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July 23, 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: 29

About the hosts

About the host

Host: Thomas Boswell

Thomas Boswell

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

About the topic

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

Penn State: Take a Step Back

Last week you intimated that years in college athletics, an increasingly corrupt institution, had eventually debased him (rather than him elevating it). Let's take a step back before we blame college athletics for the Penn State mess and Paterno's role in it. The "corruption" in college sports mostly has to do with many participants not following an arcane set of rules. Paying players, or whatever, doesn't signify a real-world moral failing, it's a play-world moral failing. Following the NCAA rule book by the letter doesn't signify moral superiority in any real sense , but only in the most superficial way possible. If Paterno acted to cover up Sandusky's crimes, we shouldn't be shocked because he ran a "clean" program for years...the morality of following stupid rules has nothing to do with actual morality in the real world. Paterno's alleged failing was a personal one, not one of corrupt college athletics. Faced with a moral decision a little bit harder than "Should I pay to get this top-10 recruit," he let down his profession, not the other way around.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Thanks. Interesting perspective.

I'd have to think about that line of logic for longer than I have in a chat framework. But I will.

I assume the PSU sanctions this morning will evolve the usual range of responses. Puditocracy (or whatever it is) abhors a vacuum __so, any and all positions, no matter how nuts, witll be filled by somebody.

The NCAA crushed Penn State. And they should have. Just to help us see it clearly, leave out Paterno's role. It's still a complete loss of unniversity control, a cover up and a cover up to protect a monster football factory that is making tons of money and bringing fame, etc. And the reason for the cover up is to protect the football program and PSU from huge brutal (and deserved) horrid publicity. 

FWIW, Penn State football would have been dead for many years no matter what the NCAA did. I don't know how to judge the $60M fine. My guess, just a guess, is that PSU may have nodded and indicated "we can live with that." I'm glad the players get to transfer without penalty OR stay at PSU on full scholarhsip even if they don't play football. Why? Why not. How can you act more irrespeonsibly than PSU did. It least reward somebody __if it's a player who wants a scholarship to get an education, then at least somebody got lucky out of this mess.

Joe lost his wins and his records. Who cares? The more we learn, the worse Paterno looks with the latest last week being his grabbing for the last few million bucks in '11 after the Sandusky scandal (and its investigation) was in full swing was clearly going to explode. He was trying to pad his bunker with more money.

Glad the statue is gone. It would have caused all sorts of mischief and, possibly, even more hostility toward PSU if they'd left it up.

I'm sure there will be other opinions. And mine is only half-formed. So, weigh in.

– July 23, 2012 11:01 AM
Q.

Friday's Game Long Term Consequences?

Boz, Are there any long term things to take away from Friday's game, concerns about the bullpen or something else? The Nats play so many close games that a Braves comeback from a 9-0 blowout signals something right?

A.
Thomas Boswell :

Cliuppard had smart thoughts on that yesterday: "It was a fluky game for us. We're not in that (big lead) position very often. It felt like 20-0. We let ourt guard down as a pitching staff and we paid for it. It was something that needed to happen."

He meant that it was "good" in the sense that the Nats starters and bullpen  will, presumably, not take the ocassional 4-5-6-7 run lead for granted.

Davey Johnson is correct that he had an awful game managing. I'm not going into my version of it. It'd take too long. And he added yesterday, "We should have won three out of four from them (but) I gave 'em the one Friday."

However, Strasburg is to blame, too. Detwiler gave Stras a demonstartion on Sunday of how you pitch with a 4-0, 6-0 and then 8-0 lead. You don't nibble. You don't walk ANYBODY. (Detwiuler walked one.) You give up 2 or 3 ringing drives off the fence, but you keep your pitch count low and go 7 innings.

Stgrasburg pitched like an artiste, not an ace. It should never happen again. Great power pitchers (like Clemens) have insanely great W-L percentages when their teams score 6-or-more runs. I can't imagine what their records would be in game when they got 9 runs by the 5th inning. It's possible Clemens, Ryans and a half-dozen others NEVER got a loss or no decision in such a game.

Johnson laid it out that, after the manager, the starter was next in line for blame because he was pitching "too fine," going by his own perfectionist standards __not by what the team needed in a 9-0 game. Strasburg needs to understand his part in the mess. It wasn't the 4 runs. It was only getting 15 outs when he had a big lead early. (More 3-run homer in the 1st).

