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October 28, 2013

10:59
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.

Busy Week

So how much sleep have you had since last Wed.?

A.
Thomas Boswell :

Just enough! Thanks for asking.

Hey, 3 a.m. is a great time of night to get to bed. I'm still on the first cup of coffee so the typos may be even more brutal than usual. And I may cut off a little earlier than normal to save some words for Game 5 tonight. Turning into a really good Series.

– October 28, 2013 11:03 AM
Q.

Clay Buchholz's hair

Buchholz's hair last night looked as greasy as if he hadn't showered for a year. At what point does the other team cry foul to see if he's loading up the ball just by touching his own nasty hair?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Oh, the Ross Grimsley dip-stick look -- gotta measure the oil just like you would a car.

If you normally throw 91.9 (down from 94.0 earlier in career) and are topping out at 88 in the World Series and you DON'T use all available means -- if you KNOW how to use them...

OTOH, he didn't throw a single pitch that moved enough to think he was cheating. It's a miracle he got through four innings with one unearned run. Matt Holliday looked like he was going to kill himself with his own bat after he "just misssed" a first-pitch 88 down the middle.

There are lots of different kinds of Series "clutch." Peavy and Buchholz had NOTHING in Games 3 and 4 but staggered and scratched and got lucky enough to produce four decent innings each. If Sox win, they get little tiny hero medals.

– October 28, 2013 11:03 AM
Q.

Gortat Trade

Boz - Interested to hear your thoughts on the Gortat/Okafor trade! Also, doesn't this leave the Suns four first round draft picks in 2014? In which case, shouldn't we just call next year's Phoenix Suns, "University of Kentucky's Sophomore Class"?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Should make the present more fun. Wiz, especially GM and probably caoch, just couldn't endure another non-playoff season after Okafor injury.

Just because it's a desperation move that tries to save this season, that doesn't make it a bad move. Nene and Gortat will be a slow tandem when they're on the floor together. But Gortat has rep as good pick-and-role player so that helps young Wiz guards.

What's up with Wall's poor pre-season? I thought he'd broken out from over-rated to rising true star in the last 20 games last season. The max contract shouldn't hurt? Better hope he reverts to late form of last season. If he does all things being equal (injuries), they're now a playoff team. I HATE it when that word gets laid on the Wiz before they earn it. But this trades says, "Playoffs or heads roll."

That first-round pick may play for the Suns for a long time. Four first-rounders!

– October 28, 2013 11:04 AM
Q.

Dream On

I fell asleep on the recliner w/the Redskins up 21-7. When my wife told me the final score, I thought they had won. That must have been some collapse. I'm glad I missed it.

A.
Thomas Boswell :

What a mess. I was "lucky" enough to see it here in St. Louis.

Kyle may be able to draw up good plays during the week and the Skins had an excellent offense last year but if he is a good heat-of-game play caller then I am the Dalai Lama. Never seen an OC who could abandon the run over and over and never get called out by the head coach for it. Morris had 68 yards at half. He should have ended up with 68 x 2 =136. It was there to be had. And with 21-7 lead it should have been even more obvious. But after Morris TD to make it 21-7 it was FOUR possessions before he touched the ball again.

Morris is a comp to Larry Brown. Or close enough. And Larry Brown was '72 NFL MVP. Use him. He is NOT good because RGIII is on the same team. He is good because he is GOOD.

– October 28, 2013 11:04 AM
Q.

World Series

I sure hope that the Series doesn't end on something as boring as a home run. That would be almost a letdown after what's happened so far.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I absolutely loved the obstruction play because:

1) It immediately gave this Series a play for which it will always be remembered.

2) It gave the Cards back-to-back winning runs on unnecessary errors on unnecessary throws to third base, one of them by a Yale double major in (very) hard sciences.

3) It showed how good the umps can be at their best. We know how bad they can be in every sport. But MLB umps, by and large, are high quality. The reversal of their missed call in Game 1 shows that they are on board with replay and the central focus on getting the play right, not saving face.

