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October 3, 2011

11:02
A.M.

Ask Boswell

Total Responses: 34

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 Nationals, the rest of D.C. sports and more.

Past Ask Boswell chats
Q.

Rex

Bos, your column this morning raised a lot of questions about Rex. But the alternatives aren't obvious, either. I learned in military school that HOPE is not a strategy. Do we just have to endure 2 turnovers a game for the rest of the year and HOPE the defense can save us?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I doubt Beck is a better alternative. You probably have to live with Grossman and encourage him. Also, as I'll discuss in the next post, you neeed to emphasize the running game more now that Torain is back and have Grossman throw <30 passes a game, not his current average of 36.

The Redskins are much improved. Shanahan has helped in lots of areas. You can't wait forever to start having some views __and seven Grossman starts is enough for a preliminary view that unless he cuts his turnovers you can't expect too much MORE progress.

But there has been a LOT of progress. So enjoy it.

 

– October 03, 2011 11:01 AM
Q.

Running Game

Which do you like best--Hightower, Helu, Torain, or the system?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I like the system. I think the three-back approach, with plenty of rest for each, has the best chance of taking enough pressure off Grossman that he can im prove his performance.

Hightower is the most versatile __a three-down back who's good at pass pro, which you need with a 'target' QB. Helu may have the most moves, break away ability. But Torain can really rip it with authority as he showed yesterday.

The Skins had 172 yards rushing against Arizona, then 196 yesterday. That shows their potential.

When you have a running game this strong, should Grossman be averaging 36 pass attempts a game? Of course not. The balance in Kyle Shanahan's play calling is way off, in my book. Grossman is 12th in the NFL in pass attempts (143) with more than Aaron Rodgers, Flacco, Big Ben, Hasselbeck, Cutler, Kolb and Eli Manning (only 115).

The right comparison is mediocre QB's with tainted reputations but strong running games __like our old friends Donovan McNabb (only 111 attempts, 80.9 QB rating) and Jason Campbell (121 attempts, 89.1).

I'd say Grossman has been asked to throw 20-to-30 passes too many. His QB rating of 78.7 is 24th in the NFL. You should be trying to minimize his impact on the game relative to your ability to run __whenever possible. Not always possible. But the Skins should be looking for way to emphasize him less rather than have him throwing 36 a game to show they were right in "identifying" him as a good QB.

– October 03, 2011 11:02 AM
Q.

"The greatest regular season night in baseball history"

Amen! I am 72, walk w/2 canes and even I managed to jump up and down a little. If this is my swan song (I'm never quite sure what the off-season will bring), what a way to go out!
A.
Thomas Boswell :

It was amazing. No one game was the "best game ever." But all three of the crucial games going on simultaneously was unique and amazing.

No swan song talk. Gotta see what the Nats "window" of opportunity brings in '12-to-'17.

– October 03, 2011 11:02 AM
Q.

Tito and Theo

Tom, It was interesting to read about how this Red Sox club house became such a horror show. Franconia knew he lost control and left (or took his firing) like a man. Joe Torre would have fought a pr war to keep the job. Theo is no longer the Boston Savior. He should try his magic with the Cubs. Breaking two cruses would make him a Saint.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Francona was an easy-riding players manager. They say he got too close to his team to be enough of an authority figure when things got tough. Sounds simplistic to me. Somebody is going to get a fine manager; the White Sox might be logical since his genial touch might get more out of them than Ozzie Guillen's moods and sometimes harsh words. Terry might help Adam (OMG) Dunn.

Theo had a bad year. But he's had some great ones. You don't want to blow up that front office. It's almost as much the core of the organization as the best players. 

– October 03, 2011 11:02 AM
Q.

O's overcelebration NOT

The O's started 6-1, had a miserable season, but righted themselves to play spoiler in the last 2 weeks of the season. TheYankees and Red Sox are Evil Empire 1 and 2, w/payrolls of $221 and $161 million. The Rays have a payroll of $41 million and lost Crawford, Beltran and their entire bullpen in the off-season. Sure you want to win every game, and had the Rays played better against the O's the last 2 weeks it would not have come down to the very last game. But anyone who wasn't rooting for the O's would probably also root against Billy Beane's A's in Moneyball.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The Rays are just about everybody's favorite team right not, including me. They lost their SEVEN highest-paid players over the winter. They draw MUCH less than the Nats. Tampa-St. Pete doesn't deserve them.

