The Masters, Washington Nationals and more: Ask Boswell

Apr 10, 2012

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

Tom, Great Masters final. Think we had two firsts with a champion. Someone named Bubba and someone who never had golf lessons growing up. And wow on the double eagle!

All of us self-taught golfers have a hero in Bubba.He's so long, imaginative and likeable that I've been rooting for him to break out with a major win. Wondered if he could keep his focus. He looked absolutely fierce the last nine. Couldn't have been more locked in.

I think I'm some kind of jinx. I've never seen a noi-hitter live and I was one hole away from Oost's Albatross and I frequently follow the next-to-last group on Sunday but, this time, decided the early action with Phil-Hanson might be important. Wrong!

Is Tiger's poor performance totally mental?

No. His injured left knee and ankle prevent him from using the "snap-to-the-finish" swing he used during the Tiger Slam. That was his best swing. Just gorgeous. Compact, like the proverbial coiled spring. Don't think he'll ever find another swing as good.

He has to be shaken by this awful showing. He thought he was "back" __both hitting the ball and putting. He was lost out there, didn't know where any club was going on some days and then putted poorly the day he hit it well. As I wrote, the pressure in majors makes people revert, subconsciously, to their previous motor-pathways.

Tiger has a much longer way to go than he thought.

And his bad behavior was absolutely inexcusible. He's 36. He acted like he was 22. (Or 12.) Of course I'll probably have to change my mind seven times in future, but, today, I don't think he'll catch Nicklaus' 18 majors. And I doubt he gets to 17. It's good for golf that he won at Bay Hill. But I think we're going to have to pay less attention to him in future majors until he proves that he still deserves all the focus he gets. But I think he'll win another major or two. But he has a lot of work ahead. 

All hail Bubba! This is a win is a victory for insinct, touch, and creativity over too much coaching (see Tiger), too much overthinking (see Tiger), and too much supidity (see Phil). Bubba stands with Seve as the great uncoached shotmakers to win at Augusta.

Great point about Seve and Bubba!

It's easy tol second-guess but when I saw Phil taking a RHed stance in the "jungle" at No. 4 I just thought, "He won't really swing." Even if he goes back to the tee he probably makes a double-bogey 5 and is a shot closer. The real measure of how bad the decision was is that he needed to get up and down from the trap to make 6. It could have been 7, easily.

Bos, I hope the late start to the chat is a result of you winning the annual Masters media lottery and being able to play the course this morning. If so, congrats. Quick question, what impact did you think Looie's 2 on 2 had on discombobulating the mindset of the last few groups? It seemed to set everyone a little off kilter, especially occurring so early in the round. I can imagine Phil on the second tee thinking "he did what?!?!?!" I can also imagine Looie thinking "Holy cow, did that just happen?!?!" I thought it affected the play of both guys for a lot of the front nine--did anyone ask Phil of Looie about it?

Wish I had been playing Augusta National! Would have been a lot more fun. No, just a travel mixup. I'm going nto blame SW airlines. I sure don't think I booked a nonrefundable flight that forced me to get up at 6 a.m., drive 2 1/2 hours to Atlanta and miss a chat I enjoy.

I played long ago, shot 92 with two 9's (12 and 15), a tap-in birdie at 16, reached 13 in two and three-putted (of course) and got 100+ yards of roll on a 320-yard drive at 10 which, if you hit the slope at the right angle is like hitting it down a mountain side. It's an amazing course in the sense that, when you hit a good shot, you get ridiculous rewards. My birdie at 16 was just a normal decent shot 30' from the hole that funneled down to a tap-in. But if you read/hit a putt wrong, you can four-putt in a heart beat. I was the first to putt in my group the day I played. The other three reports said, "This is gonna be real fast downhill, Boz." "Yeah, yeah, I know," said, just touched a 50-footer and it ended up 10 yds back down the fairway!

The greens were and are lightning. But, otherwise, a great course for a hacker (from ~6700, not 7450). U.S. Open on the day after is much harder because the rough is insane. Played at Pebble in '10 the day after McDowell won, shot a play-it-down 98 from the next-to-back tees and it would have been >10 shots lower at any normal course. Strange, I also played the day after Watson's chip-in in '80 and had 102. Funny how you forget a thousand other rounds but you remember those half-dozen times you got to play on majors courses the day after the event.

Did you get picked to play the National today?

I haven't put my name in the lottery in ~20 years. I got my chance. Let somebody else play. Also, I'm a big fan of the golf tournament but not of the club itself so I'm not actually anxious to play the course again. (I'm sure that makes them lose sleep at night.)

