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October 24, 2017 / Nat Anacostia

Nats’ 2017 NLDS in review: Things went haywire

A familiar refrain—the Nats lost a closely fought series with lots of self-inflicted wounds and plenty of weirdness. Here are my comments on the Nats-Cubs NLDS series.

The Nats outplayed the Cubs. For the second consecutive year, the Nats lost the series despite outscoring and generally outplaying their opponents. The Nats scored 20 runs; the Cubs scored 17. The Nats hit an admittedly poor .186/.302/.335 and hit 6 home runs. The Cubs hit even worse: .180/.285/.280 and 2 home runs. The Nats pitchers got 52 strikeouts and gave up 18 walks with a 1.023 WHIP. The Cubs struck out 41 and surrendered 25 walks with a 1.250 WHIP. There was one area where I thought the Cubs did outplay the Nats—defense. The Cubs made 7 errors to the Nats 5, but in my opinion they also made more outstanding plays that robbed Nats of hits, and had fewer instances where they failed to make a play that should have been made without having an error charged. But, because fielding other than errors tends to be reflected in batting statistics, that means the Nats were actually hitting the ball better than reflected in their statistics, and the Cubs were hitting worse. All things considered, this was a series that the Nats should have won.

Roster decisions. Coming into the series, a Nats lineup that had been battered by injuries in mid-August had gotten just about everyone back. There were still a couple of injury question marks. Bryce Harper had been back for just one week and frankly looked lost at the plate, with an OPS of .417 in 20 plate appearances. And while Jayson Werth had been back for nearly five weeks, his OPS since returning of .512 suggested that he wasn’t fully recovered. The other big lineup weakness was catcher, where Matt Wieters, after starting great in April (OPS of .934), had been awful the rest of the season, with monthly OPS from May to September of .561, .578, .576, .609, and .481. It was a problem that should have been taken care of at the trade deadline when catchers had been available (for example, the Cubs picked up Alex Avila), but between eating Weiters’ $10 million salary and his hot April start leading to false hopes of a turnaround, the Nats weren’t willing to make the move.

The basic starting lineup would be (C) Matt Wieters, (1B) Ryan Zimmerman, (2B) Daniel Murphy, (3B) Anthony Rendon, (SS) Trea Turner, (LF) Jayson Werth, (CF) Michael A. Taylor, and (RF) Bryce Harper. Considering Werth’s late season struggles, it might have made sense to play a platoon of Howie Kendrick and Adam Lind in left field, but Dusty Baker likes to be loyal to his starters and stuck with a fixed lineup with Werth starting every game in left.

On the bench, besides Kendrick and Lind, the Nats went with Jose Lobaton, Wilmer Difo, Brian Goodwin, and 20-year old uber-prospect Victor Robles. Carrying both Goodwin and Robles was a bit of a surprise, though as it turned out, Dusty didn’t make much use of either of them.

With Max Scherzer coming off a hamstring issue in his final start, he was given some extra rest and ultimately was given the Game 3 start. The other starters were expected to be Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Tanner Roark. The bullpen had four lefties: closer Sean Doolittle, Sammy Solis, Oliver Perez, and Enny Romero, and three righties: Ryan Madson, Brandon Kintzler, and Matt Albers. By carrying six bench players, they decided to forego carrying a long reliever (presumably either Edwin Jackson or A.J. Cole.)

Game 1, Friday October 6, Hendricks vs. Strasburg, Cubs win 3–0 . Strasburg pitched great. He went 7 innings, struck out 10, and carried a no-hitter for 5-2/3 innings. But the Nats hitters couldn’t solve Hendricks, against whom the Nats scattered 2 hits and 3 walks in 7 innings. The sixth inning was the crucial one, when Rendon muffed a groundball that Baez, leading off the inning, hit sharply down the line. The TV announcers thought the ball was foul when Rendon tried to pick it, but the replays were inconclusive, and regardless, it was not subject to appeal. After a sacrifice bunt and a flyball out, Bryant drove in the first run with a single to right (the first hit of the game), and then advanced to second when Harper overthrew the cut-off man. Harper’s mistake was costly, as Rizzo immediately drove him in with another single. In the eighth, the Cubs scored a third run on a pair of doubles off Madson, while Edwards, and then Davis, retired the last six Nats batters.

