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June 18, 2012

11:01
A.M.

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

Past Ask Boswell chats

Total Responses: 26

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

Bigger stinker: Nats performance vs. Yanks or US Open?

Boz, I imagine that when you saw you would miss the Yank's 1st series in DC in 6 years (and possibly the last when both teams are in 1st place) you regretted missing it for the US Open. The Nats provided more memories of previous seasons than this one with their anemic performance of missed opportunities and untimely errors, so you didn't miss much that you haven't already seen. Hopefully the sweep at the hands of the Yanks will light a fire under them that there is still plenty of baseball to be played this year before they can dream about October. But it didn't seem like the US Open was that much more compelling. It looked like the winner was going to be whoever made the least unforced errors. Was the victory by Simpson more due to mental lapses by Furyk and McDowell, or was the true victor the Olympic course itself?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Nats fans should come in off the ledge. The Yanks were hot. It happens. Gio, Z';mann and Jackson all had quality starts. The bullpen pitched seven no-hit innings on Saturday after Z'mann left. Lot of good things __ex-Lidge__ in that series.

More important, the Nats are now 15-11 in that 32-game streak of contests against teams from the AL and NL East. That's excellent. They have six more. If they bounce back solidly vs Rays and O's, they may look back on this stretch of the season __including the Yankee sweep__ when they actually set the groundwork for their first playoff appearance.

Also, the N.L. East got so crushed by the A.L. East that it looks like it will take less wins this year to grab the NL East crown or make the wildcard spots.

I'd say the Nats are in MUCH better shape __especially to win the NL East__ than they were ONE WEEK ago when we last chatted. They're gone 3-3. But the division lo0oks so weak. The Marlins are getting exposed. Good to see that temper-case Zambrano getting knocked around in Miami. The Braves sending their best pitcher __Brandon  Beachy who's leading MLB in ERA__ on the 15-DL may been big news. They hope for bone spurs. Even that's not good. They're hoping no TJ surgery. 

Braves are Nats main issue in East. Phils are about as close to dead as you can get and still fog a mirror. Mets are better but won't last. Dickey won't go 25-3. It's mostly Nats and Braves in the long view. IF Nats pitching stays healthy, they look really strong to win the division __Yankee sweep or not.

They need to improve at their sometimes-awful situational hitting. Is Harper the only one who is aware of game situations? Down 2-1 with man on third and two out on Sunday, he resisted the "kid" temptation to swing for a HR and did the right baseball thing __sat on a curve and hit a SCREAMER at Jeter. A few feet either way and it ties the game.

Earlier in the game, after a LaRoche =9, Morse seemed oblivious to the need to move the runner to 3rd, even thoug he has great power to RF. Then with 1st and 3d, one out and a 3-1 count __the game still 2-1 Yanks__ Espinosa got just the pitch he loves __low middle fastball. Of course I didn't get to talk to him about it, but it looked like he tried to hit a 3-run homer instead of just maki9ng solid contact __which could produce SF or hit or (just as likely as a 'kill' swing) a HR. So, he yanks it into an easy DP 4-6-3. Ugh.

All in all, the loses to the Yanks were annoying, especially Saturday when a blown call cost them the game. I ignore plays like the Tyler Moore "out" at the plate in the eighth when it comes early in the game or in a lopsided game. Still a bad call, but I forget it. But THAT was in a HUGE spot and decided the game. Tim Timmonds got too close to the play, anticipated what he was going to call __because it looked like the throw would beat Moore__ then had to jump in the air to avoid Moore just as he was calling "out." In terms of technique and umping habits (WAIT until the play happens before you call it), that's about as bad as you can screw one up. If that run counts, Clippard comes infor the 9th and while everybody says "you can't assume," in fact EVERYBODY in baseball ALWAYS assumes that the game would have played out the same __and Clippard would have saved it. What, the Yanks weren't trying to score in the 9th or would have tried harder if they were behind? Ridiculous.

However, big picture, the sweeps of the red Sox and Jays far outweigh the sweep by the Yanks. In FACT, they outweigh it two-to-one. Mature clubs know that. Under Davey, I assume the Nats will react maturely.

– June 18, 2012 11:02 AM
Q.

