Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Oct 21, 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

Take the platter! RGIII should stop trying to run those extra yards before going out of bounds. A player is going to hit him hard early in the game, penalty be damned.

Yes, the Skins have had breaks with Pryor and Cutler hurt in their two wins, so, yes, take the platter.

But, on the other hand, the Skins looked better against the Raiders than they had in their 0--3 start, then better against Dallas, when two awful special teams kick-return plays changed the game and, on Sunday, they took another step up vs the depleted Bears. So, all that is progress.

But we know what happens to the Skins when expectations are raised -- an almost invariable stinker the next week almost every time. So, I was sorry to see Hall say that (at 2-4) he thought the '13 Skins were better than last year.

I'm afraid that Griffin continuing to run is a big key to any success in '13. Is that wise? Other teams are facing the same decision. RGIII ran 11 times for 84 yards Sunday. That was crucial to all of their other offensive parts amassing 499 yards. Look at the other "running QB's" on Sunday. Kaepernick ran 11 times for 68 yards in SF's win, Wilson 8 for 29 in Seattle's win, Cam Newton 10 for 26 in Carolin'a s loss. But NOBODY else is letting their QB run much BY DESIGN.

So, Skins are playing with fire letting RGIII run so much __and 11 times would be 176 times in a full season ("only" 120 carries last year). It's essential to success NOW, but it's dangerous long-term. Yes, feel free to discuss! For the rest of the season.

But, as a runner, RGIII IS back. If not 100%, then pretty close.

Do you think it hurts that they play in the extremely weak AL Central? They can pretty much coast into the postseason but then run into problems when they have to ratchet it up a notch.

Don't know if it hurts the Tigers but I bet it has helped the Cards and Red Sox that they play in the two toughest divisions in baseball.

However, I just double-checked my assumptions. It sure is easy to be wrong. The Red Sox played 96 games against teams that were .500 or above, the Tigers 82 (more than half) and the Cards only 75. And Detroit was 48-34 against .500-or-above. So, I just changed my mind. The Central was adequately tough. 


Is he a viable candidate? Could play first base against lefties and also back up Zimmerman at third. Would bring great character to the team.

Young's played regularly the last two years and not well -- no power, no speed, .702 OPS and a drag on his teams. He's had a great career, almost 2400 hits, but has been a defensive liability wherever he's played. After making $16M this year I doubt he'd be comfortable sitting on anybody's bench, tlling old stories, giving advice and being your Mark DeRosa. So, I guess that would qualify as "No." But an interesting name, great career. Just don't see a fit.

Although neither team has a shutdown starter like Kershaw or Verlander, both teams have strong and deep rotations and good bullpens. Boston's offense was by far the best in the majors, but St. Louis was at the top of the NL. Who ya got?

It's just excellent to see the top two teams in MLB in wins -- the best in their respective leagues -- finally meet in a World Series, just like the traditional WS. It's only happened twice since expanded playoffs in '95, I believe.

MLB had 10 very-closely bunched teams in the playoffs, none great, all quite good. Also, Boston, Detroit and St. Louis ranked 1-2-3 in baseball in runs. So we may see some offense. My first gut-reaction take is that the Cards may be better suited to handle the Sox starters than the Red Sox are to cope with a new face like Wacha and Wainwright.

But I'll write that analysis Tuesday for Wednesday. And anybody who believes predictions -- including mine -- is crazy. My affections last week were for a Cards-Tigers WS. And columnists can have feelings! But I still picked LA-Det.

This is one of the Series that looks so evenly matched, has two such great traditional franchises with nuts fan bases and very different team/city cultures that you just have to enjoy it and let it happen. When an event looks like its going to be wonderful, just leave it alone and let it entertain/surprise you.

BTW, how many had Luck over Peyton Manning last night! I try never to spoil my own fun by believing that a tolerably knowledgeable prediction actually lets you see the future. Having an opinion sometimes prevents you from seeing what is actually happening.

This argument has been raging in our office for a week, but we all agreed that your word could settle it. Who's better, Wayne Gretzky relative to the NHL and the sport of hockey, or Michael Jordan relative to the NBA and the sport of basketball?

Gimme Gretzky because his margin of domination over the rest of the players in his sport in his time was greater than Jordan's over his peers. Gretzy's margin was similar to Babe Ruth's over the MLB players of his time. 

