Washington Post Sports Columnist <strong>Tom Boswell</strong> answered your questions about the Redskins, the Capitals, the Nationals, the rest of D.C. sports and more. <br><br> <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/linksets/2010/07/06/AByEJ1D_linkset.html">Past Ask Boswell chats</a>

Jun 11, 2012

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

When Storen comes back in July, do you think he'll immediately go back to being closer or will they ease him into it and let Clippard keep closing for a while?

Davey Johnson always wants to have what he calls an A and B bullpen because he thinks it helps extend long winning streaks and, being a math guy, he knows that ALL big winning seasons are built on 2-3-4 streaks where a team goes +10 in wins, like the Nats 14-4 start to this season.

So having BOTH Storen and Clippard should be perfect. It's not as simple as Storen closes one time then Clippard the next. Storen will certainly be the main closer. But when he's in danger of any overuse at all, Clippard would close. Davey hasn't laid this out but it's my common sense reading of the situation.

How hard will it be for the Nats to keep Tyler Clippard longterm assuming that Storen goes back to being closer?

The Nats have team control over Clippard through the '15 season. Same for Storen. They can keep both. How long will both be happy? They are friends, room together on the road. No problems at all now. Arbitration insures that everybody gets paid. Davey has "coped" with the "problem" of multiple stellar relievers w the Mets and O's and it never ended up a problem.

I heard a MASN commentator talking about how one of the Nats had broken a franchise record that was set by Montreal back in the 70's. When people talk about the Nationals franchise history, I assume they mean both the Expos and the Senators. Am i right? Personally, I think it's more fun to discuss what happened in Washington baseball's past than Montreal.

Those "Montreal records" are just for the Expos, not the Nats.

It's annoying. Nobody in D.C. cares about the expos. But they did exist. It's not nice to erase them by ignoring them. So some of the Nats past media guides had Expo records and old Nats records, both the original Senators and expansion Nats.

I never refer to Expo records because it just confuses people. MLB got to D.C. 1901. I think that's the line of history that makes sense around here. Some disagree. Fine. I see their point. Three cheers for Rusty Staub.

Hi, Tom. The Nats sweep the RedSox and the Orioles do a number on the Phillies. That is good news in the Balt-Wash area. But is the real story that there is a change in power in the East, both in the NL and AL? Part of the game is to talk about how great the 2 East divisions are. I think that is changing. What do you think?

I agree. I wrote a column a few weeks ago about the fast-ebbing power of the Phils, Red Sox and Yankees, the three highest payroll teams and the ones that probably have gotten the most TV time over the years with the Phils moving to center stage in the last five years.

The Phils and Red Sox are under .500 and in big trouble. The Phils are just and worn out from honorable good service in recent years. Don't think they'll make the playoffs this year. If they do, it'll be the last time for a while. The two really solid young teams in the N.L. East are the Braves and Nats. I'd have rated the Braves a little higher but with Harper's emergence that maqy change.

I still don't believe in the Marlins. Mostly talk so far. Run differential back near "0." Their crowds are already backing off. Not a good sign w new stadium.

The Yanks just refuse to go away, but the Rays are every bit as good and better pitching. The Orioles can hit. But they aren't part of the A.L. East pitch in the same way the Nats are in the N.L. East. O's need a >.500 season. The Nats could win the N.L. East this season, though the Braves are just as good, imo.

Those Phils fans gave the O's some much-need back-to-back sellout attendance over the weekend. And, like the Nats, the O's sent e'm back up 95 with a couple of loses. Interesting that the Nats did everything they could  to make it tough for Phils fans to get tickets in DC while it sure didn't seem like the O's were trying to take bac their park. But thanks to Adam Jones on Saturday and Matt Wieters on Sunday the players themselves took back the park __in extra innings both times. 

Strasburg is going to be shut down at some point later this year. JZim pitched his last game of last year on Aug 28. Most of assume that Detwiler goes back into the rotation and we close the season that way. How about this instead ... trade Detwiler and Kobernus for a two month rental of Greinke? We are deep with prospects at pitching (particularly if we sign Giolito) and middle infield. If the Brewers are floundering, they might be looking to do better than a draft pick for Greinke. What do you think?

