Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

May 14, 2018

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

Past Ask Boswell chats

So... the Caps have a 2-0 series lead. Where have I seen this before?

Don't start up with me this morning, I warn you!!

Yes, the Caps have had a two-game-lead in 10 playoff series -- '85, '87, '92, '95, '96, '03, '09, '10, '13, '15 -- yet ended up losing those series. That includes years when they had 2-0 leads as well as the more famous 3-1 leads.

But I don't think that this year, or this series, is going to fit into that "narrative" of Caps history. As I've been saying here, and in columns, for the last couple of years, it's inevitable that we construct narratives to explain our own experience and the experience of teams that we follow. Sometimes, that's an insightful, constructive exercise. Sometimes it's complete bunk.

But the story can change. And I think it's changing now for the Caps.

In a short series, and seven games is short in the NHL and MLB, never forget that you are NOT watching a total examination of two teams which is designed to determine which team is really, truly, fairly BETTER.

You are watching an entertainment event where everyone involved in creating the "product" has figured out how to enhance drama, introduce luck, ramp up the emotions of both teams, then smash those emotions with fluke plays, bad calls and brilliant plays by the opposition.

Right now, the Lightning have been stunned and amazed by 1) how wonderfully the Caps have played but also 2) by TWO amazing, shocking turns of events which were the fulcrum of Games 1 and 2. In the last SECONDS of the first period of Game 1, the Lightning went from thinking they were going to be tied 1-1 to realizing they were down 2-0. And in the final 62 seconds of the second period of Game 2, they went from a sane 2-2 tie to a shocking 4-2 deficit.

The Caps' Kuvnetsov said after Game 2 that those 62 seconds were the key to the game. "That's the game changer," he said. "It's always hard when you give up goals at the end of the period." 

We'll get back to the Caps many more times today.

Tom, I am struck by the disparity in reactions coming out of the Wizards locker room after their series with the Raptors and the Caps lock room after their series with the Penguins. The Wizards, especially John Wall, talked about a lack of chemistry and players not knowing their roles. Ian Mahinmi said there were family issues. Gortat told Oubre and Porter to bulk up. In the Caps locker room they talked about chemistry, loving each other, playing as a group, playing for each other, I don’t think the distinctions could be more stark. Ted owns both teams. Do you think he noticed?

Yes, a total contrast.

Having the same owner means very little. Pro sports teams are built by presidents, GMs and coaches. Very few owners are the core person, tone setter or the reason why a team wins or loses. Is Ted irrelevant? Well, kind of.

I think Washington fans are learning -- right now -- one of the most important lessons about playoffs in pro sports. It is not always your Best Team that goes the furthest in the post-season. It is often the most close-knit, the luckiest and the most emotionally resilient. Jayson Werth always told his Nats teammates that the Phils team which won the World Series was, at the most, only "the third best Phillies team I played on." Werth always said, correctly, that the goal is to make the playoffs, arrive as healthy as possible, build a team with internal chemistry and resilience, and then ride out the emotional monsoon together and see where you end up when the storm is over.

Fans build narratives around teams. So do sportswriters. I doubt that either matters -- or matters much. But what I can tell you from the inside, from watching decades of teams in various sports, is that the teams THEMSELVES build up narratives about who they are, where they are going and why. And THAT matters. It doesn't decide who wins. But it is a factor.

Then, when events start to PLAY INTO your narrative of your team, it often helps raise the collective level of play. If we could explain and quantify these things, would we even bother to watch sports? So far, almost everything is reinforcing the Caps view of themselves as a better "team," a more on-the-same-page unified team, than they've been in the past. The comeback from 0-2 to a win in six games against Columbus fit the story that they want to believe about themselves. Beating the Penguins took the weight of the world, or at least the weight of six million Washingtonians off their shoulders. Some wondered how they would come out against the Lightning. I wrote a column about the death and burial of the D.C. Troll last week. I'd have been surprised if the Caps DIDN'T come out fast and loose, confident and hitting hard against the Lightning. That doesn't mean they'd necessarily win. Tampa Bay is excellent. But to think the Caps wouldn't be energized by beating the Pens.....well, imagine if you were on the Caps. Wouldn't you feel like "OK, we finally got rid of that damn Pens thing. House money! Lets go KILL 'em. Lets play right, but also have some fun!"

That's how they've played. That doesn't mean it's how they'll continue to play. But I think Tampa Bay will have to raise its game A LOT or they're toast. And even if they do, the don't think the Caps will wilt. It'll just be a helluva battle, but with the Caps having two wins in hand.     

Sports jinxes are symbols of everything we don't understand and can't measure about the power of pessimism and the burden of disappointment. It's good when a hex dies, even a stupid second-round curse. I think the Caps are benefiting from it now. I also think that the bond between D.C.'s two "get over the hump" teams -- the Caps and Nats -- is going to be interesting to watch. Trotz and Martinez don't know each other personally. But I suspect they'd really get along.  

This may not be The Year for either. These things are not written -- or predicted -- in advance. They evolve, they happen before our eyes, and often to our amazement.

But what is happening with the Caps in this post-season is EXACTLY how Those Seasons feel as they grow and become reality.

(I bet some folks in Winnipeg, after the way they stomped Vegas in Game 1, feel the same way.)

Tom, I've seen pitchers who had quick hooks because their arms hadn't been stretched out yet. I can't remember seeing one who had so many quick hooks because the third time through the order would/might/does spell trouble. Watching Hellickson's starts is like playing an entire round of golf with a seven iron that you drop on the green to putt. It takes more strokes to get to putt, but it's nice to watch if the ball splits the green every time? Slotting him behind Scherzer and Strasburg is brilliant. But Hellickson's been around a while. I'm sure there is plenty of video on him, and the second time he goes through the league, things should be different, right? It's amazing how his stats look. He's never had a K/BB rate like 5.25. His ground ball percentage is way better than ever. Even his percentage of strikes is way up. Has there been another starter you can think of who was an 18 batter leash like this and for these reasons? And how much smarter does everyone think our new manager is after the team wins 6 of 7 on a road trip?

