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>

Jul 02, 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.

I realize it won't happen, but if the Nats announced tomorrow that they signed Bryce to a 10 year extension, what dollar amount would you consider a "steal" and what dollar amount would make you cringe at this extremely early point?

Wow. That's a beautiful hypothetical question. I don't have a hypothetical answer. Both sides want to establish a baseline of what Harper's real performance level will be. You'd think they'd want to see what he did at 19-20-21 before evaluating. I mena both sides. 

It's enough for now, I think, that Harper is so enthusiastic about playing in Washington. If you haven'ty, don't miss Adam Kilgore's wonderful piece on Harper. Some athletes just can't open up, or can't do it in a way that does them justice. Harper already can. 

BTW, Harper's comment on the possibility of being voted into the All-Star game is remarkably mature: "It's an accomplishment, I  guess but you got Chipper (Jones) up there (on the five-man fan ballot). So, I think a Hall of Famer should be able to go to an All-Star game his last year. If I was going to vote, I'd go vote for Chip."

(I'm still thinking. But I'd say I'd vote for Harper and figure that Chipper will end up on the team, one way or the other, probably is somebody gets injured in the next week.)

 

Have the Nats thought about leading off Harper and then allowing Tyler Moore to bat 2nd?

Harper's really excellent at scoring runs because he's fast and aggressive. But you also want to give him RBI chances. So, No. 2 is a compromise. It's still a high runs scored spot, but also doesn't hold down RBI too much. Some year you assume he's probably a No. 3 hitter with Z'man at No. 4.

Why is he still in Hagerstown and when will we get to see how good he is/can be at a higher level?

Goodwin started the year injured. The Nats, like most teams, like to get top prospects established with a good base of games/ABS before they move them up. The adjustment is not just to the level of the league but to the whole pro game. So the first step is usually somewhat deliberate, especially compared to hot-start stats like Goodwin's. They have no plans to slow this guy's development down.

Given the upcoming review of MASN and the revenue going towards the Nationals, could we possibly see a more fair arrangement of 50/50 revenue-sharing between the Nats and the Orioles? And is there anything Peter Angelos can do, legal or dirty, to undermine such an arrangement (short of intimidating Bud Selig, as before)?

No chance, for now, on 50-50. The best would be a faster move toward the Nats getting 33%, per the original agreement.

Long-term I wish a way coul;d be found to open up the process so Comcast could get into the picture and a better idea of true market value could be established. But nobody sees that as a near-term possibility. The Nats WILL get a much higher deal for '13. MASN will fight it every dollar of the way, even though the O's will get the same rate. And I suspect that, at some point, an annoyed Selig may have to step in and use some of his "mighty powers" to get some justice done.  But this will probably drag out like a toothache.

On "Thanks Earl Day" back in 1982, Rich Dauer hit a walk off homer to win the game for the Orioles. I think you wrote about how fitting it was that Dauer was the hero as he was Weaver- like. I was at the game Sat and I guess it was fitting - in a bad way -that the O's lost a gme that looked like it could have been played in Weaver's second stint with the team. It was nice to see that Earl's mind is still sharp. He went out of his way to thank a lot of people for his success...really didn't take any credit. Just wondering if you would care to share any thoughts on the "Earl of Baltimore" ?

I was really glad to see that Earl was still so sharp. He underlined in his talk that he'd spent 20 years in the minors, 10 as a player. That was one reason he retired so young the first time __at age 52! He had enough money and heaven knows he'd worked hard enough for 34 years.

All great managers are hyper-c0mpetitive. But Earl did it without any (or few) negative ramifications. He trasmitted competitive electricity that energized but also scared/motivated his teams a bit.

I may post some thought later on similarities and differences between Earl and Davey Johnson who played for him. I try never to mention Earl without saying, "Thanks" for 9 years of breaking me in on the Orioles beat, giving me a hard time (as he did everybody) but always working so hard __really thinking__  to answer a young reporter's questions. Earl was further "ahead of his time" than any manager I ever covered. There have been some real high IQs, like Whitey Herzog and Davey Johnson. And they were original thinkers. But Earl blended that baseball IQ and originality with personality and a fabulous (often profane) way with words.

