- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Once again, it’s time to check off some items on my “TIDU List” — Things I Don’t Understand:

• How Buck Showalter kept Baltimore on track.

Their BW Parkway rivals had lots of injuries, too, but the Orioles took “next man up” to a new level. All-Stars Matt Wieters and Manny Machado were lost for the season in May and August, respectively. GM Dan Duquette deserves credit for providing capable reserves and trading for others, but Showalter has pulled all the right strings.

Having won AL Manager of the Year in 1994 and 2004, he’s due again.

• Why the Nationals shouldn’t be favored to win the pennant.

Things didn’t work out last season when Washington was a popular World Series pick. But the team is back in that position. ESPN’s Jayson Stark polled 15 baseball executives; a dozen picked the Nats as NL champs and 11 picked them as Series champs. Folks struggle to identify a real area of weakness.

If the Nats play to their ability under postseason pressure, D.C. has a parade in store.

• How a 29-year drought could have a wilder, happier ending.

The Royals didn’t clinch a playoff spot until the season’s final weekend. Then they played 12 innings in nearly five hours Tuesday before allowing their fans to go crazy again. Kansas City’s walk-off, comeback victory against Oakland was quite the thriller for everyone in attendance and viewers who didn’t turn off the TV and turn in.

Regardless of what happens next, the Royals have atoned for missing the playoffs since 1985.

• Why no one on Michigan’s sideline knew their quarterback got crushed.

Coach Brady Hoke isn’t the only person who should be looking for work soon. Medical staffers should dust off their resumes, too. There’s no excuse for missing a helmet-to-helmet hit that wobbles your QB, but Shane Morris went back in the game Saturday. On Tuesday, the school said Morris had “a probable mild concussion.”

AD Dave Brandon released the news at 1 a.m., another fireable offense (besides hiring Hoke).

• How Washington’s NFL roster escapes more scrutiny.

Between the quarterback controversy, nickname debate, revolving coaches, salary cap sanction and player suspensions, there’s been much to discuss about the local football team. But GM Bruce Allen gets off easy. There’s way too little talent in place since he and former coach Mike Shanahan began rebuilding the roster in 2010.

With no more fall guys around, Allen gets all the blame from here on out.

• Why Rex Ryan can’t change his quarterback during a game.

Bill Belichick replaced Tom Brady on Monday night. But Ryan can’t replace Geno Smith? That’s what the Jets coach implied Monday on a radio show when asked about possibly inserting Michael Vick in the lineup. “Every decision we make in this franchise is a Jet decision, and I’ll just leave it at that,” Ryan said.

If so, Ryan might as well hand over the headset before GM John Idzik takes it.

• How the Oakland Raiders have been so bad for so long.

Franchises that tank could do better. Oakland hasn’t had a winning season since 2002, the longest drought in a league designed to create 32 8-8 teams. The Raiders have become sports’ biggest laughingstock since the Los Angeles Clippers perennially failed to field competitive teams. Former owner Al Davis passed away, but the silver-and-black jokes live on.

Maybe the laughter will stop if Jon Gruden is crazy enough to return as coach.

• Why the Wizards can’t win the Eastern Conference title.

They tout the East’s best backcourt in John Wall and Brad Beal, added a heady vet in Paul Pierce and beefed up with bigs Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair. Considering LeBron’s move, Paul George’s injury and Derrick Rose’s fragility, the East is wide open. “Four years ago, nobody was talking about Washington,” Pierce told reporters on media day.

Now, at the very least, there should be Wizards talk during the conference finals.

• How Kirk Cousins’ stock can drop any lower.

Prime time wasn’t kind to Washington’s would-be replacement for the would-be face-of-the-franchise. As fate would have it, though, another national TV audience awaits for Cousins’ bounce-back game. It’s probably safe to say he won’t throw four interceptions and lose a fumble Monday like he did last Thursday against the Giants. Just don’t tell that to the Seattle Seahawks.

Cousins has a long road ahead before he regains any trust or value — here or wherever.

• Why we ask for honesty and then criticize those who deliver.

We complain when athletes don’t “tell it like it is,” instead resorting to politically correct answers. But we cringe when they don’t sugarcoat their comments, instead sharing their true emotions regardless of people’s feelings. That what happened when Phil Mickleson ripped Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson Sunday after Team USA lost for the eighth time in 10 tries.

Mickleson didn’t just throw Watson under the bus; he put it in reverse and parked it.

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