Zim at plate

Tom, Does it appear to you that Zim is not really taking his at bats very seriously? He appears to be not concentrating, and not really focusing, as if he is bored. Contrast it with the approach of most of the Yankees hitters, who appear to relish every one of their at bats, not just the ones where they can possibly hit a walk off homer.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Don't want to be harsh but there aren't many players who take it more seriously than Z'man. When you make quick easy outs and look as helpless as Z'man has this season, you look aweful and that can be translated by fans as being caused by anything under the sun. Here's my take on Zim.

 Z'man, like many, many players all the time, is 'playing hurt,' but not 'playing injured.' I assume it's still the shoulder, but it's a state secret. That's his job. He accepts it.

He seems to be vulnerable to outside pitches because he stands far off the plate. But that may be caused by working around whatever hurts him. OFTEN batting stances are a way of compensating for whatever is aching or biting or not at full strength. You make do, try to figure out how to hit .280 with 18 homers and 85 RBI, not .305 with 33 homers and 105 RBI. And you just wait to find the right stance or "thought" or for your body to feel better and then, one day, you are red hot for six weeks. (Or not.) That's just the game. Tough sport, tough people. Most fans don't really get it. Flores (entire body), Espinosa, Desmond (side), Harper (back), Bernadina (hammy) are all "playing hurt." Why? Because it's mid-June and everybody's banged up __but some are lucky that the things that hurt don't bother their hitting.

As long as Zim can't hurt himself worse by playing and the team is better with 80-90% of him than 0% of him, then you play. As Zim mentioned to me recently, his friend David Wright did it a couple of entire years. Some of Ripken's lesser offensive years were related to nagging strains, sprains, bone bruises, joint inflammation __stuff that you just can't say, 'Well, I'll take 4-to-6 weeks off with 'no strenuous exercise,' then another 2-3 weeks to get back in game shape. So, hey, see you guys in 6-to-8 weeks. Good luck without me." I may write a column about all this fairly soon. Football is a collision sport. But baseball is a contact sport __every day. Head-first-slides, diving plays, DP take-out slides, banging into walls, hit by pitches. You see guys who are playing everyday that have bruises on their legs that are black-blue-purple that are almost a foot-square. One reason LaRussa loves Desmond so much is that he throws himself all over the field and never seems to be hurt. He's human. He's just tough.

Zim knows outside pitches are a problem now. But if he got closer to the plate, I bet INSIDE pitches would hurt even worse to hit. Whatever is holding him back __shoulder soreness, something else, bad mechanics__ he'll get better, slowly, and he'll eventually get red hot. Well, probably. If nothing else, he needs to concede some of his power and try to hit for higher average. He used to be very good at using the whole field __including =9 down in the corner. Seldom see that any more.

Enjoy a fun Nats season. Maybe Zim will hit .450 in the division series after the Nats win the N.L. East and go straight into the second round. Only half joking.

– June 18, 2012 11:03 AM
Q.

Need more left-handed power?

Noticed the Yanks have impressive bunch of left-handed batters and wonder if that is the next big step for the Nats. Do we have power-hitting lefties coming up?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Actually, one of the Nats areas of improvement is better LH hitting, thanks to Harper, LaRoche's resurgence and Lombardozzi (switch). When Chad Tracy gets better, he'll help off the bench.

Nonetheless, they are probably one LH bat short looking down the road. If they sign a FA CF over the winter, you'd assume it'd be a LH hitter.

In the minors, LH CF speedster Brian Goodwin, part of the hot '11 draft class, is healthy and hitting __.308/.429/.475 in 12o AB and 11 of 14 SB in A-ball SALLY League.

Also, looking at Nats minor league stats is completely different than a few years ago where you couldn't find anybody with monster numbers. Now they are everywhere. LH hitting 3rd baseman Matthew Skole his 14-58-.296 and SS Jason Martinson 63 RBI in 265 AB, also at Hagerstown.

Alex Meyer the 6-foot-9 power arm from the '11 draft is on track, too: 6-3, 3.33 ERA, 77K in 70 IP and a 1.19 WHIP, which is good for a big high-90's RH pitcher who seems to have better control in his first year than expected.

