal raio (49/5) and grounded into seven double plays vs a huge 28 for Cabrera. GIDPs are just killers. You have to include them.

Then there is defense...

So, it's not close for me. Put me down as firmly "new school" on this one. Even once you give extra weight to the word "valuable" in MVP. That decides close calls. This wasn't, imo.

Going, going...

I get it. Maryland to the Big 10 gets the Big 10 closer to the DC television and recruiting markets. While Maryland gets big money from all of those Big 10 alumni in ths area who are dying to see their teams in person. A Win-Win situation except for fans who have to sit through low scoring hard on the eyes Big 10 basketball and then watch Big 10 schools run rough shod over Maryland's very weak football team. Ugh.

Wish I could put up a dozen more thoughtful "questions" on this.

I don't have a dog in the Maryland-to-the-Big-Ten fight, but I understand why it happened relatively quickly and quietly. Conference realignments are disruptive. The conference doesn't want to run the risk that the university will use their offer as leverage. The university doesn't want to run the risk that the conference will court someone else. Obviously, no one wants uncertainty; it's much harder to recruit sponsors and TV networks, athletes and coaches if you don't know what conference you'll be playing in. So the two parties both have strong incentives to move fast. Of course, it doesn't benefit the fans, but the fans aren't putting up the money (in terms of TV revenues, sponsorships, etc.).

Last word.

Boz, Thanks for the in-depth analysis of the option and its potential -- so little sports writing truly goes beyond the same banal cliches. I like the Cowboys, who had their hands full with a horrid Browns team, trying to prepare for the option in three days. I think Kyle will go all in on the option packages for Turkey Day, and Dallas won't know what hit them. Dallas and Washington have a habit of ending the other's team era. I have a hunch this game will be cited as the end of the Romo/Garrett era...

"The end of the Romo/Garrett era..."

Oh, give thanks.

I am not only picky but a Big Ten loyalist. As a result, I felt the need to point out that the ten should always be spelled out, never written as 10.

Sorry. Promise to learn. After so many years in the Acc.

Seems sort of sad that DC United's success this season sort of flew under the radar on the local sports scene especially with all the attention for the Nats, and the arrival of RGIII and Bryce. When is the DC government going to wake up and realize the team can't afford to play in RFK anymore? Adding a DCU stadium near Nats Park can only help speed the revitalization of the area.

GREAT fans. Glad/sorry to see they got the last 15 seconds on Sports Center this a.m.

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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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