Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Dec 11, 2017

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

Past Ask Boswell chats

Are we likely to see the Nats have the same season they had last year heading into October? Do you see anyone in the NL East challenging them?

Well, that one's easy. The Stanton trade certainly makes the division race a bit easier for the Nats. Giancarlo killed 'em, just like he crushed everybody. I thought the Marlins had the best chance to become a troublesome team -- near-term -- in the N.L. East, though the Phils have a nice future. The Mets ought to rebound from some of their pitching injuries. 

If the Nats win 88-to-90 games, and after the turmoil of another quick exit in October and the managerial change, plus coaching staff changes, that's no lock, they could be in a race. Remember how unexpectedly tough '13 and '15 were in the N.L. East. Chicken=counting is dangerous.

But, if the Nats get a strong return from Eaton in '18, plus Doolittle and Madson at the back of the pen all year, as well as fewer injuries -- then factor in some off-season additions -- you may be talking about a 95-win Nats season again versus a weak division. Then, yes, it could feel like a repeat of '17.

Every time in sports when somebody asks, "Will the immediately future be a great like the immediate past," I want to yell, "NOOOOO!" Sports leagues are structured to create surprise and change. So, yes, right now it looks like the Nats have about as clear a path as division champs ever have. But lets ask ourselves that question against at the start of spring training, then on July 4th. If the sport wasn't a constant shock to us -- who thought Stanton would be a Yankee right now! -- we wouldn't stay so interested.

In the sea of problems the past few weeks, one thing that stood out to me was the lack of run production. Specifically, Gruden does't seem to put the same mental effort in designing innovative running plays. It's pretty much hand off and run straight ahead until you fall down. Since you're more of a masochist than us and re-watch the games, did anything stand out to you in the playcalling for runs?

To me, it looked like they "pretty much hand off and run straight ahead until they fall down." 

When the O-line is either playing injured, or manned by back-ups or back-ups-to-back-ups and the laste standing running back is a 5-foot-10, 232-pound rookie whose style is to smash straight ahead until he falls down, what can fans expect? 

What a team.

The Josh Norman state-of-the-me post-game quote-fest was pure Skins over the last 20 years. I'm doing. It's not me. I'm not going to throw anybody under the bus....well, except my fellow DBs who can't cover and the coaches who don't use me to my full brilliant potential.

If I accidentally eat some lethal poison today and my life depends on my ability to throw up quickly, I'll just reread all Norman's quotes. That should do it.

My favorite line was when Norman said he signed with the Skins to "win championships," not because the money was so big and fat.

That's funny. The day he signed I thought: He's a very good player. He'll help. But he'll be way overpaid. He'll be 'about me,' while saying that he's 'about us.' And the basic reason he signed was for the money. How has that worked out for the Skins in the past.

EVERYBODY comes to the Skins, and to Snyder for the payday. Some more than others. But even Joe Gibbs came back, in part, for the money. 

Now that it looks like the Werth era is over, what grade would you put on what was one of the most maligned contracts of the past decade when it was signed? I'd particularly like your thoughts on the 'intangibles': the numbers speak for themselves. But from your optic, did Werth really change the clubhouse culture and inculcate a winning culture, or do you think this angle was overstated?

I'd grade it a "B+" and also say that it was an essential piece of the Nats going from a near-laughing-stock to 80-81 in Werth's first year, then to the second-best regular-season record in baseball over the last SIX seasons. That's a huge franchise/culture shift. Werth was Piece No. 1.

The grade would be somewhere in the "A's" if the Nats had won  one or two of their THREE Game Fives in the NLDS. But they didn't. So, it isn't.

FanGraphs thinks Werth's WAR as a Nat was worth ~$100M. He got $126M. His leadership was worth a LOT. It wasn't over-rated, imo. So, a good deal. But also a smart, gutsy deal in identifying what was needed at the moment it was needed.

The X Factor in the Wertth signing was that the Nats ownership was somewhat shocked, and taken aback, when Stan Kasten quit and made it clear (to them) that he didn't think they were building the team well enough or fast enough or with proper investment in key free agents to make a significant jump. In a way, his exit woke them up or forced them to make some dramatic action to change the narrative.

Hello Boz: I know you're a Nats fan but could you please say what you'd recommend the Orioles do this next year? Is it time to for a rebuild and stockpile prospects for guys like Britton, Machado and Jones? Thx!

