Arts & Entertainment

Picking Splinters: July’s Magic Mailbag




Once more into the magic mailbag, Mike Hume answers your most pressing sports questions.

Mike,

What’s your take on the Redskins’ trade for Jason Taylor? Will the defensive end from “Dancing With the Stars” help or hurt their chances this season?

Lovin’ left turns,

Joe G.

My gut reaction is this will – finally – be a good personnel move by the Redskins. Last year’s defense was good, but not great, largely because it was too often beaten by the downfield pass. In 2007, the Redskins gave up crucial deep touchdown receptions on three separate occasions against NFC East opponents – Week 3 (Giants), Week 10 (Eagles) and Week 11 (burned deep three times by Terrell Owens and the Cowboys). All of those losses came by eight points or fewer.

Last year’s defense ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed, but 16th in passing. A big part of that was because Andre Carter was the only lineman getting consistent pressure on the passer. Oftentimes, opposing QBs would drop back, have a sandwich, look at their receivers, have dessert, read War & Peace and then pick apart the secondary. With Taylor to bookend Carter – both of whom finished in the top 15 for sacks – the Skins should get to the quarterback far more often. That will force more bad decisions from QBs and result in more interceptions for a team that generated the fourth-fewest picks in the NFL last season.

Washington will miss Daniels, but the injury finally made them address their lacking defensive line. There may be a big silver lining to this cloud.

Hume,

I was sorry to see Jon Rauch get traded, but what’s the skinny on the deal with the Diamondbacks? And who’s the next Nat to go? I love me the trade deadline!

Go Phils,

Connie M.

I’ve heard a few voices saying the Nats didn’t get top dollar for Rauch with teams like Milwaukee, Tampa Bay, Boston, the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox all still looking for bullpen help. I’m not sure they were going to get too much more than what the D-backs gave them in Emilio Bonifacio, the speedy No. 6 prospect in the Arizona system according to Baseball America.

I can’t recall a time during General Manager Jim Bowden’s tenure in D.C. that he has undersold any of his players in a trade. Bowden held onto Chad Cordero last season when he couldn’t get a good return and he took two draft picks instead of selling off Alfonso Soriano below market value. Assistant GM Mike Rizzo was formerly the Scouting Director for the Diamondbacks, so I’m betting he’s pretty sure Bonifacio can succeed in the Majors. Right now though, the trade’s detractors seem to think Bonifacio suffers from a little bit of Willie “Mays” Hayes syndrome, he may run like Hayes, but hits like … well, fans of the movie “Major League” know the line. Bonifacio’s .302 average in 85 games at AAA Tucson tells a different tale though, so optimism is far from foolish.

I was almost positive Cristian Guzman would find himself in a pennant race this August, but with his new two-year contract extension, he looks like he’ll be flipping balls to Bonifacio on Opening Day 2009.

There are not a lot of other attractive names on the Nats’ roster … Dmitri Young is hurt. Ronnie Belliard, who leads the Nationals in home runs with nine (I can’t believe I typed that) may go, but won’t yield much in return. Paul LoDuca is the only other name I could see pulling in anything worthwhile.

Hume,

Rumor has it you’re leaving Washington and the fair City of Falls Church for the Big Apple? Care to comment?

Noting the moves of the media,

Howie K.

The rumors are true. I’ve been dealt to New York for a cheesecake and a crusty cabby to be named later. This will be my final issue working from Washington as the full-time sports editor at the News-Press. I will continue to write this column for the paper, however, and promise not to fixate entirely on Yankee baseball, despite my newfound proximity to the ballpark. Also, check for daily commentary on my new blog, pickingsplinters.blogspot.com.

Thank you all for your letters, both real and “magic” over the past four years and for taking the time to comment – and disagree – with my opinions. It’s been a pleasure to cover sports in D.C. and Northern Virginia and I am excited to continue that coverage in this space in the months ahead.