Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

May 06, 2019

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

Past Ask Boswell chats

This week, let's talk about misery. That should be fun!

The Nats are miserable because they have the worst injuries to one lineup that I have ever seen. Other teams may have had as many or more on the IL. But the Nats have lost their No. 2-3-4-5 hitters --the heart of their lineup-- including BOTH of their No. 5 hitters (Zimmerman and Adams). Any combination of players that the Nats can not put in one lineup had --combined-- negative offensive WAR last year. Does that mean that --soon-- they can have a game where they score Minus runs?

Latest on MASN: Nats are owed $100M, according to an MLB panel. Any guesses on the year that money will actually be paid by Angelos-O's-MASN? 

Let me know what you think about the Kentucky Derby DQ! I enjoy horse racing but am not an expert --or anything close to one. Informed opinions welcomed! I thought the stewards showed guts AND set a precedent for the future that --even in the Derby-- if your horse, or your jockey, ends up swerving all over the track, endangering other horses and riders, then you are going to get taken down, just as you would in any other (obscure) thoroughbred race. It is a HIGH danger sport, for animals and humans, and Anything Goes --whether it's intentional or not-- has no place in ANY race.

Finally, has Bryce Harper turned into a strikeout machine in the last two years? In his first 6 years, Bryce had 785 hits and 665 strikeouts. In '18-'19, he has had 165 hits and 212 strikeouts. The last four years his K-% has increased each year from 18.7% to 20.1 to 24.3 to a scary 29.3 this year. He can't be as bad as he's been so far this year. But what is his norm now --and why? Your thoughts + mine.

Off we go!

Today, the Nats need to go 76-53 for the remainder of the season to reach 90 wins. (1) Can they? (2) Will 90 wins take the division?

As I've pointed out in two columns in the last month, the Nats season may be decided by Memorial Day.

If they are still within sight of the NL East leader, or leaders, by then, they should get healthy in a hurry and I'd expect them to be right in the battle in September. But they are 5 games behind the Phils now. Will they be 10-or-more games behind by June 1? Or "just 5-6-7 games behind?

Statistically, those are all bad spots to sit in. But the N.L. East isn't as good as expected so far. I don't see a 90-win team in the division right now. Also, a LOT of things have gone right for the Nats but it's utterly obscured by their injuries. Patrick Corbin is "as expected" --and that is a LOT. The catching tandem of Gomes and Suzuki won't keep up its current pace for 30 homers, but they are a huge upgrade. Howie Kendrick, who'd be in the League Leaders if he had enough at-bats, is found money after coming back from what can be a career-threatening injury (Achilles).

If Zimmerman can't stay healthy, or hit enough, then Kendrick can play a lot of 1st base in a platoon with Adams (and Howie's defense will be better than either). Dozier has been a drag so far, but has 5 homers and has always been a hot-weather hitter. I still think he'll hit 25 homers and, by August, fans will be a little sorry to see him go (presumably) after '19. Also, team leadership has shown up well in a lot of the Nats late-inning long-shot comeback wins --like the 10-8 win on Saturday. If they ever get healthy and hot, you may see very good chemistry.

But that is a huge "if." Because this trip to Milwaukee and the Dodgers will be ultra-tough and the next homestand, too.

However, a team with three top starters, two decent ones, a fine closer and (maybe) a decent set-up man in Barraclough can claw its way through the next 3+ weeks. If Rendon comes back on May 9, that's a help. (Will he?) If Turner comes back two weeks after that, it's another jump up. Will he? If Soto's back spasms really are minor --not an oblique problem or anything else-- and he comes back in less than a week, that's a big help, too.

If you can tell me how badly these players are hurt --and even they may not know when they'll heal yet-- and when they'll be back, then I can make a guess at how long the Nats season will be out on the ledge.

But we don't know. That's what's scariest.

Hi Tom- in Barry's column last week (after quoting Rizzo saying he does not have any examples of malpractice by Davey) he rhetorically asked, "The counter, of course, is: How many examples of best practices can you find? Or, put another way: How many games, over the past season-and-a-month, has the manager won for his team?" As someone who has been around baseball and the clubhouse as much as you have, what do you think are Davey's strengths? That can either be in-game or taken holistically when looking at all the managers/teams you've interacted with over time. Thanks.

Some teams will "run through a wall" for the manager.

