Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Jun 16, 2014

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

Boz, Every MLB pitcher, no matter how talented, blows up on occasion. Are there any statistics on this? Example: How often does the average MLB pitcher blow up? How often does an elite MLB pitcher blow up?

Very interesting. I've usually figured it out for the starters on teams that I covered or were of particular interest. That's one reason I like "quality starts" to a degree and my on version of if "high quality starts." (For me, "high quality" is a runs-per-nine-innings average of 3.00 or less and at least five innings pitched. I just count runs -- rather than "earned runs" -- because that's all that goes up on the scoreboard. If Strasburg gives up four runs but only two are earned, I don't feel like calling that "high quality." Pick up your team. Don't let the unearned runs score. And I don't mind a five-inning cut off because one-run-in-five-innings is a very useful start but two-runs-in 5 2/3-innings isn't good enough to meet this standard.)

I love pitchers with a ton of High Quality starts and the occasional awful game. Why? Because High Quality starts and Wins -- over a several year period --tend to be almost exactly the same for a pitcher on a decent team.

(Why the 3.00 RA cut off? It eliminates games with three runs allowed, unless you go all nine innings. This is a low-scoring era and allowing that third run -- or preventing it -- is very important. "He gave us a chance to win" is the current phrase I hate worst in baseball. That means "he gave us a real good chance to lose, too." I want the starts after which the manager says, "He derserved to win. We let him down.")

On the Nats, Roark has had a couple of bad games (usually when he was been used on too much rest). But his percentage of HQ starts is very high -- 12 in 18 career starts.

FWIW, the MLB average for (mere) quality starts is 50 percent. One of those clean baseball stat accidents. So, a 67 percent High Quality start percentage -- which Roark won't be able to keep up because it's VERY high -- is wonderful. Wish I had time to give you the #s for all Nats (and O's) pitchers today but don't have the data with me in Pinehurst. 

Greetings TB! If UVA was located in Arlington would the Post cover the Baseball program more extensively during the season? Three CWS appearances in the last five years merit more attention, don't you agree? Thanks!

Yes.

But they're not in Alexandria. We've never given college baseball a great deal of attention because....well....because the huge crowds go to college football and basketball games and, I assume, we take that as a reflection of reader/public interest. That's not my area of the paper but it seems logical to me. When a team advances and does something really noteworthy, rather than have regular season games, we cover it more. There are only so many reporters, hours in the day. It's been like that since the first day I got to the Post. I answered the phone for years and had to explain to every group under the sun that while their activity/sport was wonderful -- and it usually was -- we had to make "news judgments." We want to do it right. But everybody wants more. That's good. It sure beats, "We don't care if you write about us or not."

The Nats went 10 of 12, taking three in a row from the best team in baseball in their own house. The pitchers had gone once through the rotation without allowing a walk and the batters were scoring runs all over the place. Now they've lost four in a row and look like they couldn't hit water if they fell out of a boat, as Crash Davis might say. To put that into perspective, the stretch I just mentioned is exactly the same number of games an NFL plays in the entirety of the 17-week regular season. Just one more reason why baseball is the best game of them all!

The Nats are just fine. That was a brutal 10-game road trip. If they'd gone 2-1, 2-2, 1-2 in the three series everybody would say, "I'll take it. Now lets win some games at home, especially against the Braves." Because it was 2-1, 3-1, 0-3 it feels different. But it isn't.

The interesting new info from the Cards series is that Jordan Zimmermann may have learned how to pound the Cards with enough two-seam fastball inside to set up his other stuff away. That would be a potentiaslly important post-season factor in a series against St. Louis since he said he feels the Cards kind of own him. Maybe not anymore. Also, Fister has just eaten some NL teams alive and looks like he can handle them at will. But you know he's not going to match well with everybody. Fister throws tons of strikes, plenty of them away and even challenges in 0-2 counts. He's not going to change. But the Cards seemed to enjoy that. So maybe JZ and Strasburg are your 1-2 if you meet the Cards.

