Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Apr 23, 2018

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

Past Ask Boswell chats

Boz - Your column correctly suggests that the Caps are getting the benefit of some amazing bounces. For now. Columbus is a considerably less skilled team than we are. That won't be the case against the Pens if the current seeding holds up. The Caps inability to hold a lead in every game but one so far will doom them in the next round. Quickly.

Oh, yeah?

We'll see.

(They haven't beaten Columbus yet.)

This a.m.'s chat illustrates how much the Sports Mood in a town can change in a week.

Last week, the Caps were down 0-2 with 2 OT loses at home and we were all -- or I was -- ready to chuck 'em off the 14th Street Bridge and tell 'em to dog paddle home, because they'd played like choking canines. Now, oops, what a bunch of heroes, and kind of lucky heroes, too.

The Wiz were down 0-1. And the Nats were six games behind the Mets and heading to NYC where they might get swept for the second times already this year by the Mets -- which would have put them 9 games behind. With Hellickson, Gio and Roark lined up, but no Scherzer or Strasburg, it was a possibility.

Now the Wiz are full of pride after winning in the last five minutes WITHOUT Bradley Beal. And the Nats are treading water and OK.

NEXT week, both the Caps and Wiz could be in the second round and dreaming of the Final Four. Or their seasons could be over.

That's another reason why April is so much fun.

Send all Caps and Wiz questions. We're ready to rumble!        

any chance the redskins move up in the draft and select one of the two best defensive players available? Also, how about a top tier running back with the first pick?

As I pointed out here last week, the No. 13 pick has produced very few "transformative" players over the years. But it has generated a lot of quality defensive linemen. That's a major area of need.

I'm not going to pretend to be a draft expert, especially on linemen. The names that have been mentioned often as future NTs who might be worth a 13th pick would be:

Vita Vea, UWash, 6'5", 332, who's sometimes compared to Haloti Ngata. A 5.10 40-yd. Will he be around at 13th?

Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama (like Jonathan Allen last year, which would feel a little odd), 6'2", 311, 4.95. Speed athleticism.

Taven Bryan, Florida, DT, 6'5", 291 (not big enough, perhaps, for the run-plugger in the middle that the Skin need). 4.98.

Tim Settle, Va Tech. (Unlikely)

Again, I'm not Mr. NFL Draft. They are awful against the run. They have a first-round pick where good D-linemen are often still available. However, this is not a draft where the D-linemen are raved about as a wonderful group.

Think the Nats would like to have him back? Sure looks like they're missing something in the bridge to the seventh inning? An in other ex-Nat news, I see that Adam Lind is still out of a job? Is every AL designated hitter better than Lind? I simply don't get it. Thanks for the chats. Tom in Alexandria

As I mentioned last week, I never thought the name of "Matt Albers" would cross my mind as often in the rest of my life as it already has in the first 22 games of '18. You never miss your "rotund righty reliever" 'til he's gone. Real good guy, too.

What will happen down the road when opponents begin to exploit the fact that Zim can barely throw the ball with any accuracy or speed? I'm thinking cut-offs, etc.

You mean for the last FOUR years?

He's actually improved. He used to have The Worst Arm in Baseball after he totally wore it out in service-to-the-crown as a semi-injured sure-I-can-play-today third baseman for years. There are now throws that he CAN make with his goofy mechanical man motion -- like the fairly long throw from the 1st base railing on foul pop up to third base to prevent a runner advancing from second to third. BUT when he gets tangled up in a slightly unusual position, like a 3-6-3DP with a runner in his line, the ball can go anywhere -- including right where it is supposed to go sometimes.

You can overlook a half-dozen gruesome throws a year for .303-36-108 and a glove hand that is now one of the better ones at picking low throws at first. Sometimes, his range at 1st isn't as good as I thought it would be this year. Or maybe he's just been frozen over there by the cold weather this April. After you hold the runner at first, you should always be on your toes and bouncing quickly off the base as far as you can as the pitch is delivered to the hitter, especially if he is RHed. A couple of times this year, he's been too bag-bound on grounder to his right to suit me.