I talked w2ith Ryan Z'man yesterday. He also knows he's one of many who contributed to the Braves comeback when he wiffed on a smash to his backhand for a 2-run =7. He should have blocked it somehow and permitted only one run, not two. When taking a bruise means the difference between 9-3 and 9-4, it's hard to do. I should probably stay away from "stay in front of the ball" since it's hard to find a 3rd baseman or 1st baseman who doesn't go side-saddle or one-hop smashes. promise: Ron Santo, who got into the Hall of Fame yesterday, never played th;em that way.

– July 23, 2012 11:01 AM
Q.

Lannan vs. Strasburg

While I realize that it would be foolish to think that Lannan is going to regularly out-pitch Strasburg, this did happen over the weekend. How sweet was Lannan's performance? Do you think the nincompoops noticed?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Ha!

Great job by Lannan. But, man, he was fortunate not to be behind 5-0 after two innings instead of 2-0. He gave up some rockets before he settled his nerves and got the ball down. BTW, another Nats pitcher said he thought Lannan was "taller" on the mound and throwing more downhill __an adjustment at AAA__ which made his sinker go down more sharply and his breaking ball have more tilt. When he gets 4-or-5 starts in Sep;tember, replacving Stars burg, I assume, we'll get to see if that's accurate. (I still don't think you can get anywhere near full value for Lannan at the trade deadline, even if the Nats wanted to make a trade. And Lannan is under team control for '13, too. So, if he pitches well in September, he may be tradeable then and can pick up his career somewhere else __he deserves it. As I've always said, he's an average MLB starting pitcher and that's a compliment because average (durable) MLB starters win 100+ gam,es working in the mi9ddle-to-back of some team's rotation. Just not the Nats rotation with SS, GG, JZ and, now it seems, Detwiler, too (3.26 ERA in last 23 starts and 3.01 this year which would be 19th (!) in MLB this year if he had just 1 2/3 more IP and qualified for the "league leaders."

Lannan will probably get a start in the August 3rd doubleheader with Miami at 4 p.m. He doesn't match up with them well. His career record is 9-5 vs Atlanta __he has no more than 4 wins over any other team__ and he'll probably get a September start against the Braves.

– July 23, 2012 11:01 AM
Q.

Espinosa at Shortstop

I remember when the Orioles decided to try moving Cal Ripken to third base during spring training one year, As expected, he was happy to do it, and asked only that if they decided to move him back to shortstop he wanted a couple weeks to get used to playing that position again. Espinosa doesn't seem to have had any problem moving back and forth with Desmond in and out of the lineup. What's the difference between these two players?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Ripken had been away from 3rd for 15 years (my guess, didn't look it up). Espinosa was a SS at Long Beach State, then throughout his minor league career through '10.

It'll actually be fun to see Espinosa and Lombardozzi for a few weeks because we'll probably never see it again. When Desmond's healthy, obviously the position is his for a long time.

– July 23, 2012 11:02 AM
Q.

Henry Rodriguez

At what point do the Nats part ways with Henry? Is he worth a roser spot until September 1? I really thought we'd see Henry in a 9-2 lead on Sunday, but I guess coming off of Friday's loss, and with the threat of seeing Bad Henry instead of Good Henry, Davey wasn't going to take the chance.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Tough call. Henry Rodriguez will probably be somebody's Joel Hanrahan in 2 years. Maybe not. But probably. Also, you need an 11th and 12th pitcher on the staff. There are innings for H-Rod now to try to get him back to the pitcher who saved 9 games early in the year. Is this wildness an "episode" or just who Henry is as a pitcher? I think you cling to him until the last possible moment. So "not yet."

A's must be happy. They got a year of Josh Willingham who, btw, has been even better after he left D.C.

But the Twins are even happier. They signed Willingham for $21M/3 yrs and he's hitting .275 with 23 homers and 68 RBI, a pace for 39 HR and 115 rbi.

Yes, Josh is doing it as an OF (83 starts), not a DH (8 starts, which he still could have done w a N.L. team like Nats). 

