Ask Boswell

Jul 18, 2011

Washington Post Sports Columnist Tom Boswell answered your questions about baseball, local D.C. sports and more.

Past Ask Boswell chats

Tom: Just a quick comment on WWC punditry this morning. I keep hearing this drivel on the "worldwide leader" and other sources about how "Japan was playing for an entire nation" and somehow wanted it more. Bullcrap. You don't think that Abby Wambach wanted that win just as much as every Japanese player? To me it's a poor excuse by pundits and commentators to excuse the inexcusable - a total collapse of American strategy to sit on a lead at the end of extra time and ultimately choke away the game. I was listening to the ESPN Radio feed and the British announcers who were calling the game (English Premier League announcers) were aghast at the American lack of strategy, recklessness, and lack of coaching in the final ten minutes of extra time. Let's hand it to the Japanese but let's not excuse the fact that the Americans gift wrapped it for them. And let's not pretend like the Japanese players on that field somehow wanted it more than the American players.

As I was watching, I didn't think the U.S. "choked." But the comments by the British announcers, assuming you've heard them correctly, is interesting. When a team fol;ds under pressure, that's something you can usually sense over a whole game. And I had no sense of that.

Japan was as inspired as any team you'll ever see, right back to the hockey Miracle on Ice in '80 in the Lake Placid Olympics. I didn't hear ESPN make that comparison __in terms of the magnitude of the upset__ until about 30 minutes after the game. But 0-22-3 for Japan against the U.S. makes it seem apt. Not talking about "good-bad" or governmental systems, just one team incredibly in spired and the other a little unlucky (hitting posts) and a little tight (certainly in the PKs).

Actually, I'd say both the U.S. goals were in "clutch" situations, especially Wambach's header that looked like it would be a WWC winner. After you lose a 1-0 lead late in an event as ultra-low-scoring as a WWC final, there's a sense that you may have lost your best chance, even if you are the more talented team, and that you may go down on penalty kicks. So, taking the lead back was very clutch and I doubt that many, outside Japan , thought it wouldn't seal the deal.   

However, I did wonder about the quality of the coaching with a lead. I haven't covered soccer regularly since I was on the beat when Johan Cruyff (briefly) and Gordan Bradley were in town. But, when I rewatched the last hour __from the goal in the 69th minute until the end__ which was one of the best hour's of sport's action and drama that you'll ever see__ my one second guess. But that's vague. I want to see what Steve said in his chat. Whatever he said, that's what I think, too!

Thought announcer Ian Drake was excellent. He said the U.S. looked "a little bit panicy" late in the game with a lead but called that "nit picking" and concluded with "Japan woin rather more than just a soccer match here." Another victory for understatement. He also called the Wambach header an instant before it happened. And on the first goal by Japan said "there's still danger here!" an instant before the score.

BTW, the Nike commercial about the U.S. team was too painful to call "ironic." The one that played a couple of times AFTER the game: "Pressure Makes Us."

Oh.

The 50 most philosophically bankrupt commercials in recvent decades  (plus a few good ones) must all belong to Nike. There's just something very "off" in the Nike culture that works its way into their commercials and it's hard, sometimes, to put your finger on it. But the bad ones just make my skin crawl. When they made that "pressure" commercial, the Nike arrogance was front and center. Didn't anybody think, "What if they lose? This is going to make them look terrible. It's going make them feel worse. It's going to make ti llok like a choke even if it wasn't." But why would they think of things like that? They're thinking about Nike.

This is probably too harsh. But it makes chats fun.    

Mr. Boswell: In the normal ebb and flow pendulum of advantage-disadvantage, pitching seems at an advantage now that steroids are gone (right?). Pitchers no longer have to throw their arms out to overcome the unfair advantage that drugs gave batters. It takes time for these things to work out so power pitching is still what teams look for, yet this will be needed less and less in the coming years. Do you think we'll see more complete games and fewer pitcher injuries as they learn to relax into their craft in the future?