Do you see Bubba Watson as a "one and done" in the majors or is this the first of many?

It's the first of a few. I'll guess "3."

He's 33 and has now won four Tour events (including the Masters. That's not a lot for 7 yrs on Tour. Was 16th on $ list last year. The Masters probably suits him best __wide open, lets him use his recovery skills. His wild driving, at times, will cost him at U.S. Opens. But he sure is fun.

I'm trying to understand why there is so much hype around the Masters. It's a nice golf tournament, sure, but the world is full of nice golf tournaments. There doesn't seem to be much to elevate it above other "majors," aside from the press endlessly hyping the Masters and every single little detail about it. What am I missing?

The Masters great strength is that it has the best TOURNAMENT course in the world. Bobby Jones designed it to maximize dicey risk-reward shots, especially on the back nine on Sunday. So it really is the best event at producimng drama and not of a fake kind.

In my book it's the third-best major after the two Opens. It's a weak field relative to the others and it rewards/puinishes specific types of players. It's mix of pomposity and hype is unique in sports. But they always have TV lined up for the chance to worship at their feet. Their self-infatuation is something to behold. I think they now demand that TV refer to their bleachers are "patron support edificies." Or something ridiculous. 

Did the news make it down to Augusta that Werth still can't hit? ;) Walks aren't going to do it for us...

Looks like he may already be starting to press. Last night he killed a rally with GIDP on a slider that was ankle-high __on a 1-1 pitch. Sure, everybody chases at times. But when you do it on 1-1, it just means you are wound up too tight, trying too hard. He's a smart player, a "hard" player, probably thinks a little too much for his own good, but it didn't hurt him in Philly, did it? And that's a super-tough place to play. His teammates REALLY like him. Looked like he had it sorted out in Fla.

I'll put him down for 27-85-.275 and .825 OPS. A good year. Not great. Just hope Nats fans, with so much good going on, won't try to drive him into the earth the way Cubs fans did to Soriano and many other examples.

The Joe Cool thing is totally a cover, like Adam Dunn acting like he was a carefree guy when he was one of the biggest worriers you'll ever meet. Werth is third-generation MLB and is absolutely the opposite of "cool" about his performance. It eats him up when he does badly. All the hair is, imo, a mask, shield. I'd love to see him get hot, even for a week, early in the season to see what he'd do without a bad-stat-wall to climb.

We know it is early in the year when the Orioles have a 3 game lead over both the Yankees and Red Sox. The Orioles pitchers looked good but are the Twins the worst hitting team in the MLB?

Twins are bad. But that was known. What's amazing is how awful the Phillies lineup looks without Howard, Utely and everybody else getting older. Rollins hitting No. 3!? Pence was a great add, but as a cleanup man he's just average. One of the shocks of the season could be how far behind the Phils fall before they get healthy. Or semi-healthy.

It's got to count as a pretty huge shift in attitude and expectations that starting the season by *only* winning the series (rather than a sweep) is a mild disappointment. Of course the bats were silent for 14 innings in Games 1 and 2, and they were lucky to pull those out, but by Sunday it kind of felt like they *ought* to win that one, didn't it?

The two comebacks to start the season reflected the team's own optimism about itself. But the loss last night, with fundamental errors __failure to advance runners, the awful E1 in the ninth__ should be a red flag that "good" but "with a lot to learn" is where they still are.

If Storen misses 3 mos __nobody knows yet__ with surgery for elbow chips, that makes a potentially amazing bullpen merely quite good. Because "closer" is still the most important piece of that puzzle. Davey likes players to stay in their comfort zones, so Cl;ip probably remains the closer with H Rodriguez and Lidge as a closer by committee. Lidge can't be worked too hard w his long history of arm problems and Hot Rod will have nights like last night.

 

If the Skins (and Dallas) win in arbitration, do the other teams' caps decrease by the amount that was increased due to the current reductions to Washington and Dallas? When is the ruling supposed to come; should the NFL decision be reversed, it seems it will be too late to provide much benefit this year, right?

I doubt it will be reversed. The damage is done for this year. Will it cost the Skins London Fletcher? Sure hope not.

How long till the Red Sox fire Bobby Valentine? After this year or during next year? Surely no other MLB manager is as unsuited as he is to manage fellow human beings. He might manage a herd of cows OK, as long as he was on a horse and had a gun…

He's great to talk to about baseball as a reporter. So I like him because that's how we've interacted. He's fun to liksten to as a broadcaster. But when it was suggested that he be considered to manage the Nats (after Acta), I practically screamed, "NOOOOO!" Very smart, but thin skinned. If he and Boston are a good mix I'll be surprised.  And he stepped into a tough confused situation and now has lost his closer.