Some like him OK and play hard, but are essentially self-motivated --as they should be.

And sometimes a manager "loses the clubhouse." This should not happen. They're pros being paid insane salaries. But it DOES happen. In the time the Nats have been back in D.C., we've seen examples of all three situations, as well as the gradations in between. Williams lost the clubhouse.  

"Run Through a Wall" applied to Frank Robinson's team in '05, to Davey Johnson's in '12 and to Dusty's teams in '16 and '17.

Dave Martinez gets a LOT of effort and good morale out of his everyday players and bench. There have been several comebacks this year that are generally considered signs of a close team or one with 'fight.' Yes, of course, they should all 'fight to the last out,' in every game and, yes, in many cases those big comebacks have nothing at all to do with the manager.

Martinez certainly made the perfect pinch-hitting move on Saturday, using Kurt Suzuki --his back-up catcher-- to pinch-hit at the ideal time when a 3-run homer could tie the game 8-8/ Of course, Suzuki gets a lot more credit for actually HITTING IT than the manager does for sending him up there. BTW, Martinez is, IMO, 'on the right side of history' as far as using his back-up (and last) catcher in crucial pinch-hitting situations and thus running the risk of needing to ask Wilmer Difo (or somebody else) to be an emergency catcher in case of an injury to the "last" catcher.

As you know, everybody now looks at the connection between run differential and W-L record over MULTI-YEAR time frames, and also at a team's record in one-run games as a measure of a manager. I've pushed for this for many years. I once figured out that Jim Riggleman had the worst record in MLB history of manager's with 1,000 games in one of these categories (I've forgotten which) and I mentioned it to Stan Kasten. "So, what have you got to say to THAT?"

Stan didn't miss a beat. "He's due," said Kasten.    

Well, Martinez is "due," too. In his two years, Baker's W-L% in one-run games was .583. So far, Martinez is .434. 

If Martinez was .583 in one-run games, the Nats would have 8 more wins the last two years. BUT maybe the '18-'19 teams just were not as good as the '16-'17 teams. What if they are just a .500 bunch of mediocrities and neither the team nor fans/media want to accept it? Well, then they still ought to be 27-26 or 26-27 in one-run games.

Run differential predicts that the Nats should have won EIGHT more games than they did last year --90! which probably have made the playoffs-- and one game more this year. Part of this can be flukes in run distribution. But -9 wins over `200 games is no feather in anybody's cap.

I think Martinez is above average in dealing with players and in keeping team morale up --and individual morale, too, in some cases-- and I think that has value. He's very good at being a conduit for the info from the analytics people and advance scouts, but then he should be because that was one reason he was hired.

If he can develop or manage a bullpen at a major-league-average level, then I am not able to recognize it yet. That could be my fault. He's better than he was 365 days ago. And, in his defense, he's not the one who thought Trevor Rosenthal would be the Set-up Man Deluxe by this time. That's on Rizzo for going for a high risk, high reward signing at a spot where he had a complete VOID with Madson and Kintzler (and others) gone over the last couple of years.

The next few weeks may be a time when Martinez' skills --his "positivity" which gets so much teasing, including from me-- will be of MOST value.

As the Nats sat on the runway for SEVEN hours last night in their charter plane --that was injured and on the IL-- then had to get off and stay in a Philly hotel, I wonder if Dave had any good golf-shot contests or camel jokes or...

OK, not funny.

One note on "malpractice." A manager has to make a TON of bad decisions to add up to 10 runs of malfeasance in a season. And 10 runs is "worth" only about one additional win or loss.

Suppose a manager makes a decision which improves (or damages) the chances of the next hitter getting on base by 5% --in other words, by .050 on-base percentage points from .325 to .275 or visa-versa. COME ON, how big a difference is that anyway --not much! In only 1 time in 20 will the bad (or good) decisions change the outcome! About 95% of the time, the manager's decision means nothing!

That is a VERY broad brush. But even if you think the outcome will change 10% of the time, that still means the manager's decisions --over 100 decisions-- will be a "wash" 90% of the time. Also, in that 10 % of times when the manager screws up, lots of those examples are only a walk or single versus an out. Every "mistake" doesn't produce a home run. 

So, say a manager makes TWO mistakes per game versus an average manager --that would be GROSS incompetence. That's >300 mistakes a season. BUT, in our example, only 15 to 30 of those theoretical mistakes --5%-to-10%-- actually produce bad results. How many RUNS would those 15-to-30 mistakes produce? Maybe 10 runs? Or 15?

