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March 5, 2012

11:01
A.M.

Ask Boswell about the Washington Nationals, spring training, the Capitals, the Redskins and all Washington sports

Total Responses: 38

About the hosts

About the host

Host: Thomas Boswell

Thomas Boswell

A Washington Post columnist since 1984, Thomas Boswell is known for the many books he has written on baseball, including "How Life Imitates the World Series" and "Why Time Begins on Opening Day."

About the topic

Washington Post Sports Columnist Tom Boswell answered your questions about the Redskins' game, the Capitals, the Nationals, the rest of D.C. sports and more.

Past Ask Boswell chats
Q.

Gregg Williams' Bounty

My understanding is that this has been going on with Williams with different organizations for over a decade. Since players come and go, and since they all talk to each other, it's safe to assume this system was wide known for a while now, yet until now no players cared enough to speak up. Is that a) a sign that it's not that big of a deal or b) that this is part of a culture that needs to change in the NFL? I'm leaning towards b).
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The answer is definitely "b." The NFL has a huge problem and "public relations" is the least of it.

The reason this info about bounties has not come out before is NOT because it is "no big deal," but, rather, because it is SO big a deal.

It's the most despicable thing you can do in sports __offer a cash bonus to a player to deliberately injure another player. When the DC, the head coach and the GM appear to have knowledge of the situation (in New Orleans), it's even uglier. It shows a deep institutional moral rot __in the Saints, at the least, but through other parts of the NFL, too.

The reason, imo, that so many "sources" have come forward so fast the instant this Saints scandal became publc is because so many players hate the bounty system or feel deeply conflicted about doing it or are in a desperate hurry to rationalize what they did as merely "hard, tough football." If you play for a team that offers bounties, what are you going to do, say, "I won't take the money and I won't hit-to-maim. So cut me." (Goodbye.)

I was sorry to see Phillip Daniels in the midst of the mess. He was the Skins player who bent Peyton Manning over backwards, ripped off his helmet, injured his neck and, perhaps, began Manning's history of neck problems back in '06. If Gregg Williams had never existed, you'd look at that play and say, "Daniels has a good reputation. Give him the benefit of the doubt. It's his job to blast the QB. This hit just turned out looking REALLY ugly. But he probably wasn't really trying to tear his head off." But Williams did exist and so did the Skins bounty system __Bowen even wrote a column describing it in the Chicago Sun Times__  bewcomes part of the picture. Does Daniels still the benefit of the doubt? For me, yes. Because I know him. For some others, probably not. 

*We have a lot of ground to cover this morning, starting with the Williams Bounties.

*Also, we'll chat about possible penalties for the Redsklins (I doubt it and will explain why.)

*The Caps awful back-to-back shutout collapse after what I thought might be a season-turning comeback from a 2-0 deficit to a 3-2 overtime win over the Islanders last Tuesday. Their next two games, both at home, are crucial to reaching the playoffs before a set of six road games out of seven. The Caps have now let the Lightning and Winnipeg into the Southeast Division picture and Buffalo into the fight for the eighth playoff spot if the Caps can't win the Southeast. Half the teams in the conference ought to send the Caps a thank-you note. 

*Rory McIlroy takes over the No. 1 spot in golf, playing with poise __and a lot of scrabbling and deadly putting__ to win the Honda after Tiger Woods shot 62 and posted a 10-under-par score.

*Stephen Strasburg's first start of the spring and glimpses yesterday of Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon.

*Terps lose in OT to Virginia. Mark Turgeon looks like a real motivator at Maryland. If Maryland got a football dud in Randy Edsall, they probably got a long-term solution in MT.  But he's got an interesting temper on the bench. I've seen coaches throw their jackets on the sideline when they get hot but yesterday he threw an assistant coach! The refs are welcoming him to the ACC with techs. Is getting on the refs to this degree just a tool he uses? 

*And plenty more.

 

– March 05, 2012 11:01 AM
Q.

Joe Gibbs

Any other head coach who said, I had no idea this was going on, I would say, yeah, sure. But Joe, I believe him. The man always struck me as a rock of integrity and I would be really crushed if those illusions were to be shattered.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I believe Gibbs. We'll see what else comes out, but I thought his choice of words showed how intensely he felt and, I'm sure, how embarrassed that this happened on his team (according to a half-dozen people) forr several years. "I would never ask a player to hurt another player. Never...I'm shocked by this."

Playing football with the deliberate intent to cause injury (and get paid specifically for causing an injury) is despicable. It's completely different than being a hard-hitting player or an aggressive team. And it's totally different than paying for Big Plays, which is against NFL rules, but a minor problem compared to bounties for injuries.

