Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Nov 14, 2016

Washington Post Sports Columnist Tom Boswell answered your questions about the Redskins, Capitals, Nationals, Wizards, the NFL and more.

Past Ask Boswell chats

If Kirk Cousins continues his pace until the end of the season, he will have amassed 1500 attempts, which qualifies him for comparison to the best quarterbacks in NFL history. His completion percentage of 65.6 would place him in a tie with Chad Pennington for first place all time, beating out HOFers Kurt Warner (65%) and Steve Young (64.2), who are second and third. Cousin's rating of 91.7 places him 13th all-time, the highest Redskin ever and ahead of current stars Andy Dalton, Carson Palmer, Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford, and Andrew Luck. For reference, Sonny Jurgensen's rating was 82.6 and Joe Theismann's rating was 77.4. Redskins fans who are quick to forget the poor play of RGIII, Rex Grossman, John Beck, Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman, Jason Campbell, Mark Brunell, Patrick Ramsey, Tim Hasselbeck, Shane Matthews, Danny Wuerffel, Tony Banks, and Jeff George over the last 15 years should be thanking their lucky stars and management needs to lock him up for many years to come.

EVERYBODY is much better statistically now than they once were. Partly it's the rules that make it hard on defenses to cover receivers and hit the QB. Partly it's offenses that substitute short safe high percentage passes for part of their running game. And partly it's that QBs as a whole are technically better at throwing the ball accurately. They are coached from the cradle.

So, NO, Cousins is not anywhere close to the "best" of anything. But it's good that you point out these things because the tendency is to UNDERvalue him. I think he's a Top 10 or Top 12 QB and that the Skins should be very glad they have him. After watching the 26-20 win again I was even more impressed with Cousins. Not "OMG" impressed, but quietly impressed with his good decisions, his accuracy, his poise on third down throws. BUT as if often the case with him, if ONE PLAY went differently, it's a different game and a very different evaluation of him: the pass that should have been intercepted at the goal line -- it hit TWO Vikings linebackers, but they KOed each other and neither held it. The Skins scored on the next play. In a six-point game that's a seven-point piece of very good luck.

I'll get back to Cousins. I think you need to look at his last two years combined. In the NFL today you need a QB with a better than two-to-one TD-to-INT ratio. Cousins' mark is now 43-18 for '15-'16. That'll do until someone better comes along and someone better is NOT just "coming along" -- so appreciate Cousins and hope he gets just a little better with time and more experience.      

Tom - what are your thoughts on the way Joe Maddon handled the Cubs pitching staff the last few games of the Series? I love Maddon and he typically appears cool and unflappable, but he seemed to really be white-knuckling it as the Series shifted back to Cleveland. First torching Chapman when it was unnecessary, and then the quick hook of Kyle Hendricks in game 7 at only 63 pitches and with two outs in the fifth inning. Yes, Hendricks had just walked a batter, but I attribute that more to Sam Holbrook missing some obvious strikes (for both starting pitchers) than to Hendricks really losing any command. If fact, Hendricks appeared to be focused and locked in during the fourth and fifth innings. Joe just seemed desperate to get John Lester (and David Ross) into the game. I would have milked Kyle Hendricks for a complete game unless he got into a serious jam or his arm fell off. Sure, it's nice to have Lester and Chapman available, but only break that glass in case of emergency.

Maddon had a poor Series in general and his team saved him. He's a very good manager, but he seemed to feel the pressure in this one, especially his lack of confidence in anybody in his bullpen except Chapman. If Chapman (or equivalent) doesn't return to the Cubs next year, that could be a hold-over problem: Don't you trust us?

One of the many reasons that this was one of the Top 5 World Series ever -- and that's going to be a great debate forever -- was the managerial strategy on both sides. For me, Maddon made two obvious mistakes in the games back in Cleveland and several minor ones. In Game 6, with a 7-2 lead in the eighth, it's pretty panicky to keep Chapman in the game after he'd already gotten you out of the High Leverage jam in the seventh inning. Yes, you have to win Game 6 before you can get to Game 7, but have to balance that against the opposing reality -- you ALSO have to win them both. There is debate about leaving Chap in for the 8th. But bringing him back to start the ninth with a 9-2 lead is nuts. Maddon said Strop wasn't warm yet. Well, why wasn't he? Or just stall. 

