Ask Boswell about the Washington Nationals, spring training, the Capitals, the Redskins and all Washington sports

Mar 26, 2012

Washington Post Sports Columnist Tom Boswell answered your questions about the Redskins' game, the Capitals, the Nationals, the rest of D.C. sports and more.

Past Ask Boswell chats

So, did Werth's homer actually put a dent in his truck (and his wallet)? We need to know!

I just got back from interviewing two eye witnesses to the homer, one retired ex-military, the other a 59-year-old ballpark bartender. Couldn't ask for better witnesses. Disagree with either of these guys and you might be in trouble.

My best guess, and it's a very close guess after pacing everything off, is a maximum of 499 feet and a minimum of 489 feet. I had to pace up and down a berm as part of the calc and that has to be a little off.

It's 352 feet to the fence at that point. It's 37 paces (111 feet) to the fence that protects the parking lot. Then it's 24 feet to the palm tree that Werth's ball hit. It struck 12 feet up the tree __bartender had the exact spot since everybody talked about it all afternoon. The ball came down and hit the back bumper of WERTH'S TRUCK. Not lore. It's right.

Werth drove his black porsche today and parked it in about the same place but, said Bob Brown the attendant, "He parked it BEHIND the palm tree this time."

Bos, Earlier this (baseball) offseason, the Post printed a story about the Nats and MASN renegotiating the TV rights deal. What's the latest on the that?

That's probably going to be a deep dark secret and a tough negotiation. And maybe rougher than tough. Talked to an exec with deep knowledge of it a couple of months ago about it and he'd told Ted, "Don't worry, there is no way you are NOT going to get it." Meaning there is no way the rights don't get reworked __and at something in the Texas/Houston range of $50-$60M (guesstimate) which is far above the current $28M.  I'll had to check with Selig again but I think he's the tie-breaking vote __iow, the only vote that counts and nhe'll be fair, especially since the Nats took such a shafting on the original deal.  

With his last 10 games in mind, do you stick by your feeling that we'll never see the Great 8 again? I feel like in order to achieve consistant dominance again, he needs to add to his game this summer, like Michael Jordan would do. Is it possible for a hockey player to do that the way MJ would?

This hot streak of his is the best news the Caps could get. It's almost like he listened to what McPhee said about him in a column 2-3 weeks ago when he said, "Ovi can be a great player (again) and for 10 more years." He also basically called out Ovi to Do It Now. And he has.

Neat racing coming to the wire for the Caps.

I think (fwiw) that Great Eight can get back to last season's level. Back to 110+ points? Wait and see. That's saying a lot. There is a long-standing pattern that after 26-27 the great scorers tend to trend down. He sure looks good, and right on time, now.

Does Morse begin to look like surgery for a muscle tear?

Very unlikely now. But at some point he has to crank it back up. If he reinjures it then, you have to ask all those questions. No need to worry __at that level__ yet.

So when do we hit the panic button about the injuries to Morse, LaRoche, Storen, etc.

LaRoche could tape it up anbd play right now. Storen has not structural damage and is VERY happy about that. "Look at Madson," he said, commiserating with a fellow reliever who is out for the season in Cincy.

Every player who is Really Hurt, but hoping he isn't, sounds like Morse sounds now. But SO does every plkayer who is just annoyed with a nagging injury and makes it back fine. Morse is "chomping at the bit" to play. Davey says, "You have to clear the 'training room cut' (trainers) before I can decide (when to play him)."'

Hi Tom. Any input on how the Nationals' ticket sales are for this year? I was pleased to hear that the home opener is sold out. How are their other sales, particularly with the "Take Back the Park" promotions?

Just asked a Nats official about ticket sales for you for you. "Well...very well actually," he said. Then, like it ewas sort of a secret, "Great." But that's all relative to whatever expectations were.

Mark DeRosa was great talking about what it is like to "see a town take off with a (pennant race) team. It's incredible to watch. The fans can't believe it as it's happening to them." He graded from the Warton School at U of Penn. Not just Ivy League but business degree. He'll help the team IQ regardless of abtting average. But he's looked very good here so far.

Doesn't his situation sound awfully similar to Zimm's muscle tear last year?

Zim's didn't start as a big deal. But I doubt the same thing is at work.

Tom, the current Redskins leadership typically send strong signals to players through their action or inaction (McNabb, Landry, etc.). So why are they letting London Fletcher twist in the wind? Is it just to save a few bucks or is leadership sending a message?

Fletcher certainly wants to stay from the times I've talked to him. He fits better w the Skins than anybody because he knows their system and personel so well. So, he "ought" to get paid the most by them. Is there a market for him elsewhere in which that team KNOWS he will have great value to THEM. So there is reason for both sides to wait. BUT the damage to the Skins of losing Fletcher for '12 is far greater than the damage to Fletcher of going somehwere else. When you lead the NFL in tackles, you are going to get a job and get paid for it somewhere. For the Skins sake it better be in Washington.