This should be a fun week. Really feel like the Nats are in position to play solidly against the Braves, even without Ramos and Harper bats. This is a lineup that REALLY needs "length" and is badly hurt as soon as it loses a second bat. One, maybe okay. Down two bats, they suffer. It's been that way for three years.   

Harper and Zimmerman sustain injuries sliding into a base. Fingers, ankles, knees and more can be injured seriously by sliding into first, second or third. Why don't they reshape the bases so they're more rounded instead having rigid sides? Wouldn't it cut down on injuries?

The bases aren't the problem.

Here's a tip-off as to what the Nats REALLY think their problem is. Rizzo told me that they have an organization-wide policy starting in the low minors that everybody HAS to slide feet first. They don't mess with the players who have slid headfirst for years. It's hard to change habits and that can lead to injuries, too. But every new Nat player HAS to slide feet first. So that tells you what Riz really thinks, no matter what he says, about head-first injuries like those to Z''man's and Harper's wrist.

BTW, when are the Nats going to come to their senses, revoke the silly spring training boast that they were going to be very aggressive on the bases and change that to "we want to be really aggressive on the bases with players who weigh less than 225 pounds. We prefer that our sluggers remain in one piece so that we do not plummet to 18th in MLB in runs per game. Ramos, 230 at least, got hurt stretching a single into a sliding double in the ninth inning of a game when the Nats were up 2-0. His great attitude hurt him -- he does whatever he thinks the team wants and they keep patting him on the back when he goes first-to-home on a double. Williams has done it. WRONG. Tell this guy to run the bases like 95 percent of the catchers of the last 100 years -- very slowly. Also, Harper, Zim, LaRoche (DL with quad), Werth -- all HR hitters -- tell them to take extra bases if they believe in it, feel comfortable. But don't cheer for it, praise it like its REALLY important.

It's not an accident that the Nats who CAN run the bases aggressively and stay healthy are all listedd at 205 or less -- Desmond, Espinosa, McLouth, Span. They are smaller, quicker players who have always built their games, in part, around speed.

The Nats tried to reinvent the wheel with this "aggression throughout the lineup" nonsense. I groused about it in spring training and again early in the season. Williams has plenty of good ideas. This is NOT one of them. ^&%^can it. Now.

Posting early. Can you help me understand how the "playoff chances" percentages work? For example, as I write this the Nats and Braves have identical records but ESPN says the Nats have a 69 percent chance of making the playoffs and the Braves 44 percent. Based on strength of schedule for the rest of the season, perhaps? Thanks.

No, based on their overall evaluation of the quality of the two teams, including current record. They think the Nats are a significantly better team. I do, too. As one example, the Nats, with all their injuries, have a 2767-240 run differential of +37 which would normally lead to a 38-30 record now and a 91-win season. I think that's about right -- for a very injured Nats team. If they get healthy and stay fairly healthy, I think they're better than that, though they may never overcome their terrible record in one-run games this year. It may not even out. The Braves run differential now is "0" -- 250-250. IOW, after 68 games, a pretty good sample, they look like a .500 team. They lost Medlen -- significant. But Harang, Sanata and Floyd have certainly made up for the loss of Beachy. So, injuries have turn out to be a fairly small factor in the Braves mediocre play.

I'm sure the Braves feel like: we're a game ahead of Washington because we went 5-1 against them in April and we'll do it again. They BETTER keep doing it head-to-head because they don't the Nats will probably outplay them fairly significantly against all other foes. That's a traditional baseball analysis based on 10 weeks of games, not just an opinion picked out of the air.      

How can they look so good against the Giants and so terrible against the Cardinals?

Sometimes it's the way pitching and hitting are taught within organizations -- it can create "matchups" of different styles. Or it can simply be that 2-or-3 hitters do well against the other teams starters. Or, in Nats-Braves, it could be Clippard's inability to handle the Braves (have they picked up his pitches.)

The Nats owned the Giants, a wonderful organization, in '12 and many still wonder what a Nats-Giants NLCS would have looked like. Giants won the World Series. Would they have even gotten there if they faced the Nats. But the Nats couldn't get past the Cards.