We all use the expression, "That is over the line." We apply it to many areas of life, including raising our children. There are also LEVELS of "going over the line" in bending or breaking the rules that we set whether those rules are in politics, business or the NFL. "Spygate" was cheating. But it's nothing compared to paying bounties for injuries. That is AS FSAR OVER THE LINE as you can go in football except perhaps for "throwing" a game for gamblers. But when you hit-to-injure, especially around the head and spine, you could kill or permanently injury an opponent. Wouldn't that be even worse than throwing a game? So, ss far as I can tell, it's the ultimate crime against the integrity of the sport you play. What would be greater __just carry a weapon onto the field?  (When I played in high school the worst I ever heard was from a player on another team who said that, in a previous game, they'd caught a player on the other team with a knife.)

– March 05, 2012 11:02 AM
Q.

I'm Getting Too Excited About the Nats!

I look at the rotation, the bullpen, and the startign lineup and I have a hard time figuring out how this team doesn't win at least 85 games, if not 90. But Washington teams always seem to have something bad haoppen to them to keep them from fullfilling good expectations. What 1 injury would be the most harmful to the Nationals? Should I just stop worrying and just enjoy what happens?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Don't worry, be happy. like the man said.

An injury to Strasburg would be the worst blow for the franchise, both short and long term. The premise that they will be a special, enjoyable team for the next several years in anchored in the assumption that he'll be as effective as Justin Verlander, who went 83-50 from age 23-through-27 (then went 24-5 l;ast year at 28).

The first time Strasburg threw to Ivan Rodriguez in spring training, McCatty asked Pudge, "Who's he like? Verlander?" Pudge said, "No, Nolan." Memorable moment (for me anyway). I think a "young Verlander" is a perfectly sensible comparison. I never, never use the Hall of Fame comparisons. Part superstition, part "he's only won six MLB games, for crying out loud."

The reason not to get TOO excited about the Nats is that, at some point, this team is going to get hit full in the face with the burden of High Expectatins. Every rising team faces it. And it's real. You have to work through it. And it will be ugly. What will it look like? It will look a lot like yesterday's 10-2 loss! But it will be in the regualr season and it'll matter. Nervous errors, tight-looking hitters.

I assumed the Nats would be semi-under the radar this year. But it doesn't look like it. Way too many people have caught on __because it's obvious. So, maybe they have to learn to cope with "you guys are supposed to be good. So play like it" this year, not in '13.

This is the kind of "problem" every team wants and that now DC team has had since the '30s. So enjoy it.

– March 05, 2012 11:02 AM
Q.

Planning for Opening Day

I know we're still six weeks out from opening day in DC, but at this point who do you believe is likely to be the Nats' opening day pitcher? Will Strasburg be ready by then? Will it be Zimmermann, given everything he did last year? Or is it time to show off Gonzalez?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

If all are healthy, the rotation will be Strasburg (RH), Gio Gonzalez (LH), Jordan Zimmermann and Wang/Lannan.

BUT Davey may not want to have SS pitch the opener in cold weather in Chicago. So it's possible SS starts the fourth game of the season. But I suspect it'll be SS in the Opener, unless its chance-of-snow and 30 mph winds..

– March 05, 2012 11:03 AM
Q.

Nats-Mets

When you recently compared new Nats to old Mets, where was Nails Dykstra? How about the scrappy, tough, aggressive, high energy Dykstra vs. brooding, inscrutable, aloof, hippie Werth in center? Where's this team going to get a mean-streak? Harper as a rookie? Espinosa?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Werth's teammates would say that, relative to all the grief he got last year for his crummy season , he fought against the impulse to brood, though not always successfully. They'd say he was easy to understand (grandfather, uncle and step-father all played in the majors), open with his teammates and hard-nosed. In fact, they do say it. They even go out of their way to say it. 

If Werth hits .280 with 28 homers and 90 RBI, he will be seen as having wonderful character and just a "edge" the nats need. If he hits .232 again, by next spring training I may be describing him as "brooding, inscrutable and aloof."

Performance taints perception.

– March 05, 2012 11:04 AM
Q.

Orioles ownership

Do you see Peter Angelos ever selling the Orioles? If so, do you think there is any chance that Cal Ripken could be part of the new ownership? -- Gary from the Woods
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I hope he's considering selling. Perhaps if Dan Duquette, Buck and the rest of them can get the Orioles semi-improved so that they were worth more maybe PA would consider it. But he's managed to oversee the destruction of an enormous part of the value of the franchise. Right now, he looks smart for getting himself a guaranteed sale price from MLB (I think it was $375M) for not fighting the Expos move to DC __well, after he realized he couldn't prevent it. So many teams are now worth more than $375M, especially with the skyrocketing value of the new cable TV deals, that it's probably tough to bring yourself to sell at the kind of price he might get now. Obviously all of mankind would hope that Cal ended up with the team. In PA's postiion, the thought of the "joy throughout the land" at news of a sale wouldn't exactly make me want to do it.  

– March 05, 2012 11:04 AM
Q.

