Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Sep 16, 2013

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

Leads with his helmet, knocks Packer's player out of the game with a concussion. Celebrates. Then he does it AGAIN. Knocks himself out of game (probably the season) with concussion. Karma.

You live by the sword...

You'd think after missing all buy one quarter of all his previous Skins games that he would NOT do the one thing that is most likely to knock you out of a game -- helmet-to-helmet hit. He gets away with it once, then does it again. I realize that it's hard -- sometimes -- to avoid helmet to helmet. But I still think it's a valid point. He plays a violeent position in a violent game. But he needs to use more good sense. The more concussions you have, the easier to get the next one. At least that's what's usually said. Meriweather needs to figure out how to stay on the field because the Skins DESPERATELY need a good safety who can TACKLE.

The Packers had 283 yards after the catch, the most in the NFL in the last six years, according to one site! Think about that -- 283 of 480 yards passing were after the catch. I mentioned to a bunch of reporters that I thought it was as bad a game for tackling as I'd seen in years. But I didn't know it was literally true. Jones gained 90 yards after his catches and Cobb 78, both career highs. 

Rambo and Amerson are rookies and want to hit but take bad angles and just don't bring down the people they hit often enough. Reed Doughty is forced to play too much, his lack of speed gets exposed, but he did make nine tackles.

The FIVE leading Skins tacklers were Doughty (9), Rambo (8), D Hall (7), Josh Wilson (6) and Amerson (6) -- ALL defensive backs. I doubt I've ever seen that before. They are getting beaten on patterns, then dragged after the catch or else miss entirely and another DB has to make the tackle. 

London Fletcher may have had the lowest tackle total of his life -- two. That despite the fact that the Packers rushed for 139 yards.

According to the Packers research, Green Bay was the first NFL tem EVER to have a 450-yard passer and a 125 yard rusher in the same game.

Meriweather can't reverse that but maybe he could help the Skins pass defense get back to merely Bad, where it was last year, rather than Cover Your Eyes.

Not good news that the team that blitzed the Skins last week (Philly) was beaten at home on Sunday or that the team which beat the Packers in Week One -- S.F. -- got beaten 29-3 in Seattle.

There's an asterisk on the SF loss. It's impossible to play in Seattle -- an unfair advantage because of the stadium construction design that keeps so much sound IN. They succeeded TOO well in creating a place where visiting teams can't hear. Not too well from Seattle's perspective but beyond what considered home field advanatage in any other venue in any other sport. 

For whatever the reason, he can't, he won't or he is not allowed to, if RGIII is not a run threat, he is not nearly the QB he was. Defending him is difficult based on his run threat and without that, he is average at best.

Aside from "average at best," with which I strong disagree, I'm on board with the rest of your point. If RGIII can't, won't or isn't allowed to run very much then the Skins offense isn't as good.  RGIII said he wasn't running the zone read -- keeping the ball himself --because the Eagles and Packers were taking that away. I doubt very much that this is the case. Every team WANTS RGIII to keep the ball on a adesigned run so they can take a shot at putting him out of the game.

According to ESPN research, teams sent five-or-more pass rushers on drop back plays only 21 percent of the time last year against Griffin. That was the lowest in the league. Why? Because RGIII had a 10-0 TD to Int ration when teams sent 5-or-more and average 9.9 yards-per-attempt. He KILLED the blitz, sometimes by scrambling and throwing. This year, the Eagles and Pack sent 5-or-more 42 percent of the time and RGIII's stats were poor -- below NFL average. Foes want to test his mobility and composure after coming back from surgery.

So, to summarize: Nobody thinks the Skins will run as much zone read. (So far, it's been cut about 50 percent in their play calling in '13.) When they do run it, everybody will want to force RGIII to run. Both of these factors will hurt Albert Morris.

Also, the Skins offense created huge problems with its No. 1-ranked rushing attack last year. They could establish the run, then use play action. And if you blitzed them, RGIII killed you. So you just had to sit back most of the time and let them attack you, then try to react. That's not the case now. Until Skins can prove otherwise, the book will be, "You can blitz RGIII and survive, maybe rattle him some, too."