Lots of good points. First, even though there is a general MLB trend for starting pitchers to do worse the more often they go through a lineup it is seldom as pronounced as it has been with Hellickson his whole career: .673, .722 and a completely unacceptable .840 his 3rd time through the order. So, it makes complete sense with him, especially when the other team puts a couple of LH hitters in the 1-2-3 spots in their order. That means the manager knows he can flip to a LHer (like Solis) to start the third time through the order and you'll almost always get the LH-vs-LH match-up that you want because almost nobody ever pinch-hits for their 1-2-3 hitter. So, you minimize a third-time-through weakness and maximize a LH-vs-LH matchup with your first bullpen move.

However, what they have been doing with Hellickson is extreme. This may be a case of "We can't explain why he is SO good, and so consistent start-to-start, when we get him out after 18-to-20 hitters with, usually, a very low pitch count BUT maybe he have accidentally discovered something! Why change???"

If I were Hellickson, who was unwanted by 29 other teams,I'd be very happy about this! It may minimize his wins but extend his career -- a lot. Also, if the Nats were get their normal lineup back, he may (sometimes) be leading by several runs and be allowed to go a little longer.

Last night, Martinez had his bullpen set up well -- 4-1 lead going to bottom 6th. And off days on Mon and Thurs.

BUT we still don't know why he is THIS good -- with an ERA that is HALF of his career ERA -- or to what degree it is sustainable. The fantasy scenario is that Hellickson, if hooked quickly, might be as good when old as he was when young in his first three years -- 64 starts, 3.06 ERA, 27-21. I doubt very much that this is the case. Anything under 4.00 is gravy. I assume he's going to get bombed a couple of times. He has little margin for error. But don't give up on him quickly when that happens. He is found money. His command of breaking balls -- curves and changes -- is amazing right now as well as throwing first-pitch strikes and not getting them clobbered. It's luck for him AND the Nats that they have seen him at his best in this veteran stage of his career. When they see him at his worst, maybe they will be patient and let him find himself again.

A final point: By and large, Hellickson has been durable. If he's only being asked to throw 75 pitches a start, give or take 15, maybe he can stay healthy all year (or close to it.)

The Nats/Rizzo had their eye on him for a long time. What is wrong with the other 20 or so teams that need a better fifth starter? NONE of them scouted/analyzed this guy as well as the Nats?

As soon as he arrived, before the good results started coming in, the Nats were impressed and surprised that they'd gotten him because they've seen him in recent years with Arizona and Philly. Ryan Zimmerman in particular said that Hellickson was smart, threw all his pitches for strikes and was no easy guy to hit. Especially, apparently, when you don't get to face him a third time and he gets to use all his best ideas and pitch sequences against you in the first two at bats and doesn't have to save any surprises for the third time.

The Nats need one NOW. There are so many good skits and bits that can be done with one.

I KNOW you want a link to the history of the bullpen cart. So here it is.

I didn't know the first one was in 1951! Also, I suspect some fans don't know that they were universal for many years.

Back then, I basically hated them. Seemed "unnatural." Now, I kind of like them. Especially Doolittle's comment: "Five stars, would ride again."

It's really bad and probably not getting better anytime soon (other than the summertime bump that every team gets). Could you see them eventually leaving Baltimore?

Lets not jump the gun on this. For one thing, when the O's were at their low point recently I analyzed the roster again. They are NOT an awful team. More like a 75-win that had an awful month and will now play better. Of course, they are dead and buried for the year. It was the wrong month to stink as far as attendance goes.

Still, neither the Nats nor O's have shown a big change in where they stand in attendance in MLB. Spring weather and schools still in session always make early-season numbers look low. Then, every year, summer comes and the fans come out.

The Nats are 13th in attendance right now (27,978) after being 11th (31,172) and 14th (30,641) the two previous. It'll end up >30,000, especially if the Braves and Phils, maybe Mets, too, become better teams and better draws. Being in the NL East has driven away fans in recent years.

The O's are now 23rd in attendance (18,912) after being 22nd last year (25,042) and 20th (26,819) in '16.

Is that 18,912 number meaningful? NO. It is meaningless. The O's attendance is enormously lopsided with huge crowds for about 20 home games with the (hated) Yankees, Red Sox and Nats. So, far, they have had ZERO games at home against any of those teams. Back of the envelope, the O's averaged ~28K-a-game for their 21 home games against those teams last year. No reason to freak out YET. But that may happen. Being underground in the standings in May WILL damage attendance. And so will the near certainty that stars like Machado are leaving.

Even Peter Angelos hasn't been able to kill Baltimore as a wonderful baseball town. And he couldn't have hurt the franchise more if he'd tried. Even his Hate The Nats stance is stupid. Stop with the second-city inferiority complex. You've got one of the great venues anywhere in any sport. You have a great tradition. He should have tried to KEEP the D.C.-centric O's fans as two-team fans. Like one family we know whose license plate is "Nats/O's."

But they may be the ONLY such family! Just because fans in NYC and Chicago tend to pick one team or the other doesn't men that you can get cross-over fans. They do it, to a degree, in San Francisco-Oakland. The A's are currently outdrawing six teams which, in that ballpark, I find hard to believe.

The attendance "story" in MLB is Miami -- down from 20,385 last year, which was ugly enough, to just 10,877 (!!!!) this year. NICE WORK.

To show you how inexcusably bad that is, MLB attendance has more than tripled since '60 when the original Washington Senators left town to become the Minnesota Twins. Yet in their last season in D.C. in '60, the Senators drew 9,654 a game. 

If MLB ever allows the Marlins to switch cities, after the cost of the new ballpark that was built for them, Congress needs to get involved with MLB's anti-trust exemption. Maybe they could agree on that. 

Just read this after Friday's game from Chelsea Janes: "Scherzer lowered his ERA to 1.69, but obsesses more over strikeouts. He doesn’t believe in “pitching to contact” — doesn’t think the phrase makes sense. From his perspective, strikeouts are worth the cost of a higher pitch count." What do you think? You can't argue with results, to a certain extent, and Scherzer seems to take care of himself so that higher pitch counts don't lead to injury. But do you think this is wise, or will continue to be wise when he gets older? Or do you agree that strikeouts are worth the high pitch count?

For great pitchers, there's not much connection between style of pitching -- to contact or for strikeouts -- and pitches-per-inning. In fact, though I haven't studied it (and will), pitching to AVOID contact may actually LOWER pitch count -- if you are successful at it -- because it may cut down on foul balls which drive UP pitch count.

Among qualifying pitchers last year, who threw the fewest pitches per inning? No. 1-2-3 were Nova (14.3), Kershaw (14.4) and Kluber (14.5). Kershaw and Kluber are huge strikeout guys. Schjerzer was 12th BEST at only 15.5 pitches per inning and Strasburg was 26th at 15.6.

