Ask Boswell: Nationals, Redskins and more

Oct 08, 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

Since you get to see the team off camera; how are they looking after that win yesterday? Is there a noticeable difference from their demeanor before the game? They were obviously, and understandably tight while playing, but I'm hoping this helps them with that. Does this loosen them up and lead to a breakout game today? On another note, and a question you probably don't know the answer too; but do you have any guess as to what time the game would start on Wed? Or when they will announce the game times? My wife and I have tickets, but she just started a new job last week, and probably won't be able to get out of work early. Is there any chance I get to go to the game with her?

Rizzo assumes that as long as the Yanks-O's series is in progress the Yanks will probably always get the late game and the Nats the late-afternoon game or whatever you want to call those starts.

He doesn't mind. It's a little warmer, sun's out, so maybe pitchers find it easier to get loose and Nats hitters, who tend to be long-ball types, my get a little extra carry in the earlier games. But those are tiny factors.

Post-game facial expressions tell you very little! The game tells you everything. You're seeing it.

"The Thing" hit Gio in the 2nd. Crowd noise, a great long patient AB by Molina that led to a leadoff walk. Then it becomes clear he can't get his curve anywhere near the plate, so he's reduced to one pitch __fastball. They know it's coming. So he feels he has to stay on the corners and issues another walk. Then it just falls apart and feeds on itself __like a normal bad game for the good pitcher, but worse because it's the playoffs, national TV, he's the ace and Game One means so much in a 5-game series. He didn't come close to Wainwright. What's more amazing than his loss of control __that's always been his only pitching issue__ is his ability to compose himself after 71 pitches in 2 IP and go 5. The shadows helped. But that will really help him if there's a Game 5. He'll know what his nerves, heartbeat, feel like and maybe command THEM better. Also, he has to think, __this is my guess, not anything from Gio__ How great is my stuff! I walked the ballpark. I threw a wild pitch to score a run. My catcher looked like an NHL goalie. And this excellent hitting team got TWO runs off me in five innings! And I shut them out last time. These guys must not match up with me very well. 

Or that's what he shouyld think.

Most people in baseball assume that any young rising team is going to hit pressure spots and tighten up. The Nats actually played tight here in St. Louis in the Detwiler loss about 10 days ago. "I know they felt a little tight because I felt a little tight. It just gets on your nerves waiting to clich, day after day," said one person with the Nats, not a player.

The Cards have to be shaking their heads. The Nats maxed out on "showing nerves in first playoff game" yet they still won. And the Cards matched them for mistakes. A leadoff watch (LaRoche) scored. They walked the pitcher to get to Werth w bvases loaded. They were overanxious and swung at the only two pitches Mattheus threw and gave the Nats three outs on two pitches. They were excellent pitches. But, just like throwing an interception on first down, it's inexcusible to swing at a pitcher's pitch in the clutch on an 0-0 pitch. Just like you never throw into coberage on 1st down. Why should you? You have two more downs. The Cards also had back-to-back walks to bring Werth up again with bases loaded. An E6 opened up the Nats two 8th inning winning-runs. They wild pitched Werth into scoring position. They didn't take advanatge of Z'man's leadoff error in the 8th which would really have demoralized any team. Molina, their besty situational hitter, grounds into the 5-4-3 DP to kill the 7th on an 0-0 pitch that almost hits him in the bat handle.

You can't play much worse than that. It shows the Mats that the Cards aren't some magic post-season team. They are veteran and tough. But they make plenty of mistakes, too. Both teams did enough to lose that game, but the Cards did more. 

Matheny gets the worst grade. He didn't know the Nats personel well enouff. He lumped Moore with Lombardozzi as "the young RH pinch-hitters" on the Nats bench. Moore LED the Nats in slugging percentage! He was a hair behind Desmond and LaRoche for best OPS (.840). So, with the game on the line, the Nats got to send up one of their best hitters in Moore against a career mediocrity __Rzepcz$#%&__ instead of Tracy, who's a very good pinch-hitter, against Boggs or Motte who both throw close to 100.

Nats managed to win when they showed most of their Scary Flaws. Z'man had one of his errors on a routine throw. Espinosa's been in a slump, but he's always conscious of the hitting background and it was terrible yesterday so he had three Ks. Then he had an excellent sac bunt __weird call, wondered if he put it on himself, still don't really know. But it ended up helping. And Gio wind. You won't see Harper go 0-for-5 again in this post season. The Cards didn't take advantage of it.

Sorry for the long answer, but "nerves" was the No. 1 issue in Game One. The Nats had 'em __not terribly, but about what you'd expect__ and the Cards matched them for jitters and missed opportunities.

