Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Apr 28, 2015

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

Nats, Caps, Wiz. Who would have predicted the Nats would be this month's purveyors of disappointment?

I would have, and did anticipate a poor start. I didn't think it would be this ugly.

Here's what matters: Nothing.

I learned my lesson with Earl Weaver long ago. The '79 Orioles "started" 3-8. They went to the seventh game of the World Series. The '80 Orioles looked like a disaster and started 16-21 -- six games behind at the peak of the buy-a-pennant Yankees. They won 100.

"What is a start?" Earl would squawk at us beat reporters? Is it 10 games? 20, 30 40? You don't know."

Then he would talk seriously about what had happened -- if anything -- that impacted the full year, like a major injury or a key player who'd gone over the hill.

Always look big picture.

What's happened so far that matters?

Harper looks excellent, more mature. You couldn't have better news.

Nobody (yet) appears to have a serious injury.

The most important thing that's happened is Adam Wainwright's season-ending injury in St. Louis. Very unfortunate.  But really changes their chances. Their rotation was already using all available hands to get to five very good starters.

I'll get back to this. This will probably be a long slow chat after a late pleasant Caps night. Chill. And get off the ledge, if you're out there -- 'cause ya look silly.

BTW, the Nats looked bad in Florida, bad the first week. I've taken care not to predict anything too specific for them.With hindsight, maybe its '13 again. But I REALLY doubt it.

So far, it's meaningless.

I've got no problem with the Nationals using Cole tonight, and I think you can make an argument for the infusion of new blood at this point. But, still, this illustrates the whole "Hey, we've got the luxury of six starters" fallacy the Nats employed when Scherzer was signed. A bullpen guy isn't a practical substitute starter (unless the starter is out for a long time). This is the same phenomenon that did Detwiler in last year. Which is a shame, because Roark showed a lot more promise than Det.

If you trade Fister for a closer sometime during the season, then you could put Roark  back in the rotation where he belongs. Misusing him, and risking injury or damaged careeer arc, is the one mistake I think the Nats have made. But they wanted Scherzer when they got their shot at him.

I don't think this is even on the Nats radar. I haven't heard even one word about a Fister trade. But this would be on MY radar. Distant radar. But on the screen. Jusst a thinkin g point." I'll probably change my mind by next week.

We're delighted they got past NYI but if they lose to the Rangers does this really represent progress given that they have gotten through a first round before in the Ovi era?

Sure it's progress.

The Caps were out of the playoffs and in the toilet a year ago. They blew things up. I really thought their Stanley Cup window, even as a long shot, was probably closed. Or close to it.

In the first year, Trotz and the front office have built a post-season style team -- something I started discussing and saying should be done the DAY after the Caps lost to Montreal in the first round in '10. They got Orpik and Niskanen and went from a weak blue line to a strong one. They now play good defense -- only ELEVEN shots on goal last night in a Game 7!!! Trotz said: "That's all you need to know about how we played." They established one He's-Our-Guy goalie in Holtby after all the ego-busting goalie switches in the past.

They entered last night with the playoff stats of a built-for-the-playoffs team. They actually had more hits -- 267 to 263 --than  the Isles who are fast and feisty and love to dish out licks, especially Matt Martin (45), Cal Clutterbuck (37) and Johnny Boychuck (30). But the Caps matched them by having MORE players who were willing to ring up double figure hits -- 14 to 11 entering G7. Led by Orpik (34), Ovechkin (24) and Tom Wilson (119).

Everybody has always stymied the Caps offense in the playoffs with blocked shots -- an act of bravery that few employ in regular season. Thee Isles had more "blocks" -- 124-105 entering G7. But it wasn't a huge gap in toughness thanks to Carlson (20), Orpik (14) and Alzner (13).

Right now, the Caps have roughly as good a chance as anybody left in the NHL playoffs to go to the Stanley Cup. They ranked third in the Eastern Conference and fifth overall in the NHL in Simple Rating System this year -- their second-best mark in over 20 years. That showed that They Are Much Better than '13-'14's weak team. 

