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February 19, 2013

11
A.M.

Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Total Responses: 33

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.

Past Ask Boswell chats
Q.

Nats Lineup

1.Span 2.Werth 3.Harper 4.Zimmerman 5.Laroche 6.Desi 7.Espi 8.Suzu/Ramos. Does that look about right to you? Also, any update on the MASN deal? Thanks Boz, love your work.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

That's the Opening Day lineup. Werth tolds all the reporters __indirectly, carefully__ within an hour of walking in the clubhouse! He reasoned it all out as if he were Davey thinking it out. He particularly pointed out how good it was to have Span at leadoff now, but that you might like to keep the Werth-Harper-Z'man (and Laroche) sequencing that often worked well at 1-2-3 (4) in the second half of '12.

Then, a day later, the reporters told Davey. He loved it. He always calls Werth some variation of "the resident guru" or some such. When/if Werth's wrist gets back to full HR power, then Davey said that maybe you have to figure out whether to put Werth at 2 or 5 with "Harper second" if Werth is 5th.

Werth also "decided" that he'd play RF and Harper LF this year. Davey loved that, too. "Jayson told me that he told Harper, '(It's because) you haven't hit a cutoff man yet.'" And Harper has missed (overthrown) quite a few cutoff men showing his arm. Davey benched him twice (but didn't say it) twice dfor that last year. It's Werth's head that means he should be in RF. Harper loves to learn the game, but he still knows he needs to be more fundamentally sound in OF decision-making and LF is the place to start learning that.

After Werth had given a fairly amazing analysis of why certain Nats lineups prevent the need for double switches, Adam said to me, "Think Werth is going to end up a manager, like Mattingly and Sandberg." Then we both said that would be a long time in the future because Werth has said many times that he will play until they tear the uniform off him, even if he is a platoon player at 39 or a pinch-hitter at 42. Then he cites the longevity  (19 MLB seasons) of his uncle Ducky and how the game is a huge pleasure to him whether he's in his prime or not. This guy was a catcher for all or some of his first 6 years in pro career.

I bet he's still playing in some capacity as 40 and maybe managing at 45. But he'll probably have to cut the hair for that gig.  

– February 19, 2013 11:01 AM
Q.

Strasburg/Harper

For the sake of argument, lets say that Strasburg and Harper both become what they've been projected - top 3 pitcher and top 3 position player in MLB - but you can only keep one of them for the rest of their career, who do you take?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Great question. True ace pitchers are inherently more valuable that mid-order hitters because they are rarer. Greg Maddux is "worth more" than Chipper Jones. (Well, maybe he was.) But it's harder to find a 230-IP, 2.50 ERA Maddux in his prime than it is to build a batting order or work around the absence of a 120-RBI slugger.

That said, the hitter will almost certainly stay healthy, or be able to rehab injuries much better over a long superstar contract. So, it makes an almost perfect argument.

Also, factor in clubhouse value and charisma on the field. Which impacts the club more in ways that don't show up in stats.

The Felix Hernandez deal __$175M for 7 years at age 26__ is brutal. I looked all the comparables. There's just very little chance he's worth it unless he's Maddux (a comp). Of the 10 pitchers most like King Felix at the same age, and they were huge names at 26, only Milt Pappas had a WAR over the next seven years that came close to justifying $175M. (Pappas was 20.8 WAR, I think.)

Glad nobody has to make that call now. Though if Strasburg is exceptional in '13-'14 the Nats might be looking at a Felix H deal __or not__ in '15 before his last locked-up year as a Nat in '16.  Another factor __if you don't for sure what will happen with Harper, do you say, "Lock up SS for many years and hold your breath because you want to keep at least one of them."

In the abstract, I'd say Harper. But because of the sequencing, it might be wiser to take a big run at a (healthy) Strasburg.

Here's what you REALLY want to know: What do the NATS think? I know. Their No. 1 franchise priority is to resign them both __assuming everything works out as people hope. The Lerners have discussed "how many $100-million+ players can we have?" They need to find out what their revenues are in future. But they are planning on making huge runs at both and really think they can keep them.