 

– June 18, 2012 11:03 AM
Q.

Davey's still a smart guy, right?

Tom, Some athletes lose their ability slowly, while others drop off really quickly. Do you see Brad Lidge pitching in anything but a mop-up roll at this point? Lidge is absolutely killing the Nats when he gets into ballgames.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Speak no ill of the (baseball) dead. He's been DFAed. Great smart guy, excellent career, but it looked like the end of the road for him to me. Just not enough fastball left to set up his slider. And Nats said (when he was a Phil) that his fastball was straight and very hitable.

But never underestimate a sharp vet's ability to pick up an extra pitch, or slippery substance, and find a way back.

– June 18, 2012 11:03 AM
Q.

batting order

What's your ideal Nats lineup and batting order given Zim's and Morse's funks and the general season-long failure of players to advance runners into scoring position?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

If Zim continues to have a bad year, Werth's return could be very important. Especially since their fast start __even after the Yankee series__ makes it virtually certain that the Nats will be in the playoff hurt when Werth returs.

Starting at No. 2, then you could bat Harper, Werth, LaRoche, Zim, Morse, Desmond, Flores with leadoff spot still to be determined __Espinosa if he continues to come around and/or Lombardozzi.

Harper and Werth both have very good career on-base % for top of lineup guys. And, you know, I've now reached the point where I assume what we're seeing from Harper is real for this season __including the high on-base rate__ with even better in future years. I don't mean exactly his current .890 OPS which is still hard to believe for a 19-year-old, but he's impressive. To come back with a 2-for-4, including a rocket double off the right field wall after 0-for-7 w 5 Ks is one of the most impressive things he's done.

And when he said he wanted to concentrate on defense in the MIDDLE of that 14-IP game since he wasn't hitting, that seemed scary mature.

– June 18, 2012 11:04 AM
Q.

Kudos to O's

Bos, I despise them, but isn't it time to admit that the Baltimore Orioles are for real, a legitimate play-off contender?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I usually wait until about the 110-game mark in August to say that long-shot teams are for real. And that was the Orioles category entering the season. That wasn't the case for the Nats who were universally seen as an 85-86 win team that might be even better than that.

Because the Orioles are close to home, I'll waive my 110-game rule __somewhat__ for when fack teams fade. But lets see what out old friend Run Differential has to say. I look at BOTH W-L and R.D. But over any 5-year period for any team, they always end up exactly the same. So one is an excellent counter-balance on the other. Here are what the AL and NL East standings SHOULD look like, according to run differential, which shows which teams have won an unusual number of 1-run games or been lucky.

N.L. East

Washington...36-38

Atlanta...35-31

NY Mets 33-34

Philadelphia...33-35

Miami...27-39!!!!

You see why I think the Marlins are fake Fish.

A.L. East

NY Yanks...39-26

Toronto...37-29

Boston...36-30

Tampa Bay 35-31

Baltimore...35-31.

Conclussion: The A.L. East is just a gorilla of a division. The orioles are better but will probably fall back and miss the playoffs. But that doesn't mean they aren't much better. After 13 starts each, Hammel (7-2, 2.87) and Chen (7-2, 3.36) deserve the benefit of the doubt, just as Edwin Jackson (3.02 in 13 starts) deserves the benefit of the doubt that he's now a whole level better as a starter.

The O's have always had enough power. Adam Jones will cool, but the return of Brian Roberts should make up for it, and maybe more.

The O's bullpen is a question. Jim Johnson (1.21, 20 saves) has first-rate closer stuff. But most of the rest of that gang is doing it with mirrors, has gotten a ton of work and may hit a wall. That's when the one-and-two-run wins turn into loses in the heat of summer and teams get back to their "norm." That applies to the Nats, too, who've been 3 wins lucky.

The O's 3-4-5 starters just don't impress me. But a combined ERA of about 5.40 for Arrieta, Matusz and Hunter will catch up with ya.

The O's have enough cushion that I actually think this may be the >.500 year. And that may be enough to talk fifth-AL-playoff sp;ot into September, which would be nice. But because of their division and their good luck so far, I'd say the Nats chances of post-season and even an NL East title are far, far better. 