Bench guys

Boz: Davey is now looking for his bench guys for the season. But I watched Brian Bixler play pretty well for the Astros yesterday. Makes you wonder why didn't we just keep that guy. Lance Nix too. Were they getting too expensive?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Nix got a 2-yr/$2.5M contract from the Phillies who need a LH-hitting LFer. The "two years" was the problem. Obviously, the Nats hope they have their two corner OFers for '13 and beyond in Bryce Harper and Werth. So it was a good deal for Nix and not a fit for the Nats. Good for Lanyce who's come into his own the last three years as a solid platoon outfielder.

– March 05, 2012 11:04 AM
Q.

Will the Great 8 Return?

With Ovie's "Great 8" days seemingly gone, he's been a "Good 8" holding pattern. Unlike stars like Crosby, Ovie doesn't seem to care to improve himself in the offseason, working on improving or developing new skills, getting in great shape, etc. In fact, in hindsight it seems that the Malkin may have been the correct #1 pick in 2004. What do you think?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I assume the Great Eight is gone and the good-to-very-good Ovechkin will be around a long time. Will he be good or very good?

His point-per-game totals, starting with his rookie year: 1.31, 1.12, 1.37, 1.39, 1.51, 1.08 and an awful (for him) 0.80 so far this year. He's on a pace for 62 points. His pts progression the last five years is: 112, 110, 109, 85 and now a pace for 62.

That's just as distressing as it looks.

His body has always taken a beating. He lived very hard for several years. I assume that's improved. The fact that GMGM would mention his weight __and give his past weights last week__ is a sign that the Caps have been concerned about his conditioning at other times. Yes, the league has figured out some of his fav moves, especially when he';s flying up the left wing.

However, the biggest problem is that for large chunks of many game Ovechkin JUST ISN'T THERE. You don't FEEL him in the game. I've watched __usually on tape__ more than 100 periods of the Caps season so far. Iow, more than half the minutes they've been on the ice. (Narrowly defined: What a waste of time.) I'm shocked at how often I saw, "Where the hell is Ovechkin?" Many times he's on the ice and you don't even notice him; that NEVER happened in his MVP season.

Yes, he misses Backstrom. Yes, he's still very good. Yes, this could be his worst year in his career. But it's fair to ask whether he'll ever have another 100-point year. Or 90-point year?

If comments like these, which plenty of people make, annoy him, then that's good. He needs to play better. So does the whole team. They are on the verge of missing the playoffs when their talent level STILL ought to make that unthinkable.

These are the NHL point leaders for the previous three regular seasons.

Capitals...336.

San Jose...335.

Vancouver...320.

Detroit...318.

Chicago...313.

Boston...310.

Pittsburgh...306.

How can ypou have this much talent and, even with injuries, NOT make the playoffs and be (temp;orarily) behind the Atlanta Thrashers? Sorry, Winnipeg Jets.

If the Caps want to make Bruce Boudreau look good, they're doing a wonderful job.

They can still make the playoffs. But not if they follow an inspried comeback with a 5-0 loss, then play hard but lose 1-0 for their first back-to-back home ice loses in 11 years.

The next two games are home aren't "must win." But pretty close.

– March 05, 2012 11:17 AM
Q.

RG3 and Wise's Article

Tom; In reading Mike's column about the pursuit of RG3 being a case of The Danny doing his usual, I really had issues with that. The Danny doing his usual would be chasing Peyton. The potential of getting The Two would be more about opening a window toward the Redskins being competitive. Plus, Matt Barkley didn't stay the extra year because he loved USC--it was a business decision. The Barkley camp realized that Matt wasn't going to be the first QB not named Andrew Luck taken in the 2012 draft. First QB in 2013 had more appeal to Barkley's people than third QB (and the salary slot wherever drafted). See, the issue is not about acquiring the pick leading to RG3 to have an immediate turnaround--it's about having someone who plays the single most important position in football to build around for the next six years.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I've moved into your camp. Going for Peyton would be Old Danny. I've never though Manning would come to the Skins. Now that it's come out that there was probably a bounty on him in the game in '06, when he came back in the second half and tore the Skins defense apart with three TD passes in a 36-22 win, there's one more reason for him not to come. As if he needed more. But money still talks and you can't tell what part his health will play. What if other teams are gun shy because of medicals but the Skins still want to take the big-money chance? That's their shot at him, if they have one.

Trading a ton of value in draft picks to get RGIII is standard traditional NFL team-building. As I've pointed out here for a long time, the closest similar case was the Rivers-E.Manning darft and the cost in picks would probably be the same (or more) for RGIII.

The problem for the Skins is that the Browns have two first-round picks, including the No. 4 overall and want RGIII badly. There is a price for everything and a price that is TOO high, also. The Browns may go so high in trade that the Skins can't/won't top them.

But the Skins are so PR-conscious, need a QB so much and love adding celebrity players that I'm beginning to think RGIII may end up here, almost "no matter what." Well, in general, I advocate the build-through-the-draft approach __especially in the last 20 years. In the '70's and '80's, trading worked a lot better. But RGIII would be so much fun that I can't resist rooting for it to happen.

