Monday, August 12, 2013

Washington Post Sports Watch: What does it mean to be "talented," and stuff I liked!

What have I liked in the Post Sports section lately? Well, as their playoff chances pretty much died this week, it was nice to see Post columnists Tom Boswell and Mike Wise finally give us some honest, clear-eyed views on the Nats and their problems. To be fair, both men have raised some questions about the Nats in earlier columns--Wise had one column in June in which he questioned whether the team as constructed was truly going to contend for years into the future as everyone seems to expect, and Boswell has noted that the Nats had deficiencies in various areas this year--but almost always couched it with the bottom line that they were probably just on the cusp of figuring everything out (You may remember his "Hey, don't worry, the schedule gets easier" piece in late May, or his "the hitting has been so bad, it's got to get better--just like last year!" column in mid-June).

Last week, both Boswell and Wise pretty much said, "Hey, this team isn't very good right now, and it doesn't look like they're going to get much better in 2013." And most importantly, Wise raised the question that I think any Nationals fan or observer should be asking themselves right now: Is this year the aberration or was last year? Is this a really good team playing poorly this year, or was this a good, but not great, team having a great season last year?

The one question raised by both columns, though,  (other than the fact that the contract extension given to GM Mike Rizzo in the middle of a disasatrous season is barely mentioned) what does it mean  to be "talented." Both columnists talk about how "talented" the Nats are (Boz says at one point that the Nats should stop talking about how talented they are, but still calls them "really very talented."), and there's no question that the team has a number of very good players--from their big three starting pitchers to younger position players such as Bryce Harper, Wilson Ramos and Ian Desmond, to older veterans like Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmermann. But whenever I read that the Nats are "very talented" (similar to when I read and hear the media refer to the Caps as "very talented"), it seems to always come across as another way to say, "This team is good enough to be contending for championships." But just having talent doesn't mean you have enough talent, or the right talent. The Nats may have talent, but after watching the Braves last week, with their deep starting pitching, their really good bullpen and guys like Heyward, Freeman, Justin Upton, Brian McCann, etc., those guys look really talented, too. The Cardinals already have a really talented team, and have a bunch of guys from MLB's number one ranked farm system waiting to get their chance. The Pirates may be the 2013 version of the 2012 Nationals (a team with a lot of young talent that may be playing a bit over their heads this year), but they still have a lot of young talent in the minors that may be getting to the majors in the next year or two (two of the top 15 prospects right now). And the Dodgers are just loaded with talent. So, yes, the Nats are talented, but are they more talented, or even as talented, as any of those four teams? I hope Post columnists will be looking at that issue in the weeks ahead (or at least until everyone gets distracted by the Redskins.)

What else did I like? Here are a few articles:

Glad to see the Post did this article the day after the Redskins' Jarvis Jenkins was suspended for PEDs, trying to figure out why the Redskins have had eight guys suspended for violations of the drug policy in the last couple years:

This blog post by Harry Pavlidis trying to figure out why Dan Haren is suddenly pitching well was interesting, even if it didn't come to any clear answers:

Adam Kilgore and James Wagner are doing really good stuff on the Nats' beat, such as doing a deep dive on why the Nationals offense is so bad ( and, among other articles, examining why Adam LaRoche is shrinking:

And I thought Mike Wise's piece on anti-steroid activist Don Hooten, Sr., was interesting because of Hooten's discussion of Alex Rodiguez--that A-Rod was great at getting through to kids and giving them the right message, even though he was doing the exact opposite in his own life:

And of course, Dan Steinberg on the Twitter fight the other night during the Nats-Braves game:

Tomorrow: I think we need to talk about that Ted Leonsis piece in today's paper.


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