As relieved as Nats followers can be that neither Stanton nor Shohei Ohtani ended up in the N.L. -- or even the N.L. East -- that's just how demoralizing I suspect it is to the O's themselves and their fans that Stanton is now in their DIVISION (and both are in their league).

Sometimes events develop in a way that has no "silver lining." It will now, I suspect, be harder for the O's to retain their own free agents, or add others after '18 because it looks like the Bad Old Days are back when the O's had little or no chance to win their division.

The O's grit and brains has been fun to watch under Buck. I hate to see that all busted up a year sooner than necessary. I'll have to do some thinking on this one, analyze what you can get in return when you trade a star as he enters his walk year. It might be time for that rebuild.

On the other hand, Nats followers may feel that Stanton to the Yanks has an element of Karma for MASN about it.

Tom, does Goodell's $40 million contract include overtime? Or if he stays at the office past 5 pm, does it move to time-and-a-half? Because that could get pricey.

That is, btw, potentially $40M-A-YEAR times five years for $200M (max).

It's amazing to see the commissioner of a league with so many problems get such a huge contract when, EVERY WEEK, more bad things happen that erode the core strength/appeal of the league.

BTW, Goodell has earned $212.5M since becoming Commissioner in '06 and, if all bonuses and incentives are met, it's been reported that he can make as much as $200M over the next five years. (He made $32M in '15, the last year for which specifics are known.)

This may make Goodell the most overpaid person -- player or anybody else -- in the history of U.S. sports.

On which major problem has he been a major PLUS? On getting ahead of the CTE nightmare? On convincing anyone that the NFL REALLY cares about player safety or ever has? On handling discipline wisely so that on-field fights and fan-player confrontations (like Sunday) are severely punished? On getting outright dirty play -- like the Gronkowski hit -- out of the game, as much as possible? 

You saw how the Gronk ONE-game suspension stopped dirty play on Sunday, right? The Seahawks were a disgrace with their back-to-back late-game dirty hits on the Jacksonville center when the Jags were just trying to kneel-down twice to end the game. Seattle coach Pete Carroll stood on the sidelines looking like he had about as much control over his team as Casper Milquetoast.

Tom, thanks much for these chats. In your Nov 20 chat, you predicted no Super Bowl ever for the Skins under Snyder ownership. As a Detroit native, I can tell our fellow chatters that there is data to back up your bold prediction. The Lions played in 4 NFL championship games in 1952-57, winning their third title in 1957. They finished second in their conference in 1960 thru 1962, going 11-3 in 1962. Then Henry Ford's grandson bought the team, and the Ford family has since hired a bunch of low-grade GMs and coaches, much like the Danny in the last 20 years with Skins. The Ford family still owns the team. The result: one playoff game victory since 1957, never close to a Super Bowl---60 YEARS of wretchedness now, folks. It could last that long here, I'm afraid.

OMG, that's the most chilling thing I've seen about the Skins possible future in a LONG time.

Right now, in the last two weeks, we are seeing the preconditions being set to ignite yet another Perfect Snyder Moment to do all the wrong things. As/if the '17 team implodes, that increases the chances that both Cousins and Gruden -- the main reasons they are even 22-22-1 the last three years (that's .500, folks...a.k.a. "Skins Heaven") -- will be undervalued and, as a return, be undermined or depart.

Right now, I'm sure you can find people debating who should be fired first -- Gruden, Bruce Allen -- and whether that bum Cousins is worth anything at all much less trying to mend fences with and hope you can sign him to a long-term deal. NOW is when you show confidence in people if you are their boss. NOW, when everybody is reaching for the pitchforks, is when you tell Cousins how much you appreciate him and his toughness in bad circumstances. Maybe it's too late, but at least it would be the sensible long-term approach -- help 'em UP when they are down and OTHERS are kicking them.

FWIW, even after another game in which the Skins got stomped, Cousins still ranks 9th in the NFL in QB rating at 97.7 with a 22-9 TD-to-INT ratio. What's interesting to me is the players AROUND Cousins who are ranked 7th-through-11th in QB rating because there's a pretty good chance that's exactly where he belongs.

Goff (99.2), Matthew Stafford, Cousins, Rivers (97.2), the miracle-of-'17 Case Keenum (96.2) who is flourishing because the team around him is strong, and Russell Wilson (95.5). I'm not saying that exact order has any meaning. And NFL stats can be misleading. But in a year when everybody around him is injured or a flop (Pryor), Cousins is duplicating the production that he has had for three straight years. It's the "blended" three-year performance that tells you who he is -- and the direction of his play, which has been toward improved ability to go off script (out of necessity) this year.