You could not wait to get to the park to see what Earl would say or do. Davey has mellowed somewhat, but that same "what will he say" quality is still there. But with Earl the range of possibilities was almost endless because he didn't mind feuds and would speak his mind on anything and anybody.

At what point do the Nats decide to look for another option at 2nd Base? Danny has been struggling at the plate the last two years. He's hitting in the .220s this season and in June he's hit in the .230s.

Espinosa has been doing fine for his last 52 games. Not wonderful, but hitting ~.250 with a .725 OPS.

Mark my wortds (as they say), in '13 or '14 everybody will be looking back and saying that "Espinosa is just like Desmond, an All-Star talent that just needed some time to grow, mature, iron out a few problems in his game."

In '10 and '11 lots pof people weanted to bury Desmond, move Espinosa to SS. The Nats never doubted Desmond's talent or temperament. Right now, they feel pretty much the same way about Espinosa. Davey can't image him not developing into an excellent hitter. He's already an outstanding 2nd baseman, although the Nats DOP totals, as well as your eye, tells you that Espinosa hasn't completely made the transition to 2nd on turning the DP. He's good enough, but he could/should/will be excellent.

You don't give up AT ALL on talents this big with competitive personalities. He tries too hard and especially presses LHed. But what will he be when he hits as well LH as RH? And why WOULDN'T he? If he has the coordination, eyesight, power, timing to hit RHed, then why wouldn't he be able to do it LHed __especially since LH has been his better side since he was a little kid?

He fits at leadoff RHed now. And hitting 7th, he's just fine hitting LHed. And there's no problem with giving him a few days off __like Sunday__ during the hot weather to keep him fresh. Then Lombardozzi gets some ABs.

't

Have you heard any rumors about trading Lannan?

Lannan has pitched well enough his last half-dozen starts (though he lost yesterday) to make himself somewhat tradeable. I still think he has greater value to the Nats as the arm you bring up when Strasburg gets shut down or if any of the current rotation get hurt. He's a highest-level insurance policy you couldn't duplicate without giving up too much in trade price. It's tough on Lannan who, I've said many times, is an average MLB starting pitcher (that's praise, since few teams ever have 5 MLB-average starting pitchers). Doubt he'll be traded. Assume he'll be needed at some point.

Boz, Your pre-tournament column was superb. If Tiger opened up a little more -- even about basketball -- people would love the guy. When he talks about swing mechanics, the perception is that he is an automaton. I understand that he cannot sign every autograph like Phil, but it is nice to him hear him about something (non-golf) that he enjoys. It gives the fans a glimpse into the normal side of a superstar. It is a mystery why his handlers have a hard time convincing him to relate better to the public via the media. As a person who has been critical of Tiger, I'm now looking forward to his second act.

Thanks. Great way to frame the discussion.

Nobody "handles" Tiger. IMO, he probably could have handled his post-game media remarks better yesterday. Some others thought the same. But that's him __he's defiant right now, driven, wants to get back to No. 1 so back he almost seems to radiate the desire.

I wish he could turn questions into an excuse to tell stories the way Nicklaus, by 36, could do it. He's a 17-year veteran! His left foot knows more about golf than the rest of us will ever know. He's always been ALLOWED to be more private than any other U.S. athlete in any sport. And he's been hated on so much in recent years that you can't blame him. Though I'd say that he's actually more open __ok, less closed__ than he was 5 years ago.

He's going to keep winning and he's going to win more majors. I hope, once he gets past, "I told you so" (he's entitled to that, certainly), maybe he can relax, to a degree. He's kind of a nerdy golf fanatic who loves all sports and just has this amazing athletic ability which he's dedicated himself to fulfilling since he was a child. The fact that he looks like a movie star __and uses it to his advanatge vs opponents__ actually hides other parts of him. He's a totally different, set-apart person because of his talent and child-celebrity life. But he's also, at times, like the guy next to you in the bar who just can't get enough of sports __especially golf. Bernard Darwin was a fine golfer and great golf writer. I wonder if, 30 years from now, Tiger will do some wonderful golf writing __or recollecting. Now THOSE are (golf) memoirs I'd read.

I've written 2 or 3 piecesalways

What's your estimate for attendance for this series?