– March 05, 2012 11:27 AM
Q.

Tyler Clippard

In an article on MSN.com on February 28 titled "Clippard may be Nats' most valuable pitcher," Bill Ladson starts "It goes without saying that right-hander Tyler Clippard has been the Nationals' best reliever in the last 3 years." He points out that Clip had 38 holds (2 under the MLB record) and 104 strikeouts (2nd best among relievers in the MLB). And he won the All-Star Game, even if it was flukey. So why isn't he making at least $3 million? In the article Davey Johnson said he was "almost irreplaceable." Michael Morse said he throws an "invisiball." In another sport, he'd be one of the top paid players. So why isn't he getting what he's worth to the team?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Setup men still don't get their just rewards. But it's getting better.

Clippard is paid so little simply because MLB has set up its salary structure so that players make almost nothing (relatively speaking) in their first three years before they reach arbitration. Clip was actually lucky. He was a Super Two and got to arbitration a ayear early __this year__ and ended up with a $1.65M deal.

I was talking to Clip and Storen at their lockers about this a couple of weeks ago. Man, do they hate some of the New Stats that always say relievers are overvalued, easily replaced. Clip also knows how high he ranked in Win Probability Added __No. 1 in the N.L. last year with 5.1 wins added! . (Roy Halladay was 3rd!)

WPA is a stat that puts great weight on late-inning "key" situations that change a team's probability of winning. Think of Texas Hold 'Em poker with the huge change in percentage chance of winning the hand if you get the "right" or "wrong" card that you need.

– March 05, 2012 11:37 AM
Q.

You guys are a part of the story, you know

Mike Jones said in his blog that the bounties were fairly widely known across Redskins Park. I don't think he was with you guys then, but the question arises of Post reporters and columnists' knowledge of this, especially since you eventually got scooped. Comment?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

If Joe Gibbs doesn't know about it, we're supposed to know about it? Come on.

The LAST secret that's going to escape from within a team to outside the team (reporters) is "we're paying a bounty to players if they knock out the other teams stars and the DC is running the program."

Nobody got scooped. Because nobody ever got the story. The NFL investigated __18,000 documents, 50,000 pages! That's how this got out. So it took all the muscle of the league to "get the story."

 

 

– March 05, 2012 11:48 AM
Q.

Edwin Jackson

You left Edwin Jackson out of your Nats rotation. Where would he slot in?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Fourth. He's working on trying to "hide the ball" better. That may take some time in spring training. So, don't judge him to quickly. It's hard to change old habits in your lifelong delivery.

– March 05, 2012 11:49 AM
Q.

Ban Williams for life

I think Goodell needs to make an example out of Williams and ban him from the NFL for life. He was the ring leader, and if you ban him no other defensive coordinator is going to risk doing what he did. If Pete Rose could be banned from baseball for gambling, Williams can be banned from the NFL for head hunting,
A.
Thomas Boswell :

No punishment, including "life" would bother me. But I suspect it will be a year.

The NFL is looking into the Redskins and Williams. The key difference between the Saints and Redskins __and it will probably be important__ is that New Orleans got "caught in the act." The GM and head coach are still in place in N.O., so a punishment of the Saints __loss of draft picks included__ is appropriate because you are punishing the actual villains in the team's chain of command.

Williams was with the Skins in '04-'07? The head coach is gone. The GM is gone. Williams is long gone. Nobody thinks that owners are involved in $1,000 lockerroom bounty payoffs. So, who are you puinishing?

By that logic, don't you have to go back to Williams days in Buffalo __and there are already several sources talking about a similar system there w the Bills.

Until we hear otherwise, I think Williams will get crushed __he deserves it, but also makes a great scapgoat fof the league__ and the Saints will get hit hard. Then the NFL can say, "This is what will happen __or worse__ to ANYBODY who ever tries this again. And we'll be looking for it."

I'll be very interested to see the long-term impact of these bounties __and the sense that they have been widespread for many years, but always a dark secret__ on top of the studies on concussions to former players.

The NFL's reputation has always been deeply suspect __a guilty American pleasure, one which I include in my list of lifelong pleasures. As far back as "North Dallas Forty," the public has known that players themselves sense that they are viewed as interchangeable hunks of meat. At what point does a significant portion of the public say, "Man, the underpinning of this league really is raw violence and almost total disregard for the health of players. Do I really LOVE this game or just kind of like it but feel queasy about it?"

I only played seven years, up through high school and I thought that the sport was tough, dangerous, even at lower levels, but fine-by-me as long as there was genuine concern about safety and some level of sportsmanship. But that concern for safety and some basic level of decency was essential __yes, right up through the pros. It's not too much to ask. 

(I still remember one of our players being taken off on a stretcher with the ambulance actually driving onto the field. I've stayed in touch with that old SSSAS player __David Speck, later in the Va House of Delegates__ and he says nobody has even gotten to much attention for what just turned out to be a stinger.)