I said, playing cynic, "You will never sign two Boras players to enter-prime-of-career-in-one-town deals. Except Maddux, almost all his mega-stars have played the free agent auction game as soon as possible and taken the top dollar elsewhere. You better enjoy them through '16 and '18."

The response: That's not going to happen here. If everything goes anywhere close to "expected" in  their development,  they're both cornerstones.

This is FAR too soon to say anything substantive. A hundred factors will change.  But enjoy them for the next four years together. 

– February 19, 2013 11:01 AM
Q.

Re-naming Nats Park

"Nationals Park" always just seemed to be a placeholder until some deep pockets corporate sponsor could fork over mega-millions for the naming rights. Unfortunately, the Park's start-up in 2008 coincided with the worst recession in decades. Now that the economy is improving and the Nats winning ways will make for a greater national exposure, any hallway whispers as to the liklihood of a change in the name of the Park?

A.
Thomas Boswell :

Curious. I have never heard it mentioned. But I think you have to sell the naming rights at some point __especially if you have to compete with a Dodgers franchise that just got a $7-billion TV deal. Maybe they wait until they have a season when they go deeper in the playoffs ___NLCS or WS.

If we hate the name, we can just keep calling it Nationals Parks. But the O's never "named" Camden Yards and it has probably paid off in "brand" more than any naming rights deal. Nats Park is a very good ballpark, but not a landmark in the history of the game, like OPACY. So the "branding" value in the name Nationals Park may not be nerarly as high. 

– February 19, 2013 11:01 AM
Q.

Best team

Hi Tom, Jayson Werth recently asked the question, "has there ever been a better team on paper?" If this team reaches it's full potential, do you think they could be?

A.
Thomas Boswell :

No, he said has there ever been a more COMPLETE team. Completely different. He ment 1-thru-25 with special emphasis on all the depth in every are. The Nats don't have an offense that is even remotely like the '27 Yanks, '75 Reds or a bunch of other teams. They have a lineup of good to very good players with no true great players, unless Harper becomes one. 

But my Lord, what depth. I have a menthod for analyzing how likely/unlikely it is for a top team to completely crumble the next year. I suptract the team's top catcher, infielder, OFer, SP and reliever from the previous season and ask, "Could they still finish .500?" With most teams, the answer is, "No way."

On the Nats, that would mean subtracting Suzuki, LaRoche, Harper, Gio and Clippard (32 saves).

The Nats might still win 85 games or more, though Garcia or Duke would have to be a decent SP. (But Duke could be a credible 5th starter and Garcia's stuff is amazing.) 

– February 19, 2013 11:01 AM
Q.

Advanced Stats

Stat geeks would have us believe that strikeouts by a batter are no worse than any other out. That is, an out is an out is an out. However, Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) is also supposedly a very revealing statistic. This seems to me to be a contradiction. If you put the ball in play you have a much beter chance of making something happen. What am I missing?

A.
Thomas Boswell :

Both are true.

A K is no worse than a pop out to short. In fact, it can't be a 6-4-3 DP.

BUT the more you reduce your K's (as Espinosa needs to), the more balls you will put in play and the higher your batting average and OPS (etc) will be.

Both ideas are true. They are, I suspect, "independent propositions." Any logicians out there?

– February 19, 2013 11:04 AM
Q.

What about the Phillies?

Hey Boz, a lot of talk this spring about the Nats and the Braves, and rightfully so. But the Phillies are still just one year removed from a 102-win season and five straight division titles, and still have three elite starters. Why aren't fans/writers talking about them more?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Ther Phils are an 85-win team. They just have way too much age and too many weaknesses (like that OF) to be a 90 win team. And that's what it will take to make the  playoffs in N.L., even with two WCs, this year. The good teams __Dodgers, Giants, Reds, Nats, Braves, maybe Cards__ will win a lot. But the awful teams are terrible and will hand them a lot of wins __Astros, Cubs and in NL East Marlins and Mets. You'll see more than one 100-loss team in the N.L.