4) It gave us all one more chance to observe this era's collective obsession with arguing about everything, missing the main point (Salty's error) and claiming my-side-got-screwed even when it is 100 percent clear that there is no "other side" to the argument once it's been explained. There are things which can be proven BEYOND the point of continued screaming. Everything is not a "theory" or "just one interpretation of the rules."

It was obstruction. The specialists in the field -- the umpires -- know WAY more about it than the fans who keep screaming. (And some still do.) There is such a thing as expertise; and everybody's opinion -- based primarily on their desire to HAVE an opinion -- does not give their view equal weight (or ANY weight at all, in some cases.)

Oh, man, do I need that second cup of coffee. 

– October 28, 2013 11:12 AM
Q.

Skipper Matt Williams

Good column on Friday about Williams. I'll be generous and call Williams history regarding steroids "unclear." You noted the Nats real, but, apparently not persuasive, concern about this history. The Nats have such a great opportunity in the next few/several years. Isn't the very last thing they need during the Spring a whole bunch of questions posed to an untested new manager about his steroid use? I know that Williams has great upside as a manager, but wouldn't a known quantity, like Knorr, or an established manager be a better choice for a contender?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Any questions about PEDs will be answered long before any Nats post-season appearance. They'd have been covered to the point where bringing it up again could be -- correctly -- handled fairly briefly. So that probably isn't a problem.

To your second point, Williams is actually the choice you make if you ARE already a contender. He has stature in the clubhouse and gives the team the feel of the playoff team. Knorr and Williams have the same (unknown) upside: maybe they are or will be good MLB managers. But Williams has one initial advantage: He's "big time" from the day he shows up.

Also, Matt did five years as a TV broadcaster with the D'backs so, when things blow up -- and in seven months they always blow up a few times -- he will probably be more polished in handling the voice-of-the-team job. Knorr is blunt. That's good. Williams can be blunt, by all accounts. But he probably has more "gears" that are easily available to him when he's in the spotlight.

There is absolutely NO WAY to know if a new manager is a good manager. There is no graded test for it. So much of it is dealing with people, reading the flow of a season, setting a tone for the team, connecting with team leaders. And sometimes, like John Farrell, it is understanding that the guys growing the beards will pretty much manage the team for you -- except during the three hours when you are actually playing. Or in the Red Sox case the four hours when you are playing. 

– October 28, 2013 11:19 AM
Q.

12-4 ???

Mr Boswell For all those disappointed Washington fans who predicted a 12-4 season, how does the team get six wins out of the remaining nine games to even get to 8-8 ? MVMD

A.
Thomas Boswell :

You mean when 7-9 wins the NFC East?

Vick's hamstring badly hurt. Cowboys with a milquetoast coach who can't control his own sideline. What IS the name of the Cowboys coach anyway? I knew there was a reason I have continued to forget, year after year, what Jason Garrett's name is. Maybe because, even though he's smart, there is very little there in tough moments.

The Chargers game is now absolute Must Win. That gets said often. But this time it's true, imo.

The Skins showed steady progress in a lot of areas over several games right up to the moment when they led 21-7 and I thought, "Damn, they're jelling into a pretty nice team, even if they lose this one in the end. How can you stay with Peyton Manning when you only have two NFL-level DBs on the field?"

But a 38-0 collapse undoes a lot of good. It's a score you might have predicted before the game (or maybe more like 38-24 Broncos), but I think it hurts more when you were ahead 21-7 and managed it so poorly.

If they beat San Diego, even at home, it's enough to make the 0-38 feel like a Denver/Peyton-driven evil event. You can then look at a 5-or-6-game overall trend of some progress. But if you come home and lose ANOTHER home game -- in the first half of the season -- you'd have to look around and say, "Man, we're just not very good, no matter how often we keep saying that we are."

I know RGIII is listed at 223 pounds and can do 700 pull-ups in 14 seconds, but it looks like every guy who sacks him is TWICE his size. And he WAS crushed on his last play by a Bronco who outweighed him by 120 pounds. You close your eyes and wonder how many arms and legs he'll have when he gets up.