These patterns are real and part of baseball. But they also change over time. Teams remold their rosters to match teams they know they'll have to beat. The Nats did fine in '12 vs the Braves, for example.

.....

Sad news. I've just been told that Tony Gwynn died. He was one of the sweetest, nicest, smartest players I ever met in baseball. He was always grinning, joking and learning. No better student of hitting since Ted Williams. (Some others also great at it, but none better than Gwynn.)

Remember interview Greg Maddux for days about pitching for a magazine piece. He pointed at cars on a highway a couple of hundred yards away and said that it was impossible to tell if a car was going 50-60-or-70 unless you could judge it in relation to some other car. If the car was alone on the road "the human eye can't do it." And, Maddux said, "no hitter can tell the difference in speed of different pitches (pause) except that &^%$#@! * Tony Gwynn."

There was no better-loved player -- or more worthy of it. Kind of like Brooks Robinson in a previous generation. Weaver said he always preferred "the guys who were loved because they deserved to be loved, like Brooks."

Today, that will be everybody's feeling about Gwynn. It was so fitting that he went into the Hall of Fame the same year as Cal Ripken, Jr. It made both of them happy that they could go in together instead of -- though they would never say it -- with a player who, if you knew everything about them, you wouldn't like 'em very much.

BTW, Stephen Strasburg was lucky to be under Gwynn's influence in college. That was a perfect place for Tony, teaching the game he adored -- and was a huge FAN or, not just a player -- and teaching young people by word and, in his case, by deed. Not some deeds, but just the way he was everyday every time you ever saw him or talked to him. Just a joy. So sorry.    

At what point do the Nats ask him to give up switch hitting? He's hitting just above .200 as a lefty and is hitting just under .270 as a righty.

His OPS is .660 -- adequate for a ++ defensive second baseman. He's rebounded, at least so far, to the point where he can be an adequate starting player (not a good one) and a very good bench player who can play the heck out of either 2nd or SS.

If the Nats wanted to trade him now -- and they don't -- there would be a line around the block (at a sane price). And I doubt that any of them would want him to give up switch-hitting. But I bet they'd love to get their hands on him to have their hitting instructor find out if he's the one with a magic touch with that particular player.

The Phils used to look to trade for pitchers who were "a good changeup away" from being far better pitchers. Then they'd get 'em, turn 'em over to Johnny Podres, who taught the change (including various methods) better than anybody, and the next year the Phils would "steal" a fine pitcher.  

Submitted this while watching the first round on Thursday. The Open looks like it's being played on a seedy municipal course in some bankrupt county that can't afford to maintain it. Horrible appearance. Just horrible.

I don't think the "look" is the problem. That's how the North Carolina sand hills look. They aren't pretty, they are forbidding -- like the equally "ugly" look of Pine Valley, which some still think is the hardest course anyway. I actually like the look. Pinehurst's problem with appearance is that it's the most monotonous looking great course I've seen, except maybe St. Andrews, which I wouldn't play if it were in my back yard. At No. 2 -- and plenty of other Pinehurst courses 00 if you've seen one (hole) you've seen 'em all. I played No. 2 with my son last year and, a month later, the only holes I had a "visual" of were No. 1 (just because it's No. 1), No. 17 (because it's attractive) and No. 18.

Sally's point about taking out 35 acres of traditional Open rough and replacing it with"back-to-nature" scruff (or weeds.) is a more interesting debate. I'd take the other side, but not with a ton of enthusiasm. We sat next to eachother all week and it was truly a boat race. But that's just part of golf -- virtuoso performances kill competitive excitement. The first time I ever saw it Lanny Wadkins lapped the field at the Players on the old menacing Sawgrass course where an alligator once chased me. I walked almost every hole with him. Everybody he played with was crucified by 30 mph crosswinds, tight landing areas and visual Pete Dye intimidation. Lanny hit the ball so purely that he made the wind disappear. He didn't "play the wind," he intimidated IT. Other guys balls were blown everywhere. His just bore straight were he hit them or maybe with 10 feet of wind. It was a "boring" event unless you were with Lanny -- then you still remember it 30+ years later. I can still "see" one of the shots on a par three as I'm typing. Jungle everywhere you look, crosswind from hell. Lanny just smokes it to 10 feet like its a balmy day. The guys with him just shake their heads. 