Boz, The stat lines for the starting rotation looks like a video game. I know the pitchers are going to get thier work in and that Davey has let them get it no matter what but, are you concerned about the fact that they have been lit up like a Christmas Tree lately?

Jackson has been hit hard, but I haven't been able to see his games. I've seen plenty of Lannan, including today __as I typed he just gave up a home run to leftfield to J.D. Martinez of the Astros (maybe wind-aided, but hit well)__ so it's 1-0 Houston in the top of the second. Lannan looks like he always looks __boring in the best baseball sense of the term. As I've said, he's way too valuable, because he's durable and slightly above MLB average, to trade away cheaply. I still think he's like a dozen pitchers I've named in the past who ended up winning 110-to-135 games: Gura, Splittorf, Neagle, McGregor, Bub Black, Grimsley, on and on. He's a type. And a very useful one who usually has an All-Star season somewhere along the way. Those guys had a 20-win season. Maybe these days with less innings pitched that would be a 17-18 win year for Lannan somewhere.

Strasburg looks just fine. Had a long good talk with him today. What a great natural temperament to be a ballplayer. Gonzalez doesn't seem worried and teammates rave about his stuff. But...

It's a good rotation. Will it be a VERY good rotation? And will it be very good THIS year? But you'd be crazy to touch it. Especially with Wang, Detwiler, Purke, etc., also in the multi-year picture.


Boz, a follow-up to the question about tickets. As a season's ticket holder do the Nats count the tickets we get under the Red Carpet Rewards as tickets sold or freebies? Just wondering how that affects overall attendance numbers.

Don't know. I'll ask. But it is a great program which the season ticket group I'm in loves to use. In effect, you get 1/3 off every ticket because you get an extra ticket __of similar value anywhere in the park__ for every two tickets you buy on the applicable season-ticket plans. Don't know if it works for 40-game and 20-game plans. I'll check when an appropriate personage walks past in the press box.

Pontificate on the meaning of Tiger Woods' win this weekend. Does it mean that he's primed to blow through the Masters and retain his rightful spot at the top of the golf world? Or does it simply mean that he's a very good (no longer great) player who won a tournament, and will win occasional tournaments, as good players often do? I'm inclined to believe the latter.

It means he's got a lot of his game back and a lot of his attitude. He stomped the field at a pretty strong event. The Nats players were watching him on Sunday. Some went to Orlando to see him and walk in his gallery on Saturday, including Lannan and Tyler Clippard ("I'm a golf nerd.") A cheer went up at one end of the locker room when Tiger made a decisive shot late Sunday. All pro-Tiger. One pitcher said he was rooting for him but "the rest of them aren't scared of him any more. So it'll be harder now."

Ballplayers notice "presence" and "body language." Strasburg, who's shot as low as 73 in San Diego and 78 on Torrey Pines South from the tips (not the tournament tips), said Tiger's confidence in his putting just looked entirely different and better.

To me the putting was most important. That can change week-to-week. Tour stop events don't get you ready for Augusta.

BUT Tiger is much closer to winning a major again than I thought he'd be when he gimped off the course two weeks ago. He really did shut it down much earlier than he once did __which shows how much pain he must have played through in other events.

This will roughly quadruple intervest in the Masters! Okay, that's impossible. But Tiger back in the mix __and he is after this win, his lame-field event win earlier and his 62 in an event he didn't win__ just makes golf a much better sport.

Tiger LOOKED like Tiger on Sunday. He's looked like No. 30 in the world for so long that it was pretty amazing to think, "Oh, I remember THAT guy."

Winning a major is another entire leap up the "return" chart. But it should be easier for Woods than any other player in the field making the same comeback attempt because he's done it so long. He still loves to front run with the lead. That's no different. He's just a different player with a lead. I've never quite known why. Any guesses why? 

I know the spring training record does not count, but I could not help myself from being concerned after the Nationals lost their 10th straight game rather badly. Are there any direct correlation with W/L record, overall ERA, team BA, etc. with regular season records? My gut feeling tells me, however, Edwin Jackson's struggles are not a fluke and we may end up finishing the season with Detwiler/Lannan as 4/5 starters. What are your thoughts?

I wasted a ridiculous amount of time looking at spring training and regular season results for various playesr and teams. Sometimes it matters. More often it doesn't. But it certainly matters often enough that you can't ignore it.

Adam Dunnin his two Nats years had 0 (zero) home runs in TWO spring trainings combined. Then hit 38 homers both years. He hated to "waste" ST homers. Last spring, Storn and Clipaprd had a combined ERA over 10.00 down here and had the best back-end season's you'll see.

On the other hand, Morris had nine homers last year. Maybe that helped him cope with his early slump and end up with 31 in the season.

You can drive yourself crazy with this. So don't. Their career-long performance means 100 times as much.

Past performance and current HEALTH matter. Spring stats may or may not and there is no way to know. My two cents is that the Nats will hit better than expected __maybe not instantly but over the season. Will they pitch as well as expected? If they do, it's a fun year.

