Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Aug 20, 2018

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

Past Ask Boswell chats

I am a fan who was at the last Senators game, who loves that we have a team after 350 years (typo intended for that's how long it seemed), and who enjoys every game as well as the opportunity to get just as frustrated with the Nats as with the Redskins. I've also seen the Redskins go from a team that in the '60s had a (real) waiting list even though they couldn't win until Lombardi showed up, to a team in disarray at the front office and on and "off the field" because of ownership. Same with our semi-local replacement team, the O's. Are the Lerners, who apparently ignored Rizzo in order to fire Dusty and hire youth, and at the same time seem reluctant to spend without a discount, in danger of falling into the same ownership trap as Angelos and Danny-Boy? Or do we all need to step back and take a breath? Because the Nats do not respond well to pressure .... just watch Harper in CF ... and are starting to sound like Gruden trying to excuse the lack of focus and the often outright ineptitude.

No. The Lerners are NOTHING like Skins ownership.

They make mistakes. But they also do things that look brilliant in hindsight. Any $210M free agent signing is an OWNERSHIP signing, no matter how much the GM loves the player. So Scherzer is All Lerner's, even though Rizzo raved about him. The Lerner's also got the Strasburg deal done at what still seems like a sane price, even factoring the number of starts Stras may miss in that 7-year period. The combination of Max and Stras through '21 is the reason the Nats "window" should stay open for the next three seasons in any season when BOTH are basically healthy.

On the manager situation, Rizzo was sold on Matt Williams and sold the Lerners on him. Matt was a bust. That may have soured the Lerners somewhat on Rizzo judgment in managers. Rizzo liked both Bud Black and Dusty as the manager after Williams. But Black was No. 1 and Dusty a strong 1A. The Lerners screwed up the Black negotiations with their initial low-ball offer and general lack of understanding of 'how things are done' in hiring a manager, especially one with experience. So, with Black doing well in Colorado, and probably there for plenty more years, that looks like a Lerner mess up. Firing, okay not rehiring Dusty was entirely the Lerner's. They just couldn't STAND losing in the first round again. Everybody in MLB knew that Rizzo was chewing the wallpaper to tell them that you just don't give away a manager AND HIS STAFF, including Mike Maddux, after he inherits a team with the "D.C. Strangler" (Papelbon), a broken clubhouse, an 83-79 record and promptly averages 96 wins in two seasons. You don't fire somebody with 1,800+ wins because his team lost two classic one-run Game Fives under amazing circumstances, Kershaw out of the bullpen to save one and Davis asked to get 8 outs for the first time in his life in the other. Also, the home plate ump cost the Nats two runs in that one-run loss. Can you criticize Dusty for moves in the playoffs? Yes. (But you always can.) Did he manage LESS BADLY than Joe Maddon in the Cubs series? Yes. 

In baseball, firing a respected manager in such circumstances, then replacing him with ANY rookie manager, just ISN'T DONE in baseball. But the Lerners did it. 

Would the Nats have had lots of problems this year with Dusty? Sure. Would they have a somewhat better record with Baker? Impossible to know. But I certainly think so. Would they be leading the NL East now? No. Would they be 3-4 games back? Maybe. Probably.

The Lerners have done a lot of things right, including extending Rizzo through '20. They have a big payroll this year, but with >$75M dropping off after this season are in excellent position to remain a playoff contender. All in all, they run a good ship although with plenty to gripe about, just to keep things interesting.

Hi Tom... I've been thinking about what happened over the winter with free agency and how older players were sidelined and forced to wait a long time for a contract, if one was even offered. And when you think about all the injuries older players deal with (I love Ryan Zimmerman but has he been a $100 million player since he signed?) why would an owner want to spend big money on them? It seems to me the owners are in a very sweet position and will pay less for the same product. Younger players will be cheaper and have less leverage. The big money will move towards them, but it won't be as big as it used to be. Meaning more money for the owners to keep. If this turns out to be true, what do you think this will mean for labor relations in the years to come?

Most in the baseball press say "wait and see" on all of this. And say that Harper/Machado class will probably flip everything back to "normal."

I disagree completely.

Owners were shocked and delighted by what happened last winter. And they don't want it to change. They have plenty of analytics and common sense to tell them that it SHOULDN'T change because outside of rare excepts like Scherzer, players past 30, and especially 32-3, just don't produce like they did in their prime.

