Ask Boswell: All things Washington sports

Aug 20, 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.

Past Ask Boswell chats

Why don't the Nationals shut Stephen Strasburg down now, and bring him back for the playoffs and world series?

Sorry, I'm not answering any more of these. It is what it is. It's all been answered many times.

I agree with Rizzo's position and reasoning, but even those who disagree should be able to grasp that it's a responsible thing for a team to do. You can say, "I wouldn't do it that way." But those who say it is crazy or dumb are just showing their own limits.

I talked to Jim Beattie, the former pitcher, co-GM of the Orioles and Ivy League grad, now with the Blue Jays. He was shocked at the shutdown and still didn't believe it could be locked in stone until I said, "It's a done deal."

He said, "I came up with the Yankees as a rookie at 23 and I made the World Series my first year __and I never got back to the post-season. Twice, I pitched shutouts __9 innings__ on Opening Day. Now, they go five innings (at the start of the season)."

Beattie was a big guy with enormous potential. So, I asked, how did that work out for you __complete games in the cold in April, pitching a complete game win in the World Series as a rookie at 23?

"I had three shoulder surgeries," Beattie said.

His career record, after that hot shot start: 52-87.

 

Interested in ypur opinion as a journalist, why is this such big news nationally? I am on the west coast and hear/see some coverage almost daily. Is it because the media and talkers love to talk more about what is going to happen even more than what is happening?

It's a sad commentary on some parts of journalism. Sensation over substance, twist anything to make it seem controversial even if it is "best medical practice" and basic misinformation (laziness) like not understanding that it has been 100% decided that Strasburg will be shutdown.

Actually, if the Nats DID do all these goofy things to get Strasburg into October, or pitched him 230 innings (potentially), then THAT would actually BE a controversial decision because they would be going against the advice of Dr. Andrews and Dr. Yocum who are The Experts on this, and would be running directly in the face of the Cubs experience with Mark Prior and Kerry Wood.

It's a "talker." You can be a total dope but take the tough guy line __pitch 'til you drop, be a man, pull the ball from my cold dead fingers.

See, I did end up answering. Shame on me.

Boz, Seven games against the Cards late in the season. How do they match up? Thanks

Everybody thinks the Cards are a sleeping giant and nobody quite knows why they aren't better.

They are 13-21 in one-run games and 24-11 in blowouts (when one team or the other wins by 5 or more runs. That explains why so many Cards have fine stats but the team is only 65-56 despite having the second-best run differential in baseball __after the Nats.

Cards have four solid staters, two good back end relievers (not little good bullpen depth) and lots of punch with Beltran, Freese, Holliday, Craig and Molina all headed to 20+ homers. And they haven't even gotten 100 ABs from Berkman.

Games against Cards don't have the Double Impact of the six head-to-head games with the Braves, but they figure to be the Nats toughest tests, along with Atlanta.

The Angels and Tigers are also inexplicable teams that should be in the (expanded) playoffs and have underperformed despiute big years by key players.

It just shows the importance of all 25 men __or in the Nats case about 35 players who have contributed. Those ABs and IP by the little known players and pitchers add up and have a big impact on the season. 

 

Isn't the deadlock between NHL players and owners a replay of the MLB revenue/revenue sharing war of 20 years past that has long since been solved? With the union proposing to give up player salary to boost revenue sharing between the haves and have-nots, how do the owners imagine they can get away with another lock-out?

I've been told since before the NFL lockout that the NHL would have big problems this time around.

I've mentioned here a convention in D.C. last summer when 600 sports lawyers, agents, etc., where the union heads and management reps in labor negotiations of the NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB were almost all in attendance and spoke at length, took questions.

It was clear that the NHL was more likely to lose games, or a season with a lockout than the NFL. So I expect bad news, because that's how the owners want it, rather than good news.

These labor wars get set up YEARS in advance. The public is told "It's not so bad. It'll get worked out," even when people on the inside know that they are planning for it NOT to work out and just want to delay the date when they start taking flack for missing games.

I'd be glad to be wrong on the NHL. But the way to bet is that it's worse than you think it is.

Here's the Nats run differential history: 2008 -184 2009 -164 2010 -87 2011 -19 2012 108 (League leading with a middle of the pack standing in terms of runs scored and miles ahead in terms of runs against.) This is stunning to me. Stunning. A complete and total overhaul. Pretty remarkable to think where this team was and where it is now is truly stunning, perhaps the biggest indicator of how good this team is and can be. It's not the be all, end all, but it's significant.