Max is NOT driving up his pitch count by trying to maximize strikeouts. I'll ask if he thinks there is a correlation -- because, if he does, he's probably wrong. (He's not wrong about much, so I bet he's figured all this out.)

When you get a lot of K's, you also limit the balls that are hit into play. That lowers the number of hits you allow. And the fewer hits you give up, the fewer batters you face -- as long as you can do it without high walk totals.

The traditional argument AGAINST going for strikeouts was that it seemed to increase walks, too -- like Gio. But we're into about the 25th year of amazing K/W ratios. Pedro, Randy and many since, including Max, have shown that you can have K/W ratios that were long thought to be impossible. Scherzer's career ratio is 4.1, but has ranged from 4.87(last year)  to 8.12 ('15) as a Nat.

Caps are doing fabulously, responding to adversity with sterling, cool-headed skill. But being a Caps fan, this team has had a bad relationship with prosperity before. So every time I hear someone on the radio/net act like this is in the bag because “teams in this position are 39-2 to win the series” & stuff like that, I can just hear the periodically updated stats you’ve brought out before (where the overall record when a team is something like 88% with a 2-0 game advantage in the playoffs but the Caps have been less than 50-50 with a 2-0 game advantage). This series is NOT over, and I hope the team doesn’t get caught up in the giddy triumphalism. We’ve seen them respond well to adversity. Let’s see how they respond to prosperity. Tampa is a very good team, and if the Caps let them off the mat they will have a fight on their hands.

I agree. I cringed as soon as I heard the 39-2 stat for teams with a 2-0 lead in the Conference Finals (since '74-'75).

The Caps were heavy underdogs in this series with TB given a 63 percent chance to win. That perception will not entirely disappear until/unless the Caps "beat them flat."

The Caps may have to overcome their own building when the series returns to D.C. I hope not. I hope Caps fans can feel what their team feels -- that defeatism and hexes are no longer part of this team's thinking.

Sometimes it helps to look at the present, not at the past. The Caps are completely dominating the Lightning -- in both games. They'd have won Game 2 6-0  -- 6-0!!! -- except for the two power-play goals by Tampa Bay on incorrect penalties on the Caps. 

Watch the post-game interviews with Stamkos and coach Jon Cooper. They look shell-shocked. Cooper said, "We didn't get 113 points by playing that way."

Ha!! I thought it was supposed to be the Caps who point at their regular-season record as if it's going to do them ANY good in the playoffs! Now their opponents falls back on that soft pillow to make themselves feel better?

The Caps can talk about a long series, if they wish. But they should be thinking about CRUSHING these guys while they have them down. As Connolly said after G2: "Keep playing hard. Keep playing fast and stay on them."

The Caps are winning 50-50 battles all over the ice. They're ALL willing to block shots. Years ago it was worth your life to get them to be the team that was more willing to take the shot-blocking pain. Remember the seven-game loss to Montreal when they dove in front of every Caps shot and the Caps, who'd just won their first President's Trophy, acted like "Is that legal?"

In the playoffs, teams need to internalize that NOTHING matters except the present moment. Of course, that's always true. But it better be in the front of your mind in post-season or you'll start getting in your own way. 

Stop thinking. Stop "narrating" in your own head. Just play.


I think Washington still has MANY casual hockey fans who are far behind the curve in understanding the NHL relative to true long-term Caps fans. I'm kind of in the middle -- I really enjoy hockey but I'm not a fanatic even though I must have watched more than 40 Caps games this year by now.

Here's something that, perhaps, can help casual fans keep their sanity when watching the NHL playoffs: The 'Better Team' Does Not Win.

In the last 14 seasons, how many times have the "correct" teams -- the point leaders in the two conferences -- met in the Stanley Cup Finals?


In the last 14 years, how often has the President's Trophy winner also won the Stanley Cup?


How good do you have to be to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals?

You can almost stink. Just as long as you are good enough to sneak into the playoffs, you have a chance.

I won't bore you with a chart. But in the last 14 years, the teams that have LOST in the Finals had these finishes in points WITHIN THEIR CONFERENCE during the regular season: 7th, 6th, 3rd, 5th, 3rd, 4th, 1st, 7th, 2d, 2d, 4th, 8th, 6th, 7th, 7th.

SEE A PATTERN. There is at least one crappy regular-season team in the Stanley Cup Finals MOST OF THE TIME.

That's why hockey fans talk about "hot goalies" and "puck luck" and "fighting spirit" so much. It's because their sport, even more than baseball, runs on the edge of not having a whole lot of "meaning" in the post-season. There isn't much difference in talent between teams to start with in most years. Everybody is willing to sacrifice their body on defense, so that lowers scoring, decreases the value of stars (who are usually scorers) and makes the gap between teams even smaller.

Conclusion: Just because the Caps did not look like a logical Stanley Cup finalist or winner when these playoffs began means almost NOTHING. They were tied for sixth in the NHL in regular-season points. So what? That is PLENTY good enough to win the Cup.

The Caps were 13th (!!) in the NHL according to the Simple Rating System that factors in goal-differential and strength of schedule. It is objectively correct to say that "The Caps Should Not Be Where They Are Now," if the NHL playoffs were an extremely good measure of discovering who is the "better team." But the NHL playoffs are NOT a good way -- at all -- to reward hockey talent, at least not as it is revealed to us in the regular season. If the playoffs were such an accurate measuring stick, the Caps would already have gone to the Finals four times, and won three Cups, since 2010.

So, just enjoy this. The way the Caps are playing in their last 10 games (8-2), the way they are thriving on the road, the way the Lightning seem confused at what is happening to them (outscored 7-1 at even strength so far), is not some mirage that will vanish.

This is what the NHL playoffs ARE. It's hockey. But it's also theater. It's luck. It's "team" and "belief" and all kinds of nonsense. 

Is it illogical that the Caps should play BETTER without Backstrom? Is it illogical that they should eliminate the Pens without three of their top six forwards? Is it illogical that the Caps should waltz into Tampa Bay and STOMP the supposedly better team in its own building twice -- even though it is the Caps who should be the more tired team, having played more playoff games (12-10) and more overtime periods in those games (6 to 1)?

Stop thinking logically.