The Nats win their first MLB playoff game in 79 years, and the Post puts Maryland's second best NFL team at the top of the Sports section? As FP Santangelo would say, "Are you kidding me?" God help us if the Nats win the World Series on a Sunday.

I haven't seen the front page of A1 or the sports page, but the Nats certainly led the Wapo web site.

My 2 cents, just read the coverage. There's so much Nats stuff I haven't even finished it all! Loved Adam's gamer. Don't worry about the Skins-Nats thing. Who cares? (I know, plenty do. I don't.)

A break from the obligatory post-game 1 questions, and RGIII concussion. I thought this was to be resolved over the summer? With the Nats and O's in the postseason, I would have to assume that the price is going up the longer they wait, no?

Ha, ha, ha. This will end up in Bud's lap after infinite wrangling. And, because his owners want a fair price to be reached __so it doesn't hurt THEIR future negotiating positions__ you'll see something like the Astros or Rangers deal, probably with a ~$60M annual figure, but spread over 20 years. So, it'll look bigger than it is because it goes up with inflation and time. But if it's not at least twice the current $29M, I'd have serious doubts that it is fair.

When he was in town with his Dodgers, I talked to Kasten. He said to remember that all the "$Billion-dollar deals" were 20-yr averages. I assume the Nats will get over $1B for 20 yrs. But how much over?

But the Nats will get a very big jump, much more than the last reported MASN joke offer in the $30M's. But there's nobody on earth who can settle just a "dispute between clubs" except Selig. And he's not going to do it while the post-season is in progress I wouldn't think.

Do you wish to weigh in on the kerfuffle Michael Wilbon has gotten himself into by insulting Washington sports fans?

Mike and I  sat next to each other a hundred times and talked about Washington fans. As soon as I saw it, I thought, "He thinks D.C. is 'middle of the pack.' Where did this 'terrible' stuff come form?

So, there must be some "missed communication" at the universe-wide-leader in lowest-common-denominator  sports programming. Michael's final revised version sounds like what he's always said to me. But the Defense of D.C. response was a natural and proper response (explosion). VERY soon you are going to have three big-to-huge fans bases in three pros sports in the Skins, Nats and Caps. D.C. is no longer a one-sport pro town.

BTW, I was "misquoted by myself" on that
"lowest common denominator" line.

Thanks for all of the great coverage of the Nationals. In a Post article there was mention that Davey Johnson is often planning a few games ahead of the current one and has to be "brought back" to the current situation to make decisions. I had heard the same thing about Earl Weaver - - - although I thought Earl's style was a lot different than Davey's approach. Who were the major influences on Davey's style and what other managers have a similar style? Go Nats!

I've never heard Davey mention anybody except Earl, with bemused respect)...and himself.

I'll ask him sometime. But Davey is a born contrarian. If anybody else thinks it, he doubts it.

Taking to him by the cage yesterday. asked if he was feeling better. In spring, doctors actually told him that if he didn't take better care of a foot infection __he wasn't cutting back ANY of his activities__ he might have a toe or two amputated. That got his attention. He got better. I don't trust Davey to know when to stop pushing himself. Because his answer has always been, "Never."

So, he said, "First, in spring training, it was my foot. Then my (numb) leg. Now they're giving me shots in my back. It's moving UP!!! By the World Series, it'll get to my brain and senility will set in."

Oh, so the Series is where he thinks he's going. Nice slip of the tongue. He just loves the balance and talent of this team. Not speaking for him, but I suspect if he had the Strasburg of '13,  he'd think this was a powerhouse team that could/should win Series.

But this exact team won't be back next year. LaRoche? Jackson? All starting pitcher stay healthy? How will Z'mann's shoulder surgery, now described as minor, turn out? Etc.

So enjoy THIS team. It does not have Strasburg, but it has EVERYTHING else. And it just got a semi-lucky win in a pivot-point game. IF the Nats get past the Cards, who may be the worst matchup for them in the N.L. because they hit well against several Nats starters, they could keep right on going.

From Nats point of view, their best edge is their FIVE righthanded relievers who've had BIG success vs Cards hitters in their careers. Before yesterday, career batting averages vs current Cards players: Clippard .115, Storen .208, Stammen .162, Mattheus .231. And Christian Garcia, who's only faced eight batters, .125.

On Sunday, the line for the first four of them was: 4-2-0-0-0-3 with a win, hold and save.

My office had a pool on how many games he would play before being injured. Sadly, I won with 4. They absolutely positively have to fix the offensive line before Cousins and who knows how many others suffer a similar fate.