What's eerie about the Skins -- like the Lions for those 60 years -- is how their failures seem to repeat the same patterns. The Norman quotes after Sunday's game sound SO familiar.

The easiest thing to do in the NFL is to look at any team that can be called "disappointing" and blame the coach for an inability to motivate. Then grease the skids for him to be pushed out so you can repeat all the same mistakes again.

I was visiting family over the weekend and saw the game for the first time on tape, not live. So, ALL I was looking for was the level of effort. It wasn't awful.

LONG ago Lombardi said that one of the toughest things to detect in the NFL was when players were giving a 90-percent effort, but not the reckless-abandon effort that he demanded. Unless you are on the field, in the play, it is so hard to tell who is giving a "professional effort" -- which looks OK on film and keeps you from being singled out for criticism, but will leave you at 6-10 forever -- and a "winning effort" which requires a bit of madness and indifference to pain/injury. The Lombardi Way (which includes a lot of fear) isn't viable anymore. That's why a match-up between a team that is hot and "in it" late in the season (the Rams) and a disappointed team that is finally "out of it" (the Skins) can seem so lopsided even though the level of effort is close-to-100 percent for one team and not-so-bad at nearly 90 percent for the other. Obviously, using "percentages" is a generalization, not an attempt at precision. But when 100 percent is colliding with 90 percent all over the field all of the time, that can add up to a 30-13 game that feels like 40-6.     

Because the Skins live in delusion world and have to reinforce Snyder's party line that they are close to being a very good team, the players (and coaches) themselves have little choice but to attack their own level of effort (and athletic character). They don't have the option of being perceived -- as I thought -- as a 7-9 or 8-8 team that faced a far tougher schedule in '17 than in '16 when they were 8-7-1; and then, in '17, had far above normal injuries.

I still suspect the Skins, as bad as they have looked the last two weeks, will find a way to win two of their last three games to end 7-9 despite all the injuries.

The FIRST element in creating a Reverse Dynasty -- a team like the Lions, Browns or (maybe) current Skins -- is a consistent ability to 1) over-value and then 2) over-criticize your own players and coaches. It's a vicious cycle. You expect too much, then you hyperventilate over every bad game and bad season of "failure" and rip everything up again.

Thank you for pointing out the Lions. It seems "impossible" that some teams stay so good for so long, like the Steelers, Packers, Pats, etc., while others stay so bad for so long. But in the NFL, you can do it -- in either direction -- if the people at the top are that good/NFL-knowledgible/sane or that bad/NFL-dumb/nutty.  

With Stanton going to the Yankees I would think that eliminates the Bronx for Harper. Doesn't this turn of events increase the likelihood that he stays in Washington, unless the Angels or Dodgers are willing to make the big offer? Harper is a warm weather guy, so I wouldn't see him going to Chicago, and Texas seems a bit far-fetched as well.

I could bore you with links that detail every cent in the Yankees present and future payrolls to show that, conceivably, they could still go after -- anybody. But I won't.

Harper to the Yankees is dead now -- except in Scott Boras' mind, because it's his JOB to fan those dying embers. (He already made some statement about how "The Three Tenors" was a Steinbrenner tradition, implying, but not saying, that Judge, Stanton and Harper could fit in the same lineup. 

Their ages are 25, 28 and 24. None is going to want to DH. None wants to be a 1st baseman. They all have Big Arms that belong in RF (or LF if necessary). None is a CFer. Harper played there as a rookie. Those days are over. 

However, I've always thought that the most likely places for Harper to land were the Dodgers ($$$) and (maybe) Angels because he's a Vegas guy and has an affinity for the West Coast. Even though Ohtani came cheap for the Angels, he still wants to play OF as much as possible in future. It's one reason he signed there. So, Trout, plus part-time Ohtani makes the Angel OF of the future look a tad crowded. 

So, the Nats chances for Harper got better due to the Stanton trade. I'd love to see him stay in D.,C., but if I had to bet, I'd still bet against him staying. The Cubs are obviously a possibility (winning team and his friend and fellow MVP Bryant from Vegas.)

I do think Bryce honestly enjoys Washington. Also, keeping  Rizzo as GM after '18 -- preferably long after '18 -- is a key because Harper REALLY respects him. And if Mike left, Bryce would think, as a gillion people in MLB would think, "What the hell happens to the Nats now?"