Really looking forward to the Nats-O's showdown in Baltimore this weekend. July-August may not be kind to O's. And Nats will be getting Storen and WEerth b ack with Zim and/or Morse starting to hit. But right now, it's really even and should be a battler. The O's keep missing Strasburg and Gio and will again this time.

It makes a HUGE difference whether a team (like Boston) gets hit with SS, GG and JZ or (like the O's this weekend) gets JZ, Jackson and Wang.

BTW, it Wang ever gets rolling __which I actually doubt__ he works a lot of IP on very few pitches, much like Edwin Jackson has so far. But I just don't think Wang's sinker is as effective, such a quick-out weapon as it used to be. We'll see. His next two-or-three styarts should be time enoguh to get a good read.  

– June 18, 2012 11:24 AM
Q.

Furyk's 16th and karma?

Anything karma related that caused Furyk's 16th tee shot? Did he "deserve" this hook for some unknown reason? Because I sure was hoping he could win.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

No, he just put a quick swing on it at a bad time. I hated watching him lose __and he did think that he lost it. He's one of my dozen or so favorite golfers. Very smart, candid, wry sense of humor. MUCH more interesting when he's talking than watching him play and hit fairways, then play 30-40 feet away from the pin for a two-putt par.

If McDowell had won __giving Northern Ireland a McDowell-McIlroy-McDowell run in the US Open__ it would have been enormous fun. He's got Everyman Star written all over him. People loved him when he won once. He'd have been a fan favorite for the next 10-12 years with two U.S. Opens.

Webb Simpson deserved to win. But he reminds me a little too much of a somewhat better Lucas Glover who'd won >$8M on Tour at age 29 when he won the US Open and had a nice-looking swing __all like Simpson__ then never did much after that. Maybe Webb is more like Lee Janzen and Scott Simpson who each won two majors.

Still, I don't see this Simpson as a transformative player or big star. The Open crown fell on his head. He merits it. But I wouldn't hold my breath wqaiting for it to happen again. 

Michael Thompson, 27, who only got into this Open through sectional qualifying in Rockville, Md., almost had this Open drop on HIM. He missed an easy birdie putt coming in that would have put him at +1 in the house. Simpson wasn't looking at the scorebaord __following my Sunday column advice, no doubt??__ so I assume he'd have finished +1, too.

They'd be playoff it off right now. Oh, my God, what a thought, a Michael Thompson-Webb Simpson playoff. How can I go on? Give me strength.

Oh, okay, I'll go on. 

– June 18, 2012 11:37 AM
Q.

Lance Armstrong

Hey Boz... Why does your esteemed colleague still act as such an apologetic defender of Lance?! Just because Lance told her he didn't cheat, she believes him?! To put it simply, the best cyclists in the world all cheated, yet Lance (without cheating) won 7 straight Tour de Frances clean?! Come on... When does logic just kick in?!
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Sally defends him about as cogently as anybody possibly could. He should be glad he has such a smart analytical friend. She actually leaves me considering the possibility of "reasonable doubt." Then I just fall in line with most other people and reject it. BUT it's great to have someone who can make the best possible case for Armstrong. He's used his stature to do a lot of good.

(You sure can't say that for Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds. Yes, I know cycling and baseball are not "comps.") 

 

– June 18, 2012 11:42 AM
Q.

Too big a deal about the Yankees?

Is it just me or did NatsTown collectively make too big a deal out of the Yankees series? I know it is the Yankees, but 3 games against the Yankees mean as much as 3 games against the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Rays. Now, next weekend, is bigger -- that opponent voted to keep baseball out of DC and was rewarded with the Nats TV rights which kept almost 2 full seasons of Nats baseball off area cable systems.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

This is a perfect example of healthy baseball thinking. You try to learn from the past but also "rework it" a little bit in hindsight so that the bas experience doesn't weigh you down in the future. In fact, you end up thinkiing, "Hey, the future is MORE important than the pastr. Lets GO!"

Not logical, but mighty helpful. I try to do something similar after most columns! (Rim shot.)