They may get knocked out next round. But they could win, too. They sucked it up when they were about to go down 3-1 in games. They ignore their G6 loss. And they have the right attitude now: You go THROUGH the other team to advance, you don't go around them. You want to exchange haymakers, not avoid a fight. Ward's goal was typical of the player he's always been, but also typical of what's needed in May.

The season has been a success. It may soon become an even bigger success. More important, perhaps, the direction of the team and its new leadership in forming an identity has been a BIG success. "Go, Heavy" is a better slogan than "Watch Us Skate and Score for 81 games, then Lose Early in the Playoffs."

This may be the Caps biggest stroke of luck. They have a Hall of Famer who can play any style you want in Ovechkin. Big hitter and big scorer.

When are the Nats going to stop with the over under-reaction and start playing with a sense of urgency?

Calm down.

The Nats still don't have their 1-2-3 hitters because Span and Werth rushed back and haven't contributed as much as Michael A. Taylor and Tyler Moore probably would have. By getting back sooner, they'll also probably hit their stride at the plate sooner, too -- so not a bad trade off. Werth's hit the ball decently with bad luck. But the offense is back because it SHOULD be bad -- they've gotten almost zero from their projected 1-2-3. That lets teams pitch around Harper, who's shown great patience.

In two weeks, or six, they'll be stomping pitchers if they get their full, or near-full lineup together with enough at bats to be sharp.

The errors are ridiculous and "unsustainable." Desmond didn't try to make those errors and I think he's already over "it." We'll see. Fister is as fundamentally sound as any pitcher you will see. HIS errors telegraph "team slump." That is the opposite of data that indicates "bad team." He's been infected by The Thing going on around him. It'll reverse.

Washington is still a very young baseball town. Nobody's to blame for this predictable April hysteria among fans and media. But you wouldn't see this response in St. Louis.


News: O's game postponed.

When Rizzo responded to a question about whether he was worried about Desmond with something like "No. Track record.", it made me think of the Nats track record more broadly. They'll probably bounce back well from this horrid play and make the playoffs, but even if they win a round, we really can't expect more than that. At some point, they'll -- as you (obliquely) described it -- "curl up into the fetal position." I don't mean to be negative. They seem to be a pretty good group that tries very hard. But maybe too hard sometimes; like sawdust-squeezing hard (with obvious exceptions like Rendon, Harper (though he has his moments too), et al). It seems too much to expect them to get over this in any way but an incremental one. And here "track record" is useful again, I fear: They finally got over the Braves, but not yet the Cardinals, and not yet the playoffs. So, for all their talent, it's looking like baby steps ... Thoughts? (And thanks for the free therapy! And for these fantastic chats.)

Do you know when you buy in the stock market? When the words like "fear" and "scary" and all the other emotional FUD words appear in mass quantities. FUD: a term used by stock market trolls who are hired to work in "boiler rooms" pumping out a flood of false info and vague fears to try to attack a stock and drive it down. Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.

Here's the definition. Read it, then see how you all -- being sincere, emotional fans -- actually create your own FUD. Only strong teams can ignore it. Rizzo, Williams, Scherzer, Werth, Zimmerman and many others see past it. Staart worrying in two months. No, I mean it, two months. 

That doesn't mean the Nats themselves shouldn't use every little light-a-fire technique, like last night's flap with the Braves over Simmons slide, to motivate themselves.

Here's FUD. You'll love it.

"Fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) is a tactic used in sales, marketing, public relations, politics and propaganda.

FUD is generally a strategic attempt to influence perception by disseminating negative and dubious or false information. An individual firm, for example, might use FUD to invite unfavorable opinions and speculation about a competitor's product; to increase the general estimation of switching costs among current customers; or to maintain leverage over a current business partner who could potentially become a rival.

The term originated to describe disinformation tactics in the computer hardware industry but has since been used more broadly. FUD is a manifestation of the appeal to fear."

The Nats look like a dead ball club. Do they miss Rendon that much? The Mets seem to be overcoming a lot more injuries.