If Kaymer wasn't in the field, the eventual scores would have been a "perfect Open" with two guys at -1. Granted, it would not have been a leaderboard that exalted the USGA for setting up a course that "selected" the greatest player in the world. There was enormous "luck" in the lie you drew in the weeds. If anybody failed it was the damn birds of North Carolina. They did a crummy job of "reseeding." Somebody should have said, "The Birds and other critters aren't creating enough weeds. We need to haul in some weed seed and toughen this up, but still not end  up with that ugly five-inch USOpen 'hay.'"

I thought Kaymer was much more the reason for the "boredom" than the non-rough. For YEARS fans screamed that the uniformly unplayable Open rough "took skill and imagination out of the game" and led to -- yes -- boring Opens with nondescript robotic winners. So, the new USGA boss, Mike Davis, has tried to experiment with Open set ups that -- in theory -- will drive players crazy, defend par so that the winner has to battle his brains out to break 280, yet keep imagination in the game and not crucify the charismatic 350-yard drivers who are a big part of the sport.

I think it's an experiment worth continuing. I think Pinehurst No. 2 is a FAR better course the way it is now for every level of play -- including the women's U.S. Open this week -- right up to the men's U.S. Open.

But about the suitability for the men you can have a good debate. Sally presented one side very well. The USGA will say that the lack of excitment was because Kaymer was too good, not because the scruff was too easy.

If I heard FP correctly, the Nats have played 20 games in St. Louis since the team came to Washington and have won twice. In baseball that's almost a statistical impossibility. They've also scored a total of five runs in the last five games there. Do you think there's a psychological component to this? Or is it just a case of our bats went cold during the last game in SF? We're not going very far if we can't get past the Cards or the Braves.

It's ironic that Nationals Park was built off the plans of the Cards current park. No two parks in baseball are so similar. So the Nats ought to "feel at home."

When I tell people this they look at me like I'm crazy. I walked through Nats Park during every phase of its building. Everybody innvolved was upfront that they were using the Cards stadium plans withe few variations. (St. Louis had several thousand extra seats that wrap around in LF because they draw bigger crowds that the Nats anticipated.) When you went through the belly of Nats Park you'd see side-by-side plans of "St. Louis Day 216" next to  "D.C. Day 216" section for section to check on their progress.

The two cities used completely different exterior materials. There are differences. But the parts of the parks that are identical is the feature that's interesting to me. The difference in "playing characteristics" are probably mostly due to differences in prevailing wind patterns off the Mississippi and the Anacostia/Potomac.

Although Johnny Miller can be pompous, I will miss him calling the US Open next year. He doesn't want to be friends with the people he covers so he can be honest with his audience. NBC has done a stellar job with the Opens after they got a real pro in Dan Hicks. The telecasts are less reverential than CBS. Sorry to see them go. I think Fox will have a steep learning curve to fill these big shoes.

Miller was always my favorite announcer. But in person it's a shock to see what a huge hulking menacing-looking guy he is -- not at all how he looks on TV. He'd scare Tattaglia. Fox, mixed with sports, tends to face a lot of steep learning curves and rarely gets up them.

How does it work logistically for a player like Tyler Moore, who is moved up to the majors and back to AAA once or even more during the season? Does he have to keep two apartments like a Congressman or Senator? Does he just move in with a good friend? Does the team have a few places for short-term players to stay (like Leon right now)? And what if the player is married, perhaps with kids?

Some teams may offer some help but, in general (don't know about the Nats), "This is baseball, son. You're on your own." Until you get that first big check, if you ever do, it is a very tough scary did-I-make-a-bad-decision  life.

On MLB radio the other day Chipper Jones said that Rendon is the best player on the Nats, expounding on Kevin Frandsen's remarks about him being the best young player on the Nats. I love Rendon and all but I wouldn't have picked him as the best player on the ball club. What is it about Rendon that has these vets so enamored?

The future.