Strasburg has 71 innings. Nats say he can go 160-to-170. If he looks strong, it'll be close to 170. Z'mann was 161. At his current inning-per-game rate, that gives Strasburg 16, or more likely 17 starts the rest of the year.

I worked it out. If it's 17, which seems reasonablee to me,  that means the Nats won't need a starter to "replace" Strasburg until ~Sept 20. That's not much of a problem. Just put 2-out-of-3 of Detwiler, Wang and Lannan in the rotation after that.

Presumably very few people would be crass enough to think Strasburg should get 33 starts plus more in the post-season.

So, stop worrying. It's a non-issue. If Nats come up short in Game Seven of the World Series because Strasburg didn't get 39 starts and 240 innings, everybody will just have to live with it. (That's a joke.)

 

Bos, I read somewhere recently that the Nats are looking for $108M per season from MASN and Angelos for the Nats TV rights. What's the latest on that? I'm thinking now that MLB wishes that they hadn't got involved in that mess in the first place - and let the Nats have their own TV rights. And, I'm thinking Angelos would rather run MASN into the ground than give the Nats north of $100M.

The recommendation by the revenue fairness committee (or whatever this super-secret society calls itself) has been pushed back 30 days to July 1. But it's flexible like everything in Bud World.

MASN/Angelos have a contract for a reset that they'll have to live up to. As one ex-Nats exec said he told Ted, "In the end, you're going to GET the money."

BTW, in that contract, the Orioles are guaranteed exactly the same TV rights fee as the Nats! Even though the Washington market is exactly TWICE as big. So, Peter owns both MASN and the O's. If the Nats rights went up to $70M, hypothetically, MASN would have to pay an additional $41M to the O's and another $41M to the Nats. In the case of the O's/MASN, the money would __very broadbrush__ go from one of Peter's pockets (MASN) to the other (O's). So, the O's wouldn't be hurt. But any additional money that goes to the Nats would come out of Angelos MASN pocket and come to Washington. 

Hey, it's business, so they fuss. Nobody really knows how or when it will play out __but it will. One possibility is that the Nats get a bigger equity stake in MASN and accept a lower rights fee. Nats are now at 13%. Selig told me such issues __and everything else under the sun__were "on the table."

Being a baseball commissioner is like playing "Wack-A-Mole." As soon as one owner pops his head up to make the commissioner miserable __and gets pounded back into his hole__ another one pops up. Last week, my wife mentioned his analogy to the commissioner of baseball in Japan, Ryozo Kato, Japan's the former ambassador to the U.S. He's a huge baseball fan, great person. He said, "Yes, that sounds familiar. But fortunately I only have 12 owners. Commissioner Selig has 30."

When is it too early to start talking about an extension for Davey Johnson? Even when he seems like he pushed the wrong button (upsets Harper by benching him, doesn't use Burnett in a big 7th on Saturday), he pushed the right one the whole time (Harper pinch hits and scores from 1st, Burnett is saved for the even more important 8th)!!

Davey's different. He's not looking for a hug or a next deal. That stuff USED to cross his mind plenty when he was with the Mets. But at 69 that's just not how his mind works now. He's back because he wants to see the team, and especially the young players develop. If it works well with him as manager, and he has the stamina for it (looks like he does), then he's glad to continue managing. But he always talks about preparing the team for "the next manager." It's an organizational perspective. He wants to be part of constructing a great franchise. For now, that's as manager. I hope he keeps enjoying it for a while.

Which do you like better? I made my first visit to each of the parks this year and I am still trying to decide which one I like better. Each of them has positives and negatives. I think Wrigley is a prettier ballpark and the atmosphere around the park is better, but Fenway has more history and probably has better seat views, as a whole. However, I did like old Yankee stadium better and wish I could have made it to old Tiger stadium.

I like Fenway better. Colors much more vivid. Wrigley's always seemed a little washed out and disappointing to me. Also, it's such a symbol of failure. Right now, it'd have to fight to stay in my Top 10 parks because so many of the new ones are great. But I haven't been in Wrigley in a couple  of years.