Well, that's only 1 or 1.5 wins-a-season between an average manager and a very bad (or very good) one.

My point is not to pretend to measure a manager's value precisely, but to GENERALLY give you the sense that it takes a LOT of good (or bad) decisions to change a season very much. Just because one decision works out spectacularly well, or badly, don't forget all the times that the manager calls in the "wrong" pitcher and the bum gets the hitter out anyway because --well-- hitters USUALLY make outs against everybody.

If you gave me the choice of a team with Above Average Health but a Below Average Manager and a team with Below Average Health and a Brilliant Manager, I take GOOD HEALTH every time and not give a damn who the manager is.  

In other words, the injuries to Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto will probably have more impact on the '19 Nats by June 1 than all of Dave Martinez decisions in all 162 games rolled together.

I remember a column you wrote long ago about an Orioles team that was on a ridiculous bad-luck streak that finally got so silly the players laughed about it--then went on a tear to haul themselves back into the race (the one that ended with them playing that final set against the Brewers where the Orioles had to sweep a four game set to tie for the division--and darned near did). Anyway, the Nats could really, really use something like that at this point. Bullpen meltdowns and a spate of injuries that only comes in second to the Yankees at this point (at least the Nats' rotation is still intact, though I hate jinxing them by saying that) just in time for the toughest road trip on the calendar. And--oh hey!--after playing a depressing game in constant rain, how about a seven hour wait on the tarmac followed by a canceled flight and a late night return to the hotel/early wakeup and maybe even going direct from the airport to the ballpark? At some point, one has to laugh. And maybe by laughing, turn this thing around. Now would be a good time for that!

Maybe.

Last year, the Nats started 11-16 and had many injuries. Remember, Soto was brought up in May. On the "depth chart" he was the SIXTH leftfielder. They brought up Mosies Sierra, and once batted him cleanup, I think, before they brought up Soto!

What happened next? The Nats went 14-2 and followed that with 8-4 for a total run of 22-6. Based on what? Pretty much based on nothing. That was LAST YEAR. Everybody forgets.

BUT last year at this time the injured Nats had a very easy schedule. This year, it's very hard. It's spring. The flowers are beautiful. And I'm not going to go full gloom-and-doom with 129 games to play. I've seen too many teams get healthy and get red hot. It's easier, sometimes, to be the "chaser" than the chased. BUT, the Nationals are in real trouble right now. They need their Big Three to earn their $525-million (hardly an unfair request, I'd think) and their (fairly healthy) bullpen to suck it up.

Fans think, "How will they ever score another run?" But they will. The WORST scoring team in MLB last year averaged 3.66 runs. ANY lineup, no matter how beat up, should think it can average 3.5-to-3.75 runs a game. Small ball, sure. But Eaton, Dozier, Kendrick, Gomes and Suzuki are solid MLB hitters. Robles is a fine rookie. 

This "joke" lineup scored 10 runs on Saturday. Just show up, play your best, shake off the loses and come back the next day. In baseball, you'd be amazed how often that produces surprisingly decent results, no matter how bad the times seem.

How does Sean Doolittle get away with throwing 90% fastballs? There are plenty of guys who throw harder than his 94-95. What's so special about his fastball that makes it so effective?

His fastball has "hop." It appears to rise. This is because he throws directly overhand and has an extremely high spin rate.

We've all heard about "the high hard one." Well, Doolittle has it. Nobody could hit it in 1919 and they can't hit it in 2019 either.

They say Walter Johnson threw one pitch for the first 15+ years of his career. Then he added what he called his "nickel curve." Maybe a cutter or semi-slider. But using one pitch --at about the same 90%+ as Doolittle-- didn't prevent him from leading the league in K's a dozen times.

Also, "launch angle" hitting came into vogue for two reasons --it was simply a good idea which should have been "discovered" generations ago and it also counteracted many years of pitchers being taught to concentrate on making pitches at the knees or slightly below. The "uppercut swing" has a better chance of elevating low pitchers. But no approach is perfect against everything.

The pitch that has always beaten the uppercut swing has been the high fastball. Doolittle was always very good. But "launch angle" hitting coaches came along just in time to be his best friend. 