Rendon turned 24 on June 6. He has played exactly 162 games in his career. In 606 at bats he's scored 82 runs with 161 hits, 34 doubles, 5 triples, 16 homers, 69 RBI and a slash line of .266/.328/.417. His 53-113 walk-K ratio is good (these days).

So, how good will he become? Lets find a similarly sized infielder with a super quick bat and see what he did.

At ages 24 and 25 -- older than Rendon is now -- Chase Utley had 401 at bats with 49 runs, 103 hits, 21 doubles, three triples, 15 homers, 78 RBI. His line .257/.313/.436 and a 26/62 W/K ratio.

So, Rendon is VERY similar to young Utley, across the board, but Rendon is still several months younger than Utley was when he played his first MLB game.

Rendon has to get better. He's no finished product, in the field or at bat.

The reason some say that his ceiling is comparable to Harper's is because Harper keeps hurting himself. And Rendon, who was considered injury prone when the Nats drafted him, keeps staying on the field. Trends change. But Harper, like Ramos, needs to understand that the worst thing a ballpalyer can do is NOT go 0-for-4. It's to be "unavailable" because he's hurt. You've heard that "90 percent of life is showing up." In MLB, too. If you're on the DL, you didn't show up. A huge part of the game is figuring out what YOU have to do -- not what somebody else has to do -- to "be available" to your team more than 140 times a year. 

Boz: What exactly does it mean for the Nats' postseason chances that all their recent scoring dried up against the Cards, particularly after the offense was there against the Giants? Are we that poorly matched against Cards pitching? Something else going on? Thanks

St. Louis team ERA 3.23. SF team ERA 3.29.

Chill. Nats are playing much better. Need to get Gio back and pitching decently. (His FIP of 3.52 indicates he wasn't pitching as badly as it seemed when he was gone for a month). And need Ramos to get back, run the bases as if he were HOFer Gabby (Old Tomato Face) Hartnett (who stole 13 bases in his last 17 seasons) and play 85 percent of remaining games.

On Wednesday, the Nats were the hottest team in baseball. By Sunday, they’d lost their fourth straight and the bats were dead. Any thoughts on what happened? Is it because of Ramos going to the DL? Road-trip fatigue? Great Cardinals pitching? All of the above? Thanks!

Cards are good. Ramos was a big deflating factor.

That lineup absolutely cooks when it has its best seven hitters (Rendon, Werth, Z'mann, LaRoche, Harper, Ramos, Desmond in a row), does very well when it has six of the seven and absolutely struggles -- presses and sometimes just gags its brains out -- when it is down to five or four of the seven. That's the facts. Nats better learn to deal with it, figure out how to get hurt less or be deeper in bats within the system when they do.

Zzzzz. Martin Kaymer is obviously a good golfer, and the USGA tried admirably, and appropriately, with the new course set up. But that snooze of a show didn't just make me turn the television off yesterday, it made me not care about the British Open or PGA Championship, either. Yes, Compton is a hero, but he was battling for a distant second -- sorry, but I don't watch golf to see the interesting stories in the back of the pack. So, if you are in charge, do you tweak things, or do you tell the people leaving in droves, like me, too bad?

Golf has problems. And when Tiger is hurt and Phil is a no-show on the board it has big problems.

Golf goes through cycles. This has happened before. But the Tiger As Ultimate Good Guy Era for a dozen seasons set the bar incredibly high for the sport. That isn't coming back. I once asked Jack Nicklaus, during a slack period after he was off the scene, "What does golf need to do?" He looked at me, shrugged and said, "Golf is just golf. It's not for everybody. But a lot of people love it."

Well, golf is just golf again. It's not for everybody. But a lot of people love it. However, when an estimable robot like nice Martin Kaymer wins by eight shots even a lot of people who love it say, "I think I'll save my eyes for the NBA Finals tonight." 

Tom - Baseball was my first love, but in my humble opinion playoff hockey is the best sports has to offer. And winning the Cup is the most difficult championship to achieve. (When Gretzky lost to the NYI in his first Finals he walked by the Isles' dressing room at the end and saw the ice packs and stitches being applied and said to himself, so THAT'S how you win a Cup). Your thoughts.