– March 05, 2012 12:05 PM
Q.

Gibbs didn't know

I doubt I'd ever not believe Gibbs about anything. So i believe he knew nothing of the bounty system. But does he say what he would have done IF he had known? Would he have put an end to it? I'd like to think so, but has he said this?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

He's certainly implied that he would have stopped it. And Greg Blatche, who came after Williams, stopped it immediately. SO, the idea that everybody in the NFL is the same __and dirty__ is completely wrong. Blatche had a tough-guy reputation as a coach. There is an enormous difference between "tough player" and "dirty player." And anybody who has ever played knows it.

But, I'll grant, that the NFL has always had an enormous investment and interest in their game being perceived as right-on-the-edge, even since "The Violent World of Sam Huff" was on...was it a TV special or a mag cover or eventually both? Nobody was better at the vicious "clothesline" tackle than Chris Hanburger. But it was also legal then. Dick (Night Train) Lane really corrected nicknamed.

– March 05, 2012 12:12 PM
Q.

Alex O.

AFter game last night Barry Melrose (I think) said that Alex needs to get hockey sense. He plays hard, gives good effort but doesn't have hockey sense (he used Alez Kovalov as another example who didn't get this until after traded? Your thoughts?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Interesting point. Something to look for. But hard to believe a two-time MVP doesn't have "hockey sense."

– March 05, 2012 12:13 PM
Q.

RG 3

Trading for RG 3 is a serious mistake. We can all see the benefits if he's a hit, but if he's a miss the downside is much much greater that signing Manning, Flynn, or going with Rex for another year. Skins can afford to lose $$ on a player and seem to manage the cap reasonably well. Lack of young players and depth has killed them for years, and you've got to trade 4 or 5 good picks for RG 3. It's too much.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Excellently put.

Stop confusing me. Do I have to change my mind again.

One curious point: Will the Redskins draft choices __for tyrade purposes__ be viewed by other teams as somehow slightly suspect if the NFL is still looking into Williams time in Washington? I think the NFL needs to make a decision on how far back they will go to punish past infractions and make that decision fairly quickly. Not "fast" but fairly soon. They owe it to the Bills, Skins and any other teams who come up in this discussion.

– March 05, 2012 12:16 PM
Q.

Tracee OK and Extra Playoff

Hey Boz. I know Tracee is from Kansas and they had some terrible storms. She and her family OK? Also, as a Baseball traditionalist, I hated the 3 divisions. I hated interleague play. I hated the wildcard but understand how it was needed for because of the 3 divisions. NOW they want to degrade the wildcard by adding a 1 day playoff. Degrade the league by adding more interleague! This isn't Football, the NBA or Hockey! It's baseball! Quit trying to fix something that isn't broke! Phew! Thanks for letting me get that off my chest!
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I don't think Kansas was the problem this time. More like Tennessee, Indiana.

Time will tell us very clearly whether 10 teams is a good idea or not, just as the original wild cards __which I hated__ had proved themselves valuable within perhaps five years.

The main point about the new system is that it is SUPPOSED to add value to winning your division. If you have a battle in the N.L. East between a 100-win and a 99-win team, it's going to be enormously important because NOBODY wants to play a one-game playoff against ANYBODY. I don't care how good the 99-win team is and how mediocre the (hypothetical) 85-win team that gets the second wild card: the lesser team has at least a 35-40% chance of winning any ONE game. That's just baseball. Just like the Cards beat the Phils and Halladay in Game Five of the division series last year.

There's one twist I think people have missed. This new system/format adds even more weight to the value of having three top starting pitchers.

Hypothetically, say the Nats got the last wild card this year and (for argument sake) still had Strasburg available to pitch. Assume the division series goes the full five games adn the LCS goes the full seven games. That means you'd play 13 games to get to the World Series. The way the schedule plays out this year there are so many days off that a wild card team could use a normal five-day rotation and have its No. 1 and No. 2 starter each get four starts in those 13 games, its No. 3 starter get three starts and its No. 4 guy go only twice. The  No. 5 would never pitch. So, you're 1-2-3 guys would start 11 of the 13 games __85%__ vs the 60% they start in the regular season. A Big Three has always been great. Now it's better because it increases your chances of having a to[p pitcher in a one-game playoff but still having a strong rotation in subsequent post-season series. If there's a choice, you're going to want to acquire that third big starter like Gonzalez rather than the extra big hitter.

– March 05, 2012 12:27 PM
Q.

SS's Innings Limit

Hi Boz, Is there any merit to the idea that perhaps rather than having Strasburg take the ball every five days until he reaches his 160 innings limit this year, that Davey simply skip over him in the rotation every fifth turn or so? That way, he wouldn't reach 160 innings until late in the year, making him available for some (hopefully) meaningful games in September. Your take on this approach? Is anyone in the Nats' braintrust thinking along these lines at all?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I've heard this many times. Not going to happen. Shouldn't happen. Why? Beacuse Strasburg __or any pitcher__ still has to keep throwing, and throwing HARD, in side session so he's still in game shape when you use him again. The wear and tear isn't just innings, it's all the throwing __including between starts__ for month after month. It defeats the whole purpose of "don't blow him out" to use the method that you (and a zillion others) have suggested.