Dive for a loose puck. Check like a madman. Throw the puck on net and see if something horrible happens to the other goalie -- like he "scores on himself" with two seconds left in the second period, as happened on Sunday night.

ANYTHING can happen in playoff hockey. And for almost any reason. But almost everything bad that has ever happened to anybody has happened to the Caps since 1985. It's time for it to even out. Doesn't mean it will. But to all the people who are saying, "How can this be happening?" I promise you that "real hockey people" aren't saying that. They are rolling their eyes, thinking about how nutty their sport is at this time of year and muttering that "Maybe it's Ovechkin's turn."

If it is, it will be one of the most heart-warming -- just corny old overdue, suffered-too-long-for-too-little-reason heart-warming -- sports stories we'll ever get to watch unfold.

Tom - I don't think I've ever seen the Caps play this well in the playoffs. They're playing smart, disciplined hockey, but still coming at the Lightning in waves. They shake off adversity and seem unfazed by bad calls that lead to bad goals. They lose key players to injury or suspension, and the next guy in steps up and they just carry on. Who are these guys?! Is this what it looks like when a team knock two huge monkeys (the Penguins and the second round wall) off its collective back? If this is what the Caps look like when they are freed of expectations, remind me to never expect anything of them again, because this is wonderful.

Yes, you've got the "feeling" of the thing.

In the NFL, it's really important to be the New England Patriots because you have an excellent chance to kick the snot out of everybody in the playoffs. In the NBA, it is really good to have LeBron James -- though maybe not in this Celtics series, I hope -- if you want to get to the Finals. In the NBA, if you have an amazing almost unbeatable regular-season team like the Warriors, it MEANS A TON about your chances to win the NBA title.

But if you are an 89-win MLB that gets into the playoffs despite tons of injuries, but you have Scherzer and Strasburg in good health, then it may be 'Your Year," even if it is not your best season or record. 

And especially if you are an NHL fan and these things start happening FOR your team, just "buy in."

Because this crazy **** happens ALL the time in the NHL. The Caps are riding it. And the Lightning are thinking, "Oh, damn." Yeah, yeah, that can change. But it doesn't have to.

Home ice means little this post-season. Home teams are 31-38. But scoring in the last 10 seconds of periods matters a lot! Hockey is SUPPOSED to be violent crazy chaos in the playoffs. Just enjoy it. Why?


Boz, Who are these Caps? Going on the road and completely dominating the best team in the East? That's not something our Caps do. They blew off 2 bad penalties and fought back, secondary scoring. I am going to just sit back and enjoy the ride. Not sure they will go the distance, but the "same old Caps" line doesn't fit this team. Also, I like the Nats sweeping the best team in the NL and now on a heater of 12/14. But we will worrying about baseball in July.

"Who are these Caps" may be the wrong question.

I'm thinking more along the lines of, "How do you get to Manitoba?"

After two mediocre rounds at The Players, Tiger dropped a magnificent 65 on the course on Saturday. Still too much to overcome Webb Simpson’s torrid tournament, but encouraging. Do you think Tiger still has it in him to play like his old self for consecutive rounds and win a tournament or have age/injuries plus the incredible bunch of Young Guns made that possibility remote?

I watched all his shots on the first 14 holes on Sunday. Once he saw he couldn't make it all the way back and win, he hit the wall. But his 65-69 on the weekend, which could easily have been 65-66, is just another data point that, imo, he's going to win again. A major? We'll see. Different level of pressure because he will want it SO much.

One of the last things to come around has been his driving. He was incredibly long on Sunday, some drives over 350 yards. Ball speeds like 178 MPH. For a number of years, TV of tournaments and ESPN paid far too much attention to Tiger. But now he's one of the top five stories again. NOT the ONLY story, please. But an amazing one. Even he seems amazed. At the Masters he came right out and said he NEVER thought he would hit the ball like this again. 

The Player is a TOUGH course. If you aren't hitting it pure and aren't in command of your whole game, that course will expose it. I doubt that his putting will ever get back where it was -- the best of his era. Nobody has ever been their best putting self in their 40's. Maybe Bobby Locke? But it sure looks like Tiger is rolling it well enough to shoot some low numbers again.

At one point, Johnny Miller said, in an UN-dramatic voice, like the idea had just struck him as obvious and there was no sense not saying it: "All of a sudden, it looks like Tiger's back."

It does.

He's changed his swing. Now, he's just killing the ball, but without much (apparent) torque on his lower back. Where is all that force going? What is being stressed? And how long -- in years -- can he keep hitting it like this before something else gives? If he can stay in one piece through age 45,  which is asking a lot given all the parts of his body that have been hurt in the past, then I doubt that we've seen his last chapter yet.

Boz -- what are scouts saying about Trevor Gott? From my untrained eye, it looks like he has terrific stuff. I thought he was going to be a great addition to the pen when Rizzo got him in the trade for Yunel Escobar, but he hasn't really panned out. It's not just that he walks too many batters, but batters seem to be able to barrel up on what appears to be quality, live pitches with velocity and movement. What's the report on him?

What I hear (and what I ask Rizzo about, is just what you said, "Batters seem to be able to barrel up on what appears to be quality, live pitches with velocity and movement."

Apparently his fastball doesn't "play" as well as it should. Which means he needs a new/better breaking ball -- which he seems to have added. With Gott, I look at the hitters, not his pitches. They don't seem that impressed -- yet. But he's going to get chances for a while since the pen is banged up. He needs to attack, get ahead. These days, command may be the most important of the Big Three -- velo, movement and command. Gott misses over the middle of the plate too much. Albers, last year, and Craig Stammen, in his recent outing against the Nats, showed how a vet can hit his spots repeatedly -- or miss OFF the plate. Maybe Gott will get there -- someday.


Boz: As a long, long, long time suffering fan of the Caps I am excited for this team. What is your perspective about what are the reasons the Caps are doing now (2-0)? Better coaching? Overwhelming talent? More experience? They remind me of the Detroit Red Wings of the 10-15 years ago, when they beat the Caps 4-0 in the playoff.

Last year, you had some veteran NAMES like Williams (Mr. Game Seven) and Shattenkirk. And vets like Alzner.