Game 2, Saturday October 7, Lester vs. Gonzalez, Nats win 6–3. The wind was blowing out. In the bottom of the first, Rendon hit a home run to the right-field bullpen. In the top of of the second, the Cubs answered when Contreras lofted a solo home run to left. In the top of the fourth, Gonzalez allowed a lead-off double to Bryant followed by a home run from Rizzo that didn’t need any help from the wind, and the Cubs led 3 to 1. Gonzalez pitched five innings (twice through the lineup), while Lester lasted six and got out of a bases-loaded jam unscathed in his final inning. The eighth inning ranks alongside Werth’s 2012 Game 4 walk-off in the annals of Nationals post-season heroics. Lind led off the inning with a single, and after a Turner strikeout, Harper drove a home run to tie the game. After that, Rendon walked, Murphy singled, and Zimmerman added another home run, this one barely clearing the fence with the help of the wind. The Nats had broken their batting slump and Doolittle shut out the Cubs in the ninth for a 6 to 3 victory.

Where do the Harper and Zimmerman homers rank among Nationals’ post-season hitting heroics? The website Baseball Gauge has a statistic, championship win-probability added, which is designed to answer that question. Think of it as similar to win-probability added, but instead of measuring the impact of a play on the probability of winning the game, it’s the probability of winning the entire season, so Game 5 heroics, for example, receive more weight. According to this metric, and limiting ourselves to the games the Nats won (for example, we tend not to remember Chris Heisey’s 2016 Game 5 home run as particularly heroic because the Nats still fell short), they rank as follows:

  1. Werth’s walk-off homer (2012 Game 4)
  2. Tyler Moore‘s 2-RBI single giving the Nats a 3–2 lead (8th inning of 2012 Game 1)
  3. Harper’s game-tying 2-run homer (8th inning of 2017 Game 2)
  4. Lobaton’s 3-run homer giving the Nats a 3–2 lead (4th inning of 2016 Game 2)
  5. Taylor’s grand slam giving the Nats a 5–0 lead (8th inning of 2017 Game 4)
  6. Zimmerman’s 3-run homer giving the Nats a 6–3 lead (8th inning of 2017 Game 2)
  7. Werth’s game-tying RBI double (3rd inning of 2016 Game 3)
  8. Ian Desmond single, advancing Michael Morse to third, ahead of Moore’s RBI single (8th inning of 2012 Game 1)
  9. Rendon’s 2-run homer giving the Nats a 4–1 lead (3rd inning of 2016 Game 3)
  10. Adam LaRoche‘s solo home run giving the Nats a 1–0 lead (2nd inning of 2012 Game 4)

Moore’s single is the surprise on this list—home runs are more memorable. But considering the game situation, it makes sense that it ranks this high on the list.

Game 3, Monday October 9, Scherzer vs. Quintana, Cubs win 2–1. Most of the Nats had never faced Quintana. Kendrick had faced him in the American League with success, 5 for 10, so I was hoping that Dusty would let him start in left in place of Werth, who at that point was 0 for 8 in the first two games. But Dusty stuck with his standard lineup, and the Nats mostly flailed, managing only two hits in Quintana’s 5-2/3 innings. The Nats managed to score an unearned run in the sixth when Murphy came to bat with two outs and hit a fly ball to left that Schwarber missed and then booted, charged with two errors and allowing Murphy to reach third. Strop relieved Quintana, and Zimmerman hit a double to drive in Murphy. The Cubs made a couple of additional errors that night for a total of 4, though the Nats weren’t able to capitalize on the others.

Meanwhile, Scherzer was pitching brilliantly and held the Cubs hitless through 6-1/3, though there were indications his hamstring was still bothering him. The first indication that he may have been tiring was in the sixth, when Jay led off with a rocket to deep center that Taylor was able to run down. Scherzer started the seventh at 90 pitches; Dusty had said he wasn’t going to allow Max more than about 100 pitches. After getting Contreras to strike out, Scherzer gave up his first hit, a double by Zobrist, and Dusty pulled Scherzer for Solis. Schwarber—who had hit 30 home runs in 486 plate appearances—was due up, but Maddon countered with pinch hitter Almora, who had hit .342 against left-handed pitching. Solis pitched to Almora and he singled, tying the game. He gave up another single to Heyward, then Kintzler came in and got out of the inning on an unconventional double play, when Taylor made a great play running down a fly ball that Russell hit in the gap, then doubled up Heyward off first.