Neither Harper nor Machado has had a Max season. Ten-year contracts are dead. Will there even be a 7-year deal for either? If Harper gets as much as $35M x 7 yrs = $245M I will be mildly surprised. I'd be MORE shocked if he got $300M than if he got $200M, or had to sign a "creative" shorter-term contract to avoid setting a market-crushing precedent. Ironically, Machado proved that he is NOT a good SS this year, maybe a bit below average, no matter how great a 3rd baseman he was. And Harper has proved that he doesn't belong in center field because he has (slightly) below average speed, No. 257 out of 500 on StatCast Sprint Speed leaders.

I assume that very bad labor-management relations are on the horizon. I hoped never to see that again after covering six (I think) of the eight-straight work stoppages in MLB, whether strike or lockout. I don't think it has to end in another war. But the players signed a poor deal last time, the owners didn't even know (figure out) immediately what they had in their hands. But they have now and they won't be giving it back. The MLBPA literally fussed about meal money last time while assuming everything else was fine. Bob Boone, now part of ownership, but for decades was one of the strongest MLBPA people, including being one of the players who received money by being part of the huge collusion case won by the union, stood on a backfield in spring training and just couldn't hold back. "Bleeping MEAL MONEY!" he said.

My guesses, re Nats.

Maybe Nats offer Qualifying Offer to Murphy __about $18M for one year. Would he take it to play 2d and 1st (when/if injury-prone Zim can't)? I doubt it. But I don't think he'll do better than the $37.5M/3-yr deal he got with the Nats BEFORE he proved he was a great hitter! Now he has a bad knee history and age in the picture.

Gio will probably resemble Lance Lynn last off-season, not in demand, ends up with a one-year deal for $8M-to-$12M depending on how well or badly he finishes the season. But he won't be back with the Nats. He knows it. 

Wieters will probably find a job. We talked about it yesterday. He's gotten pretty hot recently, still grades out well at stopping the running game, calls pitches well. Framing? Also a quiet leader. The Nats seem obsessed with Realmuto, though I don't see how they construct a trade for him. But I can't imagine they won't seek a significant upgrade from Matt.

Madson? Gone. By next summer they may wish they still had Kintzler around on the second year of his two-year deal.

Harper, of course, can only be dealt with at novel length.   

Ok Boz: I think we all need to know- What the h_ll happened? Not to place too much blame on the manager but : I always thought that hiring a rookie manager, with this team, was a mistake- said so when they hired him in the off season. Also.... I've always gotten the impression that Rizzo has never been really good at the pitching aspect ( he never really has selected good pitching during the draft, for example) of the game. Care to comment, please??? Thanks. I missed you the past 2 weeks- hope that your vacation was great.

We agree. And MANY Nats fans and chatters were in that boat along with us last October. I wrote in a chat BEFORE Dusty was fired that you COULD NOT fire Baker and replace him with ANY rookie manager. Can't do it. If a proven vet becomes available, sure, you can consider it. Joe Girardi was available. I wouldn't have gone for him, but it's sane to consider him. The Nats (Lerner's) wanted Dusty gone and they grabbed Martinez (whom they'd interviewed previously) very quickly as if he were a diamond that might get snatched away from them.

It's true that three of the four rookie managers this year are doing well or very well. But none of them replaced a manager as good, imo, as Johnny B. Baker, whom I called Johnny B+ Baker. (If he'd gotten the Nats to a Series, that smart aleck grade sure would have changed.)

On the general mysterious subject of Manager Value: I'm sorry but managers, in-game managing, doesn't impact the W-L record THAT much. It takes SO MANY "bad" 60-40 decisions to go the wrong way to add up to even one or two wins or loses. I've gone through the arithmetic before. 

Was talking with Wieters about this yesterday. And he's considered managing someday, although with his young family that might be a decade or more away. If all the analytics folks thought that there was such a thing as a manager who was worth 3.0, 4.0 or 5.0 WAR, then wouldn't they pay them $20-to-$30M-a-year? Even if that is much too high of an estimate, a top manager now makes the equivalent of a 0.5 WAR player!