Sorry to use nice well-intentioned chatters as examples of FUD. I'm glad this is anonymous because I'm not trying to insult anybody. But it's an education in fan psychology to listen to this FUD echo-chamber.


Is there anything more damning than being named World Series favorites in April?

This is perfect. FUD.

Being named a favorite means you are good.

Good is good.

So, what is actually BAD about the Nats.

The bullpen may be the one thing that justifies long-term worry. You're one Storen injury away from really major problems. The Nats think that, until the last half of last season, Janssen had actually been  etter than Clippard over a 3 1/2-year period. Yes, analytics -- performance adjusted for everything, including phases of the moon.

But what if the second half of '14 was the true indicator of Janssen's career stage -- injuries, aging. We'll see. But he is the hidden player that fans don't realize is important to Rizzo and the front offices plans. They thought they could trade Clippard because Janssen would, in a short time, be signed to replace him. That may still work out just fine. If you want to keep an eye on something, watch that. He should be back in a week or so.

I bet a bunch of chatters would agree with me on this, along with many others. And, not that you asked, but here's a specific kind of book that would be so fantastic: Your columns are great sports material, but they're also filled with good insights on life in general (e.g., today's on the power of narrative). A book that developed those themes (others: the power of good analysis, "losing the right way," golfers and knowing themselves, etc.) would be fun and really useful. I know I'd make my son read it five times. Even a simple collection of columns (or a variation on this) would hold up because of this layer of richness that your writing so often has. Thanks for entertaining the ideas of a big fan -- one of many.

Thanks very much. I usually try to bury these nice ones much deeper in the chat! But I'll use this one because it actually makes a negative point about my ability.

I don't have a higher gear.

What you read in my column is fully thought out, re-re-re-written and the best thinking/writing I'm capable of. That's a big reason I don't distract myself with random radio interviews and all the rest. The assumption that with more time, broader explication of the main point, that I'd be "better" is something I've heard for 35 years. I know it's not true. This IS my best.

There are few things I hate more than a 300-400 page book on a 20-page idea or a 40-page person. And that's what 95 percent of all sports books are. Take a really good column idea or "takeout" idea -- worth 1K or 5K or even 8K words -- and "blow it out" into a book, make some $$$, but make the reader (me) want to throw the damn thing through a window. Over the years, plenty of very nice people, writers, book editors have, in the friendliest way, suggested "big books" that I should do, or do with them. Like what I've done every day of my life -- and the audience I enjoy talking with so much -- constitutes some kind of slumming and if I'd just shape up I could make something of myself. I say, "Thanks very much. I appreciate the idea." What I am thinking is, "Those are exactly the books I want to incinerate. Please, lord, save me from weakening and saying, 'Yes.'"

That's one reason I've done collections. May do another someday. But Shakespeare, and writers five levels lower, are safe from me. I realized that long ago. But I am REALLY happy and appreciative that you enjoy what I DO write.   

I'm a little grouchy this a.m.

Make that extremely grouchy. I'm probably looking for people to drive off my lawn who aren't even there.

Just cut everything I say in half.

In 20 years will baseball become boxing- dead?


But in 20 years there's an excellent chance that Chris Rock will be forgotten.

You may have heard that a certain pseudo-sports website has been pushing the notion that Randy Wittman should be fired. Supposedly his offensive prowess is lacking. To me, this just seems crazy. He's produced the most wins in 30 years, and his defense is just astounding. Particularly after Sunday's win, I assume his job is fully secure. Any thoughts?

His job is secure.

He's behind the times on anlytics and should catch up. He shouldn't be defensive about it.(He certainly seems to be defensive anyway.) I criticized the excess mid-range jumpers several months ago using stats.

But, stats are everything.

I loved Rizzo's take on Sabermetrics many years ago. Paraphrase from a conversation long ago: Everybody acts like it's rocket science. It's not that hard. Even I understand most of it. Looking at a player and evaluating him with your eye, as well as advanced stats -- THAT'S hard. 