So, there are at least 2 ways to look at this. 1) While Rizzo has done many things right, with 20-20 hindsight Willingham is having a FAR better offensive year as an OF than any Nat. Yes, in theory you could have resigned him for about $100M less than Werth and, so far, have gotten far more production with none of the back injuries that were a major reason for letting him go. (Josh 'only' started 96 games in OF last year, 38 at DH.)

2) Now the Nats will start to see if the other player they got for Willingham __CF Corey Brown who was just called up yesterday__ will change the evaluation of the trade back in the Nats direction. With 66 of his '12 starts in CF at Syracuse, Brown is having a monster year with 21 homers, 58 rbi in 370 ABs with a .944 (!!) OPS. Yes, LH hitting CF.  So, jury still out.    

– July 23, 2012 11:02 AM
Q.

MASN Deal

Any updates? Why is it taking so long? Is it just about money for the Nats' TV contract, or could they be negotiating a bigger or more creative outcome (e.g., the Nats get a greater percentage of the ownership in MASN)?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

No updates. This will end up in Selig's hands, imo __"best interests of baseball" powers of commissioner" and "internal dispute between clubs" and interpretation of contract. Of course, Angelos will want to pay as little as he can wrangle (it's business). But I doubt that a significantly-below-market number will be the final one because 29 other owners have a vested interested in RSN deals being based on current prices. An abnormally low precident would hurt many teams. They are Bud's bosses. And an MLB owner signs away a ton of his (in practical effect) rights and leverage when he joins the MLB monopoly old-boys club.

IOW, it'll take forever. It'll get done. Then everybody can scream about it.  

– July 23, 2012 11:02 AM
Q.

Penn State

What do you think about the NCAA penalty? I was surprised there was no TV ban. Maryland was kicked off television for a year in 1990 for nothing nearly as bad. Penn State and its nationwide status is part of what allowed the Penn State coaches to be powerful enough to brush Sandusky's behavior under the rug. Were you surprised by this too?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Who's going to be left there to play? Who's going to watch on TV?

Part of the NCAA ruling's intent was not to cripple the Happy Valley culture/economy unnecessarily. Lou Holtz said he thought that, instead of drawing 110K-a-game to Beaver Stadium that perhaps they'd draw "55-to-60K" because Penn Staters would be loyal. That's good. If they get 60K, it blunts the blow to the local economy (well, some). 55K fans is a lot better than 0 fans if you gave them the Death Penalty. 

I suspect leaving them on TV may have had something to do with revenue for PSu which, in some round-abolut way, might pay part of the $60M fine. But this is a finger-in-the-wind guess. Anybody who has a better idea, let me know.

– July 23, 2012 11:05 AM
Q.

Trade with Cubs

Detwiler for Dempster and cash/prospect. With Gio, SS and Zim, Nats have what they need at the top of the rotation for years. With Demp, can "go for it" without SS this year. These opportunities don't come along often (just look at injury situation and the Cubs who had Wood, Prior and young Zambrano).
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I know you mean well, but that would be crazy. The last four years, Dempster's ERA has been 3.65, .3.85 and 4.80 last year. His current 2.11 ERA is the dfinition of a fluke; it's a great half-year by a 35-year-old pitcher with a career 4.31 ERA! And he'd only be a rental pitcher.

I'd take Detwiler STRAIGHT UP over Dempster, who's due to revert to the mean any split-second, right now for the rest of this year, including October. Detwiler's ERA last year in 66 IP was 3.00. This year in 92.1 IP, it's 3.01! Could there be a PATTERN here! Even his career ERA, including when he was crummy when he was younger is 3.77. He's a 26-year-old who's under team control through '13-'14-and-'15.

Sorry to jump up and down, but just be glad you didn't mention this to Rizzo; he'd still be screaming at noon: "Fans, fans, spare me, O Lord, from the baseball wisdom of our fans."

 

– July 23, 2012 11:12 AM
Q.

Is the Nats team doctor Victor Conte?

Seriously, what is going on with Zim? I expected (hoped) his numbers would improve, but this has been insane recently..
A.
Thomas Boswell :

As I pointed out more than once __b reak arm patting back__ Zimmerman does this EVERY year of his career and this is the FOURTH time he has gotten red hot on our about July 4th. In these streak, which average a little more than 6 weeks, he hits .390+ with an OPS over 1.000 and almost an RBI a game.

