Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Jul 15, 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

...on your team at shortstop, Ripken or Jeter?

Thanks. Talk about the Question of Questions (for today at least).

I would take Ripken, by a small margin, because he was a far better defensive player.

But most stat analysts would take Ripken by a fairly large margin. Go ahead and be shocked. I am.

Both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference have their own methods for defining the total value of a player. But they come up with similar results. They call it WAR -- Wins Above Replacement. But the acronym covers the basic fact: They think they can rank 'em (statistically) and they do.

The conclusion of both is that Ripken was one of the best defensive players in history at any position and the third-best defensive shortstop ever (behind Ozzie Smith and Mark Belanger) while Jeter is one of the very worst defensive shortstops ever. In fact, out of 546 shortstops, going back to the 19th century BaseballReferfence ranks Jeter as the 25th worst ever -- or thee 521st best, if you want to put it that way --with a NEGATIVE value in runs to his team for his defense.

Both sources consider Jeter a far better offensive player -- almost twice as good, perhaps.

This syncs with what I have said for 25 years about Ripken -- absolutely fabulous defensive player at SS, but only a good hitter. That's a main reason his streak is so valid -- would you say that Ozzie Smith should take a few days off a season if his hitting slumps a little? Of course not. His defense has enormous value, so never bench it when he's healthy.)

BaseballReference:

Ripken is the 36th best player in history (including pitchers) with a value of 95.5 wins (above an easy to acquire replacement player). Ripken ranks between Pujols and Clemente.

Jeter is the 57th best player ever with a WAR of  72.1. He's just below Larry Walker (!???) and Harry Heilman and just above Rafael Palmeiro and Johny Mize.

See, I told you it would make you want to scream -- one way or the other,

FanGraphs also has Cal as the 36th best player (including pitchers) with a value of 92.5 extra wins for his team.

Jeter is 69th with a value of 74.4 wins.

Here's the killer, for bar arguments. FanGraphs -- which carries plenty of weight in baseball these days --gives Jeeter an offensive value of +361.6 runs to Ripken's +165.4.

But on defense, Ripken is the fifth best defender in history with a value of 310.1 runs to the O's, behind only Ozzie Smith, Brooks Robinson, Belanger and catcher Ivan (Pudge) Rodriguez with +310.1 runs. While Jeter has a career value of -24.4 runs!

This goes right to the core of the way many teams are currently built with a big weight on sabermetrics and defensive value.

Okay, you want to know. Here are the worst defensive players in history. (Remember, the longer you play the more negative defensive WAR you can build up.) Gary Sheffield, Manny Ramirez, Frank Thomas, Adam Dunn (!) and Dave Winfield.

DAVE WINFIELD!?????

This is why the current valuation arguments get SO loud in baseball.

And here are the five best fielding pitchers ever and their value in runs.

Maddox +185.6

Glavine 169.5

Spahn 146.7

Carlton 145

CY YOUNG +142.

Livan Hernandez is 10th despite far less innings pitched.

I'd say "discuss among yourselves" but I bet "discuss is much too mild a term.

As I said, give me Cal by a hair -- not >30 spots in all-time ranking.

Worth trying to extend Rendon? He's a Boras guy, but would it be in the Nats best interest to at least take a look?

Try anything you can, at any time you can, to sign him for as long as you can. Value him as a Bill Madlock with more power or an Edgar Martinez with let HR-RBI punch, but much better speed and defense (at two positions).

Only asterisk: Were his college and first year pro injuries (and they were major ones) a fluke and his current health is the norm. Or....

But remember that, in their second years in the majors, Harper's slash line was still a little better.

Harper last year: .274/.368/.486.

And he did much of it after running into the wall. What is a healthy Harper? And what is a 24-year-old Harper (Rendon's current age)?

Rendon this year: .287/.343/.490.

Rendon a much better fielder with a "natural position" for his skill set and a second position that he's learned while Harper is improving in LF and has a huge arm.