I liked the old Yankee Stadium a lot. I hate the new one. The FIRST quality of a stadium is that it be suited to the playing of an actual baseball game. I don't know what the hell the new Yankee Stadium was built for __besides money. It's a bandbox that distorts the game as much as playing a mile high in Colorado.

Camden Yards and S.F. (whatever corporate name they have slapped on it now) just barely escape this "fairness" test. But they do, even though Baltimore is a hitter's park and S.F. a pitchers yard. They're fabulous.

Everybody wants to be "different." So nobody aspires to build a "fair" park. The Marlins outfield is so vast it looks like a joke. The Nats TRIED to build a pitcher's park. It didn't work. For some reason, the ball carries better than expected and, year after year, it ranks in the middle __neither a distinct pitcher or hitter's park. Yet it has a few quirks, like the 14-foot wall in RF.

"I went and asked the Franchise how he's doing," Johnson said. "He didn't talk to me." When will the big screen tv be delivered from Barry Bonds' locker?

I don't think the public has a handle yet on the difference between Harper the player and Harper the person. Bonds grew up with a troubled father and in a family with problems. Harper grew up in "Ozzie and Harriet" with strong parents, well-defined values and where he had to do the dishes and say, "Yes, sir" and "No, sir." He is, right now, probably the best-mannered pro athlete I've ever met. That's with everybody. And he's not faking it.

He's got a temper. (See "bat backlash.") He attacks the other team and doesn't say he's sorry (See "Pete Rose"). He wants to be the greatest ever (See "Ted Williams"). But in person, he doesn't come across as arrogant at all. In the last year, as every teammate notes, he just seems to have grown up a lot __something many parent see when their kids come back after their first or second year in college. He gets along easily. And that's because he have good ingrained instincts. He got a big hit recently, forget where, maybe the Friday night 3-run sho, and everybody's hi-fiving him in the dugout and the only teammate he took special notice of was Tyler Moore, who'd been on base after getting a hit that probably meant a lot to him. Harper gave him a big hug and Moore just lit up. Obvious they like eachother. Like "Hey, us rookies are doin' pretty good tonight, buddy," but NOT like I JUST HIT A BOMB and you were lucky enough to be on base when I did it. So far, it looks like he has a feel for how to PLAY baseball and also how to ACT baseball.

BTW, if history is any guide, if Harper actually does put together an entire solid season in MLB __which could still be solid at a LOT lower levels than his current numbers__ then WATCH OUT next year. If you are great __not saying Harper is yet, but, come on, how do the "early returns" look__ then 20 is VERY often the age when you just blow up the league.

Here are some numbers for stars at age 20.

Alex Rodriguez: .358 batting title, 141 runs, 91 extra-base hits, 215 hits, 123 RBI.

Mantle: 3rd in MVP, .311, .924 OPS.

Ted Williams: 131 runs, 145 RBI, .328, 86 extra-base hits.

Tyu Cobb: 212 hits, 119 RBI, .350.

Hornsby: .313. Foxx: .328.

Ott: 138 runs, 151 RBI. That's right, 151 RBI at 20.

Frank Robinson: 38 homers. 122 runs.

And at 21, Pujols, Aaron, DiMaggio and too many others to count had already become monsters.

Some get ruined by early fame and attention. But none of these players did. Harper was on the cover of SI at 15. If THAT doesn't ruin you, what would? He's definitely got an athletic ego. But he also has about five Nat vets who are all over his ass all the time __teaching, needling, but also treating him as an equal in talent. He likes it.

Yes, "we shall see." And everybody will be watching to nag. That's the world we're in. But Ripken and Murray never changed from the people they were at 21. Mussina the same. Yes, that Namath tweet was worrisome. And the Nats (Rizzo) shut that down fast.

There's far more breath-holding with Harper than Strasburg, obviously. But I worry less the more I'm exposed to him. IOW, very good first impression as a person.

Boz--a question arose in Tracee's chat regarding Harper's contract and the timing of his call-up. Can you remind us chatters whether his call-up means that he can reach free agency one year earlier or did the nats leave him in the minors long enough to retain that year at the end of his contract? You gotta love a guy who manages to score the winning run ON HIS DAY OFF!!