But the most valuable NBA player ever was still Bill Russell. Everybody can play offense. And he scored enough. But he was a more dominant defensive force -- he shut down his own man and everybody else's man, too -- and rebounder ("There is no such things as a bad rebound") than anybody ever. Chamberlain was a comparable rebounder, but not defender. And Russell was still the most inspirational fierce leader I've ever seen in any sport.

So I hope he doesn't have too much trouble about that gun charge last weekend going through the airport. He's probably my all-time favorite athlete. So smart, so mordantly funny, a social conscience/willing to take stands and the greatest crazy laugh.  

If you could add any past Caps player to the roster to fill in the gaps, who would you want?

Rod Langway.

Man, was that easy.

And I bet Oates would agree in a heartbeat!

When do the Caps ever get a defense that makes anybody worry about their health within 15 feet of the net? One of the (few) things I do decently in watching hockey is pay attention to the flow of traffic in the crease and which teams make you pay for trying to pitch a tent in front of their tender. I watch the Caps, year after years, and want to scream. 

What's the deal with Brandon Merriweather? Is he deliberately trying to injure people with all of these helmet to helmet hits? Even the most ardent 'Skins fans that I was talking to yesterday thought that he was a menace with his dangerous play yesterday and in the Packers game.

Relative to the norms of the era, I'd say Meriweather is probably the dirtiest player I've ever seen in a Skins uniform. I'm ashamed to have him on a team with "Washington" in its name. Suspend him.

In the late-'50's through '70's, the game was more vicious. We all cheered for Chris Hanburger's clothesline tackles at the neck which, today, would be seen as a deliberate attempt to maim. And I'd love to see a highlight film of Night Train Lane's "biggest hits."  And Dick Butkus was a caveman. But they were only considered marginally dirty within their own times. Meriweather said after the game that he wasn't trying to be dirty. In a way, that's even more worrisome (if true). You mean he really doesn't KNOW that his hits -- especially the second one on Marshall in the endzone -- define dirty in this period?

I was talking to my son the Skins fanatic and we were enjoying all the good stuff from Sunday -- he spotted Reed long ago and told me "Fred Davis is over" while I'd always tell him "watch out for Helu." But even he, out of nowhere, said that Meriweather was...well, you know, he said something a 26-year-old would say. 

BTW, Lott and most of the other great safties did NOT play that way. 

ALSO, doesn't Meriweather understand that the Skins weakest position is safety so they NEED him? So he does everything to get suspended. Thanks. Sure his teammates appreciate that. Hall was in his face after the second hit.

Boz, Do you think the Nats will stick with Roark/Jordan as their fifth starter or look to the free-agent market? If the latter, any ideas whom they should target?

Roark, Jordan and Nate Karns, whose minor-league numbers indicate better results than what we saw in three starts, give them interesting options. They'll have to see who's available and at what price. They need to get to work on Gio-like contracts for Desmond and Z'mann. If they save $13-m on a one-year fifth starter and apply it to that project it might be a better idea. But I'll look at "additional starter" possibilities in a later chat. You need EIGHT starters on a contender's staff, even if a couple of them are in the minors. Eight, not five, six or seven. Look at the way the Cards have solved their rotation-injury problems internally.

BTW, Wacha is 22. The sport is full of mature polished starters at age 22-23-24. Strasburg is 25. When is he going to look like he has his mechanics and his mind as under control and at his disposal as several pitchers with similar stuff? (None of them have BETTER three-pitch stuff that Strasburg, except Harvey's five-pitch stuff before his injury.) 

So when did Bud abdicate and leave the enforcement of all that is Good and Holy about baseball to the Braves and Cardinals?

The Braves and Cards just apppointed themselves.

It does get kind of sickening.

But Puig certainly played into the hands of the no-fun ultra-purists with his playoff antics. Okay, he's 22. But baseball is now full of 22 year olds who aren't complete attention seekers. Also, I've always loved Cuban baseball, went down there in the late '70's. NOBODY on earth understands Baseball Properly Player better than Cuban players. (Like Livan.) There are 8, 109, 12-year-olds in Matanzas and Pinar del Rio who would be ASHAMED to miss cutoff men, hot dog on a "HR" that didn't even hit the fence on the fly. Puig is an illustration only of himself, not of Cuban players or 22-year-old players or 245-pound five-tool players. 