Tom, how do you think the various stakeholder groups will treat Giancarlo Stanton scuttling multiple deals and engineering his Yankees trade in the long run? How do team owners react? What about everyday players? Is there animosity present that Stanton stuck it to the man and commanded his own destiny among large groups of players? And does this hurt Stanton's standing in MLB in the future if he needs some sort of help or benefit of the doubt over some issue?

*Players will admire him for getting to one of the two teams he really wanted -- although his FIRST choice would have been the Dodgers, where he has a home.

*Derek Jeter looks bad, maybe very bad. He owns 4 percent of the Marlins -- not 51 percent -- but he is playing the bad cop role while the real owner Bruce Sherman, guts the team and cuts payroll (which will end up far below $100M) with no clear path to building a winning team any time in the foreseeable future. Also, Jeter just salary-dumped a 59-homer player on his FORMER team, the Yanks. What, is this his parting gift to his Yankee fans?

My concern is that MLB will become, to a degree, like the NBA where the superstars choose up sides among themselves, create super teams and share the rings among themselves while more than 80 percent of the league has no realistic chance to make the Finals much less win a title.

It's much harder to do that in baseball. Pitching, and the health of your pitching is so important. It's hard to slump your way to a title, as has been shown many times. Last year, the Astros scored 896 runs, the most in the game, but they were still life and death to win their last two series, facing three elimination games. The Yanks scored 858 last year. Even if Stanton helps them become a 900-run team in '18, they just makes them fun to watch. It doesn't guarantee them any titles.

I sure hope for the Yanks sake that they don't go back to the "normal" ball in '18, rather than the juiced ball of '17. Because that Yankee lineup will now have a ton of strikeouts in it. Judge fanned 208 times in 542 at bats. Sanchez 120 times in 471 at bats. Stanton 163 times in 593 ABs. That is a .306 Strikeout Average (like a batting average, but for Ks, not for hits.) They'll crush a lot of pitchers. But will they crush the BEST pitchers when it matters most? 


Speaking of Yank sluggers and recent news: Here's an interesting link on Shohei Ohtani and Babe Ruth.

So what do you think about Harper's future now? Regardless of what Boras says, its hard to imagine the Yankees will go after him. Do the Nats' chances (assuming they even want to re-sign him) increase, or is this just good news for the Cubs or Dodgers? Or given that the Cubs and Dodgers seemed to have no real interest in Stanton, should we assume they aren't going to have much interest in the more expensive Harper? Does the Stanton trade change the Nats' negotiating approach? I am beginning to think Harper is going to find there isn't much of a market for his services next offseason because of the ridiculous price.

I answered some of that previously. What does it (also) do to the asking prices for other stars of '18 free agency, like Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, Daniel Murphy, and, possibly, "opt-outs" like David Price (and, unlikely, Clayton Kershaw)?

How many homers would Mr. Launch Angle, Daniel Murphy hit in Yankee Stadium with its joke RF fence in the same lineup with those mashers? He could end up at second base, third, first or DH. And Mets fans could pull out what's left of their hair.  

Rivers is an excellent QB, but Norman was supposed to be the guy who came in to shut guys like Rivers down. Now Norman is mouthing off about the system, but is it the system that got burned twice one-on-one yesterday and so many other times in other games? Or was it an aging Norman? Or is he hurt? He just doesn't seem to be able to stop even mediocre receivers one on one.

Norman has been better this year at hitting people hard when tackling than he has been at covering anybody. His total of 0 interceptions -- as in Z-E-R-O -- is doubly bad because he has been thrown at, beaten and beaten for TDs more than any top DB should allow, much less the highest-paid DB. He's also been targeted on crucial 3rd downs by good QBs because they assume he'll be in single coverage and they've taken their shots at him -- successfully -- without a single INT.

With Carson Wentz now possibly on the shelf for the year, the list of top line stars out of action is alarming. I was discussing with a friend that I've become fatigued watching this sport. Athletes today are bigger, stronger, and faster than ever. Perhaps that would explain the number of devastating injuries this year? And it boggles the mind why the owners agreed to extend that empty suit, Roger Goodell, as Commissioner to guide them through these turbulent times (CTE, poor treatment of retired players). The NFL may be America's most popular sport today but for how much longer?