I know he's a great player and a good presence, but at age 37 does he have enough gas in the tank?

Paul Pierce's per-minute production fell off very little last year from his previous 3-4 years. He is still a GREAT shooter, still rebounds, still does some of everything he always did, but in less minutes and with less shot-attempts per minute. He averaged 13.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists in only 28 minutes a game for Brooklyn. And he dunks as much as he did five years ago. So maybe he still has some hops.

If he's as good next season as he was last season, I think he's a slight upgrade on Ariza. (But can he stay that good when he's that old -- 36. But, hey, he's 36, not 56.)

It's possible that, entirely by accident, the Wiz made an "A" move and still kept open the Durant-in-two-years dream (or daydream).

Everyone agrees that the Redskins have generally hurt themselves by trying to build a team by hiring aging veterans off of free agency. How come the Wizards don't get the same criticism for bringing in Paul Pierce?

It's only two years. They had to replace Ariza, who's 29.

Sorry for the numbers, but sometimes they really do tell a story. The gap in True Shooting percentage betweeen the two this year was .595 (Pierce) to .590 (Ariza).

Ariza averaged 14-4/6.2/2.5 to Pierce's 13.5/4.6/2.4. But Ariza played 35.4 minutes a game.

In Player Efficiency Rating, the best overall stat, Pierce was slightly better 16.8 to Ariza 15.8.

Ariza 3-and-D style fits the 6-6 Pierce who has, for years, battled LeBron James better than anybody. LeBron has called Pierce the only player with whole he thinks he's ever had a "rivalry." IOW, everybody else was pretty much a bum compared to LeBron Himself.

Again, how much does Pierce have left? Remember, this is a HOF player who is 18th IN HISTORY in scoring in the NBA.

Pierce never got his full due as a GREAT player, imo.

Every four years, professional league players from all over the world go home to represent their countries in what is considered the acme of all things soccer. For a couple of months, the all-stars practice together and play qualifying matches. For a game that requires the ultimate in team play, that is hardly enough. I would take Real Madrid against any country's all-star team. Imagine if the NFL sent its players back to their home states every four years to play in a tournament to see which state is the best. Ludicrous, right?

I think you are missing the point, to say the least.

World Cup TV ratings tell quite a story. Viewers of the last match were 26.5M in the U.S. on both ABC and Spanish-language Univision. That's only up 7.3 percent  from four years ago in the Final. So, that's good but not wonderful.

(Footnote: USA-Portugal got 24.7M -- same as '10 Final match.)

BUT the average (U.S.) viewership of all 64 World Cup games was up 39 percent over '10 on ESPN and up 34 percent on Univision. That's real progress.

In absolute terms, ESPN drew an average of 4.56M viewers for all the games it showed . Long ago that number was only 1.04M in '02.

For a reality check: the Super Bowl (always the top TV show of the year) had 111.5 viewers last season. And the Pats-Giants Supe XLVI set the record with 117.7M -- or almost FIVE times the World  Cup audience in the US on Sunday.

Still, that's VERY good. The last three World Series that had a Game Seven had 39.1M, 30.8M and 25.4M viewers. If NYC is in those games, the numbers jump.

An average World Series game, like last year, has about 15M viewers. But there were six games. So that's 90M total viewers.

What is a valid apples-to-apples? Or is there one? Discuss (or scream). But now you have some facts.

Would Real Madrid have crushed Germany -- you know, like 1-0? Be glad to see waht some chatters think.

Oh, I watched the last 75 minutes of the World Cup in an airport bar in Minneapolis (here for All-Star game). Lot of fun. Enough people watching to have enthusiasm but nothing special. Far from a mob scene. But the real WC fans were glued to sets elsewhere I assume. I taped it to watch again when I get home. Thought the better team won and a wonderful golden goal to end it.