IOW, right or wrong, nobody IN baseball thinks managers have a ton of impact. In part, that's because the game has gone toward the Organization Man manager who defers to the GM, team Prez or ownership and basically deals with keeping the players upbeat and feeding banal quotes to the press. Most of them are camp counselors who do what the analytics folks tell them with strategy, lineups, and strategy. If Earl Weaver, Tommy LaSorda, Sparky Anderson, Billy Martin, Tony LaRussa (yes, hothead young Tony), Lou Piniella or (big ego, big IQ) Whitey Herzog showed up today to get a managing job I don't think that ANY of them could even get an INTERVIEW. Bruce Bochy probably could. Mike Scioscia? Forget it. Too much personality.

As to Rizzo: What he does BEST is pitching, STARTING pitching. Which he considers the bedrock of baseball. And he's probably right.

In the 4 years when the Nats won the NL East, they finished 2d, 1st, 2d and 4th in MLB --out of 30 teams, in ERA for their starting pitchers.     

In nthe three years when they didn't (okay, assuming they don't this year) they finished 7th, 7th and now 9th in MLB in starting pitching ERA.

Relievers are mostly unstable isotopes. There are exceptions. But Rizzo wants to put resources in SP and everyday players before worrying about his 3rd, 4th and 5th best relievers. Gotta nail down closer and set-up man. The others? Not at the top of his list. Maybe that's a bit outdated. It makes a good debate.

Talked to one of the Nats starters yesterday who looked down at Pitchers Row in the clubhouse and said, "We'll be fine next year." He meant Max, Stras, Tanner, Fedde, Joe Ross, plus whatever gets added, and something BETTER is added to SP depth, in the off-season.

Rizzo thinks that building ONE three-for-one trade to steal SEVEN YEARS and over 200 starts of Gio Gonzalez is going to impact his team more than focusing on a closer, or any reliever, who may have a radioactive half-life of a year or two.

All that said, I sure hope they are happy about that $6.5M they saved by trading away gabby Brandon Kintzler to the Cubs. He's been mediocre in Chicago (9g, 4.50 ERA). But his ERA the last SEVEN years is 3.18. The Nats could use that now.     


While its safe to say that Davey Martinez is no threat to join Joe Madden and Bruce Bochy in the great managers club, is he actually terrible, or just average? He doesn't seem to make the mind-numbing decisions of a Matt Williams, yet the team doesn't play for him. Is the problem not the manager, but the lack of a clubhouse leader? Harper's a great player (or can be), but not a leader, which isn't necessarily a problem (see, 2000s Red Sox, Best Player, Manny -- Leader Varitek) I wonder if the team would be this lackadaisical and this far out with Jayson Werth or someone like him patrolling the clubhouse?

A lot of interesting points there. Too many for one response.

I think Martinez will be average, in time. But there have been learning-curve issues in handling the bullpen, and not ending up with guys on the DL early in the season, that were costly. He has reasons for his decisions, though there are plenty of times when I'm on the other side of his 60-40 decisions. But he isn't head-slapping wrong very much, like Matt.

This team shouldn't NEED leadership, as I've written. There are a dozen guys who, someday, could/should be managers, coaches, instructors, etc. They should be leading now. But besides Max, Eaton, Wieters (and Kendrick before he was hurt) I'm not sure what the leadership MIX is. Rendon and Zim are laid back. IMO, it's not enough to say, "They aren't leaders by disposition." Well, the heck with your natural comfort zone. Get a bit outside of it, you know, for the team. Turner, who's very smart and intense, hasn't stepped up like many great shortstops have in the past from Pee Wee Reese to Derek Jeter. Catcher and SS are traditional 'Be A Leader If You Can' positions. It's "only" his third season. But it IS his third season and he's 2nd on the team in WAR (3.4) behind Rendon (3.6). He has enough stature.

Harper is dynamic when hot, but, like Reggie Jackson, he's only going to lead in the sense that he LOVES the spotlight. He sets an example of "don't be scared of the moment." (Though the post-season hasn't loved him a lot so far.) Otherwise, like Reggie, he's in his own Bryce World. I mentioned to him recently that he reminded me in a lot of ways of Reggie. He got it, liked it. But that's not ALL good. On Saturday, with the Nats down by two runs in the 9th, one out, nobody on base, when 100% of his job was to get on base, he swung at a 3-1 pitcher's pitch and chopped out routinely to first base. What!!??? Regardless of what was actually in his mind that screams "Selfish" to teammates. That says "Home Run title is on my mind." That says, "Take a strike for the team, nah, not this time." I asked Martinez about it yesterday, what about that out on a 3-1 pitch? He AGREED! I almost fell off my chair. Of course, he then walked back his answer with how the player, especially one as good and experienced as Bryce, knows his own game best. "Let the player decide." But then he actually said that thinking about "I'll take a pitch" (for the team), was something Bryce might think more about over time. 