Shows how lucky that 230-pound 5-tool 19-year-old talent named Harper was to have a strong clubhouse influence in Werth (and Davey, too) in his first two years. Werth gave him "the word" on what to do and what not to do on an almost daily basis. And there was one absolutely classic woodshed meeting between Harper and Rizzo before Harper ever played a big league game in which he was told that his performance was only part of what would decide when he reached the majors and if the rest of his act didn't improve he might be looking at years, not months before he was in MLB. Maybe a bluff. Harper began "maturing" very quickly. Don't think the Dodgers handled Puig as well so far. The tough task is to get a bridle on a Wild Horse but not break him. The Dodgers may have a tough job pulling that off next year.

I'm in favor of "self-expression." I thought Victorino's emotions after the Grand Slamwere wonderful -- a new second-best HR video moment in Red Sox history after Fisk and now ahead of Dave (Hendu) Henderson in '86 ALCS. (That HR off Davey Moore was Henderson's only hit in that ALCS.) But Puig, for his own good, needs to be flamboyant but not 100 percent-about-me. I'll get off his case. People with the Dodgers think he's a good guy, just a young 22. 

Still, gotta say of Game 6, #BayofPuigs.

Hey Boz, the American League team with the best regular-season record is playing the National League team with the best regular-season record in the World Series. In my mind, this vindicates the new playoff system. It's finally as perfect as it could be, IMO. It's harder to get to the postseason in MLB than in any other major sport, and once there the wild cards have a long, difficult road to the Series. Love it. This is Bud's best legacy, IMO. Now if only future commissioners can leave well enough alone...

Yes, it seems like the life of the Wildcards has gotten a lot harder, as it should be. But 10 playoff teams out of 30 is absolutely ENOUGH. Don't jack with it. You still had four solid teams -- two with 86 wins (Nats, Royals), two with 85 wins (O's, Yanks) -- left OUT of the playoffs. That's good. 

The Bears game was fun, sure, but if Josh McCown can move his team at will against the Skins' defense, Peyton Manning is going to light them up like the White House Christmas Tree, isn't he? I'm thinking Peyton may join Wilt Chamberlain in the 100-point-game club.

Manning is NOT going to be in a good mood after what happened to him in Indy last night. It wasn't as close as 39-33 looked and Luck outplayed him, regardless of passing yardage totals.

The gap in arm strength between Luck (98 mph fastball) and Manning, who's throwing touch passes on almost everything, is pretty stunning. Peyton has amazing timing and feel, but I watched his last 30 passes just thinking "How much arm strength is still there when he needs it?" Enough, I guess. And he still moves better IN the pocket, without running, than almost anybody. Next to the phrase 'Reset the Pocket' put his picture.

BUT you can be sure that RGIII is aware that the guy who was picked ahead of him just beat Manning. But the Skins have to go to Denver. So I'll stay in the "not much chance" category on that game. But if RGIII has to run 10, 12, 15 times to show he can keep Skins in the game with The Great One, I bet he will.

The Skins have a lot of weaknesses and awful special teams. I'm seldom a "fire the coach" guy. And it's a disaster to do such things mid-season. But the Skins special teams are bad at everything -- a punt-block TD, kick returns, defending kick returns. So, their huge weaknesses at safety and special teams limit them. But they can be exciting in a lot of shootouts and RGIII's WILL can decide the end of a lot of games. THAT is what Franchise QB MEANS -- wins game at the end. Skins have not had that QB in forever. They do now. As long as he can stay vertical. 