The Nats did it exactly RIGHT. They get the "extra" year. He's under team control for '12, '13, '14, '15, '16, '17 AND '18. Enjoy those 1,100 games. Isn't that a nice thought for a Monday.

Hi Boz, Thanks for the great articles. I'm probably one of the Nats fans who are optimistic but not quite drinking the Kool-Aide. Reason being, the Nats hitting is not where it needs to be to be a serious contender. I think it's also unreasonable to expect that the team ERA at 2.98 will remain there. That ERA is borderline insanity! I think I recall reading that it has been YEARS since a team had an ERA that low.

I agree. The foul ball off Flores finger yesterday was all you needed to see to realize how fragile young (injured) teams are as they climb the ladder. If Flores was on the DL for 6 weeks this a.m., we'd be having a different discussion.

We may see a few blow-out games when the other team scores 10-12-14 runs that blows up the sub-3.00 ERA. But that doesn't mean that, generally speaking, the pitching won't stay about this good.

ALSO, all teams errupt once in a while. The Nats have scored more than 10 runs in only ONE of their last 243 games, going back to Sept of '10! (They had one 17-run game vs the Orioles in '11). Their run differential may look better after they have a couple of those (almost) inevitable high-scoring games. In '09, ironically, the Nats  scored 11-to-15 runs EIGHT times. And lost 103 games!

The Nats have played a VERY tough schedule this year and faced very little lousy pitching. So far, the Nats have played only 20 games against teams with losing records vs. 38 against teams that are .500 or better. And counted among the "losers" are 6 games with the Phils, who won 102 last year, and three with the Red Sox. If the Nats records against the Phils (4-2) and Red Sox (3-0) were reversed, the Nats would have played 47 of their first 58 games vs teams that are .500 or above!! 

That's another reason I said they'd "arrived."

Boz, With the arrival of summer (and spring All-Met teams) many high school athletes will be off playing summer league/ball/camp-merry-go-round. Do you think it is necessary for all these kids to have to play sports 24/7 in the off season to get noticed for colleges (or the pros)? Isn't the "off season" for developing fundamentals, fine tuning aspects of one's game and throwing the ball against the wall (or practicing free throws)?

You're talking about summer as it was in my young __free form, no pressure and you played some sport morning un til night.

Now, of course, if sports is your career p;ath or scholarship path, it's a different world. Maybe a good future column subject. Thanks.

Is there a better 1-2 in baseball than Strasburg/Gio?

No, there is not. And certainly not for dominant stuff which takes on extra importance in post-season against the best-hitting teams.

But there are others that compare. And pretty soon I'll think of one.

Despite sweeping the BoSox, how do you think the Nats will fare against the other AL East teams?

The Nats face tough pitchers the next two nights in Toronto, a real power-hitting team, then Strasburg vs Kyle Drabek on Weds. Yanks are playing well again and come to D.C. next weekend. The test continues. They're 12-8 in this streak of tough games so far. If they play the next 12 in 6-6 that's a remarkable 32-game run vs the AL and NL Easts.. They probably think they can do better. Game of streaks.

Whose injury is more worrying long-term - Pineda or Halladay?

Pineda is much more of a concern. The Yankees were counting on him for the next five years. Shoulder injuries of his type are potentially career threatening or at least career changing. Halladay, as far as I've heard, just needs rest, not surgery.  

MLB puts out the pitch-tracker data in near-real time, both in the Gameday app on mlb.com and in its mobile apps. I noted yesterday that the image size of the strikezone representation is smaller, and that they've changed the edge of the zone from a solid dark line to a fuzzy white one, which makes it harder to judge borderline calls. Seems an obvious attempt to hamper public scrutiny of umpires' ability to accurately call balls and strikes (I sure hope they get voluminous private feedback).

Gameday and the human eye (mine) disagree often enough and by enough that I don't trust Gameday's location. As in "I don't trust it even within 6 inches."

Marlon Byrd is being DFA'd by the Red Sox. Any chatter on the Nats taking a flier on him? My vote would be 'no' at this point, but given their on-going CF situation, thought it'd be worth a discussion.