– February 19, 2013 11:07 AM
Q.

Boz

Missing Boswell's chats and columns is as bad as missing baseball itself! Welcome back Boz, and great column on the kids holding it together for another run. Here's my very important question: how excited are the Nats about having a new President to race? Surely it's the talk of spring training. Do they pay attention to that stuff? Or are they more worried about falling fish?

A.
Thomas Boswell :

No one has mentioned Taft. Sorry.

They asked for a Teddy win and they got it. Now they don't care about the race anymore, I guess.

And that was always the problem with letting Teddy win.

I'd have kept crushing poor ol' TR for years and maybe forever. Probably a "Three-peat" (how DO you spell that?) in 2071-72-73 would have gotten him off the hook.

– February 19, 2013 11:09 AM
Q.

AJ Cole for Jaso

Hey Boz......why does Billy Beane make this trade? I see it from every angle except his. Haren is going to win 15 games, our pitching is unreal.........

A.
Thomas Boswell :

The ways of Billy  Beane are a mytery to mere mortals. I bet it will work, somehow. Gotta love the A's.

IF Haren is healthy enough to take 30+ turns, I suspect he'll keep his fastball at it's 88.0 mph from late last year. Why should that be more than enough for this guy how has as good command as almost any pitcher ever?

Think of Maddux at 36-37-38. He went 16-6 2.62 ERA, 16-11 3.96, 16-11 4.02 and had average FB velocity of 85.8, 85.4 and 85.0 mph.

Few people can be compared to Maddux at all. Haren is a poor man's  Maddux. (Okay, a very poor man.) But Haren is only 32 and has more fastball left than Madduxc did at 36-37-38. If healthy, yes, Haren can win 15 with a sxgtrong team b ehind him. Will he stay healthy? Probably. But far from a lock.

– February 19, 2013 11:18 AM
Q.

Montgomery Village, MD

Welcome back. End of MD-Duke game. 2.8 seconds left after free throws put MD up by 2. Duke, no timeouts remaining . MD uses its last timeout . Is this because the coach felt his young team needed to be reminded what to do to stop Duke from going the length of the floor for a 2 or a stab in the heart 3 ? Smart ? Dumb? Would Coach K have done the same if the roles were reversed ?

A.
Thomas Boswell :

This was a no-no-no if it didn't work and Duke had hit a three to win. But now it looks smart. You KNOW that Duke knows exactly what to do with 2.8-seconds and no timeouts left and has practiced it 500 times. (Just like Georgetown for years was exceptional at pushing the ball up court for decent shots in the closing seconds even when they HAD timeouts left. JophnT II always thought it was better to "push" after the foul shot than let either team call a "time" which helped the defense get organized and DEFINE where the in-bounds pass probably had to go.

So, I think Mark T made the right decision: call time, get organized and take our chances.

– February 19, 2013 11:21 AM
Q.

Construction at Nats Park

Just an FYI - a friend of mine works for a large general construction firm in DC and oversees bid preparation. He said two bids for buildings on half street have been out in the last 2 or 3 months. That means construction should begin in the not to distant future. Things will start looking down (big holes in the ground), but that means things (and fans) will start looking up at new buildings before you know it.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Great news.

The whole baseball-for-DC project was half about baseball for baseball fans and half about "good development" for the city for everybody.

– February 19, 2013 11:22 AM
Q.

Nats Window

Many thought the Caps' window for winning a championship would be much longer than it is. They may still win one, but unlikely to have dynastic run. I believe the salary cap has hamstrung the Caps from improving much after they had to pay their "stars" with these contracts that tie up a major portion of their payroll. Segueing to the Nats, do you feel the window for the Nats to win and win for an extended period is long since there is no cap as long as the Lerners are willing to spend and Rizzo can continue to re-stock the minor league system?

A.
Thomas Boswell :

The Nats have a better chance, especially 13-14-15. But they will seldom have a BETTER chance than '13 because they are still totally pissed-motivated (not depressed) about Game 5 and they know they're unlikely to get another manager as good FOR THEM as Davey.