Bos - thanks for the tweets these last few weeks during the baseball playoffs, keep 'em coming for the Series. With respect to keeping pitchers to a certain amount of pitches during a playoff game, I don't get the sense that it would matter or is even a consideration. But our "main man" Tim McCarver talked about it on Saturday night with Max Scherzer. Apparently for Game 2, he asked Leyland to pull him in the seventh. Then of course, Ortiz hits the grand slam. Scherzer then gets pulled in Game 6, at 108 pitches, and then Victorino hits the grand slam. McCarver said too many people in baseball are stuck to max pitches, around 100. Scherzer looked a bit worn in that last inning, but I would think in the playoffs that your ace pitcher stays in until his arm falls off. Any thoughts on this?? It just seems like Detroit blows two games by pulling him out, and those are the two that put them in the Series. MS should have been frothing at the mouth to stay in both

Good points. Though I do not know what Scherzer said to Leyland. But Scherzer is part of a generation of pitchers that has been taught to "throw as hard as you can as long as you can" and there is a decent reason for that. And it's why pitchers really do run out of gas at 100, 105, 110, 115 pitches now.

One of the big changes in the last 25+ years is that the bad hitters are MUCH better than they were in the '60's and '70's. Almost everybody can hurt you, even if you're a Scherzer. So there is less "cruising" or dialing the fastball up and down, though it can still be done (Verlander and Kershaw both good at holding back their real heat until they need it). Now, the big crisis juncture in the current game is the "bridge" between the starter and the set-up man and closer. The sixth and seventh innings aren't really "covered" with the same quality pitcher. In Game 6, the Red Sox staggered through the bridge innings and lost a 1-0 lead, but only trailed 2-1. The Tigers pen imploded in the Victorino inning, with help from the Det defense. I honestly think that pitch limits -- or guidelines -- are a generally good idea with a little flexibility on huge stages. But if you're bullpen isn't better than your starter on his 120th pitch, then you have a lot of work to do on your bullpen.

BTW, Scherzer is a very good pitcher and this was a breakout year that may indicate he'll have a remarkable next five years. Maybe.  But his 21-3 record does not reflect his current stature in the game. He's not Kershaw, Verlander, etc. One amazing year (with huge run support) doesn't move you THAT high, Cy Young Award or not. He had a fine 2.90 ERA this year -- but it's his 1st year under 3.50. His stuff is outlandish, hence the strikeouts. And he has an excellent rep as person/teammate. But maybe he just had a sense of his own limits.

OTOH, here is one stat you can use if you want to criticize Leyland, Scherzer of the gods for him coming out of thos egames -- Scherzer faced 92 hitters this season after his 100th pitch. That's not a lot of data. But it's some. They hit .162 with a .429 OPS! He only threw more than 118 pitches once (122). But he did NOT have a pattern of tiring late in his starts. 

What does the retirement of Detroit manager Jim Leyland mean for the Nats managerial situation? Does it start a Gibson-to-Detroit, Matt Williams-stays-in- Arizona as manager chain reaction?

You nailed the potential issue: Gibson to Detroit and Williams to D'back manager. I do NOT know Gibson's contract/job stautus. There were rumors near the end of the season that Arizona wasn't too happy with the 81-81 finish. Also a remark from the GM Towers that Gibson was "relatively new to managing."  I DO know how much Gibson loves Detroit and how much they love him (also his Michigan football background).

I covered Gibson back when he was considered the ultimate rockhead caveman by most of the media -- including me. I sat down with him for half-an-hour or so before a game this season and felt ashamed of myself for ever having that opinion. I doubt I wrote it. But I just had him wrong. Very thoughtful about baseball, student of new stats, understands leadership. And he knew exactly what he was doing in "handling the press" by having an explosion of what was sometimes seen as a stupidity outbreak just to distract attention away from a struggling team. Told stories about telling Sparky or teammates, when they were playing badly, "Looks like it's about time for me to go out there and say something stupid to the ^%^&&*ing media." Then he'd go pop off, his own team would laugh and "get it." We wouldn't. I sure didn't.

Doutb Nats are interested in Leyland unless he and Rizzo have a connection I don't know about. I think you need a pre-existing relationship before you hire a manager, rather than just "go for a name."

If you're Randy Knorr this can't exactly spoil your morning.  Most people don't have a firm grasp on Knorr's career because it was an unusual one. He played 11 years in the majors! But often he got little playing time or was up and down to the minors (only 738 MLB plate appearances). But he was EXPOSED to a lot of managers, top players. He has two World Series rings as backup catcher to Pat Borders in Toronto. He even caught one inning in a Series game!

Knorr defined the AAAA player -- 16 years catching in the minors playing, 1170 games, .271, 112 homers.  His MANAGING record in the minors is only417-420 in six full seasons. Some of the best managers (like Weaver) who had this kind of nondescript but dedicated playing career had exceptional minor league managing records. So ~.500 is slightly worrisome. 