This is who he is when he is healthy. (The slumps are also part of who he is. Every hitter is streaky. He's more streaky. All that matters is the full-season normal). This is why the $100M extension was (probably) justified. That is, if he can stay healthy enough to average (say) 135-140 games a year over the length of the contract (he's going to get hurt SOMETIME) and can stay at 3rd for a few more years.

His throwing motion is still the ugliest I've ever seen from a standout defensive 3rd baseman. And LaRoche has to cross to the inside of the bag to get his throws so often that his life must pass before his eyes twice a week.

– July 23, 2012 11:17 AM
Q.

Open Championship

How much would it cost to get a glimpse of the article most sports writers were composing when Adam Scott was walking up to the 15th tee? You know the one anointing him one of the 'young guns' even though he's 32. The one where Stevie leads his chamion to a resounding victory over Tiger. The one about Scott perfecting Tiger's old swing and how Tiger won't win again until he begs forgivness in an interview with Brandel Chambee. What I wouldn't pay to read that article. And how impressive was Els? -2 with Scott and Zach Joshnson +5, Snedekar ++4, Tiger +3, what a round.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

That's funny. Riuck Reilly said on TV that he'd already written some such story and that it was a horrible day for sportswriters.

I found that interesting since my son, the avid golfer and golf fan, had called earlier to say how disgusting he was going to find it that everybody in the media would jump on the cheesy Steve Williams angle. "I know you won't do that, dad." My asnwer: "Hummm, welllll, I'm not writing about the Open for Monday."

However, I will say that by the 17th hole it looked like Williams wanted to get as far away from Scott as he could. And he sure didn't seem to be doing much "guidance counseling" on the last 4 holes. Of course, maybe he was doing exactly as much __or little__ as Scott prefers.

That was brutal just to watch. Just like everybody, I felt lousy for Scott. But I thought Els had about as genuine sense of berievement-in-victory as I have EVER seen because Scott is his friend and he felt terrible for him. (And Ernie has had the same fate __or similar__ as much as any great player of his era. Though, in the last 10 years, Els, his putter and "the Little Man" who sits on his shoulder and tells him (in Els words) "You can't do it, you can't do it," have usually backed away from the lead before the last couple of holes.

Els is such a decent man. He and his wife have a child who suffers from autism and they've apparently done wonderful work in that cause. He's humble to the point where fellow golfers almost wish he weren't such a fine person __ALMOST__ because they like him so much that they wouldn't change him.

Better to win four majors and be like Els than "maximize your talent' and win six majors __if the price of the extra majors is being a jerk. 

– July 23, 2012 11:26 AM
Q.

Nats Farm Depth

Are prospect rankings overrated? Every guy who the Nats have called up this year has been a "no name" prospect (Moore the exception, but he was not talked about until the past year), and literally all have thrived. They same our farm system took a hit with the Gio trade, but we just keep plugging guys in and they are adequate (Solano, Leon) or exceptional (Harper of course, Moore). And Brown has been destroying AAA, seems logical that he is next..
A.
Thomas Boswell :

They sure seem to know how to pick 'em and coach 'em up.

The best thing that ever happened to the Nats __with hindsight__ was the transition from Trader Jim Bowden, a smart guy who had few re$ource$__ to Rizzo, who had a huge network of scouting and front-office connections and, it turned out, didn't NEED many resources (ecxcept the $ for Werth). The 48-hour period when Rizzo and Kasten raided the 17 front office people from various other teams in November, then called a press conference to say "THIS is our Free Agent Class," was the turning point in the franchise. Most of the 17 are still with them.

I was listening to Bowden doing the Sunday night national game on radio last night in the car coming back from Nats Park and his partner was running through the scores and said the Nats had won on 2 homers by Z'man and a strong win by Detwiler. To his credit, Bowden didn't say anything. But I felt like saying, "Oh, come on, Jim, tell 'em, 'Those were two of my first-round draft picks.'" He deserves some credit, too. He loved Desmond and stuck with him.

– July 23, 2012 11:35 AM
Q.