Having watched the World Cup Final and the Wimbledon Men's Final, I am struck by the difference in the number of excellent moments. Almost every point in the Wimbledon match between Federer and Djokovic had at least one terrific shot in it: sometimes three or four. Blistering serves in the corner were returned like rifle shots, and many ensuing shots would have been winners if the opponent hadn't made an equally great shot. Djokovic had 13 aces and 68 winners. Federer had 75 winners and 29 aces. If you only count those shots (and I would include many, many more) that's 184 times that one of the players made a great shot. Compare that to The World Cup Final. In two hours of "action," Germany scored one goal (and it was a beauty) in 10 tries. Argentina was 0-10. Statistics are very hard to come by, but I would estimate that there were a dozen good tackles and half a dozen really good passes. There were hardly any remarkable dribbles. Add in six saves from the keeper, and you get about 44 great moments. That is being very generous; I would actually put the number of "Wow" moments at about 6. The rest of the time, the teams were passing the ball among themselves far from the goal. No wonder I was bored for about 115 of the 120 minutes. Your thoughts?

I see your point but don't agree. I doubt either of us have an adequate sense of soccer tactics or skills. We "get" a great backhand cross-court drop shot. Do we "get" the pass that sets up the pass that leads to the header which actually allows one team to set up a plausible "chance" -- even if that chance never actually materializes.

But, yes, there were an awful lot of minutes out of the 90 that didn't make me go "Wow." But my ability to recognized "wow" when I see it is adequate in maybe 15 sports/games. (Even a good "safety" in straight pool.) But not soccer. Yet. 

Any closer to resolution? Any truth to the rumors that MLB is keeping the Lerners out of court by subsidizing the MASN contract? If so, how sweet is that irony -- the money the Nats should be making from their TV contract is not being paid by DC cable subscribers but by MLB's owners. If that's the case, let's keep it that way forever!

Interesting observation. Thanks.

My two cents: At this point, I assume Bud doesn't want to be bothered giving depositions, or whatever, in court about MASN or SF-Oakland-San Jose in '15-'16-'17 when he is in his 80's and happily retired. Therefore, I don't think he's going to do a damn thing except duck a tough issue and hand it to his successor.....probably the guy who handed out the Home Run Derby trophy in Bud's normal place on Monday night, MLB COO Rob Manfred.

Here is a central point that I think is universally missed.

*If the Nats are not being compensated properly in some manner by MASN, then it's a disgrace because the franchise, its owners and its fans are being denied revenue -- and the ability to use it to improve the team -- that is their due.

*But if the Nats ARE being compensated in some manner -- any manner, no matter how cute a "structure" MLB mighty have cooked up so it isn't just a brown bag with millions in it delivered to Ted by FedEx -- then that is JUST as bad and just as big a disgrace.

Why?

Because it is either collusion or some form of dirty pool that's akin to it because Nats players like Desmond and Zimmermann (and their agents) are not being allowed to negotiate contracts with an appropriate amount of information about their current team's true ability to pay. So, their "market" is being tilted against them.

And, at a lower level, the team's fans and the media covering the team are not allowed to know facts that are pertinent to deciding whether to support the team (in the case of fans buying tickets) or write and talk analytically about the team (in the case of media).

IOW, it's a disgusting example of baseball at its worst in the Selig period. When all the nice things are said about him, and plenty are deserved, remember, he's spent the last 20 years turning a Grade of "D" for his net impact on MLB into a grade of "C" or "B."

Will Nats sign all three of their remaining draft picks? Fedde and Austin Byler both look like they have potential not worth passing up.

Probably. But it's not a lock. It's complicated (of course). Players can claim the Nats knew, or should have know, that their position was that they wouldn't sign for slot. Fine, great -- but that's still just "a negotiating position."

It's a negotation about money. Nothing more. Which means, as always, that there is potential for either or both sides to pretend that it is a moral issue or a matter of high-pricipaled basbeall practices. (That'll be the day.)

Both sides: Just get it done or take the flack you deserve if you don't. On one hand, Nats aren't poor. On the other, it's the agent's job to get the player's career under way now, not a year from now in another draft class when he may be hurt or worth less. 