You're right. This has been a horrible year for the NFL. The number of injuries -- they seem constant -- and the highest-profile names that have been hurt just start to turn your stomach as you watch. I never thought it would get to tat point with me. IOW, all my long-standing issues with the league would be set aside once the games started -- then picked back up after the last whistle. But now you think about the grotesque injuries, all the blows that either are concussions or very close and, now, all the outright filthy-dirty play as you watch DURING the games.

Also, throw into the mix the callous stampede of franchise moves -- like seeing the "Los Angeles Chargers" playing in that ridiculous stadium on Sunday with lots of Skins fans showing up in L.A.

I'm not dragging out any "R.I.P." headlines for the NFL. But I will say this: Except for the year that MLB canceled the World Series in '94, I don't think I've ever seen a major pro sports league hurt itself so much in one season as the NFL already has. The work stoppages in various sports, the MLB steroid crises, were plenty bad. But I think the NFL has topped them all for self-inflicted damage -- and '17 isn't over yet. 

Just watched the HBO special on him. Any memories you care to share about the man?

I certainly remember the first time I met him. I'm sorry if I have told this story before. Don't know if I have. I'd worked at the Post maybe three or four years. I was as far down at the bottom of the ladder as you could get. I can't remember if I was even a reporter yet, though I probably was. I was still answering the sports department phones and fetching coffee for the desk (editors) as part of my job -- so that gives you an idea. I got a random phone call one day and, with that lead, I reported a story out over the course of a few weeks. My editors knew I was working on it. It involved kick-backs on tickets and was a "scandal." The story ran on A1. The morning it ran, the wires ran a story that the Post was being sued for $8-million because of my story. I hustled down to the paper. "Bradlee wants to see you in his office." Well, of course he does. Probably never even heard my name before.

I went in. No introductions. He's sitting at his desk, looks at me and says, "Is the story right?"

I said, "Yes, sir."

Bradlee said, "You have one week to write a stronger story."

I said, "Yes, sir," and walked out. 

I guess I must have written a stronger and even tougher story, within a week, with more information about more bad practices, because I kept my job and the lawsuit was never mentioned again because it was never even filed. 

I took two lessons from that. Bradlee would back his reporters, and believe their word, when things got tough and they were under fire. He had your back. But if the story was WRONG, if you damaged the Post's credibility, as well as damaging the subject of the story, it was your butt. You could kiss your career goodbye.

Sometimes people don't believe it -- though I don't know why. There's one rule above all other rules in journalism. In a sense, it is the only rule: Get it right.

Because people are imperfect, the batting average isn't 1.000. But the idea that reporters at respected publications are cavalier with the truth, or that they are anything less than fanatical about getting the facts right, is just insane.

In the trailer for the movie "The Post," that is coming out soon with Meryl Streep as Kay Graham and Tom Hanks as Bradlee -- about publishing the Pentagon Papers -- there is an exchange. Someone says, "You're talking about exposing years of government secrets." A young reporter says, "Is that legal?" Bradlee says, "What is it you think we do here for a living, kid?"   

Is Derek Jeter still on the Yankee's payroll???? Or is he just in over his head?

It sure looks like No. 2 is true.

What do you think of Alan Trammell getting in, Lou Whitaker not? Very similar career stats, but Lou substantially better at OBP, OPS, homers I would guess. I assumed that they would enter together or not at all. Is it possible that unconscious racism had a role?

Trammell, Whitaker and Jack Morris (also in the HOF now) are all close calls, worthy of long discussions.

WAR is an imperfect stat. But, ballpark, it usually takes you sensible places.At baseball-reference, Morris has a career WAR of 44.1 while the average HOF starting pitcher has a career WAR of 73.9. So, Morris should be very happy. His great post-season record got lots of respect.

Trammell had a career WAR of 70.4 while the average HOF SS has a career WAR of 66.7. So, it's close, but nobody needs to do any apologizing for Trammell getting into Cooperstown. He was somewhat overshadowed in his era by HOF shortstops like Ripken, Larkin, Ozzie Smith and Robin Yount.

But what about Whitaker!!!His career WAR is 74.9 while the career WAR of the average HOF second baseman is 69.4.

Again, it's close. There are arguments against all three. But, on the other hand, there sure as heck is an argument FOR Whitaker.


Back to a previous subject. Here's Dan Steinberg's look at the worrisome world of Jay Gruden at 5-8.

