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Steve DeShazo: True or false? Or do we need more info?
NEED MORE DATA.
That’s a common response by scientists that we in the sports realm would be wise to use more often.
Nearly everyone within 200 miles of Washington (and many outside that radius) wants to know if Robert Griffin III will be the Redskins’ first franchise quarterback since Joe Theismann. His smarts, athleticism and poise should serve him well as a rookie, but until we see how he handles an NFL blitz package on any given Sunday—and how well he’s protected, supported and coached—it’s a moot question.
Patience is in short supply these days. One website posted team-by-team grades of last month’s NBA draft—less than 12 hours after the final selection. Pardon me for calling that premature.
And remember how everyone was crowning the Philadelphia Eagles last summer after their free-agent spending spree? Hmm.
In that vein, here are three questions that have been floated often lately that definitely need more data:
1. Are the Baltimore Orioles legitimate contenders?
At midseason, we know the Washington Nationals are. Their pitching is still among baseball’s best, and their bats are heating up along with the temperature. The expected return of reliever Drew Storen and right fielder Jayson Werth from injuries in July should help compensate for Stephen Strasburg’s shutdown around Labor Day.
The Orioles are a trickier call. Their starting pitching has been erratic (a 5.72 ERA through Friday), and three members of their original rotation (opening-day starter Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter) have been demoted to Triple-A Norfolk.
Aside from American League saves leader Jim Johnson, their once-stellar bullpen has faltered lately with overuse, and oft-injured Brian Roberts has rejoined Nick Markakis on the disabled list.
Yet Friday night’s 3–2 win at Los Angeles made the Orioles 16–6 in one-run games (best in baseball). Buck Showalter keeps coming up with quality fill-in starters like Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez.
It would be a mistake to say the Orioles can’t make the expanded playoffs for the first time in 15 years. Will they? It’s too soon will tell.
2. Is Tiger Woods ‘back’?
Breathless analysts seemed to think so after he won his own tournament, the AT&T Classic, in sweltering Bethesda last weekend for his PGA Tour-best third victory of the season. Woods’ failure to make the cut at this weekend’s Greenbrier Classic surely will bring out the naysayers again.
The truth? He’s playing better than he has since his leg surgery and personal implosion of 2009. But to make Woods the favorite for any tournament—let alone the majors that he craves—is premature.
Yes, Woods seems more comfortable with the swing he reshaped with coach Sean Foley. Even more importantly, his once-automatic putting stroke is improving.
But after late collapses in each of this year’s first two majors, Woods doesn’t hold the huge psychological edge he once enjoyed. Few of the top 50 players showed up at Congressional last weekend, so he didn’t exactly beat an elite field.
Woods deserves to be considered one of several contenders for the British Open, which starts next Thursday. The favorite?
Let’s not go there yet.
3. Who’s the big winner in NBA free agency?
This is really premature, because deals can’t become official until Wednesday. But beware making early judgments here, too.
The Suns practically gave two-time MVP Steve Nash to the Lakers, setting up an intriguing pairing with Kobe Bryant. But will Nash’s energizer-bunny style mesh with Bryant, who holds the ball for five to eight seconds at a time, shoulder-faking before driving or shooting a jumper? Nash certainly doesn’t solve the Lakers’ defensive issues against elite point guards like Russell Westbrook or Tony Parker.
The Brooklyn Nets (that still doesn’t sound right) kept Deron Williams and added Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace. That’s an upgrade on paper, but each is accustomed to being the man. Can they integrate their skills for the common good?
Ray Allen’s smooth jumper seems to be a good fit in Miami, where he should get plenty of open looks when LeBron James and Dwyane Wade drive. But is Allen healthy enough to play every night—and willing to be the fourth wheel? We’ll see.
I’m still trying to figure out what Jason Kidd saw in the Knicks and how he’ll mesh with Carmelo Anthony, Amaré Stoudemire and (presumably) Jeremy Lin.
But that’s the beauty of sports. We’ll find out soon enough.
Steve DeShazo: 540/374-5443