Should Dusty have pulled Scherzer? I think that despite the no hitter, Scherzer was showing signs of tiring and it was time to turn things over to the bullpen. There was a debate whether Solis or Kintzler was the better reliever to bring in, but I think Solis (who has been lights out in the second half) was defensible—though he should have tried to pitch around Almora. But I think there was another strategy that hasn’t been discussed as much. Dusty had let Strasburg bat with two outs in the top of the seventh. With Scherzer on a short leash and with maybe only 10 pitches remaining, I think the optimal strategy would have been to pinch hit for him in the top of the inning, then start off the seventh with Kintzler. Maybe the pinch hitter might have gotten the Nats another run, and maybe the relief corps would have done better starting a fresh inning. Other managers, like Dave Roberts with Kershaw, have been more protective of their aces’ innings, and I think the Nats have been hurt by trying to wring an extra inning from their starters.

In the eighth, with the score tied, Kintzler gave up a lead-off walk to  La Stella. After a sacrifice, Kintzler struck out Bryant. Perez was brought in to face Rizzo, and we have our second strategic debate. Rizzo said he was shocked that the Nats would pitch to him with first base open, and after he flared a single into short left field he could be seen yelling “Respect me!” While there certainly is a case for intentionally walking Rizzo in that situation, Contreras was on deck. I’ll defend Dusty for having Perez pitch to Rizzo, and Perez, in fact, did was he was supposed to do, inducing weak contact from the Cubs star. The real strategic problem in my opinion, was that Dusty hadn’t made another move that he should have made. Werth was still playing left field in the late innings of a close game, when I think he should have been lifted for a better fielder. At least, that seems like the rationale for carrying both Goodwin and Robles as backup outfielders—to get Werth off the field late in a game when every out counts. I’m confident that Robles would have caught Rizzo’s flare, and pretty confident that Goodwin could have caught it too. As it was, I think Turner might have caught it if he’d been less hesitant, and Taylor might even have had a chance if he’d dived. But no one took charge, and a little pop fly that most left fielders would have caught was allowed to drop between three fielders.

Game 4, Wednesday October 11, Strasburg vs. Arrieta, Nats win 5–0. The Nats were facing elimination. The game was scheduled for late Tuesday afternoon, with Roark as the scheduled starter, but a rainstorm led to postponement until Wednesday. The question immediately arose, would the Nats be able to substitute Strasburg as starting pitcher, now that he would be on full rest? To everyone’s shock, the Nats said no, Roark would still start because Strasburg was “under the weather.” It was a communications debacle, with the Nats repeatedly giving out incorrect information and the baseball press, with little else going on, using the news as yet another opportunity to slam Strasburg. Sportscasters, many of whom are former athletes, love to engage in macho posturing, and they replayed the image of Strasburg that they had fashioned five years earlier during the shut-down, as a wimp who couldn’t be trusted to come through for his team when it needed him. I honestly can’t understand how the Nats management and communications staff could do such an awful job of handling the situation and leave one of their star players to be crucified by the national press.

Strasburg answered the brouhaha the best way he could, by asking to pitch Game 4 and then pitching superbly. He went 7 shutout innings, striking out 12 and giving up 3 hits and 2 walks. Baker, frustrated by the Nationals’ lack of hitting, finally made his big “line-up change”—having Werth bat second and Rendon bat sixth, a lineup he had used in the first half when the Nats were scoring a lot of runs. There’s no real evidence that the new lineup helped, and personally I’d rather that Rendon have had more at-bats and Werth, fewer, but the Nats did score more runs over their last two games using this lineup. The Nats’ first run came in the third, when Turner scored from third on a two-out ground ball from Zimmerman that Russell booted for an error.

It was 1–0 until the top of the eighth. The inning began inauspiciously, when Harper struck out and Zimmerman, after reaching on a walk, was picked off first base by Lester. But Murphy followed with a single, driving Lester from the game, and Edwards gave up a wild pitch and two walks, loading the bases for Taylor. Wade Davis was brought in to get the inning’s final out, but Taylor drove a high fastball to right field against the wind, barely reaching the basket for a grand slam home run. Madson and Doolittle eached pitched an inning without allowing a run, and the Nats could move on to Game 5.

Game 5, Thursday October 12, Hendricks vs. Gonzalez, Cubs win 9–8. It was such a crazy game with so many things we could talk about; I won’t be able to get to many of them.