I think the complete game is extinct. But your general point is right on the money. Yes, it's all about pitching and defense in baseball at the moment. I was writing about that last week when the mistrial hit and switched to Clemens. I'm sure I'll get to it this week. Runs are now down six years in a row from 9.72 a game to 8.40 this year. From the top of "acceptable" to the bottom and still dropping.
 
Nats have had 21 games that were 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1! Their games average only 7.85 runs at the AS break. But they aren't even in the six teams with the lowest scoring games. (Phils, Braves, Giants all are. Pity the poors Pads and M's fans <7.0 runs a game.)
 
It's not healthy for baseball if it goes much further. But OK, I guess, for now. The Nats/Rizzo were 2 yrs ahead of the curve and saw it coming. In less-PED era, they went for more athletic players who can hit for some power, also steal some bases and have range on defense__the low-run-scoring-era formula like the '72-'74 A's.
 
At AS game, they're on pace for 146 HR (should end up >150) and 137 SB. Eventually, they hope Espinosa, Werth, Bernadina (?), Harper, Desmond all have >12 HR and >12 SB every year, though some may get to >25 HR or >25 SB. Even Ankiel has 8 SB. But they sure thought they'd hit more than .235! Werth (.215), Desmond (.223), LaRoche (.172), etc., sank that.
 
They've tried to put together a high-K power bullpen (Storen, Clippard, Rodriguez, Kimball before injury). Same in rotation w Stras, JZim and Peacock pretty soon. That's a work in progress. And they traded for Ramos and signed Pudge because Rizzo thinks stopping the running game is more important in a lower scoring era.. Nats are No. 1 at that. 
 
Phils and Braves get it, too. Tough division. Expand to 10 in post-season, probably in '13, may help Nats.

Hi, Tom: Do you think the Nats need to bench Jayson Werth for a couple of games? i can't count the times he has come up to bat with runners on and made an out! It's driving me crazy! Thanks, Nats Fan

I don't think there has ever been a $100-million free agent hitter who has been benched (for more than a game or two) just because of a slump. They've been saying for 100 years that really good players have to "play their way out of a slump." So, if you actually bench somebody (who isn't hurt) you're saying, 'Well, he's not really very good."

Putting Werth at No. 5 was a good idea. And No. 6 is fine, too, until he starts to hit. (Ha!) For every spot that yolu drop a player in the order, they will get about 18 less plate appearances a season. (162/9 = 18). I checked this intuitive "theory" the other day at baseballreference.com and it actually holds. So, putting Werth (or anybody) at No. 1 or No. 2 when they are in an awful slump is a bad idea if they've proved in the past that they function just as well or better at 5-6. 

Werth plays. This year. Next year. The year after that. And that's especially clear since he isn't keeping any wonderful OF on the bench.

Tom, what's your take -- and the Nats' talent appraisers -- latest take on "The Shark?" He shows flashes of brilliance on the field and magnificent athleticism. He had a great game Sunday vs. Braves showing improved hitting and he's definitely a disruprive force on the basepaths. You critiqued his defense recently as subpar despite several spectacular plays -- maybe we shouldn't expect him to hold the CF job long-term. What does he have to do to hold a starting job, whether in LF or CF, defensively and offensively? He's 27; shouldn't he be near or at his prime now? How much more unfulfilled "upside" does he have? I see him as having a similar skill set to Carl Crawford, and I'd love to see him develop to that level, but he's 27 years old; Crawford's only 29 and was a star in his early 20s. Who's a comparable player who represents perhaps a more reasonable comp or "end state" of who he could become?

All the good things you say about Bernadina are true. But he does not read the ball well off the bat __either on defense or when he runs the bases. He's about as poor at both as any 27-year-old player, especially a speedster who can maximize good jumps and reads, as you will see. 

He's trying. But he must break wrong __in the field or on the bases__ almost once a game. His OPS both last year and now is .695. That only wins a MLB job if you are a superior CF. Johnson is right to let him play and "find out." Maybe PT will relax him. But 27 is late for change. But then I doubted that Desmond could cut his errors significantly and he has.  