But they just keep on keeping on. I think they can neutralize Texas bats enough to advance. With the division they play in (12-6 vs the Red Sox), they aren't scared of anybody or any lineup.

And what about Matt Moore, the 22-year-old lefty. Wow! He's got near-Strasburg stuff from the left side. He could be the shock of October. He had monster minor league numbers and was much anticipated. His seven innings of shutout ball on two hits follow a first-MLB start with no runs and 10 K's in five innings.

– October 03, 2011 11:02 AM
Q.

MLB Manager Job Posting

Job description: sabermetric follower, disciplinarian, high emotional intelligence and communications skills for dealing with crazed fans and intense media, strong stomach and good health for dealing with same, must also be comfortable with extremely high expectations in a very competitive environment. Any recommendations for the next Red Sox manager? Will John Henry find anyone as good as Francona?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

No, I bet he won't.

If Bobby Valentine ends up there (which I doubt), it will be drama __necessary and unnecessary__ 24/7/365.

– October 03, 2011 11:03 AM
Q.

Baseball awards

Tom - your thoughts on whether the team's relative success and playing games that matter down the stretch should influence voters for MVP or Cy Young awards? While statistically superior, should Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw beat out players such as Ryan Braun and Ian Kennedy or Roy Halladay?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Last night eight of us screamed about this for two hours. OK, there were a lot of other subjects. But Jason Reid did a classic rant on the importance of playing a key role on a winner with extra credit down the stretch. At least that's what I think he said; it was kinda hard to hear above all the mock insults.

I have one point on this which I mayt follow with a column. An everyday player has perhaps 700 plate appearamnces to make an impact. A great starting pitcher has almost 1,000 plate appearances by hitters against him. The hitter adds "extra value" __measured by any total stat you want, like OPS__  700 times, but the pitcher is slashing the opponents OPS against him on 1,000 PA's. So, why don't the very, very best starting pitchers get more consideration for MVP.

I know, they have their own Cy Young Award just as everyday players have the Hank Aaron Award. Thus, MVP is an award that focuses on "valuable" which to many people means "almost has to play on a winner."

I'll throw out my MVP picks next week. Lotta time to kill on the road in October!

 

– October 03, 2011 11:03 AM
Q.

Free Agent Mistakes - Crawford and Werth

You wrote right after the Red Sox bought Carl Crawford what turns out to have been a rather prescient column that anticipated the problems he would have at Fenway. Indeed it turns out that his year was even worse than anyone could have imagined. How do you explain an organization that prided itself on its "Moneyball" smarts making such a grievous error? Although the result were not as catastrophic it seems that the Nats may have a made a similar error in buying Jason Werth.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

What's nice is that I was right for exactly the correct reasons. That doesn't happen too much! Crawford is a slap hitter with no power to straight leftfield, so the Wall does him no good. But LFers play in there, so they rob him of line drive hits. All Crawford's power is to RF, but Fenway is much bigger there, so it costs him a few HRs. Also, Crawford's only gift on defense is speed __once he gets running. The small leftfield doesn't let him get up a head of steam as often as the Trop. Finally, I ate before the game with two Boston beat guys. They talked about Crawford's dissapionting defense this year. "He's awful coming in on line drives," one siad and the other agreed, adding, "I hangs back. It's like he doesn't trust himself diving or sliding for a ball."

So, on the most important (losing) play of the season, Crawford came up inches short of a line drive in front of him that a good LFer catches.

I suspect both Crawford and Werth will be better next year. But Crawford, because he stole only ~20 bases this year, not 50, is the bigger worry. Speed was his game. If he uses it less, even if he hits .290 in '12, it has less impact. My ballpark guess is that Werth goes back to .270-25-85 with an OPS over .820 in '12. Not worth $126M, but a good RFer and a plus in the clubhouse. Of course he's dieing to put up a big season.

It interests me that he's determined to prove that the 5th, 6th and 7th years of his contract will not be a waste as most assume. He made a point that his grandfather played in the majors until 40 and "he didn't have to quite then." I bet that he'd bet a few of those millions that he'll have a better year in '17 than '11. Yeah, low hurdle.

FanGraphs puit his WAR at 2.5 wins this year, worth $11.4M in their system vs $21.1M of value in '10. I'd say both those numbers are high.   

– October 03, 2011 11:03 AM
Q.

Ryan Z?