In the long run, I don't think RGIII's biggest injury problem will be on scrambles or designed runs. I think he'll learn how to protect himself better. He's already doing it. His problem may turn out to be his courage in the pocket -- he may have too much of it, if that's possible. His eyes are downfield even when he gets obliterated.

Protect This Guy. (I know, I know...they're trying.) The best way to help him stay vertical for the most possible seasons is a 4-to-3 or 5-to-4 run-to-pass ratio (including RGIII's runs) like the Skins had last year. They keep ignoring this even though it's central to winning now AND winning long term. Wake up. Getting the run-pass ratio tilted in the logical proper direction -- and sticking with it unless you are down three scores late -- is Job One. And it's not getting done. That is on the two Shanahans. If they don't get it right, they'll just lose their jobs. Big deal. RGIII may lose the high end of his career ceiling and Washington could lose its best chance at a 10-to-15-year franchise quarterback in several decades. Great QBs or very good ones last FOREVER in the NFL if you don't squander them.

– October 28, 2013 11:36 AM
Q.

When A Team Stops Hitting

When an MLB team finishes the season in the top 5 of all major offense categories (and its top players are among the top 10) what credit does the hitting coach deserve/not deserve? Thus, when the same team (and its top hitters) stop(s) hitting in the post-season, what criticisms does the hitting coach deserve/not deserve?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Nothing damages a hitter's timing more than off days. The Red Sox have played 14 games in 27 days in October -- almost as many off as on -- and the Cards have had 12 off days this month. Also, the Red Sox don't get to use their DH in St. Louis so that's another key bat that gets three "off days" or maybe a couple of PH chances.

Everything conspires against hitting in the post-season. Nearly 50-per-cent twilight games before the Series. Top pitching. Tension. Off days.

Nobody can overcome it.

Except that guy who's hitting .727. (Ortiz: OPS is 2.114.)

For the Series Boston is now hitting .189. And, right now, if I had to pick, I'd say they had the edge to win this Series. The Cards: .235 but with only 1 HR.

Craig (.444), Molina (.375), Beltran (.300) and Holliday (.294) are still hitting in the Series for the Cards. But a whole bunch of bats are totally DOA: Freese (1-for-12), Kozma (0-for-forver), Drew (.083) and Victorino (.000 in Series.)

– October 28, 2013 11:46 AM
Q.

Game 3

I understand it was the "technically correct" call, but really? You're going to make that call? It's like fouling out LeBron James in overtime in the NBA Finals for a moving pick. Was it the "correct" call? Technically, sure, but you're really going to make that call?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I made the call in real time in the press box before Craig was 20 feet from home plate. And a half-dozen others around me did the same. It wasn't hard.

But there was some useful "continuing education" for almost everybody in the sport (except umps) about the way a base runner "establishes his own baseline."

Rule 7.08: "A runner's baseline is established when a tag attempt occurs and is a straight line from the runner to the base he is attempting to reach."

A tag try was made on Craig. He got straight up. That establishes his baseline INSIDE the chalk line. He ran straight home IN HIS baseline.

So all the Red Sox talk after Game 3 (I don't blame them but they were wrong) about Craig running "inside the chalk" is irrelevant, just like Middlebrook's intent to trip or obstruct him is irrelevant. He stablished a new baseline inside the chalk.

I hate golf rules. Kinda like baseball rules.

– October 28, 2013 11:52 AM
Q.

Coaches outsmarting themselves

It's 21-21, in the fourth, the Broncos have the momentum and the Skins have the ball at their 20. Whatever success the Skins have had on offense has come from the balance of running/short-to-medium pass plays. So what does Kyle Shanahan do? Call three deep passes (one of which admittedly should have been caught), which leads to a three-and-out and Rocca's 15-yard punt. To me, this is a classic case of a coach out thinking the game. I think Shanahan had those plays in there, was dying to call them, and had to scratch that itch, instead of sticking with what was working. That was a crucial point in the game and led to a lot of the post-game grumbling that was reported. How do you see it?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Well stated. Thanks. You're preaching to the choir.

– October 28, 2013 11:53 AM
Q.