Has anybody noticed that the Red Sox and Yanks will NOT be as financially dominant in the next decade as they were in the last 10 years? They got the huge local TV money first with NESN and YES. But now LOTS of teams are going to close a lot of that $$ gap. Those RSN deals are a big p;art of why the Angels and Rangers could go so high for Pujols, Darvish, etc. The Dodgers will soon be huge players. And a half-dozen other teams, including the Nats, will soon be inposition to make a Big Play for the right free agent. Not every time, like the richest teams. But the next Teixeira may not end up in NYC or Boston.

That's part of why you've seen so many signings recently __Kinsler, Votto, Ryan Zimmerman. Owners know that a HUGE FA spend is coming, probably next winter, so they are locking up stars now while they still have some leverage ("we'll give you $100M TODAY; hey, you could get hurt this season before you ever get to free agency.)

The Phils better get cooking on Hamels.

Assuming all goes as planned and the Nats are still firmly in contention at the trade deadline, why not trade LaRoche, move Morse to first, and try to acquire a CF or better-fielding corner outfielder? Unless LaRoche is hitting absurdly well, isn't Morse an upgrade at first despite the drop off in fielding?

LaRoche's hitting is just about the single biggest thing the Nats could have go right. They desperately need a LH mid-order bat. Yes, LaRoche is very tradeable, if he's at his normal 25 HR-90 RBI pace and great glove. Also, he says he's never been in such good shape before. It almost seemed like he wan ted to say, "I was a natural. I got hurt. So I worked really hard and, wow, I wish I'd done it sooner." He did NOT say that. But nit was the undertone of a long conversation w reporters in Fla. So, Nats have a $12M option for him in '13. If you think he's turning into Tino Martinez and has several good years left, you can keep him.

The more he succeeds, the more options __all good__ you have. And Ryan Z's throwing is still an issue __one that LaRoche really helps ameliorate. 

Bos, it seems to me that the Nats had some solid swings off demster but I feel like they didn't hit many line drives during that series at all - everything was either in the air, and then at the mercy of the jet stream, or a ground ball at somebody. Combine that with their 25 strikeouts in the three games makes me think they should be counting their lucky stars to be 2-1. Their lucky stars and Kerry Wood/Marmol, of course.

As a working assumption, I think the Nats are 8-9-10 in the N.L. in runs scored this year, if Morse is healthy. This whole thing is a five-year window. You can/will improve the hitting when Harper arrives. You can add a FA this winter. You can buy or develop more offense. BUT the key Nats pitchers are in place now. So they are the important pieces to watch. Strasburg and Z'mann looked excellent. I'll be interested to see Gio's next start. He keeps saying he's throwing well, no problem. But the results aren't there yet. But he has 400 IPs of exceptional work, so he'll come around. What you saw from Jackson last night was familiar __very good stuff, gave up a =7 to the pitcher who scored on a a two-out RBI hit. Allowed a walk before a HR. But he also looked like his normal power-arm self. Not bad after awful Fla stats.

Detwiler at 1 p.m. should be intyeresting. The Nats pitching experts are very, very high on everything they've seem out of him the last two years. They think you may be seeing the fourth long-term member of a staff that will be together for years. If so, that's a team changer. They have Detwiler under control for five years.  He hasn't done it yet, but he has outstanmding stuff. Strasburg, Gio, Z'mann and Detwiler __all under control through '15__ could be quite a staff. You can buy hitting. But when you develop your own pitching and it's high quality, you WILL win.

Wang looked so good his last time out __when he got hurt__ that it will be interesting to see what happens when he gets back. But Detwiler __now__ is definitely a long-term rotation piece, starting in '13 (latest) in the minds of the Nats. His last nine starts last year __if that's the real Detwiler or close__ is special: 3.00 ERA.

I am a lifelong Washingtonian following the Nats/Senators since the thirties. I am now living in Vermont, part of the Red Sox Nation. I want to feel confident in the Nats this season but the past will not let me. I see the grit in the Sox Ellsbury, Pedroia, Youklis, Ortiz and see no such grit in the Nats other than maybe Espinosa. The Sox pitching is awful. I suggest to them that they trade Ellsbury to the Nats for one of our pitchers. Wouldn't Ellsbury look great in the Nats center field? Incidentally, I see all the Nats games on Slingbox. What a great invention..

My hero! Saw Senators in '30's, watches Nats now on Slingbox!