I'll start off by saying I am very glad the Lerner's re-signed Rizzo. Howwever... 1) The bullpen. Again. Even with the Lawfirm in place, it's still a mess. How long can he wait to get reliable arms before Davey ends up breaking one of the Big Three (Madson). 2) The delay in putting Rendon on the DL. I mean, it's a yearly occurrence that a "minor" injury to Rendon is going to lead to a month on the DL. I know he said he could play through it, but after the first three days, what were they thinking? He's got a history.

Who is this "fragile" Rendon of whom you speak? I understand that it is the inalienable right of fans (and sportswriters) to be crabby, even in the absence of evidence.

But Rendon has had ONE previous injury of any significance in his whole Nats career since '13.

After he came up from the minors in '13, where he played 36 games, he played 98 in D.C. In his other years, he has played 153, 80, 156 and 147 games. That -- four out of five seasons of playing a LOT -- makes him the DURABLE Nat.

Rendon, the docs and Dave all misjudged his recent injury and didn't put him on the DL. But he was TRYING to get back. I know the Rendon went to Rice and Rice has an excellent medical school, but as far as I know, Anthony is not actually a doctor.

Should they both starts series down 2-0 in order to get them to play? Let's assume the Nats are in the playoffs will a tougher season help or hurt them in the playoffs?

John Wall really showed his heart and leadership last night. Like many people from his first day in the league, I'm prone to harp on his poor shooting. When a player is fabulous at several things there's a tendency to wish that the one or two flaws didn't exist or could be improved a lot. But Wall's SPEED with the ball can change the whole game, especially for a crucial chunk of a game, like the last five minutes last night without Beal in the game. Wall shot a (typical for him) 10 for 24, but HE still WON the game. 

In his post-game interview, which I taped and replayed, Wall said, "The pressure's on them. But we've gotta do a great job of going in there and competing. We CAN compete (with them). We feel like we can beat these guys..."

Then, it sounded to me like he added "any day." But I'm not sure. It wasn't clear either time I listened to it. And he may have meant it in the sense of "any given day" as opposed to we-can-beat-those-guys-any-day.

But there's a central point here. In the NBA playoffs, some teams with lower seeds truly believe, off past confrontations, that they match up well and can beat -- on merit, not luck or a hot streak -- a much higher seeded team. The Wiz clearly think this about DeRozan, Lowry and the Raptors.

Game 5 will be "huge" because the Wiz have momentum and it's a lot easier to close out a very good team like Toronto in a Game 6 at home than in a Game 7 on the road.

Toronto is deep. And when Miles goes crazy from outside his range and gall really is ridiculous and hard to beat. But if the star guards on both teams neutralize each other, I think the Wiz have an edge in their secondary players. I like Porter's all-around game, especially if they'll get him more threes, better than any "third star" for the Raptors. There are some centers who can erase Gortat. The Raptors aren't one of them. Also, Morris has played well, and shot well, ever since Wall's second injury, the one that kept him out until recently. Markief stepped up to the challenge and I think can again. 

Toronto's very confident at home and has a great crowd. Gonna be fun!

Well, not fine if they keep turning singles into outs (Stevenson), but they're hovering around .500 with three of their best players out and 140 games left. Let's not get too worried just yet.

This is a long Nats answer that I was working on a couple of hours ago. If you want more Caps and Wiz, just skip it. Or come back to it.

....

It feels like it's going to be a long season for the Nats. Not "long" in the sense of "bad" necessarily. But a continual struggle.

They have three very important players with injuries that are hard to analyze -- for the players themselves and well as the medical people. After knee surgery on a veteran with as much mileage as Daniel Murphy, you only want him to come back once -- not have a relapse like Adam Eaton has had with the bone bruise to his ankle. Last week, Dave Martinez said that Murphy was going to Florida to rehab. The timetable? "Like spring training." Meaning, I guess, like starting spring training. I keep guesstimating mid-May. But this isn't a standard baseball injury that you've seen dozens of times, like an oblique, where you say "the average time is 26 days -- they've studied it for years."

The central point is that I don't think the Nats know, even in a general sense, when Murphy, Eaton and Rendon will be back. They're all in play-it-by-ear situations, which is unusual. Rendon once missed half-a-season with an injury after diving for a ground ball -- and the Nats didn't think it was much at the time.