Orakpo Ineffective

What's wrong with Brian Orakpo? Not fully recovered from last season's injury? I thought he and Kerrigan would be a devastating combo. Instead, only Kerrigan is close to dominant. Orakpo's name is rarely heard.

A.
Thomas Boswell :

He had a two-sack game and an INT-for-TD game. That's two big games out of five. But he's been very quiet in the other five. Overall, what grade? Maybe C+. Better? I'd be interested in what others think.

BTW, DeAngelo Hall shows that the term "playmaker" has meaning. He gets burned, though less so far this year and a fine game against Dezyan. But he has a career-long nose for the ball. Some do, some don't. 

– October 28, 2013 11:57 AM
Q.

Goat

Will Wong's mistake last night (getting picked off to end the game) rank him up there with other scapegoats, like Fred Merkle, Bill Buckner, Scott Norwood?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

No, no, no. Totally overblown. A bad mistake but not even close to the same galaxy as those others.

ESPN led with it. Consistent with their usual know-nothing handling of baseball on Sports Center. If it's a "controversy" or a "blunder," then blow it up and ignnore the rest of the game.

By the way, Hannah Storm invented the word "confidencing" this a.m. to refer to a player showing confidence. "He was confidencing." I almost threw my coffee at the TV. (Yes, just a little grouchy this a.m.) At least she said it in an NFL segment where you expect to run the risk of greater brain damage (by watching.)

Back to Wong.

Yes, Beltran was up. He's been wonderful in post-season his whole life. But the idea that he's going to hit a HR off Koji Uehara in that spot -- two out in bottom of the ninth -- is less than 5 percent. Probably, considering Uehara, less than 3 percent.

That's why the Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius down-to-last-out game-tying homers in back-to-back games in Yankee Stadium in '01 are so legendary. That ought to be impossible. Never seen anything better than those two homers with the tattered flag about the Stadium whipping. Almost made me a Yankee fan...for a few minutes.

Wong was wrong. Total bonehead play. He was in tears afterward. But he removed a last chance with a misjudgment. He did not LOSE THE GAME. Those two throwing errors in Games 2 and 3 did result in game-losing runs.

Wong's mistake was bad. But it falls more into the category of grotesque curiosity not ignominious calamity.

– October 28, 2013 12:08 PM
Q.

BCS

How much of a conflict of interest is it to have 1/3rd of the BCS be based on the coaches poll? It seems if I'm a coach for the ACC it benefits my program to vote Florida St. No. 1, and find a way to put Miami and Clemson in the top five.

A.
Thomas Boswell :

College football...conflict of interest? I'm shocked, shocked. 

Even as I start my second cup of coffee I'm still not ready for the BCS. Sorry.

But your fine question is, perhaps, it's own answer.

– October 28, 2013 12:10 PM
Q.

faking injury karma

After faking dozens of injuries to slow down Peyton's tempo, it was just obvious karma for RGIII to get knocked out of the game on a real injury.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

And here I thought it was just the ferocious tackling of the Skins defense that was leading to their injuries.

Sorry, didn't see karma in the RGIII hit. Glad he doesn't have a broken collar bone, seperated shoulder, concussion or sprained knee. Or all of the above. That was as complete a QB destruction as you can engineer legally under the current rules.

– October 28, 2013 12:13 PM
Q.

Matt Williams

With Matt Williams becoming the manager, and the Nats hoping to retain Randy Knorr as the bench coach, we could have an interesting experiment in clubhouse dynamics with this team next year. It seems a bit risky to pair a first-time outsider manager with a popular incumbent coach who also interviewed for that position. The potential for factions developing is there, particularly if the team gets off to a slow start. If the Nats retain Knorr, how will Williams react? To me, this is the greatest test (at least so far) of Mike Rizzo's ability to evaluate people, and certainly demonstrates his confidence in that ability. If Matt Williams is secure enough in his own position to view Knorr as a resource rather than a potential source of conflict, then this could work out really well. At the very least, this could be an interesting story come Spring Training.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

No.

Matt Willaims is high profile, not threatened. (Will he bring "Mattitude?")