Actually, the Yanks are about the same quality team as the Jays and Red Sox __slightly better. Bujt they match up well with the Nats. The Yanks are very good EXPERIENCED hitters who wrok the count, manage to get  two or three runs off even the best starters and get them out of the game fairly early. That's just what they did to the Nats. The Nats offense, however, is jittery, lacks confidence now because Z'man and Morse are such zeroes (temporarily) and can be held down by the Yanks less-than-wonderful starters. Yes, I know the Yank rotation has had a scalding hot June. Oh, congratulations. Call me back in September and we'll see who Pettitte, Kiroda, Nova and Hughes look.

As John Lithgow (the alien-planet mad scientist) said in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzaia Across the Eighth Dimension: "Laugh while you can, monkey boy."

Phils and Red Sox are both still in last place. Yanks should enjoy it now. Rust never sleeps.  

– June 18, 2012 11:53 AM
Q.

110 Shutouts

How amazing is Walter Johnson's career record of 110 shutouts?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Yes, an unbreakable record.

But, back then, they did play with a ball that was filled with rolled up sweatsocks.

I consider his K records more amazing. He played in an age when making contact was EVERYTHING. Bunt, hit-and-run, advance runs with outs, try to reach on errors by guys using those pancake gloves. He struck out 313 and 303 men in a season in a time when, for the most part, everybody was Juan Pierre. And, until he picked up his "nickel curve" (slider) late in his career, he did it with one pitch. I'm willing to assume that, at the same age, his fastball was 2-3 mph faster than Strasburg's is now. And probably with more movement because he didn't throw over the top and SS's four-seamer is kinda straight. (His two-seamer dives nicely, thanks very much.)

I'm with David Ortiz who said Strasburg had the best stuff __all pitches combined, including the changeup__ that he'd ever seen. By next year, when SS should average about one more inning per start __7 IP, not 6 IP for 230 IP a season__ he'll be quite the amazing finished product, I suspect.

– June 18, 2012 12:00 PM
Q.

The Bullpen Changes After Storen's Return

What will happen when he comes back? What should happen? Hasn't Clippard earned the closing position? Will there be a two-platoon set-up/closer?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I've said before that there will be an "A" and "B" bullpen. But that's a vague concept. I assume Storen will still close more than 80% of the wins, unless winning streaks force Davey to use a "B" closer, which would be Clippard. You can look up Johnson's best Met and Oriole teams to see how he did it.

But, if healthy, that could be quite the bullpen with Storen, Clippard, Burnett, Henry Rodriguez (I think he works his way back and is effective in the 7th and 8th, just not the 9th), Mattheus, Stamnmen (!), Gorzelanny and Detwiler. Actually, that's one reliever too many. But in September, with expanded rosters, they'll be able to drive almost any team crazy with matchups.

– June 18, 2012 12:05 PM
Q.

"Why do the Yankees always win?"

"...cause the other teams can't stop staring at those damn pinstripes" - Christopher Walken in Catch Me if you Can. Did you see some of this this weekend? Its funny because in years past watching Nats games, there was always this gut feeling that the Nats were going to lose even when it was close. And for the first time this season, that feeling was there for all 3 games. Although the scores Friday and Sunday don't really reflect it, these were all close and winnable games, it just felt like it wasn't going to happen..
A.
Thomas Boswell :

There was some pinstripe gazing. But even more I think it was an over-the-top desire to beat 'em. Hard not to try to hard the first few times under the bright lights. That was part of the poor situational hitting.

But they didn't get swept. I won't give 'em a win for the Moore call, but, just to be ornery, I consider that it was 2 1/2-to-1/2.

It's too bad the Yankees will be too old for the Series by the time these Nats get there sometime, or a couple of times, over the next few years. It would have been fun to meet 'em. Oh, well. You can't have everything.

– June 18, 2012 12:09 PM
Q.