When are the going to re-sign Mr Zimmerman? I would really hate to see him in a Yankess or worse a Phillies uniform in a couple of years!!!!
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The Nats should go after him as soon as possible because you always want to be aggressive with a face pof franchise player when he's had an "off" season and you can get him at as reasonable a price as you ever will. You say, "Ryan, we believe in you. We know you missed two months. We know your power dropped to only 12 homers in almost 100 games. We know your OPS was "only" .798. And we know your throwing, while it got better and better, probably still isn't at full power yet. But we think you'll bounce back to your previous career levels." BUT all those "we knows" cost Z'man some money because he really didn't have a good year by his standards. His OPS was barely better than Wilson Ramos.

Zim may want top wait until he starts off strong in '12. But I hope you'll see a reasonable Nats offer and that, after some arm wrestling, that he takes it, even though it's not a max contract coming off a max year. The Nats are taking a risk. It's not a mortal certainty that Z'man will stay at third for 5-6-7 more years. A week ago, he volunteered (again) how much he wants to sign an extension and stay ("Put that in there"). Sure, that's part negotiating. But he's sincere.

If you try to extend him through '17 __the last year Strasburg is under team control and dthe end of the Werth deal__ will those four additional years be enough for him. There have been some VERY long deals for players like Tulo __too long, imo.

This will get done next year. But if I were the Nats, I'd press it sooner than later.

– October 03, 2011 11:11 AM
Q.

Skins Penalties

So which was the anomaly, ten penalties in the first three games or ten penalties in the fourth one?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Returning to the mean. But the new Redskin "normal" on mental mistakes should be a lot better than the past "normal" which was a joke.

Oh, did I mention that the Rams are AWFUL.

The Skins have caught the Giants with a decimated defense, the Cardinals with a banged up offense, the Cowboys in Dallas in one of the sloppiest games the Pokes have ever played (in part thanks to those controversial five bad snaps). And now they've beaten a Rams team that also had far more injuries than the Skins and had been crushed 36-96 in its first three games.

It's nice to be 3-1. It's also constructive to see clearly how it happened. The Redskins have a lot to be proud of, but nothing to be vain about. They still look like a 7-8-9 team to me. But yesterday nudged me back toward the 8-8 part of that range.

We probably all need to focus on that defense more than the mediocre-at-best offense. That's where there may be a high ceiling. The defensive players have their 'tude together. London Fletcher is really amped to lead this bunch. He can't last forever. So, build your strategy around helping the defense reduce points (which often means restraining your offense and reducing turnovers) __even if it doesn't flatter "the offensive system" or Kyle.

Team first.

Shanahan preaches it. I assume he'll apply it to himself, too.  

– October 03, 2011 11:18 AM
Q.

Davey Johnson's

So what was his final record with the Nats? Nats need to do better on the road. What was there road record under Davey? I had my doubts about him through the middle of August but I was wrong and your were right sir.

A.
Thomas Boswell :

Davey was 40-43, but 40-40 after the first thre-game series in L.A. when he took over. Hey, we can spot him three games, can't we?

Biggest improvement: More confidence on the road, a huge team weakness pre-Johnson. Of course, confidence is Johnson's calling card.

I've always said, and say, that Rig was better than his career record as a manager. But his record was bad. At best, he was average and that gives him the benefit of every doubt. Johnson's career record is great. Good talent, yes. But he also gets some credit for developing it, as we've seen him do already with the Nats "establishing" young players. There's no way he isn't far above average as a manager. So this was a big accidental upgrade.

– October 03, 2011 11:24 AM
Q.

Ozzie G

Admirable candor or more proof he's a [bleep]? Not to mention Jose "Don't call me Ted Williams" Reyes.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I can get enough of Ozzie real fast. He's 'good copy' but that has never been one of my highly-rated standards for measuring people in sports. But his spark should work in Miami in that new ballpark, at least for a while.

Reyes' poor attitude was at the core of the Mets horrid late-season crash when they blew the playoffs a few years ago. Unless there was a mountain of evidence that he'd improved a lot __and I don't think there is__ I wouldn't want to see the Nats go after him.

Not even if you had another good trade lined up with Desmond as part of it? Well, that might be a tough call.

Plenty of players have retired for the season to protect a .300 average or even win a batting title. But it's not what you want to see. You want the Williams attitude. I'm sure Davey would have let Morse sit the whole Marlins series to protect his .300 average if Michael had wanted it that way. Instead, Morse played the first two games, hit a couple of homers and still got .303.