This will evolve as the season progresses. We're still talking about a QB who had a 104.2 rating with 320 yards passing for three scores, one INT on a fourth down play and 26-for-40. The last thing the No. 1 rushing attack in the NFL in '12 should want in '13 is 89 passes by RGIII in the first two games. 

But the Skins offense was not designed, as Griffin pointed out yesterday, to play from WAY behind. And 33-7 and 31-0 late in the third quarter is WAY behind.

Have the Nats announced plans to celebrate Davey's illustrious career? Or do they feel they have to wait until they are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention to do that?

I believe the Nats announced that it will be during this last homestand. Maybe a chatter can help us with the date.

Davey's career winning percentage is .562,. SEVENTH best in history of managers since 1899 with at least 1,000 games and third best of all managers since WWII with 1000 games. He's .551 with the Nationals.

Johnson is 300 games over .500 which is 11th best among managers since 1899. It took Tony LaRussa 33 years to get 363 games over .500. Davey has gone +300 in just 17 years as a amanger.

So, whatever nice things they say about him on the "goodbye" day are true.

Though I don't know why he left BOTH LaRoche and Hairiston out of the lineup Sat vs Hamels when they have a combined nine homers off him. Scott hits him better than anybody. It's OK to play Harper, who had two hits, over Hairston. But Moore over LaRoche who was 10-for-34 w 4 HRs? Moore is now 0-for-7 w 4 Ks vs Hamels.

This must prove the rule that no matter what nice things you say about a manager it is always necessary to end by second-guessing him in a one-run loss.

I sent an e-mail to Coach Shanahan just before the game, saying he should use the same strategy as UCLA used against Nebraska on Saturday: let the other team get far ahead, and then whey they are overconfident, pour on the points. Apparently the only part that went through was let the other team get far ahead. I apologize for any inconvenience.

Thanks. I knew it wasn't Shanahan's fault.

BTW, when your team falls behind 33-7 and 31-0 late in the third quarter in consecutive weeks, you CAN'T be TOO well prepared, now can you? That's coaching. A bad two weeks for Haz and the Shannies.

What was that all about? Isn't trying to steal signs about as common as trying to steal second base?

I haven't done enough reporting to be sure of this but it appears that Girardi MAY have been upset that the O's third base coach was tipping the LOCATION of the pitch, not the TYPE of pitch. If that's the case, then that's a very different subject. Then you are not "stealing signs" which is OK. You are just "peeking" to see where the catcher sets up and that is NOT OK. If a hitter "peeks" and gets caught, he may get one in the ear. There is no skill in peeking at the catcher. So, man, it is a definite unwritten RULE that you don't, otherwise everybopdy could do it on every pitch.

Nonethless, Buck was justified in defending his coach from verbal assault during a pennant race game.

As I said, this is one scenario. Next time I get to Baltimore I'll ask around. Was it sign stealing or location peeking? Girardi was a catcher so he would be very aware of peeking.

Bos, I doubt you've had much time for this but last week's revelations about race fixing made me wonder if I ever wat to see another race. How can we ever believe a race is honest again? My friends say duh, you always knew these things were fixed but I honestly didn't. What a waste of gasoline.

News to me. Any other chatters have ideas?

I've been to a couple of NASCAR races as a fan and covered a couple of Delaware 400's (is my memory of that correct) long ago. But I don't follow it now. Sorry I don't have any other thoughts on this.

How is it fair to put a lot of blame on this guy for the defense's failings? He was a sixth round pick (191st overall). He's not Sean Taylor (fifth overall) or LaRon Landry (sixth overall). Given proper support from the rest of the secondary, Rambo might not stick out like a sore thumb, but I don't see how you can blame him when he's simply physically overmatched out there.

It's unfair to a sixth-round rookie.

But this is pro ball. Anybody who doesn't do a good job, regardless of the reason, should be mentioned.

D Hall got roasted, too.

This is one of the places the Skins salary-cap penalty really hurts them -- no ability to sign DBs in off season and little depth. They are one-deep in many positions. So the loss of a Meriweather shows up more vividly.

I'm still in Milwaukee but looking forward to seeing the Skins tape a few times when I get home. Well, maybe not "looking forward..." 