I was going to make a point that it's really a net gain of zero because all the other NL East teams no longer have to face him either, but then I looked up his career splits and he really does hit the Nats better than any other NL East team. So I guess it is a plus for Washington. Dilly Dilly!

And "Dilly Dilly" to you for the research.

I've thought all along that if Harper left the Nationals, he was much more likely to end up with the Dodgers, rather than the Yankees. With Stanton's signing, I'mmore convinced. Puig's last year on his contract is 2018, just like Harper, the Dodgers have the money, and LA is not far from Harper's hometown of Las Vegas. Why wouldn't the Dodgers let Puig leave and "replace" him in RF with Harper? It makes so much sense to me, but I keep hearing talk about the Cubs. Don't you think the Dodgers make more sense?

Yes, I think the Dodgers make more sense. But the Cubs are going to be in the picture from now until forever on all the big names.

Being at the post-season in Dodger Stadium (and L.A.) the last couple of Octobers just reminded me again of how much people love to play in Southern California and Chavez Ravine. Chicago may be my favorite U.S. town to visit. (It certainly is my wife's favorite town.) But if you had to play an outdoor sport for six or seven months a year, LA would have a real edge.

Hey, even the World Series game when it was 104 degrees, it was a "dry heat." (That means you don't have a drop of sweat on you at the moment when you keel over.)

Injuries are as bad as I can ever remember, but that was still just an ugly game of football the Redskins played yesterday. Even healthy they probably lose to the Chargers but mediocre-to-good teams don't get so thoroughly outplayed, and I'm sure the Danny's instinct will be to blow it all up, and I imagine that starts with letting Cousins walk. Depressing times to be a 'Skins fan, but I suppose that's been the dominant theme since JKC left us. How do you see the rebuild going down this time?

Yes, good points.

I guess I'd refer you to my column after the recent Dallas loss when I made the same distinction between what befalls mediocre-to-good teams when they have injuries/bad breaks, and what happens to bad franchises, like the Skins, when the same misfortunes happen to them.

I don't even enjoy it when they prove my point. I'm paying attention to the Skins today. But they don't deserve it and, in coming weeks, I'll pay more attention to the Wiz (who've gone a decent 5-6 without Wall in a period when they had nine of 11 games on the road) and the so-far resilient Caps.

Hi Bos: The so called NFL protocol for concussions during a game is a joke. A few weeks ago I believe it was Russell Wilson that went into the "tent' for about 5 seconds then came out. Yesterday it was pathetic the way Houston quarterback Savage looked on the ground after the hit, he was frozen for a moment. The refs did nothing and he was released from the tent to go back in. One can wonder if there is actually anything in that tent. The NFL must think the fans are stupid. Your thoughts please?

Maybe, inside the tent, there is a robot with smelling salts that says, "How many metal fingers am I holding up?"

Is there any valid reason to watch?

Morbid Fascination.

(Why isn't that the name of a rock group? Seems like Jack Black should have been insulting a customer in "High Fidelity" for knowing about "13th Floor Elevators" or "Stiff Little Fingers," but not "Morbid Fascination." Sorry.)

Is the area around Nats Park going to be ready for the All Star game? It improves every year but still looks like a work in progress.

That's a question I've asked for years. If it gets pretty-darn-close-to-finished, the whole area could look fantastic. If it doesn't, it'll still look impressive, but not what it could be and certainly be a wasted opportunity for the city (and the team).

While I do not expect the defensive lines to fully jell until February or so, the last homestand (against good teams!) has been heartening. And maybe that Ovechkin guy isn't quite washed up yet. This may be a different season, but there are good signs everywhere (Wilson speeding past a solid defender to toss in a goal on Friday was pretty nice). The corner is still ahead of them, but do you think the Caps are on schedule at this point?

They're ahead of my schedule, that's for sure, especially Ovechkin -- leading the NHL with 21 goals in 30 games, and 15 of them at even strength -- as well as Wilson's progress, especially spending time on the Ovi-Backstrom line. I wouldn't have guessed an 18-11-1 start or the 10th best points percentage in the league. That takes some organizational heart after the drop from 30,000 feet without a parachute that they endured in G7 vs the Pens last spring.  

Are the Washington Redskins a cursed organization? I just think they have a losing culture and the players and management do not care about winning on the field and I just do not see any improvement for the next 40 years because Dan Snyder is not going to sell the team. What is your honest opinion on this issue?

They aren't cursed. They make YOU curse.