Ankiel DFA

Probably a silly point to bring up, but does this affect Harper at all/was his mentorship of Bryce taken into consideration? I assume players have to get used to this sort of thing, but I was just curious if their relationship was considered in their decision to DFA him
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The Nats hated to DFA Ankiel. He was one of several key mentors to Harper. And it was Ankiel who worked with Strasburg to help him figure how to use his curveball better (not throw it better, but when to use it and how). Strasburg's explanation of why Ankiel could help was __paraphrase__ Ankiel had the same kind of stuff I do. Ankiel really was almost that promising.

In addition to great clubhouse guy he was the rare position player __catchers aside__ who was a natural bridge between players and pitchers. On almost all teams, they are like different species of animals who are forced to drink from the same watering hole. The range of pitcher personality types and the range of player personality types don't overlap as much as you'd think. And they are the definition of "natural enemies." Even without Ankiel, the Nats don't seem to have this problem __in part because most (though not all) of the pitchers actually qualify as "athletes" and several can even hit, including Stammen in the bullpen.   

I think there's an outside chance that, after a 10-day period, Ankiel might return to the Nats and go to AAA. But, much as they'd like to have him back, I assume he'll get a better offer. (He may have already gotten one and I just haven't heard about it.)

– July 23, 2012 11:41 AM
Q.

Love this line from today's column

"This is perhaps the last practical opportunity for those in close proximity to the Nats to reconsider becoming baseball fans. Once you're caught, you're a goner. Be forewarned." I wish you'd told me this back in May, when I jumped on the wagon and didn't even give a glance behind me. I know I'm drinking the Kool-Aid too, but this trip wouldn't have been half as fun without your equally buoyant and exuberant writing. Thank you!

A.
Thomas Boswell :

Thanks.

A curiosity of my job: You are always trying to capture the mood, flow and trends of a team's season. So, your writing mirrors, or hopefully illuminates that season. But when a team loses 102 or 103 games, "you" are seen as "negative" while, when the team has the best record in the league, you are seeen as "exuberant."

Reporters and columnists just shake their heads about this. There's a natural distance between writer and subject __it becomes natural during your first 5 or 10 years of doing the job or you don't keep doing it__ that never goes away. When the Nats lost 11-10, part of me certainly felt the "fan" impulses. But the part of me that guides my writing understood "this unique collapse, and what comes after it __whatever that may be__ opens up the possibilities of much better writing and thinking. I hate to break it to you, but when the Nats play, and lose, their last game this season __they're not going to win the World Series, though I'll probably manage to cope with it if they do__ my reaction and the process of digesting it, turning it into something worth writing, is not going to be the same experience as most fans.

For example, I LOVED watching the British Open yesterday and I'll love the parts of the Olympics that I watch because that part of me __and it is MOST of me__ that is a lifelong writer can go sit in the corner and Shut The Hell Up while the rest of me actually gets to just enjoy a sports event for once. 

– July 23, 2012 11:52 AM
Q.

Wang

In all the sports talk about replacing Strasburg, it seems that Chien-Mein Wang is being ignored. Is his stint with the Nats finally "toast"?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Not if he gets his delivery straightened out and starts pitching like 90% of the old CMW.

– July 23, 2012 11:52 AM
Q.

Trade Deadline

Do you believe the Nats are likely to add a SP like Ryan Dempster at the deadline? What do the advance stats say someone like Dempster would bring over his likely replacement Lannan or Wang?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

AAaaaarrrgggghhh.

Sorry. Dempster is just the wrong name. 

If the Nats felt they could somehow trade and sign Greinke or Garza __or a young pitcher they wanted for the next 4-5 years__ then that would make sense. But how do you do it? What are the logistics of it at the deadline? You're just getting a rental. The wonderful pitcher is NOT going to say, "Oh, sure, I've waited until I am TWO months from finding out my true free agent value and NOW that you have traded for me I'm going to pass that up suddenly and sign with you." Not going to happen.

A rental is a rental. You only do it if it's a steal. Also, the new CBA does not allow free-agent draft pick compensation to the team (like the Nats) who trades for a Garza then does not resign him the following winter. So the Nats have even less motivation to make such a trade.  

– July 23, 2012 11:57 AM
Q.