The only difference this year from Jordan Z last year is that they are going to baby SS even less and simply use him like a normal pitcher ___not try to get him an extra day between some starts or skip a start at the All-Star break. They thought it threw Zim out of sync a bit when they did it. So just keep SS on the 5th day as much as you can.

And I think that is right. 

– March 05, 2012 12:30 PM
Q.

Ramos vs. Flores?

How secure is Ramos as the clearly number-one catcher? Flores had a great winter league and -- in a one-game sample as I write this -- is continuing to hit well. I'm not suggesting Ramos loses the number one jobs, but will the distribution be roughly 75-25 in terms of starts or more like 60-40? Or even 50-50?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Ramos job is as safe as any player's job can ever be and Flores knows it and is comfortable with it. Ramos is a fixture. Watch him take batting practice sometime. Maybne he will never hit 30 homers. But he might.

It's be 75-25. Or 73-27 (seriously, that's 118 starts). Butif Flores hits and deRose hits that gives Davey two bats off the bench. Can any of these bench guys catch in an emergency so Flores could be used to PH in a game-winning situation in the 9th IP or later? I haven't checked.

– March 05, 2012 12:34 PM
Q.

Catchers in the Rye

Who are the best catchers you've ever seen? What qualities make a great catcher and how to do measure/value their effect on a pitcher's performance? Where do recently retired Posada and Varitek stack up on the list of catchers all time?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

No. 1: Jpohnny Bench. Nobody second.

Posada and Varitek were excellent. But not HOF. Cooperstown is for "the greatest," not the excellent.

This is a good subject for a longer future chat post. So, I'll think about it. Thanks. The overall impact of catchers is  so important.

– March 05, 2012 12:36 PM
Q.

Ian Desmond

Boz - Since SS is such an important position defensively, and since the Nats will again likely struggle to average more than 3 or 4 runs a game, I am thinking that Ian Desmond is the fulcrum for the entire 2012 season. If Desmond flames out or has a mediocre year, the Nats will again hover @ .500 and have no shot at contention. If he has a break out year, at the plate and on defense, it's Katie bar the door. I hope I am wrong, but my opinion is that the Nats are asking too much of what is still a young unproven player. If we can't score runs, we must be air tight defensively, and Desmond has yet to show that he's an everyday major league shortstop. What's your take? If you agree, do you see the Nats fixing it by the trade deadline with a Belanger type who can at least PREVENT extra runs from being scored?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

This is a big year for Desmond __his third full-time season. He owns the job. But the Nats already have a steady SS with a huge arm who's as proven as you can be without actually playing SS in the majors __Espinosa. So, long-term, the Nats WILL have an excellent defensive shortstop. Either Desmond, with plus range and an acceptable number of errors or Espinosa.

Nobody wants to put pressure on Desmond. But that's part of the big leaguies. And it's just a fact that Espinosa, who's a good friend of his, can play SS and Lombardozzi and, perhaps, Rendon can play second. It's part of the picture. You have to produce with a lot of eyes on you and there will b e a lot on Desmond. The Nats assume he takes the next step up this year. If he doesn't, it's the most easily fixable problem that the franchise has.

– March 05, 2012 12:40 PM
Q.

Bounty Hunting

This just re-enforces the image of football players as goons. Sean Taylor "made a fortune?" He already HAD a fortune. What's an extra $10,000 on top of several million? On behalf of Kurt Warner et al, I am truly outraged.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

There's a lot of that outrage stuff going around.

 

But, in future, lets leave Taylor out of this __and he keeps getting dragged in already__ because he can't answer for himself. This deep-in-a-chat mention will be my only one.

– March 05, 2012 12:42 PM
Q.

If Catcher is so important

Why switch Bryce Harper, the greatest prospect in human history, away from such an important position?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

As an OFer, he'll have a longer carrer and may have a couple of THOUSAND more at bats than if he were a cacther. Besides, he was a good enough athlete to play anywhere __and tough/willing enough__ but scouts didn't look at him as a catcher and say, "Wow! A Natural catcher." They said, "Wow, tough kid. Playing catcher when he doesn't have to and doing his best. Move him to the outfield."

Harper has some speed. That, plus the big arm, is a nice fit for RF, too.

– March 05, 2012 12:45 PM
Q.

Bounty Hypothetical - Baseball

What if a baseball team was revealed to have been offering bounties to pitchers who plunk star players, or to people who injure middle infielders or catchers on take-out slides or collisions? Would that evoke fond memories of Ty Cobb and a bunch of "part of the game" comments? Or would the punishment be severe?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

If there were direct pay from the pitching coach to a pitcher for hitting an opposing player IN THE HEAD with a fastball __if that were proven__ I think they would both be banned from the game for life. In Cobb's time, I don't know. But in modern times, yes.