Billy Wagner had a similar fastball which seemed to "hop" and have great "finish" --meaning it seems to "explode" as it gets to the plate. Presumably, if there is such a thing as "finish" it is similar to "hop" --it's an illusion. The "hop" just means that your spin helps the pitch drop less than the batter's eye tells his brain should be possible. 

Perhaps finish means that the pitch does not decelerate as much after (say) 50 feet as the normal fastball, so it seems to "explode" relative to what the hitter expects. (Or maybe this is scientific nonsense and there is no such thing as "finish." Help me out here, all you brainiacs.)

 

 

Tom, please break down the Derek Lilliquist replacement for us. What did Mike Rizzo mean about “preparation issues” and the need for a “new message?” What should we look for that will be different in Paul Menhart’s more “hands-on” and “analytical” approach? A MASN analyst mentioned that he reviewed news reports from the entire 2018 season and 2019 to date for references to Lilliquist and found zero public comments from members of the pitching staff about him. He seems to have had an almost invisible profile outside the clubhouse, but we hear chatter that he was too laid back, if not lazy. Lilly described his own style as being available for advice but not overly “in your face” with his pitching staff. He seems to have enjoyed a mostly successful 7-year run with the St. Louis Cardinals from 2011 thru 2017, mostly under Mike Matheny, when the Cardinals posted 90, 88, 97, 90, 100, 86 and 83 wins. How would you explain all of this?

The St. Louis Cardinals do not employ bad pitching instructors at any level --certainly not as their MLB pitching coach for that many years. So, that is your baseline.

But they also fired him. (Before they knew Mike Maddox would be available,)

You folks know how many teams I've covered. Of all the coaches on all the staffs in all the years, I SAW Lilliquist less than any other coach ever. In fact, except for spring training or road games (where the clubhouses are smaller and there are fewer rooms that lead off the clubhouse), I am not sure that I have EVER seen Lilliquist at any time anywhere when the press was allowed to be present. I have made a note to myself --at least a year ago-- "talk to Lilliquist the next time you see him --if you ever do."

Maybe he is just allergic to reporters. But I have always gotten along VERY well with coaches, especially pitching and hitting coaches because their specialties interest me so much. 

What a contrast to Steve McCatty, the Nats pitching coach from '10 through '15. Great storyteller. Constantly coming through the clubhouse, bringing sly energy and provoking fun. And being accessible to the media didn't stop his staffs from winning 98 games in '12 and 96 in '14.

....

Which reminds me: This is probably as good an example as you'll find of the "baseball attitude" or a big-league gag, and also how to be a good teammate (or coach). I was a few feet away and will never forget it --thanks, Cat.

On the first day of spring training several years ago, McCatty bumped into catcher Wilson Ramos, jostling him, as they passed in a narrow corridor. Everybody, of course, always exchanges a spring greeting the first time they meet.

"So, how was your winter?" asked McCatty, casually. "Anythin' goin' on?"

Ramos stood stunned, blank-faced and speechless --totally fooled for a blink. Then infielder Andres Blanco started cracking up. "I see, I see," said a laughing Ramos, who was kidnapped the previous November, held captive in a Venezuelan mountain shack and freed after a gun battle.

....

I assume that is the first time Ramos had laughed about the incident, or been treated as if it was something that he would get over, that his friends would help him with --and even joke about-- and just accept as part of him.

My first memories of John Havlicek was as a kid during the 1975 Eastern Conference Finals when the Washington Bullets defeated the Boston Celtics four games to two to make it to NBA Finals. If I am not mistaken, the Celtics won it a year before against the Milwaukee Bucks and then defeated the Phoenix Suns in the 1976 NBA Finals. I also remember the last year of Havlicek's career was the year the Bullets on the NBA Championship. I remember him being a pure shooter and how he seemed to carry himself with a lot of class. Have you ever met Havlicek? If so, what were your impressions? If not, as someone who may have seen him in the prime of his career (granted--he was no slouch in the 1970s) , what were your impressions about his game?

Havlicek broke in with the Celts when I was 14 though everybody already knew about him as the No. 2 star on the great Ohio State teams with Jerry Lucas (who had a photographic memory and, among other things, memorized the Manhattan phone book.) Havlicek was one of my big boyhood heroes. It was odd that Frank Howard (Senators) and Havlicek were both nicknamed Hondo --but nobody else in sports at that time had the nickname. 

Supposedly, Havlicek looked like John Wayne, known as Hondo. I enjoyed Howard and thought he was a wonderful guy when I met him, but as a teenager, I liked Havlicek as a player a lot better and really thought of him as a kind of ideal player and teammate.

As a frame of reference, Havlicek was universally considered one of the best all-around athletes in the country. OSU football coach Woody Hayes said that the "best quarterback in the Big 10 is on the Ohio State campus, but he's not on (my) team." Havlicek could throw a pass 80 yards. He never played college football at all, but the Cleveland Brown invited him to training camp and he was the last wide receiver cut --and they had great receivers at that time. They continued to invite him back for years, hoping he'd change his mind. At 6-foot-5, 205 with speed, hands, toughness, feints and incredible endurance he could easily have put on some more weight and been a total menace. 

 

In the NBA, he was the best defender on both shooting guards and small forwards that I've ever seen --relative to his era. I don't know how you can fairly compare a great defender from 1969 with one from 2019. So I won't do it. Just as, when Bill Russell comes up, I always say that he is twice as great as any defensive player of the last 40 years --relative to his era, starting in the late-'50's. There is no one else in the conversation. But it's not fair to anybody to compare '62 to '19. 

FWIW, I think Russell would have handled Shaq about as well as he handled Wilt --no help needed, Shaq would get his points but with a reduced shooting percentage and with the twist that, at big moments late in games, Russell would block a shot or dunk at the most psychologically damaging moment. (Note: Russell was listed at 6'10" when he came into the NBA, Wilt at 7'1" and 275 pounds.)

 Wilt was so proud of his size that he even listed an extra fraction of an inch on top of the 7'1" When Wilt came into the league, there was a posed photo taken of them standing together to show how much taller Wilt was than the demi-god Russell.

I'm pretty sure it was Frank Deford who told the following story -- at that photo shoot, Russell said to Wilt, "Let's put our hands up over our heads" to see which could reach the highest on tiptoe. Supposedly, Russell's arms were so abnormally long that his fingertips lapped slightly OVER Chamberlain's. So, in basketball terms, Russell was actually slightly "taller" than "Goliath." If a true story, a nice psyche-out --a Celtics specialty.

What Russell did to centers, Havlicek almost did to 2's and 3's with his hounding, swarming, arm-waving defense. He erased All-Stars. Nobody established position better for drawing charges. At his peak, Havlicek ran for 48 minutes every nite like he held a life insurance policy on your heart attack. He was also All Floor-Burn.

For his career, he averaged 20.8 points but, with him, it was also defend-pass-rebound-pick-direct-traffic before shoot. So, he was GREAT at making teammates better. Not quite as good at that as Magic, Bird and Russell (with his outlet passes and total rim domination), but up in the Top 10.

Havlicek was always a good shooter, though reluctant at first. But, after Russell retired, and Havlicek (plus Dave Cowans) had to be the heart of the team, he once averaged 28.9. It would have been two or three points higher if there had been a three-point arc because he had excellent range, though he preferred higher-percentage shots.

I never met him. His game was so eloquent, I'm not quite sure what he could have said that I didn't already know, and value, from watching his whole career. It's like everything he did on the court had a "voice" of its own that was always speaking about how to play the game almost perfectly.

He seldom dunked, even on breakaways, though he was a fine jumper and matched up well with The Kangeroo Kid (6-6 HOFer Billy Cunningham). Havlicek didn't say anything like "Act like you've done it before." 

Instead, he said, "You only have so many of your best jumps in your legs. Don't waste them." I always thought it was telling that the player in the NBA who had the best stamina --a legend for indestructibility-- would also be the player who was most awake of his own mutability and the need to preserve his gifts.  

So Joey T gave his approval for Dwayne to wear his #7 jersey. I HOPE that's a good sign, although by the time his career ended, Joey wasn't playing up to his Theismann Trophy ways. Picking up the two O linemen looked like a good move, but why didn't we get a TE? I see we picked one up after the draft. Why do you think they drafted Bryce (no, not the strike out king) Love?

I liked the Skins draft. I think Haskins has just as good a chance of panning out as anybody they were likely to get with their first-round pick in '20. (All QBs, especially any that are not taken with the first or second overall pick, are gambles. If 14 teams passed on you --as well as many other teams that did not trade up to get you-- then there are sensible questions. But a Big Arm is a Big Skill. He'll add fun.