At the end of an unpredicable sports weekend was there anything stranger than two American League teams going 15+ innings without a run?

As I pointed out, it's a sign of the times. 

But what a weird game. Hot glass from a smashed light in the Trop ceiling falling on the field. A hitter accidentally throws his bat down in anger when he pops up to the catcher __and the bat almost hits the catcher as he's waiting for the bat to come down! (So, the offending hitter gets knocked down his next time up!) 

Always someething new. In the Nats 9-8 loss yesterday the Nats lost a run when:

*Burnett (after getting a line drive hit!) didn't see a -7 by Bernadina fall in and was forced at second F6-4. So, Espinosa's homer on the next pitch is worth two runs, not three.

*Gorzelanny sacrificed perfectly but Desmond's view was blocked by the 1st baseman, so he didn't break toward second. Instead of a sacrifice and Desmond at 2nd, it was a F3-6 and Gorz running the bases. Result, Gorz gets hurt at the plate trying to score on a triple by Bernadina. That injury changed the whole game.

Also, when Johnson said something to Desmond, Ian was still looking dagger eyes at Davy a minute later. Johnson is "playing nice" now, but if the Nats think they know more than he does, they're wrong.

*Lost a run when Gorz was rattled by a "ball four" call when he went the mouth while on the mound and didn't "wipe." His next pitch was run-scoring WP.

*And Desmond cost a run when he overslide 3rd after advancing alertly on a short wild pitch.

Wild game. But that's almost the only kind the Nats play these days. Wild or 2-1 bad for the nerves.

 

 

Can we just move along please? There's no winners in this litigation phase. Many, many were cheating. Do we get anywhere by exposing the users and liars at this point?

After writing/talking about this for 23 years, ohhhh, you could say that I'm about ready to move along to the next topic.

But look how long the baseball labor wars just refused to go away as a prime topic __also about 20 years. As soon as Flood and Messersmith, etc., began free agency in '76, the anger between the sides and the 8-for-8 on work stoppages, was an ugly undercurrent for the game until after the Strike ended in '95.

How does baseball survive, and flourish, with these 20+-year black clouds that hang over the game? Could we like, you know, just have a 10-15 year period were they just play baseball and don't torment us with this other stuff. It's important, but fans and everybody else certainly get sick of it.

Seems like the league has great timing again, wrapping up it's labor mess just in time for pre-season. Even their disasters look better than the other guys.

I'm delighted.

I think ther NFL should have a lockout EXACTLY like this every single year. It was wonderful. There is no sports talk that is dumber __and driven by less interesting commentators__ than off-season NFL "news." It's like this non-stoppage stoppage __settled "just in time"__ spared us from football in spring and half of summer.

Congratulations to the NFL __both for settling their problem and for letting it drag on so long in the first place. The respite was appreciated. Now, I'm actually "READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL." (Okay, well, pretty soon.)

So, why wouldn't Davey line up his pitchers after the break from first to worst? Obviously, with Gorzelanny in the 3rd spot, that didn't happen (he's #5, or even 6 in my book).

The Braves are overloaded with lefthanded hitters, so you use both Lannan (who won) and Gorzelanny against them. With Chipper (switch-hitter) out of  the lineup, they are even more over-the-top LHed.

BTW, the reason that Lannan has improved __and it is both dramatic and perhaps significant for his whole career__ is that he has gone from being one of the worst LH pitchers against LH hitters to being one of the BEST LHers vs LH hitters!

His OPS Against has always been about .750 vs RH hitters, but over .800 __which is unbelievably awful__ vs LH. This year, he's .595 vs LH hitters! Even better than you'd expect and the biggest improvement I think I've ever seen. Very important for him because you need EFFECTIVE LH starters against both Philly and Atlanta. 

The reason? He's gotten bigger with the years and as he's grown into his body he's gone from a 86-88 sinker to a 91-92 hard sinker. And his curveball has gotten much better. Suddenly, vs LHers, he's gone from a nibbler without quite enough stuff to a power-pitcher (at least vs LHers) who comes in with his fastball both at the belt and up-and-in and also has a sweeping breaking ball.