Randy is low maintainance. Glad to be considered seriously in interview. But REALLY glad not to have to look for another job (apparently) after not getting it. Knorr is loyal and not a delusional person. 

BTW every time I look up ESPN -- now I love 'em -- is showing the Cowboys sideline after they fall behind 31-30 with Witten getting in Dez Bryant's grill and blowing him up and DeMarcus Ware grabbing Dez by the collar, shaking him like a doll and telling him to stop acting like an idiot. (Ware probably said a lot worse.)

Megatron epitomizes the greatly talented WR that you want. Bryant defines the talent WR that's a team killer. What set Bryant off is that this game showed so clearly that Calvin Johnson is a WAY better football player and a WAY better teammate than Bryant.

Since start of '11 NFL season, Bryant's first full season, Dez has caught 200 passes for 2951 yards. Megatron has 265 catches for 4,466 yards.

That's 4,466 to 2,951 in 39 games for both. IOW, Johnson has gotten 51 percent more yards. 

So Bryant can stop comparing himself to Megatron, I guess.

– October 28, 2013 12:22 PM
Q.

Middlebrooks gets a “D” for Preventing Disaster

Why did it take you half of the column to get at the real reason this all happened? Middlebrooks missed catching a ball that most high school third basemen would have caught. Major League catchers have to be able to assume that a Major League third baseman can catch a ball, or runners would just keep running no matter what, just like in Little League.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

As far as I can tell, in other papers, on-line that I've seen, very few others ever got around to mentioning it at all.

He'd had to risk himself and go hard into the runner to catch it/stop it. Not easy at all. But I suspect if he looks back on the play this winter he won't feel bad about the obstruction call -- he was in lose-lose -- but will feel bad about not blocking the throw.

– October 28, 2013 12:25 PM
Q.

Griffin, Luck, or Wilson?

If you had to choose one QB right now, to go forward with, which would you take?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I knew that was coming.

Well, the numbers are not at all close, even when you include running.

Luck: 60.7%, 91.3 QB rating, 10-3 TD-INT ratio and 183 yds rushing on 28 attempts (6.5) with 3 TDs.

Wilson: 61.5%, 97.2 rating, 11-4 ratio, 323 yd rushing (!) with 5.6 avg.

RGIII: 59.0%, 79.2 rating, 9-8 ratio and 240 yds rushing (5.6).

RGIII has thrown the most and has the most yards passing: 1878 to 1574 for Luck and 1489 for Wilson.

But Indy and Seattle do a much better job of balancing their running games with their passing. (And it helps not to have a terrible defense that sometimes makes you play from behind.)

But, obviously, Russell has stayed at the same level as '12 while Luck has gone forward in every category and RGIII, coming off injury, has gone backwards statistically.

I'd still be glad to have any of the three as my QB. It was an amazing class. Ryan Tannehill also starting and decent for 3-4 Dolphins.

– October 28, 2013 12:35 PM
Q.

NFL Expansion

Roger Goodell last week said that he would like to see teams in Los Angeles and London. He also said he does not want to go the expansion route, leaving cities like Jacksonville, St. Louis, San Diego, and Buffalo vulnerable to losing its team. Why doesn't the NFL want to expand more teams? It seems to me this is such a football crazy nation, they could expand to 36 or 40 teams (Orlando, Portland, San Antonio, L.A. could all support a team) and nothing would be lost.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Chuckle. NFL "would like to see" a team in LA for a long time. Pretty embarassing when SoCal, heaven on earth, can go long periods of time without noticing that your product isn't in its market.

On the general idea, you're right that demand is large. But, OMG, lets not dilute the product any faster than $$$ will cause it to be diluted anyway.

Nobody in college football has been able to tackle for the last 10 years. Forgotten art. Lets spred 'em and shred 'em,  score 60, put all the best athletes on offense. Now, with new NFL rules, nobody is ALLOWED to tackle in the NFL. Go to 40 teams (!) in 10 years and every game will be 45-40.

– October 28, 2013 12:40 PM
Q.