Some undersell Knorr. Don't. But as long as Matt Williams is available, I'd make him the favorite in the clubhouse.

Good morning- The D'Backs were my "before DC" team and I still follow them from a distance so don't understand why Matt Williams is not the top candidate for the Nats. He paid his dues doing the dirty work in the trenches, not the broadcast booth. His impressive record as a minor league manager is somehow overlooked. His players consistently praise his leadership. Plus his tough love approach would seem to be just what the Nats need after Davie Johnson. Shouldn't he be the top candidate based on qualifications, not just his relationship with the GM?

Yes, that's the case for Williams. And Rizzo likes him -- as a person and potential manager -- a lot.

The Nats have a lot of big names, some of them young and partially formed. Who does the best job continuing to develop Harper, Strasberg, Rendon? Who keeps the clubhouse behind him with big personalities? There's not an obvious answer. But it's one of the main questions. Anybody can "run a ballgame," although -- as an aside --some that I respect in the L.A. media thinks Mattingly is "strategically challenged." I find that hard to believe, but the most recent evidence is his awful pinch-running for Adrian Gonzalez in the 8th inning of Game 1 of NLCS that haunted Dodgers through the 13-inning loss. Twice Hanley Ramirez was walked intentionally because A-Gone was no longer hitting behind him. And twice the potnetial game-winning rally died. 

Shanahan evoked Lorenzo Alexander's name as a special Special Teamer. Yet he let the man go because he did not want to "undo" the progress made on the salary cap. Yet there is an additional $18M next year (and after) that according to Alexander the Redskins were not that far away from keeping. him. He wanted to stay and he undoubtedly was a "core" Redskin. Is there no loyalty on this team when it comes to management?

The salary cap hit reduced the ability to be loyal to anybody. The numbers had to add up. It contributed to killing the Skins special teams.

BTW, the Hester punt return was one of the prettiest you'll ever see because, this time, it was not "all hester." It was blocked so perfectly that he had 3-4-5 "extra" blockers in the picket fence down the sideline. It was like the Skins had about seven men on the field. 

But Rocca had a chance at mid-field to make Devin Hester cut back by taking away the sideline. There was some (not much) pursuit. But it was the only chance. Rocca didn't do it -- and got crushed. Have no idea why not because he had the angle.

If you hear the name Dusty Baker come up in your managerial search, run for the hills.

That's probably not the direction I'd go. He had a team that won 97 in '12 -- one behind the Nats 98. So he was in a viable "win now" position the last two years and didn't. Whose fault? He'll probably be a victim of his rep from the Cubs of burning out young arms plus his recent "you-are-your-record" problems. But Dusty does not PREVENT teams from winning. He's finiahed 1st five times. He's had teams that won 103, 97, 97, 91, 90, 90, 90, 89, 89. And his career win% is .540. He must do something right. And he's a nice man. But I assume he's a "No" for Nats.

Cutler, Foles, Bradford all hurt. Weeden can't get it together. Tannehill is under fire. The Vikings change QBs weekly. Is it time for Tim Tebow?!

It only took a couple of years but now "It's NEVER Tebow time."

With the rapid decline of Eli, the uncertainty in Philly and the slow return to form of RG3, Romo is clearly the class of the division and has the Cowboys playing very well this year. Outside of Seattle, the rest of the NFC is down - the best teams seem to be in the AFC this year (Denver, KC, Indy). What can the Skins do to sneak back in the race? The defense is an unmitigated disaster, and the two wins came against backup QBs.

The Skins need to win every game inwhich they are favored and steal one of two. And that'll get you to, maybe, nine. The early loses don't go away. But it's worth noting that the early-season schedule looks tougher in retrospect than it did before the season when everybody thought it was "back loaded."

Right now, it kinda looks front AND back loaded.

Was that some sort of reverse hidden-ball trick?

I want to know about that!

There are so many "reads" now in the NFL that it's possible that Faking to Nothing could actually influence a defender. Well, at least it would be fun to think so.