But now, in an era when the game is played faster, the Caps have more young fast players who have just arrived or are quickly getting better and assuming bigger roles on the team. Age and energy go together. Or disappear together. Sometimes, "age" takes the form of "NHL mileage" as opposed to just birth certificate age. Now, the Caps have more youth with energy -- and skill -- like Jakub Vrana (21), Andre Burakovskly (22), Tom Wilson (23), who's becoming a real star and game-changer, Chandler Stephenson (23) as well as Kempny (25), Brett Connolly (25)  and even Orlov 26. Kuvnetsov, 25, just keeps improving and now is so bold and creative that he terrifies some teams.

 The Caps "seem to be everywhere." That's what you get when you become younger and faster. And the culture of effort and commitment to defensive accountability seems to be in place now -- finally.

Watch Ovechkin on defense. He had one great sequence in the second period when he was the only man back against an odd-man rush. He helped Holtby weather the first attack, then was all over the place, clearing the crease, helping all the way out to the blue line, then coming back again -- I had to replay it to make sure "Is that really Ovechkin?"-- for about 20 seconds until the puck was cleared out of the zone. 

That's when I said, "Well, they have ALL bought in now." Ovi has always had to do so many things,and do so much hitting, and getting hit, that his rest periods on defense were -- well, they were OK with me, how much can you ask the guy to do? Now, he seems to be saying, gray hair and all, that he can dig down and do a little more.

I don't know what's going on, but I like it. I'm not confident, but I am relaxed and optimistic.

"I'm not confident, but I am relaxed and optimistic."

I think you have spoken for a lot of people who have watched the Caps for a lot of years. I have really enjoyed watching them this post-season because they seem to be enjoying playing hockey -- showing their skills and their will instead of their fears and worries. Maybe "body language" is as obvious in hockey as any sport. But it's seemed like, for years, you could just look at the Caps as they played and sense that "They're nervous" or "They're going to find a way to lose" or "They can shoot 50 times, but  none of them are going to go in the back of the net." Now it seems like they are constantly looking for the way to make the next Constructive Play in the next second, or fraction of a second. They are "in the moment." They aren't trying to do too much. They are playing TOGETHER. We'll see how far that takes them. But as long as a team plays the WAY they are now, then you accept the outcome. As opposed to the years when your final thought, although vague, was also simple: This is NOT acceptable.

So, I've been following baseball my whole life, and I don't get this. Harper couldn't hit in the No. 3 spot because the other teams were pitching around him, so they moved him to the No. 1 spot where they couldn't avoid him, and he went on a tear. Brilliant move -- until it wasn't and he stopped hitting, so they moved him to the No. 2 spot and he started crushing the ball again -- until I presume he stops hitting again. What was the difference between hitting him No. 1 and No. 2, and why did he stop hitting in the No. 1 spot? if he stops hitting in the No. 2 spot, is No. 9 next? No. 7? No. 4.5? Anyway, I thought moving him to the No. 1 spot was brilliant (!!) and I'm perplexed by what changed over the course of a week to 10 days when it was no longer quite so brilliant after all. Thanks for your help. Love this chat. I learn so much!

This reminds me of some dialogue in the movie "Shakespeare in Love."

An indebted backer of the Globe Theater (played by Geoffrey Rush) is being threatened with torture if he doesn't 'pay up' what he owes immediately.

Rush: "Let me explain the theater business to you. It is always a case of insurmountable obstacles on the way to imminent disaster."

"So what do we do?" says the backer who wants his money.

Rush: "Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well in the end."


Rush: "I don't know. It's a mystery."

Leg-breaker: "Shall I kill him?" 

Why do hitters get hot, get cold and sometimes exist in an obvious state of moving from one condition to another?

I don't know. It's a mystery.

But I'm pretty sure that Harper has been killing the ball, but not getting much for it, since they got to Arizona. If he doesn't forget what the latest "it" clue is to his hitting mystery, he might have a big home stand. 

I will say that when anybody hits four homers in four games, as Harper recently did, there is a tendency to expand the strike zone to chase pitches -- because you feel so great -- just as the pitchers are saying, "Don't let this guy beat us." That leads to an 0-for-19, which Harper also just had. Then, he reigns himself in, hits a couple of balls the other way, makes a few high-exit-velocity outs, hits a 448-foot homer on a 3-0 fastball and, imo, at the moment is probably a dangerous man again. (Until the next installment of:'s a mystery.)

Tom.....although the Nats have been getting phenomenal starting pitching and timely relief pitching, it seems that they are still struggling to score runs. Things improve when Rendon returned this week and Harper snapped out of his slump. With MAT seeming to have returned to his pre-2017 form and the injuries to both Eaton & Goodwin (along with Robles), the Nats are very thin in the OF. Matt Adams has done a commendable job in LF, but he is clearly playing out of position and has limited range. If Goodwin does not come back fairly soon, how much longer can the Nats platoon goes like Sierra and Stevenson in LF? Probably not an issue while they are winning, but not a lineup that will strike fear in the playoffs.

Their lineup., their injuries, their hitting hot streaks and cold slumps will change about 11 times over the next 120 games.

But fine pitchers, as long as they are healthy, usually remain fine pitchers. The Nats have at least seven of them -- the four in the rotation and the three at the back of the pen. Hellickson may be enough as a fifth starter. They MUST have at least two and probably three more decent relievers so they don't wear out the Seven Best. Solis is one, if they don't blow him out. He's being used more "situationally" now -- fewer hitters and fewer pitches per outing -- which in theory is somewhat lighter duty. But then his arm can't actually speak for itself, so how do we know? It's nice that Kelley and Gott appeared without loud noises accompanying them, but I remain unconvinced. One of the reasons for a decent "B Bullpen" -- the Davey Johnson idea -- is to extend winning streaks but also to increase the chances that, on Oct 1, your four best starters and your bullpen back end are still vertical. 

They need their two off days this week. But they may not have another week with two off days all season. Until their staff is deeper there'll be constant worry. You worst two or three pitchers have a direct impact on your very best pitchers. It is no small thing to have an entire staff whose worst members are still "adequate." The Nats have managed it several times in recent years -- it's usually one of the conditions for winning 95+.

Zimm is the face of the franchise, and Nats fans will always be grateful to him for what he has done over the years -- particularly during those bleak, 59-win seasons. But I'm concerned that last year was an aberration in a downward trending career, and if Adams and Reynolds continue to swing the bat well, how long can Davey keep Zimm in the regular lineup when gets back from the DL if he continues to post sub-.700 OPS with a negative WAR?