In future, I'm to try to bane "run differential" from all my chats and columns. It's a good basic because, as in this example, it gives wonderful multi-year understanding of major sea changes in a franchise.

But it's also basic to baseball that there are SEVERAL teams in almost every season that completely blow up "run differential" and win 5-6-7-8 more games than they "should." I mentioned talking with Beattie. I asked him what he thought of the Orioles. Right off the bat, he said, "What is their run differential?" That's the Dartmouth in him, I guess. I said, "Minus 50." (It's now -43.) He said, "Minus 50! You're supposed to be +100 (to contend)."  

You can beat the odds and every week that passes the Orioles come closer to doing it. And they should get Hammel back at some point to pick up their rotation. Amazing that the O's and A's are ahead of monster spending teams like the Angels (Pujls, Wilson and Trout materializing as a faster Joe DiMaggio) and Tigers (Fielder, etc.)

Sorry about the DiMag-Trout thing. It just came out. Lets wait a few years. But, my God, every time I see him he has an 8-to-10 pitch at bat adn walks or hits a rope off or over a wall. Don't miss this __it's a unique slice of baseball history with a 20-yr-old doing this. Fred Lynn, in a far less muscular style, was MVP as a rookie then was never as good again. I don't think that will be Trout's arc. 

Bos, Just wondering what the latest is on Matt Purke? Is he a lost cause at this point due to injury or is this something he will come back from either later this year (AFL) or next Spring? I thought he was a great pick by Rizzo and the FO at the time, but it is starting to look like a risk / reward that didn't go well. Thanks from Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Purke's development has been pushed back, but nothing fundamental has changed. I was asking about him yesterday.

Boz, As a native DC-area resident for my 50+ years, I grew up with the Skins as the only game in town. Over the past 2 seasons, however, the Nats have become my top priority. I have completely ignored the Skins preseason, and my biggest surprise is that the media continues to focus on no-count football games versus critical baseball games. There is not much history of shifting priorities in DC, so how do you at the WP determine when and if the tides are turning? When do you make the call that the Nats deserve top billing?

In journalism there's always a balance. On one hand, there's the intrinsic value of a story __a team that might go to a World Series and has the best record in MLB right now after 120 games vs a team that went 5-11 last year and is unlikely to be in the playoffs this year. On the other, there is existing interest in a subject, team, issue __iow, what the public wants. You can measure that these days by web traffic, blog hits, etc. Sometimes, even "usually," the two overlap. 

My guesstimate is that there is still more interest in the Skins and RGIII in the pre-season than there is in the Nats in a pennant racer that still has 40 games to go. But the Nats attendance, TV ratings are way up. But the NFL is the country's No. 1 sport and the gap is much wider in D.C. Not a problem. I've followedboth to lunatic levels since I was a kid. I'll be at the next Skins exhibition on Sat. 

There's a gap __usually about a year__ between the First Big Season when a franchise changes the way it is seen in its market and the payoff in bigger attendance, TV ratings and coverage. The Nats crowds are up 30% and TV ratings (I think I read in the Bog) are up almost 70% yr-over-yr in July with that almost certainly rising in August. That's a big jump for a team that still hasn't clinched its first playoff spot. And it will jump more next year.

But the Skins are still going to have more fans, more coverage, for a long time. Just my guess. I'd say the Skins are over-covered __based on their merit as a team__ but appropriately covered relative to local interest. The Nats are extremely well covered by the Post __Adam Kilgore and James Wagner do a great job. (Congratulations Adam and Camille!!!) We now have two Nats writers. The Nats are well served in print and in Nats blogs. Do Nats fans REALLY want the "approval" that's granted by massive coverage __like the Redskins__ of some of the other media that has a zillion hours a week to talk about the reserve linebackers in tyraining camp? There's quality of discussion and quantity. You want both. I'll be clogging the airwaves a couple of times tomorrow with jabber. But saturation coverage of the Nats __which might be quite a few years away__ might be a case of Be Careful What You Wish For.

However, I've seen the Rangers make FAR more progress in a football crazy state in Texas, and in the Cowboys own town, than I ever imagined possible. A World Series does that. Two of 'em ices it. But the 'Boys still rule.