I think that I was damn unlucky that the one 30 second period out of the last two OTs that I went to get a drink of water L.A. scored the season-ender.

That's as competitive as a five-game series can be. After all the incredible saves, pileups in the goal mouth, it seemed appropriate that the winning goal would be a rebound to a guy with a half-open net and a shot he couldn't miss. The best thing about playoff hockey is how insane it is because you never know what will lead to a crucial goal -- including total luck. The worst thing about playoff hockey with the season on the line is...well...the same thing.

They have more in common than wearing black and silver; both emphasize organization and teamwork ahead of flash and personality -- traits we overlook in this "superstar," bling-oriented society. Though as someone who'll soon move to Los Angeles, I'm not certain any of LA's other pro sports teams will take the hint.

This Spurs teams is one of my favorite NBA teams EVER. And it makes me crazy to hear everybody talk-talk-talk about the Heat for the whole series like they were the story, or the better story or ANYTHING.

The Spurs were not just the better team by a huge margin, they were more exciting, entertaining and athletic team. There was no comparison. How could you watch that series, with Leonard becoming a monster star, Diaw just a beast who can pass, Green a deadly 3-point shooter, Tiago Splitter a good within-the-system big body and Mills coming off the bench like he thought he actually WAS Tony Parker and not say, "THIS is a heeluva a great team on offense, defense, transition, resilience, speed, athleticism. Exactly how many teams in the last 40 years could have beaten them? Which Celtics? Bird, McHale, Parrish, Walton, Johnson -- OK. A couple of Magic and Kareem's teams, okay. Now figure out the rest of the list. It's SHORT. And I'm not sure which -- if ANY -- of thoise teams would not have been shredded by the interlocking play of the Spurs offense. That was probably the most fun offense I have ever seen. 

New York doesn't have a team in any sport that's as much fun to follow as smallish San Antonio has in the Spurs. So that's an iota of justice in the world.

Boz, Thank you for re-centering the conversation around the Spurs' greatness, not the Heat's "collapse." So now that you've raised it: where *does* this Spurs team rank, historically? One of of my favorite parts of last night was the fact that it seemed most of the '99 (and since) Spurs championship teams were in the stands, and congratulating their successors after. The continuity of leadership and *some* personnel throughout, while the team has also totally shifted in its style of play (averaging 115 [!!!] points per 100 possessions in the Finals) underscores what a remarkable team and franchise this is.

Well said. It takes brains to find the athletes, then coach them up into a unit that can score 115 a night against a Heat team that at least WANTS to play defense, but discovers it has no hope.

As the Spurs whip the ball around, drive and dish, reverse the ball, never let it stick, almost every possession feels like they're playing five-on-four and the Heat are waiting for somebody to get the hell back up court and help 'em out.

Boz, apparently he just died, presumably from his ongoing battle with cancer. Is it possible to hit that well for that long, go to the Hall of Fame and still be underrated? I met him once briefly and he seemed like a great guy. Very sad news.

Gwynn was underrated. Far above average outfielder. Looked like he shouldn't be able to run but was flat out fast. Stole 319 bases, caught only 125 times. Won FIVE Gold Glove in RF.

And then there are the EIGHT batting titles, career .338 average, 3141 hits, top 11 in MVP voting eight times.

But here's the big unbelievable one that defines him: In more than 10,000 plate appearances, he had almost twice as many walks as strike outs -- 790 to 434.

He won THREE batting titles in seasons when he struck out less than 20 times (19,17,15). He also won batting titles in seasons when these were his K totals: 23, 28, 30 and 35.

This isn't some 19th century player. He retired in 2001.

Take a lesson, players of '14. (And learn where the 5.5 hole is.)

So, Boz, is the Pinehurst 2 course really the course of the future for golf? I thought it interesting that they were able to reduce annual water use from 55M gal to 15. It wasn't pretty on TV, but Kaymer seemed to figure out how to play it.

Society cannot tolerate a golf industry which uses anywhere near its current level of water consumption. It is the definition of social irresponsibility.