Are there any strategies that managers could be experimenting with, but are afraid to try because it's not in "the book"? I was watching the Nats get an IBB from a lefty pitcher to a righty batter with a runner on 3rd, and it seemed like you might have a shot at stealing home. The pitcher's not looking, the runner isn't being held, and the catcher has to step away from the plate to catch the ball (which isn't necessarily being placed well) -- you would be stealing on the pitcher and hoping the catcher couldn't react and reverse his momentum. I know it wouldn't work all the time, but maybe you'd be willing to risk it versus having your pitcher try to hit him home (they're issuing the IBB for a reason). If anyone could try it, I'd think Davey would; two suicide squeezes in one AB was pretty fun the other day... <br> More generally, are there things that managers could be doing but aren't popular? Is there much room for managers to "think outside the book", or is it in The Book for a reason?

Davey thinks outside the box as any manager of this era. And it's one reason his career record is so amazing. Wait until you see these numbers! I doubt that any team has ever upgraded at manager in mid-season as much as the Nats have. Will it show up in W-L record? We'll see. But here are the raw numbers based on the long careers of Johnson and Riggleman.

Top Career W-L Pct since 1900 (minimum 1,500 games)

1) Joe McCarthy (HOF): .615

2) Billy Southworth (HOF): .597

3) Frank Chance (HOF): .593

4) John McGraw (HOF): .586

5) Al Lopez (HOF): .584

6) Earl Weaver (HOF): .583

7) Fred Clarke (HOF, some 19th century):  .576

8) Davey Johnson: .563 in 2.054 games.

That means of all managers with 1300 games (minimum), Johnson has the third-best W-L record since World War II after Al Lopez and Earl Weaver. Also, the Mets were 68-94 before he came, then 90-782 immediately. Reds were 73-89 when he took over in moid-season, then .579 his first full season. O's went from 71-73 in '95 to 88-74, then 98-6r4 under him. His last year in LA was 86-76 but generally disappointing.

By the same measure, the worst W-L record of ANY manger with >1,300 games since 1900 is Riggleman at .445.

As I've said, I think Rigglman is better than that. And players make the team, not managers. But, when the gap is this wide, I think it's safe to say that any of the Nats who think they should question very much of what Johnson does are only proving that tghey aren't sufficiently aware of who they've got for a manager.

Baseball will always confound you. But Nats fans should add "Davey can still manage as well as ever" on their wish list after "Strasburg returns to form" and a few others. 

 

Tom, How much longer can the Nats rely on Sean Burnett? By my recollection, the last 3 games he has entered, he has allowed devestating home runs. In fact when Sean came in yesterday, I left the room because it was obvious what would happen next. If Burnett is not pitching well to left handers (or righties), why bring him in?

I've defended Burnett. His stuff looks the same as always and maybe better than sometimes __funky delivery, 91-93, better breaking ball. But the results have been horrible. I guess until/if he gets back to form, you don't use him much late in games. But he's on the team for spot like LH vs LH against McCann yesterday. He throws a fastball down-and-in at 93 that is OFF THE PLATE and McCann crushes it for a long homer.

Is he tipping his pitches? OK, I give up and me understanding the problem. But I wouldn't give up on Burnett. 

Tom, There was plenty to like in the British Open: Good win for Clarke, exciting run by Phil, Watson's hole-in-one, Northern Ireland's major run. As a golf fan, I like having so many different (12) major winners, but I'm not a TV network or PGA executive. Is it more fun for you -- a sports writer -- to write about a dominant player (Woods) or to write about a different player after every major? Will the PGA have an identity crisis that is currently in place at the LPGA?

I've written tons about Nicklaus and Woods. That's fascinating. The greatest of the great is a hard subject to beat. But I think I actually like it a little better than way it is now __or at least the way it was at the Open. If somebody else nam,ed Scharl, rathyer than Darren Clarke, had won, I might not feel that way.