Seems like he's throwing the curveball a lot more this year, any reason you know of?

Clip says the pitch has just developed/improved with the years and he can use to more now. Part of "necessary evolution" as a pitcher.

The weapon he's unveiled this year is a splitter. Wow.

He says his extremely large hands, even for a tall guy, help him add more spin to pitches, get better break or simply make it harder for runners on second to look at his grip in his glove as he winds up to try to steal pitches. "My hands are so big I can get the right grip at the last instant."

FWIW, very few pitchers have FOUR pitches that grade out as "plus" pitches under FanGraphs methodology. Only one pitcher in MLB has FIVE such weapons this year: Scott Kazmir.

Of course, anybody would settle for having TWO fabulously efficient pitches like Kershaw's fastball and slider.

But the list of pitchers with four "plus" pitches is small -- and it includes only one Nat: Tanner Roark. Which may explain, in part, why he is so much better than you think he maybe "ought to be." Others include both AS starters: Felix Hernandez and Adam Wainwright, as well as Mark Buerhle, Max Scherzer, Alfredo Simon, Anibal Sanchez, CJ Wilson and a few others. 

Roark has the 15th best curveball in baseball but, perhaps should throw it a little more than his current 11.9 percent of the time.What marks Roark is the solid-to-very-good rank of all  his pitches out of 95 pitchers who have enough innings to qualify: Slider No. 32, Changeup No. 37 and Fastball No. 54 -- which is good enough to set up the other pitches, get ahead in counts and go deep in games. Also, his fastball is a sinker which means few HRs.

Roark is also the 2nd most aggressive Nats starter with his fastball (63.8 percent of the time) after in-your-kitchen Zimmermann (66.7 percent). 

The great mystery is Strasburg. Both his changeup and curveball are ranked among the elite, but his fastball, while the eigth best in velocity is the fifth WORST of the 95 qualifying starters in MLB. Is it too straight? Do hitters just look for it -- and hit it -- because they have no chance against the other two pitches? Is Strasburg can get a more EFFICIENT fastball -- not a "faster" fastball -- that would be an amazing step. (But you can bet he has already tried.)

And, yes, Strasburg continues to be amazingly unlucky this year on balls hit in play. His BABIP is still third worst in baseball. SO, the "bad fastball" may, in large part, means that the baseball is the only pitch that hitters can put in play and darned if they aren't falling in all over the place -- so far. If his BABIP reverts to previous seasons, suddenly his fastball effiicienc y may seem pretty decent.

But that fastball is STILL the area to tweak and improve. 

Oh, Roark is also one of the hardest pitchers in baseball to run against -- like in the top half-dozen. Eight have tried, five and have been thrown and he's also picked one guy off. So, very low total steals (three) and six outs. 

San Diego All-Star Tyson Ross has already allowed 24 steals with almost nobody thrown out. See if it's a factor tonight. 

Durant to DC? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Not as funny as it used to be.

Two years, clock ticking. He may be my favorite NBA player. Yeah, I'm hardly alone! The better the Wiz play the more he may want to be the "last piece" for his home town.

Boz, Is there any more to his leaving the Wizards than the question of state income taxes? It seems to be a small amount (for NBA players) when looking at the totality of the contract. Ernie seemed to make a nice recovery with the signing of Paul Pearce.

How happy could Ariza have been when he looked at his position before the season and saw Martell Webster and Otto Porter also there on the depth chart. Everybody assumed he was happy because he played a TON -- almost 35 mins a night. But he played because Porter got hurt then was too far behind to get PT and Webster also had injuries.

So, in the category of "How did they treat me? How much respect did they show me BEFORE I played great for them?" the Wiz may not have ranked as high with Ariza as he ranked with them -- after he had a fine season.

IOW, Ariza certainly loved his team and teammates. Doesn't look like he adored the front office. 

Is he the favorite to win the British Open? He has been hot recently. If not, who do you like?

Nobody can pick golf. Except in Tiger's prime. But Rose is as likely as any.