Anyway, if Rajai Davis hadn't homered in Game 7 to tie it 6-6 there would have been a tendency to say, "Well, Joe got away with it" or maybe "Joe is a genius and everybody else was wrong." But when Chapman blew the lead it was like "QED: Joe messed up."

I also agree that Hendricks was doing fine, had a lead and there was no need to go to Lester so early. It's like Maddon had it in mind BEFOREHAND: 1) Start Hendricks, 2) Bring in Lester at the first sign of trouble and 3) go to Chapman even if he has to get 4-5-6 outs. Then the circumstances of the game allowed him to be more relaxed. But he didn't use it. 

Of interest: both of the Invincible Relievers eventually wore out in the same game, the last game, of the season -- Chapman and Andrew Miller -- both allowed homers and looked worn out. Chapman got through the ninth with almost nothing but sliders (gutty of him) after his fastball fell from 100-102 to 97-98. That's a big drop -- like subtracting "a yard" from his fastball.

This was MUCH too great a World Series for it to end on something as simplistic and crabby as Cubs Blow Game 7 w Maddon as (maybe) Goat. The Series itself, and Maddon, deserved much better.

And better -- maybe "best" -- is what they got.

Boz: Do baseball managers win because they're smart, or are they smart because they've won?

In the case of Cleveland's Terry Francona (who actually prefers to be called "Tito," like his dad, and is Tito to almost everybody who knows him), he's smart whether he wins OR loses? That post-season run by the Indians -- without their No. 2 and No. 3 starters, then without any usefulness from their too-smart-for-his-own-good No. 4 starter -- will be the month, on top of his two world titles with the Red Sox World Series, that insure Francona will be in the Hall of Fame someday.

Irony department: In perhaps the fanciest steak house in Cleveland -- no, we don't give restaurant reviews or names here -- the menu had ALREADY been updated with a new dish. Under the bold-letter words "A.L. Champion Cleveland Indians 2016" was "Steak Francona." It was played directly ABOVE "NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers 2016" and "Steak LeBron" on the menu!

Even menus are what-have-you-done-for-us-lately.

It's remarkable to hear everybody in Cleveland talking ab out the civic pride surrounding the Cavs and Tribe.

Wonder if, out of the Caps, Nats and maybe, in a year or two, Skins, Washington will get some of the same experiences. 

FWIW, the Tribe threw dynamite into the idea that you need some wide open "window" to get to Game Seven of the WS and have a real chance at a championship. They lost perhaps their best hitter -- LFer Michael Brantley -- in April for the year, but still patched and plucked together a division-title year, then ALMOST beat THREE teams in the playoffs who looked better -- on paper.

Don't know whether it'll make the Tribe/Cleveland feel any better, but the total score of the WS was 27-27. Close as it gets. 

Hi Tom, I have to ask what your thoughts are on NFL's declining numbers? I agree that the violence of the game and science showing the effect of that violence is having a major impact. Isn't a bigger part of the problem also the mediocre play and general indifference of the league? It seems like there are no great teams anymore. This has been the case for many years I think. Also, now most teams are a handful of plays from being above or below .500. The problem is those teams don't usually make much noise in the playoffs, so the overall quality of play has dropped off in recent years. The proverbial "straw" is the tone deaf attitude of Goodell and the owners. Whether it's Josh Brown for the Giants, or ever escalating ticket prices. I just don't see the NFL being sustainable in its current set up.

The NFL is certainly "sustainable." It's not a popular as it was, but it's still more popular than anything else.

But I get your point. I was talking with one of the best veteran NFL writers in the country yesterday and he said "the game just doesn't feel the same." Said games had gotten much too long -- now frequently more than 3:30 for a 4Q game. Too many penalties, replays and discontinuities. And he mentioned something that I brought up in this chat two years ago. I timed the number of minutes of actual ACTION -- snap to whistle -- in an NFL game. It's between 12 and 15 minutes spread over 3:35 to 3:30. The replays create the illusion of extra action.

Here's where the dullness really shows up -- when you are at the stadium. You don't have the replays and cutaways to scoring plays in other games and the halftime show/chatter to add to the sense of "action."