Just what do they say, seems the umps always stroll to the mound to move the game along but do so wtih a smile and chuckle - why? What does the manager or pitching coach say on those mound visits? Why do they seem to have chats at first - as if they are long lost friends? Always wondered. Thanks!

It's all ancient tradition. It's friendly. "Hey, just let me pretend to talk to Gio for a few more seconds until Stammen gets hot." "Oh, you're cokmin' right back out?'" "Don't know. Might." 

Or they really could be talking about the weather or the best restaurants in town. Time Must be Killed. But not too much. They all know and have done it a thousand times since the minors.  

Guesses on attendance?

This will be interesting. We already pretty much know the answer. The Mets series drew just over 110K for three games. That's quite high for a series against a poor losing team with a pennant-race series on tap. But what it really reflects is traditional D.C. baseball-viewing habits. It's a Fri-Sat-Sun town __entertainment, not thrills and chills.

The Nats, depending on walk-up crowds, which depends on weather to a degree, expect maybe 85-to-90K for the three games. "Good tickets still available for all games," as they say. They'd like more. They wonder why such a series isn't selling as much as the Mets. So, the six-game homestand will probably draw about 200K or 33K-a-game which is nice. But it's weird: Atlanta merited the 110K and the mets the ~88K.

I've got to admit that it is also "only August." The Braves "only" drew 102K for three games with the 1st-place Dodgers, a better draw than Mets.

Nats are 14th in attendance __right at 30K-a-game and virtually certain to jump again next year, but not 30% like this year.

The Nats attendance this year is ahead of all the other N.L. East team, except the (once) "Mighty Phils." The Mets are 15th in MLB, the Braves 17th and the Marlins a dismal 18th (and falling) in their new ballpark that was supposed to be a mega-draw. 

 

Forget Stras shutdown. When does Teddy win? First home game after playoffs are clinched? Last home game before playoffs? Never? I thought the Orzulak opinion piece two weeks ago was spot on. Are the Lerners really calling the shots on this idiotic "tradition"?

Never.

Then the bit, which is hugely successful, is dead forever. Or greatly diminished. Come on, folks,. buy a sense of humor.

My wife, whose career was marketing, just says, "Some people will never 'get it' about anything like this. There's always malice in humor. But their outrage at how awful it is that some poor mascot never wins is part of what makes the whole bit work."  Without the "Oh, this is terrible" minority, some of the spice would be lost. Stan Kasten, who dreamed it all up, considered it manna from heaven when the Theordore Roosevelt Society called years ago in high dudgeon about how Tedyy was an athlete and a winner and the nats were...blah, blah, blah.

Stan said, paraphrase, "Are you out of your minds?? This is the most attention your guy has gotten in A HUNDRED YEARS."

...doesn't look great. Seems they are 1-2 injuries from real mediocrity, maybe already there on the O-line. Agree?

I watch, rewatch the pre-game tapees. Except for how good Kirk Cousins looked against the 10th string, not much jumps out at me as "improved depth." This is a team that needed to stay VERY healthy, especially on the O-line, because they were so hamstrung in their free agent spending. For instance, it amuses me that vet WRs who've never had a 1,000-yard season are considered "solutions." The Skins have no established home run threat at any position to support RGIII and his O-line, which wasn't good to start with, is beaten up. What are people looking at? This is an offense that, until it gets more fire power, has to rely on its defense to win games. The Skins WRs are, perhaps, "less bad." But WR, as I've written in columns, has been a monstrous weakness __relative to the Giants, Cowboys and Eagles__ for the last 15 years. If this crew produces TWO 1,000-yard wide outs, which is what you need, not an 1,100-yard guy and a 750 guy __which is what the Skins always end up with and never realize ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH__ I've be surpriused and impressed. They have a lot of decent RBs. Good. They don't have anything remotely close to a great RB. 

Anyway, I keep saying, "Patience." They'll probably go 6-10 this year. Be nice it is was better. But it takes time when you've been bad for so long and trade away picks, then get clotheslined on your abilityu to spend on free agents.

Just hope RGIII stays in one piece. He does NOT get down fast enough when he runs. NFL p;lahyers are physical monsters. RGIII is all muscle, but he's just not a big guy compared to the Skins history of Rypien, Williams, Campbell, etc. Even Mark Brunell was thick and looked like he could have converted (in a year) to a smallish tight end. (I can't spell anything, never could, and Brunell is one of my favorites to butcher, so I have no idea if I got it right this time.) 