Back to Wittman. What people who have never played, coached or perhaps even covered as a beat writer is that there are MANY crucial parts to coaching at the pro level. One of the hardest -- and I mean really hard, unless you are already a Famous Coach With Rings -- is getting a team to buy into the colossal importance of relentless painful defense that only shows up in the boxscore in one place: the opponent's point total, which is may be five points lower than it would be if you just played "pretty hard" (and nobody could tell the difference). Yet that five points of defense -- or eight or whatever -- is an enormous difference in the NBA where the difference between outscoring foes by an average of 4.7 points and being outscored by 1-point a game is the difference between 54-28 and 39-43.

(The Trailblazers, Clips, Spurs, Rockets, Griz and Mavs outscored foes by 4.725 this year and averaged a 54-28 record -- a typical result.)

Remember how good 54 wins is. The Wiz just won 46 -- matching their highest total since the '70's!

Wittman was an All-American under Bobby Knight. He was a scorer but his takeaway was Defense Wins. Despite his awful career record as the coach of awful teams -- thus zero Great Coach cred -- he got the Wiz to "buy into" defense. In the playoffs last year their effort was exceptional. It's still their strength when they're playing their best.

I'm not going to carry Wittman's water. His substitution "patterns" look about as precisely determined as a Jackson Pollock painting. But his locker room hasn't blown up. Young players have developed under him. Could they have done better under others. We don't know. I loved Otto Porter coming out of college. I thought he looked like a total disaster early and even middle of this season. But now he's valuable. Maybe Pierce coached him up as much as Wittman. Still, the idea that Wittman just can't coach strikes me as both trendy and wrong.  There'll be interesting comments if the Brilliantly Coached Hawks, who are analytics perfection, don't dismantle the Wiz and their Head Buffoon.

Boz, What happened to the idea that Tanner would be the sixth or fill-in starter when needed? Hopefully, this will not be a repeat of the Ross Detweiler situation last year.

Same problem. It takes a lot of time to "stretch out" a reliever in mid-season so he can start again. If there were a major season-ending injury, yes, you can go to Roark. But the idea that he's the perfect spot starter is completely wrong. I neglected to see and mention this much earlier. They're using him in higher-leverage situations since the Stammen injury. But that means he's no longer the Long Man who sometimes gets 8-10 outs and can jump in and take a start.

His value now is as a key seventh or eighth inning reliever.


Here's the link to Rock's remarks on baseball. He had some good points. He's smart. And sometimes I find him funny. But not often enough. (Still think Richard Pryor made me laugh harder than anybody ever.) All in all, I thought his point came down to "not cool, not cool, not cool enough for me because I'm really cool." Since I've never thought he was cool, just trying WAY too hard to be cool, that didn't "resonate" with me.

You frequently state that eventually players and teams, alike, are what their stats/records say they are. Strasburg now has a body of work big enough to adequately determine what type of pitcher he is currently and to project what he will likely be for the rest of his career. What type of pitcher is he now (good, great, etc.) and will it change in the future?

Advanced stats like xFIP, SIERA -- basically all such stats --say that he's already wonderful and "should" have had better results.

My eye says the stats are missing something. He's a good pitcher who's still a work in progress. But he's far more coachable -- less stubborn -- than Nolan Ryan or Blyleven at the same ages.

Baseball's main pitch is still the fastball. And you're going to throw it ~60 percent of the time unless you want your arm to fall off.  Strasburg's FB has velocity and looks like it has movement. But when he misses over the plate with it, it gets whacked as if it were 90 and dead straight. So, he really needs to command it. His secondary pitches are exceptional. (His curve looked "fixed" two starts ago. Haven't seen his last start yet.) But you usually have to use your FB to get to your excellent secondary pitches. When he does have an effective precise FB, he gets lots of Ks and good results with changes, curves and chase FBs. But the days when his FB gets hit hard, he never gets to his best weapons often enough. Maybe that's why adding a cutter is discussed for him. 

How bad is it? How would you fix it?

There's certainly a crisis of confidence running through the pen. But the awful offense puts extra pressure on every other aspect of any team. When the offense comes, and I assume it will, then very quickly, and mysteriously, lots of other things will probably get better, too.