Hey Boz, I think people were so obsessed with RGIII playing in the opener that they only worried about whether the knee was ready and not the player. People forget that, no matter how talented, he's a second-year player. It was pure folly to believe he could be game ready with no preseason.

To me, his knee seems fine. Or certainly more than good enough to play. Has he lost just a little speed? Maybe. Hard to tell yet.

But you are right: His game has not been ready so far.

The Nats are better than the Reds at five positions, while the pitching is a tossup (rotations are split, Reds have a better closer, Nats a better overall bullpen). The Reds have the toughest schedule of any of the NL contenders, including a home-and-home with the Pirates, who will still have something to play for. The Nats have the second toughest schedule. So every game will be interesting and important. Also, there are SIX teams within 3.5 games for the two AL wild-cards. I guess my point is: I love this time of year.

I love this time of year more than any other. Baseball peaks and you start finding out the truth (finally) about all the off-season football blather.

Actually, Nats have 13 games and Reds 12. The Nats had a huge loss on Sat nite when they had tying run on 2nd with no outs vs Papelbon and 3-4-5 hitters coming up. This is a "theory of the game" moment. Your 3-4-5 are your best hitters. Do you focus on advancing the runner to third or swing away and take you best shot -- also increasing your chances of scoring two runs and winning.

Most, I suspect, would do what the Nats did -- let 'em swing away. I want to see the tapoe and see if Werth had any pitches he could have hit to the right side -- those can find holes, too, or end up in the RF corner or the gap. He lined out to LF off the end of the bat.

Nats fans know how tough the Sat loss was. But remember the Reds just lost two-of-three to a losing team (Milwaukee) while the Nats did their job and won two-of-three from a similar team in the Phils. So, Reds have to thin, "How can we drop a series to the Brewers?"

Until now, I don't think the Reds have even noticed that the Nats are behind them. Their focus has been entirely on winning the Central. But now the Reds are 3 1/2 games behind BOTH the Cards and the Pirates. Their goal -- the division title -- is slipping away. They might, just might, have a let down in Houston as they feel a bit depressed that they probably aren't going to reach their goal. That could open an unlikely door for the Nats -- GAIN ground while playing the Braves at home while the Brewers drop one or two in Houston. BUT that is not the conventional thinking. Most would say it's the Nats who face a tough three days -- trying to gaining ground while playing a top team as the Reds get to play patsies. Also, because of Stgrasburg's "tightness," the Nats send out Haren, Roark and Ohlendorf in what may a be a fulcrum series for whether they really have a last-week chance. Haren and Roark looked very good vs. Mets -- but those are the Mets. Braves have had injuries but are still the Braves. Nats face Minor, old Freddie Garcia, who has little stuff but bamboozled them once in Baltimore when he had nothing and Wood (3-3).

So Nats are seeing the Braves top-of-line starters.

I love the Reds-Houston series. Astros throw out Bedard (4-10) against a lineup that sometimes has trouble with curveballing lefties, the Lyles (7-7) who a decent starter and ex-Nat Brad Peacock who has been VERY good in his last several starts with ERA ~2.50.

Reds have really starting pitching fire drill in progress with Cingrani leaving his last startin 2nd inning with back spasms -- not the first time he's had that problem this year. So they are "rushing" Johnny Cueto back from rehab to start tonite. Unfortunately for Nats, he is still Johnny Cueto! Then Reds go with Leake, who has been very leaking for a couple of months and, because they are so short of starters right now, Reynolds (1-2) vs Peacock.

Don 't assume Reds will automatically win two or three games in this series. If Nats somehow GAIN one game in next three days, then it's really fascinating since Reds then go to Pittsburgh while Nats have FOUR with Miami at Nats Park.

BUT will Nats still be viable by the time Miami arrives on Thursday for the Fish Fry? That's a tough one.

This is just nuts. The Indians now have 20 pitchers on their roster, half of whom wind up siting on the bullpen roof. They could bring in a fresh pitcher to face each batter for 6 innings! And other teams are nearly as bad. I know there's always a tension between out of contention teams wanting to take a look at kids and still play competitive games with those still in the pennant race, but maybe there's a midddle ground like requiring each team to designate 30 "active" players for each game? I'm a SABR mnember who still keeps score and I don't know half the players on teams follow pretty closely.  And my scoresheets look like ----. And the games take even longer. But still: GO NATS!