Hope to be more optimistic by next Monday, but Saturday night didn't inspire thoughts of 9-7.

Hi Tom, Thanks for the great chats. I'm excited about the Nats - Braves series starting tonight. Strangely enough, I think as long as Nats don't get swept (which isn't out of the question) that they will win the division. It all goes back to math and the great situation Washington has already put itself in. If Nats go 21-20 the rest of the way they'll finish with 96 wins. Braves would have to go 27-14 to pass them at 97 wins - that's a .656 win percentage. Last year the Cards went 27-15 to win the wild card in what many call one of the greatest stretch runs ever. Throw in the fact that the Nats worst month this year was May when everyone was hurt and the Nats went 15-13. They've had one losing streak of 5 games and only 2 streaks of 4 games all year. This all takes me back to my original premise - as long as Nats don't get swept by the Braves this week they'll win the division. In the end the 11 game home stand in September should seal it. I'm crossing my fingers that I end up correct, and I'm trying my best to enjoy the ride.

Good analysis. I agree __in theory.

Unfortunately, every year there is at least one team that blows "theopry" sky high. The Nats currently have a 99.1% probability to makiing the playoffs. I bet with two weeks left last year that both the red Sox and Braves had a 99% (or 99.9% or 98% or 97%) chance of making it. And they didn't. 

What's intyeresting is that the Nats don't talk/think like a first-time playoff team. At least not yet. They SOUND like a veteran team that thinks it is VERY good and has just gotten healthy and is looking forward to a chance to REALLY play well. Ryan Zimmerman said yesterday, "Imagine if we had Wilson Ramos back healthy and batting 8th." 

Maybe this is Davey's subtle handling of expectations, team self-image, but they seem to think they are about to take off and show people they've been playing with one hand behind their backs all year. They have a window here, until Stras is shut down, when they are as healthy as almost any contender __except maybe the White Sox. The Braves pitchin rotation is hot. But the Nats have an 8-4 series edge on Atlanta this year and __maybe they are very wrong__ they feel to me like they are licking their chops. And Harper has crushed the ball almost every time his last two games with a walk, single, triple and twoo homers.

Chipper expressed some concerns that if the Braves left D.C. six games behind they might have to start thinking about the wildcard more than the division title. He didn't like that. Thought that cutting the nats lead to 4, not letting it get to 6, was a big deal. But it's in the Braves minds. That makes tonite a big tone setter. Zimmermann has little or no history against the Braves. They hit RHers better. Davey is curious to see how they matchup but said, with a chuckle, "Nobody has hit Zim much, have they?"   

Tom - good morning. Great Nats columns the last week or so. Did you see that long time BG columnist/reporter (44 years), Bob Ryan, retired (more or less) last week. He said he's going to write about 30 to 40 columns a year, whenever he wants, but that he is no longer covering sports teams and events for the paper. I enjoyed his columns at times, as I have relatives in Mass (I read him when I'm up there). Any thoughts on Bob Ryan and the future state of sports columnists? (they're not as good as they used to be in my opinion, what with trashy 24/7 ESPN and the decline of the American newspaper ruining sosphicated thought). Also - you're not going to retire any time soon are you??? - I'm assuming you're waiting for the Redskins to win another SB, the Nats to win a World Series, the Caps to return to the Stanley Cup Finals, and the Wizards to post a winning record before hanging up the pen - considering all of this, what, that's 5 or 10 years down the road.....thanks again for these great chats and your columns.

Bob's been a friend and favorite for more than 35 years. I remember in the late '70's walking through the crowd at Fenway Park with him in the middle of a game. A huge guy in a thick New England accent bellows, "BOB RYAN."

"Just keep walking," Ryan said to me.

"Hey, BOB RYAN," yells the guy.

"Keep watchin'," Bob says.

"HEY, BOB RYAN, I'm TALKING to YOU!" screams the guy.

"Okay, okay," says Ryan and turns around.

The guy stands up so everybody can hear and booms, "GREAT COLUMN TODAY, BOBBY!!!"

That's Boston sports and Ryan was perfectly in tune with it his whole life. He and I sat in the press box and talked for a long time last month. I joked to Kilgore when I came back that we'd probably created a new hole in the ozone layer. Yeah, we've both been known to talk a little.  He's really happy with his decision.