There have been "stick it in his ribs" orders.  I suspect that there were a FEW people in baseball in my time, maybe '70's and '80's, who would go further than that. As I've said before, Reggie Jackson once yelled at Dock Ellis, after he threw close to Mark Belanger, "Don't hit him. Go after me." So, next gtime Reggie came up, Dock hit him right between the eyes, shattered his glasses. After the game, Reggie's face was pretty scary looking. Dock got upset with me the next day in the clubhouse for what I wrote about it. That wasn't fun either.

– March 05, 2012 12:50 PM
Q.

Never the twain shall meet?

I played football at aDivision II school and reading the Bowens and Daniels statements makes my blood run cold. It's a game, not a military exercise! Getting a rush from disabling an opponent is just plain wrong. Perhaps I would feel differently if I had anything like NFL potential, but I don't think so.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Well said.

I don't think you would have done it either.

– March 05, 2012 12:52 PM
Q.

C'mon, People!

I listened to the post-game show following the Nats' game and was stunned to discover that some fans are writing them off after just 2 spring training games. THAT IS INSANE! One even said, at least they beat Georgetown! I'm an Orioles fan and would trade my team for yours in aheartbeat. Aaaarrrgh.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Pretty funny.

Welcome to the 21st century, the age of instant and constant communication, so that you can prove how dumb you are that much faster.

(Like my chat?)

– March 05, 2012 12:53 PM
Q.

View from SL

I moved to St Louis from DC, am an avid football fan, and it's been interesting to see how the SL Post Dispatch ishandling the Gregg Williams story. They originally had only one article, saying he admitted wrongdoing in NO but the Rams' position was, "This is not SL issue." Now that similar schemes have beeh uncovered in DC and Buffalo, it's starting to sink in, hey, it might be a SL issue after all. I personally think the Rams should fire him for cause. My brother will always limp from a probably illegal hit in college, and encouraging this sort of thing is just plain wrong.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Interesting. Thanks.

– March 05, 2012 12:54 PM
Q.

spring training record

With the Nationals so far winless in Spring Training, do you think they have time to salvage the regular season? Should we give up now and hope for the 1st overall draft pick next year?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Yup, couple more loses and I'd say it's all over for 'em.

– March 05, 2012 12:54 PM
Q.

10 years?

This has been going on for at least 10 years, with everyone's complicit approval? My wife and I have been arguing a bit over wher to let our young sons play football, and I think she's going to win.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

There are tons of coaches, especially at the HS level, who won't tolerate dirty play. The large majority I'd say after covering local HS football for six years. And those coaches are the MOST respected by their HS peers.

Tell your wife that, with a little digging, you can find out the repuation of the coaches your son may play for. But I think that, once you get to the high school level, you really need to WANT to play. It's not like, "Oh, I'll go out for the basketball team ." It's a different animal.

– March 05, 2012 12:58 PM
Q.

Tweeter

I know it's a lot less cool now that Bryce Harper has closed his account, but when will we see you on Twitter? I always watch the Nats on TV and Twitter at the same time. It's like having a whole community to discuss the game with.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Adam and I thought we were going to get me set up when I was in Viera. Now we vow to do it when I go back down. Sounhds like fun. There would be times during a game whern I might be watching at home and tweet quite a bit. But while covering I'm not sure how it would work. Of course, I run my mouth constantly in the press box, so...

Pretty sure that the Bryce-Riz meeting that I mentioned in a column from Viera was connected to the (wise) decision to run silent for a while. Maybe just a gentle suggestion?

– March 05, 2012 1:02 PM
Q.

Strasburg

Tom, Strasburg has never pitched more than seven innings at any level, ever, including before his surgery. Is this a concern?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

No. He's thrown over 100 pitches as a pro. That's plenty. JZim threw 109 in a game game last year and 100+ a bunch of times. SS will do the same this year. We haven't seen THAT off-the-chain Strasburg yet.

– March 05, 2012 1:04 PM
Q.

Frustrated Caps Fan

With the recent play of the Caps, how does McPhee survive this season? It's obvious the team has lost it's chemistry and ability to score. With McPhee's decision to not get another center, and saying all would be resolved with Backstrom's return is just delutional.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Remember, the Capitals have the most regular season points in the NHL in the previous THREE seasons combined. Not a one-season fluke. Who built that? From zero. Be careful. It's easy to fire good people who've done remarkable things and hard to replace them.

But GMGM has had a bad year. Hey, you need a team effort to have this much talent and have a LOSING RECORD __32-33__ after a 7-0 starty. Yeah, yeah, I know, overtime loses get you a oint. Look at the scoreboard; when you go off the ice, you still won or lost. Hamrlik and Ward contracts. Boudreau doing well. Hard to be impressed with Hunter so far __he certainly didn't "light a fire," "turn it around" or any of the classic GM justifications for "why I fired the previous coach."

