Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Sep 16, 2019

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

Past Ask Boswell chats

Hi Boz, Nervous Nationals fan here. I'm worried about how the team has played this month and not nearly as confident as Fangraphs about the Nats making the playoffs. I see Milwaukee in the rear-view mirror with a very easy remaining schedule (BTW, how are the Brewers, with ZERO good starting pitchers, the league MVP on the shelf, and a negative run differential, in this position?). The Nats SHOULD be in good shape to win this series against the Cardinals, with good pitching matchups in each game, which would put them in really good shape (ahead of both the Cubs and Cardinals, with those two teams having to play 7 more times, and the Nats having completed the nightmare portion of the schedule). But I can't ignore the past ghosts, which seem to have resurfaced recently. I won't be at all shocked if the Cardinals sweep this series. And if that happens, full panic mode could ensue. One break that could work in the Nats favor: the Indians could be eliminated by the time they get to Washington (look at the A's cakewalk schedule). How would you handicap things with two weeks remaining?

I'm definitely concerned. I'll say it while baseball-reference still says the Nats have a 95.8% chance to make the playoffs.

That is not what I see. It has to be demoralizing to get totally dominated by the Braves in their seven games --going 2-5 with only "salvage" wins at the end of both series. The Nats wanted to find out where they stood against the GOOD teams after their 85-game run of excellence against merely decent competition. They can't like what they are seeing. The Mets play them with good confidence and the Braves play them with complete confidence.

Also, the Nats have been concerned with whether Scherzerr or Doolittle will come back to top form by Oct. Well, neither one of them look very close. Doolittle can't get swings and misses with his high fastball --usually warning track fly balls-- and has gone to using sliders and changeups which is NOT his game. Max struggled to get through 5 IP vs the Braves. The question may creep into their minds: "Why do we really want to get to playoffs if we have one of the five worst bullpens in 50 years, our closer has been worn out and our ace probably isn't pitching well enough to start a WC/WC game.

Things like that are the making of really ugly 8-18 September collapses. Once it starts going the wrong way, nothing gets easier. And you need a manager who can encourage dancing after homers, but also has some tools in his skill set for tough times. In May, Martinez looked tool-less when things went bad. I hope he's feeling MUCH better after leaving the game yesterday because he was feeling poorly. But he's really going to be under pressure, no matter how often he says that he's up-beat by nature.

The Nats have Strasburg, Corbin and Max lined up in St. Louis, then an off-day and the lousy Marlins for three in Miami --THAT SHOULD "right the ship." But the Cards pitching is excellent. Next 3 games are a big deal. Win 2-of-3, then 2-of-3 in Miami and a ton of that pressure my suddenly disappear. But go 2-4 and the last week of the season may be a fullscale case of up-to-our-ass-in-alligators.

IOW, don't WAIT to take this dead seriously. I'm sure they THINK they are. As has been the case for years, how does this team handle pressure?

Well, let's FIND OUT. I'm gotta nag 'em --ahead of time. If you can't stand up to the horros of a 95.6-percent chance to be in the playoffs, you need to face it.

I think they will. But this is what we keep talking about --"battle tested." Well, they are in a battle because a 1 1/2 game lead for the 1st WC spot with 14 to play is plenty of pressure. The Cubs and Brewers have injuries. That KILLS a team over a long season. But for 2 or 3 weeks it often means NOTHING. Everybody just bands together and overcomes it. Look how well the Nats played for almost two months when they got next to NOTHING from an injured Scherzer. Don't count on the Cubs and Brewers to fade. That's not how it works in races to the wire. 

Hi Boz, Dan Snyder bought this team about 20 years ago. Would you have ever imagined, back in 1999, that the next 20 years could be so embarrassingly bad -- not just on-the-field but from a PR perspective -- that the Redskins once legendarily strong fanbase could be so beat down that the team cannot even come close to selling out any home games, even an early season perfect-weather contest against the Cowboys? Heck, they couldn't even come within 10,000 people of a sellout in November last year when they were in first place! I'm sure the Redskins always over-stated their season-ticket waiting list, but I know it was a long one. And now, most of us are so apathetic that the losses hardly even affect our day (when they once ruined the whole next week). I'm sure my story is not unique: season-ticket holder for generation, gave up our seats after 2009, haven't been to a game since the playoff game against Seattle in 2012, and now wouldn't even go to games if the team paid me to attend. I know you said this before, but an apathetic fanbase is far worse than an angry fanbase. And its really sad how the owner has ruined the passion of this fanbase.