So get used to the Pinehurst No. 2 look. It's fun golf. I played No. 2 last year from 6,900 yards and never lost a ball. But I met more than enough "weeds" to punish my score without TIME-WASTING searches for balls in rough.

Trust me, the Scots know it's better this way. That's why they think three hours is a long round. Kill the damn rough, let the weeds breath. Stop wasting time trying to save strokes and $4 balls. (OK, mine cost about 79 cents.)

"While we're young!" is a necessary concept. And the Pinehurst look, in geographic areas where it's appropriate, will help.   

A lot has been said the past few days about LeBron needing another superstar or two as his supporting cast for another championship run. Yet looking at the Spurs, I don't really see a superstar make-up. You've got the aging Duncan, Parker and Ginobli, all very good but they've lost a step. And then you've got Mills and Green, who came out of nowhere to be good, but not great. And you've got Leonard, who is just blossoming. It's an all around team that plays its heart out. Why do people think LeBron needs Carmelo, instead of a deep supporting cast of solid teammates? (I am tired of these NBA suparstar couplings.)

The Spurs ate the Heat up because they don't have  superstars or superstar mentalities.

Please, get LeBron and Melo together. That combo is Born to Lose.

Boz, I'm sure you're tired of this, but instead of benching Span and moving Harper to CF (and putting Zim back at 3B), why not bench Span, move Harp, and give Souza a real tryout in LF? I'm usually a DSpan defender, but in the past week his WAR has dropped by half a run (!) and he seems lost at the plate again. If he's not going to produce, why not give the kid a shot?

Souza is having an exceptional year. But I have to admit he did not look particularly "comfortable" at the MLB level. That's a hard word to define, but scouts and managers certainly use it. Almost every MLB pitcher has exceptional stuff or exceptional command or both. A LOT of AAA pitchers don't have either. And that gives a lot of confidence to a superior athlete like Souza. But that confidence is sometimes punctured at the next level. But performance MUST at some point be rewarded with a fair opportunity. Nice problem, but a problem.

Is Pop the best coach in any sport? He won with Bruce Bowen and the unpopular, defensive grind it out Spurs. Now he won with an offense first, freewheeling beautiful game of basketball. How many coaches can alter styles so effortlessly while keeping their teams in contention? Most coaches have a system that just tinker from place to place.

His face may be the most fun to watch of any coach. He defines "subtle play of expression." 

I'm not usually big on "rude." But Pop makes it an art form.

Good thing for the Spurs that the Wizards ignored a guy who actually knew how to play basketball but had trouble shooting(Kwahi Leonard) to draft a guy who can't play the game at all (Jan Vesely). For the record I do watch a lot of college basketball and knew Leonard could actually play the game. Give that WIZ GM a contract extension for life!

Ouch. Had to include that. Thought the same thing.

That's it for this week. Root for USA at 5:30 pm. See you next week.

Two words: Mechanical gopher.

Check, please.

Should we be concerned that Wilson Ramos is the team's version of Nick Johnson?

Yes. But not as bad as Nick.

Mr. Boswell, it looks like Zimmerman's shoulder is permanently damaged, and perhaps deteriorating. After Rendon's superior performance at third, and Zimmerman's "Relay" from Left Field to Desmond to second to barely miss a lumbering Michael Morse, is there a position other than first (ably manned by ALR) that he can really play? If his shoulder starts impacting his hitting, (two homers in 83 at bats) as well, are we nearing the end for "Face of the Franchise?"

THE key question with Zimmerman at this point is whether putting him back at third base for the rest of this season permanently damages his sholulder to the point where you have crushed your $100M investment which would, presumably, have been safe if he'd simply been allowed to move to LF or first.

I'm not a doctor. But I would worry one heck of a lot about this before I ever let him play anolther inning at third. As a hitter and probably a good (at least) LFer or first baseman, he's worth the $100M. If you screw up his shoulder badly enough that it impacts his hitting -- and I have no idea what the connection might be -- it is an All-Time bad decision. Be careful. One year matters. But so do the next six.

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