The Caps were, to a degree, an immature, unfocused team where the Young Guns were in charge of themselves. Meaning that no one was really in charge of them. COMPLETELY different team personality than the Nats. In my Nats Introverts column on Monday I wanted to scream that the Ovechkin Caps were the extrovert antithesis and that it was a curse for them.

The Caps never had a locker room that really took care of business properly until they had wasted several seasons (or post-seasons).

With the Nats, all the leaders are either vets __Werth, LaRoche, Z'man__ or extremely mature disciplined young players who are first-to-the-ballpark workers like Desmond and Strasburg. Harper is 10 times more mature than Ovechkin was when he was 2-3 years older. The Nats may or may not get all the way "through" their window. But it won't be for some of the same reasons that the Caps didn't make it __like locker room cliques, inconsistent motivation, superstar syndrome, coach killing. The Caps at their swashbuckling best were SO MUCH FUN. But they also might have been too much fun for their own good __and too much fun, in style of play, for the NHL post-season.

It's possible that the Nats will be too steady, too mature for the MLB post-season, which may require big personalities that command the stage. But they now have a lot of players who have had post-season success, including last year: Werth, LaRoche, Desmond, Z'man, Haren, Detwiler and Harper in Game 5.  

– February 19, 2013 11:34 AM
Q.

WBC

Potential World Baseball Classic disaster: please discuss. And please talk to Det and Gio about Ayala again and again and again.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

MLB claims that the stats show you are no more likely to get hurt in the WBC than  if you stay with your team in spring training. Bah, humbug.

Detwiler is exactly the kind of pitcher __who has never thrown more than 2500 pitches in a season (Haren has thrown over 3700 some years)__ who should NOT be throwing high-stress pitches for his country in March then maybe still be in the MLB playoffs in October.

AWFUL. My reaction was "WHAT?" A fake injury was in order.

– February 19, 2013 11:37 AM
Q.

Gio

Hi Boz - In your video spot here on The Post website, you briefly mentioned that Gio is in fact upset about the PED investigation. That was the first I had heard or read anything to that effect. Can you comment on two things: 1) How much of an impact is this having on Gio and does that spill over into the rest of the team? 2) More of a process question: Why did you speak to it more directly in the video than in your column on this subject? Thank you.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Don't always look for deep motives. Usually, there aren't any. We're written previous stories about Gio, who has lots of emotions about everything and is super-close to his family, being upset that his name (and thus the family's name and his dad) would be associated with a drub investigation that he says has zero basis. He's upset that he's in this Public Controversy situation. Is he worried about being caught, too. Nobody knows for sure. He says he's innocent. "Benefoit of the doubt" applies __and I think a pretty strong benefit of the doubt in Gio's case. 

Three questions: Does he get a suspension? Doubt it. Is he really clean? Probably, but who knows. Will the whole mess bother him , or, on the other hand, light even more of an "i'll show 'em" fire under him? That could go either way.

– February 19, 2013 11:43 AM
Q.

Biogenesis and Gio

I know you wrote about this last week, but what is your gut feeling about Gio? I really want to believe him, but based on the group of players he has been associated with (many known PED users), it is hard for me. Even if he is 100% innocent, why in the world is his dad going to a "doctor" who seems to have a reputation as an HGH dealer in the South Florida baseball circles? I hate to think like this, but as they say, "where there's smoke, there's fire"
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I gave up long ago on "gut feelings" on this subject. I decided it was as stupid and subjective as believing that your "gut feeling" about who was going to win the World Series had actual meaning. Analyze facts, not entrails. 

But for what it's worth, I consulted my "gut." It said, "I got no idea, boss. What does the brain say?" My brain said, "Insufficient data __by a wide margin. Tell gut to shut up and be patient."  