I remember being with my wife at Tipitina's in New Orleans for a Super Bowl in in the -'80's __before the "Big Easy" made the joint more famous__ and we met up with Ryan. After we left, my wife said, "Do you sportswriters EVER shut up? You're all competitive talkers." She'd already noted that sportswriters are compeittive EATERS. We were out with Andy Beyer once back then with a bowl of crab dip in the middle of the table. Wendy said, "I bet it was good. I'd have tasted it but I thought one of you would break my hand trying to get to it first." 

I like that idea that idea about all the D.C. teams winning. If you want to worry about something, worry about the newspaper industry continuing to exist, don't worry about me. 

 

Ok, let me ask - as yet another Stras/sitdown stand up fight fight fight, question. Given the success of the other pitchers, just how much does it hurt them to lose SS? On a related note - seems only Laroche would 'suffer' should the team fail - given his contract status and age. Concur?

Substituting Lannan for Strasburg in September is more of a potential problem that going to a three-man rotation (probably) in the DS and a four-man rotation in the NLCS. Lannan has had two fine clutch games for the Nats in MLB but a poor year in AAA __until his last three (quality) starts, which have been typical Lannan. I think he'll do fine. But if the 5-man rotation does poorly in September, the Nats could end up a wildcard not a division winner.

Once in the playoffs, the Nats have 5 of the top 13 fastball (velocity) pitchers in the N.L. They are not as good without Strasburg, but the difference is __in theory__ not that great. However, there is no "normal" in October. Edwin Jackson, for example, has been off and on in post-season. He won a huge head-to-head with Cliff Lee that really turned the Phils-Cards division series last year. He had no-hit stuff against the Mets when he lost Saturday, allowing two hits and fanning 11 in seven innings. The Nats may be the only team with four starters __ex-Strasburg__ with the stuff to go out and win back-to-back starts with dominant stuff in a seven-game series. Obviosuly Gio and Z'mann could, but so could Jackson and Detwiler. But will they? Or will first-time nerves be a problem.

There is just FAR too much weight put on the impact of Strasburg in the Nats post-season chances. A million teams have won, or at least gone to the Series, minus one "key star." The Cards didn't have Wainwright last year __a top three CY Young guy the previous two years. He was better, on paper, than Strasburg is now. The Cards won anyway. 

The Reds __if they end up with best record in the NL and home field in an LDS__ are a bigger problem for the Nats than subtracting Strasburg. They are a heck of a team. Winning the NL East and trying for best record in Sept __without Stras__ will be a bigger problem than coping without him in October.

I was at a game at Fenway several weeks ago and they showed a replay after every at bat, including some calls that might be controversial. Why do the Nats only show replays when the outcome is obvious?

I like the Fenway method better. But you have to give Red Sox what they want or they start tearing down The Wall.

 

Which players and when if you get my question that is, are expected to leave the team over the next 10 years and who is in the minors to replace them? Seems the team is really loaded at the ML and minor levels - barring catastrophic injury are we looking at a dinastic scenario - maybe something like the braves (but with more series wins - of course?)

Nobody can see that many years into the future in MLB. The Nats have everybody essential locked down through '14 and if they get an extension done with Z'mann, through '15. Their future looks exceptional beyond that, but there are MANY variables with any team __and that includes the Nats. The next three years? Ex-huge-injuries, they should be a beast.

MIA? Is he doing oaky? Miss his analysis of the skins!

I think I read of post of his where he said he was going to go toward the Wilderness & Hunting part of his life and is doing a TV show based on that. I'm not up to speed on Rig except to say that I think he's doing just fine. But I miss his sharp unpredictable mind.

Boz, obviously the whole Nats staff has been great this year, but I feel the need to nitpick because the bullpen will be so important in Sept more so in October. I'm specifically worried about Stammen, Clippard and Storen. Stammen seems to not be nearly as dominant since the All-Star break and I wonder how big of a concern him wearing down is for Davey. Storen & Clipp - neither has been outstanding over the last 4-5 weeks, presumably Storen is still sharpening his control, but Clippard seems to be making things interesting in the 9th more often than he did in June/July. How confident is Davey right now in the back of the bullpen when you start to think ahead to October? Seems like there is some work to do to figure out who is going to lock down these roles. I'd love to see Storen and Clippard pitch their ways back into their most dominating roles, Clipp in 8th, Storen in 9th, but not sure there is enough time left in the season for that to happen. Your thoughts?