Great guy. Can play CF better than anybody the Nats have except Ankiel. But .606 OPS in 100 ABs in Boston this year doesn't do much for me. They're doing fine now and Nady/Moore probably have more pop vs Byrd with 10 HR in last 600 PA. But I'm a Byrd fan.

Back before Angelos turned me off of being an O's fan and the Nats came to town and stole my heart, the Pirates were my favorite NL team. What do some of the fancy stats say about their ability to maintain this level of play?

Sorry, run differential says the Pirates are the No. 1 pick to collapse. They "should" be 27-32, not 32-27 __they've been five games lucky, so far.

The unluckiest team = St. Louis. Five games unlucky. Next are Cubs, 4 games unlucky. Cards will catch fire and make playoffs.

Other teams that are probably not as good as they look in the standings __all of them are FOUR games lucky, which is a lot__ are the Orioles, Marlins, Mets and Indians. Yes, two N.L. East teams in there. Another reason I think there's a gap between Braves-Nats and the rest, at least for now.

 

Before the season, many commentators who know what they're talking about like you, and me (who doesn't) said the Nats should be about a 84-86 win team this year. Throughout the hot start you've maintained that. Now, though, we're in the beginning of the summer, and despite having cooled off the Nats are on pace to win 96, have the second-best team ERA in baseball, and will get their closer back from IR. They've yet to work Mike Morse back up to speed, Ryan Zimmerman still has his season hot streak to come, and Jayson Werth will be back before very long. Does this team suddenly have a reasonable ceiling of 88, 90, or 92 wins this year?

Harper has made a big difference. Gonzalez is a Cy Young candidate, not a 15-game winner. That changes things.

Right now, in our everything-changes-everything world, I'd say the Nats look like a 90-91-win team that could win a tight NL East race and, even if they don't, probably makes the playoffs. That's analysis, not prediction: Subject to change.

Will this lineup hit more if Z'man, Morse, Espinosa get to more "normal" expectations, plus Harper, LaRoche and a hit-for-pop Desmond who's been turned loose to hack by Davey?

Yeah, you'd think so.

Hey Boz. Great column! Why doesn't Flores catch with his meat hand behind his back like most catchers since Johnny Bench? I noticed that even after the foul tip got him, he went right back to having that hand right there behind his mitt. This team cannot afford to lose him to a fracture that could have been prevented.

I don't know.

They tried to switch me to catcher for a while freshman year in college. Oh, boy. Even I figured out "protect your right hand," since all I had was a good arm. Not much use to you if the fingers don't work.

After Bench showed the "right" way, surprised anybody does it differently. Didn't Pudge catch with his arm behind him? I think so. 

Now that it has been run through the mill once, what to you think of the new MLB draft rules and payout numbers?

It was an abuse of monopoly power BEFORE, now it's just a worse abuse. The amateur players get screwed __they don't get anything like a "market price"__ because the owners and players union agree to screw 'em.

 

Bos, The Nats in 1st place-Bryce Harper-Pete Rose with power-how happy are you? Today's column-proscenium? are you trying to be like George Will and use words we don't know? love your work- JB in FL

"Proscenium" just popped into my head. Sorry. I hate writers who do that. It's been so long since I used a word that I've always known but never used before that I just couldn't resist, especially since it was a good word for that spot. My excuse: enthusiasm. 

It won't happen again.

Looking back now, was one of the best thing that happened to the Nats was the whole D.R. mess that got rid of Bowden and the promotion of Rizzo?

Yes.

Nats have had several several blessings in disguise. They wanted to be awful in '07 but were not. Got ninth-overall pick. Then they wanted to be considerably better in '08 and '09 in the new park, but were atrocious __yet got Stras/Harp. Dumb luck.

The Rig for Davey trade came out of the blue. If the Nats had signed Buerhle, they wouldn't have had a spot __or a need__ to make the Gio trade.  