Fading Tiger

Well, from what he was. Years ago I read a quote by a successful PGA pro about another one, can't remember either but to paraphrase "He's either a bad back or a bad divorce away from being a great one." That describes Tiger. Okay, he had the great period before the bad leg (reasonable substitution for bad back) and bad divorce but clearly the combo has made him....news flash...just another good PGA tour pro. I mean what happened to him at the Open was *no* different than we've seen from pros over the last 50 years. And yet, the media seems astonished when it happens. Last week you wrote that he had one of the greatest minds and games in golf, a rare combination. You and I are old enough to have seen numerous everyday examples of the subtle influences that a bad divorce can have on one's mind. Combine that with literally a career ending (or at least limiting) leg problem and Tiger's pretty much come down to earth. Still loads of talent and experience but clearly he's more of a "one of the guys" now. And thank goodness NBC (who's coverage I usually hate) gave him the amount of coverage his place in the tournament warranted on Sunday. If it had been CBS, we would have gotten Tiger updates all day.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Excellently put. I believe it was Nicklaus who made the comment about only a bad back or bad marriage being able to deter Tiger. But "don't quote me" because it was long ago and I could be wrong. It wasn't a mean comment, just an evaluation of how staggering his talent was back then.

Right now, I think Tiger is back to being one of the Top 10 players in the world. He showed it at Arnold and Jack's events. But Westwood, Luke Donald and several others are also Top 10 golfers who __LIKE TIGER NOW__ feel extra pressure because they want to win majors SO badly.

It's pretty obvious that Tiger can't take his "new swing" from the Tour to the majors yet. That is a typical example of pressure at work. I assume he will manage to make that jump successfully __but how many times? Once or twice? Or 4-5-6 more majors. If I had to bet (right now) I'd say 1-2-or-3 __but not enough to catch Jack. Because the 18th major, if he gets there, will have it OWN extra pressure. And he'll be older (and not healthier) by then.

I'd say an equally big issue is his putting. He'll never be That Guy again __maybe for a week here and there, but not consistently draining everything inside 10-feet in the majors.

As I pointed out in my Friday column, Tiger just brings so much golf knowledge and skill to the sport that you don't want to see him drift back. On his FIRST trip up the ladder, he blew right through all the levels of pressure and self-doubt, just like Nicklaus. But now, because of the knee, the divorce, the swing changes, all the bad feelings with those who've been close to him in the past, it's like Tiger has to go through the whole NORMAL career progression that other Tour golfers do in their 20's and 30's as they try to "get over the hump" and win their FIRST major.

That's the point: Tiger is now tryingt to win his FIRST major, not his 15th. It's his first major as the New Tiger. Or the "Tiger is Finally Back" Tiger.

Or maybe his next major win will actually be his first major as himself. He grew up a prodigy who never rebelled with two Stage Parents who were tougher than tungsten. When he was 29, he seemed like a 19-year-old when you talked to him __a very smart 19-year-old, but semi-unformed (aside from every aspect of golf), still into video games, chat about sports. He sure had to grow up in a tough way __and tough for others, too.

Bottom line, I wish him luck. Life's tough. And he's gotten a double dose of life, at least, in recent years. I think he'll win more majors. But THIS weekend was the most negative moment we've seen as far as ever reaching 19 majors. He was right where he wanted gto be, and has almost always won from in the past __tied for the lead after 36 holes. And, after that, he was close to awful.

He'll have to pull himself back together __again. But Saturday and Sunday had to be one more hard-to-take data point __showing him how tough it's going to be to win FIVE more majors. He's only 36, but his knee and that (sometimes) jabby putting stroke are not getting any younger.

– June 18, 2012 12:27 PM
Q.

Nats offense is offensive

What are the options for improving the Nats offense? Replace Eckstein since several Nats hitters seem to be completely lost at the plate? Bench Espinosa as a left handed hitter? Is it time to give Moore a fulltime shot in LF since Lombardozzi seems to be slumping?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

It's time to be patient. Johnson is one of the better hitting minds around. If he wanted a different or better hitting coach, he'd have about 20 of them on speed dial. Davey is as "connected" as anybody in the game and anybody'd want to work with him. So HE doesn't think the problem is Eckstein or he'd have been gone long ago because Davey has been with the Nats (and Eckstein) for three years.

Now Tyler Moore is a REALLY interesting question. It's not just that he hit 31 homers in A ball, then 31 homers in AA ball. It's that, in AAA this year in 100 ABs, he hit 9 homers with 26 RBI (!!), a .310 average and 1.032 OPS. He bloomed a little slow (25). But he is a really good looking hitter. He's only had 33 ABs w the Nats, but he's hitting .303 with a .888 OPS.