– February 19, 2013 11:47 AM
Q.

spring training

Lots of talk about where the Nats will hold spring training next season. What chance do you give that they will remain in Viera? Its much closer for fans to get there although it does create travel problems for the team.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Well, it won't be Ft. Meyers. Damn. Next on the list, Orlando and Kissimee. (I don't even WANT to learn how to spell Kissimee.) Viera is lousy for travel for the players. And there still isn't much "there there." But at least Space Coast Stadium is 25-30 minutes from oceanfront hotels at sane prices in Melbourne. Took a few years to find 'em, but that's the place to stay, if you can.

A top team shouldn't be training in Viera. The travel has to have some "cost" gto the team. But the options seem lousy. And no MLB team would ever spend its own money to build something of its own if they thought they could get tax payers to foot some or all of the bill. 

I'd say Viera in '14. But no team can/should stay there any longeer than absolutely necessary. Ft. Meyers just didn;t have the money to guarantee them as much $$ support as they already give the Twins.

– February 19, 2013 11:54 AM
Q.

Nats: Unbridled optimism or tempered expectations?

Which one? Signed, A DC baseball fan
A.
Thomas Boswell :

After waiting 80 years, since 1933, for a Washington team to come to spring training with serious unbridled optimism? And why wouldn't fans share it?

I'm not capable of unbridled optimism. Not my nature. Unbridled anticipation! Absolutely.

I just try to think about them like all the other obviously-very-good teams I've written about, as well as the 10 or 11  Oriole teams from '77 through '97 that had a lot of people in the D.C. area excited about them.

 

– February 19, 2013 11:59 AM
Q.

Untold story

This isn't really chat-worthy I think, but it's a question I've never seen answered and I know you read questions. Back in that awful last game, Yadier Molina was the tying run on 1B with a full count. LaRoche moved to play behind him. Molina sort of dance-broke towards second with Storen in the stretch. If Drew steps off and EITHER Desmond or Espinosa beats him to the bag, game's over and Yadi's made one of the all-time stupid plays. But they ignored it and life went on. Watching the game later, I was stunned that nobody on TV even mentioned this. Somebody did say before the play that he disagreed with LaRoche playing back, but there was no video of Molina dancing out there in no-man's land, and no discussion of it. Everybody in the stadium, including me from my standing-room behind the far end of the Nats' dugout, could see it. Because it seems cruel and pointless to even mention that game to the Nats now, my question is for Yadi: what were you thinking? Surely he wasn't told to break so early (I mean, if Matheny had been thinking right Molina would have been out of the game as soon as he got on). It was a huge risk that still boggles my mind.

A.
Thomas Boswell :

You're not the first to mention this. I didn't see it in real time. I was probably typing as fast as I could between pitches. I'll try to ask Nats and Yadi sometime if this is true or to what degree. I suspect it's not as simple as, "They coulda had him easy." But maybe. I'll ask and look at the tape (again). Thanks.

You know DC is becoming a baseball town when genuinely obscure pointless self-tormenting stuff like this becomes part of lore. ( Are you sure you're not a recovering Red Sox fan.)

– February 19, 2013 12:03 PM
Q.

Caps

Boz, Since there's still more than a month until the baseball season starts, let's talk some hockey. What do you make of the Caps' struggles this year? Certainly part of the problem is the underwhelming play of some of their star players, but this team seems to have a number of personnel deficiencies--not enough wingers who can score, a very thin defense after Green, Alzner and Carlson. I think I like Adam Oates and that he'll turn out to be a pretty good coach, but shouldn't George McPhee be under fire these days for a team that was supposed to be a Cup contender (and was a couple years ago) but just doesn't have the personnel to be taken seriously as a contender now?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The day after the Game Seven loss to Montreal, I wrote a column about how stunning it was that the Caps were so calm __this stuff happens, we'll get 'em next year, no problem with Gabby being coach__ at a time when many teams in many sports would have started by firing the coach and bringing in someone with a more NHL-playoff freindly style. Should they have done  it? Legit question. But tghey didn't even consider it.

What a huge price they have paid __with easy 20-20 hindsight__ as they have completely lost their sense of team identity and playing style.

Boudreau got fired anyway __but in mid-season, not between seasons when you could have had a new coach, shifted personnel to meet his preferences. Hunter turned out to be only a half-season all-defense stopgap. Now in Oates you have a third hybrid style of play. Arrrggghh. Recipe for disaster. Or at least a long time to make the adjustment. Talk about whiplash.