In the top of the first, Gonzalez was already struggling—he gave up a lead-off double to Jay, who scored following a wild pitch and an RBI ground-out. Then, with two outs, he gave up a walk, a single, and another walk to load the bases, before getting out of the jam without giving up another run. In the bottom of the inning, Turner singled to lead off, stole second, and advanced to third on a Werth fly-out. Harper grounded sharply to Baez at second, who made a great throw to nail Turner at the plate, ending the Nats’ bid to answer the Cubs’ go-ahead run.

In the second, Gio set down the Cubs in order, and Murphy led off the bottom of the inning with a solo homer, tying the game. Then Rendon and Wieters each singled and Taylor hit a 3-run homer to give the Nats a 4–1 lead. It was still early, but at the time the prospects were looking good for the Nats (win probability of 82.3%). It was, however, mostly downhill after that.

In the third, Gio struggled again, giving up a lead-off double, two one-out walks to load the bases, an RBI ground-out, and another wild pitch to score another run. The Nats’ lead was down to one run. Gonzalez’s evening was done after three innings, 3 runs allowed, and 4 runners left on base. Albers pitched a 1-2-3 fourth inning, while Scherzer warmed up. Meanwhile, Hendricks seemed to be back in control and got through the third and fourth innings without giving up a run, with the Nats scattering three singles.

Fifth inning. The top of the fifth is the inning that will live in infamy. Scherzer came out to pitch in relief. While bringing in ace starters to pitch in relief in post-season play has become popular since Bumgarner’s 5-inning save in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, the strategy often hasn’t been successful. Things looked good for the first two batters—Scherzer retired Bryant on a grounder and Rizzo on a fly-ball. But then Contreras and Zobrist each singled, and Russell doubled, driving in both runners. The Nats were suddenly trailing 5 to 4.

After Scherzer fell behind Heyward in the count, and with Baez on deck, Dusty decided to have him intentionally walked. Scherzer struck out Baez on three pitches swinging—but Wieters failed to catch the third strike, a low slider, and it rolled toward the backstop as Baez ran to first. Wieters probably should have just held the ball, since it appeared that Baez would have been safe at first, but instead Wieters threw it away into right field and Russell scored. Wieters spoke to Jerry Layne, the umpire, and the replay showed that Wieters had clearly been hit in the helmet on the backswing—after the ball had slipped under his glove—but the umpires conferred and decided to leave the original call unchanged. I’ll talk more about the controversial call in a minute. Runners were now on second and third. The next batter reached on catcher interference when Wieters’ glove touched the bat, loading the bases. Scherzer hit the next batter, making the score 7 to 4, before finally retiring Bryant on a fly ball. With two outs, seven consecutive batters had reached base, including a bizarre mixture of rare plays, and 4 runs had scored.

Wieters seems to have become the goat of this inning, but Scherzer also clearly didn’t have his best stuff. Should Dusty have avoided bringing in Scherzer? Sure, in retrospect maybe it looks like we would have been better off asking Albers to pitch a second inning, or bringing in someone else. (Enny? Tanner?) But with Scherzer saying he was willing and able to pitch a couple of innings, I certainly thought that bringing him in to pitch mid-game was a good move. Where Dusty can be faulted, in my opinion, was in not preparing for the possibility that things might go awry. In a close must-win game, if a relief pitcher gives up three consecutive hits and two runs, the manager must be prepared to bring in a replacement. But for this inning, I remember a TV shot of the bullpen where no one was getting ready. After giving up the go-ahead run, Dusty left Max in to face five more batters and give up two more runs. I could see signs that Max was rattled as early as the Heyward at-bat—certainly, he should have been lifted before he hit Jay with a pitch. In this case, Dusty was managing like it was the regular season, not the middle of a do-or-die final game.

Let’s talk about Layne’s decision on the backswing. Twitter lit up with references to Rule 6.03(a)(3), particularly this paragraph:

If a batter strikes at a ball and misses and swings so hard he carries the bat all the way around and, in the umpire’s judgment, unintentionally hits the catcher or the ball in back of him on the backswing, it shall be called a strike only (not interference). The ball will be dead, however, and no runner shall advance on the play.