As I have said many times, the Nats have areas where they are somewhat lacking. But that is not the same as having areas that are truly bad. They've had a lot of fight in them over the years and have actually battled quite well in recent weeks, yet ended up with brutal loses for their effort. I measure them against high standards, all the top teams that I've covered for the Post since '75 to cover, especially in pennant races and post-season. The Nats are "good" by that standard. But they aren't good enough to be champions. There hasn't been one Nats team that made me feel, "They've got talent but they also have IT."

So far, this one sure doesn't have IT either.

Maybe having everybody, including me, write them off, pronouce them dead, make "camel" wisecracks, will fire 'em up a little. Nothing else has lit the fire for more than a few days.

Their big problem now, I assume the insurmountable problem, is that you can't come from this far back with a bullpen (on Sunday) of Glover, Justin Miller, the remains of Greg Holland, Tim Collins, Jimmy Cordero (touched 99), Wander Suero and Matt Grace. It's not that they are BAD. It's that they aren't excellent enough to carry out a 26-11 finish (88 wins) which would include a lot of late-and-close wins. Herrera may be back by Tuesday. That's still not "enough." By the time Madson and Doolittle are back a lot of games will be off the schedule.

The Nats face one last problem, even if they are still breathing in mid-September, the schedule the last 11 days of the season. The Braves and Phils play eachother SEVEN times. And they can't BOTH collapse under last-lap pressure. Somebody has to win each of those 7 games. And one of them has to go at least 4-3. Even if one of them collapses, the wildcard will be tough to grab because so many teams are now in that picture at 12 or 13 games OVER .500. Plaus thee Dodgers at +9.

To your point about "lackadaisical", this team may have played like dogs at times, but they AREN'T dogs. In every part of the season, they've had at least one whole chunk of their team, lineup, rotation or bullpen, in shambles. They actually pick themselves up and dust themselves off pretty well after tough loses. It's just that there have been 63 of them so far.

One final point on managers. Had a talk with Tanner Roark yesterday about how great Dusty was in understanding people, gaining trust and being a manager whom you could not only talk to but talk HONESTLY with. I made some comment, don't remember what, but Tanner volunteered, "Davey is JUST like that, too. He and Dusty are both great, you can talk to them about ANYTHING, baseball or life."

So, I think you can cross that one off the Knock Martinez list.       

As the Nationals' season heads to oblivion, much of the fan base is upset -- and seeking blood. While Dave Martinez has been the chief culprit in their eyes, many also are calling for GM Mike Rizzo's ouster. To them I say: 1) Who are you getting that's better, some Ivy League numbers-cruncher? (The type I sense many in the D.C. federal meritocracy wish ran the Nats) and 2) The acclaimed Billy Beane, whose A's are one of baseball's great stories this year, has run that team for two decades and only advanced past the LDS once (usually falling to one of the AL East evil empires), and after beating Minnesota in 2006, was swept by Detroit. Rizzo needs to retool this roster in the offseason; he shouldn't be swept away with the driftwood that needs to go.

Rizzo's in no trouble. And the Nats have plenty of ammo and alternatives to be quite good next year even without ANY of their current walk-year players, including Harper, returning in '19. Robles and by mid-season perhaps Cater Kieboom will be up. Fedde will be in the rotation and perhaps Joe Ross. Kendrick will be back. How much 2nd base can he play after his injury? Don't know. Maybe free agent D.J. LeMahieu will be there.

Unless the Nats flat-out collapse or the Lerners intervene in a huff, Martinez will be back.

One Nat said to me on Sunday: This new manager and new coaching staff every two years, that gets old.

Rig (~312 games), Davey Johnson (2 1/2 years), Matt Williams (2 years), Dusty (2 years) and now Martinez with Long and Derek Lilliquist in, Schu and Mike Maddox out. At some point, that's got to stop. 

I agree with the gist of your column from this AM (that the Nats aren't making the playoffs). Too many injuries, not enough pitching. When you're rolling out guys like Jeffry Rodriguez, Tommy Milone, and Koda're not going anywhere. So with that in mind, why bring Stras back now? Get him right for next year.