With all due respect, "Oh, please." He hit .303 with 36 homers and 108 RBI LAST YEAR. He's hitting the ball as hard as anybody in MLB except about five hitters this year. His BABIP is awful (bad luck). With normal hitting luck, he'd be hitting .270 right now and nobody would mention his name except to say, "Zim's about due for one of his amazing hot streaks, isn't he?" When he's healthy, Zimmerman is your first baseman. Don't debate it. Just accept it. "How is Zim's back feeling?" is a relevant question. "Is Zimmerman still the 1st baseman?" is fan speak. The only other related subject is, "How do we get Matt Adams a whole bunch of at bats vs RHed pitching?" That's why they invented leftfield.

The Caps seem to be simply out-hustling their opponents in the playoffs, whether the Penguins or the Lightning. Just plain skating faster, not giving up on loose pucks, making every hit ... I know the coaching and matchups are pretty good, but is this a team that finally just wants it more? And have they proven to themselves that the pressure of being at home can now be set aside?

As I mentioned earlier, they are a younger faster team now. They can LOOK like they are hustling more because their skates can get them to those spots in time to do something! When a whole team is quicker, it has a compounding effect. When they dump it and chase it, for example, a Cap actually ends up digging it off the boards because he could chase it so fast. 

My wife, the non-sports fan, was watching the Caps with me last night. I was going through the Caps who were REALLY fast, or really creative, and after mentioning Kuznetsov, Backstrom (when he gets back), Oshie, Burakovsky, Eller, Wilson, Ovi, Vrana and others, I said, "They're really become a fast team." Well, except for Orpik. But he hits everything he can catch.

Lats year, they had some guys with better hockey bios __Cup teams they'd played on, all-star games, big moments on big stages (somewhere else) or consecutive-games-played streaks. But it's starting to seem possible, if the D and the confidence continues to hold, that this team is roughly as good __especially as a playoff team.

Hey Boz, How freaking good has Holtby been? I was amazed when in the 3rd period, on the power play, he wasn't even bothering to cover pucks up. He'd stop them, and push them out to his defensemen, as if to say, "here, try and get it out, if not, don't worry, I'll take care of the rest". I can't remember the last soft goal he gave up. And with him being the spine, it's giving the rest of the team the ability to play with some freedom and creativity. Can't say enough about how nice it feels to have the hot goalie on our side for once!

You're right. "!" is becoming what you expect when the other team has a pretty good scoring chance.

Lot of very nice, very "estimable" people on the Caps over the years that I've seen just disconsolate and full of self-recrimination after season-ending loses. It is no fun to experience that from six feet away and no fun to write about it or even analyze it once the scene becomes insanely repetitious. And Holtby is one of those estimable accountable sufferers. Not a bad way to come back from a benching!

Matt Adams will come back down to earth. It was just one game for Reynolds -- etc etc. But with all the necessary caveats mentioned, is Zim now the Nats 3rd best first baseman? And will Davey start crafting the lineup accordingly?

Hooray for Reynolds. Great night. Good guy on every club he's been on. Just what the Nats need right now.

But what ESPN won't tell you, because they want to have a pretty story, is that nobody wanted Reynolds after last year because, at least on paper, he was a pure Coors Field creation. Nobody in any front office is fooled by mile-high numbers. In '17, at home: 255 at bats, 21 homers, 58 RBI, .294 and .978 OPS. 86 strikeouts. So, strikes out more than almost anybody in MLB. But when he hits it he's Mike Trout -- well, in Colorado.

On the road: 265 at bats, nine homers, 39 RBI, .242 with a .703 OPS and 87 K's. On the road, which is what you assume he'll produce for YOUR team, he's the frustrating version of Michael A. Taylor, but with no defensive "plus" factor.

The Nats are very lucky to get him. He's a real pro with 282 homers. Makes a very shaky lineup look big league. A pure mistake-hitter with lots of power. And he pulverized two mistakes last night. (Ex-Oriole Lee May once told me that EVERY home run he had ever hit was on a "mistake." And he wasn't kidding. He hit 354 homers, drove in 1244 runs and had 90 RBI eight times. I said, "Come on, Lee. They can't ALL be mistakes." He said, "They make more than you'd think. But you have to WAIT for them.") And you have to crush 'em, not foul 'em off, when you get them. Not many can.

Interestingly, all spring Ryan Zimmerman always brought up two players that he thought were getting screwed in the shun-a-vet spring -- Lind and Reynolds. So, now three UVA guys in the room.

That's it for today. Fun week coming up. Yankees in town Tuesday-Weds with Scherzer now going on Weds. Then the troubled Dodgers in for three over the weekend without Kershaw, Ryu, Seager, etc. The REDS just swept a four-game series from the Dodgers for the first time since Noah was still accepting reservations on the arc. They aren't the Dodgers right now. But then the Nats aren't exactly the Nats right now, either, are they? Yet the Nats are 12-2. The manager -- the one whose fungo bat says "Davey," not Dave (thanks Chelsea) -- must be doing OK. 

It has felt to me like Michael is striking out even more this year, so I went to FanGraphs to check it out. Turns out his K rate is marginally higher – 32.1% this year compared to 31.7% last year, his breakout season. But it’s his BABIP numbers that jump off the page. Last year, when he posted a 3.2 WAR, his BABIP was .363. As I recall, you’ve said the normal BABIP range is .270 to .330. So look at these numbers, Taylor’s BABIP at the ML level only: 2014 -- .333 2015 -- .311 2016 -- .319 2017 -- .363 2018 -- .264 So even in the years when Taylor struggled at the ML level, he still enjoyed a high BABIP. This year, it’s fallen off a cliff. Does that suggest that he was unnaturally lucky in past years, especially last year? And, perhaps more important, what do you do with a guy who has a high K rate and a low BABIP? He looks lost at the plate; it’s hard to watch. I’d be tempted to drop him to the bottom of the order, at least, and tell him to stop worrying about his hitting. But CAN you keep him in the lineup indefinitely, just for his defense? Because more and more, last year is starting to look like a fluke.

Fast runners have high BABIPs. For the obvious reasons -- infield hits, bunts. And guys with high  bat speeds, like Taylor, who has light-tower power almost in the Harper category, smoke their grounders through the infield faster, too. So, if MAT's typical BABIP is >.320 for a whole career, I wouldn't be surprised.