If Eaton or Rendon came back in a week or so, it would be "sure...okay...seems about right." But if, a month from now, all three were still out, I'd be surprised, but not amazed. Bone bruise = "How does it feel today? What can you do -- run bases, field?" Long rehab from knee surgery is similar = "How does it feel today? Are you 100 percent" And with Rendon's toe, plenty of us have had a bruised toe that ended up with losing the nail. I asked Martinez if that looked likely with Rendon. He said probably. 

IOW, at this point, I'll believe they are back when I see them in the lineup. The only semi-adequate replacement is Kendrick for Murphy, as long as Howie hits. Neither can field much. Difo's a solid utility man and good defensive middle infielder. But Rendon is a vastly better hitter and a better defender at 3rd. Finally, if Victor Robles hadn't "over done it" diving for a liner to short center and really messed up his left shoulder -- out a couple of months, they think, which means it could be three months -- he'd be in LF right now, instead of Moises Sierra who's trying hard, contributing some, but almost collided in the OF with Michael Taylor in L.A. 

So, it's really FOUR important injuries because Robles isn't available to sub for Eaton.

The fifth starter and middle-inning relief are still the quality you'd expect of a 74-88 team. They are major leaguers, but they pull down a contender that is already down three everyday players.

Last night, Jeremy Hellickson showed why the analytics  folks tell you that average starting pitchers, especially a brainy veteran junkballer like him who seems novel the first time or two that you bat against him, have a very tough time getting through the lineup a third time. After he'd faced 18 hitters, Hellickson had a 3-0 lead after 5 1/3 innings with only one hit, one walk and five K's. He didn't get another out. The top of the Dodger order had seen everything he had and couldn't wait to face him. The "old school" view might have been, "He's pitching a one-hit shutout. Show he some respect. If he gets in trouble, let him face the tying run, but not the lead run." That's what Martinez did. But by that time it was 3-2 with a Dodger on second base with no outs and the whole game had changed from "probably a win" to "uh oh."

The "new school," which appeals to me for using Hellickson, would be, "Don't leave him in long enough to mess up the 3-0 lead you worked to get." So, with two on, none out, you go ahead and hurt his feelings be removing him. That's easy to say, but hard to do, especially with a pitcher who is trying to establish himself with a new team.  Don't you want to "show confidence?"

So, if you treat Hellickson with a quick hook it means that -- at least -- once every five days you are probably going to have to go to your pen for 10-or-more outs. So you expose your problems out there. Solis is the best of the bunch and he's struggling. Nobody out there is an answer to anything right now. They just brought up Adams who has quality power stuff. We'll see if he's ready. Except for Eric Fedde, who else do they have in the minors who's close to being ready to help at the MLB level?

All of this exposes lack of pitching depth. What do they do if any of the top four starters go on the DL? Then Hellickson is your fourth starter!?

This is a very good-looking October team because, with all the off days in the playoffs, your four starters, plus your best three relievers, can almost create an entire staff. And, long before October, all the currently injured everyday players will be back. 

But with the Mets looking good and the Phils and Braves much improved, though probably not "good" yet, there's a lot more danger of another early-season 3-9, like the one the Nats just had.

The Nats have made a game showing on this 3-3 road trip. The "symbolism" of winning the series in NY from the Mets and having such a strong game on Friday night to help Scherzer beat Kershaw has a "quality team" feel about it, even with so many depleted areas.

The Nats are very good. But they are using a lot of energy just to be 10-12. They are learning about each other under Martinez. And players like Kendrick and Difo are showing their value. Taylor has gotten time to work out of his funk without Robles being over his shoulder. That's good. Zimmerman's luck has changed. That fair-by-six-inches double down the RF line last night is an example of BABIP evening out. He's due a LOT off good luck. Even the catcher duo of Wieters and Severino may be good enough, which would be a pleasant development.

So, I agree, "let's not get too worried just yet."

But, on the other hand, when you have this many problems and uncertainties, and you're already 5 /12 games out of the NL East lead, there ARE real reasons to puch hard, even if the result is only .500.

Sometimes, a .600 team, like the Nats (probably) can be proud of playing ~.500 ball through a tough period.