...for Washington football fans to start wearing paper bags over their heads?

You mean they don't yet?

Maybe paper bags with pig snouts to show a mix of loyalty to the past, but embarrassment in the present (and last 26 years).

Alan Trammel and Jack Morris, huh? Both were very good players, but HOFers? I just don't see it. I guess since we're banning all players suspected of PEDs, someone has to be inducted. But, this is weak.

In the days when Post writers still voted for HOF, I was pretty tough and tried to make the distinction that Cooperstown was not the Hall of Very Good. Trammell and Morris are close calls. This is their day. No need to rain on it.Exceptional careers. Trammell a great guy, Morris a total grouch, but a big-stage competitor.

FWIW, if Morris is in the HOF with his high career ERA (3.90), then Mike Mussina (3.68) should get in twice.

Do you see the Redskins letting Cousins walk and them drafting a quarterback in the 1st round next year? What do you think is the most likely outcome regarding the quarterback position for next year?

Along those lines, I thought Skins followers might want to get a handle on just how incredibly hard it is to draft and develop a Top-10 QB -- someone who could adequately duplicate Cousins performance -- EVEN IF YOU HAVE THE No.1 OVERALL PICK.

Here is every QB taken at No. 1-overall since Peyton Manning in '98, along with their career QB  rating and their ANY/A rank.

Here's the crux, before all the numbers. There have been 13 such QBs: Goff, Winston, Luck, Newton, Bradford, Stafford, JaMarcus Russell, Alex Smith, Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, David Carr, Michael Vick and Tim Couch.

The best career QB ratings in the bunch are four QBs at 87.2-to-87.9 -- Luck, Stafford, Smith and Palmer.

Cousins, for his career, including the 407 passes he threw in '12-to-'14 with a crummy 77.5 QB rating, is 94.5.

Cousins is WAY ahead of any of them.    

ANY/A is a very good QB stat, imo. It combines everything, including your ratio -- and frequency -- of TDs and INTss, as well as how many sacks you take. It does not include ability to run, where Cousins is way above average at scoring in the red zone, or fumbling, at which Cousins is pretty bad.

The best ANY/As for those 13 QBs taken at 1/1 are Winston 6.28, Luck 6.29, Stafford 6.18, Palmer 6.22. Eli is 5.93. 

Cousins, including his "learning years" in '12-'13-'14 is at 6.87 -- WAY ahead of any of them.











D Carr....74.9.....4.34





Peyton Manning (career).....96.5......7.17

So, be my guest. Use that 10th or 12th pick in the draft in '18 to replace Cousins -- hey, shouldn't be hard! Or trade up, burning up more picks that could be used to fix other problems, so you can get somewhat closer to the 1/1 pick.

What this shows is that even if the Skins somehow sold the farm to get the 1/1 pick, they probably couldn't replace Cousins with an equal QB and they might well get a total bum.

The formula for ANY/A is:

Passing Yards - Sack Yards + (20 x Passing TDs) - (45 x INTs) divided by Passing Attempts + Times Sacked.

Just wondering what your thoughts are on the Mets going to the 5 innings and a pile of dust model for starting pitchers? Seems like with the new DL rules, if they can cumulate enough decent starting pitching, this could give them a big boost (particularly considering their pitchers’ injury histories). Thoughts? Is this something the Nats would/should consider with the back end of their rotation?

I'm sorry, this is a solid question about a real trend in MLB.

But...the Mets have already fallen for the Sandy Alderson Pitching Model which was Send 'Em Out There Until They Drop.

If the Mets went to a staff of five inning pitchers, it would be because that's as far as the current guys can go because they've had so many arm injuries. 

Out for the season w/ACL tear. Poor Eagles fans. Just bad luck. NFL cant do anything to prevent these types of injuries.

This is so rotten.

Wentz got hurt being brave, scrambling for a TD and running straight into multiple Rams at the goal line -- the smash mouth QB.

When it comes to Super Bowl runs, the Eagles never catch a break.

Watching Wentz continue to play, with his knee visibly wobbling and unable to move even a foot sideways if anybody had gotten to him in the pocket, was sickening. I'm sure Wentz wanted to continue. But coach Doug Pederson should have his head examined for letting a franchise QB risk a hideous additional injury. Reminded me of Shanahan letting RGIII continue to play....and continue and continue....after he was compromised. Far different players but the SAME point -- the adult (coach) has to think for the young talented macho athlete and defend the much larger interests of both the player and the franchise.