There is every reason to think that this guy can hit. Maybe he can even REALLY hit. Harper's seen him a lot and he thinks a a lot of him. Maybe that's rookie-rookie support, but I don't think so.

Where do you put him and when? You LH bats so you'd think they'd pick up LaRoche's option year in '13. LaR has a really good glove and 1st is Moore's natural position.

I suppose it's good to have 4 OFers in Werth, Harper, Morse and Moore. But, ideally, you don't want to stunt a 25-year-old like Moore who's now had almost 2 1/2 years that say "30 HR bat, maybe."

– June 18, 2012 12:35 PM
Q.

Zim

Bos, you talk about players reverting to their norms a lot. Is Zim having a Werth-less year or is he going to revert to his norm soon with a hot streak?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Zim has been in a funk at some point almost every season. Three of his big break out into streaks have come on July 3, July 4 and July 4. 

But, right now, he's the team's key issue. I think he can hit .290-.300 even "playing hurt" if he sacrifices some power. Mark Grace, Munson, George Brett and many other were wonderful No. 3 hitters without big HR numbers.

But it's hard to know what to say. He's hurting. But you don't really know where or how much. And plenty of "dinged" guys get hot and tear it up.

– June 18, 2012 12:38 PM
Q.

USGA Open: too much luck?

Well, USGA defended par. But, with error margins so close between a good shot and an unlucky bounce or lie or too-fast green, the course won and everyone else [except the ultimate winner] basically lost. I prefer to watch golfers striving to win in the last round rather than a souped-up version of pinball punishing less than totally perfect shots. Great psycho-drama but is it really golf?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

That has always been the argument about the U.S. Open. And that annoying capriciousness __is it really a fair exam__ is why I'd rank it third, and no higher, among the 4 majors, ahead of only the PGA.

For decades, the U.S. Open was supposed to be the ultimate test of driving. This year, they took the driver out of the player's hands. Many used the big dog only 3 or 4 times a round. How is that a "complete examination?" Answer: It isn't.

And next year at short, old-fashioned Merion you'll see the same thing.

– June 18, 2012 12:42 PM
Q.

The pro golf tour today

Watching a major golf tournament these days is like going to see a decent independent movie. It's well made, well produced, and the people in the leading roles are likeable enough. But you can't help but think it'd be better if it had some real stars in it. Right now, golf not only doesn't have a #1 player in the world, it doesn't have a #2 player, or 3 or 4 or 5. Throw about 10 guys into bunch and they've all got a claim. How many guys on tour could be considered legitimate contenders for a major? One-third of them? Half? Simpson missed the last cut in his last two tournaments and turns around and wins the Open. It makes for some entertaining stuff but without the additional element of greatness, something's missing, in my opinion. Your thoughts?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I agree.

Great question, even though it is its own answer. Thanks.

– June 18, 2012 12:43 PM
Q.

What about Phil?

People love to recite the fact that Tiger hasn't won a major since the U.S. Open in 2008, but we don't spend nearly as much time pointing out that Mickelson has only won one major since then and that was in 2010. The door was open for him to become not only the #1 player in the world, but an historically great player, and he blew it. Why? What happened?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Phil just turned 42, has some arthritis issues. Most of his best golf is probably in the past. If he wins one more major, that's great. JMHO.

– June 18, 2012 12:44 PM
Q.

Happy Father's Day!

Alright, who's the joker who asked for the "Cold Dose of Reality" for father's day? Because you got your wish... Seriously, though - I was at the game on Sunday. At what point does the abject lack of offense on this team start to become a major concern? Winning every game 3-2 doesn't seem like a viable long-term strategy. Ivan Nova has an ERA of over 4, and he went 7-8 innings against us only giving up one run...
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Thomas Boswell :

They'll hit better. Morse is rusty. After this tough patch of schedule, they'll start seeing some more mediocre to poor pitching and that will help.

– June 18, 2012 12:45 PM
Q.

