Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Long Term Thinking’

Redskins Face the Strasburg Question- RGIII Needs to Heal

December 11, 2012 Leave a comment

NFL- Baltimore Ravens at Washington Redskins

He is entirely too special to risk suffering any long-term damage. Even short-term thinking- one week’s rest, at a minimum, is the least the Redskins should do for their once-in-a-lifetime quarterback.

And it’s a decision the Redskins may need to take out of the kid’s hands because based on what we saw last Sunday at FedEx Field, Robert Griffin is a selfless warrior who would claw and scratch to get back out on the field, no matter how many of his limbs are hanging by a thread.

It’s not just about his health and the “mild” sprain of a right knee. Imagine winning a key playoff-atmosphere game led by your other rookie quarterback. Oh, that’s right- that’s precisely what Kirk Cousins already pulled off last Sunday against Baltimore. But can he lead the team for an entire game and claim a win over the suddenly resurgent Cleveland Browns?

I think so. First of all, the Browns haven’t exactly been beating the elite squads of the NFL. They beat a 7-6 Pittsburgh team without their starting quarterback. Then they edged the 3-10 Oakland Raiders and last week, the 2-11 Kansas City Chiefs.

The Browns won’t be a cakewalk, but any victory by the Skins without RGIII would do the team enormous psychological good. The kid’s will to win has already become contagious. Let’s prove the theory this Sunday in Cleveland without him.

For the short-term, a one-dimensional, pocket-passing, less mobile RGIII may very well win over the Browns- but it’s the two games that follow and potentially the playoffs after that where the Redskins will need his arm and his legs. And considering the intensity with which he plays and that this may not be the last time he sits out a game or two, it cannot hurt to give your back-up QB practice and game time.

And for the long-term, it would end up as the most tragic story in all of sports, if Robert Griffin were to have a career-threatening injury. It is hard to justify risking all that promise for the temptations of the present.

Granted, this doesn’t really compare to what the Washington Nationals decided to do with their young pitching ace, Stephen Strasburg last year. Strasburg was not even hurt. That was a much gutsier decision. But there is a similarity in the basic question of whether the future is worth considering, protecting and nurturing.

Baseball is much more of an annual marathon with its 162 games over six grueling months. The very nature of the sport and its lengthy seasonal slog lends itself more to long-term thinking. The NFL is the polar opposite. It is a sport premised on the future-is-now philosophy of immediate gratification. They only play 16 games. Each contest is 6% of the regular season. It’s a do-or-die each week.

This decision will be quite the test. Go for the brass ring now? Or rest the kid, let him heal a bit and put yourself in a position to reach for a half dozen brass rings over the next ten years- and maybe even one later this year? For this season and for the many more ahead; for the two divisional games that follow in Philadelphia and home against the Cowboys- this is a no-brainer. For this week- let RGIII lead the team from the bench.

Nationals: Making Sense of What Happened

October 16, 2012 1 comment

(Photo courtesy Jeff Roberson, AP)

A few days have passed now since Washington suffered its collective sucker punch and watched its beloved young team snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  There are two keys to healing and getting over it.  One has to do with understanding the element of time.  The other has to do with recognizing not what happened- but how it happened.

It’s About the Long Haul

Baseball as a sport goes against all we currently value in terms of instant gratification.  It requires the longest vision of any sport; 162 games are played over six long months. But it is actually much longer than that and this is the key perspective to understand.  Especially for a young team like the Nationals, this is not about one season.  It is about many.  Look at it at more like a game that will be played over the span of a decade.

The Atlanta Braves in the 1990’s ran off a string of 11 consecutive NL division titles.  They captured exactly one World Series.  They only appeared in two in that span.  Washington Post columnist, Tom Boswell points out the Braves have lost 7 division series since 2000.  Even the Yankees have dropped 5 since 2002.

Baseball playoffs are a complete and total crap-shoot; especially with the new one-game wild-card format.  And the divisional best 3 of 5 format is too short to really tell the tale of a team’s depth and talent.  The regular season does tell that story.  And no one in their right mind would have ever thought that in 2012, the Washington Nationals would finish atop the NL Eastern division, much less with the sport’s best record.

That was one full year ahead of schedule.  Remember this is the task of a decade that lies before us.   That’s an extra year of playoff and playoff-style pressure the players now have experience with.  And you know the Nats may well be favored to win it all next year with Strasburg pitching a full season and with a whole winter ahead of Mike Rizzo with much more leverage than he’s ever had before in making deals to make the club even better.

This is a long-term proposition.  We’re not used to thinking this way.  But even in baseball terms, we have more hope for instant gratification than just about any other team in the sport.

How We Lost

I remember the Baltimore Orioles and the Milwaukee Brewers played a season finale at Memorial Stadium in 1982 that would determine the winner of the American League East.  No wild card that year.   Someone was going to end up out of the playoffs having won 94 games.  It was possibly Earl Weaver’s last game as the Orioles skipper. It was Cal Ripken’s rookie season.  The stakes were enormous.

The Brewers crushed the Orioles 10-2.  As an Oriole fan at the time, I remember being disappointed but not hurt.  The Baltimore fans that day were generous in spirit.  They stayed long after the drubbing to offer their final cheers to Weaver.  In the young Cal Ripken they sensed a bright future.  The Birds would win it all the following season.

I think our collective psyches would have been much better preserved if the St. Louis Cardinals had beaten us 10-2 last Friday night.  Yes, we would have the same overall disappointment, but I bet the fans would have stuck around for awhile to thank the team and pretty much just hug each other for the incredible season they had all witnessed.

But, instead, on 5 different occasions, the Nats were a single strike away from victory.  To lose under those circumstances is cruel fortune, indeed.  But how do you suppose it felt when almost the same scenario played out for the poor Texas Rangers last year?  They were a strike away on at least three occasions- from winning the World Series.

Things are relative, my friends; in both time and occasion.

As for our decade of excellence that is to follow- an incredibly important brick was added to the foundation of this franchise in 2012.  The bitter taste that lives in us is especially acute in the players.  They will live with it through the winter, through their surgeries and workouts.  And the bitterness will mix with the optimism of spring.

It is my belief that the events that transpired on that fateful Friday night, hurtful and as frustrating as they were to so many, will be the very reason this young, talented bunch of ballplayers coalesces even more as a team.  What I think we will see, is a steely determination; first-class athletes and competitors motivated to the core by a failure, that to be fair, was only so immense because of how unexpected their rise to the top was last season, to begin with.

No- this pain will subside and give way, as human sentiment so often does, to hope.  Fortunately for fans of the young Washington Nationals, we have ten years ahead of us to savor, enjoy, and yes, occasionally suffer through.  After all, over that decade, each year, 29 teams will walk off the field of their last game with a loss.

But, should anytime over these ten years, we become the team that walks off the field of that last game with a victory- it is all the pain and sorrow and joy and ecstasy of the arduous path we took to get there that will help us truly understand the magnitude and the rarity of the greatest achievement in sport.

Welcome to disappointment, to pride, to love- to Baseball.