I'd be more concerned that Doolittle, who's under team control in '19-'20, comes back too soon and hurts his arm. Strasburg seems to protect himself enough. Gio felt bad yesterday that his bad performance has put pressure on Stras to come back ASAP. But I think that Strasburg, with the years, has gotten better at knowing how to pitch at 100%, at 90% but NOT at the lower levels where the big injury await you. 

I agree with your column on Monday pronouncing the obvious: this team, in apite of its really incredible individual talent, has produced a disastrous season. If the Nats were a 'company' or a bank there would be some significant change at the top. The board doesn't fire the tellers when the stock tanks: they go for the CEO. So who do you think will be answering for this shambolic season? Who should answer? In spite of all the 'happy talk' about the clubhouse culture it is evident reading between the lines that there has been real 'family discord' (Kintzler, Kelly---I don't believe Kelly could have been sacked for throwing his glove one time but that it was the last straw in a string of 'infractions'). Has the culture of special treatment for special players (Harper, Zim, Murphy) led to simmering resentments? '18-'19 may be a winter of discontent for the Nationals but until or unless they address whatever ails them psychologically, next season will be no better.

Let's calm down. '13 was very disappointing. The Nats won the NL East the next year. '15 was worse, remember the Harper strangling! The complete give-up against the Mets. "When do you think you lost this team."

The calendar will turn. As one Nat said to me on Sunday, "There will be a lot of handshakes, 'thanks' and so-longs. But this team will be good again next year. Just watch."

BTW, just because fans, media, the whole world, including me, says the Nats are "dead," that doesn't MAKE them dead. Every "miracle" comeback in MLB history was considered a (baseball) miracle because the 98% consensus was "these bums are done." Then they weren't.

If I had to bet, I'd say that the Nats will still be breathing in mid-September, still providing near-fantasy scenarios. There's probably some fun left. But what I REALLY think most strongly is that the three or four games that they squandered, that they should have won, regardless of any factor working against them, in the last 10 days will hang over them and ultimately doom any last week wonders. 

They are ALLOWED to play well against the Phils this week behind Roark, Strasburg, and Scherzer. There's no reason not to enjoy it. But this was the day to understand all the damage that was done in the last 10 days, all the margin of error that was reduced to almost zero. 

Believe it or not, that doesn't mean we aren't allowed to find things to enjoy the rest of the way. Plenty of teams have gotten hot EXACTLY when they were pronounced dead. Sure wouldn't bet this was one of them. But the next three days will be quite interesting, at least to me.

We're not quite down to Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, pitcher for MVP and Home Run title discussions, yet.

I'll catch up on other issues by next week's chat. I've been taking the same amount of vacation every summer for the last 30 years, but there never seems to be a "right" time. My assumption is always, "Be back for the last 40 games. Any team that can't make it that far isn't going to do much anyway. What will be remembered is almost always those last 40 games, plus the post-season."

And that's true. But when seasons go in the tank it's often, as I've said, around the 110-game mark that "the truth" about a team and a season comes out. Who's real. Who's fake. Whatdaya know, it was at games 116-to-125 that the Nats cracked, four times, and let a chance to get right back into the picture slip out of their hands.

I thought my opinion of NCAA D1 football couldn't get any lower. I stand corrected. Do you think there will ever truly be a reckoning for the sport, or will they continue to brush incidents off as "bad apples" etc?

In all my time at the Post, there is only one sport that I flatly said I did not want to cover because I thought it was, by and large, a sewer. And I didn't want to have anything to do with it: D1 college football. The coaches and the cultures are generally moronic and violent, even when some of the coaches are, individually, "smart" in some narrow sense. The cheating is never-ending. The impact on the "educational institutions" which rake in the bucks from this activity are generally morally tarnishing, at the least. The campus behavior of players in too many places is: "Raze the town, and nothing will happen to you, as long as you win on Saturday."

College BASKETBALL? I could stomach that. Lotta scoundrels. But minus the violence. If you want to be a journalist, of any kind, you have to want to write about the real world, not just some tiny pretty slice of it. For example, I thought boxing, for all its dark side, was a fascinating subject.

Yet some of our BEST sportswriters, like Dan Jenkins and our Chuck Culpepper, absolutely LOVE college football, the way I love baseball. And their writing about it is fabulous. So, "my opinion of my opinion" about college football is that I am probably wrong. Hey, I looked the other way on boxing because of the stories, the people, the excess, was just too wonderfully awful to pass up. 