But he also looks bad. He's streaky. I suspect the Nats -- not just Taylor --are lucky that they have no alternative but to play him. I still believe in him. It's a long season. Taylor plays banged up and doesn't complain because he knows they need him. He can use the days off this week. A great defender who is also a streaky power hitter is, almost by definition, somebody with whom you have to have an incredible amount of patience. With Eaton and Robles gone for many more weeks, Taylor has about his fifth major chance to nail down the job. I hope he knows how lucky he is. Plenty of good players never get that many square shots at a front-line career. Baseball's the fairest of all games. But you have to grab your chance(s).

Juan's looking pretty good, huh? Soto, Harper, Robles for the next 7 years could be a great time.

Looks like those AA pitchers have figured out Soto. Four games: hitting .143. Oh, sorry, the two hits are a double and homer, for four RBI, plus four walks, only 2 K's.

Soto was slugging a little over .800 when he was called up to AA. (At two lower stops this season he hit .371 and .373 in 15 and 16 games.) That's .800. As in 121 at bats, eight doubles, four triples, 12 homers, 42 RBI in 31 games. (WHAT???!!!) More walks than K's 14-13 and an OPS close to 1.300.

He's 19.

Good or very good minor league numbers don't always mean anything at all. But incredible, unbelievable minor league numbers usually do. Not always. But Soto is now hitting .358 as a professional in 495 plate appearances.

Made me look up another 19-year-old left-handed hitting outfielder from 80 years ago. In 1938, he hit .366 and slugged .701 for Minneapolis, but he did it in a full year with 43 homers, which means a lot more. They called him up to Boston the next year at 20. Ted Williams.

Sometimes, if you are too good for the minors, they bring you up pretty fast. In '51, a 20-year-old hit .477 in just 35 games in AAA. The Giants had seen enough. They called him up. Rookie of the Year. Miracle of Coogan's Bluff. Willie Mays.

That same year, the Yankees had a 19-year-old outfielder who'd hit .383 in C Ball in '50, then in just 166 at bats in AA ball -- the level Soto's at now -- he hit .361 and slugged .651. So, they brought him up at 19 with just those 166 ABs in Kansas City. Mickey Mantle.

In '12, the Nationals had a 19-year-old outfielder who'd hit .300 with a .917 OPS in just 569 plate appearances as various minor league stops, and only 74 of those ABs at AAA (.243). But they thought they knew what they had and brought him up. Bryce Harper.

Good or very good minor league numbers, as I said, don't have to mean anything. But if you slug .800 and hit .370 -- or .700 -- in the minors as a teenager, history says that you don't stay down there too long.

Aww, he's probably not that good. Just a passing thought.  

See you all next week. Thanks for all the great questions.

I know he isn't ALWAYS right. But man, you look at how this patched together lineup is playing right now -- Reynolds! -- and just marvel at how the man finds not just useful pieces but high quality pieces in the scratch and dent bin every year. Thank goodness they got a (short) extension done with him. The Most Valuable Nat by far.

He does OK. Wonder what he'd have had to do to get a three-year extension? (Find a way to keep Metro open an extra hour -- for free?)

I'm 40. Season ticket holder of multiple Washington sports teams. All I want to say to my fellow #DCsports fans is: enjoy the ride. What this Caps team has become, regardless of the end result, is one of the most beautiful things you can watch in sports. A highly skilled, nasty phalanx that is all-in for one another in the mold of Philip II of Macedon. Watching them is like watching Sean Taylor creep up to the line of scrimmage on 3rd and 10. Will he blitz? Will he cover? Or Gary Clark going deep and watching Rypien load up. Or Wes Unseld grabbing a rebound and getting ready to outlet on the break. Or Cal's Streak when he tied and broke it. Just enjoy this so much.

You got started on this fan thing pretty young!

I'm going to have to catch up on Philip II of Macedon.

You're 100% right about Angelos injuring himself with by being so anti-Nat. I'm a suburban Maryland Nat season plan holder (from year 1) who takes the Metro and would have been happy to continue to go to games in Camden Yards on weekends because it's easier to get there on a Saturday than Nats Park, plus it would be as easy to cheer for Adam Jones as it is for Zim. But after Angelos tried to prevent me from going to baseball games in my home town then messed around with the TV money, it'll be a cold day in Hades before I gave him a nickel of my fan budget. Don't have anything against the O's but will never attend a game there while Angelos owns the team.

Come to think of it, I spent money in Camden Yards with my family for a long time. For about a dozen years, we had a group of a dozen people who went to 13 games a year together in the box seats. But I cut my annual budget there to $0.00 at the same time you did. Probably just a coincidence. 

Is this why they don't have cheerleaders in the NHL?

About 30 years ago, my first 4 (of 99) reasons why "baseball is better than football" were:

1) Bands.

2) Halftime with bands.

3) Cheerleaders at halftime with bands.

4) Up With People singing "The Impossible Dream" during a Blue Angels flyover at halftime with bands.

OMG, not only does it never change, it just gets worse.

Carolina lost the first two games at home in the first round of its 2006 Stanley Cup run. The Canes played most of the playoffs without one of their best players (Erik Cole, who only played the last two games of the final), with the requisite grizzled veteran (Rod Brind'Amour) and a flashy young center (Eric Staal). Oh, they also had a red-hot goalie (Cam Ward). Of course, this is a trope so tired that even a romance novel publisher would take a pass, saying "I think I've seen this before." But hey, as long as it works for us, right?

If you love hockey, you've got a forum today!

This guy is one of the dirtiest players in NHL history. Cheap hits. Cheap trip on Wilson as soon as the puck is dropped to start the 2nd period. The scrum with Orpick behind the goal. When the Refs break them up, he takes one last shot by sticking his stick into Orpick's face. Drop your gloves and get your a_ _ kicked instead of these dirty tactics. He is a bum and when the time is right, there should be retaliation. Your thoughts please....

My wife grew up watching the Bruins in N.E. with her sports-crazed family. But she has watched 30 minutes of hockey with me in her life -- all of it last night.

After five minutes, she said, "That guy Kunitz -- I hope they break him in half."

Maybe my wife missed her calling.

I read this on Frank Howard's Wikipedia page yesterday, "During an amazing one-week stretch in the spring of 1968 (May 12–18), Howard hammered 10 home runs in 20 at bats, with at least one in six consecutive games; his 10 home runs are also the most ever in one week." If accurate, that means this week is the 50th anniversary of that famous run. Any comments on the impact of this event, and would the WP consider an article acknowledging this anniversary?