The NFL has a big CTE problem -- which is much larger than just concussions because it goes straight to the danger of playing football at any level with repetitive hits that are "sub-concussive." That changes the way your stomach reacts to big hits and some highlights. But the league also has problems with pace-of-game, too little action in too-long games and general quality of play. 

There's a "sameness" to games. Perhaps that's the danger of over-saturation on TV. You see so many games that it blurs all games and damages the "freshness" of the product. 

I've seen every sport go through these up and down trends. They can last 5-to-10 years. Baseball's had a couple of down periods, then bounced back. The NFL just isn't used to being told: You're game, at least compared to how it used to be, seems kinda slow, too-much-the-same, violent and...

They go, "What!?? Us?? The Shield??"

Any idea why a supposedly very smart coach like Urban Meyer would risk J.T. Barrett's health and still leave him in the game while it was 48-3 against Maryland on Saturday? (Especially since he broke his ankle in 2014.) Evidently Meyer didn't think the victory was safe until Barrett came out of the game at 55-3. While I am sure no one was wishing anything bad against Meyer's amazing QB, those of us in the stadium would not have been brokenhearted if Meyer's desire to run up the score somehow backfired.

Hey, it's REALLY important to run up the score against Maryland MORE than Michigan ran it up the previous week. So Ohio State did.

Has anybody ever pointed out that college football, for the most part, is not a "classy sport" -- or at least doesn't have a surplus of classy coaches. But, as we saw last weekend, it is wild and crazy.

I watched every play of the first half of Md-Michigan and Md-OSU. Combined, it was 80-3. Do I get a medal?

As I watched Md-OSU I found myself saying, "OMG, will Maryland just run ONE effective play on offense or make ONE good defensive play in an entire OSU drive? This is pathetic." It was much worse than scrimmages between a high school varsity and its second team. I'm not sure it wasn't worse than a varsity vs JV scrimmage. (But no decent high school would ALLOW it's varsity to beat up its JV kids.)

It's going to be quite a while before I take the Md program seriously again. Sure, hope they beat some of the weaker teams on their schedule. But buy into the idea that they will be "good" fairly soon? They've gotta show me. My son the Maryland grad always points out that "D.J. Durkin had the No. 15 recruiting class in the country. You've got to give them time." Well, unless all the freshmen get themselves suspended. 

Look on the bright side -- don't these two games have to be some kind of all-time low point for Md football, as well as the height of the lament "Why did we ever think we could join this monster football conference and compete in...football?"

Anything from here will look like an improvement. Right? Right? (I don't hear anything. It's real quiet out there.)

What is the plan for keeping Stephen Strasburg healthy for an entire season? It seems as if he's been good for half a year each of the last two seasons.

Strasburg gets hurt. But he also gets well. In the last FIVE years, including '12 when he was shut down, he ranks No. 15 in baseball in WAR for pitchers. He's very valuable just like he is because, when he DOES pitch, he is so good: 63-37, 3.24 ERA in 139 starts the last five years. So he's averaged 28 starts and 166 innings the last 5 years. And, if I had to guess, I'd bet that he'll equal that in the next five years.

He's also (exactly) No. 15 in WAR for the last 3 and 4 years in MLB.

What's interesting to me is that Strasburg is WELL past age 25 now (when the most and worst injuries happen) and is now in the mature phase of his career. And he has NOT had another major injury. (Although he may just have a voided one.)

After his first TJ, if you'd said, "Will Strasburg end up his career with more or fewer starts than Mark Prior and Kerry Wood?" I'd probably have taken the "under."

Here's how it looks now.

Wood 178 starts (and some years in relief). 86-75, 3.67 ERA. Four years with 162 innings -- enough to qualify for ERA title.

Prior 106 starts. 42-29. 3.51 ERA. Two years with 162 innings.

Strasburg: 156 starts -- should pass Wood next year. 69-41 (!) 3.17 ERA (!). Two years with 162 IP.

Will Strasburg learn his body well enough to have a bunch of > 162-IP seasons as he turns 30. With his stuff, even as it degrades, he can pitch effectively until he's 35 -- if he can stay healthy ENOUGH. That means: He'll have injuries, but will they continue to be ones that he can recover from and come back with more contributions. My guess: He can. But we'll find out. 