First, this is a fabulous series. The Nats and Giants have the two best records in the N.L. And they are similar __great pitching, good-enough hitting. (Nats are up to 20th in runs-per-game in MLB __n ot good, but far from awful and improving).

Also, the Nats could use some Crazy Fans help. They have tough matchups __no Strasburg or Gio while Giants go with Tim Lincecum (having a bad season but coming off a strong start), then the tough Bumgarner and Cain. Then it flips and the Nats send Stras, Gio and JZ'man against the lowly Rox on the weekend with a chance to show 'em what's what at sea level. Rockies are a mediocre (at best) hitting team away from Coors. I smell a little revenge for that 2-2 split.

On attendance, I think Nats Park will be rocking. In their lasty 21 home games, the Nats have averaged 33,175. The O's are doing much better, too, averaging 30,046 in their last 21 home games. This is the summer, maybe, when we see what DC and B'more can do to prove that this is a GOOD 2-team market. Of course, the O's have to stop collapsing. Maybe Tillman or Britton can stabalize the rotation now that Matusz has been sent down. 

Put me down for >105,000 for the 3 games. Blind guess. Sometimes 4th of July helps, sometimes it competes against attendance. I'm looking forward to the 11 a.m. game on the 4th __home for fireworks! And I plan to love the throwback uniforms on Thursday.

I couldn't be happier for Strasburg, Gonzalez, & Desmond; I'll be happy if Bryce wins the vote, but, as he's only 19 and has a lot of years ahead of him, I'll be okay if he doesn't. But I can't understand why Tyler Clippard didn't get named to the team as well. Because of his switching from setup to closer, he's not close to leading either holds or saves, but add them together and he has 25--a very good number. His ERA would be much lower except for two bad innings at the beginning of the year when he had a shoulder problem. Could he still be named to the team? This, to me, is a grave injustice!

Agree with you. Clippard has certainly pitched well enough to be on the team. If Harper DOESN'T get voted on, then a Nats reliever absolutely should get any last-minute spot that pops up __and there usually are one or two.

The Giants and Cards each have 4 All-Stars __they won recent world titles. If Harper is voted on, then Nats have 4, too. So you can't cry foul on that.

A couple of points. No, Craig Stammen shouldn't be on the AS team, but he has had a remarkable season and has pitched the most innings in the whole bullpen with a 1.41 ERA in 44 1/3 innings __the lowest Nat ERA. And it's not a fluke. If he can maintain this level of command __and it's exceptional with everything at the knees, all his pitches coming out of the same slot and looking identical until they break late__ he can keep being excellent. (No, not 1.41 ERA excellent.) Really good guy who worked hard to get to this level. Just thinks he finally matured on the mound__a classic case of "it clicked" and he knows how to USE his stuff to expand the plate, make hitters work against themselves and for him.

I'll be interested to see all the questions here on Harper. I liked his modesty regarding Chipper and thinks both genuine and typical of him. He's a true baseball nut __rare among players. Who wins a sentiment vote between the aging HOFer and the 19-yr-old whose numbers don't quite add up to AS, but who has unquestionably ignited his 1st-place team? I'm assuming Harper wins. It's sort fo win-win. If he goes, it'll be exciting for fans (and him). If he doesn't, it's not an injustice and Harper knows it, so he won't be dampened.

I tend to be a little (too) protective and would just as soon Harper doesn't get exposed to the Media Day attempts to "draw him out." But he's been getting this since he was 15 and can probably handle it fine. Once you've been exposed to watching him play (and talk) on a daily basis, he's just so easy to like that you don't want him to fall down an open manhole cover in an AS interview. But I think he's ready for it.

BTW, every pitch he's been swinging at, and missing, since he met Andy Pettitte __especially hard sliders low or low and away__ are exactly the pitches he FINALLY took on Sunday in the 9th inning to help build a rally against (LH) Venters. A good sign? Or does he just pick up the ball well vs Venters? I think it's a good sign that he'll use this last week before the break to get better command of the K-zone again. He better or Timmy L and the rest of the SF staff will have him chasing pitches in the on-deck circle. He gets all this stuff. Should be good battles.   