Bos you've been writing for the post as long as I've been alive , so maybe you can talk me down. LaRoche is 3-24 in his last 5 games and has a batting average of .167 over his last 23 games. Any chance they can trade him or at the very least move him down in the line-up to the 7-spot? I just can't stand these 0-fers with multiple K's going on.

LaRoche has a career OPS of .816 __very good for a hitter, though perhaps average for a 1st baseman. His OPS this year is .836 with a pace for 28 homers (career high) and 112 RBI (career high).

Leave the man alone! Cheer. He's had a remarkably consistent career but like every hitter, he has ups and downs. If you suggest to any good MLB manager that perhaps he should bench or move a cold hitter __who also has a long track record of success__ they usually say, "Can you promise me this ISN'T the night he breaks out with two homers and 5 RBI?

Do you think Bobby Valentine is the wrong choice for Boston? He certaily spends a lot of time balming umpires and his team seems to be doing the same thing.

Check my tweets on Bobby V, if you want.

"Sit down, shut up, Bobby."

One of those Nats blessings in disguise was that the Lerners, back in the bad old days, wouldn't come anywhere close to authorizing enough money for a manager for the Nats to peruse/hire Valentine when the job was available (around the time Acta was leaving). There was front-office interest in Bobby. Not universal. But he might have ended up in the job. My view: Great interview, smart but an annoying me-oriented manager.  

Tom, I have been reading your fine work since you were knee high to Shirley Povich. How much fun are you having watching really good baseball finally being played in Washington?

Yes, a whole lot of fun. Though I promise that part of watching a good team is an even tougher "down" when bad things happen __like Werth's wrist or poor can't-catch-a-break Ramos.

Granted, this is a Nats day and the U.S. Open is still a few days away __yes, I like Jayson Dufner, in only for our similar dietary preferences__ and nobody wants to talk about the Heat and LeBron probably beating local favorite Kevin Durant in the NBA Finals.

But I can barely FIND a question not about the Nats. And there are usually plenty. What, you people aren't RIVITED by reports of Skins OTAs!???

 

My favorite random moment from the weekend was when a normally taciturn Adam La Roche broke into a big grin after Harper hit his home run. This kid is the most magnetic player that I can remember watching since Kirby Puckett was lighting it up in the Metrodome. For people (like me) who grew up in that part of the country, that's quite a statement to make.

Nice. And true. LaRoche is very old-school. And really likes Harper.

How is Harper able to hit so well against major league pitching when (relatively speaking) he struggled in the minors? If not for Werth's injury, at least based on his minor league performance, he would yet to be in the majors. Who would have guessed this would happen?

Davey not only guessed it, he predicted and explained it. Then it happened. Only more so.

Is Mike Mussina a Hall of Famer?

Talk about a close call. He is one of only a handful of pitchers in history who won MORE than 100 games more than he lost. But he probably won't quite make it. And he didn't care very much, apparently, since he probably could have gotten to 300 wins. In character. His own drummer. May not have thought he quite deserved it either. Love to ask him sometime.

Just a touch of irony - the presumed biggest damage to losing Adam Dunn was the loss of veteran leadership in the clubhouse, and the potential impact on Zimmerman's signability. Now, the team's chemistry and veteran mentoring is one of its strengths. Would Dunn still be at home in this clubhouse? Would it be the same?

Dunn would be at home in any clubhouse. And his 20 homers so far this season wouldn't hurt.

BUT LaRoche glues the infield and may be more the type of example you want than Dunn, though Adam sure looks like he's in better shape this year.

Let's face it, Boz. Wait until this weekend, when the New York media shows up for the Yankees series. If the Nats play well, especially Harper (Strasburg won't pitch in the series), this could turn into the baseball equivalent of Beatlemania. Do you think these guys are ready for that kind of insane, Brett Favre, Barry Bonds, Lebron James level of attention? Is this where Davey Johnson really starts to earn his money?

I used a phrase "upping the ante on attention" this a.m.

Is it just a little TOO SOON to "arrive?"

You can't fine tune it, just live it out. I think they'll be fine.

See you next Monday at 11 a.m. with a U.S. Open winner to talk about from S.F. (where Ill be) and a Yankee-Nats series where a lot of YOU lucky ducks will be. Cheers.

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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