David Aldridge (with TK on radio) and Barry Svrluga (in this chat) both nailed it at "five." Barry said yesterday, "I was copying David."

I was wrong. I thought, I don't know why, that he'd get through the year.

I'd say a concussion is the No. 1 injury you would not want him to have __aside from something really awful. With each one you have, you are supposedly more prone to the next one. It was a big hit. But it wasn't a titanic hit. But then what it "looks like" doesn't really tell you the level of violence.

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, they only asked us "How many fingers" and "what's your name?" Sometimes, "what day is it?" was a tricky one. But I know guys played on our HS team who had no idea what the score was or what quarter it was. With RGIII, they went right to the tough "Concussions for $100, Alex" questions. That's good.

I don't give a damn if every Shanahan on earth gets fired, the Skins HAVE to protect RGIII until they have a respectable team around him. I know, that was just one play yesterday and he didn't get hit much. But look at all the hits in the first three games. They need to game plan for the REDSKINS future __in '14-'15-'16-etc__ not the Shanahans future in '12 and '13 when the Skins are Not Going Anywhere. RGIII is the whole passer-runner-thinker-charisma package. You will probably NOT get another one like him for many years of not decades. They're lucky the first "RGIII is leaving the field to go to the locker room" was on (I assume) a mild concussion. It was a warning shot. 

Maybe you just can't l,ive without the QB draw inside the 10-yard line as a weapon. And of course he has to scramble. But if he ends up carrying the ball on more than one olr two designed options a game, that's too much. You have established it as a threat. 

I'm not much on T-shirts, but I might go for a nice "Save RGIII."

Why do the post-season umpires so often revert to little league? Even if you can have an infield fly 60 feet from the infield -- I had no idea -- there's no way the shortstop could have let that bad drop to get a force out or a double play. I'm a Cards fan and even I was disgusted with that call. The Braves were very classy in acknowledging that it likely did not affect the outcome of the game, but nevertheless, they wuz robbed.

Agree.

Chipper was right, the Braves errors lost the game far more than the call __though it changed the Braves chan ces of winning the game from 9% to 23%. (Kilgore tweet.) "And mine was probably the worst," said Jones. He was probably right. Classy. Uggla, who is a butcher, probably should have been charged for two errors on his one-error play. But then I think Uggla should be given an error on every play, even the ones he makes. The man looks like a third baseman from 1896, so put him there; hard-hit balls will fall at his feet out of fear as soon as they get one look at him. 

Rookie shortstops with only a partial season under their belts are a big worry in October. Simmons (gifted) in Atlanta made a throwing error. Kozma opened the door for the Nats in St. Louis with an E6 on a tough play. Maybe ought to give Morse a hit. Bad hard hop.

Anyway, the Nats need to focus on cooling Kozma off. He hit .236 in six years in the minors, including .232 in AAA in 500 PA this year. He can't hit. But he hit .333 in 26 games as a fill-in for Furcal in Sept and he hurt the Nats in their last series here. Pick up the phone. Find out how everybody got him out in Memphis and Springfield. It can't be that tough.

Aside from the George Brett pine tar game, has there ever been a successful appeal / protest in any of the major sports leagues that led to a result being reversed or a situation being replayed?

Nothing approached the Brett game. I covered the game itself and the replaying of the game. The HR was a third-deck bomb, if I remember right.

Harper is spot on when he says he hopes p;eople will someday compare him to Brett in style of play. But he may be Brett with a lower average, much more power and a defensive position that suits his skills.

Boz, Again Zim launched an errant throw when he had time to set before the throw. One of the TBS commentaters said he thinks it's possible the pain in his shoulder is causing the problems, as if he's fine if he doesn't have time to think about it but anticipates it when he has time. He also mentioned something that was news to me - Zim has had four cortisone shots this year. Did you know that? What are your thoughts on all of this? I'm worried about Zim's long-term health.

The cortisone shots __one early in the year, one in the June series in Baltimore and at least one since then__ have been mentioned many times. The TBS comment was nonsense. It's not pain. Z'amn has has huge problems with accuracy on easy plays his whole career and has developed exotic throwing mechanics __like Jim Furyk's golf swing__ to help minimize the problem. When you can't make a routine throw from third, year after year, it's at least partly in your head.

The questiuon is "How many errors does he make __total__ in a year." Right now, it is still acceptable, (18 I think), considering his range. And he makes 100% of his great plays.

Clippard really had a clutch momnet, picking up Zim, by getting out of the 8th after the leadoff E5 and a sac bunt put the tying run at second.