If it was safe enough for the golfers to play on Saturday, why did they screw everyone with a Saturday ticket? Many people couldn't come back on Sunday and if this was truly about safety, they wouldn't have let those golfers out there either. In the end, all they really care about is CBS. The spectators are just an annoyance.

Come on, under awful circumstances __speaking as one of those without power and sleeping in a ~90-degree bedroom on Friday and Saturday nights__ I think they handled it as well as you possibly could.

You want to get in 72 holes. You don't want to play on Monday when very few people get to see the final round. You absolutely cannot stand the risk of lawsuits from falling teres on Saturday. And the temperatures were killing, too. A member of the Congressional greens keeping crew, 59, was found dead in his car at 4 p.m. on Friday. Heart attack. Sorry I don't have his full name. But the balance was well struck, imo. And the Sunday crowds were excellent. Not merely excellent "given" the heat and power outages, etc. But just flat excellent.

Tiger has great local pull. And it's interesting that golf crowds seem to have gotten their minds around the drama of his attempted return to No. 1 __more than the general sports media or general-interest fans.

An event that could have been remembered as another bad-weather-in-D.C.-in-high-summer disaster ended up have a competitive final round and a memorable winner taking another step on his quest.  

Good morning, Mr. Boswell. We know Strasburg WILL be shut down when he reaches his innings limit because the Nationals (correctly) are thinking long term. But with the projections for the Nats to continue having an excellent chance at the post season this year, do you think the team would consider trading for a quality free agent pitchers as a one-year rental? Would getting a Shaun Markum, James Shields, or even a Zack Greinke be too costly in prospects? I can decide if a short term rental to replace S.S. makes sense to a franchise that is looking long term.

The Nats shpould focus on winning the N.L. East, which I think is within their talent and power, though difficult.

Then, in a division series, with extra off days, would be Gio Gonzalez, J Z'man, Jax, Detwiler/Lannan and Gio again. No 5th starter needed. Seriously, that rotation is plenty good enough to win a division series.

That's as far as I'd think. I don't believe you should use recources or make bold deals when you'd so well set up anyway. Come on, you people don't really want to go to the Series this year, do you? Just joking.

This team is thinking long term. But in post-season you never know what can happen. In the last dozen years, there have been teams than were not as good on paper as the Nats __the Nats MINUS Strasburg__ that went to the Series.  It's an emotional momnetum ride driven by hot stars, roaring crowds and some good breaks.

The idea that the Nats minus Strasburg are somehow not a factor in post-season __if they get there__ is just not correct. IF they are playing well, IF they are healthy, they could go a long way. No, I don't think any N.L. team right now matches up well with the likely winner from the A.L. But that's why they play the games.

FIRST, focus on the N.L. East. And that is a long, long march __and would be a huge accomplishment in itself.

Steve Lombardozzi was finally inserted at 2B yesterday in place of Espinosa and looked good as leadoff hitter. If you look at their stats, isn't it obvious that Espinosa should only play second against lefties?

No

I've noticed in the past that when Stephen has to run the bases, it almost always seems to take a toll on him and he's not as sharp afterwards. (Exception: his funny-slow home-run trot.) Now we know that he doesn't handle heat well; he says he sweats more than most people, which means he gets dehydrated faster. Gratifying as it is to see him get hits and knock in runs, I cringe whenever he gets on base. His primary value is pitching, obviously, and he cannot go deep into games when he runs the bases; it seems that simple. So shouldn't the team instruct him to stand there with the bat on his shoulder? And if they walk him, shouldn't he stand next to first and get picked off? I know this is unorthodox, but how long before teams figure out that one way to get him out of games is to make him run the bases?

I hear you.

But here are the Nats leading OFFENSIVE players by WAR (wins above replacement) according to baseball-reference and then their WAR (including defense) by FanGraphs.

Baseball-referenceoffensive WAR: Desmond (1.7), LaRoche (1.7), Harper (1.4), Strasburg (0.7) __others of note__ Jordan Zimmermann (0.5), Ryan Ziummerman (0.4).

FanGraphs WAR (including defense): Desmond (2.7), Harper (1.4), LaRoche (1.3), Espinosa (0.8), Strasburg (0.7), Moore (0.7). Others of note: both Z'man and Z'ann at 0.5!