I'd never have imagined the current state of affairs --and the current state of disgust and disinterest from a really significant percenatge of what used to be the Skins base. They still have enough diehards that they probably outnumbered the Cowboys fans on Sunday in a FedEx with plenty of upper deck empty seats. But that was on a 100% gorgeous day. What happens if they are 2-9 and the weather is cold, rainy or snowy? In one sense, of course, they deserve this --or Dan does-- for his awful stewardship of the franchise. Bruce deserves it, too. But NOBODY ELSE DOES. Not the players and coaches. Not the fans, even those who are now disaffected. Those of us who have had to write about this continual mess for decades can view it as a job --and the story itselrf as an amazing (dismal) saga.

How long has this burgundy-and-gold pain been going on?

I just got an e-mail from a fan saying that today was the 5,000th Day Since The Last Skins Playoff Win.

I haven;'t doubled checked. But it sounds about right --which is bad enough.

We've actually gotten past the point of people calling for boycotts. Every home game is now a de facto boycott. It's just a question --based on weather and opponent-- of how many don't show.

The Skins have a few good players --rookie Terry McLaurin is the 1,200-yard WR they've needed to draft for the last 25 years --and NEVER have. And Gruden, if he ever gets to coach somewhere else, will probably prove to be a slightly above-average NFL coach. He's only slightly below average with THIS OPERATION surrounding him.

I watched the replay of the Dallas game this a.m. I wondered what the big "halftime adjustment" was by the Dallas offense that so bamboozled the Skins defense.

It didn't take long to figure it out. I watched the 1st half by "clicking" between plays --which is a 30-second gap on my cable TV system. EVERY play I'd click and the Cowboys would just be getting set for their next play with a few more signals or line calls to be made. And the Skins generally had time to figure out what defense they were in and have assignments semi-squared away.

In the 2d half, every time I clicked, the Boys had ALREADY run their play and the man with the ball had been tackled and was getting up off the ground. 

The big adjustment --or one of them-- was simply to speed up the tempo by 8-to-10 seconds per play --not a no-huddle by Dallas or a hurry-up offense, just do everything at a faster pace. The Skins couldn't come close to coping. Maybe it was all the injuries to the DBs, but they were scrambling to figure out what they were seeing and how to line up for it.

If a sportswriter sees it immediately, do you think the Bears will be able to figure it out: Their defense is young in spots, injured in other spots and is generally a little confused anyway. Lets "get moving" and they'll be an even bigger mess.   

 

I thought the whole thing was just "gross." Part of the game, yadda yadda...but, as it relates to whether Culberson offered...actually DON'T think *in that circumstance* it really matters whether he did or not and regardless of if it was Martinez or Timmons instigated it, it's in poor taste and that's all there is to it. A single first strike call in this scenario is in fact, important. Secondly, Rodney looked (understandably) "soul-less" for the rest of his outing, because no normal human being has much chance for success after such an accident. It has nothing to do with "mental toughness" or any other sports nonsense. In that moment he seriously injured and could have killed another human being. To not even go out and talk to him, or just take the ball and say "let's get after again tomorrow." I mean, the whole entire incident leaves me wondering what is going on in these people's heads?

On Sunday, the Braves announced that Culberson suffered multiple fractures to facial bones in the cheek area. He will be evaluated further in Atlanta in coming days.First reports were that it didn't hit his eye, but lets not get ahead of the facts. Just root for him that he's totally OK and resumes his career.

There were lots of troubling things about that. And the Braves clearly got ticked off and turned a 1-1 game into 10-1 very fast. 

