September 16, 2009

Sally Jenkins bemoaned the Giants-Redskins game in the DC Post: “If Albert Haynesworth were just another guy, you’d say he did fine in his debut in a
Washington uniform, even had a couple of big moments. But Haynesworth is not another guy — he is a hundred million dollars and 350 pounds of bulk, and he had a lot of other moments when you never noticed him.
You scanned the field vainly, looking for that seismic impact and disruptive force he is supposed to bring. Too often when your eye found him, he was kneeling on the sidelines, his nostrils flaring.
Haynesworth is a huge mass of a man, no question, and there is also no question he feels the responsibility of his contract, and wants to be worth it. There were occasions when he seemed to meet the entire New York Giants offense head on and moved it backward by himself.
The defensive tackle was a large reason why the Redskins’ 23-17 loss to the Giants was so grudging, and frankly wasn’t more one-sided: four times the Redskins stifled the Giants in scoring position, holding them to three Lawrence Tynes field goals.
Haynesworth filled up the middle of the field like a roadblock around which everything flowed, tying up traffic as he fought off double-teams.
But at no point did he have Giants quarterback Eli Manning running for his life. Manning instead completed 20 of 29 passes for 256 yards, and the Giants offense never seemed scared, or even very uncomfortable, and that was the difference.
You wanted the monster play, the gasp provoking hit, the momentum shifter — and so did Haynesworth, judging by his sullenness after the game. Asked how he thought he played in his debut, he said, “It don’t really matter. We didn’t win so I don’t care how I played.”
What Haynesworth is supposed to bring to the Redskins defense hasn’t arrived yet. There is something not quite fully cohesive about the unit; it suffered a variety of miscues that ranged from LaRon Landry’s rash late hit on Brandon Jacobs to Haynesworth jumping offsides at a crucial moment with 11 minutes 13 seconds to go in the game that gave Tynes an extra five yards on a 45-yard field goal that made it 20-10.
Haynesworth remarked throughout a preseason in which he played sparingly the Redskins hadn’t “jelled” yet, and he reiterated it again after the season opener.
“You look at the scoreboard, they scored a lot of points,” said Haynesworth, who had four tackles, including one for loss. “We did good things, but we’re still not there by far. We still haven’t jelled quite yet as a defense. Until we get that stuff straight, this stuff probably will continue.
“A couple different things that we need to do. Once we figure it out, I’ll let you guys know. I been saying that the whole camp, that we need to [jell]. The first
regular season game it didn’t happen, we got a loss. Hopefully it can happen by next week because I’m not really fond of going 0-2.”
As long as they remain un-jelled, Haynesworth will remain the focus of a very large and pressing question: Was he worth it? Was he worth a record breaking
$100 million over seven years?
The most impactful defensive tackle in the league was a headline addition to the roster, but it may be difficult for him ever to answer the value question
satisfactorily. If there is a knock on him, it’s he lacks stamina, that he’s played a full 16-game season just once.
According to the Nashville city paper, the Tennessee Titans didn’t make a titanic effort to resign Haynesworth, offering him four-year package worth $34 million total, and left it at that. The Titans don’t do megadeals. They control their payroll and hunt for bargains, and are willing to watch good valued players walk out the door rather than overpay for them.
Mostly they have been right. The strategy didn’t hurt them last year when they went 13-3. And no one who watched their bitter overtime loss to the Steelers on Thursday would say they seemed to miss Haynesworth unduly.
It’s impossible to know yet who exactly Haynesworth will turn out to be for the Redskins. But what’s already apparent is the contract is going to be a weight, in terms of expectations.
There were times when he looked gassed — understandably. Haynesworth pays a price in stamina for his massive size and combativeness.
“What they want me to do is go as hard as I can. If I get tired, come out and catch my breath and go back out,” he said.
By halftime, he seemed to move gingerly. He hauled his body toward the tunnel as if it were midnight, and at one point, you wondered if he was going to make it.
He was the last of the Redskins off the field.
Some of that was just Haynesworth’s personal pace. Between plays, he does everything slow. After the game, he dressed in the locker room with painstaking slowness. He dabbed a towel at the back of his massive neck. He meticulously screwed a pair of diamonds into his ears.
The truth is, the Redskins don’t exactly know what kind of player they’ve gotten in Haynesworth yet. Defensive coordinator Greg Blache said it best in
preseason, with remarks that sounded promising at the time, but might also be interpreted as a warning not to expect too much based on the immensity of that contract.
Blache said: “Every one of us in here has expectations of something we bought, we purchased or whatever, and you come home, and it’s not always what you thought it was. I’m not saying that’s going to be the case, but at the same time, until you open the box, you’re not certain. So we’re going to wait and open up the box, and then we’ll talk about it once the box is open.”