Rizzo always looking for grit. Espinosa, Werth, probably Harper and bench players like DeRosa have it. Heart-and-soul players like Pedroia and Youklis are essential or mentally tough like Ortiz.  Red Sox will never trade Ellsbury. And Nats won't break up the rotation they have __and shouldn't.

Interesting that Harper is now playing both CF and RF in AAA. If they thought he was the next Mantle, Mays, then they'd have in CF every day. You couldn't get them to waste one day putting him in RF or LF if you had a machine gun.  So I doubt it's a perfect fit for him. 

The unraveling of the Miami Marlins perhaps has begun more quickly than we Nats fans could have hoped. With all the volatile personalities in the clubhouse, any of half a dozen people could have started trouble, but Ozzie Guillen had to be a safe bet to do it first. Is saying "I love Fidel Castro" remotely forgivable in South Florida? I know Guillen is backtracking, and will grovel at a press conference, but still. Do you think this could weaken Guillen and help lead to other misbehavior which sinks the Fish? +1/2St.

Sorry I can't listen to Ozzie's press conference as I chat. I''m LOOKING at him.

Background: I went to Cuba in '78 to do a series of stories, mostly baseball. Cubammns worship/understand the game and brought that to Miami. Also, one of our best friends fled Cuba when he was 12 with his parents. I've listened to him on Castro for 25+ years. So, when I saw what Guillen said, I could not believe it. The single most destructive thing you could say as Miami manager __destructive to the feelings of so many people who hate Castro (with cause), destructive to a franchise that is trying to reboot and destructive (not that I care) to Guillen who has been running his mouth and hurting people's feelings for years.

I don't care how "sincerely" he sells himself, it's the combo of "I love Castro" AND "respect" for him staying in power for 50 yrs that I doubt he will ever get past.

If you've heard Ozzie run off at the mouth 100 times you can, sort of, see how he drove himself off the cliff __oh, yeah, I meant FC is such a tough guy, they can't kill him, blah, blah.

The Marlins are overrated to start with __.500 at best. This hurts them. But Ozzie good at talking himself out of hot spots. I'll be interested to see how he "handled" this. It's goit a chance to be the biggest foot-in-mouth mess in baseball in many years. Some things you can't believe iuntil they happen: "I love Castro" from a Miam i Marl.ins manager!! Ozzie is NOT dumb. More like the opposite. That makes it worse, not better.    

Not a long sample size for this year but Werth looks to be swinging (and whiffing) on same balls as last year. Any way to change this guy? Or just give him another 75 at bats before something is done?

He looks better. The walks show he's less overanxious. He's also decided to attack the 0-0 pitch more than in past. The two go together __attack first good strike (sometimes) and patience over full at bat.

No, they will not give him 75 more at bats before they "do something." They will give him 500 x 5 = 2,500 more at bats before they do anything. So, lets not fixate on one player. Werth's WAR was over 2.0 last year __at his worst. That never sank a team. !) Worst: he bats 6th, plays good RF and plays hard. 2) Best: He plays close to his past ability. I'll go with B.

Was talking with my 84 year-old dad last night. He was mentioning the great fighters of his youth. I mentioned the Hagler, Hearns, Duran, Leonard era. We both decided boxing was dead. Agree?

Agree. Anbd I covered, loved, Leonard, Duran, Hearns. As I mentioned once, my only "souvenir" is a ticket stub fcrom Row 1, Seat 1 to cover Leonard-Hearns. In theory, I could have reached out and grab Ray's ankle between rounds. 

So now that Detweiler is up and assuming everything goes well, where does that leave Wang in 3 weeks when he is ready? Does Detweiler go back down to AAA until Strasberg is shut down or as injury insurance?

Davey likes Detwiler as his "sixth starter" in the same mold that the Orioles brought along their next generation of starters for decades __get success for 1-2 yrs in long relief and spot starts, then more into rotation. McGregor, D. Martinez, Storm Davis, Flanagan, Sammy Stewart (who stayed in pen), etc.

It's a normal progression. Story from Fla: Davey goes to Rizzo and says, "Wang is all the way back. People won't believe how good he's going to be again. It'll take another couple of weeks for it to show up." Then he gives a bunch of obscure reasons, like the way he throws his long-toss. Right on sked, Wang looks amazing against NYY for two innings, just like Johnson predicted. Rizzo sits right next to the dugout. Johnson comes over, grinning. Rizzo yells at him, "You're not THAT (bleeping) good!"  

Next inning, Wang gets hurt covering first. To be continued.