U.S. Open

Boz, Really enjoyed all your coverage of the U.S. Open this past weekend - more than any of the players enjoyed the course, I think. Speaking as a fan, I actually *like* the fact that we've had so many different winners at majors the last years - what it underlines, to me, is just how impressive it is for *any* golfer to win more than one major. Let alone more than two - sustained excellence at that level (or even periodic - see Daly, John) is truly something to behold.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Thanks. And another very good point.

Tiger created the golf boom among "real athletes." That just makes it tougher to win for everybody __including him.

– June 18, 2012 12:46 PM
Q.

The Crucible

How much of a pressure cooker is the US Open that even one of the best grinders on Tour, Furyk, duck hooked his tee-shot on the back nine like you or I would?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Yup.

But when I hook 'em under pressure they're so ugly that my son calls them "shrimp" because of their shape.

– June 18, 2012 12:47 PM
Q.

Bad Fans

Okay, I have a bit of a dilemma here. Saturday's game was the first that I had attended when the Yankees in town. Before that game, I had thought that there is no way that any fan base could be worse than that of the Phillies. Now I'm not so sure. Sure, the Yankees fans don't boo everyone in sight, but that sense of entitlement really got on my nerves. I think that I finally understand what the Orioles fans have had to endure for so many years.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The Yankees have had the deck stacked in their favor for almost 100 years. I'm serious. One reason __among several__ that the NFL passed baseball is that the NFL had revenue sharing. Baseball didn't. So the Yankees, and their TV money, had a built in advantage.

One of the great failures in sports is the Yankees record since '00. More than $2-billion spent in salaries for one world title. Yet their fans act like they've done something. They have. They've consistently underperformed. And frequently choked in October.

Sorry, just the facts.

– June 18, 2012 12:51 PM
Q.

O's vs. Nats

Are you capable of answering a question about the O's without comparing them (unfavorably) to the Nats? The Washington Post, you included, seem to have some weirdo anti-O's bias. Yes, I realize DC has it's own team now, but 1) you don't have to insult one to support the other and 2) a LOT of us grew up in this area at a time when DC had no team, and will never make 'the switch'.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Well, I've tried to say some nice things today. The way they are playing, they're making it easy.

That's it for this week. See you next Monday after the Nats-O's showdown. Thanks again for all the sharp questions.

– June 18, 2012 12:52 PM
Q.

Furyk's 16th drive and age

Wasn't that hook and drive a pretty good snapshot of why it's hard to win when you're older. When you're younger, you always think you have another chance. But Furyk had to feel that this is almost his last, best chance at another major and redemption for a pair of second place finishes. There simply has to be much more pressure when you feel you're down to one of your final chances. Tough to watch his play as the normally stoic Furyk broke down with his game.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Good, sad point.

That was a swing that probably had too much of his golf soul attached to it.

– June 18, 2012 1:21 PM
Q.

Webb Simpson Played Like a US Open Veteran

Boz, As much as I think Furyk blew it yesterday, I think it's important to note that Webb Simpson won the U.S. Open the same way it's been won for at least the past 60 years. He shot 68 on Saturday and then in the final round he used one hot hour and then hung on--parring the last 8 holes. That's a recipe for winning the U.S. Open--make a few birdies early and hang on tight while everyone else finds a way to implode. I hope that doesn't get lost in the "Olympic favors the underdog" storyline.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Good analysis, in my book.

– June 18, 2012 1:27 PM
Q.

Strasburg innings limit

Bos, you have repeatedly said that you've "done the math" and with a 170-inning limit Stras can pitch until 9/20. As all my math teachers said, you need to show your work. Assuming 6ish IP/start, he has 15 or maybe 16 left before he hits 170. Unless they rejigger the rotationto stretch him out over the ASB (which they did with JZimm but have already said they won't do with Stras) he makes it until about 9/9. Rejiggering the rotation at the ASB would only add 2-3 days to that given the way his starts are already laying out. So how big a flood are you predicting that will rain out a wek and a half of the season?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I looked at it again the other day. If he pitches 1 IP in the All-Star game, then starts the fifth game after the AS break, it gives him some rest and the Nats won't need another starter to replace him until Sept. 15. So, you're right. Doesn't seem like a big problem to me. If you're drawing the blueprint for a ballclub then you want him for the next FOUR Octobers (at least) __at full health.

– June 18, 2012 1:30 PM
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