There is a lot of baseball complexity behind the bromide that "You're never as good as you look when you're going good and you're never as bad as you look when you're going bad." You have to remind yourself that those words are not an excuse or a flippant avoidance of an answer but a baseball truth. That's why baseball is the sport where the SAME team can go 14-3, 15-4, 3-14 and 1-12 in the same season. Happens all the time. (Never happens in the NBA, unless directly related to injuries.)

Totally revamping the Wizards' lineup in order to sweep a series ought to quiet the crowd that says Wittman is a bad coach, wouldn't you say?

Plenty of us said early in the season that the Wiz  had a roster that gave a lot of match-up flexibility in post-season. That they could "go big" or "go small." They went small vs Raptors and tore them apart. I doubt you'll see the same eight-man rotation, with others not playing at all, if they have a couple of more series.

Yes, this is generally referred to as "coaching."

After Monday night's game, FanGraphs says the Nats have given away almost all the "edge" they held coming into the season, that the Mets now have almost as a good a chance to win the division as the Nats. Just a week ago, that would've been unfathomable. This group obviously has trouble handing expectations. Is there a way to fix this, or not?

Why am I thinking, "I wish I had a good phone number to call in Las Vegas."

I wish the Mets luck. The way the Nats have played, even granting any extenuating circumstances, they have earned a hard road.

But I don't think it will be a hard road. At least not from the Mets. Lets check back in July. (No, not even August or September). I'm wrong plenty. Maybe this time, too. The Mets are playing admirably. But lets see how they (and Collins) react to a comparable bad streak, which always comes. I'm not a believer. The Marlins? I like them better. Oh, but their April record is bad." If the Marlins were eight games ahead, that would matter more than the Mets. But it's worth noting that a half-season suspension may have actually allowed the Mets to develop a young closer -- Jeurys Familia, 1.69 ERA, nine saves -- much faster out of necessity.


Gotta find an RGIII question here someplace. Jeeez. What's happening to Washington.

He has got to go. He lost the team. Obviously most of team believed the preseason speculation and have the yips. Team needs to shaken up and someone needs to be traded to make a point and Williams canned and the team blamed for it. Williams was a dumb hirer.

This is the best one yet.

Might want to "bookmark."

Last week you said Ovechkin’s playoff and regular season production were “pretty close,” citing a regular season PPG avg. of 1.18 versus 1.02 in the playoffs. But that’s a 14 percent drop in production - not a huge decline, but superstars are expected to turn it up a notch in the playoffs, not down a notch. The disparity between the two gives the impression he’s doing worse in the playoffs than he really is. But the stats do show he’s not quite on his game in the postseason.

Don't forget, scoring is always lower in the NHL post-season. Almost every factor, including how the games are called, contributes to it. So, adjust Ovi's numbers for that.

Trotz seems very happy with him, too. I don't think its a con.

BOZ I guess my joy over the Caps is temporarily on hold because of the angst over the Nats while I hear a lot of platitudes about early and all this team is a mess and the head Nat looks absolutely lost So how long until you pill the plug.

Enjoy the Wiz and Caps. It'll be fun. They deserve it. YOU deserve it.

Ignore the Nats. It's their problem, let 'em sort it out in their own psychological Siberia. They deserve it.

And YOU don't deserve to be upset by baseball in April.

Last year, the Giants had a 20-36 slump that lasted two MONTHS. By August 12th, they were 5 1/2 games behind and you couldn't find 10 people in the Northern Hemisphere that thought they had a chance in hell to win the World Series. The Giants were fundamentally flawed, toast -- they'd quit. Why would you watch  'em?

Did I mention: "Relax. Enjoy."

It matters when you get hot. Cliche. Also really really true. Caps and Wiz are hot at exactly the right time. Nats, who cares? At some point, it's a problem. That time isn't now.

I thought Dan's column this morning was interesting, about how the team is "going through the battle, instead of around it." Is one series enough to say whether they're actually following through with this? And why didn't past coaches take this approach?

Here's Dan's column:

It's often said that one of the reasons you change coaches is to "change the voice in the room" or to change the message.