The next few weeks may be one of those periods.

If the Nats, in SF and then back home, actually start to run off some wins THAT would be special. Because they would be doing it with a LOT of factors nagging at them.

The ESPN Sunday night baseball announcers spend almost no time calling the game. During one long stretch, the announcers spent talking about the first MLB game that they attended. Also, significant periods of time were spent talking about Matt Kemp, who was not in the game. In my view, their coverage makes it difficult to watch the game. What are your thoughts?

Sorry, but I have no opinion. I had the sound off.

Do they have the skills to close this out tonight and maybe even beat Pittsburgh? Not asking about heart, toughness or those intangibles, but actual hockey skill. Holtby is playing well and there is some balanced scoring in the first 6 games.

Your question reminds of an e-mail exchange I had with a 26-year-old fan last week. He mentioned that he was part of the generation that had never seen a D.C. team go all the way, except Maryland in the 2002 NCAA basketball tournament. Of course, he was looking forward to that "parade" event, but didn't seem to hold out much hope for this particular year. This was my answer. It applies to the Caps "ability." They have plenty. Not just to beat Columbus. The threshold for "hope" in pro sports is not "this is a great team, therefore, it has a chance to go all the way...or to the finals." The threshold for hope, when you step back and look at your lifetime watching sports, is "this is a VERY good team, therefore, it has a chance, if things go right to...(etc). I wrote this when the Caps were down 2-1 in games.

... 

We’re due for a parade, that’s for sure. I’ve covered seven of them, if you count the O’s back in the ‘80’s. I bet you’ll get to see more than that! They don’t always come when you think they will. Right now, the Caps (yes, the Caps) or Nats could do it this year. So many thing have to fall in place that the town that wins usually is stunned by how it actually happened. Not saying the Caps, after 0-2 at home, are going anywhere. But I’ve seen so many similar, or even stranger things.

The Orioles were 12-to-1 their year AFTER Weaver retired. The Wiz were eighth best team in NBA the year they won (44-38) and not their best team, but their best chemistry and depth.  The Skins were 8-8 in Gibbs first year, then “nobody knew anything” the next year because of the strike, but the Skins came out of nowhere, largely because Gibbs offense was ahead of its time.

But when Gibbs won his last Super Bowl, he was so ticked off in mid-season at the team’s effort that he called a meeting and told the veterans, in effect: "YOU coach the team. You’ve worn me out." So they did.

Compared to some of those, the Caps with Ovi, Backstrom, Kuznetsov, Oshie, Carlson, Holtby, Grubauer could look like an “Oh, of course” in hindsight. The Nats may have HOFers in Max, Harper and maybe "HOF ballot" guys in Stras, Zim, Rendon, Turner. Whenever it happens, it’ll look “obvious” -- but only in hindsight!

....

For the Wiz to get into this long-shot, but worth-paying-close-attention category, I think they would have to get their forwards -- especially Porter and Morris -- more involved in their offense and get a more intense commitment to defense from almost everybody. They are a really shabby team when it comes to CONSISTENT defensive effort. Sometimes, after Brooks screams at them, they turn it up for a while. But if they could knock off a No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference that might get everybody on the same page after a season of fussin' at each other or being called out -- by each other or Brooks -- for lack of passion/effort.

The top 3 teams in the National League, based on preseason projections, are the Nats, Cubs and Dodgers and they are currently in 4th, 4th and 3rd place. Obviously it is early and they could all still win their divisions easily, but do you see any signs of serious trouble among the 3? If one of them was to miss the playoffs, who do you think it would be?

I have a good friend who lives in L.A., is a lifelong Dodger fan and one of the best sportswriters in the country for years. He played and really has an eye for baseball. He KNOWS the Dodgers inside out. Last week he e-mailed to tell me to watch out for the lost velocity of Kershaw and Jansen. He sees it as a major problem for both: "Jansen is toast...Arizona this year." Most people, I don't listen to them much. Him, I do.