The Shark

Pretty sure he has been under contract since this team was called The Senators, and if he is DFA'd before they win a World Series, I will be furious. Does his recent play indicate that this won't happen, or is it just going to make me angrier when he is released?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Bernadina's skill set is actually kind of a poor man's Harper. Speed, lack of natural instincts in CF but always trying to learn. He's got a lot of power when he connects.

Is the current Bernadina __.292/.372/.401 for a .773 OPS with 11 for 13 on steals__ the real Bernadina? I've been waiting for years. Believe it when we see it for long enough __as well now have with Morse, imo.

Okay, I wonder if Bernadina is yet another example of the dubious theories on hitting that were part of the Nats culture before Davey took and which, player by player __like Desmond and now, gradually, Espinosa__ have been reversed. This is not an Eckstein issue. He works with them studying pitchers, getting scouting reports, does drills, etc. He does not Teach Them To Hit. That happens BEFORE your get to the majors, folks. 

I metioned to Davey yesterday that I was so glad to see that Espinosa was, like Desmond, finally using his power again and that the Punch-and-Judy Regime was continuing to die. Okay, I was trying to provoke him into a moment of candor. For once, it succeeded.

"We had some bad philosophy in here that we had to get rid of," said Johnson. "It goes in cycles. 'Let the ball travel. Hit the other way.' Oh, my God, and you end up seeing guys who are pound-for-pound as strong as anybody in the league who are pushing the ball to the opposite field every time."

I'm afraid we talked about Ben Hogan's theories on "pronating" the wrists in the golf swing (as far back as the '40's) and the similarities between hitting a baseball and golf ball __both of which Johnson's studied and mastered as a better-than-scratch golfer__ and how the 'stay inside the ball' crowd was ignoring decades of wisdom, including everything Hank Aaron taught Davey.

I approached a Nat player, who shall remain nameless, whose hitting has improved greatly under Johnson. "It all started about 10 years ago __stay inside the ball, inside-out-the-ball. They all saw Derek Jeter do it. There's no way to pitch him __you can't get 'in' on him and you can't pitch him away, either. The hitting coaches thought they'd discovered a new way. But it was just Jeter's way," the player said. "Not many of us can do that."

You can use the whole field, which Johnson preaches, but still not use some variation on the let-it-travel Jeter swing. I hoipe that alley-to-alley power, and the ability to turn on pitches and drive them is what we're sxeeing from Bernadina now.

"By the way, every time you hear Johnson in a post-game  press conference say, 'We're not getting the bat started. We're not meeting the ball out in front. We want to be selectively aggressive,'" he preaching his way, not the old "bad philosophy" that ran through the organization.'

BTW, the Nats are now up to 10th in MLB in OPS __often a leading indicator for more run scoring__ and have 100 homers, above the MLB average. And they've done it despite injuries to power hitters like Morse, Werth, Ramos and pre-shoulder-shot Z'man. The different approach is working. Once again, this is not about Eckstein. He's a student of hitting who can teach 'em any way you want 'em taught.

– July 23, 2012 12:18 PM
Q.

Boras on SS Innings Limit?

Boz, has Scott Boras weighed in at all on the Strasburg innings limit? I assume he would be in favor, but I also did not think he would defer to the Nats without sounding off, even a bit. It just seems like an issue that he would pontificate on if given the chance.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Boras is 100% ijn favor of best medical practices being used in the rehab of his valuable clients. What responsible agent would take any other position? And what agent would NOT guide future players toward teams that think the player's long-term interests and the team's long-term interests are congruent.

– July 23, 2012 12:20 PM
Q.

Strasburg strategy

Tom, why don't the Nats look into shutting down Strasburg now, then bring him back for September and possibly October? I know they're in a battle right now, but not having him in early August will be easier to stomach than not having him that final week of the season or in Game 1 of the NLDS, provided the Nats get there.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Off With Their Heads!!!

(But thanks for the question.)

– July 23, 2012 12:21 PM
Q.

Davey as scapegoat?

What do you make of Davey Johnson taking the blame for their historic collapse on Friday night? Did he really make strategic mistakes or was he just being a good manager and trying to protect his players after such a tough loss? One thing I noticed was that late in the game Lombardozzi was playing VERY shallow and a ball was hit over his head and a couple of runs scored; I couldn't understand why he would be positioned there???
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Johnson was ashen after that game. It's VERY simple. In baseball, it should be impossible to blow a 9-0 lead. If it is blown, it is the managter's fault. That might as well he carved on the wall of every manager's office. This was not a case of "take the fall." Johnson fully believes that really was his fault. How? He probably has 20 poinst he'd make if it served any purpose. But, in the end, it's his problem to figure out the things he did wrong and never do 'em again. 