We now know two important things about him. 1) He can be great for a period of a full season -- 33 starts -- although, in his case, his "great year" when he was like 22-3 with a ~2.20 ERA was from mid-'15 through m id '16. And 2) he can have injuries yet not have his career destroyed by them.

The question now seems not if Cousins should be the Redskin's QB, but how much should he be paid. As good as he seems to be, he misses plays weekly that would have been game changers. Missing a wide open Crowder (and throwing to Garcon who he stared down the whole way) which most likely would have helped add to a 14 nothing lead, instead helped change momentum and lead to a Minnesota 20-14 lead. And then in the second quarter, settling for a field goal after Smiths interception when he should have put the Vikings away with first and goal from the 10. Do you believe he will reach the point where he starts making these plays or is this who Kirk Cousins is? And will every week be Groundhogs day?

You ask the same question that many are today: How good is Cousins? And is that good enough?

I think a large point is being missed here: We now have 25 consecutive games as a starter to measure. If we assume that the Cousins of '15-'16 -- including the mediocre Cousins early in '15, the red-hot Cousins late in '15 and the '16 Cousins so far -- is all-in-all the Real Cousins, what have we got.

In '15-'16 combined, his QB rating is 98.9. (Pro-Football-Reference now has the capacity to let you combine seasons). His TD percentage is 4.8 percent. His INT percentage is 2.0 percent.

Those are basic and valuable measurements. Where would they rank Cousins among all ACTIVE QBs if he had enough attempts to qualify?

In QB rating, his 98.9 would be THIRD behind only Rodgers and Russell Wilson. His 2.0 INT percentage would be VERY good -- fifth best among all active QBs. His TD percent would "only" be tied for eighth best with Luck and Dalton.

This is a comparison that's slanted toward Cousins because it removes his '12-'13-'14 stats. But I really think '15-'16 is the true player. He is a VERY good QB. And here is a seldom-noted point: He gets rid of the ball so fast and takes hits so well (a skill or a "gift") that he has almost never gotten hurt since he broke an ankle in high school.

(I asked him about this "durability" question on Sunday and he almost broke the lecture trying to find "wood to knock" before answering, though afterward he joked about it.) In college, all he had were ankle sprains. No history of concussions or arm injuries or bad knees. Being able to stay in one piece, no matter how you do it, is a huge part of Total QB value.

I hope the Skins understand that a QB who reads defenses well, makes quick decisions, throws VERY accurately both from the pocket and on the bootleg plays, and can even run for a TD once in a while is a VERY big asset, even if he isn't a broken-field tackle-shedding off-schedule play-making superstar.

If Rob Kelley keeps looking good, giving him more of a running game, then Cousins won't have to throw as much to get better total results. Yes, everybody now likes Kelley better than Jones. Few negative plays, gets the extra yard without fumbling. I looked up a zillion backs to see how bad a fumbler Matt Jones has been. I won't inundate you with numbers but he is BAD in fumbles-per-carry. 

that is all. i read a lot of coverage after game 7, and have to say that the washington post, between you and barry, had the best recaps that fully captured the emotion of game 7. so thank you.

All right!

I agree! (On Barry, at least.) We had a ton of fun sitting together through those games. OK, maybe we both screamed (inside out heads) when Davis' homer tied it 6-6 and we had to rip up most of what we'd written in previous hours. But it was fabulous stuff -- right up there with the best seven-game Series I've ever seen -- '75, '86, '91, '01, '11 and '16.

Those are not "in order." They are my most memorable seven-gamers to cover. Quite a collection! I can't put '79 in there because....well, I should.

What is the probability that WIlson's agent and Mike Rizzo can reach a deal?

Very little to none. At this point, his future is in the A.L. "Anything can happen." But I really don't think it will.

The Nats need to move on and decide on their next regular catcher. I really think it will be Pedro Severino. He's first-rate behind the plate now and very high energy. Unlike MANY top defensive catchers, his bat already has pop -- that special "crack" when he hits it. His two homers were "gone" from the crack of the bat. His AAA numbers imply he'll be a mediocre hitter who has to bat 7th or 8th. But the Nats think he'll  develop over time. He's improved offensively every year. He was only 22 last year and in AAA AND MLB he hit .276 in 319 at bats.