– October 03, 2011 11:30 AM
Q.

The Defense

Props to Shanny, Hazlett and Allen for getting the right guys for the 3-4. It's come together real fast this season. Unfortunately the blitzing will cost them for 1-2 big plays per game. Should they dial it back a bit more at times?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Haz just loves to "send 'em." It's his identity as a coordinator. I enjoy the mayhem. Let him let 'em loose.

The only exception was the third-and-21 "zeero blitz" in Dallas. Come on, that was horrible. It was heat of the moment. But a decent aggressive call on 3rd-and-11 becomes a crazy call on 3rd-and-21. MeAngelo should have kept it to himself. Everybody else would have pointed out the mistake. Hall should just have said, "Look how much confidence they have in me __alone on Larry Fitzgerlad one week and on Dez Bryant the next week.  I got (scalded) twice. Next time, I'll get the job done."

– October 03, 2011 11:34 AM
Q.

Nationals

Do you think the Nats really need to go out and get a high-priced free agent pitcher? Given the questionable results of the Werth big-money deal, I think they should be very careful about that. They seem to have a pretty decent stable of starters on the current squad. You can sign a lot of draftees over the next six years with $100 million or so.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

This is one of the tougher calls I've seen. BTW, Greinke is a free agent after '12. The Nats were pretty shocked that their four-for-one deal for him last year (players never picked) fell through. Nobody's quite figured out the Fog of War aspects of that, with Greinke changing agents the next day. But the Nats might go after him again after they use '12 to find out about Detwiler, Peacock, Milone and Wang. It's an idea.

But, if you will notice, Rizzo has been more agressive than ANYBODY thought he would be in every big add-a-star decision since he took over. Nobody thought he'd go to $25M for Aroldis Chapman. Nobody thought he'd go $6M for Maya. Nobody thought he'd go two years for Pudge. Nobody thought he'd go $126M for Werth. He's blown up slot for draft picks by a wide enough margin to get Selig on the Lerners case. Etc. His MO, I'd say, is Go For The Bomb.

And everybody's been slow to pick up on it because he runs silent, then acts.

The perverse side effect of the Nats spending too little for several years and being horrible is that they still have plenty of room to spend __when they decide that the "shot" is the right one. No, that wasn't any grand Plan. Former mexecs think they wasted at least two years. But is certainly looks like it's coming together now.

 

– October 03, 2011 11:43 AM
Q.

Really just one interception

As everyone agrees, the first interception was Moss' fault. So Rex throws just one real interception and you still bash him. If you are going to pay your quarterbacks close to the league minimum, you should be very happy with a performance like yesterday.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Sorry. But that's nonsense. It's the seven-start pattern that concerns me.

Here's a list of QB's who've average between 0.75 and 1.15 total turnovers per career start (including lost fumbles): Rodgers, Rivers, Brady, Romo, P Manning, Brees, Ben R, Schaub, Pennington (under 1.0), Flacco (under 1.0), M Ryan, McNabb (under 1.0), J Campbell (under 1.0), Vick (under 1.0), Orton! (under 1.0).

Two turnovers a game DOES NOT WORK. It can't continue. And it probably won't. Because it is REALLY HARD to turn the ball over as much as Grossman has __15 times in 7 games, plus one series.

BTW, thought I'd give the statys this season for Grossman, Campbell and McNabb. None are much good. It's not like the Skins had some great chance to keep "the right onme" and blew it.  But interesting.

Campbell: 65.3%, 928 yards, 4 TD, 3 Int, 89.1 QB rating (12th best in NFL).

McNabb: 58.6, 680, 4 TD, 2 Int, no fumbles lost, 80.9 (17th).

Grossman: 55.6, 884, 7 TD, 5 Int, 2 lost fumbles, 78.7 (24th).

Flacco: 49.3, 973, 7 TD, 3 Int, 79.9.

So, the Ravens are winning, too, without much from QB. 

– October 03, 2011 11:51 AM
Q.

Future Leadoff Hitter for the Nats

Do you think the Nats will address their gaping whole at the leadoff spot next season and what are some of their options? I imagine Jose Reyes will cost more than what they want to spend. Could we see a trade happen or is it going to be more of the Desmond, Ankiel, Bernadina general platoon next season? It seem like the biggest whole in the organization by far, though their recent draft did address their potential long term future their a bit.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Goodwin and Rendon could, in theory, play CF and 2nd in a couple of years and hit 1-2.