Jansen doesn't look like toast to me, but he sure doesn't look like prime Kenley Jansen either. If the 90-to-93 mph that he showed last night -- and still throwing >90 percent cutters -- is what he's got, there are going to be some nervous nights in Chavez Ravine. Of course, Mariano Rivera's command of his one-pitch arsenal -- his cutter -- was so fabulous that he still dominates at that speed. But Jansen's cutters weren't that tight and sharp. And some missed over the middle.

As for Kershaw, I was borderline shocked to see his lost velocity, especially in his last couple of innings when he dropped to 89.9 and 89.7 with men on base in a spot where he was "reaching back" and there wasn't much there. Maybe it's just April, or a minor mechanics glitch or a tiny injury.

But there is certainly a trend here, one that was noted BEFORE this year.

Last 4 years Kershaw's velo: 93.6 mph, 93.1, 92.7, now 91.1. His percentage of FBs: 53.9 percent, 50.7, 47.1, now 41.5.

So, less speed, especially this year. And less reliance/confidence in, the fastball each year. He's now throwing ~40 percent sliders which is usually tough on the arm.

Clayton is still wonderful because his curves (which ARE Koufax curves, at least as I remember them), his command and his competitiveness make him an excellent pitcher. But that is NOT the same as being Peak Randy Johnson or, right now, even Peak Mad Max. Will Kershaw bounce back up above 92 mph. If I had to bet, I'd say, "Yes." But if what we've seen this spring is accurate, then the Cubs and Nats chances just got better -- if they get to October. 

I think all three teams have real reason for concern. My bet would be that ONE of the three does not win its division.

The Nats need more middle relief, a fifth starter and for their regulars to return healthy. I see no reason that all three won't happen.

Kershaw and Jansen are so central to the Dodgers that I think you can see their immediate future in thee effectiveness of those two stars.

The Cubs looked like they'd made two important rotation additions in Quintana at the '17 trade deadline and Darvish in free agency to compensate for Lackey aging/leaving and Lester not being as dominant anymore. But after four starts each, Quintana and Darvish have ERAs of 7.78u and 6.68 and have been hit hard. Those are probably the pair to watch closely.

One of the outlier possibilities is that only ONE team out of the Dodgers, Cubs and Nats makes it to a Division Series -- and then that team may have a a much easier path to the World Series that was expected just a month ago.       

I was driving home last week and as usual heard some discussion of them on the radio. Now this team stinks year after year, MLB just started, both the hockey and hoopsters are in the playoffs and they are talking NFL - SKINS! (ugh) on local radio. What the heck - who in their right mind really thinks hope springs eternal for a team that just really finds new ways to be surprisingly bad by the end of their season?

Of course I notice it, too, then immediately switch to Underground Garage on Sirius XM.

I'd love to see the Caps and Wiz in the Final Four in a few weeks with NO pressing Skins news and see if they can still keep it up!

(No, I'm NOT planning to bet on that parlay. As I have said before, I will never again EXPECT anything from the Caps. My message to them is: "Yeah, yeah, yeah, SURPRISE me.") 

Of course, 106.7 The Fan does a better -- or less bad -- job of getting balance. But there is a legit problem -- the Skins audience, and the NFL audience -- really does exists and it really is large.

Nonetheless, people in other cities must find us odd. The Nats and Caps clearly could get to the Final Four in their sports without any "miracle" stretch of imagination and the Stanley Cup Finals and World Series with some breaks. If the Wiz get by the Raptors, they could make the Final Four, too. I'm not saying any of them WILL. I'm just staying that anybody 1,000  miles from D.C. would look at the big picture and say, "Sure, those teams have the potential to go that far, if things work out right for them."

But there is no way on earth you could look at the Skins -- right now, from 1,000 miles away -- and say that, as presently constituted, that they are a sane choice to reach the NFC Championship game next year. Now if things change -- if Josh Doctson catches 1,300 yards worth of balls next year and Jonathan Allen makes All-Pro and about six other things -- then it's a different discussion.

Unfortunately, something else is true, too. The Caps aren't as good, probably not nearly as good as they were the last two years. And even if the Nats are roughly as good as '12-'14-'16-'17, they are facing tougher competition -- in the division and overall -- than they have before. They'll seldom have a field as open as they did in '14 when NOBODY else was really much good -- and they gagged to the Giants.