World Series

We have ourselves a nice World Series at 2-2 and a return to Fenway Park on Wednesday. Since 2003, the Cards, Red Sox, and Giants have each won two titles with either St. Louis or Boston winning a third this year. Why is there no talk of dynasty associated with these teams in the same way that the Yankees were discussed?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Probably has something to do with the Yankees being a dynasty for almost 90 years, not 10 years. But I appreciate your point. These are three exemplary organizations. And, at this rate, by 2060 one of them may be the Next Yankees.

Gotta give the Yankees their due. The reason so many of us "hate" them -- in the sports-rival sense -- is because they were so ridiculously good, with a few merciful interruptions, for so long. You really shouldn't measure dominance in terms of lifetimes.

– October 28, 2013 12:42 PM
Q.

Wacha vs. Giolito

Hi Tom, I read the Post discussion on why the Nats passed on Wacha to get Giolito in the draft. The Nats rationale was reasonable but my question is do you think they would do the same thing again if they could do it over again? Do they really think Giolito will be as good as/better than Wacha is right now? Dang, Wacha almost 'no-hit' the Nats at the end of the season.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

With hindsight OF COURSE they would take Wacha over ANYBODY. And, of course, they won't and shouldn't say it. Giolito may be very good. If he stays healthy most people seem to think he can't avoid it. 

But Wacha is really special RIGHT NOW and he's dominating a post-season. Any sane person would trade Wacha for any other pitcher in that draft right now. But it serves no purpose to say it. The Nats DID have the best rationale for skipping him -- they thought Giolito was a top-5 pick that they could steal by going way above slot to sign him. Projecting is always a guess but I'd guess Lucas will work out very well and, with a little luck, be a 1-2-3 starter for a chunk of years. But you have to prove it. So much is maturity, a feel for pitching and how your stuff "plays" as you go up each level. Wacha has proved it.

P.S.: Every 98 mph fastball is not created equal. Joe Kelly throws VERY hard but he is a pitch-to-contact pitcher because batters just don't miss his 96, 97, 98 very often. 

– October 28, 2013 12:48 PM
Q.

Crazyball

Boz, This World Series seems dead set on proving that wonderfully true baseball aphorism that you might always see something you've never seen before. Just glorious ball. One thing I've noticed - and maybe this is nothing more than recency bias - is that while overall the level of play has been high, there sure do seem to be a LOT of games this postseason decided by "Little League Plays" - boneheaded running into easy outs, throwing the ball away when the fielder just should have held it, outright misses of pop-ups. Is that your sense, too? And if so - what's up? Just random luck, or is it the case that teams increasingly relying on younger players more quickly leads to higher potential for fundamental errors in key spots, even as those players' production gets them there in the first place?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Very nice point. More teams are definitely allowing very young players -- 20, 21, 22 -- to play crucial roles on GOOD teams. (Harper at 19 on a 98-win team). That may contribute to craziness factor.

I'll try to parse this post-season and see if this is a real trend or if they last two games just make everything seem nutty. Thanks for, maybe, a "free column!"

– October 28, 2013 12:51 PM
Q.

Concerned Nats Fan

Should I be concerned with the rash of surgeries to Nats players this off-season, especially given the fact that they are among their higher-profile young players?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Harper was expected. LaRoche doesn't matter. (Vets get cleaned up all the time.) Strasburg makes your eyebrows go up. Bone chips are not nothing. Somebody, with luck, there will be an utterly boring Strasburg season in which nothing of interest happens to him except that he starts 32 games. He'd probably go 21-6 with a 2.40. But will he have that season? Sure would enjoy watching it.

– October 28, 2013 12:53 PM
Q.

Strike Zone

Every game, we get to see a new strike zone. And in every game, we see pitches called strikes that were at least a zip code away from the plate. If MLB can use instant replay to improve umpire's calls on the field, why can't we use technology to come up with a consistant strike zone?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Never thought I'd even consider the idea of a mechanical home plate ball/strike caller. But it fascinates me. No position -- for now.

– October 28, 2013 12:56 PM
Q.