I'm sure I must have seen batters get hit flush in the face with a fastball --right beneath the eye-- on a pitch where they squared around, but never moved, and didn't even had time to flinch, as the ball came in. But I don't remember it.

There seems to be some confusion about who asked for a review and how that pitch became a "swinging strike." So, I don't want to start throwing blame around on that --I was at the game on Fri, but not Sat, so I didn't ask around. 

However, Culberson didn't "swing" at all. Nothing. No gesture. No twitch. So Snitzer was doubly justified in getting mad --the call was wrong and his team was denied a base runner and somebody --Nats or umps or both-- didn't have the common sense to leave it alone. Obviously, the Nats have replay. So you'd think that THEY would know there was no reason to ask for the play to be revisited. 

Rodney is a good guy. The pirate look, which I like, is probably partly a reliever-image thing. I'm sure he was upset. I'm not sure if you relieve him right there. But I think you get him out quickly.

Nobody did anything terrible. Nobody needs to apologize for anything. Everybody was upset.

An "aside," I guess: FWIW, pitchers have always had the option to go up-and-in when they realize that a hitter has "shown bunt" a split-second too soon.

Baseball has all these "unwritten rules," some of them stupid or juvenile. When are the players going to get an unwritten rule that you don't respond to "showing bunt" by throw at or near the hitter's head? Of course nobody knows who does these things on purpose, or by habit or just by accident. But that's how Trea Turner missed 39 games with a fractured finger this year. And it's how Victor Robles has almost been hit in the head multiple times this season. You CAN'T make a rule against it --pitches slip and how can you tell "intent" when the hitter, just by bunting, is moving his head CLOSER to the plate. Sometimes the hitter "dives" into the pitch.

But players get ticked off about all sorts of silly things --like a bat flip or somebody stealing a base when their team is 10 runs up. Who cares? I don't know what that unwritten rule for bunt situations would be. "Tit for tat" just makes it even worse. Maybe teams should start, in spring training, when they go over EVERY imaginable situation, by saying, "We don't do that. Up, okay. Up AND in, no. If your pitch isn't perfect, or the batter 'hits himself,' that's just how it goes. But don't TRY to flip the guy upside down just because he showed bunt."

 

If I’m not mistaken, George Blanda finally retired at 46; Vinatieri is now 46 and 3 for 8 with several missed PATs. Like rockers dying at 27, do kickers have an age 46 ceiling? Is there an explanation besides age cuz this seems sudden. Sure would be neat to see the GOAT kick til 50.

OK, we have a winner. Of something. I just don't know what.

"Like rockers dying at 27, do kickers have an age 46 ceiling?"

I think we have a Media Ghouls Alert: The 27 Club is one of my least-favorite pop culture references. Maybe you're just showing your (our) age.

Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Brian Jones all died at 27 between '69-and-'71. (And like many people I'm not entirely over it yet.) Bluesman Robert Johnson died at 27 in the '30's and Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse more recently. It has been shown to be statistically meaningless. That didn't stop Eric Burdon (Animals) from writing a song "27 Forever" a few years ago. 

BTW, I heard Drew Carey's Friday Night Freak Out on the radio on Little Steven's Underground Garage (Sirius) for the first time the other night. Yes, the same Drew Caray from the Price Is Right. It was FABULOUS. I had (almost) never heard ANY of the singers or songs --they were all so obscure-- but great. He's digging up rockers who are "in the Minnesota R&R Hall of Fame." Lots of current stuff.

All the Garage DJs are career-long rock performers --like "Little Steven" Van Zandt, long-time Bruce Springsteen side man, or Genya Raven of the long-ago Goldie and the Gingerbreads. They all know everybody in the business with lots of inside stuff. My jaw dropped when Palmyra Delran said that a certain Ramones song had been written by "Joey...MY Ramone" and you're pretty sure you know what that means. 

Anyway, I think Caray may have more great stuff --music influences, back stories, than ANY of them. Which I'd never have guessed. No commercials, but once in a while Bob Dylan or Keitrh Richards will do a 10 second plug: "This is Keith Richards. You are listening to the Underground Garage. So, lets see how much noise we can make...until the neighbors...call the cops." 