There's no danger to Z'man's long-term health. But it will be interesting if they find anything more than the "minor clean up" that they expect to find in his shoulder when he has presumably minor surgery after the season. He can always move to 1st base, but you want to puch that years into the future until he is past 30.

Some people were pointing to Adam Wainwright as someone who pitched post-TJ surgery without an innings limit. What they aren't taking into account is that he had five MLB seasons under his belt, three of them with 200+ innings. It makes a difference.

Exactly.

Great to see the Nats on Page One of the Post. Another sign that the Nats are moving forward in the sports universe of DC. Maybe that means people like Tony Kornheiser will make more of an effort to, you know, learn something about them. On his radio show this morning, he admitted to bouncing in and out of the game to also follow the Skins game (fair enough), but he couldn't quite figure out how many pitches Mattheus threw to get out of the game (because that information was really hard to find), he was "unfamiliar" with Tyler Moore (who's only been with the team for months) and couldn't remember the sequence of events that led up to his at bat. If it seems like I'm picking on Tony, it's because I am. At some point, even if your shtick is "I talk about what's important to me," you have to know what's going on. Slowly but surely, he and some other media types in town are going to have to get up to speed or look foolish. Rant over.

Tony grew up a baseball fans in NYC __'69 Mets, I think, hooked him, but I could be wrong. He knows the game perfectly well enough.

But the info-overload in sports circa 2012 is massive. And he has to cover the waterfront on PTI. Even with all the prep help in the world, it'll blow your mind. But the Nats are going to be real good for several years so a lot of people (not just TK), who already have more sports facts in their head than anybody should probably have to consume, are going to have to know about key second-tier players like Mattheus and Moore. It's sorta not fair, because their heads must already feel like they are exploding. But it's more unfair to fans.

The Nats are the No. 1 regular-season team in the country's No. 2 sport. (But you don't have to know how to spell Gorzelanny.)

Idiots on Balt talk radio are raking him up one side and down the other for bringing in Jim Johnson to start the 9th last night. Well, without the 2 of them theO's would have been nowhere nhear the playoffs. It was an amazing season and an amazing game. If only the playing feld was a little jmore level, they might have a chance.

You have accurately identified the precise baseball term: "Idiots."

After the 8th inning, there is no "save" situation in a tie game. If the game is ENORMOUSLY important __and this one was__ you either use Johnson in the top of the 9th (or 10th) or you will never use him at all in a victory because the only kind of win that you can have after the 8th is a WALK-OFF win.

So Showwaltyer was not only right, he was 100% right.

So they guy with the most recent post-season experience in the Nats lineup yesterday left six men on base in two at-bats with the bases loaded, but one guy with no postseason experience goes 3-4 and another with only 156 MLB ABs drives in the two decisive runs? I guess postseason experience isn't all it's cracked up to be, huh?

Oh, it matters. Even after yestyerday, Wedrth is one of the great post-season players of this generation with an OPS of .969 and 13 homers in 158 at bats in 11 different postp-season series.

And this is LaRoche's third NLDS and he has a .956 OPS.

Does Desmond look like October suits him or what!? The whole bullpen looked amped __in the right way.

Zimmermann had a very strong start against the Cards recently __six shutout innings before trouble when Davey left him in too long in the 7th. But his career numbers are awful __26 runs allowed in 25.1 innings. The Cards' Jamie Garcia has been just as bad with career numbers of .333 and a .903 OPS against the Nats who'll be in this afternoon's lineup. Morse and Espinosa 4-for-9, Desmond 4-for-10, Werth and Harper homers.

Garcia was VERY respectful in is pre-game quotes about the Nats. "They are good...they can swing the bat really good...I actually felt pretty good (in the recent game when the Nats scored six off him)."

Of the recent series when Molina spoke at a teram meeting, telling the team that they had to prove to the Nats that they "could compete with them" after getting blown up three-out-of-four in DC, Garcia said, "That was huge for us, knowing we could compete (with the Nats)."

Excuse me, the Cards are the world champions. They are worried about sholwing the Nats that they can "compete with them?"

It's a world gone mad.

While I know he was a "running back" on the play; but didn't it look to you (it did to me) that the player was deliberately aiming for a head shot? It looked like the hit also occurred after RGIII was down. It also has seemed to me that teams are focussing on trying to get a hit on RGIII. Oh, and congratulations on another great column, Povich would be pround of you.

Thanks.

I've seen it three times. Looked perfectly clean to me. He was going down, but wasn't down yet and the blow was more to the shoulder than the head.