Do you think someone like Ken Rosenthal has any business weighing in on whether Ozzie Guillen deserves to be supsended for, at worse, poltiical incorrectness and questionable judgment? If the answer is that Rosenthal is entitled to his opinion, why isn't Ozzie Guillen? If the Miami Cuban community makes life too intolerable for the Marlins and they fire him (or suspend him), that's their business, but it seems scary to me that journalists like Rosenthal are championing political correctness articles and totally ignoring Ozzie's right to think outside the American and Miami mainstream.

This is NOT a political correctness issue. PC has become, in many cases, a catch all phrase to defend the indefensible. 

What do you think of Lee Westwood's prospects for grabbing a major in 2012 (or ever)? While he missed a gimme putt earlier in the week--no more than a foot--he had a relatively quiet T-3 finish only 2 shots out of the playoff. I think his game sets up better for a U.S. Open anyway (good tee-to-green, less strong in short game) and am impressed that he usually does well at the Masters.

I'm a Westwood fan and sat next to a bunch of Brit writers who really favor him. I don't think he'll ever win a major. Poor putting. And now it's in his head that he's squandered too many chances. But I HOPE he does.  

Hi Tom, What was your opinion of the old Pirate pitcher Dock Ellis? He was always one of my favorites. He was a true bulldog and took NO crap from anyone. Remember that time he hit 5 Reds in a row and a huge fight started? That was great.

He threatened me in the lockerroom once.  "A guy could really get hurt writing what you wrote today about me "headhunting." I kinda liked that about him. (I told him to look up the editor who wrote the "headhunting" headline. But it was a tough column and you have to show up the next day.)

On a scale from 1 to 10, if you were to ask people who know me how mucha sports fan I am, they would probably rate me an "8" or maybe a "9". As a golf fan, maybe I'm a "6". But I must say, that with the tournament ending on Easter and Tiger our of contention after Friday, I didn't see any of the Masters on Sunday. I can see I missed a great day of golf, but would the Masters ever consider NOT falling on Easter weekend?

Please, no serious __no one in Augusta thinks any day is as important as Masters Sunday.

How far do the Caps need to go for Dale Hunter to return? One or two series victories? Does he leave regardless because he's got a better situation going with the London Knights? Does the front office even want him back, he hasn't seemed to manage the pro players very well?

My guess __guess__ is that the Caps play decently against Boston, don't advance and Hunter goes back to his previous happy, successful and sane life in London. Maybe I'm projecting. That's certainly what I'd do! 

Tom, who has the most to prove this year? Ovie always plays well but needs to show he can lead the team to seriously challenge for the Cup. Semin, Green, Backstrom have all disappointed badly in the past. And what about the vets like Hamrlik and Ward who signed for big money specifically for the second season and need to justify those contracts? Who's on the hottest seat?

Caps management still think the Big Four are the key to the team. I think Semin leaves un;ess he's exceptional in the playoffs. I doubt Green is the right style of defenseman to play in the current system. But I'm probably in the minorityu on that. Ovi and Nick are still the core and future of the team.

Bobby Jones once said "Some emotions are too powerful to be experienced with a golf club in one's hands." I think Tiger Woods would agree. Do you think the PGA should change it's policy and make the penalties for behavior like his public? This is why many fans might admire Tiger's talent and the way he used to dominate the game, but never really liked him as a fan. If you look back at some of the greats, part of what made them great and fan favorites was that they played the game with class whether they were playing well or not. That doesn't mean that they never lost their temper, but unlikeTiger, it was an exception, not the norm. That was one of the most enteraining Master's I've ever seen. I don't really miss Tiger dominating the field - I'll take an exciting finish by Bubba and Louis with Phil making a threat to win any day over watching Tiger throw and kick a club.

Thanks, GREAT Jones quote! Never heard it.

Tiger and class were once synonymous. Will they someday become antipodes?

(Kinda liked that one.) 

You mentioned how the albatross shook Phil pretty badly, contributing to the triple bogey train wreck. Is this based on your observations, or did Phil admit it himself?

Just me. Golfers seldom admit anythoing. And shouldn't. Don't let 'em know they can get to you. Tom Watson might have fessed up if he thought a foe had rattled him with a great shot.

How long is Lannan going to be exiled in Syracuse.

Not forever, I hope.

Think he'll be called up because of Nat injuries this year, or in Sept. Or, worst case, will be non-tendered and signed by another team next year. But he needs to keep his head in the game, get over a tough break and pitch well enough in AAA than a team can justify signing him next winter.

That's it for this week. Guess I'll watch a few hours of Ozzie talking. See you next MONDAY at 11. (Oh, and on Twitter at ThomasBoswellWP)

In This Chat
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."
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