Sorry to digress --but after THAT awful Skins game, why not. Little Steven was once asked what on earth the common thread was in all the music his station played since it crosses almost 60 years of rock, includes song that just came out this month and seems to defy genres by crossing about a dozen of them. He said, "Anybody who influenced the Ramones. Anybody influenced by the Ramones. And the Ramones."

PS: Glad to see the good Post piece on Iggy Pop over the weekend. How ironic, now everybody's fawning over him --the New Yorker did him, too. They ignored him for 50 years when he was rolling around on broken glass on stage. How do you (finally) get attention for being a Stooge and an Idiot? Just get VERY, VERY old. Iggy did a show this summer --totally insane energy at 72-- and the reviewer said it was the best live rock show he'd ever seen, had the crowd going carzy for an hour, and, for a grade, his headline was "F%$ it --10."

(I like almost everything --even opera. Just NO SHOW TUNES.)          

 

OK, we have a winner. Of something. I just don't know what.

"Like rockers dying at 27, do kickers have an age 46 ceiling?"

I think we have a Media Ghouls Alert: The 27 Club is one of my least-favorite pop culture references. Maybe you're just showing your (our) age.

Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Brian Jones all died at 27 between '69-and-'71. (And like many people I'm not entirely over it yet.) Bluesman Robert Johnson died at 27 in the '30's and Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse more recently. It has been shown to be statistically meaningless. That didn't stop Eric Burdon (Animals) from writing a song "27 Forever" a few years ago. 

BTW, I heard Drew Carey's Friday Night Freak Out on the radio on Little Steven's Underground Garage (Sirius) for the first time the other night. Yes, the same Drew Caray from the Price Is Right. It was FABULOUS. I had (almost) never heard ANY of the singers or songs --they were all so obscure-- but great. He's digging up rockers who are "in the Minnesota R&R Hall of Fame." Lots of current stuff.

All the Garage DJs are career-long rock performers --like "Little Steven" Van Zandt, long-time Bruce Springsteen side man, or Genya Raven of the long-ago Goldie and the Gingerbreads. They all know everybody in the business with lots of inside stuff. My jaw dropped when Palmyra Delran said that a certain Ramones song had been written by "Joey...MY Ramone" and you're pretty sure you know what that means. 

Anyway, I think Caray may have more great stuff --music influences, back stories, than ANY of them. Which I'd never have guessed. No commercials, but once in a while Bob Dylan or Keitrh Richards will do a 10 second plug: "This is Keith Richards. You are listening to the Underground Garage. So, lets see how much noise we can make...until the neighbors...call the cops." 

Sorry to digress --but after THAT awful Skins game, why not. Little Steven was once asked what on earth the common thread was in all the music his station played since it crosses almost 60 years of rock, includes song that just came out this month and seems to defy genres by crossing about a dozen of them. He said, "Anybody who influenced the Ramones. Anybody influenced by the Ramones. And the Ramones."

PS: Glad to see the good Post piece on Iggy Pop over the weekend. How ironic, now everybody's fawning over him --the New Yorker did him, too. They ignored him for 50 years when he was rolling around on broken glass on stage. How do you (finally) get attention for being a Stooge and an Idiot? Just get VERY, VERY old. Iggy did a show this summer --totally insane energy at 72-- and the reviewer said it was the best live rock show he'd ever seen, had the crowd going carzy for an hour, and, for a grade, his headline was "F%$ it --10."

(I like almost everything --even opera. Just NO SHOW TUNES.)          

 

OK, we have a winner. Of something. I just don't know what.

"Like rockers dying at 27, do kickers have an age 46 ceiling?"

I think we have a Media Ghouls Alert: The 27 Club is one of my least-favorite pop culture references. Maybe you're just showing your (our) age.

Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Brian Jones all died at 27 between '69-and-'71. (And like many people I'm not entirely over it yet.) Bluesman Robert Johnson died at 27 in the '30's and Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse more recently. It has been shown to be statistically meaningless. That didn't stop Eric Burdon (Animals) from writing a song "27 Forever" a few years ago. 