The bullpen is a concern __but not to Davey. He seems at peace with it. He sees something I don't __not for the first time. Partly, he knows that after Sept 1 he'll have innings eaters up from the minors.

Clippard threw his change up 22% of the time in '10, then '28% in '11 when he had a 1.94 ERA, then 37% (!!!???) this year. His fastball % has dropped from 57% to 50% this year and he used his slider/cutter a little less. Yet his fastball velocity has gone up (slightly) from 92.2 to 92.6 to 92.7 over that time. I think he just needs to be more aggressive getting ahead with his fastball, not worrying about HR consequences, then using his change more late in the count. Not every tiem, but as a general pattern.

Pretend it's the 8th inning and its not the end of the world if you give up a solo homer, even if it ties the score. Last year, Clip gave up 11 HRs and only 4 this year. Yet his ERA is a run higher.

This is nickpicking. His current ERA is right at his career ERA. He's very good. I'd just suggest a few more fastball, acouple less changeups, even though it's his best pitch.

But you're right __bullpens are magnified in October. And the Reds have the best while the Braves may be a bit more dominant than the Nats, even though the Nats are good and have plenty of lefties. I assume Storen will come back to close to his old form, but perhaps not all the way until next year.   

I'm enjoying the ride this year, trust me. But what do you hear about Davey coming back in 2013? He's just so awesome to have running this club I can only hope he's willing to come back before passing the reigns to Randy Knorr (or maybe Bo Porter?).

Complete radio silence. "Focus on today with an eye on tomorrow." The way he is Staying in The Present with his whole future may help the Nats focus on the present with their play. But, of course, everybody hopes he'll come back. But he didn't just have "health problems" a few years ago. He really almost died. So he has to see what the toll of a WHOLE season takes on him and he won't know that until after the WHOLE thing is over.

During the first half of the baseball season when Melky Cabrera was having a breakout year my thoughts were: 1. A player goes from average at best to MVP after a magical winter of dedicated workouts. 2. He's eligible for free agency after this year. 3. Who's the biggest influece on his workout regimen? Alex Rodriquez. I didn't enjoy being so cynical but I never thought it was anything other than PED's behind this miracle. 1+1+1 equals 3, doesn't it?

You're not the only one who looked at that addition problem.

Here's another point. Melky has 501 plate appearances. You need 502 to be eligible for the b atting title. I think __I should know but I'm fuzzy on it__ that the rule is that MLB would assume an 0-for-1 for Cabrera __to get him up to 502 PAs__ and that would be his batting average for a batting title.

In light of the NY Post's sotry on a possible fake web site to try to get Melky off the hook __just Google it and laugh yourself silly__ should MLB step in and say, "No soup for YOU" and take the batting title from him if he should end up in that positon?

Tough one. He's already been suspended 50 games and lost millions in salary. So, the punishment is the punishment, right? Where does it say, "Create a new asterisk and take away a batting title."

Hope the Great Andrew McCutcheon makes that a moot point.

Reports this morning confirm what everyone already knew - Jackson wants a multi-year deal in DC. What are your thoughts on what the Nats should/will do with him?

Tough one. Strasburg, Z'mann, Gio, Detwiler and a multi-year Jackson. Where do you put an Alex Meyer if he keeps developing? Do you totally block the development pipeline for the next three years (perhaps). How many years is multi-year. This one gives me a major headache. 

FWIW, I'd take Jackson, 28, even up over Geinke. Nobody else would. I would.

With Desi back and Espinosa with a pretty hot bat lately what do you think Davey's long term plans are for getting Lombardozzi some more game time?

Davey is going to find playing time for Lombardozzi and Bernadina __som ewhere__ because they have earned it and it will help others get a little late-season rest while doing little or no damage to the daily lineups. And probably TylerMoore, too.

Nice problems. Unimaginable problems as recently as March. 

Tom; So here we are on the verge of the biggest games in 7 years, one doesn't even have to wait a week, baseballl is the drama that unfolds day after day after day. I'm certain that the die-hards are ready, the team is ready but the question begs is the town ready?

The town will LEARN to be ready. If YOU are "ready," just enjoy it.