Boz, Your colleague Adam Kilgore asked, in light of Jim Leyland's resignation, which is the more attractive gig: Nats or Tigers? I'd also add the Reds to that mix, though the word is they're set on Riggleman (!!!). Obviously there are a lot of considerations, but I've got to think that the age of the team is a big one. The Nats' average age in 27.7 - the Reds, 28.6 - the Tigers, 30.1. If you look at just position player starters, it's even more marked: 27.4 for the Nats, 28 for the Reds, 33.9 (!) for the Tigers. Sure looks like there are two gigs with teams that are in/just entering their primes, and one with a team whose best ball might be behind them. But there's a lot of other factors, obviously - what's your read on what the most attractive gig is?

The Nats are not known for paying much for their managers. That may be a factor. (I haven't looked into it because, at the time, it was my nightmare-of-nightmares for the poor Nats, but I wonder if it may have saved them from the Bobby Valentine disaster. He was expensive!)

A month ago, the Nats thought they would have their pick. But, age aside, there isn't much to pick b etween the Tigers, Nats and Reds.

So, does Tony LaRussa get antsy and come back? I doubt it, unless it's front office. But at the playoffs you hear everything, including a lot that isn't even close to true. 

I read a recent post to one of the articles on this site referencing Cards SP Michael Wacha being drafted after Nats' prospect Lucas Giolito and the notion that the Nats whiffed on that pick. Isn't it a bit premature to judge those picks considering that Giolito is much younger and rehabing from an injury? Also, shouldn't we wait to see Wacha pitch an entire MLB season to see what he brings at this level? A few months of success at the big league level doesn't equate to a path to Cooperstown, right?

It's far too early to judge Giolito. It's NOT too early to say that a LOT of teams passed on Wacha even after the Cards said, off the cuff, that "we'll never get a shot at him" at 19th.

The Nats are different. They thought they were paying up to get a potential No. 1-overall level player -- or close to No. 1. They gambled and won on that -- and they anticipated the elbow surgery. So their Plan A worked. But what is the excuse of all the teams that passed on Wacha that did NOT have a Plan A that was nearly as good as the Nats thinking, "Hey, we think we can STEAL Giolito."

Tom, I noticed Pete Carroll and his GM started with the Seahawks four years ago just like Shanahan and Bruce Allen. Both took over bad teams with aging rosters. I think you would agree their roster rebuild, especially on the defensive side, is way farther along than ours. What do you think we could learn from them?

Don't let ownership cost you $35-million in salary cap by miscalculating how mych you are disliked and how well NFL owners can team up to punish anybody who steps out of line. If you are going to get cute to steal a march on your competitors -- and that's what the Skins tried to do --  there is only one way to evaluate it: Did it WORK. Not "the other teams didn't play fair with us." Just "did we get away with it?" They didn't. The NFL gets an "F" for ethics. Oh, and that's a surprise? (See: League of Denial.)  The Skins get an "F" for "Ability to Judge the Ethics and Vindictivness of the Cut-Throat League We're In." BIG mistake.  

It took a horrific start including a shutout at home to the Rangers before Adam Oates was willing to shuffle the forward lines and give Marty Erat a chance on the 2nd line. Why the stubborness on Oates part? Does McPhee have a lot of input in the line combinations?

I'm aware of the Erat Situation. But lets take a step further back: The Caps have looked bad. Not mediocre, but bad -- at least the games I've watched. That's a bigger problem than Erat getting a chance on the second line.

As I've said, I suspect the Caps will be nip-and-tuck to make the playoffs because their night-after-night competition now is so much tougher.

Hey Boz. Now that Leyland is stepping down, what is your take on his career? Good manager or very overrated given the talent he has had to work with?

I get such a kick out of him and like him so much, but have never gotten to observe him managing day after day, that it's hard for me to judge. He's won three pennants and a World Series. But is only 41 games over .500 for his career.

It makes your eyebrows go up again that Davey Johnson was +301 over .500 with five different teams and not of them was better than medicore when he took over. This wasn't Davey's best year. He tried everything he knew to loosen up the Nats -- and that's one of the things he's always done best. Yet they were tight as a drum for months and also lacked fire. He seemed stunned -- the first time he'd played all his cards and it hadn't worked. What now? In that respect, any manager for the Nats next season may be a positive change -- less nice and understanding, more demanding, more like the Davey of 15-18 years ago. BUT every time we bring up names like Leyland, Baker, etc., it further highlights how good Johnson usually was and how central he was to the get-over-the-hump year in '12. 