BTW, I heard Drew Carey's Friday Night Freak Out on the radio on Little Steven's Underground Garage (Sirius) for the first time the other night. Yes, the same Drew Caray from the Price Is Right. It was FABULOUS. I had (almost) never heard ANY of the singers or songs --they were all so obscure-- but great. He's digging up rockers who are "in the Minnesota R&R Hall of Fame." Lots of current stuff.

All the Garage DJs are career-long rock performers --like "Little Steven" Van Zandt, long-time Bruce Springsteen side man, or Genya Raven of the long-ago Goldie and the Gingerbreads. They all know everybody in the business with lots of inside stuff. My jaw dropped when Palmyra Delran said that a certain Ramones song had been written by "Joey...MY Ramone" and you're pretty sure you know what that means. 

Anyway, I think Caray may have more great stuff --music influences, back stories, than ANY of them. Which I'd never have guessed. No commercials, but once in a while Bob Dylan or Keitrh Richards will do a 10 second plug: "This is Keith Richards. You are listening to the Underground Garage. So, lets see how much noise we can make...until the neighbors...call the cops." 

Sorry to digress --but after THAT awful Skins game, why not. Little Steven was once asked what on earth the common thread was in all the music his station played since it crosses almost 60 years of rock, includes song that just came out this month and seems to defy genres by crossing about a dozen of them. He said, "Anybody who influenced the Ramones. Anybody influenced by the Ramones. And the Ramones."

PS: Glad to see the good Post piece on Iggy Pop over the weekend. How ironic, now everybody's fawning over him --the New Yorker did him, too. They ignored him for 50 years when he was rolling around on broken glass on stage. How do you (finally) get attention for being a Stooge and an Idiot? Just get VERY, VERY old. Iggy did a show this summer --totally insane energy at 72-- and the reviewer said it was the best live rock show he'd ever seen, had the crowd going carzy for an hour, and, for a grade, his headline was "F%$ it --10."

(I like almost everything --even opera. Just NO SHOW TUNES.)          

 

It’s looking like it’ll be a close race but even if the Nats win the WC game should the last couple of weeks weakened our confidence that this is a team that steps up in the face of challenge? In the face of Braves they sure didn’t. But it’s still more fun watching them than the Redskins!

You have defined this morning's problem. As I wrote a few days ago, the last 27 games of this regular season are going to tell us a TON about the Nats --and the Nats future. If they fold up, that's not going to encourage Rendon to stay or other free agents to come to DC. On one hand, you WANT to find out what teams are "made of." Or you think that you do --unless, after the fact, you wish that you had NOT found out.

The Skins are the opposite --year after year, decade after decade-- you already KNOW what they are: the eternal 7-9 team that never wins 11. But sometimes wins FOUR.

I'm one of those perverse people who still hope that teams will be good --and interesting-- even when the owner of the team is...not a favorite of yours. You can't go through your sports-following lifetime caring about who OWNS TEAMS. That's nuts. At least to me. You decide what you feel about the owner --then you put that analysis in its own box, subject to being re-opens if there is new information-- and you MOVE ON to something that is worth your time and attention. And, in my lifetime, there have been ZERO owners of sports teams who were worth very much time or attention AS SPORTS OWNERS. Maybe the way they made their money was interesting. Maybe they were interesting people. (I MUST be wrong about this --there must be a FEW owners who break this pattern. Help me here! Come up with a half dozen!)

For example, when Buck and the Orioles won more games than any A.L. team over a five-year period during this decade, I thought it was GREAT! And Angelos is worse than Snyder.

So, even though I know that plenty of readers and ex-Skins fans actually get some pleasure out of seeing the team lose, that's just not my nature --I want them to be WORTH writing about, not just the same soap-opera drivel over and over.

On the Nats, their DEFINING quality this year has been their resilience. So, you'd think, that maybe the last two weeks of this season is a perfect time to show that resilience again.