I read today that Woods says he can "win the Open." That would be good by me. Like to see it.

But here is my professional opinion -- often wrong, but never in doubt: He has no chance whatever to win. He played Hoylake last time with all "stinger" irons that almost, but didn't quite reach fairway bunkers. It gave him an enormous advantage, especially because wildness with his driver has always been his biggest problem (except for periods when he HAD NO PROBLEMS AT ALL.) Hed just doesn't have that "stinger" shot anymore. He'll have to use more drivers or 3-woods off tees this week. Also, Tiger now plays a fade that borders at times on a slice. In British Open winds, playing holes that require right-to-left tee balls, he's got as problem. The more wind, the worse.

So, his chances should be dead. Therefore, the better he does, the more impressed you should be. And if he's somehow in contention on Sunday, you'll know that a very high percentage of the golf world will have its jaws in its laps and be totally knocked out -- and awed -- if he wins.

Now, the PGA Championship next month -- different story. By then, lets see how much of his game he's sorted out. I've assumed '14 was lost and, if anything, Tiger was (again) pushing himself back too soon -- good motives, poor judgment. We'll see. Again, I'd prefer to be wrong.

It's hard for those who have done the impossible to doubt that they can still do the merely improbable.

.97 ERA? 22 saves? Even when they had to replace JZim they don't give Soriano a nod? What's up with that?

Soriano told 'em, to go take a flying leap after he didn't make the original team. Said he wouldn't go if asked as an afterthought. However, he did a good job of phrasing it so that it didn't sound like what he was really saying.

Brought back memories of star shortstop Gary (Jump Steady) Templeton who, when snubbed by fans in voting for the AS Game starters snubbed them right back saying, "If I'm not startin', I'm not departin'."

He'll come home when he's a free agent?

In my dreams. (And yours.)

Appropos of nothing, I looked back to see who beat out Ryan Zimmerman for Rookie of the Year in 2006. (Answer: Hanley Ramirez.) In looking at the list, I was amazed at how much rookie talent the Marlins had that year. Half of the top 12 vote getters were Marlins -- Ramirez, Uggla, Josh Johnson, Scott Olsen, Anibal Sanchez and Josh Willingham. Of course, just a couple of years laters, two of those players were traded to the Nats. Still, it's amazing the Marlins couldn't do more with such a talented core of young players.

Nice "find." Thanks.

The Post Web site reports that Red Klotz has died. Former point guard of the Washington Generals who lost regularly and frequently--ALMOST always-- to the Harlem Globetrotters. Does Red enter Mr. Tony's pantheon of the luckiest people in the world -- Scottie Pippen, Christian Laettner and Ringo Starr ? BTW, the article notes the Globetrotters" owner in 1952 as GABE Saperstein. MVMD

Who would you rather have for the next 15 years?

I plan to watch them BOTH for the next 15 years.

Machado is a better fielder than Rendon is at any one thing. If Machado's OPS at 19-20-21 is where he stays -- .739-.746-.742 -- then I'd take Rendon, now at .836 (I think). That's a big 100 polints and Rendon is a heck of a defender, too.

But I think Machado's hitting will get better -- look at Utley's progression, for example.

I guess I'd say Machado's ceiling -- that means BEST case --is HOF and Rendon's is HOF ballot. Just a WAG. And if you can tell me about their injuries, and what life throws at them, then, you know, we  could all make a better guess. But it's fun to have players like Rendon, Machado, Harper, Strasburg -- and still developing -- maybe Gausman, Bundy and Giolito who make you hurt your neck trying to see that ceiling.

In the rubber match between the Nationals and Orioles Matt Williams allowed Gio to pitch to Nelson Cruz with first base open and slumping lefty Chris Davis on deck. What was Williams thinking there? Cruz's hit ended up being the difference in the game and the series.

Funny, I was thinking the same thing.