World Series

Far more fun than arguing about obstruction is second-guessing the managers. Why did Farrell let Workman bat in Game 3? Why didn't Matheny bring in Maness pitch to Ortiz in Game 4? And so forth. Although every error in fundamentals irritates me endlessly, the managerial moves are lots of fun to talk about. This is turning into an entertaining Series.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Matheny was clench-jawed when he kept getting asked about bringing in Maness for Lynn and immediately giving up a 3-run homer. Lynn had only thrown 89 pitches and his walk to Ortiz, the previous batter, was semi-intentional. I'd say it was a mistake and I thought so at the time. Lynn is a quality starting pitcher who'd been blowing 96. Maness is...who IS Maness? He's a ROOKIE. And you just lost what may be the momentum-swinging game of a Series by needlessly playing a hunch and taking out a RHed starter who's gone 33-17 the last two years and has five post-season wins in his career.

Farrell has either been brilliant or lucky because he's scrambling all the time to cover for the fact that he only has two truly functional starting pitchers -- Lester and Lackey. And he had to get an inning out of Lackey last night because his bullpen has been chewed up by the four nning starts of Peavy and Buchholz. But Farrell knows he's lucky that Peavy and Buchholz, who look like they're exhausted and past their '13 expiration date, only gave up three runs in their eight innings.

If Lackey gets bombed in Game 6, Farrell will be accused of over-managing and not trusting Tazaka, who only went 1/3. If they win, he'll be the guess who mixed and matched, helped get the Kozma-Drop reversed in Game 1, etc.

Sometimes weird things happen. On that fifth pitch to Gomes I stood up in the press sbox for a better view -- a no-no because you usually block the view of somebody behind you (in this case HOF writer Paul Hagen -- ooops).  So, he hits it out. I'm sure I must have stood up, for no reason except a sense of anticipation, in other games. But I know I did it on the pitch to Jack Clark from BuffaloHead in '85 in the NLCS. I was young and a jerk in the aux box and I actually pointed to the LF bleachers before the pitch. Just acting like a kid. But it sure felt odd when he hit it there. (I conveniently forget the 7,000 times when my HR "calls" in the press box are wrong.)  

– October 28, 2013 1:08 PM
Q.

What's up with Wall's poor pre-season?

I told you so last year in this very chat. Really. You sign players to a max contract based on years of performance, not 20 games of performance. Now he can go back average shooting and average play making ability. They signed him to a max contract to placate season ticket holders, not because it make any basketball sense.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

We'll see. It's okay to experiment with shooting 3's in exhibitions if you've worked on it all summer. But Wall, for all his other skills, has always been a bricklayer with his jumper. Maybe some year he'll get better. Keep working. But it's probably time for John to tie his New Trey in a burlap sack and drown it in the river for this year.

– October 28, 2013 1:10 PM
Q.

Washington Capitals

Are the Capitals under performing, or is this really as good as they are? If the former, what do you do to get them going, and if the latter, what do you do to make them better?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

You mean T9th in points isn't what you expected? I thought this chat had been talking about how they'll have to play pretty well just to make the playoffs now in a harder Metropolitan Division.

It's amazing how few Caps games are shown on hotel TVs in Boston and St. Louis. So I'm about 10 days behind in Capology. Sorry. Will catch up when I get back. Glad Ovi has kept up his scoring from last season. Just think of all the Ovi Obits that were written too soon last season. Dumb luck that I escaped writing a column like that. Though I bet there are some incriminating Ovi comments from my chats. I didn't bury him but I also didn't think he'd get back to MVP or the scorer he's been this year. Very glad to be wrong.

– October 28, 2013 1:15 PM
Q.

Nats coaches

Just wondering how common/uncommon it might be for a new manager to retain a team's coaches upon his arrival? It appears Knorr would stay and would be a valuable resource if Matt Williams wants him - and I would think Rick Schu might be someone they'd want to keep around as well - and I like McCatty. Would the GM step in on this, or does the GM usually step back and let the manager construct his staff?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Franchises usually likes to make the decision on pitching and hitting coaches because pitching and hitting philosophies run down through the whole organization and you want continuity when possible.