Also, I remind myself that there are limits to the impact of managers. Joe Altobelli replaced Weaver and immediately won the Series. Sometimes it's the one-year-match between team and manager that's a perfect combination for a great season.

BTW, I was really proud of digging up a fact -- which I managed to bury in my own column -- that 35 teams in MLB history have gone from losers-to-Pennant-winners the next season. That's FAR more than I would have thought -- or even imagined. And there have been 15 such teams since '87 -- close to 30 percent.

For those who care (okay, for myself) here are the most recent 15 losers-to-the-Series: Braves ('91), Red Sox ('13), Reds ('90), Rockies ('07), Tigers ('06), Angels ('02), Dodgers ('88), Marlins ('97 and '03), Twins ('87 and '91), Phils ('93), Padres ('98), Cards ('87) and Rays ('08). That is a LOT -- and for many different reasons. 

Only four teams (I think) have imporved more than the Red Sox +29 wins. In recent times, the Rays improved by 31 wins five years ago.

As far as I know, nobody's noticed this. Of course, maybe 100 have noticed. There's info everywhere these days. But it's a major trend, though with many senarios. Be fun to see how it plays out for the Red Sox.     

Are they for real? Tracee must be on cloud 9!

Their crowd helps. The novelty of having Andy Reid helps. A little luck helps. But, come on, even if they weren't QUITE as bad as 2-14  -- they were outscored by 214 points last year! -- there is NO WAY that they are as good as they look right now. Good for KC, but seriously, can you say, "Hello, regression." Maybe the Skins get some benefit from that later in the season. Somebody will.

In your chat last week, you were asked about what you would do if you were the new commissioner. Your answer did not include finally addressing the DH issue. We are about to start another World Series with different rules depending on where the game plays. No other sport does this. I don't feel strongly one way or the other but there has to be one rule across both leagues. When is it going to happen?

I don't feel strongly. And I hope it stays the way it is. Just so people (not you) can get angry about nothing -- which, by the way, the passion of our age.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "For every minute you are angry you lose 60 seconds of happiness."

You can even fit it in a tweet.

See you all next week. Enjoy the World Series, and a Skins team that has its offense back! 

Bos: 1) What's the latest on the MASN dispute? 2) What's the latest on the Nats Spring training relocation? 3) What's the latest on the managerial search? I'll hang up and listen....

There is never any "latest" on MASN. Bud won't/hasn't act. Nobody else is going to unjam the logs. The spring training relocation is in limbo because the Nats want to be courted rather than pay up. (That's simplistic and unfair, but it is REALLY unfair to the team -- a competitive disadvantage -- that they are still where they are. 

From what I hear, the Nats hope to announce their manager decision in the first few days after the end of the World Series. That's their hope. That doesn't mean they will get it done on that timetable. Lotta moving parts, even this morning. 

What's your opinion of Jim Irsay's comments that the Colts should have won more than one Super Bowl with Manning? I agree with him and, if I saved all of my old football pools, I could prove it to you. I really didn't think he was hanging anyone out to dry, just stating the obvious. Maybe that's just proof of how hard it is to win it all.

Once an Irsay always an Irsay.

I donno, Boz. Strasburg was eighth among NL starters in ERA and ninth in FIP. How many Cy Youngs will he need to win before he isn't considered a disappointment? Just one? Two? Five? The Nats had a number of problems this year. Strasburg wasn't really one of them.

That's also true. Career 75 starts, career ERA 2.96. That's hard to find. But I think he expects more of himself, too --- another level up and soon. His teammates expect/think that, too.

What genius came up with the idea of waiting until Wednesday to start a Series that could have started Tuesday with a minimum of one day off for the AL team? Now, there will be no game Friday, which means one fewer game for kids with bedtimes before school to watch, and there will be a game on Monday, which means competition from Monday Night Football. I am sure it benefits Fox to draw a few viewers away from MNF, but does it benefit baseball?

Okay, okay.

But try to enjoy the semi-civilized ~8 p.m. starting times.