Sorry Dustin Johnson just can't seem to hold it together all the way on Sunday in majors (so far). If he'd kept the pressure on, instead of hitting that out-of-bounds on a layup with a two-iron, Clarke might have staggered. I didn't want him to fold, but when you're 42 and No. 111 in the world, he might have had a hard time with Dustin right on his heels.

Phil's career-long problem with two-to-four-foot putts has to be the biggest mystery of this golf era. I bet there are people on this chat (not me) who are better short putters __even on major tournament greens__ than Mickelson. What other elite athlete (he makes $60M-a-year, including endorsements, 2nd in the word in all sports to Tiger), who has a flaw so bad that the average weekend player honestly thinks, "If I did that for a living, I would be THAT bad on 3-4-foot putts."

He's such a flowing "touch" player __throughout the bag, including longer putts__ that it seems his whole body is just wired wrong for a short confined stroke. But his four misses inside 3 1/2 feet at the B.O. probably unhinged him enough so he couldn't keep his run going and perhaps win.

Tom, it seems like every time we have a lead of 3 or more runs we play differently and blow it. I can recall 2 games at Atlanta this year where this happened along with the Cubs game. Our bullpen has been so good, but when they have a large lead they can't seem to hold on. Why do you think that is? And Burnett can't even get lefties out anymore, what can they do with him?

The lack of two decent-to-good lefthanders is a big problem. If you have them, you can choke off those demoralizing comebacks much better. That's another reason that LH relievers are gold. The previous two years Burnett was at least "silver" and Slaten good enough. Detwiler certainly doesn't look like a short man.

Is that the trade piece before July 31st, regardless of where they are in the standings? But few things are tougher to find on the open market that a LH reliever.

Lombardozzi, Milone, Marrero are excelling in AAA. One is leadoff hitter and one is a left-handed pitcher. You might say, wait until September. I might say, why?

Minor league numbers can fool you. Milone's fastball is about 85. He deserves a shot at some point. But look at the numbers in the AA and AAA levels of other N.L. East rivals and Milone, even Peacock (seven runs in his first AAA start), Lombardozzi don't look like loclks. The Braves, for example, have Julio Teheran, 20, from Cartagena, Columbia (Jewell of the Nile?), at AAA where he's 9-1 with a 1.79 ERA and big numbers last year, too.

But it's nice to have Nat farmhands with #s that make you think "maybe." Marrero doesn't have those numbers yet. Only nine homers. You may want to see him in September just to find out if he's one of those rare players who hits better in the majors than minors. But with LaRoche coming back, do you need him?

At the All-Star break, the Pirates were being discussed by a lot of pundits since they were only 1 game out of 1st place in their Division. As of this morning, they are only 1/2 game out of 1st place, yet they are still only 3 games better than the Nationals. While the Nationals get extra games against the Phillies and Braves as divison foes, the Pirates play the Reds and the Cardinals. Given the current playoff structure, it is probably easier to make the playoffs as a division winner than it is as a wild card, and to even make the wild card, the Nationals have to beat out either the Phillies or the Braves! Going to playoffs with 2 wild cards will improve chances for teams in Divisions with 2 super teams (AL East and NL East), but these teams still have to play more games against hard competition. I think for the Nationals to show that they are for real, they will need to go 4-2 over the next 6 games as they face Houston and LA on the road, 2 teams that contenders would likely beat more often than not, even on the road. Do you agree?

Good points. But one week doesn't mean much. In general, they need to be a much better road team. They play young and nervous on the road, even though they should have plenty of vets to balance the kids at this point.

What do you think next year's pitching staff will look like? Do they add a rookie like Tom Milone or Brad Peacock to go with Strasburg, J Zimmerman? What happens with Lannan, Hernadez, Wang, Detwiler, Gorzelanny?