I'd like to see a limit of 30. Or 32 at the most.

Extra players in September are good. Saves pitchers arms. Helps good teams get even better by fixing minor flaws. But TOO many players is bad -- just goofy.

Last week's dust-up between Showalter and Girardi reminded me of a question I have had for some time. Why is it considered disrespectful or uncouth to steal signs? I would think that would just be part of the game.

It's part of the game -- if you do it within the unwritten rules. But people STILL don't like it!

The '51 Giants stealing signs with a guy hidden in CF flashing them to hitters is the No. 1 example of BAD sign stealing which is out-and-out cheating.

But baseball, and its fans, usually love sign stealing and such -- if it is done the "right" baseball way.

If Haren or Ohlendorf, both vets, happen to have an "extra pitch" that they know how to throw, this wouldn't be a bad time to break it out. If they don't have one, McCatty -- who was on that legendary '80 Oakland rotation of Billy Martin scuffers and spitballers -- can probably help. Nah, he'd never do that.

The NFC East is really lousy. Losing to the Iggles was a really bad idea, but it's not the kiss of death to be 0-2 in a division this bad. After all, the division leaders each only have one win because they played division games last week. There is a reasonable chance that the East will be won this year without a winning record. I guess that means there's still a reasonable chance that the Skins could host (and lose) a playoff game this year.

The NFC East just looks abysmal -- at least after two weeks. Eli throws four more picks! Eagle can't beat San Diego in Philly.

With Detroit and Oakland up next, Skins just need to focus on getting to 2-2. This division might have an 8-8 champion. Too early to say, but it can and has happened.

Bet Nats wish they were in the AL East where the Orioles -- 79-70 -- are 21 1/2 game out of the wildcard while the Nats -- also 79-70 -- are 4 1/2 out.

(Okay, stop screaming. I know the A.L. East is tough and the N.L. East isn't. Still, "interesting" that Nats have caught the O's for best record in the region. On August 7th, O's were 63-51 and Nats 54-60 -- or 9 games "behind.")

Tom- I hear announcers talk about how good hitters recognize splitters and curves as a red dot or a "cement mixer" as the red laces blur with the pitch's rotation. I think it would be interesting to test using a ball with off-white laces. What do you think would happen?

Lotta no-hitters.

Boz, I'm getting really tired of the protesting of the Redskins name, not because they aren't right, but because no one has a suitable replacement. I would love to see a respected journalistic institution (perhaps led by a venerable columnist?) start a drive/contest to replace the Redskins name. The rules are simple: Suggest a new name, and either rewrite HTTR or create a new team song along with the new name. That would be a bandwagon worth joining. Are you up for it?

There is a ferocious-looking mythological creature from the Middle Ages that is half-lion and half-eagle. The Griffin.

After RGIII retires with seven Super Bowl rings, that might be an option. (Doesn't look like "seven" is the right number this morning, does it.)

Actually, I've only spent 30 years trying to think of a better nickname, or even a very good one, to replace Redskins. I'm 0-for-30. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't be changed.

The emergence of Tanner Roark may be the best Nats story of 2013. Is he legit? Is he the No. 5 in next year's rotation? (Begging the question...who's No. 4 -- Deitweiler? A free-agent veteran innings eater? Taylor Jordan?)

Real pleased that Roark gets three more starts.

Roark has enough stuff to be very effective as long as he continues to have his current exceptional control. It's the COMBINATION that has gotten him a 2.24 FIP which shows his 1.40 ERA isn't a fluke. His Babip is .253 -- a little lucky, but not VERY lucky. But CAN he continue to match a 92.6 mph fastball with three other pitches that -- right now -- he can command: slider (19 percent), change (10 percent) and curve (8 percent)?

Because his AAA ERA in >250 innings was 3.87 there is an assumption that this is a hot streak, a beautiful season at age 26 when he has it all together.