That paragraph seems perfectly clear – if the batter swings and misses and hits the catcher on the backswing, it’s a strike and the ball is dead, and no runner shall advance. The rule does allow for umpire judgment, but only in determining whether the bat hit the catcher, not on whether the play should continue. But Layne told Matt and Dusty that the rule applied only when a runner was stealing a base, not for a passed ball. He also told them that, in his judgment, the bat contact didn’t cause the passed ball (which was true) or affect his fielding of the ball. Layne’s opinion was not consistent with rule shown above, but as Craig Edwards of FanGraphs explained, there’s another rule that may be applicable and possibly consistent with Layne’s ruling, Rule 6.01(a)(1):

It is interference by a batter or a runner when:

(1) After a third strike that is not caught by the catcher, the batter-runner clearly hinders the catcher in his attempt to field the ball. Such batter-runner is out, the ball is dead, and all other runners return to the bases they occupied at the time of the pitch;

Unlike Rule 6.03(a)(3), this rule is clearly referring to a case when a catcher fails to catch a third strike. Furthermore, the rule appears to allow for more umpire discretion, because the umpire is the one who decides whether the batter “clearly hinders the catcher in his attempt to field the ball.” If Layne had this rule in mind, his explanation that, in his opinion, the contact didn’t affect the fielding of the ball would seem to justify his allowing the play to proceed. In the Edwards’ opinion, Layne applied the right rule in this case.

I disagree with Edwards’ interpretation. I keep coming back to the the parenthetical comment in Rule 6.03(a)(3) that says that when the bat unintentionally hits the catcher, the play is “not interference.” If hitting the catcher on the backswing is not interference, than how could Rule 6.01(a)(1), which deals expressly with batter/runner interference, be the applicable rule? The only possible rationale would be that the contact is generally not interference, but becomes interference only in the special case when a third strike isn’t caught. But I don’t see anything in either of the rules that would support that interpretation. At a minimum, I have to say that the rule book is sufficiently ambiguous about which rule applies in this case that the league really should clarify it. I side with the opinion that 6.03(a)(3) is the more relevant paragraph. And with two runs scored that inning after the backswing at stake (since the inning would have ended with a strikeout), it means we wuz robbed.

One more comment. Dusty didn’t file a protest, but if he had, I’m not sure MLB has thought about how it could handle it. For the post-season, I’d recommend that the umpiring staff that handles replays also be given authority to promptly adjudicate protests. It might require a five to ten minute delay of game for them to review the applicable rules, but given that it would be nearly impossible to replay a protested playoff game, it seems like the league really should set up a mechanism to handle the possibility.

Innings 6 through 9. Kintzler pitched the sixth and the Cubs got another run on a freak play, this time a Russell line drive that Werth missed as he battled the lights, which turned into a double and scored Zobrist from first. The Nats were trailing 8 to 4. In the bottom of the inning, the Nats got a little two-out rally going. Werth walked, then Harper doubled, advancing Werth to third, and Zimmerman walked, with a wild pitch coming on the fourth ball to score Werth and advance Harper to third. Murphy hit a double, scoring Harper and advancing Zimmerman to third. There’s been some discussion of whether Zimmerman should have scored on the double, and after looking at the replay it seems to have been cleanly fielded, so I’m doubtful that Zimmerman could have made it. The Cubs then walked Rendon to load the bases, then Wieters drove the ball down the right-field line, but Heyward chased it down to end the inning. The Cubs lead had been narrowed to 8 to 6.

Think about that Wieters flyball that Heyward caught. Perhaps because Heyward is one of the best defensive right fielders in baseball, the play didn’t look impressive on the replay, and it probably won’t make the post-season highlights. But according to Statcast, Heyward had to run 82 feet to make the catch, a catch that is typically made only 42% of the time. We’ve seen that Wieters is being considered the goat of the game, but I can imagine an alternate reality in which he drove the ball ten feet farther, or in which the Cubs had to substitute a less speedy right fielder in place of Heyward, where Wieters would have driven in three runs and gone on to be remembered as the hero of the game. Baseball is a fickle sport.

Solis pitched the top of the seventh inning and got Baez to ground out before giving up a pair of singles to Schwarber and Jay, with Schwarber advancing to third. Madson was brought in, and Bryant hit a sharp ground ball to third. The Nats got the force at second, but were unable to turn the double play, so a run scored. The Nats appealed, claiming that Jay’s slide was illegal, but the umpires’ calls were upheld. I’ll talk more about the appeal in a bit. Madson got Rizzo to ground out, avoiding further damage, but the Cubs’ lead at the seventh-inning stretch was 9 to 6.