Obviously, Stras, Zimmermann, but if he keeps pitching as he has, Lannan, too. They like Gorzelanny. I'm tepid. They like Detwiler. I'm still waiting to see it. The stuff is there. If Wang comes back, that's an amazing story. I wonder if the gun that had him at 94 in his last game was accurate. I still remember one super-sinker that he threw in February with every, it seemed, right behind at that moment, including Sheinin and Kilgore and me. It was the best sinker I've ever seen up close. How can you say one pitch is better than hundreds of others? Because a few people, simultaneously, said something like "Wow!" aloud. McCatty and others say it, too. Yes, he threw lots of other impressive pitches that day, too. But would his arm "bounce back?" Could he build up to 90-100 pitches?

It's a wonderfully complicatede picture. That's one reason I assume they'll trade Marquis if they get so much as solid value. You assume that they have one or two in the pipeline who are better than a 4.50-career ERA RHer. But that's easily said. Marquis has done it.    

Are you surprised that the Pirates are at the top of the National League Central? What do you think is the reason for this improvement in their record? Do you think they'll make the playoffs?

The Pirates give long-term hope to the Orioles. Just 3-4-5 more years of being awful and maybe they can get enough No. 1-2-3-4 overall draft picks that they can't help but get much better.

That's sarcastic, but some painful truth in it.

Meanwhile, the Nats are 47-48 on merit before Strasburgh comes back. And it sure looks like he is coming back __probably to Nats Park by late September. Just a guess. But not a bad one. Z'mann, whose surgery was about 375 days before Strasburg, started 17 games last year __10 in minors, 7 w Nats. Strasburg might get back in time for 10 in the minors and 1-2-3 w Nats.  

Tom, Danny Espinosa is on pace for 25+ HR's, 100+ RBI's, 80+ runs, 20+ SB's, a top 10 fielding percentage, and a current WAR of 3.7 or so. Can a batting average of below .250 keep him from winning ROY? It seemed to keep him from being an All-Star!! Thanks as always for your weekly chats. A real blessing to be able to engage America's best baseball writer!

Thanks. As I wrote in a column, Espinosa is about a .260 hitter as soon as his Batting Average On Balls In Play gets up to league normal. He's just been unlucky wioth "at-'em" balls.  But that's been evening out since I wrote the column. He's hitting the same. Just luckier.

Lets just let this guy alone and not dump too much ROY on him. He looks so good this year you want to put him under a bell jar to protect him. Riggleman told him, "Just field. Don't worry about your hitting." He handled that perfectly.


But look how he's adjusted to hitting No. 2. I asked him about it. "I've usually hit No. 2," he said. "Or No. 3 or 4."

His Long Beach State coach said he best quality was off-the-charts confidence.  

Dustin Pedroia, Chase Utley...other 2nd basemen with swagger and power. But Utley weren't nearly this good this fast.

Evan Longoria, Troy Tulowitski...other Long Beach Staters.

I keep expecting the HRs to calm down but the average and walks to increase. But it sure looks like he has 20+ HR power long-term, not 15-HR. On his HR to LF on Sunday, he collapsed his left arm to "get to" an inside fastball. If you do that right and you have power, you get a =7 up the gap. His went a foot over the fence in a park with deep power alleys. He hit a fastball up and away off the top inches of the CF fence for a triple. Sure, body is as good as they look when they are hot. But, in terms of consistent contact, I'm not even sure we've seem Espinosa in a hot streak yet. Putting him at No. 2 is going to get him more fastballs to hit and more platye appearances. He can't get too many for me.

He'll have top fight sophomore jinx, the league focusing on him, not getting a big head and all the rest of the pit falls. But I'd say that fans should just enjoy this, dream big and have fun. He's as impressive as a rookie as Ryan Zimmerman. He plays very hard and "tough guy" style, to a degree. Hope he stays in one piece. But you can't control that. Just play.  

It seems to me that since Ryan returned from the DL that his range at third base has not been the same, either going to his right or going to his left. Given Desmond's improved defense, I can understand Ryan laying back on his left. But balls seem to be getting passed him on his right. If you have noticed the same, do you think that he is still recuperating from his surgery?