But, right now, the Nats have too many players who are suited to hitting 3-4-5-6-7 and none, really, who right right at 1-2. Desmond is bad at No. 8 because he's a wild swinger and Ramos has developed so much that you don't want him at No. 8 either. So, who hits 1-2-and-8? This isn't the Nats best area of conceptual thinking.

They didn't seem to realize last season that they'd assembled one of the highest strikeout offenses in history. Then they went out and led MLB in Ks. I wrote anout it Opening Day. I just stumbled into noticing it. But they should have been aware of it a lot earlier. I'm a staff of one. They have resources aimed at exactly such issues of roster construction.

The answer is that I've thought about it and I don't even have the beginning of an answer yet. But if I come up with anything, you'll hear about it!

– October 03, 2011 11:56 AM
Q.

Accountability

Are Caps fans doomed to another season of Bruce Boudreau after he blows it in the playoffs again this season or will GM and or Ted finally wake up? My fear is that with the new additions they will upgrade to a San Jose level of post season failure and Ted/George will consider this acceptable improvement since they stunk it up so bad the last two playoffs. I don't really understand how the coach gets away with this in the organization but as a life time Caps fan its sad because it feels like they're so close.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

It's now clear the Caps had a "loose ship" in recent years. BB didn't like it. But he wasn't able to do anything about it, either. GMGM certainly knew it. Neither changed the part of the culture that is now the center of their focus.

Where does the buck stop on this "Lay down the law" issue? With Ted? Did the Caps have "favorites" who couldn't be criticized too much?

They'll get an answer on BB this year. Will it been after anopther wasted post-season? I thought they were much too quick to jump to his defense after the season-ending sweep. It should have been a tough decision on whether to keep him or not. (I'd probably have kept hi,m, too.) But the Caps circled the wagons __which is usually their response to failure__ and gave BB a big hug the next day and essentially made it clear he'd be back. 

With no NBA, the Caps won't lack for attention.

– October 03, 2011 12:01 PM
Q.

Desmond to CF

Have the Nats considered moving Desmond to CF, and sliding Espinosa to SS and playing Lombardi at 2B?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I mentioned it. But that was after '10 when it looked like Desmond's hitting might improve even more after he hit >.320 the last two months of '10. Coming off '11, he just doesn't hit enough to play CF. Ankiel produces roughly as much. Right now, he's an adeqaute offensive and defense SS with a good work ethic and leadership ability __a scout-type player. Not a Moneyball type. If he gets better, he's a "plus" player. But I don't think he is right now. He's not a problem. He's good enough. If he's ever a quality leadoff man, I'll be surprised. But I get surprised a lot. You may remember that I didn't expect Adam Dunn to hit .159 __or whatever it was__ this season.

– October 03, 2011 12:05 PM
Q.

Tito Francona

What are the chances the Nats make a run at him?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

They should certainly think about it. He'd have the respect of the clubhouse.

I assume the job is still Davey's, if he wants it __and he does. He and Rizzo have a very good working relationship. And Davey has been close to the club for two years, knows some of the young players from the minors.

– October 03, 2011 12:07 PM
Q.

CJ Wilson

Looking through the 2012 free agent list, the only that really makes sense is CJ Wilson, unless of course they make a run at Pujols. What are your thoughts on making a run at Wilson? Is he worth giving up a 1st round pick for? Although I have to admit Wilson, Strasburg, Zimmerman, Detwiler, Peacock/Milone looks pretty good.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I hate myself when I say things like this. I wouldn't have much interest in Wilson when you have the current Nats arms to pick from. The Nats already have a logjam at 1st base and if LaRoche doesn't work out, why would you want to spend >$100M for Pujols or Fielder when you have Morse under team control for an iota of that price __which lets you send the $100M on other things. Morse is only 29 and in fabulous shape. Pujols is older, Fielder is Cecil's son, so that's a worry on weight.

So, I'm having a hard time figuring out "good moves" for the winter. But I've barely started searching. During this month I'll bounce off countless baseball people on the post-season trail and I'll bring you back what I find out. For the first time, the Nats will be one of the subjects of general conversation in the October moveable feast.

 

– October 03, 2011 12:13 PM
Q.

Why No Mo?