Three times yesterday the Mets played a shift on Adam LaRoche with David Wright effectively playing a middle-leaning shortstop. Three times LaRoche hit lazy flies to left. My opinion is that it's foolish to NOT bunt in that situation, every time. If you allow the defense the extra shifted defender, you reduce the chances of getting a hit into it. Twice the Nats were HANDED an opportunity to put runners on first and second for Michael Morse, and they declined. We're not talking about Ted Williams here. Heck, we're not even talking about Jim Edmonds, who would ROUTINELY drop down the bunt in that situation. Your take? Davey's?

I've heard the "bunt" debate for years and can never decide. They only invite you to bunt in game situations where they don't think it's a big problem to let you bunt.

I thought LaRoche used the entire game yesterday to PRACTICE hitting the ball to leftfield, even down the line. The result was 0-for-4. Maybe I'm wrong. But I thought he devoted a whole game to preparing for the Braves if/when they shift. Just a thought. I didn't get to ask him. Yes, I know, sounds unlikely.

Seems most are watching the Braves, are not the Reds just if not more important as the team finishing first overall in the League plays the winner of the wild card play in game?. The Reds are only a game back with an easier division/

Absolutely. And if Nats make LCS I bet they meet the Reds.

Boz, Do the Nats re-sign Adam? Should they?

I assume that he will get a multi-year free agent deal, that he totally deserves, but that the Nats would be unwise to match because they have so many present or potential 1st basemen __Morse, Rendon/Z'man. Or a 40-yr lefty bat in some future free agent year. But LaRoche has had a wonderful year and is an enormous help to Z'man on his "interesting" overhand throws.

Boz, Maybe the Nats aren't really 100-win good. But, you know, MAYBE THEY ARE. I couldn't be having a better time watching this team, and seeing them develop, from Desi putting together a consistent plate approach to Espy getting his left-handed stroke back (now up to 11 HR LH), to Stammen and Mattheus putting it together in the pen... I could go on. No question there, I guess, just: wow. The real question then, is: clearly signing Jordan Zimmerman to a Gio-style (or given his performance so far, even bigger) contract is Priority #1 in the offseason, and I have no doubt Rizzo will make that happen (including the important Lerner-convincing aspect of it). After that, however, how would you rate the possibility/benefits of bringing back Edwin Jackson? He's having by FAR his best season in terms of both WHIP (1.17) and K/BB ratio (2.69). He seems to really like playing for the Nats, and to be well-liked in the clubhouse and rest of the rotation (who are all so talented and good at pushing each other). So - lock him up for a few years too? Clearly an upgrade over Lannan, and as good as Meyer is, he won't be ready until 2014 (at least). So - what's the call?

Z'mann is a "must." Jackson is a "maybe" __if the terms and especially length are right. But I have no current view on what is "right." And LaRoche looks like a "rats, it just isn't a fit" to me __though I really enjoy watching him and would be happy to get that wrong.

Hi, Tom, Keep up the good work. Can you give me your personal guarantee that the Post will not bump a Nationals World Series game inside the Sports section in order to provide full, grunt-by-grunt coverage of yet another 14-3 loss by the local professional football team with the indian head logo?

I think a Nats post-season win opposite an early-season Skins win would be an interesting problem. Maybe we'd "split the page" right down the middle, top to bottom. 

That's just because you can spell Jackson.

You nailed it!!

Gotta go and get ready to cover a pennant-race ballgame tonight. See you next week.

Bos, are you trying to jinx this whole thing? you are messing with forces beyond your comprehension. Beyond any mere mortal's comprehension. when you challenge the baseball Gods, man always loses.

Players and managers can offend the baseball gods. Journalists are below the pay grade of the gods.

Hockey fans beg to differ.

Good point.

Tom.....please comment on the late Nats broadcaster.

A favorite of mine in my youth. I passed along info and contacts after his death recently. Hope to see something. He was one of the best recognized voices of the '60's in D.C.

With two weeks to play, coolstandings had sox at 93% and braves at 96%. not locks. still a reasonable chance to lose it.

Thanks.

Parity prevents the development of a truly great team (forget W-L records, there are no great teams now). Ticket sales are off and games in many markets no longer sell out. The sport has an ongoing issue with PEDs that has never been addressed or exposed in the way baseball has faced it. There is a growing awareness that the sport has a serious problem with head and brain injuries and there are questions that have to be resolved in court as to what the NFL knew about that. That problem may cause the sport to change in a way that will almost definitely affect its popularity (but if they don't change, do they want to absorb an endless string of lawsuits?). Finally, the league is willing to yet again shred its own credibility by playing real games with replacements, this time officials. IOW, the NFL's got problems and appears to be in decline. Do the league's leaders know that? Maybe, just as important, do the leading media outlets that cover it know that? And will that coverage reflect that decline, in the way it did when baseball declined? Or is there just too much money on the table for the media to be that honest?

