Ask Boswell

Feb 18, 2011

Washington Post Sports Columnist Tom Boswell will be online Friday, Feb. 18 at 1 p.m. ET to take all your questions about baseball, the Redskins, the Wizards and more.

Hi, everybody from lovely (really lovely) Viera where the temperature is 77 degree __only slightly warmer than Washington today, they tell me__ and nothing but sun.

Lots to chat about __the new baseball season, the Nats prospects, the Caps mysterious inability to score (or win), the Terps woes and more. But first...some good news.

Starting on February 28th this chat will be on Monday's at 11 a.m., not Thursday's at 11. That should be even more fun because so many big events, including those I'm covering, end on Sunday __Redskins, major golf tournaments, lost of post-season series in both baseball and hockey. So, I'm  delighted with the new slot. The 28th  will be our next chat


Tom. The Big IF. IF Pujols doesn't re-up with Cards, will the Nats be serious players to get him??

Rumors are nice.  So is logical speculation, like what we've seen in the last day.

But you'll be able to knock me over with a feather if Pujols comes to the Nats. Why? The Lerrners are willing to spend, even spend big for Grade A material. They have proved that. If they'd go to >$180-million for eight years for Teixeira two years ago when he was 30, they'd certainly go higher than that for Pujols. 

But the Pujols guesstimatres of $300-million for 10 years just seem too astronomically high. It's bad enough that Werth's contract could be two years too long. If Pujols got hit by any of those metaphoical "trucks" that life sends out way, you could sink the franmchise's chances for many years. I wouldn't go into that stratopsphere, though I'd be perfectly willing to WRITE about a team with Jason Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper and Pujols in the middle of its lineup!

The biggest problem is probably that Pujols will be a free agent at least one year topo soon for the Nats to appeal to HIM. By this winter, Harper will still be an unknown commodity. Strasburg, at most, might have starter two or three games in September, if any. The Nats could play pretty well this year and only win 75 games. Is Pujols, who wants more rings, going to go to a losing team when he can't be  sure that Stras, Harper, Desmond, Espinoza, Storen, Bernadina Ramos, Zimmermann will pan out or not?

If this had happened after the '12 season, and Nats crowds were up as well as their won-lost record, then it would be more plausible. For now, I'd say that Nats Park is more likely to be hit by a meteor than for Pujols to play there next season. But, man, would I love to be wrong. 



Sheer joy, that's what. You captured it perfectly in your column. Play Ball!

Thanks very much. There are times in baseball that are far more exciting than spring training, but there isn't a time when the game is so much pure fun and puts us in touch with what we love about the game that ISN'T tied to wins and loses.

Baseball probably gives up more OUTSIDE of a final score than any sport. It's full of tale-telling and colorful people. And everybody LOVES to talk. Other sports clam up. Bunkler mentality, like the Redskins. Or lots of self-importance from saturation in too much money. Baseball loves to needle everybody, bring them down to earth. It nice to watch. That'll start with Harper the instant he gets here.

As an example, coach Steve McCatty bet Strasburg that, despite his claims about the brutal off-season training that he planned to do, he would NOT show up here "with a six-pack." But Stephen's abs passed everybody's test. Rizzo said to me, "Have him pull up his shirt." (No thanks.) So, McCatty won the bet. How much?

 "We made it proportional to our salary's," said McCatty. "I bet him $100 to his $100,000. That's about right. But I'm not going to pay him the $100 because he wouldn't have paid me (the $100,000)." 



Boz: What great day! Color photo of the Nats on the front page and 70+ weather, leaning on a fence chatting about nothing - CRACK! back, back, BACK ... great catch. Where were we? All's right with the world, at least for a few days. :>)

Things may get even better by next year. Viera is okay (sort of) as a spring trainiong site. Well, it's really not. Windy, a little chilly often in Feb and early March. Remote from most other teams. Tough on players. Good enough for ardent fans. There's decent public golf nearby plus beaches and tiki bars.

But, at dinner last night with Dave (The Great)  Sheinin,  Adam Kilgore and photog supreme Jonathan Newton, we pooled info and felt that it looks like 50-50, at least, that the Nats will be elsewhere by next spring __perhaps in Ft. Myers, the Red Sox old camp, near Sarasota. In Florida, it doesn't get better than that. So, lets root for it. We'll report the story out more as/if there is progress.


Any chance you can get Stras to shave off that goofy beard?

I think it looks pretty good. He's strengthened his body so much, gotten rid of baby fat, that his face looks thinner. The beard fills it out. He says he now lifts twice as much weight with his legs as he ever did in college. "It's going through the roof," he said of his leg lifting.