Who says choice of words doesn't matter!

Yes, in all sports you have to embrace the (post-season) battle, 'cause you sure can't avoid it.

I thoroughly enjoy the Caps TV broadcast team -- bummed I can't listen to them the rest of the way. Of the various DC TV&Radio teams who are your favorites or least-favorites? Charlie & Dave are the best, with JoeB & Locker a close second. I'm sure everyone agrees the Redskins radio team are the worst by a longshot.

Charlie and Dave are wonderful. Really enjoy 'em. Wonderful sly, smart, yet enthusiastic combo.

I appreciate JoeB and Locker enormously because, even after 40 years of watching the Caps and talking to players, coaches, GMs, it's still the hardest sport for me to "feel" as I watch. So, I learn a lot from them.

Buck and Phil are exceptional for Wiz on TV. You could put those three pairings up against any others in any U.S. city.

It goes without saying that the Skins group is the worst in any sport anywhere that I have ever heard. Makes you wonder if other solar systems have anything worthy of comparison. But perhaps I am not a fair judge since I can hardly bare to listen for more than 30 seconds.

Talk me back from the ledge, Boz.

What ledge?

Looks like a nice big summer screened porch, nice and safe, with many months of listening/watching ahead.

Gotta get rid of the NFL mentality. Remember what Earl said. I was talking to him at the end of the Orioles bench, right at the tunnel that goes back in the clubhouse, then to the elevator to the press box. I lost track of time. Suddenly, I realized they were playing the National Anthem. (Yes, things were a lot looser then.)

I apologized -- sincerely. He said it was no problem because "this isn't football. We do this every day."

That's baseball. That's the baseball emotional ecosystem.


I can't pass this up. Jim Haslett says if he ran the Skins he'd pick Mariota. Poor Mariota, and here I thought he had half-a-chance to become decent in the NFL  eventually.

I know its not exactly the same thing, as the caps have won a rare Game 7 before, but this was different. Not only did the caps win, they did it with standard playoff hockey just like the big boys. Blocking shots but still playing an exciting style. It was an amazing night for hockey.


The pure hockey headline might have been: "Caps Allow only 11 Shots on Goal in Game Seven (and win, of course)."

Bos, Once again, with your prescient column a few days ago you foretold the ascendant stories of the Wiz and now the Caps, stories still unfolding. Experience (yours) clearly matters! Ok, so looking into that crystal ball of yours, can you find any signs--ANY--that the Nats will find a way to follow suit in our lifetimes? My own Nats crystal ball lies shattered on the floor.

Thanks. Even if it only lasts a few days, I was hoping I could take a mini-bow for my column from ~10 days ago about 20-year sports cycles in D.C. and how I thought the tide had already turned for the Caps, Wiz and Nats and my hunch was that we were about to see some evidence for the next (excellent) cycle, like '24-'45 and '72-'92.

The Nats still have the best chance to win a title. But with enough breaks, we could see the Wiz or Caps in the Finals this year. But it's going to take a lot of the Right Stuff by the players themselves as well as the sports gods. But it could happen. (Is Trotz reading my stuff? After his remarks last night, I kinda felt like, "How 'bout a 'citation' or two around here.")

Doesn't seem like such a big deal to me. They can still cut or trade him if he has a bad season. More risk to the salary cap then vote of confidence in the QB. Does feel like the owner had his hand in it though.

I basically agree.

This is certainly what Snyder prefers. That doesn't make it bad. It's a 'show of confidence' that does not harm and makes it harder for RGIII to be unddermined before he takes a snap.

BUT I think this really tightens the window on him. He has one year, and one year ONLY, to show a LOT of improvement. This $16.1M is also a convenient noose around his neck if he has a mediocre season. "Hey, we gotta let this guy go NOW before we owe him for next year. No way he's worth $16.1M."

So, if he's flat out bad in '15, he's gone. But we knew that. If he's great (or just much improved and good), then you "supported him" and have a good "relationship" with him.

The tough spot was if he looked like Not The Answer (to the staff) but there was still a Be Fair To RGIII faction. Now there's a way to say goodbye -- with Skins-like "cover" --because of the $16.1M.