Right now, my professional view is that it is less than 50% that Scherzer or Doolittle get back to 100%, or close enough to 00% to be their dominant selves in their roles in post-season. And without both of them, the Nats "shouldn't" go very far. In effect, you're reduced to saying, "Anything can happen in short-series baseball --so just stop trying to TELL baseball what it can do and enjoy whatever happens.

Of course, by NEXT Monday, we may be amazd at how different the state of the Nats looks --either better OR worse. One powerhouse 11-K showing by Max and a couple of swing-and0-miss filled innings by Doolittle with 94-plus-hop on his fastball and our view will be changed --by new facts.

But "more of the same" from the last couple of weeks isn't going to get it done. As I wrote in a column on Sunday, IF the Nats get Max and Doolittle straightened out, and IF they make the playoffs, then they have a very unusal opportunity to use their Big Three rotation starters --sparingly but in hugely important high-leverage spots-- out of the bullpen.

https://beta.washingtonpost.com/sports/nationals/washington-nationals-bullpen-mlb-wild-card-playoffs/2019/09/14/32205a5a-d718-11e9-9343-40db57cf6abd_story.html

I must admit that ONE fact hangs over this Nationals team and makes me think that --regardless of how unpredictable October baseball is-- you just can't go very far with a bullpen THIS AWFUL. I don't just mean a bad bullpen. I mean a bullpen that is so historically bad --and which has NOT been fixed-- that the owners, the GM and the manager are going to have to answer for it all winter. How did THIS happen on a team that knew it had a chance to contend and came close to the $206M luxury tax ceiling. 

In this 21st century (which included PED seasons), there has only been one worse bullpen ERA --6.15 by the '07 Tampa Bay Rays. But they were bad (66-96) so why would you expect them to have a decent bullpen.

So, you ask, what HAPPENED to that awful Rays bullpen? Did they fix it? How? And, if they fixed it, how much impact did it have on the team the next year?

Answer: Oh, man, DID they fix it! The NEXT season in '08, all the main names in the old bullpen disappeared. Troy Percival, Dan Wheeler, Grant Balfour and even J.P. Howell (who'd been bad in '07), led the Rays to the FIFTH BEST bullpen ERA in '08.

That pen ERA dropped from 6.15 to 3.55 in almost exactly the same number of innings. The Rays pen allowed 139 (!!!) fewer runs.

And, yes, you remember correctly --the Rays went to the World Series in '08!  

 

Prior to the regular season, the media that covered the Redskins often stated how good the defense would be. How the defense line, filled with #1 draft chooses, would be the heart and soul of the team. The front seven has four #1 draft chooses (Allen, Payne, Kerrigan and Sweat) and yet they can't anyone. Through two games, and nine second half possessions, the Redskins have made zero stops! They are an embarrassment. What happened to the VAUNTED Redskins defense?

 

Who SAID they were good?

Last week, Neil Greenberg who writes out excellent column on sports stats, did an analysis of the Skins defensive line last year (and in the opener this year) and concluded that they were VERY over-rated. So, on Sunday, they gave up 212 yards rushing.

After Sunday's loss, Josh Norman said, "Our defense is much better than we have shown. 200 yards rushing is NEVER our defense."

Oh, you mean EXCEPT in the game that JUST ENDED 20 minutes ago? THAT game?

A minute later, Norman had a classic rant. He had a point. Although, he ran a 16-wheel truck backwards and forwards over his point until it was finally left lifeless on the locker room floor. But he DID have a point.

Last week, he gave one of his long answers to a question about Dak Prescott --all sensible stuff. But, in the middle, he said, "Anybody can do that" --meaning that QBs IN GENERAL can shred defenses if thy are given an eternity to throw --as Prescott was in beating the Giants the previous week.

This got taken out of context, apparently, as "anybody can do that."

Here's Josh, giving the world a new phrase --"spoiled, rotten apples that come from hell."