Lucroy not going to be available with Texas hanging onto him. Doubt they go hard after Weiters at his age. I just think they believe in Severino. IF that is how they go, then Espinosa CANNOT be your starting SS. You can't have Seveerino, Espinosa, pitcher as your 7-8-9 hitters.

Cannot happen. So, the future of Severino and the future position of Trea Turner are LINKED. If Severino is your catcher, then Turner is your everyday shortstop. Period. And you HAVE to add a quality OFer with a trade or in free agency. It all goes TOGETHER.   

Why didn't Joe bring in Britton? He wasn't being used anywhere.

Thanks for that.

(I suspect that every manager who was still in the post-season was aware of how Buck got roasted for losing the last game of the season without using his best pitcher. Some went to the opposite extreme and couldn't wait to go to their biggest available "name" like Lester and Chapman in Game 7.)

Was a season ticket holder for the 4 years that coincided with the Arenas blow-up/Wall draft and draft of Beal. That first year they made the playoffs, this team felt like they had so much promise. Now, I look at them and I see a stale squad that isn't good, don't much like each other and headed to below average. My question for you: What would you do for the future of the squad? Stay pat and hope that Beal and Porter continually improve through hard work and patience? Trade Beal and Gortat to Sacramento for DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay? Trade Wall in the vein that you made a case for trading B. Harper? Would love your thoughts.

A Wiz question!!! I was hoping for one.

If I were put in charge of this mess, I'd go the Socrates route and look for the hemlock.

Today's extra-credit quiz question: Who are Marcus Thornton, Tomas Satoransky, Trey Burke, Kelly Oubre, Andrew Nicholson, Jason Smith and Sheldon McClellan?

1) The Capitals best prospects at Hershey.

2) The San Jose Sharks blue liners.

3) Nobody. I made up all the names at random.

4) The entire Wizards BENCH, all of whom have played at least 50 minutes already this season.

Yes, it's No. 4.  

It is truly difficult to build a roster than has one All-Star, one very good player who is often hurt (Beal), three other decent starters and The Worst Bench In Creation. Put it all together and what have you got? No Hope. You're not bad enough to be awful and get a lottery pick, especially with a new coach who has NOT been hired to "make us so bad that we can be good someday."

Contrast the solid per-game numbers of the five starters with the abject uselessness of this bench.

Look under "per-game."

http://www.basketball-reference.com/teams/WAS/2017.html

I ASSUME that Scott Brooks has ideas about where these people fit into his system, how they can be integrated into a greater Wiz whole that gradually improves as the season goes along.

But then I've been guilty of making such assumptions about this franchise since '79. How's that been working out for me?

Seems like this is the future of professional sports as we know it, and has been for awhile, but do you think that the dinosaurs are finally coming around? Makes me think of the movie "Moneyball" where Red Sox owner Henry tells Billy Beane, "Any GM that doesn't tear down their team and rebuild it using your model is gonna be a dinosaur."

Almsot everybody has been using Moneyball analytics for quite some time. There have been Next Waves of innovation after that, always looking for the "market inefficiency." The Nats went with Better Scouting with their grand-theft of scouts at one minute after midnight after (I think) the '10 season. Since then, there has been extensive study of defensive shifts; and how to limit injuries and maximize Most Player Games; and even how to maximize team chemistry. I wonder if the Cleveland front office, which is very smart, has been working on "chemistry" because they certainly play like a team that has it. (With the Nats, I've tried to write about how a team needs a blend of introverts and extroverts in its to cope with pressure.) We've seen the rise of ideas about More Contact Hitters, Less K's. As well as the power of the Multi-Armed Bullpen in the Playoffs. Maybe those are Hydra Headed Bullpens, with one extra-large monster head like Andrew Miller.

It does seem that baseball has been much more innovative, discovered different ways to build teams and find an edge, in the last 20 years than the NFL.

When did the NFL last have a good new idea -- unless it belonged to that smart jerk in New England.