Feel free to mock the stats. But a 1.090 OPS, even for 24 plate appearances, like Strasburg, has value above a replaceemnt player.

Besides, who's going to tell him "go make an out" when he's already hit four doubles OFF the WALL and HR so far this year. He isn't just getting hits. He's knocking it off the CF wall __400 feet away in Colorado. And getting 2-out RBI hits (Sat in Atl).

OK, any game with a temp above 102 degrees, don't let him swing. But that happens once a year. Maybe.

Tell me why I'm crazy for fearing the Marlins more than any other team in the division...

Pardon me while I break my arm patting myself on the back. I told you from spring training the Marlins were a fraud team (for '12). Terrible team chemistry. Sulkers and  fair-weather players. This is the team Ozzie Guillen deserves.

With a couple of recent trades, do the Phillies look like "sellers" before the trade deadline? They're in last place and fading fast.

Never thought they'd be sellers. But I never thought they'd be 11 games (ELEVEN GAMES) behind the Nats heading into July 4th. And the Nats have had __roughly__ as many injuries.

The Phils have the best read on the true health and return dates of  Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay. That, and the results of games in the next 3 weeks, could actually make them sellers.   

Tom, Unless CMW can get his act together in the minors, does it makes sense for the Nats to continue to lose games because of him? He's certainly not an asset at this point (besides throwing in-game BP for the other team), and his 4ER in 2 innings on Saturday prevented a Nats comeback and sweep this wekeend. We all know the definition of insanity. Thanks.

I think it's time to cut bait. When Storen comes back after the AS break, they'll need a spot in the pen. Until then, maybe he gets in a game to mop up and has a mircale I-found-my-mechanic breakthrough. But, outside of that, I don't think the noble experiment is going to work __here. I think CMW will get another chance somewhere else. They just hate to give up on him because he solves so many Strasburg-shutdown issues this year if he's 80-90% of the old CMW. But he was only that guy for ONE DAY for 2 2/3 innings in spring training. That's an awful thin thread to hold onto a dream. 

I have noticed a few similarities between Espinosa's major league development and Desmond's. Both displayed strong offensive games the first time through the league, which subsequently dramatically tailed off during their next few times facing teams. Or roughly, a strong first half season, followed by close to a full season's worth of offensive failure. Desmond managed to re-engage his offensive game last September, and has just become an all-star. Now that Espinosa has had close to a full bad season (2011 AS break to 2012 AS break), has he struggled enough to re-key his game to match the adjustments the league has made against him? Am I being an overly optimistic homer by believing that he will turn his season around in the second half?

As noted earlier, I think you're on the right track. (IOW, yeah, you agree w me. Often a dangerous place to be.)

Tom, Dewayne Wize of the Yankees went into the stands after a fly ball. He didn't catch the ball, but acted like he had. The umpire didn't check whether he had the ball (!!??!!). Was Wise under a (baseball) ethical obligation to correct the ump as Bowden thinks? Is it an unwritten rule that you can try to get away within the context of the game? I try not to be so tough on the umpires, but the missed calls are the most mind-boggling and the arrogance is a misplaced. This ump should be suspended for a week.

You get away with what you can. There are FOUR of 'em out there to keep and eye on you. And 25 players on the other team can pipe up, too.

The umps are having an awful year.

Some times soon I'll do a column on more instant replay. I'm not against. Just want to think about it a little more. But there are levels of ridiculous that shouldn't be tolerated. Not when you can solve it in 1-or-2 minutes.

How much of his recent hot streak do you attribute to the cortisone shot, and is it sustainable without needing more long-term risky injections this season?

100%

He assumes this won't be his last needle this year. But you really have to limit it to prevent long-term issues. Beyond that, consult somebody with a "Dr." in front of their name.

In this ESPN story, Lidge says "mostly I am not happy that I rushed back from surgery before I was ready only to be designated for assignment a couple of days later". Does that mean hes mad at himself or the organization? What went wrong with his brief Nationals career?

He's probably somewhat mad at both.

I always thought he was a great guy but a long shot as a pitcher. Everybody hates the end of the road.

Wouldn't you?