Fortunately, the nuns who taught at my school were all Red Sox fans, so we got to watch the day games in class. Unfortunately, the Cards had Bob Gibson. How would you rate him all-time?

Very, very....scary.

In light of the loss to Wake Forest and the devastating injuries to the WRs, how do you assess Edsall's future at Maryland and the move to the Big Ten. Are you sanguine about ther future of Terps football? I understand he's done a good job in the recruiting department but is he a "good" coach for this team?

Maryland football is clearly cursed.

This is not a joke to Md grads like my son: "Stefon Diggs -- out for the season. What is the DEAL with us."

You said: "We all cheered for Chris Hanburger's clothesline tackles at the neck which, today, would be seen as a deliberate attempt to maim." STRONGLY disagree. Hanburger played OLB at 6" 1" and 200 lbs. His high-tackling style -- which I adopted as a 4' 3" 65 lb. neighborhood-game player -- simply used his leverage to bring down a ballplayer. Hanburger grabbed jerseys and/or wrapped up helmets to throw people down, without grabbing shoulderpads inside the jersey and jerking them backwards -- it was alwasy a circular dance-like throwing motion with him. Never meant to injure.


You mean not REALLY an attempt to decapitate!?

"Politicans, old buildings and prostitutes all become respectable with time." Mark Twain. (Probably not quoted exactly right.) Now lets add Hanburger? Fine with me. One of my favorites as a kid.

I was shocked and saddened to hear that Sam Huff can't remember Len's name, since Len co-wrote Sam's autobiography. Bob Ryan said he would pay to cover baseball and basketball, but he gets paid to cover football. As a former QB for a legendary coach, how do you feel?

Funny, I was talking to someone last night. He asked something along those lines. I said that people are just people wherever you find them but some institutions tend to be slightly better or somewhat worse than the norm for the society of their time. MLB might be slightly better. Hard to prove. And it would be slight. The NFL, clearly worse, imo, and by a full level or two. "Well," this guy said, "why are you watching the NFL right now, this minute?" I said, "Animals are violent. Humans are still partly animals. I enjoy the NFL. I always have. But I also know what it is."

Yeah it's true old timers were dirtier, but today's players produce more mayhem with their size ans speed, Hanburger would be a safety and a small one at that. Butkus who was huge for his time would only be a small-average sized linebacker today and neither could run like today's 'backers.


And these days I doubt if Jim Brown could average more than 1,500 yards a season. But then he once gained 1,527 yards in a 12-game season. I think Claude Crabb's teeth are still imbedded in his ankle.

A couple of our Skins beat guys were teasing me about what Brown would do today. Be any good? I said, "232 (lbs), 9.2 (in the 100 yd dash) and meaner than anybody -- yeah, that'd probably still play."

Now that Fred Davis's tenure in Washington is basically done, where does he rate on the all-time Washington Sports Idiots Scale? Above/below Blatche? McGee? Kwame? Gus Frerotte (just for the head-butting incident)?

It's quite a list. There may have to be a Top 10 column someday. I've always been partial to owners. I think there might be 3-4-or-even-5 on that Top 10 lifetime list.

Bos, The govt shutdown re-introduced me to watching entire playoff games and to Clayton Kershaw who I'm not sure I ever saw pitch before. Thus I have a question as an ancient pitcher myself - Does Kershaw balk every time he throws a pitch ? Cause that hesitation move sure seems borderline to me.

Clayton Kershaw's windup looks like Charles Barkley's golf swing.

I have confirmation on this from Dave Sheinin.

In watching the baseball playoffs it seems many of the successful teams have great mental toughness. They come back in games and in series. They play through injuries. Indeed, they really handle adversity very well. The Cardinals, in particular, are a tough bunch, as we saw last year. This trait seems sorely missing from the Nationals. They appear to easily fold when things go bad. Arguably their late season surge showed some fortitude, but a lot of those wins came against bad teams. In fact, they thrived against weak competition all year. They had real trouble against good teams and make a ton of excuses for their own failures. Do you agree with this assessment and would any of the current managerial candidates be able to make the Nats mentally tougher?

There's some truth in what you say. Just "some," imo. But I think it's fair to say that the Nats, in picking a manager, are going to look for someone with influence along those lines.

In This Chat
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."
Recent Chats
  • Next: