Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Sep 03, 2019

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

Past Ask Boswell chats

Good afternoon!

Hope everybody had a great Labor Day weekend. This has become a symbolic week for me in recent years. 

Labor Day passes and the Skins crosses my mind: Welcome to Season No. XX in the Dan-geon. It's like we all search for the key to escape, but we never find it. And, about once a month, some new reason not to be optimistic smacks you in the face. No. 1 on the list: Is Trent Williams Gone? Followed by: Colt McCoy had HOW MANY surgeries for a broken leg? FOUR? And he still can't play? 

With the first NFL's game on Thursday night featuring the Packers at the Bears, it's time for the annual look at the State of the Skins --this time as it pertains to the impact of the owner. Adam Kilgore has a first-rate comprehensive --and sometimes chilling-- piece on Dan Snyder that's up now. 

You'll almost certainly want to read it. Adam managed to find a few people with positive views about Dan --so give him credit because that's hard to do. 

I spent 10 years saying, in various forms: He bought the team at 34. And he was a young 34 in all ways, except his business success. People grow and change. And they often improve. Give him time. Partly because that's the fair thing to do and partly because he's going to be around a long, long, long, long time. Of all my column positions over the years, I'd have to say that this was the one that "aged the worst." 

Giving Dan the benefit of the doubt hasn't served very many people well. I continue to hope for change, improvement --he does have some good qualities, especially some of his charitable impulses. But, in general, this quote from Adam's takeout jumped out at me --or maybe just kicked me in the stomach to start a new season. 

“As long as Dan’s there, they don’t have a chance,” one former high-ranking Redskins official said. “Even though the players are much better than they were … at the end of the day, everybody has to be beating on the same drum. If you’re not on your game [in the NFL], you’re going to get exposed very quickly. And that’s what’s happened to him.” 

Here's the link.

As the NFL starts, MLB --and the Nats season-- starts ramping up in tension and importance. 

The Nats run of 58-27 --through Sunday-- is as good as they can play with a stunning +163 run differential. How good is that? If you outscore the league by that much per game (>1.8 runs), you will probably win about 114 games in a full year! Obviously, the Nats aren't nearly that good, just as they weren't as bad as 19-31 in May. 

Ironic that they are now on a 92-win pace --and look like perhaps the 5th-to-7th best team in baseball --not far from what might have been expected on opening day. However, TWO important things are different. 

Within a week or two, the Nats MIGHT --just might-- be as healthy as a contending team ever gets as the playoffs approach --IF Max Scherzer and Sean Doolittle, who are both working their way back from the IL, almost like it's late in spring training, can get back to 100% of their best selves. That's the happy part of the story --as the Caps from the Cup team will tell you. Their health was almost perfect. However, the flip side is that the Nats, now 6 1/2 games behind the Braves, have very little chance of winning the N.L. East --at least statistically. 

By NEXT Monday's chat --after four games in Atlanta-- we'll probably know if we have a real pennant race or just a long wait before a wildcard (gulp) game. Nats probably need to win 3-of-4 in Atlanta to make a run realistic. Some will say "4-0." No. I've seen far too many unlikly comebacks in September to think that. But 2-2 in Atlanta probably burns too many games off the sked. 

We've got plenty of other hot topics. 

The tennis U.S. Open with the Joker out (shoulder injury) and the draw looking great for Federer. 

Also, what are your thoughts/questions the Nats NEED to "stay in the fight" as long as it takes to re-sign Anthony Rendon and also on the nature and number of Nats fans. Why is attendance down 10% this year? And, with such a fun team, playing so well, with so many major stars, why are crowds at Nats Park so calm and quiet? 

So, lets open the floor for any question on almost any subject!

Thank you for pleading the case to re-sign Rendon. Hopefully the Nats read your column and will heed its advice, however, is there any reason to think that they will? More than a few beloved Nats have left in the past and the lesson so far seems to be that no player is irreplaceable. Why would this pattern stop now?

The pattern MAY repeat. The Lerners may talk themselves into thinking that top prospect Carter Kieboom can switch to 3rd base next year, be a 2.0 WAR player the way Victor Robles has this year, and that all the money you saved by NOT paying Rendon >$25M-a-year --and probably more than $30M-a-year (Arenado is at $32.5M AAV)-- can buy MULTIPLE players that greatly improve the bullpen and make up for most --but not all-- of the lost thump with Rendon gone.

That is not insane. That argument can be made. And, last week, I provided some numbers on how rare it has become for players past age 32 to be VERY productive hitters. There are some. But it's risky. I assume Anthony will be wonderful at 30-31-32. And, because hitters can hit, I think he'll still be productive at 33-34. 

But will he have to switch to 1st base at some point? Well then, at WHAT point --because it's not that hard to find a FA 1st baseman or 1st base tandem (like Admas/Kendrick) that can hit. It's much tougher to find a superstar third baseman who's an exceptional defender. 

So, it's not insane for the Nats to say, "Rendon had an MVP-quality year that jacked up his price tag so high that we just can't justify paying it."

But I hate it. And I think --if the Nats talk themselves into that position internally-- it will prove to be a very bad idea.

Compared to other top free agents who have gotten to Labor Day of their walk year without signing with their original team, I am actually fairly optimistic about Rendon --but, unfortunately, that is in the broader context that, over the last 33 years, I've seen very few players who reach this point stay in their original town. 

In other words, this is a pretty bad situation which is usually an AWFUL situation by this point.

The Nats have a MUCH better chance to sign Rendon --still-- than they did with Harper. First, Harper loves adulation. There's no way he wasn't going to have his Grand Tour to see who loved him most and for the most $$$. That's not bad. That's just his personality. ALSO, the Nats had a million big problems to solve last winter. It was a HUGE list. They simply could not wait for a Boras client to do the usual "Wait until January (or February) to decide" gambit.

IMO, Mark Lerner and Mike Rizzo did an ALMOST amazing job of a major on-the-fly retool while losing a big star. Mark and his dad were keys to playing up --way up-- to get Patrick Corbin for $140M. But they also needed to solve catcher (Suzuki and Gomes), second base (Dozier), fourth starter (Anibal Sanchez instead of Roark, which now looks smart), a first base platoon (re-sign Matt Adams) and totally fix the bridge-to-Doolittle bullpen (yeah, Rosenthal and Barraclough). If they hadn't gotten an "F" in bullpen, what an off-season it would have been --but, duh, they did get an "F" in bullpen, so their overall grade is more like a "B" but in a very tough course.

Because of all that, they COULD NOT WAIT for Bryce. And they didn't. 

That December meeting in California with Ted was mostly eyewash managed by the Harper Team --who initiated the "annual" meeting-- to make it look like the Nats were still players in that game.

The best things the Nats have going for them with Rendon are 1) that Anthony saw what happened with Bryce --he probably didn't end up with the choice of cities that he thought he'd get. For Rendon, the "wrong city" would be an even worse nightmare. He's a quality of life person. So he knows that if he really wants to come back with the Nats, he needs to negotiate with the team off whatever the Lerner's last offer is and do it either by early November (when he becomes free) or soon thereafter --the Nats signed Corbin and the money for Bryce was gone by the first week in December. The Nats know this timeframe, too. So, whatever their best pitch is, they better throw it sooner rather than later.

2) the Nats have off-season needs. But not nearly as many, or as hard to fill as last year. I hate to say these words, but they should stay in the fight for Rendon until the last dog dies, even if it's next year. SOMETIMES they come back. Not often, but it's happened. 

The Lerners were surprised --and pleased-- at how LITTLE blowback they got for not keeping Harper. I talked to one of the key members of the family just before Opening Day. They were surprised.

Well, Nats fans have time NOW to make all the fuss they want to make --and if they want Rendon back, they better MAKE that fuss. This is NOT like 365 days ago when the Nats knew they could have an outfield of Soto, Robles and Eaton --at very low cost-- that could stay in place through '21, at the least, thus leaving funds for other needs. 

The Nats have a very fine lineup WITH Rendon. It diminishes radically without him. There are free agents with power --but there are no .300/.400/.600 hitters like Rendon. 

Nats fans sometimes don't cheer very loudly. But this would be an excellent time to make noise about Rendon --if that's how you feel-- and don't just do it at Nats Park. Let the Lerners know, especially if you are a season ticket holder. 

One last point is in the Nats favor. Something fishy is going on in MLB. Players who move in free agency don't seem to get happy endings --in total dollars or choice of cities. Those players who stay with their original teams DO seem to get paid, Arenado, Trout. 

Is that orchestrated? 

If I worked for the Players Union I'd be suspicious.

There is a VERY well-defined comparable salary to Rendon: Arenado. I outlined this in my recent column. For age 30-through-35, Arenado $199M. IMO, the Nats are going to have to top that --and "overbid" as they have for players they deemed essential in the past --Werth, Max and Corbin. 

IOW, the Nats will have to stomach the reality that Anthony Rendon is the FREE AGENT that they desperately need, not just "one of our players that we'd like to extend."

Let's look at pennant races and seasons that are starting. I'm already sick of contract talk --but it is so relevant. And if fans are going to have input, then they need to start having it now.

When looking forward for the Nats, most people concentrate on re-signing Rendon but since Strasburg can opt out of his contract after this year, do you think he will and would Rendon's return impact that?

I left this aspect out of my column on Rendon. Because I don't know. Strasburg is a very rooted person. And hates to make big moves --like find a new team. 

BUT he is now a GREAT pitcher --not just a pitcher trying to reach greatness. And great pitchers always want to play on winners and have a chance at a ring.

The Strasburg situation (he's also a Boras client) gives Rendon more leverage --at least in theory-- while (I hope) reinforcing to the Lerners that SOMETIMES you have to overpay. 

They CAN do it and HAVE done it. They probably went $30M over the next-highest bid for Corbin but, as Rizzo likes to say, "It's good to be smart (about money), but how smart are you if you DON'T GET THE PLAYER." 

Meaning THE player that YOU need. 

Just a tip to the Lerners: the word "deferred" is probably not going to make Rendon happy. He's aware of EVERY angle that you've seen in anything I've written on the subject. He understands that there will be teams willing to work off the Arenado comp for ages 30-to-35. 

This thing starts at $200M and may get to $240M. The Nats need to be IN it. And the connection, though tangential, to Strasburg is a factor.

If you lose Harper, Rendon and Strasburg in a year, what are you going to tell your fans? How can you mess up your basic plan --which was to spend $525M on a Big Three and keep your title window open through '21 --at least.

Sometimes you eat the bear. Sometimes the bear eats you. This time, the Lerners need to come to terms with the fact that the bear now is one of their own players. And, after the year he has had --and the person everyone knows him to be-- he's going to be doing the eating. 

DO NOT say, "That's not our formula. We GET hometown discounts from OUR OWN players. We only give overpays to free agents."

Not this time, imo.

He has pitched ok the last 2 times out, albeit for short outings - so is he back? The back is pain free or no worse than it should be at this stage if the season? Reason for the Nats to worry?

Long term, Max has no worries. Worst case, he reinjures the same muscle then it heals over the winter and he is Mad Max again in '20. 

Short term, Max is one huge worry --to himself as well as everybody else. It's written all over his face every time he talks about his back. 

This is new for him. It's not a typical "baseball injury" that has been treated and fixed a thousand times. He said it after his last start: "I CANNOT GET HURT AGAIN (this season)."

He's trying to pitch at 90 percent and work back gradually, KNOWING that October is what matters. If the Nats are a WC team and win ONE GAME --probably with Max pitching-- then they will be in a 5-game Division Series with the Dodgers which, imo, is close to coin flip right now. 

Sure, edge to LA. 

But not MUCH of an edge. And a Strasburg, Corbin, Max, Sanchez, Strasburg rotation in a DS would only be "2%" less optimal than Max, Stras, Corbin, Sanchez, Max.

As a result, Max SHOULD try to pitch his game tonight, and probably on Sunday in Atlanta, too, with this "90% effort" concept. 

By then, by next Friday or Saturday, I think he probably just has to "let it eat" and see what happens. 

But, with the Nats odds as poor as they now are in the NL East, Max should be thinking about 100% in October.

Of course, if the Nats win their next five games, Max might want to rethink that on Sunday!

But let's stay sane. If the Nats go 15-11 or 14-12 in their last 26 games, they'll win 92 or 91 games. That will almost certainly make them the first WC, with home field in the WC/WC game. Given where they were, that's fine.

If 17-8 or 16-9 somehow happens, for 94 or 93 wins, we'll just have to live with it! And see how the NL East chips fall. 

Worry No. 2: Doolittle is currently "further behind" --almost like a guy 10 days BEFORE opening day-- than Max who CAN throw 96-97 right now. Doo can't yet get to the 93-94 or even 95 that he has at his best. A good goal? Be 100% Dr. Doolittle by Game One of the Braves-Nats series NEXT week in Nats Park. 

Until then, unless the fastball suddenly materializes, just be helpful. 

How does (or should) Martinez now manage his bull pen which appears to have at least a reasonable amount of better pitchers and should (theoretically?) do well from 7th-9th innings - most days?

You can make up lineups DAYS ahead. And tell the players when they will rest. Dusty did it, so does Davey.

Sometimes you just can't make up your bullpen "lineup" even MINUTES ahead. 

The game --in the late innings-- can change THAT fast. That's why its such a complex test of managing skill. Yes, you can have "a plan" or a "structure" for who pitches each inning. But, as Mike Tyson said, "Everybody has 'a plan' until they get punched in the mouth."

When you have no superstar relievers for your 8th and 9th inning slots, it's harder to "plan." If you have three guys --Hudson, Strickland and Rodney-- who are all "pretty good," but none really "very good," then suddenly it matters more whether that guy is pitching back-to-back or whom he'll match up with, in his inning. Everything becomes more seat-of-the-pants --and scary.

That's when you find out who can manage a bullpen. (It's also when you --maybe-- learn to manage a bullpen.) 

Tom, With Denver Nuggets Exec Tim Connelly IN HIS HOUSE, Ted Leonsis can't close the deal. Now he's hired more coaches and assistants (including a couple key guys that were fired) than the number of players on the roster. I think it's pretty obvious that had Tim Connelly been hired, he would have had enough autonomy to create his own org chart and vision - including obviously whom to staff this many positions. Too many cooks in the kitchen almost doesn't do justice to this army. What's your take?

Wouldn't it be great if you could transplant areas of competence from one local franchise to another?

The Nats and Caps have totally functional front offices. 

The Nats are exceptional at scouting and making smart trades. Wouldn't it be great if you could just snap your fingers and the Wiz had a front office like that?!

The Nats have, in general, done well in making decisions on >$100M contracts. Wouldn't it be great if Dan-and-Bruce could actually make GOOD signings instead of one bust after another? 

The Nats can scouts their butts off --and keep coming up with players like Soto, Robles, Kieboom or trade for a Trea Turner; but the Skins haven't made even ONE good first-round pick of a WR in the last 27 years. As I've written, they have THE WORST RECORD on drafting WRs in the entire NFL over the last 27+ years. The latest total bust --the release of Josh "Dropson," their 16th-overall pick from '16.

Just to make you sick to your stomach, here's my column on Skins and WR from 1/18.

The Caps have a wonderful Rock The Red game day experience because Ted pays so much attention to improving it. Wouldn't it be great if the Nats, and to an even greater degree the Skins had even 75% as good a game-day experience? Right now, the Nats are probably at 50% (or maybe 60%) of the Caps game-day experience --that is NOT intended as a compliment. The Skins are at 10%-to-20%. 

They'd be lower, but the stadium hasn't actually collapsed yet (with me in it).

Good morning Boz, I always look forward to these weekly chats, thanks. First, isnt it wonderfull to see the way the Nats are playing. The last three months are maybe the best Washington baseball I have witnessed in my sixty some years of watching the game. TIme to give credit where credit is due. As badly put together as the Nats ullpen was this year, the opposite is true of the starting pitching. What a joy to watch the top four pitchers one after the other shut down their opponents. That brings me to my main comment. I am embarrased to see so many empty seats at the stadium especially behind home plate. What can the Lerners do to fill those highly visible seats. Maybe have a lottery to have fans move down during the game. A "Come On Down!" promotion? What can they do to fill the other seats? Sure doesnt make DC look good around the country. OH, and they better sign Anthony Rendon..period! What a joy to watch him play, and how devastating it would be to lose him.

The Nats need to worry about the "other empty seats," a lot more than those expensive ones behind HP.

As Barry pointed out this a.m. in his column, Nats attendance is down about 10%. FWIW, I'd guess that the four reasons for that --about equal in weight at 2.5% apiece or some such-- are 1) an overall attendance drop in MLB, 2) the very disappointing '18 season (82-80), 3) having Harper leave and 4) starting '19 at 19-31. Also, Metro problems with NVa have hurt a bit.

I always say that attendance figures should be viewed with a one year lag. The 82-80 hurts you the NEXT season, just as this entertaining team, especially if it gets to the DS, will help in '20.

As I have written for 15 years, the Nats don't pay enough attention, or hire enough people, or pay them enough money to get top people, to improve the Game Day Fan Experience. They care --but NOT NEARLY ENOUGH. I had to listen to Kasten moan about this for 5 years --he was a fan experience fanatic in Atlanta and is again now in LA. Just couldn't get the Lerners to care as much, or spend as much as he thought was a proper level --ON ANYTHING. I'd say, "Well, go public." But he was always a work-from-inside-to-improve guy. Stan failed the fans in this area. He'd probably say, "What was I supposed to do?" If he did, I'd say, "Do better." 

The Lerners will spend on (some) superstar players. Their total payroll is OK. But, man, they sure don't like to spend money on anything else (that I can find). In a pro sports team, this defines penny-wise-pound-foolish.

That's enough of the easy lifting --either smacking the owners around some on serving their fans or else telling them how to spend their money (by the hundreds of millions). 

Now lets do something HARD --be honest and tell the FANS about themselves.

What is the MATTER with you people? It's been 15 years. I am CONSTANTLY at games at Nats Park, either covering or going with my wife and friends as paying fans. If anybody has a sense of Nats crowds, I should. You'll be the judge of whetheer I do. But I should.

Nats fans, you KNOW the game --it shows in reactions to sophisticated moments of strategy or appreciation of plays that get missed in some parks. BUT you are silent --at least compared to most "good baseball towns." Not in the playoffs --then you are Caps-fans-loud. But day in and day out you play the "entertain me" game, instead of being PART of the game, influencing it, with your noise. It is NOT your JOB. You buy the ticket. You can do what you want. But I grew up a very loud fan --even when rooting for awful DC teams.

Is this excess of sophistication a by-product of the city being the most affluent and best-educated per capita in the U.S.? Maybe, to a degree. But I'm not sure there has to be a connection.

NATS FANS APPRECIATE BUT THEY DON'T INITIATE!

There, I figured out the state of affairs --both what's good in a fan base that DOES appreciate its players; and also what's not so good because they don't HELP those same players by taking the trouble to make noise on their behave.

So, I've analyzed it. But I haven't solved anything.

Maybe we'll try again next week. I'd love to hear fans/chatters thoughts on this. Don;'t tell me its cell phones --they have cellphones everywhere.

Also, a key issue for the Nats to face: their attendance isn't just down because attendance in MLB is down this year. They have dropped --FIVE SPOTS-- relative to other teams in attendance --from 11th to 16th now. The Nats were 11th last year, and have been 11th multiple times before. (MLB is a tough Top 10 to crack because there are some fabulous baseball-crazy fan bases --Yanks, Mets, Cubs, Red Sox, Giants, Dodgers, Angels, etc.) But 16th --with a team that's playing this well? 

I think part of the '19 issue --very small, but interesting-- is that BLOWN LEADS don't just take the wind out of teams, they are also a gut punch to fans. When you blow enough late leads, it can take some faith, hope and charity out of fans in the park who feel a bit self-protective as the --OMG-- EIGHTH INNING approaches.

If there can be a Seventh Inning Stretch, can their be an Eighth Inning Kneel --for the bullpen.

All in all, I'll take D.C. fans any day. Of my Top 10 Fan Virtues --now I've got to figure out what they ARE-- I'd guess that Washington fans rank well in eight or nine of them. But for MLB, DC comes up short on "loud during regular season."

This month, there may be some opportunties to change that. What makes fans go the craziest, night after night? What sucks them into the action most consistently?

A REAL PENNANT RACE.

What has D.C. never had? A rel pennant race.

What is the other thing which binds fans to a team, and gets them riled up?

Winning a World Series. Or going to one. It is an incredible month-long ride that pulls in an entire region and gets them to root together and really CARE together. Look, I've seen that first hand in city after city for the last 40+ years.

What has Washington NOT had since 1933? And what has it not had since 1924?

Yeah, you know. 

 

 

 

I can speak only for my own experience, but YOU, Boz, speak for many more. I feel like the experience of going to Nats park with my kids is logistically challenging, very expensive (especially for seats close enough to keep kids engaged), and too risky -- if the Nats don't win, it's a downer, and even though they win more than they lose, if they do lose, then they lost 100% of the games we attended that day. I hear a lot of complaints about the price of concessions, and I agree that it's crazy how much money I have to spend just so everyone can have a meal and a treat. So even though I follow the team closely and my kids want to go to games, for me, it's a chore. How do other franchises provide a better experience for fans in the stadium?

There are a lot of "questions" this morning about Rendon, Nats attendance and fan expeerience/behavio at Nats Park.

So, I'll post some of them --sort of like a chatroom discuss among you find folks-- with perhaps my own short observations.

Maybe some people with the Nats will read them --and even act on them.

On food expense: Nats Park concessions cost too much. Almost all of them. Lines are too slow. Almost all of them, always. I buy as little food as possible --BECAUSE I HATE FEELING RIPPED OFF. My wife and I often just share one dinner food item. And you couldn't get me to buy a ballpark beer at those price if I used YOUR money.

On ticket prices: If you want to sit in the 20,000+ best seats in most new modern ballparks --usually almost all of the lower bowl-- then you are going to have to play up. More some places than others, obviously. But it is a clear divide.

If you are willing to sit in the 15,000+ other seats --including some in the lower deck and bleachers at Nats Park, the prices are competitive with a first run movie. That has always been deliberate. Long ago, a Nats official --describing the whole sport, not just Nats Park-- said that it was like different kinds of golf courses --from expensive country clubs to public courses. I've always thought that upper deck seats at Nats Park were close to the action (for the upper deck), sensibly priced with some wonderful views and nice wide concourses. I've had execs from other teams say that it's one of the best, and best-priced upper decks in MLB.

The Club Level is very good --but you pay for it.

The lower deck box seats --well, you've decided to tee it up at Congressional. Maybe not that ritzy. But you've made a choice. 

As for those >$300 seats --some STH was nice enough to invite me to sit in them once. Thanks very much. But that's as many times as I would ever want to watch a game from there --once. There are 20,000 seats in Nats Park that I would prefer for watching a game, including some for 1/10th the price. Considering price, too, not just vantage point, there are 41,000 tickets in Nats Park that I would prefer to those. 

Whenever the “nats fans don’t show up” pieces come out there generally isn’t a talk about the stadium experience and I’m wondering what your thoughts are ? To me (season planholder) The backpack ban is a big problem for lots of people , the concessions are mediocre /overpriced and parking /metro are both nightmares . Combine this with the plan holder benefits slipping (lots of perks are now open to everyone so why renew?) and it gets harder to keep going so often every year or deal with the various inconveniences.

The backpack thing is annoying. But when my wife and I go as fans we find it very easy to get into the park without waiting. We park out beyond the Metro stop. But we WALK AROUND THE PARK and enter at the deserted gates behind home plate or the third and first base side. Sure, when you get inside you have to get to your seat. But between 3rd base, 1st base and HP, there ought to be SOME little-used approach that suits you better thsn STANDING IN LINE.

For all that people know, there could be live alligators on the first base side --with that huge staircase and entrance-- and they wouldn't know it because they have never been there. Any fan who doesn't like the time spent in line to enter the park, WALK 150-to-250 yards and there won't be ANY line. Including 15 minutes before the start of a game --when I've done it dozens of times with my wife.

Hi Boz - Love your work. Lots of chatter in Natsland about how to support the team. It seems strange to me that the Nats and/or the writers that cover them would criticize the fanbase for the way they do or don't support the team. What other entertainment business does that?

Well, this is probably only about the 3rd or 4th time I've ever commented on the Nats Park fans in 15 years. They are probably the NICEST fans in all of baseball. Can that be bad? And they support the team VERY well in the sense that they pay some of the highest prices outside of New York, Boston and (I suspect) LAD.

Tom, there's been a lot written and said on the radio about the lackluster attendance and crowd participation. Is there any chance, from your perspective, are the Lerners, and perhaps more importantly the Nationals' management and marketing people, paying attention to what the fans are saying about the fan experience - from getting to (and into) the park, the cost of parking, the cost and quality of concessions, the diminishing supposed perks of being a SPH, the incessant noise (a.k.a. music) and distractions during the game, the lack of concession stands taking cash, etc. etc. etc.? (see the comments section of Barry's column for more examples...) I am a soon-to-be former SPH myself... giving up my seats after being there since day one of the RFK days. I've had enough.

Well, the Lerners have plenty of Reading Material from our columns the last couple of days on keeping Rendon and attendance. The Nats have a lot of sharp fans. They should listen to them. I knock Ted Leonsis sometimes for his pro-sports-gambling push --which I think will be a horrible fan-game-experience idea. But, man, he's done an excellent job by his Caps customers so far. My wife always says, "When can we go to another hockey game?"  

For years I've heard people criticisms about NCAA women's basketball that there were only two teams that dominated the game. There are probably 3 or 4 today, but it's not much different. Is college football any different with Alabama and Clemson.

I grew up a big college football fan.

Alabama and Clemson are to reasons I follow it a lot less now.

I like offense. But not at the level of no-defense college ball today. And I hate the early-season schedule-cheap-wins Humiliation Bowls. I flipped on the Maryland game after halftime and it was already 56-0 and headed  much higher.

I have trouble getting entirely behind a 49-31 Oklahoma win over Houston inwhich QB Jalen Hurts completes 20-of-23 passes for 332 yards and 3 TDs and ALSO rushes for 178 yards and three MORE TDs. Then Hurts, coach Lincoln Riley and everybody else with Oklahoma acts like a mere 18-pt win isn't up to their standards. Shoulda beat 'em by 50 or 00.   

If you had to choose Acuna or Soto for the next five years on your team, who would you choose? And you can’t say both or either.

Acuna is GREAT. But I have a sense of how much better he can get --some, but not a lot. I think he's near his (wonderful) ceiling.

I'd take Soto.

Because he's constantly learning and improving. So I DON'T know how good he may become.

After a slow start and an injury this year, in his last 92 games, Soto is slashing .320/.423/630 (!!) for a 1.053 OPS with 25 homers and 71 RBI. For 160 games, that's 44 homers and 123 RBI. He's TWENTY.

In his last 56 games, his BABIP is only .275, so his batting average is down (.287). That's a fluke. His normal BABIP is much higher. What is NOT a fluke (probably) is the power he has shown in those 56 games --slightly more than 1/3 of a season. He's got 19 homers --more than one every three games-- and 45 RBI. For 160 games, that's 54 homers and 130 RBI. Is THAST who he is?

Trout didn't make his last "jump" to annual OPS+ from 186-to-198 until the last 3 seasons, starting at age 25. Yes, he was 168-to-179 before that. But he STILL got better. Soto's OPS+ (OPS adjusted for the level of offense in that year) has been 142 and 144. What's he going to be like if he gets to 155 or 165. Not Trout. But...

FWIW, Ted Williams career OPS+ was 190 --meaning he was 90 percent better than the league average! He was over 200 --twice as good as the league-- nine times. At 22, he was 235 in OPS+. At age 38, when I got to see him at Griffith Stadium and on TV --I think all 22 Senators-Bosox games were on D.C. TV then, but my Kid Memory may be wrong-- Teds OPS+ was 233!

I think Ted once reached base in 83 consecutive games. You can't imagine it now --even with the current juiced balls. If you got him out twice in the same game it felt like An Event.

In '57, at 38, he won the batting title and slashed .388/.526/.731.

I don't know which of those three is most insane.

...

One last FWIW, Verlander threw his third no-hitter over the weekend. Only six pitchers have done it --all super famous except...Larry Corcoran.

Larry Corcoran? At age 20 in 1880, he pitched 536 1/3 innings for the Chicago White Stocking (precursors of the Cubs) with 59 complete games, 43 wins and a league leading 4.5 strikeouts per 9 innings. 

At 25 in 1884, he pitched 516 2/3 innings.

At w26, he was washed up.

Those damn innings limits!

Speaking of the 1880's, I mentioned the Sporting News --a.k.a The Baseball Bible-- as scribes were waiting for a brief post-game Davey Martinez presser. For somereson, I mentioned it was around in the 1880s. One writer had never heard of the Sporting News. Another seemed to doubt that there was anything recognizable as baseball in the 1880's, so how could the Sporting News have been around then? Surely not before the 1920's maybe --you know, when time began. So, we googled it: Sproting News began publication in 1886.

And Larry Corcoran had already RETIRED.

...

OK, that's it for this week. Lord knows how much we'll have to talk about next week after Skins-Eagles --which REALLY tells us about the season, rather than these stupid exhibitions games (in which Aaron Rodgerrs took 0 snaps). As well as Nats-Braves times four. And US Open finals --Go, Roger.

BTW, Skins have new starters from last year at SEVEN positions. Most of them look like downgrades to me. From Smith at QB down to Keenum. Big drop at LT with no Trent Williams. LG still a mystery position to fill properly. Slot receiver down from classy Jamison Crowder. X receiver --well, their WRs are always awful unless they sign somebody who's already caught for >1,000 yards someplace else --which they didn't do. Star TE was in concussion protocol after first (dirty) hit of the pre-season. At least, RB looks deeper, better and, for now, healthier. Hope Darius Guice has a strong back 'cause he'll have a lot to carry!     

With luck, Zeke will still be holding out on the Cowboys.

Thanks for all your Summer Is Semi-Over questions. See you next Monday with LOTS to talk about.  

I have been attending Maryland football games for 5 years as I have several kids in the marching band. I had high hopes for Michael Locksley after the disaster of DJ Durkin. Mike seemed like such a good guy. After this Saturday when he just kept running and running and running up the score 79-0, I guess he is as much of a jerk as his mentor, Nick Saban. So when Penn State or Michigan or Ohio State runs up the score this year, maybe someone can explain to Michael Locksley what karma is. Are any of these big time coaches normal human beings?

Ouch.

I think I'll give the guy a lot more than just one game.

But you have a point --or 79 of them.

Our local professional football team will start its season with zero (0) established wide receivers. In whose book is this acceptable? This is a years long issue and entirely avoidable. Is anyone in charge over there capable of opening their eyes? We're talking years of drafts and free agency and they have nothing to show for it. We can understand the QB situation given the terrible injury. But how about someone for the stopgap QB to throw the ball to???

See my earlier answer/column . It is a unique operation that can overlook its own failures at a crucial position for more than 25 years. But they did it!

I sometimes think there must be better wide receivers every Sunday in football season playing -- on the Mall.

We have a 20 game pack, and go to most of those games. However, each year as the prices go up for tickets and for everything else and as the promotions all become "special ticket required," the scoreboard exhorts "everybody SCREAM" with no reason other than to make noise, the between inning scoreboard things get stranger and less and less baseball focused, corporations take over more and more of the game, and baseball wants to change the rules to try to bring in non-fans... you get the idea. The Nats in-person experience just isn't as much fun anymore. I want to see a game, eat a bit of food, maybe have a beer, and cheer for the Nats. I don't want to listen to random screeching, watch people try to guess songs, watch people hold up kids, be subjected to "God Bless America," (remember folks, it's NOT the anthem! No need to stand at and off hats!), and be constantly battered with "worship our military!" messages.

Otherwise, you're good with it, right !?

It appears it will be the Nat's/Cubs playing in the single elimination game here in Washington. In your opinion what pitcher match ups best/worst would work most favorably for either team?

The Nats should WANT the Cubs --and any Cub pitcher. Sure, they're good. Any playoff team can come up with a very good starter. But you DON'T want to face the Mets --who look pretty dead-- with Jacob deGrom.

IOW, watch for the pitchers you DON'T want to face in a WC/WC game. Then you'll know which teams to pull for and against.

Boz, I enjoyed reading your colleague Barry Svrluga's column today on declining Nats attendance. Perfect timing. It pairs well with your great reporting in your last column saying Nats have gone from 11th to 16th in MLB attendance. Perhaps my story from Sunday afternoon's game vs. Mets illustrates the point. I took my wife and two young children and met up with another couple and their kids. Our section was largely empty. When we attempted to move back a few rows in the 5th inning to escape the hot sun, an usher came and stopped us. Later, I saw the same usher tell a man with an apparent bum knee he could not rest his leg on the seat. He was sitting in an empty row in our largely empty section. With tickets at $40 a pop (x 8 for our families), beers and parking expensive, why not enjoy the Nats at home with MASN or by listening to Charlie and Dave and following your tweets and others covering the game? I know Labor Day has been a low draw for years, but I think if Nats execs want to look at why there is not more red in the seats--look no further to my cautionary tale. Thank you. Love these chats. Really hope to get your take.

Another "ouch!"

Rule One: Common Sense is rarely wrong.

Seems the hot topic of the weekend is shaming the fans for the Nats attendance problems, but we hear little critique of the owners and their business strategies. The overwhelming sentiment on social media is "it's too expensive to go to the ballpark very often" and indeed, the Nats rank 4th most expensive on the Fan Cost Index (https://www.statista.com/statistics/202611/fan-cost-index-of-the-major-league-baseball/)-- behind the three most recent World Series winners! When other teams want to fill the stands, they do $5 or $7 tickets, $1 dogs, free t-shirts, free hats, or free tickets for kids. The Nats? Crickets. The Kids Eat Free program was a great idea, but it's already ended-- and it was only advertised on MASN, where the very casual fan would never see it. There's no effort to pack the place with Nats fans, not even after selling a block of 1000 (!!!) tickets to a Mets fan group (just like earlier in the season 750 Phillies fans came in a bus group and the Nats did nothing to lure more Nats fans). When is this going to stop being a fan problem and start being a front office problem? Because all this fan shaming is putting off the thousands of loyal fans who actually DO go to the ballpark. I shudder to think what this ballpark is going to look like if the Nats let Rendon walk-- and there are plenty in the local sports media who will happily point the finger at the fans. Again.

A whole lot of good points. Thanks.

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