I wonder if Caps didn't think the whole season would be lost to a lockout. At a huge multi-day sports lawyers conference from all over the country in D.C. about two years ago, I talked to plenty of people at the top of all the unions in MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL and labor relations people for the leagues. "Everybody" in the other sports said the NHL was probably going to lose another whole season. Wonder if that explains some dubious (patch-not-fix) Caps moves before this season.

Not enough room here for this. A future column. But it's an Anatomy of a Lost Opportunity to be a mini-dynasty. They can still get better and be good. But the highest-ceiling multi-season scenarios certainly seem to be gone.      

– February 19, 2013 12:16 PM
Q.

Nats Depth

As a Nats fan, I'm having a hard time finding my equilibrium in the first Nats season that's come laden with expectations. I'm excited and terrified at the same time. In case the team gets struck down by a disastrous run of injuries, I want to be mentally prepared. What position do you think is the thinnest within the organization?

A.
Thomas Boswell :

They're a little weak at bullpen catcher.

Just enjoy it.

They are 8-to-1 to win the World Series. That means there is an 87.5% chance __in the Vegas money's eyes__ that they WON'T win the World Series. And OF COURSE they probably won't. Come on, baseball, because of its playoff format, has the most parity of any sport. The NFL doesn't even come close. Jayson Stark writes this MLB-Vs.-NFL Parity column __with updates__ every year. The NFL gets crushed.

If you have the 8th to 20th best team in baseball one year, it gives you hope that you'll make the playoffs or even be a miracle Series team the next year. It's happened so often. But if you had the No. 1 record the previous year, it makes you nervous because you know "the nature of the post-season."

Just enjoy a really good team in DC, now and for the next few seasons at least. This is what so maqny people waited for so long. No "titles" are guaranteed. But a ton of fun, and the whole range of emotions, is coming.

– February 19, 2013 12:22 PM
Q.

Super Bowl 47

Welcome back !!! Any thoughts on SB 47?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Why didn't the 49ers use the Pisstol on any of the last three plays?

Great strategy by the Ravens to go mega-blitz with game on line. It paid off. Happy for the people who run the Ravens. Fine organization. I'm not so big on Ray Lewis. I can get enough of him and did quite some time ago. He's a great player but I felt good for other Raven players and fans more than "Ray, Ray, Ray."

Really a fun game. I'm going to watch it again this week. Already watched the last 10 minutes a few  times. Good for Joe Flacco. Some exceptional deliberate "back-shoulder" passes for key completions. He's not just a bomber, though he sure is that, too.

– February 19, 2013 12:26 PM
Q.

Braves New Lineup

Is the Braves new lineup really that much more potent, now that they've added the Upton brothers? With Prado's ability to work the count and really wear down pitchers, it seems like the Braves lost a lot more than his numbers reflect, and I'm not sure that the Uptons will be able to make up for that (not to mention the loss of Chipper and Bourn). Perhaps I'm looking at this with Red-colored glasses, but I don't see their lineup as being better than the Nats.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I think the Braves did an exceptional job of coping with the retirement of Chipper Jones and coming out with a team that might win 94 again. But the Braves, on papaer, are NOT better. They subtracted 3 of their best 5 offensive players in Bourn (no. 2), Prado (No. 3) and Chipper (no. 5). The Uptons are good. They've never been great __yet.

The real key is the Braves starting __how healthy and how good will their young starters be? Maybe very good.

– February 19, 2013 12:30 PM
Q.

Nats/WBC

Any worries on the Nats having 2 pitchers now leaving camp for WBC(Gio/Ross)?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Yes.

– February 19, 2013 12:30 PM
Q.