“That’s the reason athletes, entertainers, don’t even want to f--- with you guys to be 100 with you,” Norman said. “It’s no need. ... You really gotta watch the [reporters] that are doing great jobs. You gotta suffer with me because of the spoiled, rotten apples that come from hell. It’s unbearable. There are good reporters that actually come in here and do the job that they’re supposed to do and hold their head high and you respect them. But it’s those sour apples, man, that make y’alls job [stink]. It’s sad, it really is sad, because you pin us against each other. You pin my brother against my other brother. You don’t have to do that.”

After that, I just wasn't in the mood to follow up with, "Josh, it looked like you were beaten like a drum on that 51-yard TD bomb, but, just like last week, it seemed like you should have gotten deep safety help from Montae Nicholson who let himself get sucked up by an underneath receiver and left you kinda naked back there --just like Nicholson also did LAST week, too, on a TD bomb. But, leaving that aside, what about that OTHER long pass --when you WERE locked up man-to-man on the deep outside, and you got beaten deep by five yards for what should have been an 81-yard Dallas TD but Dak blew it with a bad throw. What happened on THAT one?"

Jez, I feel like a rotten apple from hell just for thinking of a question like that.

 

I'm writing this on Friday evening, so it may change before then. But I was a bit gobsmacked when I realized the names Soto is passing/pushing as one of the greatest under-21 hitters in MLB *history*. As of Thursday night, he was passing guys named Mantle, Kaline, A-Rod and Griffey on the "RBI's under 21" list (at 175, he was tied for third with some nobody named Cobb). His 56 HRs under 21 matched the under-21 HR total of Tony Conigliaro, and Soto still has an outside shot at matching Mel Ott's Polo-Grounds-Assisted total of 61 (stipulated, Soto has the help of this year's baseball...but still!). Yet when I look around sites like MLB.com, ESPN etc there seems to be no particular mention of this. Acuna's quest for 40-40 (rightfully) gets attention, but look at those names Soto is passing/pushing! There's something very special going on with this young man, and for the life of me I can't figure out why he isn't getting more national attention. Soto goes get respect from other teams when he's in town. I still treasure listening to the NYY announcers (I was visiting NY when Soto was lighting up the Yankees last season). When a graphic went up on the screen after Soto's second HR against them, the NYY announcers were gobsmacked by the note that Soto was the Nationals' "#2 prospect." "This guy's their NUMBER TWO?!? Who's their number one? If they've got someone better than that, maybe the stories that the Nationals window will close if Harper leaves are a bit premature." :) Seriously, Soto is putting up under-21 numbers that are truly historic. It's weird that MLB in general as well as the national baseball media don't seem to be calling that out nearly as much as they should. I suppose if the Nationals go on a playoff run that will change?

Usually, I (try to) shy from really long questions. (Lord knows, my answer are bad enough.) But you make lots of good points.

Everybody notes that Soto has a fabulous eye, draws tons of walks and will always, presumably, have a VERY high on-base percentage.

But here's a pretty big one that I haven't seen anybody mention (or notice). Last week, Soto had the highest career SLUGGING percentage of any player before age 21!

I just checked --now he;s tied for No. 1 at .549 with Mel Ott who had 151 RBI at age 20. 

S-L-U-G-G-i-N-G percentage. This year, Soto is up to .575.

Who is BELOW Ott (six-time NL Home Run Champ) and Soto?

Oh, just --in order-- Tony Conigliaro, Mickey Mantle, Bryce Harper, Ken Griffey, Jr., Al Kaline and Ty Cobb. 

That's it for this week. I wish (sort of) that I'd seen the Maryland-Temple game. Didn't, so won't comment. Lotta SNAFUs inside the 10-yard line or they'd be 3-0. Still a very interesting beginning to the Locksley era. 

Thanks for all your questions. I assume we'll chat again next MONDAY even though the Skin play that night on MNF. If there's any change, I'll tweet it out. See you all next week --hopefully with lots of things about which to have "a more constructive tone." (Sorry about that music riff. I promise to  cut that out.)

Bos, stop me if you heard this one before. Kirk Cousins is driving his team down the field for a game winning touchdown, and then inexpiable throws an ill timed interception to kill his teams chances for victory. As good a guy as Kirk is, he is not a clutch performer.