If he runs, that's pretty typical of a lot of the hits he'll get. And there will also be dirty hits.

Boz, thanks for doing these chats. They're the best on the web. What's your take on calling the infield fly rule when the fly is at least sixty feet into the outfield?

The smarter the baseball person I talk to, the more they are likely to think it was just a poor call, not a really bad call.

Davey said Kozma looked like "he was camped" but pulled away because Holliday yelled __not because Kozma didn't see it or couldn't have caught it easily. "You could see Holliday yelling. He was probably yelling, "You take it," said Johnson, laughing. "But all you can hear out there is that the LF is yelling SOMETHING at you but you can't hear the exact words. So your natural reaction is to get out of Matt Holliday's way."  

So, maybe Teddy's victory in the race was a good thing...?

Well, they won the first Big One since his win, so it doesn't seem like a jinx.

The players were glad he won. That counts for a little something. I think they afre good enough now that they don't want gimmicks getting more cheers than their plays.

My wife loved Teddy winning and had me show her a replay of it. I would never have let him win until the crack of doom. But that's just me.

I enjoy hearing adults get all worked up __and dead serious__ about a Sesame Street bit that was invented to please the six-year-old fans AND NOTHING MORE. The kids love the Presidents and a seven-year-old is smart enough to know that it's a game where THE POINT OF IT is to find new ways for Teddy to lose. Only an adult could screw it up. But as long as he never wins again, I guess my heart-of-darkness can endure it.

Is the pressure relieved at all?

Yes. Some. Definitely. We'll see how much.

I am thinking Nats win today, and will win on Wed. If so, it seems that the rotation for the NLCS is Gio first, then I would pitch Det (he is much better at home than away). Or do they stick with JZIM?

Take it one pitch at a time, hoss.

I have low blood pressure. Or I did, until the postseason began. What a ride!

The Washington Low-Blood-Pressure-Cure Nationals.

Can you talk about the Espinosa bunt--why do you think it was "weird?"

Not clear (to me) that Davey called it. It doesn't matter. After KKK, Espinosa laid down a running bunt __not a square-around give-yourself-up bunt. He put on enough pressure to almost cause a wild throw. It might have been an unselfish attempt by him to do something constructive when he wasn't hitting well. I doubt we'll ever know __or care. Turns out he bunted the eventual winning run into scoring position.

Should Espinosa be benched in favor of Lombardozi?

Doubtful. Certainly not against a LHer today against whom he's 4-for-9 career.

What are the Orioles chances for winning this series against the Yankees after dropping the first game with a blow-up 9th inning by Johnson?

Not good AT ALL for a normal team. I tweeted before the bottom of the eighth that I thought the series might be a sweep for whichever team won that game __and at that moment, it looked more likely to be the O's. The Birds keep bouncing back. I like a young LHer Chen over a very old LHer in Pettitte. Come on, Andy doesn't get to win FOREVER, does he? 

I haven't heard much talk about how "smart" the Braves were for holding Medlen back so they could have him for the post season and that the Nats should have done the same thing. Well, maybe if the Braves used Medlen like the Nats used Stras then they would have won the division and be playing now instead of the one game wild card game, where anything can happen.

Point taken.

Maybe it's my inexperience showing, but yesterday's game reminded me of soooo many other games this year where the Nats just did what they had to do to win, which normally involved some minor heroics from one the many minor heroes on the team. I, for one, am heartened to see them playing the same style of ball in the playoffs as what got them there. And can the announcers PLEASE shut up about Strasburg?

Agree.

Are they STILL talking about Strasburg? Hard to believe.

After that win the Skins STILL take top billing? What the heck is it going to take to get some respect? I'm gripped with Nats fever and stunned by those that aren't.

Seems like the Nats got the play on A1.

If that's corect, that's all the respect that a newspaper knows how to give!

I've become a huge fan. Will he be back next year, especially with Wilson Ramos due back? I want him to be with the team long-term. I think he brings alot to the team!

Suzuki is signed through next year. And Ramos probably wouldn't be ready for 100-game-plus duty in '13 after such a major injury. It gives the Nats a full year to figure out the whole picture. Not many GM moves are really "brilliant." This one was.

My mother had an interesting idea to stop fans from throwing things on the field - the Braves players could have gone out to clean up the field. How many people would have thrown bottles at Chipper Jones, no matter how mad they were?

Ask your mom if she is familiar with the MLBPA!

Don't think "catching beer bottles thrown from upper deck" is a clause the union would sign off on. But it's a nice thought.

That's it for this week. See you next Monday. Unless we sneak another one in sooner. Cheers!

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