As someone who was privileged to be at last Wed's O's/Sox game -- I am still hoarse from all that screaming -- I couldn't be happier after having been part of that historic evening. But I have a question: After the Rays; 6 run rally in the bottom of the 8th, I fully expected the Yanks to bring in Rivera to close it out. I'm really glad the didn't, but a friend says he wasn't even at the park. Is this how they man ged to screw the Sox? The Balt Sun has a gallery of pix from that game, and my favorite is of Papelbon thrusting his fist in the are after striking out Adam Jones for the first out in the bottom of the 9th. -- Still excited in Catonsville
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Yup, what a night. We'll remember it long after all of the other subject of today are forgotten.

The Yankees played it right. Maybe even better than right. They had no obligation to anybody but themselves on the last day of the season. Yet their 1-through-5 hitters were all stars. Those guys all got at least three at bats, some four, and built a 7-0 lead. And the two Yankee relievers in the 8th and 9th __Ayala and Wade, ended the season with ERAs of 2.08 and 2.04 in 53 and 40 games. They were far from bums. It was 100-to-1 the Rays come back from 7-0 to 7-7 against two guys with those numbers. If Rivera was gone, fine. If he was there but not used, fine. Even Proctor, who got the loss, was throwing 95 and 96 to the last hitter (LOngoria) and mixed in two sliders. 

The Yanks played 'em tough. The Red Sox have only themselves to blame. Awful base running. And Papelbon was semi-worn out. If you want to make a Red Sox fan scream, just sneak up behind him/her and say, "Reynolds, Reimold, Andino."

The No. 8-9-1 hitters on  a last place team go =9, =9, -7 on high-90's heat from Papelbon. 

That night was another argument for: Best sport __baseball. Especially from Labor Day to the end of the Series.

– October 03, 2011 12:20 PM
Q.

Obligatory bye-week kvetching

I think Shanahan made a mistake going with Grossman. It is very possible (in spite of all recent evidence) that he gives the team a better chance to win right now. I find it hard to believe, but it's possible. But it seems very clear that he is not going to lead this team to a championship. He couldn't even lead the team to a 4th quarter field goal last week. Is Beck the answer? Probably not, but if they had gone with him, they would have known the answer heading into next year's draft. No question in here. Just kvetching.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Many people feel the same. Well said. The Skins are much better, but they're also kinda in a box, too.

iAnd it's not Rex' fault. The bottom-line harsh reality is that it's tough to get a Franchise QB. And as long as you don't have one, you're at a disadvantage.

However, the Gibbs' QBs who went to the Super Bowl, though not HOFers, were MUCH better than Grossman. Come on, Joe T vs. Grossman? No contest. Mark Rypien in his good years __smart, tough, throw the bomb__ much better than Grossman has ever been.

But if you can get to the NFC Championship with Jay Schroeder, maybe you can go furthe than you think with Grossman.

Schroeder in '86 went 14-5, including post-season with 22 TDs, 22 Ints and a 72.9 QB rating. So, it can be done. (What a stiff. Gibbs really was a genius.)

– October 03, 2011 12:30 PM
Q.

Nats Offseason

So what did you think of the way the Nats finished the season? Were the 80 wins ahead of your expectations? What do you think they focus on in the offseason? SP or CF/Leadoff guy?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Very impressive, even with a don't-trust-September bias.  I predicted 75 wins. (Hey, you gotta predict something.) I moved it up to 77-78 in a chat. (I know, "who cares," but we're just chattin'.)

The big picture is simple: The Nats won 80 games in a year when Strasburg had 1 win! And Jordan Z was shut down early. And Harper was in the minors. And, and, and. Also, they probably found a slugger for free in Morse while two hugely important rookies __Ramos and Espinosa__ both panned out. I suspect one, or both, of Ramos/Espy will improve into stars. Look at the multi-year progressions for Utley and Rollins in Philly. You are seldom the finished product immediately.

There's history that teams which make two nice jumps in consecutive seasons then regress for a year. If Strasburg and Zimmermann get 60 starts next year, I doubt that'll happen.

– October 03, 2011 12:36 PM
Q.

Nats Trades?

Who do you think is on the trading block for the Nats? Lannan has been getting a lot of play lately? Would BJ Upton be the best option for us?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Lannan's an obvious choice. But he's probably more respected in DC and by the Nats than anywhere else. We know he's dependable, doesn't get hurt (knock on wood), has improved a lot at getting LH hitters out and now can hit 91-92 as he's filled out. If he's your 4th or 5th starter, you must have a nice rotation. Also, a lot of his bad W-L record is jujst hideous run support every year.