McPhee and Rizzo

Here's a good analogy for you: George McPhee is the anti-Rizzo. While Rizzo is going for a title by trading prospects for Gio and Span over the last two winters, GMGM (perhaps because of the Ted Leonsis desire to build a"generational team") refused to trade prospects or draft choices back when the Caps were a legit Cup contender in 2009 and 2010 in order to get a needed top-notch D-man or a second line center. And now, all those picks and prospects for the Caps... have them as a team that's going to struggle to make the playoffs this year.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Some good points. Thanks.

– February 19, 2013 12:31 PM
Q.

The Pen and the bench

Boz, It looks like there are, what, two roster spots open for some combination of Mattheus, Rodriguez, Bray, and Garcia? Assuming there's no shot of any other position player breaking camp with the team. So how does this play out? As good as Garcia showed he can be, it seems like they want to stretch him out - and Mattheus seems like he really proved himself last season, even if he still has an option (I can't really imagine them optioning Stammen, even though they can). Which means it'd be down to Bray - who, if healthy, gives them a replacement for Burnett - and Henry. You sure don't want to give up on a 26-year-old who throws 100 mph and has, in recent memory, been basically unhittable. But what to do? How do you see this shaking out?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

This will be revisited. But the one key point is that Garcia has monster stuff. Davey compared him pitch-by-pitch with Strasburg: said his curve was better than SS, his changeup about as good, but not 90 mph and he throws 97. But Garcia has one of the worst arm-injury histories in baseball. Do you waste those bullets in the minors? He didn't crack at all in September or the playoffs.

H-Rod has no more options left. So you have to make a big decision on him. Maybe you start Garcia in AAA as a SP, but get him up __and in whatever role is needed most__ by May after you get some regular-season "answers" on others.

Bray's a good kid with funky stuff. What a weird (new) delivery. I'd assume that needs some AAA testing.

I can't imagine sending down Mattheus or Stammen. They've won jobs. Don't outthink yourself.

– February 19, 2013 12:37 PM
Q.

Garcia - Majors or Minors

Tom- quotes from Davey and Rizzo in the beat writers' stories this morning made it sound like they were coming around to the idea of letting Garcia start the season in the pen in the majors. What are your thoughts?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Interesting. Flew into DC late last night. Have to catch up.

Don't waste those bullets. Right now, he's just too good not to use. Why can't he be RH long man and then if you need a 5th SP after an injury so stretch him out. Suzuki raves about his stuff __"Where has this guy been"" and "How could the Yankees let him get away?"

– February 19, 2013 12:38 PM
Q.

New Nats

Is there any early buzz on the new Nats? Have you had a chance to see Span and Haren?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The new Orioles-rip-off hats are THE WORST. They were The Worst when the O's had them. Bob Kaiser, ex-Post assistant managing editor and great baseball fan, once had breakfast with Ed Williams and, after solving all of world affairs, Bob begged Ed to burn those hats. And they were, coincidence or not, decommissioned.

Time for them to die the death they so richly deserve __again. In person, they are worse.

Did I mention that I hate the hats? (I think they are only for BP.)  

– February 19, 2013 12:43 PM
Q.

Nationals TV Deal

What is taking so long for MLB to rule on the Nationals TV rights fee with MASN and Peter Angelos? This was supposed to have been resolved last summer

A.
Thomas Boswell :

This will take FOREVER. Stop asking for answers. (Okay, ask if you want.) Everybody wants one. Nobody has one.

Operationally, this doesn't hurt the Nats (too much) right now. And in the end, they get all of what they are owed. But deciding how much that is __it's a beaut. But people do tend to argue about what, over many years, is a difference of opinion of more than $1-billion.

– February 19, 2013 12:45 PM
Q.

A Contingent of Mashers

Boz, With Marrero seemingly healthy and crushing the ball, Skole continuing to impress, and Moore already having proven he can hit at the big-league level, all of a sudden the Nats seem to have a serious bottleneck of mashers at the corner spots. Given the two-year commitment to LaRoche, longer-term to Zimmerman, an outfield locked up for the next three years and more, and Rendon also in the pipe (if he can manage to stay healthy), where do they *put* these guys? Late-season call-ups and depth? Trade bait for more live arms in the lower minors?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Bet you NEVER thought you would type such a question in a Nats chat!