The hitch is obviously what-if-he-gets-hurt scenario and the contract kicks in automatically while he can't play.

That's the risk they've decided to take. You can't win all the way around the block. I think this is probably the best way to play it.

It's like the kid just decided to put the game on his back and found a way to bury that puck. Excited to see what else he will do.

I wrote a shameless cheerleading column on Kuznetsov last year. Really like his future and impact. Just the extra juice they need. GREAT solo play to win a series! That's going to change his status in the room, too. There's a big difference between "he's going to do it for us someday" and"he just DID it!"

Can Paul Pierce hit off-speed pitches? It sure seems like the Nats could use someone with his swagger and mental toughness.

Paul Pierce for mayor.

(Stolen from Dan.)

Six months from now, his attitude could be named "MVP" -- Most Valuable Personality" -- for three franchises.

Is there any scenario where Williams or Rizzo lose their jobs for the Nats bad play?

Sure. In about 2018.

It's pretty clear to see when they're hitting and grinding. They look like a tough out in the playoffs. Now they just need to figure out how to score on Lundquist.

That's a problem.


Couple of links from invaluable producer Kelyn Soong.

First, the happy. The POTUS is now on the Wiz bandwagon.

I think that band wagon was down to about three people -- and with good reason -- not long ago. Remember the West Coast trip when Wiz were accused of spatting with each other and quitting as soon as you put any pressure on them.

And here's the sad one. Kirk Gibson  announces he has Parkinson's.

I remember a long warm half-hour rambling conversation with him lats summer. Great guy. And a close friend of Matt Williams. He said when he was with Tigers and they were going bad, he'd tell Sparky Anderson he was going to go ballistic at the press that day -- for any excuse or no excuse at all -- to take focus/criticism off the team.

Why is Drew Storen still on this team?

I think we have a leader in the clubhouse for Least Informed Chatter.

Quiz: Since Storen came back from the DL and the minor in August of '13, he has pitched in 93 games.

His ERA is (pick one): 1.31, 2.31, 3.31, 4.31 or 198.31?

Answer: 1.31.

All his other statistics in those 92 games are: awful, mediocre or Better Than Mariano.

82 2/3 innings, 66 hits. 19-70 W/K ratio.

Home runs allowed in his last 93 games: 2.

Panda hit a pitcher's pitch for an RBI double down the leftfield line. Otherwise the consensus would be: Well, at least we've got a quality closer.

He's going to have a big psychological test in the playoffs. But since he came back, with a really good change-up added to his sinker at 94-95 and a plus-plus slider, this guy has made hitter look funny. Except in NLDS Game 2.

See everybody next week. We'll see if the Washington worms keep turning.


Skins will trade down, get 10 picks in the seven rounds. It'll be the first crucial step towards them being less bad and winning maybe six games next year.

Is Gortat underrated? He looked astonishing in the game Sunday. And, the mobility and agility for a man that size?

When he's confident and rolling with Wall he's really fun to watch.

And he LOVED that Caps game last night. Couple of Isles looking over at the first row and saw this yelling 6-11 weight lifter with a shaved head behind the glass.

Now that the job is open, can we just appoint Paul Pierce "Mayor for Life"? It's been just one playoff series, and he's already trolled another team's fan base, gotten their GM fined, killed the spirits of the other team after hitting two "dagger" three-pointers, and then strutted off the court shouting "That's why I'm here." Also, I'm pretty sure that his presence at the Verizon Center last night had something to do with the Caps winning.

There's good swag, there's bogus swag and then there's The Truth.

Was thinking last night about what ONE guy I would add to the Caps roster from throughout history. Was tempted to take a grinder like Knuble, but hard to say no to Peter Bondra. Maybe all the way back to Langway? Who would you take?

Wow, nice.

1) Langway a huge star, monster force on D and leadership. 2) Bondra. Gotta love Bonzai. 3) Knuble, a personal fav and perfect playoff player.