BUT I do remember a 25-year-old "AAAA" pitcher in 1983 who had a 3.93 ERA in >315 innings in AAA in '81-'82. It was assumed he didn't quite have enough to be a big league starter. Then it all came together for him. His stuff was good enough and his command of everything stayed intact for years: Mike Boddicker. He was 16-8 after a call up in '83 and a key to a WS win that year, then 20-11 the next year.

I am NOT saying Roark is Boddicker. I'm sayingt that pitchers who have almost been written as not-wuite-good-enough -- Roark will be 27 next month -- CAN be very successful if they have fine command. Right now, Roark is very pitch efficient because 95 percent of the pitches he throws in the strike are hit -- but not hit hard. He gets the kind of soft contact and easy outs that Strasburg can only dream of having. But you have to hit spots -- or come close -- as Roark is now doing with his FB and slider -- to pull it off.

As long as he keeps throwing the quality pitches in good spots that he's done so far, he'll have success. Can he? Sure would be nice.

The Nats remain super-conservating about Strasburg injuries (Stop the presses! Tightness in forearm!) , but quite cavalier about Harper's bangs and bruises. The disregard to a possible conscussion, injured knee and now hip injuries (see: Jackson, Bo) is disconcerting. Why do you think they aren't as protective of Harper, who as an every day player, may be more critical to the Nats future than Strasburg?

Because, as you say, Harper is an everyday player. The history of pitchers is that when they get hurt or are in pain when throwing "WATCH OUT." It often leads to career changing injuries if the warning signs are not heeded. But everyday players are expected to play though some pain. Bo Jackson is VERY unusual and played two sports. (I think the hip injury started from football. Not positive.) Everyday plays have to PLAY. That doesn't mean you shouldn't show some care with a 20--year-old who may (just barely) get enough plate appearances and end up in the top 10 in OPS. He's 8th in the NL right now. Everyday players almost always come back from their injuries. The "almost" is the worrisome part.

But you would EXPECT Strasburg and Harper to be treated differently as far as the level of Red Alert in reaction to injuries. It's the difference between young pitchers of great promise and young hitters of great promise. 

Why does a super bowl winning coach, or any coach for that matter, let a QB tell him when, where, how, and how much he is going to play? When Robert started dictating to everyone his playing time, someone needed to set him down and explain to him that the team was here before him. And the team will still be here after him. NFL means not for long.

You want a young STAR QB to show leadership qualities. But there is something slightly unsettling about RGIII's very high level of self-confidence. I can't put my finger on it yet.

I don't think RGIII is "dictating." But I don't think anyone wants to make him real unhappy.

Any chance the Skins sit RGIII for a few weeks until the knee gets stronger?


The knee is strong. You can't run all over the place and pass for 320 yards -- with no limp and lots of speed -- if your knee meets any sensible definition of "weak."

It's a Washington ritual to call for thee backup QB -- even more loudly than in most NFL cities. But you can't panic on Griffin. It's ridiculous. The DEFENSE is the biggest problem. It is awful so far. And putting enormous pressure on the offense to match score-for-score -- when they are having trouble scoring at all. 

Tom, The fight for the AL wild card is very interesting: Texas only won two of their last 13 games, the Rays somewhat righted their ship lately, Indians are on fire with an easy schedule coming up, and the Yankees are still lingering. Orioles play the juggernaut Red Sox so that hill is the toughest of the lot. The only thing I'm confident about is that Texas is toast. What're your thoughts?

Texas is toast. I just love the beat down the A's put on them in their weekend sweep in Dallas.

It's going to be a GREAT last two weeks. This really makes the decision to add a second wildcard look smart. NOBODY wants to be a wildcard anymore. That one-game play-in scares everybody to death. So the division races, like Cards and Pirates tied, have something close to their old importance.

Will the Reds feel any of the pressure (from the Nats) that the Rangers just folded under. If Nats win two or three from Braves, they may. Tall order. But Nats are at home, have tons of motivatioon after being humiliated by Braves all season. But Braves would love to knock 'em out, send message for next year.


The one bright spot I saw yeaterday in watching the game on tape was that Clay Matthews was owned by Trent Williams. If the O can make a first down, Trent's development could be significant.

Matthews: three tackles, one QB hit. Fine job by Trent.