McCatty says he'd always like a fat winner better than a fit loser and made wisecracks about" Johnny Beach bodies." But the Nats are a much more fit team now than two years ago. The '05 team, that went 81-81, was the fattest, laxiest, most out-of-shape ballclub I ever covered in 35 years. But they won. They just didn't run many wind sprints while doing it. But fit-and-good beats fat-and-good. So, that's progress. 


So should I hold out for a Pujols or Fielder Nats jersey this holiday season? Or is that just pie in the sky thinking?

A few months ago, I'd have said "neither." The Nats wanted to spend their big money on pitching and had targeted Zack Greinke. Rizzo had good connections to his (former) agent. G's wife liked Washington. But when __and this is speculation, but not far from the real story__ Greinke's agent turned down what was probably something close to a contract extension worth ~$100-M, the Nats walked away (unhappily). At some point thereafter it appears Geinke canged agents __haven't found out yet why__ and ended up in Milwaukee without an extension, much less a huge one.

As a result, the Nats have even more money to spend than they thought they would. So, they may re-think the Fielder-at-first scenario. But I seriously doubt it.

They need starting pitching. They want starting pitching. And they have the money to get it. De La Rosa and Greinke wouldn't take their money. But if the team improves, somebody will. That's were we should focus next off-season.

Hey Tom, Roger Goodell's PR campaign makes me queesy. I realize that its all a game at this point but speaking to an unemployed and overworked nation about the financial woes of billionares is quite insulting to me and I hope other people. I know the players make a lot of money but they do not give off the same sense of entitlement as the owners who have been reaping massive profits for many years and who aren't putting their bodies on the line but are using our tax dollars to incrase their wealth. Thanks!

This one is simple. The owners are the bad guys. The players are the good guys. The players are probably telling the truth __or some versiuon of the truth__ when they talk. When the owners speak, it's 99 per cent spin. The owners have always held the whip hand in the NFL,  they always use it.

A while back, a good friend of mine who was successful on Wall Street (even during the crash), was recruited by the NFL to be one of their top people in the financial aspects of their labor negotiations. He was a finalist for the job, then withdrew. I don't know whether he listened to my advice. I told him that if he thought they played dirty in the marketrs, wait until you see what the NFL does to its players __the ones with the concussions, the pattern of early deaths, etc.  Even though it looked like a clear career path to being an NFL GM in less than 10 years, my young friend chose to stay on the Street.  

Tom, Spring is here and hope springs eternal. One unresolved issue for the Nationals is center field. Do you think Nyjer can return to playing as he did in 2009 or is 2010 more the real Nyjer? Much in terms of both defense and offense depends on his performance.

Riggleman made this very clear. He (and Rizzo) don't think that either '09 or '10 was the "real" Morgan. They think he's inbetween those too extremes. If he hits his career numbers in MLB __.290 average, on-base percentgae over .350__ then they want him in CF and at leadoff. That's good enough on a winning team, though maybe not on a really good team. They want him to steal less, but more efficiently, and run down everything in CF. Maybe Rizzo likes the guy a bit too much because he was part of his first (initally) successful  trade.

"We want him to score runs. That's it. The rest is eyewash," said Riggleman.

If he does that, he's the CF. If he doesn't, and '10 looks like the real Nyjer, then the Nats will move on to other options in CF, including Werth, Ankiel and Bernadina (who is in fabulous shape). But Morgan is Plan A. He's muted his mouth a bit. He's past 30 and knows he has to make or break his Washington career this year.

The Nats aren't going to win the Series this year. They have time to give Nyjer one last fair chance.


I purchased opening day tickets via the Nats website yesterday, 4 for $55 apiece. Please explain how they added a $27 "convenience fee" to that order. I am printing my own tickets and did not speak to a human being, Are the Lerners turning all "Snydery" on us? I feel better about not renewing my 20 game plan this year. It put a real damper on my Opening Day excitement.

I'll look into things like this as the season goes along. It's ironic that the BEST part of the Nats operation may now be the baseball side. The worst is often "everything else" __marketing, sales, customer relations, community outreach, the feel of the game-day experience. None of it is terrible and some is okay. But none of it was up to the standards that Kasten experienced (and demanded) in Atlanta  and it was probably one of the reason he left. Maybe, in 50 years, he'll spill some of the beans.

And I STILL want the Nats to put a "wall of water" on their stupid ugly garages and make them a water-display-feature, like the fountains in K.C. Just like what you see in malls, but much bigger __then you can shoot video thorugh the water on the backdrop for ads between innings. I've checked around. It can probably be done. Don't know the cost. Funny how it seems like such a good idea when  it would be somebody else's money.