Thanks for mentioning this. I almost forgot it.

The Hondo mark is remarkable for several reasons, besides nostalgia and the fact that his statue is still in front of Nats Park.

1968 was the Year of the Pitcher -- they had to lower the mound from 16 to 10 inches in ‘69 to make the game “fair” again. In ’68, Bob Gibson had a 1.12 ERA. Yet, when almost nobody could hit very much, Howard did something nobody has done since, right through the PED era and now the launch-angle home run splurge. And in his streak, Howard did it against the best. Two of the most famous pitchers in ‘68, symbols of the period, were Mickey Lolich, the hero of the World Series (3-0, 1.67 ERA) and Sudden Sam McDowell, who led the majors in strikeouts (283) and had a 1.81 ERA in 269 innings. Yet Howard hit FIVE of his 10 homers in the streak off Lolich (3) and McDowlell (2).

One of the homers off McDowell may have been the longest ever in Cleveland’s old Municipal Stadium, down the LF line. Howard absolutely owned the lefty McDowell, who threw 100 mph with a curve almost as good as Koufax, but nowhere near Sandy’s control. Howard’s career OPS off McDowell was 1.253, by far the highest of anybody who faced him frequently. By September 2 of ’68, McDowell had given up pitching to Howard and walked him INTENTIONALLY three times in one game, TWICE with the bases EMPTY. Maybe it happened to Barry Bonds a few times late in one-run games.

I was in college at the time where we didn't get Nats games, so I didn't see any of it. Also, Hondo’s streak was just a month after the D.C. riots and in the middle of Vietnam and others assassinations. I don’t remember paying much, if any attention to sports that spring. Few did.

I have good memories of a trip I took to Spokane in the late-‘70’s to do a takeout on Howard as a AAA manager; he was a prince to me (the same as he was to everybody else). He took his whole team out to dinner (me, too) and, at one point, told them, “How are you gonna wheel that lumber tomorrow if you don’t pound that Budweiser tonight?”

I think it may have been Paul Bunyan who was "Hondo-esque" not the other way around.


I heard D-Hall is hanging up his cleats. Any truth?


The NFL isn't generally an ideal place to gain maturity. But in D-Hall's case, he did. And it suited him.

Please tell me how Young Shakespeare in Love beat out Saving Private Ryan for best picture.?? That's like Mark Moseley winning the MVP award.

You have to let go of this bitterness....

With regard to Bryce you're right - he is hitting the ball harder than ever. 7.0 % "soft" - a career low. 47.8 % "medium" (below career average) - and 45.2 % "hard" - by FAR the highest of his career (in 2015 it was 40.9%), good for 17th best in baseball. He's hitting infield fly balls only 4.5% of the time (again a career low - 5.8% in 2015). But despite all that, he has a BABIP of .196 - 6th-worst in all of baseball (just ahead of Anthony Rizzo, weirdly). That IS going to get better - it's impossible for it not to. So he's not just fine but maybe hitting the ball better than ever, into the worst possible luck. When that luck evens out... the league is going to be hurting.

Good stuff. Thanks.

Bryce has really bulked up since he entered the Show. I'm not saying he's Pete Incaviglia, but he does resemble a certain brick house. Do you think he'll stay in RF (or outfield) for his career?

He's in great shape, not "heavy" at all. And he had a fine all-around defensive series in Arizona, all four games.

Yankees and Dodgers in for two each, Caps/Lightning Games 3&4. Should be a great sports week in the Nation's Capital.

I can't wait.

Mike Petriello a writer for had this interesting article about Sean Doolittle being the best reliever in baseball. In summary it says he is the elite at strikeouts, not giving up walks, and limiting hard contact. I know he has been good for us but do you really think he is the best? Also did Mike RIzzo realize he was THIS GOOD when getting him and Madson for a struggling Trienen and two young prospects who by no means will necessarily pan out? Thanks and go Nats and Caps!!

Yes, I enjoyed that story. Good read. The premise sounds like a stretch. But once you read it, you start doubting your own first impression of the idea -- which is one good test of an original piece.

Also, I liked his idea of viewing all infield pop ups as the same as strikeouts. The high fastball is already making a comeback in the launch angle era.

They have looked totally dominant. A player said, "It’s little details of the game at this time of the year, and they’ve executed, and we haven’t" and it *wasn't* a Caps player who said it. They scored first, fell behind, fought back and built a two-goal lead, and then *added to it*. Every switch Trotz throws and every dial he turns has worked. I don't even know what to think anymore. But it's fun.


There's no crime in enjoying it. But the probability is still that Tampa Bay is very good and there's still a battle ahead.

For the third time this year, the Nats appeared on Sunday night baseball. For the 3rd time they got the same treatment: puff-pieces with A-Rod in the top of the third totally displace the Nats' at-bat (this time we missed seeing Trea Turner almost beat out an amazing throw to 1st--we were allowed to see the slo-mo rerun). An interview with Max in the top of the 5th. An interview with the D'backs manager in the top of the 6th--Trea hit a home run, barely commented on. Identical things in the last 2 ESPN games: the puff - pieces always come during Nats at bats and the on-air team barely tries to hide how dismissive they are of the team. Last night even after the Nats WON THE GAME one of the ESPN guys talked about "the red-hot Diamondbacks" going to face the Yankees--um, excuse me, your Freudian slip is showing. What does ESPN have against the Washington franchise, why are they so blatantly disrespectful of the team, and why does no one call them out on it?

I would comment, but the dozen times I turned the volume up from "0," I had to turn it back off within a minute to keep from screaming. A-Rod made a good point about the Tampa Bay pitching staff, more than 10 years ago, bringing back the idea of the "right-on-right change-up." (Seriously, a good ex-player point.) Otherwise, isn't he just an unctuous phony who gets on everybody's nerves? Like he did as a player. 

Most impressive Caps victory ever in the playoffs. They had at least 4 men lined up at the blue line on defense all night. I have been waiting for years to see that. Don't know where this has come from, but it is fun to watch.


I want to sign off with a thanks to the producer of this chat, Kelyn Soong, who will be leaving the Post soon to write and be the sports editor of the Washington City Paper. Their gain! Great job for years, Kelyn, so many thanks.

In This Chat
Thomas Boswell
A Washington Post columnist since 1984, Thomas Boswell is known for the many books he has written on baseball, including "How Life Imitates the World Series" and "Why Time Begins on Opening Day."
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