I don't get the mock draft. I figured it was driven by gambling but that doesn't seem to be the case. Yes, you can wager on the first round. I would catch some of the NFL draft when it was on Saturday; between chores.

I pay attention to the NFL draft one minute before it starts.

And, every year, that turns out to be way too soon.

Yeah, but the Cards would never look this fundamentally poor.... W-L record is no a big deal, but the Nats continue to have problems with fundamentals.

In the middle of Tony's last World Series winning year, he was so distraught at Cards awful fundamentals, especially fielding, that his beat writers said he was just beside himself, out of answers. Then...well, you never know.

Notwithstanding his injuries, Escobar's performance so far demonstrates that he has been a great acquisition.

Injuries don't count? One reason you could get him was his injuries last year. (Age is an injury.) But, yes, he's contributed.

I'm a Caps and Wiz season ticketholder. I was at Game 7 yesterday. To all my fellow Washingtonians who have the DC Sports Fear, I say to you, enjoy the hell out of this and shed your fear. One of the most memorable moments was seeing the Wiz in the front row who had just swept the Raptors getting the crowd jacked up with Pierce leading the way. They got a standing O. Just awesome. Bos, I even read your old Islanders column to get it all out of my system before going to the stadium. One column I would love to see you write is about the two coaches: Wittman and Trotz. I think both of them outcoached their adversaries by making important adjustments that led to successful outcomes. What did you think about the coaching?

I just wanted to share your enthusiasm with the other chatters. Thanks.

What is your assessment of the officiating in last night's game? It seems odd, at least, that a team that was so dominant on its own ice would not garner a single power play and it is odder still that a "roughing" penalty was called against them with three minutes remaining in a one goal game.

That was the only power play of the whole game, I believe.

What's that song? Oh, yeah, "New York, New York!"

Who you got on Saturday? Four years ago, this might've been a must-purchase PPV. Now, I'm guessing Mayweather will outpoint Paq by avoiding contact and picking his shots.

To quote wonderful Post boxing writer Dave Brady to Don King, "If you put that fight on in my backyard I'd close the blinds."

I wouldn't put two cents in Mayweather's pockets.

Who has a better chance of making the Finals?

Caps, because it's the nature of the NHL post-season.

But I think the Wiz are playing better basketball right now than the Caps are hockey. But they're both doin' mighty good.


If Encina's info and this tweet are correct, I'll end with something I never thought see outside of a futuristic dystopian movie: O's game at 2 p.m. tomorrow Closed To The Public.

When is someone gonna ask Matt Williams about his Babe Ruth promise? Could that really be what's hanging over this team?

Interesting. I'll ask when they get back.


Orioles Game Not Open to the Public is now official.

Baseball, especially in the minors, has always had two signs: "No Game Today" in the off-season and "Game Today" to sell tickets.

Gonna need a third sign. Bad days, indeed.

Do you not agree that Fister is worrisome?

Oh, there's plenty that's worrisome. All loses count.

"Panic-some" is different.

Boz, I'm a fan of yours and a fan of the Nats. In 2013 you kept saying patience, patience. Then one day I woke up and read you saying that the season seemed to be lost. I know it's early. But it seems like it's not an acceptable opinion to say things don't seem right, until you say it's ok. That's annoying. Clearly it's early. Clearly saying that people need to be fired it loony. But they are playing tight and terrible at the moment. Why is that so wrong to point out?

They look atrocious.

I'm just fascinated by the rush to feel miserable about a baseball team in April, when the Caps and Wiz just won playoff series.

Concern is a form of affection. So I guess the Nats hold on their fan base is very strong.

It took me so many years to realize that, among the MANY baseball writer sins, all of which I'm sure I've committed, the No. 1 most-often-made mistake is Rush To Judgment.

For every time that a GM is wrong because he waited too long to make an evaluation there are five or 10 times when GMs make mistakes because they "I just can't stand to keep watching this &^%$#*&^ guy."

My point isn't to try to pretend to see the future. This could be 2013 2.0. But rather to help fans understand how the more successful people in baseball think about the game and the process of forming judgments.

Of course, fans don't have to feel that way! "BOOOOO" is a great release.

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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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