I've always been fascinated by the human ability to maintain hope and express it through incredible perseverance. It makes the challenges that face sports teams look tiny. But it also shows, by contrast, how easily we tend to give up on improbable, wonderful outcomes. Everybody, I suppose, has a favor story of heroics in war, or the feats of explorers, or whatever. The Antarctic explorer Earnest Shackelton always amazes me. If you feel like it, click on this link and read the part on the "Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 19-14-1917.

Shackleton and his 22 men were trying to go from sea-to-sea across the South Pole. They spent nine months trapped in ice near the pole, then the ship sank. They made camp on ice flows for months -- which broke up. Then, three lifeboats (20-feet long) traveled 346 nautical miles across the sea to (uninhabited) Elephant Island just so they'd be on land. They knew nobody would ever come to Elephant Island. They'd starve there. (They'd long ago killed the ship's cat as an act of mercy because they couldn't stand the idea that the poor animal would have to suffer what they were going to have to endure.) Next, a few men in ONE lifeboat set out for South Georgia (island), the nearest known human habitation, and crossed  720 miles of open ocean in 15 days. When they got there, hurricane winds -- the same storm which sank a 500-ton boat -- prevented them from going ashore. When the storm passed, they landed -- on the wrong side of the island from the humans (a whaling camp). What next? A MOUNTAIN RANGE. They had three men, including Shackleton, who'd already gotten frost-bitten fingers, 50 feet of rope and ONE primitive ax. They got over 32 miles of mountains in 35 hours. Then, after all that, they had some REALLY hard stuff to deal with! 

Nobody even tried to duplicate what they'd done -- sea-to-sea over the Pole -- until, 1955 -- much less all the other stuff after they should have been dead.

The British explorer Duncan Carse, who traveled much of the same route as Shackleton's party in '55, wrote: "I do not know how they did it, except that they had to — three men with 50 feet of rope between them — and a carpenter's adze." 

My wife's reaction to all this?

"Why do you care about this? They were all crazy. Why did they even WANT to DO that stuff?"

Well, it's true, nobody made them go.

But it does make me wonder about the depressed attitudes of all the people who, totally seriously, will tell you that the Capitals CAN'T possibly go to the Stanley Cup Finals because of some "jinx." 

Oh, yes, the name of Shackelton's ship was "Endurance."

So assuming the Caps take care of business tonight or Wednesday (tall assumption, I know), is this the year we finally get past the Pens in the second round? Our team is obviously not as stacked as it was the past two years, but they haven't been lighting up the scoreboard themselves either this season...

Well, they would have SOME chance because I will promise to pick the Penguins -- and do it with a straight face.

I'd have thought the Flyers (98 pts) were the tougher match-up for the Caps (105) than the Pens (100) because the Caps had a 1-2 season mark vs Philly but were outscored 11-19 (1), while they were 2-2 (13-12) against the pens.

FWIW, the Caps were also 3-0 versus Boston this year (12-8 in goals) -- and have a 12-0 streak against them going back four years.

So I used to defend Bryce, but after last night I can't do it. He just doesn't hustle...and not just because last night he would have made it to first in a key point in the game, but because his play in the outfield is also sluggish. And at the plate he's swinging for the fences all too often. I won't miss him if he leaves...

Everybody is a package of traits and abilities. I think it's wise to look at the whole package. Bryce got caught on TV jogging to first base on what looked like a routine 4-3 into the shift when, all of a sudden, the throw from short RF pulled the first baseman off the bag and, probably, Harper would have been safe if he'd run harder. 

This is a (small) part of the Harper package. It was also part of Eddie Murray's whole package -- and more often than Harper. It's a long damn season. The O's called Murray (3,000 hits, 500 homers) "Easy Eddie" because he made the game seem easy and he never made reckless plays where he got injured. But it was a nickname that also gave him a little "cover" when, in a West Coast night game, he was a little disgusted that he'd grounded out and only jogged to first.

I nag Harper from time to time about such things -- it's part of my job. But it's a far bigger part of my job to say that the whole Harper Package is a fabulous ballplayer and (imo) a fine person. I've never met anybody with the Nats who really knows him -- except Papelbon, who's a pretty unappealing "package" -- who doesn't respect Harper as a person and most like him. And plenty like him a lot. Who knows how all the threads of our personality are twined within us, what is linked to what, and when we "change" somebody what other qualities that we value might be diminished.