I once wrote: "A view of the world, usually unspoken, often hangs around the edges of major sports. Certainly it always has with boxing. The notion that life is a fight is inescapable in this subculture. The search for glory through taking advantage, the constant pursuit of getting the better of someone, are precepts so ingrained that no one would think to preach them.

"As a consequence, those who tend to see the world that way are drawn here: politicians, mobsters, business billionaires, junkies of all persuasions, entertainers, athletes, and journalists. It is a night for those who have sharp teeth, or think they do; vegetarians and saints need not apply."

What is that unstated worldview that hangs around college football? That would make a fine essay.  

My one thought on the current situation: if even half of everything that has come out about UMD football is right, and my operating assumption, until proved otherwise, is that AT LEAST half of it will stick, then fire everybody who's significantly involved.

Will either of the present day coaches make it to November 17? Does Urban survive protecting a wife beater because his teams win? Is Durbin any different from so many typical football coaches who think gross humiliation is a good way to motivate? I'm hoping they are both gone within the week.

It is impossible to fire too many big-time college football coaches. Durkin is a pup out of Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh. The wack jobs don't fall far from the wack-job tree.

Given the Capitals monumental season and Stanley Cup victory, do you see this having any real ripple effect on DCs other teams? Or is this ripple effect more likely to impact fan optimism and hopes?

I think it just makes it easier to breathe the sports air around Washington. It makes the city and its teams feel normal. It makes it easy not to "feed the trolls." And it affords about a 20-year window before anybody gets to say "Curse" and be taken seriously.

The Caps had The Curse of All Curses, IMO.

The fact that so much post-season failure could be piled on top of so much regular-season success in a mere 35-year time period, an experience that large numbers of fans experienced in its entirety and held in common, made the Caps unique. And that they finally won in exactly the season when ALL sports logic said that they were finally dead as a true SC contender, and dead for years to come, just made it mind-bogglingly wonderful.

It will be a long time before that whole experience is forgotten. And when 'dead' teams start to rise, not saying the '18 Nats, that seems too soon, doesn't it, we will all say, "Remember the Caps!" for many years.

I grew up with the Senators so I really appreciate everything about the last 5 Years of Nationals baseball. I think it was just a tough year, injuries, new manager and bad luck. They are still well positioned to be competitive in the near future. I’m pretty happy. In a blowout loss or win I will still drop what I’m doing to watch Harper and I think that is worth a lot.

No! It's not possible! A sane fan in search of ways to let sports provide pleasure!

Stand back, this might be contagious.

"It thinks it was just a tough year, injuries, new manager, and bad luck." 

OMG, if you're right, and the whole thing can be summed up in 14 words, I'm out of work.

That's it for today. I don't think I can write any answers longer than  14 words after that.

Cheers. Thanks for all the questions, comments and insights. (As usual, I plan to steal shamelessly.) And see you next Monday at 11 a.m.

I can't seem to recall a stretch where Gio Gonzalez has been so awful (although maybe I just blocked it out of my memory!) My question, though, is this: Since the Nats are technically still in the playoff hunt (although as you point out, they're more than likely finished), how do you let Gio take the mound again?

Gio can't remember one either.

Roark looked just as bad and lost. He's just won five straight with a 1.77 ERA. You keep giving Gio the ball, cover your eyes and hope something similar happens, perhaps for no reason at all except "That's baseball." 

DC United has run up the table on a 9 point streak. Even if the team is in the bottom half of the league, do you think the new found success coupled with a new stadium and post-world cup interest can generate and sustain soccer's following in the district? Any thoughts on the team itself? I went to last night's game and was thoroughly impressed by the atmosphere and stadium. Thank you!

That's a good combination of factors arriving at a very good time for DC United. I'd encourage anybody to see and enjoy the new stadium and the team there that is playing better.

Boz - I recall sitting with my son at game 5, 2012, Nats up 6-0 after three, and telling him, "This game isn't over. The Cardinals might not come back, but they will never stop coming at you." I'm sorry I was prescient in this case. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's had similar feelings about other teams - Jeter Yanks, Weaver Orioles, even the less talented but relentless Giants of recent years. They didn't always win, of course, but you always felt they had a comeback in them, and that it wasn't over till it was over. I've never had this feeling about the Nats, who seem to go quietly in clutch situations more than any team I've followed. I know I'm alluding to something that can't be quantified (and maybe doesn't exist), but can you offer some perspective on what makes some teams so determined and others not so much?