But this is actually another of the disconcerting aspects of the gamewe for the Skins. So many things went RIGHT and they still got killed. Skins sacked Rodgers (most-sacked QB in NFL last year) four times. RGIII only sacked once. So, despite some Pack pressure, RGIII certainly wasn't swamped.

Also, just like last week, the score could easily have been worse or even MUCH worse. Everybody knows the Pack took a knee three times at the end at the Skins 10-yd line and passed up 3 or 7 pts. But at the end of the 1st half, the Pack came within a foot or so of a TD but fumbled the ball off the pylon for a touchback. (Pretty goofy rule, imo.) Pack had 0:07 to try a pass into endzone or kick FG. So score could have been 44-to-52 points for Packers.

Also, lopsided games are usually the result of a big turnover/takeaway advanatge. Packers lost a fuimble. Only Skins turnover was a fourth-down interception in the Packers end that had little impact on game. So, Skins got swamped on the BASICS -- not by long kick returns, turnovers, etc. Very worrisome for them.

And the teams that are supposed to be bad, or at least not very good, on the Skins out-of-division schedule won yesterday -- K.C. now 2-0, Chargers won in Philly and even Oakland won. Ugh.

Have you heard whether the situation in the Navy Yard area could cause the Nats to postpone tonight's game?

Just read about the awful news. No idea.

Was it a good idea for Wilson Ramos to start so many consecutive games? In particular, yesterday's day game? Article I saw implied Ramos would rest tonight? Wouldn't it have been better to be able to use him today against the Braves (who, theoretically, the Nats are still competing with for a playoff spot) vs. yesterday's less meaningful game against the not-so-good Phillies?

Playing Ramos every day has been a great idea. There are two elements to durability. 1) How often do you have specific injuries. 2) How much can you play -- and still perform very well -- when you ARE healthy.

Nats n eeded to find out how much Ramos could catch when he's intact. If he says he feels good, and he says he feels great, I might not give him more than one day off the rest of this season or until the Nats are out of the race. As it is, he'll barely catch 60 percent of a normal season.

Don't worry about Wilson. Just be glad, after everything he's been through, that he's having suchc a wonderful year. And do NOT extrapolate, as some already have, that this means he should hit 30 homers and drive in 100 runs next year (or any year). He's had a ton of RBI chances and cashed them time after time. That will regress. But he sure looks like a 15-to-20 HR and 70 RBI catcher. And that is a huge plsu. If it tuens out to be more, so much the better. But don't put astronomical goals on him. He's had enough on him. Just let him play. Some players you just can't help pulling for. Go, Rhino.

Please keep watching the Redskins. When you watched last week, Gio pitched a one hitter. And the Nats just demolished the Phillies yesterday. Too bad you weren't watching the Nats on Saturday.


BTW, sorry about "Rhino." We all know Ramos is the Buffalo. Been chatting too long! I'll take a couple more then outta here before I call the Wiz the Bullets.

What will your answer be when (not if) Mike Rizzo calls you and asks, "Mr. Boswell SIR, as you know I need to hire a new manager in time for the '14 season. Should I look inside the organization or outside, and do you see any advantage to my doing so sooner or later?"

No GM in any sport has ever asked my advice on anything. Peter Angelos once called after he'd gotten Bobby Bonilla -- which I'd suggested in a column -- and said, "This is YOUR idea. It better be right."

(Bonilla worked out great. His fielding in the OF drove Davey crazy but he could hit like hell from both sides.)

Admit it , Boz - you would have seen the Brewers improbable comeback from a 5-1 deficit against the Reds which may just be the difference in the Nats making the playoffs, instead of staying for a second half wake.

I got back up from the Skins lockeroom, checked MLB Gameday and as soon as I saw Zach Dukes was pitching for the Reds the next pitch was a walk-off homer.

BTW, got to tell a press box story. You can now follow the play-by-play of some Little League games on your computer. Our Mark Maske was monitoring his 12-year-old son's game. It looks like the running account of a pro game. So, Mark says, "Look at this." We look and see "Maske homers." And where it went, etc. "He hit a homer yesterday, too," said the proud dad.

A little while later, Mark says, "Uh oh, maybe I'm covering the wrong game." (Or something like that.) We go over. His computer says, "Maske hit by pitch."