But I dout he has a lot of value in trade. Viewed as run of the mill and "lucky" by the stat crowd who undervalue groundball pitchers, imo.

The Rays need a SS who can hit, not a Lannan. If you can do a B.J. Upton for Desmond (plus somebody else) trade, I'm for it. Espinosa can move to SS. Either Lombardozi or, probably Rendon can take 2nd some day. But the Nats love Desmond's attitude and while Z'man vouches for B.J. not many others think he gets the most out of his ability.

– October 03, 2011 12:42 PM
Q.

My old man used to say ...

"don't call out the drunk at the family reunion; there's no sport in it." We get it about Rex. So what now? Maybe the prescription is more provocative than the prognosis.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I like that line. I've stayed out of the QB thing pretty much. After two straight poor weeks, I thought it was time to look at it. But you're right. It is what it is and I doubt I'll pay much attention to it from now on. No reason to think Beck is much different. They are what you have __now. Accept it and do the best you can.

BUT yesterday, on top of Dallas, showed that The New Rex transformed by the Shanahan system probably doesn't exist.

– October 03, 2011 12:44 PM
Q.

Nationals

The Nats have treated us to a sometimes frustrating, often tantalizing, and many times exciting year of baseball. The promise for the future makes me wish the season was still continuing. In that regard, I believe the Nats still have a huge need for an IMPACT bat.....someone who can not only protect Morse but also be a more consistent threat to drive in runners in scoring position. Werth has proven he's not the answer and unfortunately I don't believe LaRoche will be either....tooooo many strikeouts. Do you foresee such a player being available next year that can fill that need, perhaps someone like Michael Cuddyer?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

If Morse, Z'man, Werth and LaRoche all return to their career norms __all have OPS of .815 (LaRoche) to .855 (Morse)__ that alone will add a lot of offense.

This year, Morse was the team's ONLY .800 OPS bat. That's awful. If you have FOUR, plus Ramos, Espy, you SHOULD score middle-of-theleague runs. And the team ERA is already 7th-best in MLB in a year w/out Strasburg! Did you ever think you'd hear that?

– October 03, 2011 12:49 PM
Q.

Playoffs?

So are the Phillies vulnerable? How fun are the Brewers! Can they make it to the Series? The AL seems wide open? I just hope one of the 3 teams not from NY makes it in!
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The Phils are vilnerable enough that I'm staying here in St. Louis to see Game Three. The Phils are a mediocre hitting team. Few lineups can cope with the four Phils aces. But Pujols, Berkman and Holliday are all special __either HOF or, at least, probably on the HOF ballot someday. The Berkman 3-run homer in the 1st inning of the 1st game off Halladay was symbolic. The Cards afen't going to kill the Aces. But they have roughed them up. Lee was worn out after 110 pitches, 12 hits and five runs. He's now 0-3 in his last three playoff starts with a 7.14 ERA. Things do even out.

I actually think the Cards have a better chance than the Brewers __or maybe anybody__ to knock out the favored Phils. Why? It's only a best-of-three series now with the next two games in St. Louis. Is anybody else going to get that close to them? And they get Hamels, Oswalt and Halladay, not Halladay, Lee and Hamels in that three-game series. They're all good. But Doc and Cliff are the best two.I'll still take the Phils. But if they aren't worried, then they aren't paying attention.

This is a completely wide open post-season __except for the Phils. And the next few days may be their biggest hurdle. They've had to come from behind in Game One __a surpise to them. And they've see Lee squander a 4-0 lead. Tony LaRussa is a much better manager __and tone setter__ as an underdog manager than when he's favored and tightens up. Gonna be fun.

And 5 p.m. on Tuesday here means shadows, low score probably and one fluke could decide a pivotal game.

 

– October 03, 2011 12:57 PM
Q.

October came early

I am still coming down from the high of Wednesday night's games. And the first weekend hasn't disappointed, with ties in three series. (Yesterday's Tampa-Texas game was not all that interesting, but that's the only blemish I can think of.) I guess I don't have a question, other than the rhetorical: Isn't this loads of fun?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

This is fabulous. The Boston/Atlanta collapses set the stage. Now the glamor series __Phils-Cards and Yanks-Tigers are tied 1-1. Can't wait to see CC vs Verlander tonight.