Here's a cut-and-paste on a tweet from Jim Trotter.

"Pro Football Focus offered this as context for Cousins’ INT on 1st-&-goal from 8: “From the opponents’ 10-yard line and in, Cousins ranks 27th out of 27 qualifying QBs in passer rating (76.5) since 2017, completing 44.6 percent of his passes w/ lowest yards per attempt avg (1.6)."

I thought he was better than this.

Maybe part of all those 4,000-yard seasons was the offensive system of....Jay Gruden.

Think Kirk'll offer to split the $84M with him?

If it wasn't for the Baltimore Orioles, the Nat's would have the worse bullpen in the MLB, and if wasn't for the Miami Dolphins, the Redskins would have the worse defense in the NFL. Who ya got?

The Nats just dropped to 30th, below the Orioles pen. Now that is hard to do.

Any chance the powers that be in NY will realize that maybe it would be smart to put their best officiating crew on the Saints for awhile? That's some streak of bad luck.

I agree. If you're going to look bad (again), at least be able to say, "We had our bst people on it."

Did everybody see the insane ending of the Bears-Denver game?

Denver lines up for a 2-pt conversion to try to win 13-12. But they jump off sides. So, they go for the standard PAT to tie --BUT MISS IT to trail 12-11. But, hold it, there's a penalty on the Bears. This time, Broncos go for 2-pointer and Make It. For 13-12 lead. That would be wild enough. But there's about 30 seconds left. Trabisky completes a long desperate pas, runs down field as the pass is in the air and calls time out with 0:01 left. Bears, who can NEVER kick an important field goal, make a 53-yardeer after time expires!

My wife, who likes sports, but NOT football, asked me "Why isn't the NFL losing more popularity than it has?"

Games like this are why. 

https://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2019091511/2019/REG2/bears@broncos?icampaign=scoreStrip-globalNav-2019091511

I haven't done the math, but pretty sure there's still time to set the table such that Stras pitches the WC/WC game. Why on earth shouldn't that be what the Nats try to do? We all love Max and know there's a 5% chance he'll throw a shutout and at least a 50% chance he'll allow 3 or more runs. Stras seems a much better fit. The only way I can defend using Max is that the Nats seem to either score 0-2 or 7 or more and if we score 7 or more, Max can handle that.

Right now, I'd set it up for Strasburg to start a WC/WC game. He's had a great season. He had a 0.00 ERA in the '17 post-season. He's mature. Max isn't sharp yet and, more important, he seems to flg a little by the 5th inning. Maybe it should be Stras, then Max or Corbin to close. Then whichever one does get that save can start Game 1 of th NLDS.

(How's THAT for optimism!)

If the real Mad Max shows up in his next start, and is very string through at least 6 innings, we can revisit this. But right now I think Stras is pretty clearly the choice. It's not Stras vs Max. It's '19 Stras vs Max of his last five starts with a 3.91 ERA.

I grew up near Kansas City when the Royals were owned by Ewing Kaufman and the Chiefs by Lamar Hunt. Both of them - especially Kaufman - were great owners in every way. It was a shock to move out here and find out not all owners are like that!

Thanks.

Boz - I'm super sorry about what happened to Culberson but it's pretty tragic that Davey's getting pilloried by anyone. If the ball had hit Culberson in the arm we wouldn't be having this conversation - it's only because it hit him in the face - and there's no rule that says "if the player gets hit in the face it's a ball no matter what". Davey probably should have pulled Rodney but it was his job to ask for the appeal. The first base ump made the bad call (it was pretty clear there was no intent from Culberson and he was just moving the bat with his body), not Davey.

I agree: Leave Davey alone on this one.

How do you rank Elena Della Donne's season performance -- 90%+ free throw percentage, 50% + FGM percentage, and 40% 3-FGM percentage? She is one of only a handful of professional basketball players - and the only woman - ever to reach that mark.

I think it's amazing. And so does every NBA player that I've seen comment on it. And it's another reason to pay attention to the Mystics in their playoffs. 

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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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