– July 23, 2012 12:25 PM
Q.

Pennant Race

Your column today about the Nats facing, and overcoming, adversity was right on point, I think. But I am wondering what you think of the Braves late season meltdown last year and how living through that may affect them in a pennant race this year. Will it put more pressure on them, or will that experience allow them to be steadier in a tight race?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Good question. You'd have to be close to that team on a adaily basis or, perhaps live in Atlanta and watch them a lot to have a good ppoint of view.

However, their more immediate problem is that Jair Jurrgens is hurt or washed up or something because he's useless. His curveball is like a 55-year-old coach's BP curve. Rookie Randall Delgado (4-9, 4.43 ERA) has raw stuff but he can't throw the ball in the same location twice in a row. Brandon Beachy (2.01 ERA) is out for the year with an arm injury. Lefty Mike Minor, a major prospect, has been lousy (5.69 ERA), wild and HR prone (20).

Chipper Jones told one of the Nats that the Braves recently thought that they had two different deals done to add a major pitcher before the deadline but they both fell through. The Braves have no choice. With Beachy down for the year, they have to get one of the majo0r pitchers who is available. If they don't, they won't cacth the Nats. If they do, they might. But it will cost them dearly in prospects because every GM knows they are close enough and good enough to win and are desperate for a "rental" until Beachy returns next year.  

– July 23, 2012 12:31 PM
Q.

Harper

Should Davey sit Harper for a day or two so that he can get well now that Brown is available to play CF and Bernadina is hitting?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Yes.

Johnson apparently doesn't think so. He jokes about how 19-year-olds never get tired. I don't think that's his real reason. Maybe Harper on the bench drives everybody crazy with his excess energy while Harper on the field inspires them with his excess energy. Don't know. But I don't get it. He's been in a major p;ower slump since his last homer on June 18th. Let him watch a couple of games and let his ankle feel better while Bernadina is hot. JMHO.

Johnson , as always, was quite candid about whether he should have antiucipated that Desmond might hurt himself worse and be out for what will probably be 21-to-28 days (educated guess, nothing more. Desmond, after talking with the medics, told Davey he'd probably have to play with it the rest of the year, that a little rest wouldn't help it. "He's been playing with it so long and...hitting so good WITH it," said Johnson. Sometimes you don't know why a player like Desmond gets so insanely hot. Maybe protecting the oblique actually made his swing quicker and more compact. Maybe he could have kept doing it all year and hit 30 homers. Maybe....uh, maybe not.

"I just couldn't read it," said Johnson.

Nobody can. It's a muscle inside somebody else's body and they say, "I can play." And they're tearing up the league. But you can be sure Johnson will second guess himself a few times while he's waiting for Desmond to get back.

 

– July 23, 2012 12:37 PM
Q.

Dan Uggla's Defense

I feel for Braves fans (all 300 of them). Watching that guy play second every day must be torture.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

He's a beauty, isn't he?

He plays an Uggla second base.

– July 23, 2012 12:37 PM
Q.

Concerns over Gio?

Bos, Since the all-star game gio is 0-2 with a 7.71 era while allowing 11 hits in 9.1 innings. Is this just two rough starts or should we be concerned?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

It's two rough starts.

However, here's Gio's line: 12-5, 3.32 ERA, 19 starts, 111 innings.

Here's the line of another southpaw pitcher: 9-6, 3.34 ERA, 19 starts, 121.1 Innings.

Yes, the second pitcher is Tommy Milone, part of the Gio trade, who's now an Oakland A.

– July 23, 2012 12:39 PM
Q.

Analysts, schmanalysts

You probably don't want to comment on this, but Baseball Tonight exposes, regularly, the folly of having ex-ballplayers as analysts. First with Orel Hershiser repeatedly comparing Strasburg post-surgery to Gooden post-puberty, more recently with John Kruk saying the Nats can't win the division without trading for another starting pitcher, the ex-players make pronouncements without (clearly) the benefit of having spoken to anybody close to the situations. By contrast, the weekend Baseball Tonight hosted by Tim Kurkjian, with Buster Olney and others, is chock full of thoughtful, reasoned analysis, and is the only BBTN with value beyond highlights. Anyway, good job, big fan, been reading you for 30 years, yadda yadda yadda.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Thanks.