Davey Johnson talked about the days when the O's told Don Baylor and Bobby Grich to got back to AAA __which they had destroyed__ and learn to hit more home runs. They went down and hit a ton.

So, Davey, what happened?

Grich was blocked at 2nd base by Davey. "They sent Grich down in '71. (He hit .336 with 32 homers in 130 games). The next year, they brought him up and the next year after that they traded me to Atlanta."

Where Davey hit 43 homers in '73. Grich and the O's lived happily ever after, too.

So, Moore, Rendon, Skole or Marrero can blast his way into the lineup. It may take a year or two longer than with some teams, but big talent __if you prove you have it__ always wins. And others have to move on.

BTW, it came out that Davey speaks both Spanish and Japanesse functionally. "Sometimes I get my Spanish mixed up with my Japanesse," he said.

When  he played in Japan, he was given a "translator" who "couldn't speak any English. Everybpody called him 'Rich Boy.' So I HAD to learn to speak Japanese.

"I grew up in San Antonio where a lot of Spanish is spoken. My brother is fluent. I understand it better than I speak it."

Apparently, Johnson's Japanese is still pretty good. One player in the organization, I forget who, had recently spent time in Japan. "But his Japanese is pretty weak," joked Johnson. "I asked him to say something. He said 'Salutations.' I said, 'Is that's all you've got? How about 'You're lookin' good.'"

None of the reporters even laughed. I was trying not to choke. The first phrase every ballplayer in every country learns to say is some equivalent of what Babe Ruth probably learned to say on his late-career Japan tour long ago: "'Hey, good lookin'. Whatcha got cookin'?'"

I can't top that for a tag line. Great to be back. Thanks for all the questions. See you next Monday.

– February 19, 2013 1:05 PM
Q.

Will the 2013 Yankees collapse?

Is Father Time finally going to catch up with the Yankees? I see a lot of talent there I'd definitely want -- if I could beam back to, say 2005. <p> I'm just old enough to remember the 1965 Yankees (seemingly the same as the '64 team that went to the Series) and their epic swan dive to last place and years of mediocrity. (And how amazing is it that the forces of karma punished the Yankees both times they screwed over Yogi Berra). Do you think it'll happen again this year? -Section 405
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Yes.

(There is always hope.)

– February 19, 2013 1:06 PM
Q.

Orioles

Hi Tom, The Orioles won 93 games last year and got the city excited about baseball again...and then they go and do NOTHING in the offseason. What gives?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Guess they want to revert to their Pythagorean W-L projection for '12: 82-80.

My son, big O's and Buck fan, thinks they'll be in the hunt again this year. He was right early last season when few were.

– February 19, 2013 1:10 PM
Q.

Braves and strikeouts

The Braves struck out 1,289 times last season. They added B.J. Upton, Justin Upton, and Chris Johnson, who have all struck out 130 plus times in a season at least once. What are the chances of the Braves breaking the team strikeout record set by Arizona in 2010?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Good point that (a few) others have noted. They sure have a shot at the record. And the Nats have a high-K staff with swing-and-miss stuff. Nats will REALLY be glad to see the last of Prado and Chipper who killed them.

– February 19, 2013 1:12 PM
Q.

Logic

"An out is an out" is true, mostly, from the point of view of the team attempting to score IN THIS INNING. If your chances of scoring with a runner on first and one out is .344, and your chances of scoring with a runner on first and two outs is .179, then whether the out comes from a strikeout or groundout doesn't matter much. (There's a greater chance that you will move the runner to second with a groundout, but that's a different calculation.) But from the perspective of the batter, increasing the number of balls in play increases the batter's BA. That's why both propositions are true.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Our chatters are the best. Thanks.

– February 19, 2013 1:13 PM
Q.

Another spring training home

What about Vero Beach? I always heard it was so fabulous, but I never hear about anyone trying to revitalize and reopen Dodgertown.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

That gets mentioned. I haven't checked out the plausibility. But Vero is outsanding.

– February 19, 2013 1:13 PM
Q.

 

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