I asked, "Will it say, 'Benches clear?'"

Maske, laughing: "That could be next."

There's nobody in the Post I enjoy reading more than you, and your expertise in baseball is mind-boggling. But how were you so wrong for so long about the Nats (saying they were really good, saying they'd get lots better when their injured players returned, saying their offense would erupt later in the season, saying they'd feast on mediocre teams after the All-Star break)?

Thanks for pointing that out. Yes, it looks like, big picture, I was right. They have led the N.L. in offense -- currently by a pretty big margin -- since they got healthy. They have feasted on medicocre teams. But they probably didn't do it soon enough. If they had awakened right after the All-Star gamer, they'd be fine. They didn't stop pressing so much (choking on expectations, butchering fundamentals, if you prefer) until after the early-August sweep by the Braves. Since then, 25-10. 

The Nats are really talented. They have a good clubhouse. But they played the game very poorly as the fundamental level for a long time. Trying too hard. Not enough focus on detail in spring training, maybe. But if this is an "off" year for them -- and that's probably what it will be remembered as -- then it shows the direction of their future.

This Sunday, 9/21.

Thanks very much.

And here is a link to Adam Kilgore's article on the Navy Yard shootings with Davey's comments.

Boz, It looks like we all fell for the Redskins rosy off season propaganda: RG3 will be as good as last year, the rookie defensive backs are good enough to be starters, and London Fletcher isn't too old to be a starting linebacker. All have proved to be completely false. Do you see any hope of avoiding a disastrous season? I'm talking 3-13 or worse!!

Long ago, my dad teased me and said, "Leave the sooth-saying" to others.

As soon as you see a sensible sportswriter giving a prediction, or any confident statement about the future, you know he (me) is probably rolling his eyes and thinking, "I have to do this nonsense every once in a while. It's an expected part of the job. But I hope these people don't think that ANYBODY can see the future. Or thinks that they can."

One reason we all love sports so much is because it totally confounds us so often despite the fact that we know so much about it.

"Everybody" expected the Skins to be 1-1 at this point. They are 0-2. But it's a very ugly 0-2. But a wide range of outcomes is still possible. A really bad year is on the table more than it was three weeks ago. But the NFC East looks so tame that there are seven division games which, as a group, look more manageable than they did before the season.

One reason we have so much to chat about is that none of us knows what'll happen -- even in the broadest sense, like the Rangers fold or the Skins trailing 64-7 combined in the late 3Q of their first two games -- but we can't wait to find out.

Just out of curiosity, who appointed the Braves as arbiters of proper baseball etiquette? Also, which unwritten rules do you think that they'll be enforcing in this series?

The Braves are big on etiquette. For example, they believe in being polite and sharing. That's why they only won one World Series despite finishing first in the division 14 times.

Washington Leaders Washington Presidents Washington Powers

Powers isn't bad.

In your book, "How Life Imitates the World Series", you quote legendary pitching coach George Bamburger - " We do not play baseball. We play professional baseball. Amateurs play games. We are paid to win games. There are rules, and there are consequences if you break them. If you're a pro, then you often don't decide whether to cheat based on if it's 'right or wrong'. You base it on whether or not you can get away with it, and what the penalty might be. A guy who cheats in a friendly game of cards is a cheater. A pro who throws a spitball to support his family is a competitor."

Gotta love Bambi and his Staten Island Sinker.

That's it. See you next Monday when the Skins will have beaten the Lions and the town can take one foot off the ledge and the Nats will probably be very much in, or very much out of the wildcard chase.

Of course, if the Skins lose to the Lions we may have to find a way to put a black border around the chat.

Remember, no matter how much fun they are, they're still games. Cheers.

Calling the race in Richmond fixed is an overstatement. In every form of motor racing that has teams, there's a certain amount of (ahem) strategic cooperation from time to time. What happened in Richmond was the Waltrip team going way past the unwritten rules of what's acceptable - a bit like the difference between stealing signs and peeking for location in baseball. That team has a history - they got caught dosing their cars with jet fuel in their very first race some years ago - that may cost them sponsors this time, but comparing the entire sport with the WWE is a bit much.


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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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