Jim Boutoin said that the dumbest words a pitching coach could say where, "Don't give him anything good to hit, but don't walk him." The second worst instructions, even if they are only implied, as with Gio and Cruz, is "try to make him expand the plate with pitches just off the plate and if you walk him it's OK."

Do you know how hard it is to "pitch around" a Cruz but still make the pitches close enough to be "chase-able?" You're better off saying, "Just go after this *&^%^$^ and I'll take the blame."

What are you looking forward to the most in tonight's all-star game? Beyond Jeter, what do you think the biggest story lines will be from tonight?

Good to see King Felix get the stage.

Tulowitzki is a monster talent having a peak year and models himself on Jeter. Tulo may have a big nite for N.L.

The A's still aren't known as well as they should be. So, glad to see Cespedes win HR Derby back-to-back. Watch Josh Donaldson at third -- amazing fielder, big power (20 HR, 65 RBI). 

Also, the top of the A.L. lineup is All-Cooperstown: Jeter, Trout (OK, in 20 years), Cano and Miguel Cabrera.

Boz - Loving both Os and Nats in first place at the break despite numerous injuries / challenges. Noticed that MASN has been showing the speed that batted balls register and if you could settle a long-standing argument w/ some friends of mine. Fair to say a hit ball travels faster than the velocity in which it was hit? Maybe not ALL balls, of course, but say Verlander throws a 95 MPH pitch and Chris Davis cranks it on to Eutaw St - probably travels faster than 95 at some point during its flight? Thanks!

The best batted balls can go out at ~110 mph.

Some teams now (seriously) keep track of speed-off-the-bat for every at bat to see who is REALLY "hitting well" and who is just having 'em fall in.

Bos-- Why are the Os yoyo-ing Kevin Gausman back and forth-- five times in the last year-- to the minors ? It seems like he belongs in Balto. Is it just his youth? Does he not have enough pitches in his rep? Does Buck favor vets on the mound? Imagine how good the Os could be with even one more steady starting pitcher.

In Balto last week I was told that Gausman would be in the O's rotation after the All-Star break -- presumably to stay.

Dan Duquette says his secondary pitches have gotten much better and hitters won't sit on his 95-to-98 and do as well against it as they have in the past. And, like Blake Treinan, Gausman has been hit awfully hard at times for someone who throws that hard.

He made a comment that Angelos let the Nats come to Washington. I think it was the orignal Senators owner that allowed the Os to move from St Louis to Baltimore in 1953. Could you please check this out and set the record straight.

Buck and I had a long friendly talk about it. He said he wanted "the other side." I told him, "You don't have that much time." He laughed. He's got the O's line down as crisp and pat as anybody I've heard. "But I'm biased," he said. Oh, you think?

Great story teller and manager. He's just needling a rival on behalf of his boss. It's a managerial survival skill that some lack. 

You should have corrected the original poster. There is far more involved than simply getting together for two onths every four years. The teams have to qualify for the World Cup over a two year period and there are also several friendlies played between the national teams.

Check.

I had a question about how the home ru...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

If "jumped the shark" wasn't 20 years out of date I'd say that was the current state of the Derby.

Fans in the All-Star town love it, especially those who don't have tickets to the game itself. When DC gets an AS game, we'll love it.

But, man, I felt like I deserved a battlefield decoration for watching it to the end -- and I was only back in my hotel watching on TV.

 

One of the reasons that Germany is so good is that most of their players play together year round on Bayern Munich. Makes a huge difference. And yes, any of the big club teams would have a big advantage on any of the WC teams.

Thanks.

Loved your piece on Jeter but in the end I wish everyone would properly place him. I am totally suffering from Jeter Fatigue and will not watch the ASG in order to skip more of it. As you pointed out earlier, he has been a SUPERIOR offensive shortstop who had produced huge hits in big moments. At the same time he has always been not great defensively and for the past few years has essentially been a statue at shortstop. A very dignified, handsome, and admirable statue, but a statue. It is kind of the mirror image of DiMaggio as a defender, neither ever looks ruffled or rushed, but Joe D got to the balls while Jeter does not. The stats do not lie on this. I was next to a guy during a Nats rain delay who proclaimed "it is not disputable that Jeter is the greatest shortstop ever." I decided to not engage but off the top of my head I came up with Honus Wagner, Cal, Ozzie Smith, Robin Yount (time at position being a question), and a bunch more that I'd consider before Jeter. Is it possible to admire him correctly or is there no way that can happen?