I'd vote for Chipper because Harper did such a great job of framing the question. I'd probably actually do it out of deference to Harper's good judgment!

BUT if you want to vote for Harper (25 times), I get it and say, "Go for it." 

Tiger appears to be getting his game together however, when you look at the field he was up against he should have won. There were only 8 of the top 50 golfers signed to play at the AT&T. Tiger (4) and Hunter Mahan (10) were the only top ten golfers. Without Tiger's name on the tournament and him playing this would be one of the weakest tournaments in the schedule. The AT&T tournament is scheduled on a bad weekend needs to pull in bigger names.

I''d say  that previous Washington PGA tour stops have had 6-to-10 weaker fields. (We've had some stinkers.) It was a representative event and a legit win. But the field was in the weak __but far from weakest__ part of the Tour spectrum.

What are you most looking forward to about watching the Nats in a playoff race in the second half of the season?

Every day of it.

That's what's best about it by far __it's EVERY DAY.

If you could pick one and only one for the rest of his career, which one would it be?

Too soon to know. Strasburg may be 90% of his mature self. But what percentage is Harper? Unknowable.

But a good column some day! Thanks.

First off, thanks to you and Barry for the great coverage. From what I've read the staff at Congressional did a remarkable job responded to the storm too. Fail on the reporting of the storm from every local media outlet though. I had tickets for yesterday but couldn't go and had no cable so relied on the XM app to listen to the back 9. It seemed pretty loud and well attended. What's your reaction to the fan response and the vibe at Congressional yesterday?

Good/great crowds. Great day. (Hot as hell, but great.) No complaints that I heard. Seemed pretty smooth __all things considered. Wish you were there.

Tom - talk a little bit more about this. I'm not sure I agree with your sentiment that Tiger has characteristics much like those of a struggling young golfer in search of that first major. I don't really thing there's much to compare with what Tiger's doing right now, except maybe for Ben Hogan following his devastating car accident. I think too much focus has been put on the mental aspects (and wreckage) of Tiger's game. To me it looks exactly as he always said it was - a process and it's almost all mechanical. Sure the "swing thoughts" disrupted his ability to score - but when most talk about the mental fatigue, they are talking about the personal-life stuff. Even absent the personal drama, I don't think Tiger would have been in much of a different place today because of all his physical problems with the knee and achilles.

You make good points.

But I think Tiger puts absolutely enormous pressure on himself to get "back," much as Tom Watson once did when he was already a great player but not a major champion. Two smart Stanford guys. Watson got through it. But it was tough. He said afterwards, "We all choke. It's just who chokes the least or last." Tiger never choked in his 20's. Now he's (somewhat) similar to normal players in terms of feeling pressure __as we saw at Olympics.

Once he gets through that wall __now that ought to be interesting.

Time to go. Too many good angles today.  Lets chat next week from the All-Star game in K.C. See you then. Check the time. Gotta figure out if 11 a.m. works. We'll let you know. 

Tom, Strasburg has been beaten down by the heat 3 times this year. Twice in Atlanta and last week in Colorado. The dog days are barely here and it looks like Stephen has not adjusted to the heat of our summers. Is he prepared physically for the summer grind?

He's in great shape. Does he need to take IVs the day before? (Hudson did in Atlanta.) Does he need to throw less warming up? I mean, he's pretty "warm" already. Does he need to throw less warmup pitches between innings? Does he need to talk to doctors about ways to hydrate better? Or...or...or...

He's in shape. That's not the problem. But he sweats a ton. (So do others). There's a pattern here and, like many adjustments, he'll have to adapt to a tendency to melt. Pitchers have been figuring out their own ways to do it for 140 years.  Strasburg can/will, too. But he hasn't yet.

Your column seems pretty one note in its analysis of Tiger's demeanor. To my mind there was much more complexity to Tiger's mind set: tournament host and tournament logistics, honoring the military (and perhaps remembering his father), getting the foundation's message across, the heat, working on #74.

All good points. Glad I saw this one. Thanks.

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Thomas Boswell
A Washington Post columnist since 1984, Thomas Boswell is known for the many books he has written on baseball, including "How Life Imitates the World Series" and "Why Time Begins on Opening Day."
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