Yes, it's certainly a shock to me that veteran reports like Tim and Buster (old friends) know what they are talking about. And when they don't, they shut up until they do find out.

And, yeah, it's equally shocking that ex-athletes who clealry don't have a cluew what they are talking about and haven't done the work will speak with authority and hope the BS works. At the All-Star game, I was talking with an analyst. He brought up the Nats. He mentioned a subject on which he had no knowledge whatsoever. I told him, in a nice way, what the situation actually was __since I had "reported it out" to the Nth degree. He acted like I hadn't said a word and went right back to saying what he'd said before __which was complete nonsense, based on nothjing except whatever he felt like pulling out of thin air. Then he said it on TV.

It's quite a world. Gosh, I wonder if it kinda works the same way in world events sometimes and that my old neighbor Bob Woodward mikght actually know what he's talking about __and really, really care about getting it exactly right__ but the next person you hear on the same subject might be a total hack or political shill.

Naaah.

Okay, I'm going on some vacation and am going to heartlessly ignore so many excellent chat questions (and comments) that I should be ashamed.

Enjoy the Olympics!

– July 23, 2012 12:49 PM
Q.

Good on ya, Ernie

Can't help but feel good for Ernie Els. I encourage anybody who doesn't know his story to look it up.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Yup.

– July 23, 2012 12:49 PM
Q.

Give Morse some credit?

True or false statement: Teams have to pitch to Zim because they respect Morse so much.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

They are respecting Morse a whole lot more recently as his ability to pull the ball for power has returned. And after that 465-foot home run __the longest in Nats Park history, supposedly, the one that hit the windows of the Red Porch restaurant on the fly, they may want to get even more respectful.

– July 23, 2012 12:51 PM
Q.

Resiliency

Two comments: 1. The Washington Nationals fans just experienced the terror of a four game series against their division rivals. As a long time Red Sox fan, I have a few 4 game sweeps by the hated NYY, engrained in my memory. I am sure 2-2 split never looked so good to many of the new fans. 2. I think baseball players are the most resilient in teams sports due to the nature of the game [golfers can give them a run for their money] . It has all been said before, the best hitters makes outs at more than 60-70% of their at-bats; the best pitchers give up 2-3 runs a game. SO what makes one group of resilient players more resilient than another group of resilient players? IMO talent, friendship, and a bit of luck. The Nats seem to have all three right now. This looks to be the start of the "good old days" for the Nats.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Sharp comments, imo. Thanks!

– July 23, 2012 12:53 PM
Q.

Who's the cleanest of them all?

So the NCAA brings the hammer down on Penn State - voiding wins to take away JoPa's coaching record, barring the team from bowls, zapping scholarships, and levying a huge fine. The scope of the penalties was, partly, to address “one of the dangers in our love of sports is that sports themselves can become too big to fail, too big to challenge.” (NCAA president Emmert) How could he say that with a straight face? Hasn't the NCAA been all about big, BIG, B1G? And what about the other college presidents and chancellors? It's hard not to imagine them rubbing their hands with glee while sporting evil grins.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I have never been able to listen to the NCAA or any Olympic body with a straight face. That didn't change today.

– July 23, 2012 12:54 PM
Q.

Arlington, VA

A non-Nats or Penn State comment. As a long suffering Redskin's fan, I have avoided getting my hopes too high for RG III but after reading the article about him in the Sunday Post, I broke down and ordered a T-shirt. Depending on the pre-season/early games, I'll wait until I order the more expensive jersey, but after so many years I do have a glimmer of hope for the upcoming season.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Dave Sheinin wrote that excellent piece. He also wrote the one in the Post magazine about Bryce Harper before the season__that one proved to be right on the mark.

So, using Dave's work as a guide to jersey p;urchases is probably smart.

Oh, and you might want to follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveSheinin. Heh, heh. Going, going...

– July 23, 2012 12:59 PM
Q.

 

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