Harper draws attention to himself on the field. So did Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Reggie Jackson, Pete Rose and many others. Sometimes the spotlight singes him A LIITLE as it did last night. 

But believe me, you WILL miss him if he leaves.

You'll miss him a LOT.

We don't have to ignore his occasional flaws. But lets not magnify them by 10 or 100 just to get our heart beating a little faster on a Monday.

I won't be watching the next two Capitals games for the same reason I don't stick knives into my eyes. It hurts too much. Just let me know how many overtimes in game 7 at home were they able to go before losing to a goalie who stands on his head. (BTW, it would be glorious if I was wrong, but it takes a long time to take the stench of 20 years of choking like dogs.)

Oh, come on, these Caps are easy to watch. Nobody in their right mind burdens this team with expectations -- or themselves with excessive hopes -- after the last two years.

What the hell. It's just a hockey game. Enjoy it. Maybe they'll keep playin' for a while. Maybe they won't. I plan to have a good time -- as opposed to some of the other emotions of past springs -- for as long as they keep going. After that, have a nice summer and I hope they birdie all the par fives.

Boz, I don't think Rice has a medical school. It has a stunning campus very near the Houston Medical Center, home to many world class medical institutions. If I recall correctly, Rice has a program together with Baylor College of Medicine so that Rice pre-meds can have a streamlined path through undergrad and med school with Baylor. Rice grads (and neither I nor any family member are alums) are very well represented in all the professions throughout Texas and the south/southwest. I'm so mad about the Nats' various miscues and instances of poor judgement so early in the season that I can't bring myself to come up with a question. But I am heartened by the Caps and Wiz showing some fight.

Rats.

Sorry.

I like the fight, tool.

Now, I'd like to see them play with the clear minds of the innocent, the dark hearts of pirates and a total absence of conscience.

See you all next Monday at 11 a.m.

I wonder if we'll be as surprised in just seven more days as we have been in the last seven. It what keeps me hooked and, I suspect, you, too. Cheers.

As someone who occasionally reads comments to articles on web sites, I'd just like to thank the Post sports readers. Unlike the poisonous comments to news / style / all other articles, the article comments in the sports section are usually civil and sometimes good. I assume some of these folks participate in your chat, just wanted to say thanks and keep it up.

Very true. And appreciated.

I was a little surprised to read about Derek Jeter losing his cool over a question from Bryant Gumbel about how he has steered the Marlins. Apparently, Jeter, the baseball executive, didn't do his homework on Gumbel's program RealSports, one of the few sports journalism on TV. Jeter may have been expecting a Jeter puff piece, what is your view on this?

Derek has gone "0-fer" since the day he first touched the Marlins. I'd never have guessed it.

I'm stunned the Wizards won that game last night. For fans of Toronto, watching the Raptors lose that game must have felt like it was for Wizards fans to watch their team lose games they completely controlled. I mean, DeRozan went to the line 12 times in the first quarter, Beal fouls out, nobody on the Wiz could buy a basket before halftime. I've seen that movie so many times as a Wiz fan, it felt good to be on the other side of it. Bully for the Wizards for finding a way to stick it out. If this were 2 or 3 years ago, I'd say Toronto was cooked, but now I think they have the mental chutzpah to tough it out and win the series.

It's nice to be surprised sometimes, isn't it -- I mean REALLY surprised. Like Beal fouls out with 5:00 left and the game 92-92 -- and the Wizards rip the game away from the No. 1 seed in the conference.

Wasn't it just like three weeks ago that Brooks was saying -- and the team was agreeing -- that they weren't working hard enough and weren't focused enough? 

Boz, To be sure, puck luck can play a big role in NHL playoffs; there's a lot of randomness in the game. At the same time, less than 13% of teams that are down 0-2 in a playoff series come back to advance to the next round. if the Caps do pull this off, is it possible that could supply the kind of confidence that teams need to win championships? The Caps did come back from a 1-3 deficit against John Tortorella's 2009 NY Rangers, but Ovi and Nicky were a younger team then that wilted in game 7 against the Pens. And Holtby has more experience and composure than Varlamov did.