The reasoning is simple. The owners have made enormous amounts of money with him as commissioner. And the value of the teams has skyrocketed. That’s it. It doesn’t matter that the league would have done just as well with a canned ham in charge.

I like the Canned Ham Commissioner. Thanks.

What do you consider to be the most important things you learn from readers in these chats?

Two things. What subjects interest them most -- so I can study, interview and write in those areas more. Second, how smart and decent they are, which helps me aim high in my writing in a era where there is a lot of undertow -- which may only influence you subconsciously -- to pull you down into the meanest but more eye-catching voice as a writer.

And, after I finish the chat, I always read all the questions which I didn't have time to answer -- which is obviously most of them today -- to see how many good story ideas I can shamelessly steal.

That's it for today. You folks ask too many good questions, and bring up too many valid issues to discuss for MY own good. I keep thinking, "Stop now." Then I saw, "Well, I've GOT to answer this one."

See you next Monday at 11 a.m. I'll be interested to see if the Nats make any moves at the Winter Meetings. They don't have any pressing need -- right now -- to add a starting pitcher or sign/trade for a reliever (or two) or even go after a catcher. But Rizzo's pattern is that, except for times when he has a specific target and strikes very early,  he has no pattern; instead, he is fluid and opportunistic.

We'll see if he finds an opportunity this week.

Boz, That Detroit chatter was depressing as hell. Question for you: of all the major franchises in DC, who do you think is the one you think could actually win a championship? I keep thinking it's the Caps. They have the goalie capability to me which is so important in the playoffs. I also secretly think the Wiz are legit darkhorses to be the first. It would require a blockbuster trade or FA signing but the world is full of surprises. Thoughts?

With Scherzer and Strasburg, who are among the most dominant pitchers in the game, at the top of the rotation -- which is enormously important in October -- plus Eaton-Turner at the top of the lineup, followed by (in some sequence) Harper, Rendon, Murphy, Zimmerman and Taylor, it's clear that the Nats have the best chance.

That is, IF the Nats reach October 1 with their key stars healthy AND hot. Or if they GET hot as soon as the playoff gun sounds.Last year, they had the proper bodies all able to play, but they weren't in sync. Harper hadn't found himself, etc. You have to have a team that's good enough, which the Nats do, but you also have to CLICK at the right time. And pull out a couple of incredible, unbelievable victories, like the Astros in Game Two and Five of the World Series. IOW, you'll have a couple of games like the 9-8 loss in Game Five to the Cubs in the NLDS, but you have to find a way to win them, not blow them. And the difference can be eyelash close. 

In MLB, there are always SEVERAL teams that really can win it all, or at least end up in the World Series, once they get to the post-season. And the Nats are clearly still one of them.

In the NBA, it's much tougher. In a seven-game series, talent usually tells the tale. And in a sequence of seven-game series, it almost ALWAYS tells the tale. Best case, the Wiz could give a fine account of themselves, but they have no realistic chance to win a title right now.

The Caps have a top goalie and a good team. But that's a long way from a title. We'll see how the "underdog role" suits them. But just shrugging off the weight of a decade -- or three decades -- of expectations doesn't suddenly let you win a Stanley Cup.

The Nats, if Doolittle and Madson have another good year in them, clearly have the best chance.

It goes without saying that the Skins have no chance whatsoever over the next several seasons. They're a hot mess looking for a wall to smash themselves into.

"I think the NHL has topped them all for self-inflicted damage __and '17 isn't over yet." Please explain why you think that's so. The NHL is doing better than ever. I will concede that NHL ticket prices are absolutely ridiculous, but the arenas sell out -- except Fla. and Arizona, of course.

Very sorry. I meant "NFL." And thanks to diligent producer Kelyn Soong, it was corrected long ago. Thanks again, Kelyn. 

The 13 Floor Elevators = Roky Erikson and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top fame.


To your point about Morris's election meaning that Mussina is now undeniably HOF-worthy, here are some stats (courtesy of Dan Szymborski on Twitter): (1) For Mussina to end up with the same IP/ERA+ as Morris, he'd need to have pitched 261.1 IP at a 12.87 ERA; (2) if you put Morris and Catfish Hunter together, they're still 7 bWAR short of Mussina. I personally don't think Morris belongs in the HOF, but what's done is done. Mussina is not there yet and he ABSOLUTELY should be.

Nice stuff. Thanks.

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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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