The other coaches are usually the new manager's choice. There are variations on these themes. The bench coach is often the new manager's pick. But since Williams is a first-year manager without a history of having "his" bench coach, maybe Knorr is a nice lucky fit. But you'd think Williams would want a couple of "his guys" on his staff. Being an MLB coach is a rough way to have security. That's why managers consider it a matter of honor to stand behind their coaches, threaten to quit, or actually quit, to defend them. That's why Davey Johnson was so upset at Eckstein being fired. It's a case of "Fire me. I'm rich and famous. Don't fire my coach. I'll take the hit." But, of course, it turned out to be a "Great Fire." Nats led the NL in most hitting categories from the second day Schu was hired.  

Man, I gotta get out of here and save some words for tonight. Too many excellent questions and too many good hot topics. Thanks again.

– October 28, 2013 1:21 PM
Q.

Why Breslow, why?

I am a fan of new John Farrell era, but why would he bring in Breslow other than to give Red Sox fans a chance to scream obscenities at their tvs. While it didn't hurt him last night, it seemed like an odd (awful) choice.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

My feelings in a nutshell. There's a black cloud over the  poor guy right now. Use him in his natural spots, but don't force it to get him "back on track" 'cause in October the Black Cloud usually ends up raining on your (Duck Boat) parade if you keep messing with it.

– October 28, 2013 1:23 PM
Q.

The obstruction rule

I can't believe Tim McCarver said MLB will review this rule during the offseason. What's to review? Do they really want umpires to have to discern the intention of a fielder lying on the ground? Or a runner trying to get over/around the fielder? It would start to look like soccer with guys flopping all over the place. Leave it alone.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Yes, leave it alone. 

It'll probably complicate another Series game in another 110 years.

– October 28, 2013 1:24 PM
Q.

Why Boston?

Why would you give them the edge at this point?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

An enormously powerful trend since 1980: If you can just get back home, even trailing 2-3 in games, you ALWAYS win the Series. Think its happened -- with the team trailing 2-3 winning the last two at home -- at least the last eight times in a row. That's off top of my head.

The last team to come home and NOT win was the '79 O's who actually led 3-2 but lost the last two. I've written columns trying to figure out why this happens. You'd think that winning the last two, back-to-back at home would be hard. But team after team does it, or come home ahead 3-2 and ends up winning.

– October 28, 2013 1:30 PM
Q.

Baseball

This is why, imo, baseball is the best sport around. Even in a billons dollar industry on a mega marketed , gambled on, televised game, the outcomes can still be decided by quirky, ancient rules and Kolten Wong taking a step too far off first. Long live the national Past time.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Check.

– October 28, 2013 1:30 PM
Q.

If the Red Sox win the Series...

...it will happen IN Boston for the first time since....1918. Would be something to actually be there.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Yes, the riot should be fun. At least, this time, my hotel is walking distance from Fenway. I may survive.

Some of the scariest post-win fights, with the police often doing their part to make it worse, have been around Coomwealth Avenue after big Sox wins in post-season. It's gotten less bad and was OK after ALCS win, maybe because rain chilled out the drunks.

I still remember, about 10 years ago, watching the police get in battle formation to disperse/attack the fans who were "celebrating." Granted, plenty of them were breaking any number of laws. But I was in the middle of the fans. Felt like the Roman Phalanx was coming. That was NOT the case last week.

But a lot of talk about "first celebration since 1918" will not, I'm afraid, bring out the best in the populace or the constabulary.

– October 28, 2013 1:36 PM
Q.

Thanks for the "House of David" mention

In all the writing I've read about the Series, you were the first and only writer to mention the House of David. What made it particularly enjoyable was that it was a passing reference. In a blogosphere full of references to ZZ Top and Duck Dynasty when it came to Boston, I was thrilled to see you stand up for baseball tradition and remember the House of David. - Section 405
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Cheers.

But I'm a big long-time ZZ Top fan, too. "Heard It On The X," "Jesus Just Left Chicago."

Maybe we get "I Thank You" from 'em at Fenway before a Game 7.

Gone.

– October 28, 2013 1:41 PM
Q.

 

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