Thanks.

I tried for balance between my column (the person) and this chat's first answer -- the large caveat about his place as a player.

You might enjoy googling "Derek Jeter + Brendan Ryan" for a great analysis with video of how bad Jeter is, and has been in the past, and how amazing Ryan (now a Yank and rarely playing) has always been. This is the EXTREME version of the point you wish to see made. Have fun.

Thanks it for today. Got a nice game to cover tonight. See you next Monday, then some summer vacation. Thanks for the great questions.

Boz, I always thought Brinkman was a better fielder than Belanger because he had more range and got to balls Belanger wouldn't have touched. What do the stats say and what are your thoughts on this?

Out of the 546 ranked shoprtstops, Brinkman is ranked 29th -- very high -- one spot behind Allen Trammell and one ahead of...Honus Wagner.

Best N.L.. and MLB shortstop ever -- Wagner, by a mile. Best A.L. SS: Cal, by a little.

If not for PEDs, A-Rod would be in the A.L SS discussion, despite his move to third. 

The fact that players who were suspended as a result of the Biogenesis investigation are making millions, are on the All-Star team, & cheered by fans -- certainly the Orioles fans in Nats Park recently -- is really infuriating to me. I'm glad they aren't playing for us. Aside from Morse's brush with steroids & Paul Loduca (sp?) who was named in the Mitchell report the day his signing was announced, the Nats seem pretty squeaky clean. Is it Rizzo's personal policy not to sign the Nelson Cruz's of the game? I hope so.

You mean aside from Matt Williams and F.P.?

It was part of the game. Doesn't excuse it. But among issues to get very morally indignant about, I reserve such rants for The Game (and union) more than the players. With the exception of one category of player -- those like Clemens and Bonds who wanted to break every record and didn't care how they did it. It's my own distinction. I don't claim its correct or push it on others.

Wainwright or Kershaw? Your call...

Kershaw, but the NL manager is from St. Louis, so a forgone conclusion. No problem with it. Wainwright is wonderful. But Kershaw is historic.

Hi Tom. I've been a follower of your writing, especially your baseball writing, for many moons. Though the NATS appear, on paper, to be loaded with talent, I just can't shake the feeling that they're somehow mentally or emotionally fragile. When they go up against the elite teams, they seem to become less than the sum of their parts. Is this a valid worry, or am I off base? Thanks, Tom.

Valid worry. FAR from a proven point. It'll take a long time to know.

Bos. Loved the Sherlock Holmes quote regarding the Nats power outage. Did you get that from the "Guns of August' or is it stored in your memory banks?

Whenever I was home sick from school as a kid I read, and reread, all the Holmes stories many times. Over a lifetime I've worn out three copies until they fell apart. It was like chicken soup to me.

Aside from the true Sherlockian nuts -- sorry, I mean "chosen few" -- there aren't many who can recite Holmes, chapter and verse, more than I can. Robert Downey should be imprisoned for what he's done to the role -- a fine actor who's done a total cynical sellout to create a cartoon character. Holmes is not Iron Man XVII or Wolverine 8.

Jeremy Brett, the best Holmes. Lucy Liu the best Dr. Watson.

As many literary types have pointed out, Watson, not Holmes, is the character who is at the center of the matter -- the most important. And also the most misrepresented, diminished, almost mocked. If he is Everyman, if he is "us" -- doctor, decorated wounded combat medic, adventurer, conscience to Holmes arrogance, author, the guy who carries the gun (and users it), husband to Mary from the Sign of Four (who on earth IS the "second Mrs. Watson" of later references) -- then we are all doing very well if we are just "Watsons." Oh, no time to go into that!