– March 05, 2012 1:12 PM
Q.

Apology to Snyder

I guess I own Dan Snyder an apology. I was one of the fans who was upset with Snyder for not hiring Williams. I saw stories about his big ego, but I just attributed them to jealously. Snyder was right not to hire him. He must have saw something because Williams seemed a sure bet for the job. It's one thing for a coach to encourage hard play and reward big plays like interceptions fumbles and tackles for losses, but this crossed the line. I am surprised this didn't come out sooner.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I'm surprised it came out at all __it's hasn't come out for the last...oh...75 years, has it?

The poet Shelley wrote, "From the contagion of the world's slow stain / He is secure."

Not if you come out of retirement, I guess.

– March 05, 2012 1:15 PM
Q.

(very) Early read on the Nats

I watched the game vs the Astros yesterday and came away with the following first impressions: - Strasburg is going to be fun to watch this year. Command was spotty, but pitches had life - Ryan Zimmerman is ready for a good year - swing looked great - Werth doesn't look any different, other than the beard. Needs to be more aggressive at the plate, but not looking good for much improvement over LY - Desmond will not be the Nats SS by the end of the season - 2 E's and still not looking great at the plate. Plenty of options with Rendon and Lomdardozzi. - Morse is looking like he'll continue 2012 in "Beast Mode" - Harper will redefine "Beast Mode" when he is called up (late April?) - Gorzelanny may be on outside looking in if Detweiler/Lannan is not traded Your thoughts?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I think that's why baseball is the best game for a fan __because you're watched ONE exhibition game with almost 200 more Nats games (pre-season and regular) still to go and you already have TEN firm opinions!

And I'm not sure I disagree with any of them!

– March 05, 2012 1:17 PM
Q.

This May Be a Silly Question, But. . .

What is Werth trying to prove with his long hair & beard? That we shouldn't play him in night games when the moon is full? I call him Wolf Man. Why can't more of the Nats have Ryan Zimmerman's clean cut look--clean shaven, short hair? Morse has less facial hair this year, but Espinosa is hiding his good looks behind his.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The man's official nickname in baseball-reference is "Werewolf." That's part of what you get for the low, low price of... And he got a haircut before Sunday's game, probably just for you. His beard was about 4-to-6 inches longer when I was down there.

– March 05, 2012 1:20 PM
Q.

Take away the Saints' Super Bowl title?

If that title is tainted -- from the vicious, meant-to-injure hits on Kurt Warner and, especially, Brett Favre -- is there any chance at all that Goodell could void the Saints' Super Bowl title? THAT would send a message.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The past is in the books (and so is the money). You've got to hit 'em in the future __and hit 'em hard.

Well, that is enough and probably TOO much for one week. Sorry not to get back to Turgeon after mentioning him at the beginning. Fwiw, I'm a fan. Look forward to next week.

– March 05, 2012 1:22 PM
Q.

Tiger, Phil and Rory

Assuming Tiger has gotten his game to a winning form and that Phil and Rory continue to play like they have been, it should make for a great week at Augusta. Who ya' got ?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Aarrrggh, forgot 'em! Great show yesterday. Glad to see Rory reach No. 1. Great for the game. And very poised with 21-for-25 saves when he missed greens in regulation. He seems to have grown up a lot.

The Tiger 62 was fascinating. Good to see that he can put a great round together. But I didn't doubt that. The 62 actually bothered/worried me a little because it's so typical of the way very good, but not great golfers can free-wheel it when they're far behind. But when they have a tournament, especially a major, in their grasp THAT is when the can't summon their best. Westwood has always had trouble closing majors. Look what he did Sunday (after playing the first three rounds in the same group with Tiger); he shot a 63 to finish in the top five. The cynical thought: "It's a lot easier to shoot low from back in the pack."

McIlroy made every putt inside 10 feet on Sunday __and they MATTERED. I want to see Tiger make 10 foot putts again when it matters. Oh, and the three-footers, too. 

In '00, the PGA Tour stats said that Woods missed ONE putt inside five feet in the entire YEAR. I found it hard to believe them. But they keep those stats. Now, he seldom goes a week without missing 1-2-3-4 short ones.

Glad the 62 is in there. But how long will it take to get the new swing and the not-yet-rebuilt confidence and the scary-bad putting all fixed __and will it be in time for the Masters? Or any '12 major? It's a big job.

– March 05, 2012 1:32 PM
Q.

Hits, not tackles

We were baffled by Redskins defenders hitting the ballcarrier in the open field, and the guy not going down but getting a bunch more yards. What happened to just tackling the guy? Unfortunately makes somewhat more sense now. If that was connected, it's an additional level of stupid in addition to the wrong of paying for hits causing injuries.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Good final point. Thanks.

– March 05, 2012 1:42 PM
Q.

 

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