Are classics to me----- I have hard copy but want to add them to my Kindle collection, but you need to agree to that format----- any chance here? Thanks for the chats----- they provide enlightening insight ---- can't get this stuff anywhere else!

Thanks very much. That's interesting. The Tablet is the future. It already is at my house. Just love the iPad. Took it on vacation to Anguilla __British Virgin Island of 15,000 a hour by plane East of Puerto Rico__ and it provided enough info, and fast enough, that I didn't need any other computer.

My wife says I say the same thing every year, "The O's have a better shot this year than they've had in a long time." And though I've been disappointed over the last 5 years or so, I really think this might be the year. Look at that lineup with the additions of Guererro, Reynolds, Lee and Hardy. The young arms are a year older and likely better prepared to succeed. I think they'll be fighting for the wildcard. Am I an incurable optimist or is this the year the O's break out?

The Orioles had the kind of exception off-season that the Nats wish they'd had. Hats off to Andy McPhail and to Peter What's-His-Name for letting him do it. Vlad was just the (big) cherry on top. If somebody would give me 5-to-1 odds, I'd bet a buck that the Orioles would edge the Yanks in wins this year __84-to-83.

The O's "ceiling" probably isn't as high over the next few years as the Nats because they don't have the superstar Stras/Harper potential and they have to fight the A.L. East. (Though the N.L. East is plenty tough enough.)  But putting Guerrero in the middle of that lineup, and "lenghening" it with Reynolds and Lee, really takes a load off Markakis, Adam Jones and Matt Weiters.

The O's, after scoring so little, actually look like an A.L. Beast lineup __that is, if things click and Vlad doesn't play like he's suddenly 50. Never underestimate the value of a true big-time Threat in the middle of your batting order. It effects the whole lineup. The O's added Guerrero.

The Nats subtracted...oh, what was that 275-pound guy's name, the one who hit 38-40 homers every year.

I got beat up a little bit on Tracee Hamilton's chat today because I said we don't deserve Albert Pujols yet. My point was that the fans of St. Louis, from my perspective as someone who's been to a lot of MLB parks, are hands down the best in the game. I've been to Busch when the Cardinals were horrid, but the whole stadium was awash in red. They love and more importantly support their team by attending like nobody else and know the game better than any other crowd I've seen. A fan base like that deserves a winner, deserves a player like Albert Pujols. Until we support the Nats like we do the 'Skins, which is to say unconditionally, I don't think we deserve him. Which is not to say I wouldn't kill to see him in a Nats uniform anchoring first base, of course. What do you think?

I wouldn't use a word as pejorative as "deserve." But I see exactly what you mean.  I think Cards fans are great. I don't think they are the best. Too provincial for my taste. They love everybody. They think the bat boy could hit .310 if you just gave him a chance; just wearing the Cardinal uniform would be enough to get the kid up to .280.

As I said, Albert may have become semi-available __the Cards are still my b et to resign him__ about two years too soon for the Nats to be in the picture.

I always wondered how long it would take for Washington to become a "baseball town" or on the way to being one. We're probably going to find out in the next five years because it you aren't interesting in the careers of Zimmerman, Strasburg, Harper and several others, then you probably aren't going to gtet hooked.

I asked J Newton, who's shot MLB for us for 25 years, what his impression was of Harper after spending considerable time shooting him not long ago. Good kid? Hard worker? Strong patents? Some Teenage Reegie cockiness?

"Yes, all that," he said. "But he makes me think of one word...Elvis! The kid has 'It.'"

Jonathan has shot everything and everybody inside and outside sports. He's hard to impress. You gotta trust a guy after you climbed the Great Wall of China together (from the back crumbling side in '08) and he does it carrying full photo gear. If Newton says, "Elvis," I'm not going to ignore his first impression.


Who has bigger guns: Roger Bernadina or Jim Riggleman?

Roger. Everybody's talking about him. (But his hitting tailed off the second half and Mike Morse has backers, too. LF will probably be a platoon.)

But the players are impressed with Rig. Sean Burnett said to me the other day, "He's really old-school. He looks like he might still be able to go out and play."

He's probably in better shape than 10 of his Opening Day players. Washington's own! 

Boz, Just reading about Kimball. Where did he come from? Could he be a candidate for closer coming out of camp?

Kimball is the "X Factor" player that seems to show up in every camp every year. The "hot topic" player.

He was a 14th round draft choice who floundered as a starting pitcher and needed several years to "learn to pitch, not throw." McCatty loves his makeup, calls him "a brute" who loves to play "old-fashioned hardball" and challenge hitters with fastball, splitter, hard curve and all of them low in the zone. I asked Bob Boone, "What about this kid Kimball. I just say him throw the (XXX) out of the ball. Where has he been."

"He'll close," said Boone. He didn't say when or where.