Also, Tampa Bay looks like they have a real shot. Very exciting. Not all big-money teams. Maybe the most important thing __for fan excitment__ is the Cards standing up to Halladay and Lee. Shows it can be done. And there are some monster lineups the Phils may still face like Brewers, Yanks, Texas. 

– October 03, 2011 1:01 PM
Q.

Are the wide recievers the problem

A lot of criticism has been placed on Rex Grossman but outside of Santana Moss is not enough blame being assessed on the other wide recievers and their lack of produciton? Are they not getting any seperation? It seems ot me until we get a bonifide deep threat/WR that gets first downs that can consisitently scare other defenses our offense can be contained. Also if the other wideouts are not getting seperation why not just use both Cooley and Fred Davis the majority of the time to open things up and help with the running game?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Last year, I wrote in a column on the Skins 20-years-of-lousy-offense that the biggest area of Skins negligence has been one mediocre-to-atrocious set of WRs after another. Meanwhile, everybody else in the NFC East gets 'em. The gap in TD passes caught over any 10-year period is astronomically against the Skins.

That hasn't changed. This is a make-do bunch. That why Davis and Cooley (if healthy) help as semi-deep threat receivers.

– October 03, 2011 1:04 PM
Q.

real teams?

I know you can only play the schedule they put in front of you, but is this team going to have to play anyone that's actually good this year? It seems like the last several years the schedule has been loaded full of other bad teams. Wouldn't they really struggle with a team like the Packers or even the Bears?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

What, good luck is taboo? Bring on some more of it.

– October 03, 2011 1:05 PM
Q.

Beautiful Article on RFK

Boz, I'd like to say raised your already great writing to a higher level with your column in appreciation of RFK Stadium. The visuals were something, and it really brought home to me what it was like for you to live in its shadow as a boy. If I may offer a different perspective? I grew up in Norfolk, Redskins country every bit as much as the District, at least in the 70s and 80s when I was a boy. To us, RFK was almost mythical, the place you could watch your heroes play every Sunday on television, some otherworldly temple where John Riggins and Art Monk and the Hogs and Charles Mann and Dexter Manley would lay waste to anyone foolish enough to try to stop them. As a teenager, I had the chance to go to a game! AT RFK! And you know what? It was even better than I imagined it. I retired from the Army and moved to Northern Virginia and went to many Nats games, and while it was... well... a dump compared to other MLB stadiums I'd been to, it'll always be the place where I saw my childhood heroes play.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Nice, thanks for the memory.

– October 03, 2011 1:06 PM
Q.

baseball scheduling

Having the season end mid-week seems to have been a brilliant concession to the idea that weekends belong to football. Was that the motivation? Can you imagine how swallowed up Wednesday night's thrilling finishes would have been if they had happened on a Sunday afternoon as in past years?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Yes, that was the conscious goal. And, man, did it work.

– October 03, 2011 1:06 PM
Q.

Tigers and Cardinals

Tom, if this was the 1930's I'd be a front runner. Instead it seems I'm almost alone in rooting for the Tigers and the Cards in their respective series. The talking heads and broadcasters seem to be an extension of MLB and the networks overwhelming desire for a Yankees/Phillies series. What say you?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Phils/Yanks would be entertaining. I'd like it.

But I usually like it better when the "others" get into the Series. And there have been a ton of 'em in the last decade __Giants, White Sox, Rays, Astros, Rangers. The sport is in excellent health in lots of places because more than 20 teams feel that they have an honest chance to reach a series. If you get in the playoffs and you have two really top starters and two really good relievers at the back end, you can shock people. Yes, at some point, the Nats may be included in that description.

– October 03, 2011 1:10 PM
Q.

Season defining game?

I think (hope) we will look back at this win against the Rams as one of the more important victories for the Redskins. This was a game we almost always lose: coming off a tough emotional loss, short week, etc. The past 10, heck, 20 years, the 'Skins simply wouldn't show up for games like this (see last year at St. Louis). Does this win, as messy as it turned out to be, provide a significant sign that this franchise is turning the corner?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Good points. And a good place to stop, especially since you can 'hold that thought' for two weeks to survive the bye.

Now, with the Skins happy, 3-1 and idle, lets get ready for some serious baseball! See you next week.

– October 03, 2011 1:13 PM
Q.

 

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