I thought trading up for Montez Sweat was also a good gamble --big potential as an edge rusher, but questions to answer (including heart issue which seems to have been misdiagnosed and may not be serious at all). After the franchise-changing injury to Alex Smith --who was supposed to be your QB for several more years-- I think the Skins had to take some "fallers" who include risk --and that applies to both Haskins (can he read defenses, will he be an immobile sack target) and Sweat.

I got a laugh out of the Skins letting Haskins make their 3rd round pick FOR them! Haskins asked for his own OSU WR Terry McLaurin to join him in D.C.

Well, why not!?? The Skins have proven for 25 years that they could not identify an All-Pro wide receiver if he came up to them and was 6-8, ran a 3.9 40, could bench press 600 pounds and could catch a dandelion in a hurricane.

So why not let Dwayne have a crack at it?

(With the Skins recent run of bad luck, like the Smith disaster, McLaurin will be the good pick, but not Has.....)

It is a small sample size, but Cater Kieboom is looking like he wasn't really ready for promotion to the majors. He appears to be pressing. Did the Nats promote him to soon? If so, what are the chances that it damages his confidence to the point where he doesn't reach his expected potential?

We all say, "Bring 'em up!" As if seasoning isn't important. I'm guilty, too. Then we see someone like Kieboom, who's going to be good, who seems to illustrate the point.

Trea Turner didn't hit when he first came up as a September call-up. The next year, when called, he was ready.

Turner had 586 PA in AAA with Pads, then Nats, came up at 24. Kieboom is coming much faster than that. Rendon barely played a game at AAA but, after prepping at Rice, he also wasn't asked to hit in MLB until he was 23. So, be patient with Kieboom at 21. Last year, Robles had 181 PA in AAA and now seems to be up for good.

I assume Kieboom will come up around 9/19 and never go back down and be the starting 2nd baseman next year and for years after that. He needs to play plenty of 2nd when he goes back to AAA. He looks, acts and sounds like a big leaguer. The only question is whether he'll be good eventually or BETTER than good (like Turner, Rendon). 

Despite his batting average, he still looks pretty good to me at the plate. Has a good sense of the K zone. With SO many injuries, and the need for Kendrick and Difo to play all over the place --3rd, 1st-- Kieboom is going to have a chance, at least for a while, to get hot again in MLB. But, sometimes, you have to go back down, take a deep breath and come back up again --for good.

Hi! Of course, the money the O's/Angelos/MASN owes the Nationals will take years to actually appear in the pockets of the Lerners, and I'm sure it will be much less than the reported $100 Million once all is settled. But assuming that the Nationals eventually get said money, do you think the extra cash might help convince the Lerners to spend a tiny bit more money in places where it counts and the lack of spending is currently hurting them? Places like "manager," where they don't like to pay market value and instead opt for lowballing their top picks or going for rookie managers with no head coaching experience?

As has been reported for several years, and I've mentioned a few times, the actual amount of additional money per year that the Nats would get is about $15-million-a-year. It's not $100M divided by five years for $20M a year because...oh, you can read the story for that...but it ends up at $14m-$15M-a-year. 

In other words, this has a LOT to do with spite on the Orioles or Angelos part. This fight is over an amount of money that, in some years, has been about 1/10th of the O's payroll. If that last $15M-a-year is going to prevent you from doing business, then you can't afford to own an MLB team.

That cuts both ways. That $15M-a-year also is not enough to cause a family worth SEVERAL billion dollars to be cheap with anything --including managers.

I do follow horse racing , and the right call was made. It wasn't malicious, but Maximum Security endangered other horses and riders. That could have been a complete disaster and a huge pileup with multiple injuries and deaths. He had to come down. What bothers me is that the stewards didn't initiate the inquiry themselves. Apparently the jockey and trainer for War of Will, who was affected the worst, didn't lodge an objection b/c they are friends with MS's contacts. That shouldn't matter - safety absolutely has to come first in this sport, which most of the people participating in it pay lip service to but don't act on.

Thanks! I couldn't have said it better.

In fact, I couldn't have said it nearly as well.

Much appreciated.

PS: But I would like to hear the "other side," if there is one.

Hockey is fun but it is really annoying that we play for six months to effectively set the seeding for a tournament. That being said, does it look like the Caps can keep enough together to make another run and not pull out their golf clubs until mid-June?