The NFL has all those problems and is aware of them __not nearly as soon as they should have been in some cases.

Decline? That takes a lot of problems over a number of years. It's nowhere close right now.

Why are the Nationals so exceptionally good at winning away games?

Pitching, pitching, pitching.

The crowd sees  'em, thinks "ut oh," and goes quiet. For three hours, sometimes. Watching 30,000 people sit on their hands can be almost as good as having a big crowd cheer FOR you.

Excuse me, but what the hell's going on out here? Well, Nuke's scared because his eyelids are jammed and his old man's here. We need a live... is it a live rooster? [Jose nods] We need a live rooster to take the curse off Jose's glove and nobody seems to know what to get Millie or Jimmy for their wedding present. Is that about right? [the players nod] We're dealing with a lot of stuff. Okay, well, uh... candlesticks always make a nice gift, and uh, maybe you could find out where she's registered and maybe a place-setting or maybe a silverware pattern. Okay, let's get two! Go get 'em.

Check, please.

Augusta National Golf Club has taken a bold step into the 1960s and has admitted two women as members. Should we expect the world to spin off its axis now? Or does that merely explain the pig I just saw fly past my window?

I just saw this. Yes, it's wonderful to see them take their great leap into the 1960's. Pardon me while I don't scrap my Nats/Braves column for tomorrow to congratulate them.

OK, so I'm new to the Nats (caught the bug last year) and maybe I don't understand a lot about the game yet, but he's one player. Yes, he's a very good pitcher, but they have four other very good starting pitchers, scads of relief pitchers and closers, plus a whole lot of other guys on the team who do very important things like scoring runs and defending against the other team when they hit the ball. If losing ONE player means they can't possibly compete in the post-season, then maybe they're just not that good. It's a TEAM sport, and I'm Team Rizzo.

Why don't you explain that to Tim McCarver.

OK, we knew going into the season that the pitching staff had a chance to be very good. But did anyone see the offense coming? The team has turned into an offensive juggernaut in the second half -- leading the league in scoring, I believe. Unexpected, was it not? Where did it come from?

Davey Johnson (again) said for a year "This should be a very good offense." It's developed almost exactly as he expected.

But, and he didn't say this at the time but has acknowledged it recently,  he had to change the organization's hitting "philosophy" from "let the bals travel" and hit a lot to the opposite field __which he absolutely hates and thinks is discredited and ridciulous__ into "hit the ball where it is pitched...get the bat head out...DRIVE the ball (to all fields)."

Espinosa, for one, feels like he's been released from a straight jacket. It took him a while. He and Desmond are among the Davey projects. As I've said, Eckstein is excellent and can teach whatever you want taught. But it's not his job to set organizational philosophy.

Is that guy really going to get $16-22m per year (As Buster Olney reported)? If you ask me, the Phillies really need another over-30 $100 million player! Hopefully Boras and Rizzo can work together to make that happen.

Love it. Thanks.

Have you seen any numbers on TV viewing on Saturday night? Which was watched more: the Nats regular season game on the 'Skins 2nd preseason game? I know I watched the Nats and only flipped to the 'Skins in between innings.

I was out at dinner and a movie with wife and friends, taped both games, came back and watched Redskins first half before bed. Didn't watch Skins 2nd half and Nats game (in part) until yesterday. Bet you didn't guess that correctly.

Thoughts?

I just saw that one of the two women is former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The first time she ever attended the Masters (when she was Sec of State) a mutual friend set it up so that I could show her (and her group) around the grounds all day, explain the history of various holes, where great shots had been hit, take her over where the players warmed up. We had a great day together, never stopped talking golf or sports. She's very informal, fun. (This is not a political statement or anything else.) She's a golf nut, plays a lot and a general sports nuts, too. And, being an ex-Stanford president, was crazy about Tiger then. She sat behind the 9th green so she could see the action on iron shots when they hit an elevated green with a tough pin position. And she stayed there much more than an hour. Eventually, I managed to say, "Madame Secretary, I have to go write my column now." My editor never found out that I blew off most of the day to be a tour guide. Well, until now. 

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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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