I don't saee the range problem. But it drives me crazy that many 3rd basemen these days move out of the way of smashes right at them and play them sidesaddle. And Zimmerman isn't very good at it. Two have zoomed past him since he came back that Brooks, Nettles, Rolen, Beltre and on and on would have caught or blocked with their chest. Looks like Z'man hitting is starting to come around. Don't worry about his glove hand. If he gets the overhand throwing motion down __I have no idea if he will__ he may be better than ever next year.

How much of a difference does winning the Braves series and being 7 games behind and losing the series and being 9 game back have on the Nationals approach to the trade deadline in two weeks?

Come on, the Nats aren't going to make the playoffs this year. If they'd somehow swept the Braves, maybe you could fantasize about it. But work on the assumption that .500 is an ambitious enough goal __far from a done deal. Even if they are 2 or 3 games over .500 on July 31st, just make solid long-term decisions. That probably means "subtracting" a little in trades. The Nats are one of the few teams that could package a deadline trade that could be threel-for-one for a real prospect. What would Marquis-Nix-Cora briong?

But after watching Flores vs the Braves __four almost uncontested stolen bases on Sunday__ it's clear that you need to keep Pudge and resign him. If that's all the arm Flores has __and physically he looks like Ramos' little brother now__ then he's probably not even a backup option at catcher in '12. Norris is hitting .197 in nthe minors (w 12 homers and lots of walks). But I'd say getting Pudge back in '12 is important. He's the perfect compliment and insurance policy for Ramos.

Hello, Boz: Do you think that the offensive-minded Davey Johnson regime is in any way responsible for the rash of multi-error (5!!??) games that the Nats have submitted since his arrival? Or is it merely a bad coincidence?

Davey's teams tend to play relaxed, with swagger. That can help a team at the plate, especiually one that had been uptight all season. But maybe it can lead to the really ugly game once in a while. But can such things really be traced back to managers? 

Hi Tom, I have enjoyed your work through out the years. I have noticed bigger crowds at Nats games this year and The Caps just packed a rookie scrimage game at Kettler in mid July, I think this town is becoming a Caps/Nats town, Thoughts?

Maybe it's trending that way. The Caps have had a very good offense, it seems. When a quality veteran goalie wants to come to you at a cheap price __and he initiates it!__ because you are "a winner" that is a great payoff for years of hard work in rebuilding a franchise.

The Caps seem to be getting a tougher lockerroom. They need it _-especially in the playoffs. Interesting that they changed the room, not the coach. McPhee really thinks a lot of Boudreau. And GMM has had a star-turn off-season.  So, if he's hot, maybe keepimng Bruce will turn out to be a hot hand move, too.

The path of least resistance, assuming Strasburg keeps on his current course, is obviously up. The Wiz are going to take a while. Maybe quite a while.

Those 10,000 seats that were taken out of the top of FedEx Field speak for themselves. Washington's Redskin insanity has dwindled to mere Redskin mania. Can we, please, keep it from falling much lower? That took some doing. Way to go, Dan, never dreamed one owner could turn a "waiting list" of 100,000+ into an inability to sell 10,000 existing seats. Even last week the Skins just couldn't quite tell a straight story even when everybody knew what was what. The seats were taken out so there would less congestion in the parking lots!!!??? Better tailgating. They did it for the fans!!!???

This is what "ROTFLMAO" was invented for.  

Cole Kimball and his rotator cuff surgery? Finished? I seem to recall that, unlike Tommy John, few pitchers ever make it back from rotator cuff work.

In spring training everybody watched Kimball's exceptional stuff and violent delivery and said the same thing: Bring this kid up fast and use the bullets while he's still got 'em. Just a great boundless-enthusiasm young man. Remember when he got to spring training at 5 a.m. on the first day and almost gave the guy who arrived at 5:15 a heart attack.

Shoulder injuries are the bad ones. But some come back. Last year, it worried me more __as a long-term issue__ when Strasburg went on the DL with shoulder tightness than it did when he had to have TJ surgery.

The debate about the viability of Strasburg's mechanics __for a long career__ is primarily about shoulder concerns. With great pitchers, you are never allowed to stop fretting.