Yes, I think they'll be roughly as good next season as they were this year, and we can see, with hindsight, that, if they had just gotten past the Canes in G7 (just one shot or fluke), they'd probably have beaten the Islanders, whom Carolina swept, and the Caps would be in the Eastern Conference Finals. 

Someday, Ovechkin, Backstrom and Holtby are going to get old and fall a level, but not yet, I don't think.

OK, maybe Ovi has two or three more scoring titles in him. I wouldn't put anything past him. I remember long ago talking with GMGM and the general state of Ovi came up and since his stats had declined for a couple of years, whether it might ever be wise to trade him. George didn't say, "Yes." But I thought it was clear that the Caps were watching Ovi closely for signs of age when he hit 30 because he played so hard, on and off the ice, and took so much punishment.

Now, he's got gray hair --some of it is WHITE-- and he is playing better than he ever has in his life. It just goes to show --I don't know WHAT it goes to show-- but if you figure it out, let me know. If it's as simple as getting the right brand of vodka, I'll switch.

If this week is about misery, let's talk about Blues playoff history. Only 9 times missing the playoffs since 1967 and no wins in the Cup Finals in 3 consecutive appearances (where they only made an appearance because all the first expansion teams were in the same division). Since then they've had three separate 15-year Conference Finals droughts, all of which ended with losses. If the pre-2018 Caps have any competition for lordship of Playoff Purgatory, it's the Blues. Who wins the pity content?

I still go with the Caps because they've now blown 11 two-game leads in the playoffs.

Eleven, right?

The Blues prove you can be bad and stay bad, and be pretty unlucky even when you aren't bad.

The Caps prove that you can almost always be good, or excellent, for >35 years, get into a winning position --not just a lead but a TWO-game lead-- time after time and STILL lose.

Thank God for the one Stanley Cup. Just think how sports life in Washington would feel now without it. We were at a party on Saturday night and a friend said, "The Caps losing definitely didn't feel as bad this year because of the Cup. In fact, NOTHING in sports feels as bad as it did --because of the Cup."  

That won't last forever. But it helps now.  

He plays Keenum, team goes 7-9 or 8-8 and he gets fired. He palys Haskins, team goes 5-11 or 6-10 and he gets fired. The only way he is back is if he does what Dan tells him to do and Haskins has a miracle season.

Well, it's not ideal, is it!

On the other hand, the original $5-million-a-year five-year contract that he got --because the Skins desperately needed a "name" to make them (a little) credible after Shanny torched the place as he left-- was a once-in-a-generation windfall for any rookie NFL coach. THEN he got an extension to make fans forget about what happened to general manager Scot Whatever-His-Name-Was. The guy has a horseshoe --in his ear.

Jay's very likeable. And he's a good offensive thinker. But I'll save my sympathy for some other coaches. Besides, unless I'm totally fooled, Jay is a really happy guy. That has NEVER happened to anybody in a prominent position at Skins Park. He is set for life. And whatever his record is, somebody else will give him a coaching chance because --1) if he'll put up with Snyder-Allen without sounding off then he'll go along with your nutty program-- and 2) if you can go 7-9 to 9-7 with Snyder/Allen above you, isn't that the same as going 9-7 to 11-5 with a normal owner and GM? That may not be true. BUT somebody is going to WONDER if it is true and give him another shot. Just my hunch. Jay has been crazy-proofed.

Can you stop talking about baseball for once and talk about how good the Redskin's draft was for once? Nobody cares about baseball. Once the baby boomers die off, so will baseball

It's May. This chat has lots of Skins discussion from mid-August through mid-January. Maybe if they played better they'd be worth discussing more, and further into their off-season. But they aren't.

The local MLB team, despite its October stumbles, has been in the final eight teams in its post-season four times in the last seven years. Four of seven.

The Skins have been in the Final Eight teams in the NFL post-season TWICE in the last 26 years. Two for 26.

The Caps have been in the Final 8 in the NHL in SEVEN of the last 11 years and NINE times in the last 25 seasons.

I can make a sensible case that this Skins draft is typical of them --full of risk and grab-a-headline anxiety. But why do that? Let fans enjoy themselves. Maybe this time it's different.

(BTW, these days it's the NFL that has the existential crisis to solve.)

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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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