Grunfeld has been the GM since 2003. How many more coaches is he allowed to fire before his enabler, Ted Leonsis, fires him?

There are really only two Eternal Questions for which mankind has no answer.

1) Why do bad things happen to good people? 

2) And your question. 

Tom, I agree that Terry Francona out-managed Maddon in the Series and did a yeoman job all year long. But while hindsight is 20-20, I think he kind of panicked when he went up 2-1. He lucked out when Kluber delivered on 3 days' rest. Then, up 3-1, he slates Bauer, Tomlin and Kluber again on short rest, in the process gradually wearing out Miller. If he was going to go bullpen-heavy anyway, why not gamble and start Ryan Merritt, who pitched so well in Game 5 of the NLCS against Toronto? Even if he loses and you give Miller a break, the other starters can get an extra day. Then Miller is back for Game 6 to bail out Bauer if you get to Game 7, Kluber can relieve Tomlin if he gets in trouble. Yeah, hindsight. But I think going with 3 days' rest the rest of the way paved the way for the Cubs. Thoughts?

If that Series had gone to Game 8, Tito would have had to start Ricky Vaughn.

Hi, Most weekdays I pass RFK stadium on my way home. I have many great memories there: My Dad was a Season ticket holder and my siblings and I experienced many great Skins games there. Plus I remember, (barely), the Senators games and even attended a few Nats games before Nationals Park opened. Throw in a U2 concert into the list as well. My question is: Who is responsible for the upkeep of the stadium. The outside looks like it is in need of some tlc , at the very least maybe a fresh coat of paint. Would this be too much to ask for while the Stadium still hosts DC united and other events?

Good question. Few stadiums in the U.S. have served more good purposes for their city, including a home for the Nats in their first three years. It deserves some TLC.

Pretty sure we were both at that U2 concert.

The Nats picked up his option, and Rizzo has apparently said that they're not trading him, but that Gio's place in the rotation is not "a lock". That sounds to me like a trade further down the road because I can't see him in the bullpen or in AAA. Just what DO the Nats think of their talented but frustrating lefty? And what do you think his chances are of being in the Nats' rotation in 2017?

There's no rush. It's almost impossible to find a team in recent years that's had FIVE starting pitchers better than Gio. So, he has present value as a durable slightly-over .500 pitcher who might still have a good season left in him at a tolerable price. Also, life is harder when you don't have ANY lefty starters. Look how vulnerable the Dodgers were to them (and GIO beat LA last year).

Finally, now or at the trade deadline, he practically defines "trade piece." But it's tough to imagine him starting another playoff game as a Nat. He looks good (or OK) until suddenly he doesn't.

The reason we suck is that we haven't had a decent QB since Fridge left.

Vent.

That's one of the things we're here for.

You're absolutely right about the fact that football has changed, which is why I switched to baseball a few years ago. Rugby is a sport I'd really like to follow, but the only way I can see it is in some Irish pubs that are nowhere near me or by pay-per-view at ridiculous prices. It's a natural fit for anyone who's getting tired of football, so who do I need to call to get more coverage?

Sorry, don't know how you get more rugby. But I assume the NHL, a full-speed contact sport with injuries, but not a CTE problem, should benefit from lower NHL interest.

Also, NHL games are played in a predictable and satisfying amount of time and have a LOT more minutes of actual action.

Tom- I attended the Skins-Vikings game yesterday, my first in-stadium experience in years. I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of drunken boorishness by fans. However, something struck me, and granted the NFL was celebrating Veterans' Day, but the NFL seems intrinsically linked to the military and jingoistic culture. Literally every stoppage of play there is some message about our military, honoring vets, or similar promotion. There was a flyby, banners, and giveaways all in the same vein. I'm all for supporting those who have or currently serve our nation, but I found it disturbing the degree to which the NFL seems reliant on that jingoistic, militaristic, and violent culture. It turns me off and I wonder if that too will play a role in steady decline in support for the NFL.

They've certainly taken it to an extreme I could never have imagined.

When you wrap yourself in the flag to that degree, maybe it's a sign that you know you have other problems -- league ethics, similar to Big Tobacco, and player off-field behavior issues -- and want to distract people from them with your noble support of the military. 