If Tiger's reign at #1 is in serious jeopardy, is Mickelson done as a great player as well? You can't miss that many short putts in the course of four days without having a problem. And you know better than we do, most great golfers don't fix a putting problem as they get older.

Phil has missed those his whole life. In his career, Phil only had one previous Top 10 (3rd at Troon in '04). But he'd been 11-29th four times, 30-59 five times, >60 four times and missed the cut three times. That is horrible. Maybe the worst record in a major by anybody with >three major championships. That'd be worth a little research.

Phil will think, and deserves to think, that T2 at a British Open is a huge step forward for him and allopws him to think he still has a few chances to snag an Open. Just a week ago, nobody thought he'd ever win one.

By the way, be glad you watched the Open on TV where it is very attracative. I remember that the one Open I covered at Sandwich was quite a disappointment, except for a drive to see The White Cliffs of Dover. After you have seen the world's biggest sand trap __at No. 4 I think__ you've pretty much seen it all. 

The Royal Order of Links Worshippers must have a hit out on me by now.

Hi Boz - Thanks for this chat. It's one of the highlights of my week! What would you do baout Sean Burnette and his 5 blown saves, including yesterdays reminder that the last time he was handed the ball in Atlanta with a big lead, he game up a grand slam. Didn't you once say that Mike Flanagan might have hit the batter or walked in a run, but never gave up a grand slam?

Jim Palmer, I believe, never gave up a grand slam __in part because he never "gave in" to the hitter with the bases full and preyed on the natural tendency of hitters to expect a strike and "chase." Also, Tommy John __the person, not the surgery__ told me that he always suptracted one ball from the count so that the hitter would never know what to expect since he worked off his own count that only existed in his own head.

"What about a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded when there is no base open," I said.

"Same thing," said John. "There is ALWAYS a base open. But in that case it's home plate."

Giving up one run is a lot better than two, three or four.

Now that the NFL is about to wrap up their labor mess, let's talk about the mess that is the NBA lockout. Am I crazy, or would it be pretty cool to see all the big name NBA stars "take their talents" to Europe? Could you imagine the temporary alliances and combos we could see? Dwight Howard and Chris Paul playing together on some Spanish team. Derrick Rose and Kobe Bryant on a Italian team. Let's do it!

Sir Charles nailed that the other day. He said, paraphrase, that there is no way any of these big stars are going to Europe to play when they could get hurt and throw away long-term money that is guaranteed. I assume Barkley knows what he is talking about. Though history proves that this is not always 100% true!

Hope everybody put a few favorite NBA gamnes on permanent "Do Not Delete." The 4:45 to 5:30 segment of the Japan-US game on Sunday (with thebgreatest parts) now joins Strasburg's debut on my __so far__ permanent "Do Not Delete" list.

BTW, the US even got a free kick in the last moment of extra time and didn't convert that either. Just an incredible long-shot outcome.

That's it for today. Thanks everybody. Almost too much good stuff. I'll be on vacation starting next Monday. See you all soon.

Tom: The Baltimore Sun reported that Buck may just become the Os next GM, as McPhail may leave so he can (1) spend some time with his dad, who is 93, I think and (2) get ready to become the next Commissioner when Selig retires. Any credence to this and do you think Showalter would be good in the front office? Thanks.

Crystal ball: When Andy and Stan came to Baltimore and Washington, guided by Bud, it certainly seemed, to max out the potential of both markets, 5-6 years ago, everybody wondered where they'd eventually end up. My guess, Andy will be commissioner someday and maybe Stan will put together the group that buys and fixes the Dodgers. These aren't just WAGs.  But they are also probably a ways down the road.

BTW, Andy's dad Lee may be the nicest man I ever met in baseball. There's a column ("Old Sweetheart") on him in Heart of the Order. It starts:

"Lee MacPhail holds three big league records that may never be broken. He has visted at least twwo art museums in every major league city. He has been to the symphony in all of them, too. And while on airplanes between those towns, he has read at least one biography on every American president, two on most."

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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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