Nick Cafardo, of the Boston Globe, is well aware of the fact that pitching coaches can make or break a MLB-manager’s season. You see Dave Duncan
following Tony Larussa around from team to team. Until recently, Rick Peterson was the latest great guru, Of course, they all are behind the late Johnny Sain.
“Mike Maddux was always on that list of players you figured would one day be a pitching coach or manager. His talent didn’t measure up to that of his more
famous brother, future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux. But he knew what Greg knew, and that knowledge kept him in the major leagues for 15 seasons, primarily as a reliever.
When his career ended with Houston in 2000, Maddux didn’t surprise us when he became a pitching coach for the Astros’ Double A affiliate in Round Rock, Texas, a team owned by Nolan Ryan. Maddux cut his teeth as a coach there, then was hired by the Brewers in 2003 and was their pitching coach for six years.
This year, he was reunited with Ryan in Arlington, Texas, where he transformed the mind-set of the Rangers from that of a hitter’s organization to a pitching/defense organization almost overnight.
“I got to watch Mike for 2 1/2 years in Round Rock and just came to appreciate the way he deals with young pitchers,’’ said Ryan, “and given the fact we had a lot of young pitchers, when the opportunity came along for us to go out and find someone who could work with them, I had a good idea of who I wanted after watching Mike from afar in Milwaukee for six years.’’
What Ryan likes about Maddux is “he keeps it simple. No fancy philosophies. We went back to basics. We thought our pitchers should throw more, so we
threw BP from Day 1 of spring training. We throw more side sessions between starts. Throw strikes. Keep the ball down. Mike has implemented all of it so
“For me, it’s defense and pitching to contact,’’ said Maddux. “It starts with our defense. Our manager, Ron Washington, has been emphasizing this. If you’re catching the ball and making all the plays, that’s huge for a pitching staff.’’
Though Ryan was a strikeout pitcher, he endorses Maddux’s philosophy on quick outs.
“It was always, the perfect inning would be nine pitches and three strikeouts, but I’m saying it’s three pitches, three outs,’’ Maddux said. “It started for us
Opening Day when Kevin Millwood pitched deep into the game and he kept going and going. The hitters will always let you know when it’s time to come out.’’
Another part of his philosophy is that “the less a hitter sees of a pitcher, the better.’’ That’s pretty much the way Greg Maddux pitched.
Millwood is the Rangers pitcher that Ryan targeted after last season. He met with Millwood and challenged him to come to camp in better shape and to be a leader. Millwood has hit both targets since the start of spring training. His 2010 option is about to kick in.
Maddux has done wonders with Texas’s talented young pitchers, no question. Neftali Feliz, a 21-year-old righthander, throws more than 100 miles per hour. In his first 23 2/3 innings, he struck out 29 and posted a 0.76 ERA.
For the time being he’s in the bullpen, but his future appears to be in the rotation. Lefthander Derek Holland, 22, is so youthful that he pitched with a zit on his forehead in his last start against the Red Sox. Scott Feldman, converted by Maddux from reliever/part-time starter to full-time starter, has 16 wins.
“Feldman was one of this team’s best relievers last year,’’ said Maddux. “But it was all based on need. Talk about a guy who stepped into a situation and
seized the moment. Nobody personifies that more than Feldman.’’
The oft-injured Brandon McCarthy is 7-2 but has made only 13 starts. The troubled Vicente Padilla was such a detriment to what Maddux and Ryan were building that they let him go.
“Given what we were trying to do here, he didn’t fit,’’ said Ryan.
Maddux is the Rangers’ seventh pitching coach since 2000. Entering this season, they had a team ERA of 5.14 since the turn of the century. This year, it is 4.25.
When his contract was up in Milwaukee after last season, the Brewers wanted to retain Maddux, but Ryan offered a two-year deal worth $1 million, and the
Brewers just couldn’t match. Whether it’s coincidence or not, the Brewers have one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball (27th of 30) with an ERA (4.80) almost a run worse than last season.
“It was awfully tough to leave the Brewers,’’ Maddux said. “They treated me so well and we had a good thing there. I believed in what the Rangers were trying to do and Nolan, I’ve never met a more humble, gracious man. You can’t help but respect him.
“When I got here, I came in with an open mind, but we had to change the attitude, and I think we have.’’


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