How does a guy have a 4.70 ERA and career-long wildness, then switch to the pen and in his first full year have a 2.17 ERA and 0.75 in the AFL? He still walks quite a few. But he's really hard to hit, hard to homer against and has that 230-pound hulk look.

Harper saw Kimball in the AFL and atold Sheinin he was super impressed. Is he a February  phenom? He's really likebale. We were walking back from the practice field yesterday and a doctor came up to ask him about when he could take a physical. "How long are you here," the doc asked.

"I'm here to stay," said Kimball.

Well, it's probably AAA first. But I liked the way he said it and every "Nats decisionmaker" says he's close to being ready for the show. He tops at 98. But Boone says it's the way he "throws everything down and popunds you at the knees" that could set him apart.

But, remember, his career minor league ERA is still 4.50. 

Tom, Is there a Language barrier that prevents Rizzo from getting anything he expects from Wang....This Winter Rizzo clearly said that Wang was 100% and would be competing for a spot in spring training. Based on what we saw yesterday that is so far from accurate it is a joke....why is this so hard for Rizzo to get right....Wang is done and Rizzo keeps pissing way roster spots, millions and most importantly.....Rizzo is hurting the team my not these resource and effort toward someone who could help in 2011.

Wang had "Drew Brees surgery." Very major. Takes a long time to recover. Sort of "uncharted territory" surgery.

I don't think he'll ever pitch 100 innings again in the majors.  He lopoked like he was throwing about 80 the other day. Looks like $3-million down the drain over two years, if you ask me. I'd never have touched him. Glad to be proven wrong. 



Boz: Can the Nats carry all three catchers on the roster into the season? Isn't this a luxury that most teams don't attempt? Would another middle reliever or outfielder be a better idea?

Rig said today that they'd just carry two catchers __OPudge and either Ramos or Flores. I assume Ramos with Flores going to the minors to prove that, over a bunch of games, his arm remains OK and he can still hit __as he always has.

Maybe the best of the Orioles recent pick-ups is Buck Showalter. The last time they had a manager of his caliber was in '96 and '97 when Davey Johnson took them to the playoffs both years.

Agreed. Buck was what they needed. (Lee Mazzilli was the worse of the group in between.) But Buck will have to work hard to move ahead of Davey in my managing pantheon. 

Oh no, a Redskin question. Welcome back! The skins have so many needs. McNabb is probably history, the offensive and defensive lines need rebuilding, especially since Carter does not do well in a 3/4, Their best receiver is now a free agent. Should they draft linemen or go for a good wide receiver and a young quarterback? Can they even get a seventh round pick now for Haynesworth? So many unanswered questions.

I refuse to answer on the grounds that...

Somebody down here, after reading about Haynesworth's legal issues and BB's stab wound, said, "I think it's finally reached the point where I just hate the Redskins. It's always some nonsense with them. It's never about football and how to get better. You just get sick of putting up with it for a losing team."

I didn't say it. But I get it. It's a relief when the Redskins  make fools of themselves __including Snyder's bullying of the City Paper for a story I enjoyed so much the first time I read it that I bookmarked it__ and you can say, "Who cares? Been there, got the T-shirt. Fix your broken act and come back in August and we'll give you another chance." 

Boz, as usual, great column today. Reminds me of my favorite quote: "People ask me what I do all winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring." -Rogers Hornsby On that note - what do you think of the O's this year?

Thanks. I'll take this in a different direction.

It's hard to underestimate the combined power of the change of seasons from winter to spring and the arrival of baseball. As I mentioned a week ago, my mother-in-law died last month at 87. My father-in-law, Sheik, who pitched up to AAA for the Red Sox and is in the U of New Hampshire HOF, is 90 and was as devatated as you would expect after such a long marriage. You couldn't get one positive word out of him in his grief.

But a couple of times, he looked out the window at the snow in Mass and said, "Spring is coming." That was shorthand for "baseball is coming." Interesting what we hang onto in our worst hours. 

My personal over/under for the team this year is 75 wins - if things break right they could make a run at .500, but I think the lack of top drawer starting pitching (they do have a LOT of #3-#5 guys, as Riggleman noted) and rookie growing pains for Ramos and Espinosa will keep them under that. What is your over/under for the team's win total, and do you think they can pass the Mets or the Marlins and get out of last place? It's weird about the Marlins - the Nats have got to figure out a way to beat that team. They play better against the Braves than they do against the Marlins.

Well, I hate it when the chatters write my column for me!

That's a good take,  imo.

 If they can get over their Marlins jinx, they can move out of last. Third, behind the Phils and Barves, isn't out of the question.

Thanks for all the questions. See you on Monday February 28th at 11.


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