Hi Tom - I know you hate everything about the Yankees but I saw the very good Nike commercial tipping their hat to Jeter. Among other things (and celebrities) it features Jeter's walk up intro to the plate, recorded by the late great Bob Sheppard. It made me think of a Sheppard quote: "A public-address announcer should be clear, concise, correct. He should not be colorful, cute or comic." As a Nats season ticket holder I find the Nationals PA announcer to be the opposite of this. It sounds like I"m at a WWF/WWE wrestling match instead of a ballgame. It goes along with the largely AAA atmosphere at nats park for the most part. Attention Nationals mangement: we're good now! A good team deserves a good atmosphere. Ditch the silly announcer and the cheerleaders shooting shirts into the stands, and the guy on top of the dugout pumping up the crowd. They don't need that in NY, Boston, and heck, even at Wrigley. Let's take the next step to being an established baseball town with a good fanbase... get rid of the silly nonsense.

Agree with a lot of points. The worst Nats schlock: The fans on the field BESIDE the PLAYERS just before the game. Get 'em GONE. Bush league. Not even AAA. No other team does it for a very goods reason: It's a clown idea,. bro.

Here is a link to the Jeter commercial: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/early-lead/wp/2014/07/14/nike-uses-all-star-cast-that-includes-michael-jordan-and-jay-z-to-say-farewell-to-derek-jeter/

I agree with your observation in last week's chat that Rendon is fun to watch. That leads to the question of who would be on your All-Fun-To-Watch team, both present-day and all-time. For the present I've got Hunter Pence for sure; for the past I'd take Banks, Mays, Ruth, maybe Rickey Henderson, and Rick Dempsey.

What a great question. Pence, yes. Mays, absolutely, maybe No. 1. Frank Howard was a kick because you knew he knew ALL his own weaknesses and felt SO bad about it, but he just wanted to hit ONE 525 feet to make YOU happy you came. Please remind me next week to think about this one.

Good Morning, Tom-- The dark extreme of being a fan is one of the most (negatively) impressive things about this year's World Cup. What is your take on this? Is it possible nowadays to have great rivalries in sports without the attendant visceral hate of the rival team and its fans? Closer to home, I was quite annoyed by persistent rantings of fans quoted by the Washington Post during the Nationals-Orioles series who said you gotta pick a team. I thank the baseball gods that we finally got a team in DC, but the only reason I am a baseball diehard is the Orioles. One is silver and the other gold. Why should I gotta pick a team when I can pick two teams?

I agree. I'm a lifelong DC guy, so Nats are gold, O's are silver. But neither is dross. Here's a link you might like.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dc-sports-bog/wp/2014/07/07/rooting-interests-collide-when-the-nationals-and-orioles-meet/

There are like 10 more great questions. I don't mean total questions, I mean ones I'd love to answer. But you don't want to read the world's worst All-Star column tomorrow either (with my name on it). So, I gotta go. Thanks.

Next Monday., 11 a.m. Cheers.

(Because we're baseball fans and we need something to worry about) Jordan Zimmermann or Gio Gonzalez? Zimm supposedly only has a bicep problem, not a ligament injury, but somehow I'm still a little skeptical. Meanwhile, Gio kept windmilling his arm like Pete Townshend playing "My Generation" (there's a cultural reference over the head of half the audience) in between pitches in his last start. I'm more worried about him because of Boswell maxim about pitchers: elbows can be repaired, shoulders not so much. What say you?

Well, Pete, in his day, is my all-time favorite on-stage rock performer.

Stumbled into listening to The Clash the other day (Guns of Brixton). "When they knock at your front door, how you gonna come, with your hands on your head or on the trigger of your gun?" From those days, which were just posing, which meant it and how much? I'm pretty sure about Townshend. 

I worry more about Z'mann because we haven't seen him pitch since. Never seen Gio command any pitch as well as he's dotted his change-up since he came back. How does that happen.

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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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