There are no clearly bad teams in the division, and it seems likely to produce at least one wildcard team. Can we say the division is back?

Yes!

Who thought it might be posssible, or even probable, for the Skins to finish with the 3rd-best record in the NFC East and make the playoffs?

Going into the Bengals-Giants game tonight, the NFC East has the BEST winning percentage of any division at 23-11-1. The AFC West is 25-13.

Problem started in mid 80's with ESPN and their highlights. Rugby is a similar sport and because they dont wear helmets and shoulder pads they know how to tackle. A good club rugby player is a better tackler than 90% of boys play defense for the NFL. Get rid of helmets and pads!

I played every sport you could name growing up, including seven years of football -- but never rugby. I've always wondered about that. I asked friends in college who played both football in fall and rugby in spring about how they didn't get killed when tackling. I never understood. 

Is Andrew McCutcheon, just 30 years old, worth going for at the right price, or is he perhaps washed up?

His numbers look like a player in FAST decline. But you'd have to see him everyday, or at least I would, to write off such a fabulous player and outstanding person/teammate so early in his career.

I don't remember ever seeing a WAR progression/collapse like this: 3.4, 3.5, 5.5., 6.8, 8.4, 6.8, 5.8 and then, last year, 0.7! Why, 0.7 is half of Danny Espinosa.

http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=9847&position=OF

If this guy bounces back to being a 5.0-WAR player, or even 3.5-to-4.0 WAR, all the people who DIDN'T take a shot at trading for him are going to feel mighty dumb. He just turned 30 last month. Sites like Streamer and Depth Chart that only look at stats to project future performance guesstimate his '17 production at 148 games, 22 homers, 83 RBI and a slash line of .282/.378/.469.

But people are ALWAYS scared to buy a stock when it's low.

Well, except Warren Buffett. (Maybe he knows something.)

What do you make of his struggles yesterday? Young guy just learning or does he have a lack of speed unable to keep up with the fast guys? And when Diggs was torching the Skins when the Vikes kept playing him out of the slot to get him on Fuller, why didn't Barry make an adjustment to have Breeland or Norman switch onto him?

I looked at the game again this a.m. They beat Fuller consistently. But Skins held them scoreless in second half. It's a cop-out on my part but I want to watch it again before judging Fuller. Norman didn't have such a good day either. On one Viking TD, they put his man in motion, isolated that one-on-one to Adam Thielen and beat Norman easily (he got picked by his own man. On another Viking TD pass, Norman may not have switched onto a receiver (who caught the TD pass inn the flat).

Maybe foes are seeing that Norman is being used to follow one receiver everywhere -- and that makes it easier to attack a defense by using "pick" patterns. It's nice to say, "You paid a fortune for Norman. Glue him to their top guy." But it's never that simple. If you're pretty certain where Norman is going to be and who he'll be on, then you can run him into picks or use him to, possibly, pick his own teammates. That may have been the case on TWO TDs on Sunday.

That's it for today. Glad to be back! And, no, I haven't completely left that wonderful World Series behind. I'm sure we'll talk about it a little more in future. Also, the Caps still look first-rate and deep. It's just tough to get too excited too early after last year. I'll enjoy them, but I'm kind of tired of the Charlie-Brown-Tries-To-Kick-The-Football thing. Lucy pulling the ball away should be a kind of unofficial team logo. Maybe a T-shirt with her pulling the Stanley Cup away.

That's too mean for a final note. See you all next Monday. There's never a dull week!

Tom, I get the feeling that fans are really going to hold the Caps at arms length during this regular season, the product of one too many playoff collapses rendering regular season brilliance immaterial. I've been to a couple games where the crowd seemed dull despite yet another exciting team, and there just isn't much buzz across the area. Could it be timing, i.e. so much focus on the election, World Series, NFL, etc.? Or is this something you expect the entire season?

Right now, even though it's just early season, they have the third best point-percentage in franchise history -- only behind their President's Trophy years. And they're doing it with Ovi at "only" a 40-goal pace. It's hard to ask for a much more solid regular-season team. But there probably is some reticence to commit. Last year was a big emotional test -- for fans. They sucked it up one more time. Now, maybe, they have to rest up a little.

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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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