Taylor led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk, then Lobaton, having come in on a double switch, flied out. (Note: If Dusty was planning to double switch Wieters, why not have Kendrick pinch hit for him in the bottom of the sixth?) The Nats battled on, with a single from Turner and a walk to Werth loading the bases. Harper drove in Taylor with a sacrifice fly to center, but Maddon brought in Davis to face Zimmerman (and ultimately, to get a 7-out save), and Zimmerman struck out. The Cubs lead was back to two runs, 9 to 7.

In the top of the eighth, Madson retired the Cubs in order. In the bottom of the inning, the Nats staged their final attempted rally. Murphy and Rendon led off with consecutive walks, and Lind pinch hit for Madson. In his two prior series plate appearances, Lind was two for two, but he was unsuccessful this time, grounding into a double play. According to the Baseball Gauge’s championship win probability measure, Lind’s double play was the costliest out in Nationals playoff history. But the Nats’ chances weren’t yet over. Next up was Taylor, and he singled, driving in Murphy. Lobaton followed with another single, and Turner was at bat with the tying run in scoring position and the go-ahead run on base. Cubs catcher, Contreras, loves to pick off runners caught sleeping at first, and he tried to catch Lobaton. Lobaton clearly beat the throw to first and the umpire initially ruled him safe, but on replay review the call was overturned because his foot had popped off the bag while Rizzo was still applying the tag. The inning, and the Nats’ last threat was over, and they were still trailing the Cubs 9 to 8.

From the views I saw on TV, I didn’t think there was “clear and convincing” evidence that Rizzo held the tag while Lobaton’s foot popped up (and neither did the TBS color commentator, who I believe was Ron Darling). But assuming the video reviewers had a better shot available and made the correct call, I still hate this play and this aspect of video review. Every other type of video review has just helped improve the accuracy of calls that umpires have always made. But when managers started challenging tags where the sliding base runner slightly loses contact with the bag while the tag is being held, runners started getting called out on a play that had never been called previously. Yes, we used to see runners called out when they over-slid the bag or lost contact on a hook slide, but never when their foot or hand was on top of the bag but briefly lost contact. In fact, you still seldom see that call made by a live umpire, so it almost only occurs with video review. Even if the reviewers got it right in this case, I’ve never liked the call and would really like the rule to be changed (see, for example, Dave Cameron’s proposal). By calling these pop-off tags, MLB is rewarding players who take cautious leads and make gentle slides. That ultimately hurts the base running game and makes the game less fun. I grew up as a baseball fan in the generation of Maury Wills and Lou Brock and reached maturity with Rickey Henderson and Tim Raines. Aggressive base running makes baseball fun and exciting; carefully maintaining foot contact with the base isn’t fun or exciting. Let’s change this rule and stop calling this type of out.

I have a similar problem with the call on Jay’s slide in the seventh inning to break up the double play. When MLB first changed the rule, I thought the intention was to stop players from unnecessarily using their bodies as projectiles to break up double plays. At first it seemed that way, but then I noticed on video review that there were still plenty of exceptions. If a player, like Jay, was sliding in a way that part of their body (say, his hands) were sliding into the base, he was still free to use his legs as a weapon against the fielder trying to turn the double play. I understand that technically this play is legal, but in my opinion that just means that the rule change didn’t go far enough. If we don’t want unnecessary, violent body contact between baseball players (and I don’t) let’s change the rule to prohibit all those types of plays. It seems like the previous rule change was just a half measure.

After all the drama, the ninth inning was anticlimactic. Doolittle retired the Cubs in order, then Davis, who would face nine batters and throw 44 pitches, got Turner to fly out and struck out Werth and Harper.

Post-game commentary. With each Nats post-season debacle, I find myself getting more and more emotionally detached. In 2012, I remember feeling almost depressed for the next couple of days, but now it just seems like something we almost expect to happen. Maybe next year.

I really hated Tom Boswell’s perspective column in the Washington Post. Although he did a nice job of enumerating the team’s many mistakes in Game 5, I absolutely don’t buy his interpretation that the team’s mistakes are a sign of lack of “competitive passion.” I especially hate his interpretation that players who didn’t show a sense of anger in the locker room after the game were somehow morally deficient. Players are people, and people respond to disappointment in lots of ways. Some are demonstrative, while others, like lots of people, have become good at hiding their feelings. I will take the fact that the team kept battling back, even after they had fallen four runs behind in the sixth inning, as a better sign of their competitive will than what they were saying or not saying in the locker room afterwards. While I’ve long admired Boswell when he’s purely analytical, his constant attempts to make a morality tale out of every sports story is incredibly irritating.




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