They've shown BOTH pluck and luck.

Which is especially necessary in the NHL because there is always going to be enough randomness and luck to drive you crazy -- if you let it.

At Tort's press conference after Game 5 he was deep into his very-poor-man's-Belichick act. There weren't many questions, but to the few that there were he usually just said, "We played well." "We played well." "We played well."

It was like there was an cartoon caption above his head saying, "We played well. In fact, we played WAY better than those lucky bums and we deserved to win and now we're one loss from elimination and everybody's going to blame me because we were up 2-0 and now we're gonna blow it. And I HATE HOCKEY."

In the comments of one recent game story, someone said that Jorge Castillo and Chelsea Janes are the Scherzer and Strasburg of beat reporters. That may be a bit over the top (and they certainly don't get paid like the starting pitchers!) but I really enjoy their write-ups of the games and I frequently feel like I'm right there in the action even if the game ended 12 hours earlier and 3,000 miles away. They do an excellent job and I want to offer my thanks to them!

Well said.

Boz: Question for you as I was pondering why as a 40 year old man I still care so much about the Wiz and Caps. Do you think it's because they have sucked in the postseason for so long that it keeps building and building and you anticipate that someday, maybe 10 years in the future or 20 or whatever, they will actually pull it off and win the whole thing? In other words, the misery builds and you subconsciously know it's building toward something huge and that one day we shall receive justice?! So you keep caring. Or is it something else? Maybe this question is best for a Red Sox, Cubs or Eagles fan.

I first saw a Red Sox game in 1957 at Griffith Stadium. I went to college in NE during the '67 Impossible Dreamers season. I covered the '78 playoff won by Bucky ******* Dent. I saw the ball go between Buckner's legs from my aux box seat beyond the RF foul pole in Shea. I married into a devout Red Sox family where my father-in-law had PITCHED in the minors for the Red Sox in the late '40's. I saw them blow more chances in the '90's. I cover the Grady Little Debacle which carried the Curse into the 21st century. And, in '04, my father-in-law was EIGHTY-FOUR years old -- born in 1920 -- and the Red Sox had not won a World Series in HIS LIFETIME. Every summer we spent time in Haverhill, Mass., listening to people talk about the Red Sox and root and suffer and accept as destiny that they would NEVER win.

Then they won the darn World Series three times in a blink. And they are 17-4 right now.

So, I'd say that this perspective has "encouraged me" to find ways to enjoy, and discuss sports that don't depend on whether any particular team or city wins  a title in the next...oh...50 years.

Although it would certainly be nice.

in case you missed David Grann's recent New Yorker article about a man attempting to complete a solo, unsupported version of Shackleton's journey. 

Wow, thanks. I DID miss it.

Pretty sure he had just fouled a ball off his foot before jogging to first on his brounder to 2nd. Having lived through 12 hours last summer thinking Harp has just torn up his knee trying to beat out a close play at first I am fine if he jogs down there.

I don't remember the foul ball, but you make a good point. It's often easier to incriminate than investigate.

I did learn long ago that every ballplayer that you are about to criticize is probably playing through things that the average person would consider true injuries. Still remember the first time I saw a big-league "strawberry" from sliding and the first time I saw a guy a couple of weeks after what was described as just a pulled hamstring. The strawberry was practically a war wound and the blood from the hamstring had finally come to the surface and was a blue-black-purple spot the size of a small watermelon.

And as I'm sure you know well, Shackleton's ship was named after his family motto: "By Endurance We Conquer." Good motto for any sports team. Should have guessed you were a Shackleton groupie.

Didn't know that. Thanks.

Man, this is going to be brutal couple of years. A LOT of my joy in watching the O's play is seeing Manny make incredible plays look easy. That's over come the trade deadline. The rest of the team is mostly warmed over mush. I have a feeling it'll be this way until there's new owenership. Ugh.

I still watch 'em, a few innings at a time a couple of times a week. But it's hard. They could be bad for quite a while. But Alex Cobb can't be THIS bad. I refuse to believe that he's Ubaldo II.

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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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