Hard as it may be to believe, the Nats have comeback to win TWO games this season when they had a 99 percent chance of losing. Down 9-0 to Marlins on July 7 and April 16th versus Mets when they trailed 6-1 entering the 8th on the road, then scored six in the eighth and one in the ninth to win, 8-6.

The Nats have actually had FIVE games where they came from behind to win when their "win expectancy" had fallen to 10 percent or lower: 1%, 1%, 6%, 7% and 8%.

They only have FOUR comparable games which they have BLOWN after they had a win expectancy of at least 90 percent, 90%, 90%, 91% and 98%. The two worst were in the last 10 days.

I had the same feelings that you do. So I checked. They actually have more Great Wins than Horrid Losers this year.

Yes, I went back through every game. Yes, I'm nuts.


You use that quote all the time from Earl Weaver, who has been the man who taught me most of whatever it is I know about baseball and, boy, does it apply to the Nats this year. Changing managers, changing coaching staffs. Not having Murphy for half the year, not having Kendrick to help replace him, not having Zim or Harper at full effectiveness while waiting for Murphy to come back. Setting the fifth spot in the rotation just as some other spots start to falter. Overworking your starting pitchers and best relievers due to lack of confidence in the back end of the bullpen and then watching the starters and top relievers get hurt or falter, which means you have to turn to...the back end of the bullpen (and some guys who weren't even good enough to be IN the back end of the bullpen. Letting Edwin Jackson go because you don't need him and then needing him desperately two weeks later. Adding Juan Soto's great bat probably a season and a half ahead of schedule, but then sacrificing outfield defense to get him, Eaton and Harper on the field at the same time. Getting Murphy's bat back in the lineup, along with his diminished range in the field. Having four good bats who all are best suited to play first base. It adds up, doesn't it? Everything changes everything.

My father said he was only sure of one thing, and he'd read everything, been in WWII, etc, "You are your habits."

In the end, as all the semi-certainties dissolve, I may be reduced to three words: Everything changes everything.

Hi TB! I didn't make it to the Jet game, wasted ticket, I like don't like burning myself out attending the meaningless preseason injury fest games. I was shocked at the amount of empty seats. Even though I contributed to that scarcity it was still surprising seeing the lower sections that empty.

Derrius Guice.

Saw the play. Said, "I can't believe he's hurt." When he got up, left the field without a lot of pain, then I was REALLY worried because THAT, no big pain, means "it's nothing," or "it's ACL, out for the season." My jaw still dropped when I saw it was ACL. 

Now my stupid wisecrack: They'd probably have had 30,000 more people if the ZeitGeist had been better.  

Sorry - sent to soon As I was writing, I am a passionate Nats fan, started out as a Senators fan, and appreciate the difference in expecting to make the postseason every year vs. being out of it by June. But reality is reality, and the season is essentially over, as you wrote today. So how does the team handle the next six weeks knowing that they aren't making the postseason? Who gets called up and given a shot? Do veterans get benched? How does September look for this team with no postseason possibility, especially following the debacle yesterday?

They'll either get back to a dream-on position where they still have a prayer. Or you may get to see quite a bit of the future, including Fedde, Ross, Victor Robles and (maybe) even Carter Kieboom. Some days off for Soto, who must be pooped.

How do you handle the walk-year guys who want to build a stat case? Do you, or when do you, shut down Doolittle and/or Strasburg to save them for future years?

We fans have a (well-justified) habit of blaming Redskins management on the continuing failure of the team. But last year, injuries clearly impacted the team's record. That's not to say they would have been Super Bowl contenders or even won the NFC East, but it's not unreasonable to think that the Skins would have gone 9-7 or even 10-6 if they only had an average number of injuries. Was it just bad luck, or is there a management component to the injury wave as well: Not having properly invested in training staff, poor injury management, etc.? In other words, should we expect to revert to the mean, injury-wise, this season, or is something else going on that the casual fan doesn't see?

When a generally well-run team has a lot of injuries, I tend to think they are unlucky and it will revert to the mean. When a generally poorly-run team has a lot of injuries, I tend to think it's just one more example of the Clown Show in Action.


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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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