Boz, An interesting tidbit I read in the SI story about Dallas and Washington appealing the sanctions against them had to do with why the league approved the teams' contracts during the uncapped year: "the NFL had no way of knowing what impact the contracts would have down the road because the league and union still were negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement." So the NFL is saying it didn't know the impact the contracts would have but has punished the Cowboys and Redskins by claiming, essentially, that THEY knew what impact the contracts would have. Bottom line is that the NFL approved everything the 'Skins did and admit they broke no rules. It's madness. Do you think the teams have a chance with the appeal? Although the damage has already been done this year, it could impact next year and beyond, right? Thanks.

Who is the arbitrator?(Come on, that may decide it right there.)

The NFL owners have always been pretty much a bunch of skunks when it comes to anything with the slightest ethical implications. The Redskins obviously tried to beat the system and steal  a march on their partners.

In this case, it would be great if the decision could go against both sides.  

Boz, I think I asked this question a few weeks ago, what happens when a few key hitters for the Nats go down with injury? With Morse and LaRoche out, the Nats are filling key power positions with rookies and journeymen. Doesn't look like a contender to me on opening day. We need to put Zimmermann in one of those bubbles.

LaRoche certainly looks like he'll be playing by Opening Day. So, it's "just" Morse. DeRosa is going to be a surprise. He's about as good as bench players get __a real tough out. How much of his old power will he have back. Werth looks very good right now and says he feels as good as he ever has in the spring. A lot of people decided he wasn't a 36-homer guy __or even near it__ anymore. I suspect Werth will have a nice season, much closer to his Phils days than to '11. Zimmerman probably won't miss 61 games. Don't be too quick to judge. I've seen seven ABs up close the last two days for Desmond, Espinosa, Z'man, and Werth and they are all "on" pretty much everything. So their timing is arriving at the right time. That's what players/managers look at. 

Yes, we get Red Carpet Rewards too, proportional to our tickets.

Thanks much.

Why do you expect us to believe that Bud Selig will be fair to the Nats and their fans? He gave away the TV rights in the first place! Also, what is Peter Angelos' pain threshold for Nats TV rights? Is there a number when he starts talking about selling out?

Selig has been fair in many situations to many teams over the years. It's his "batting average" that concerns you. Ha! Angelos gave him hell for years over D.C. Lets say you scream at somebody for years on a pet subject, then the guy gives you your way on it, but he hates doing it. What happens the next time you face that same guy, but this time you don't hold all the cards. In fact, this time, you hold none. I think the guy you aggravated all those years by screaming at him is goiung to pick up a bat and give you a payback slug over the head with it. So, have fun reading into that.

I like flecher; but he is way, way past his prime and the Redskins know it. There is no market for him outside of Washington. He may lead the NFL in tackles but those tackles are almost never for a loss or at the line of scrimmage. Like Butch Cassidy (Newman) said: :"Every day you get older. Now that's a law!"

Butch was right. I think you're wrong. Fletcher's never played better. He WILL get a year older. If he only plays one year older, you want him on your side. What if he gets five years older in one year? Could happen. I doubt it. Nice thing about sports: we'll actually see who's right next year.

Most weeknights I don't get home until about 9, which means if the Caps are playing I only usually get to see the third period. Which means I am absolutely sick of getting home, flipping on the television, and seeing the Caps sit back on their heels for 20 minutes with a one goal lead. It's maddening. Needless to say, I wanted to put a fist through my TV on Friday as I watched the Caps attempt to cling to a one goal lead. I felt like I knew exactly where it was headed. Sure enough, the Caps didn't even get a shot on goal until 17 (!!!!!!) minutes had gone by. Of course, by that time, the score had been tied. And the Caps were well on their way to losing in overtime. It is just so frustrating to watch this team, with these players, jump out to leads and then play SCARED HOCKEY for the last 20 minutes.

We must have watched some of the game third periods.

My TV has survived.

They are really playing much better, imo. Is this the year they get to be the "hot team" that "comes together" with a rejueventated star and a hot goalie? Come on, it hasn't happened since 1974. It has to happen some year, right?

I'll grant it's hard to imagine a year with this much frustration ending in more than a respectable get-in and win-one-round conclussion. Glad to be surprised.

Did they already lose?

Just "googled" the guy. Looks like he has all the qualifications to run the entire universe __small, mature, clecked under Chief Justice Burger.

So, if this is the guy, does the high-quality legal mind side with the NFL or Snyder/Skins.

Or does his head just explode?

I think there is a Bog post in here for Dan.

Let's say Harper in CF works out. Rendon could play LF, and Morse 1B. The money saved from Laroche, Jackson, and not getting Bourn could be used for Cole Hamels or Greinke. Imagine Strasburg/Hamels/Zimmermann/Gio/Detwiler or Purke.

Believe me, that's already been imagined. And lots of other permuations. The Phils will have to go hard to get Hamels. Their long-term contract burden is VERY large. Hamels, despite his Series MVP, has never had an 18-19-20 win year __but he is that good. Maybe the Phils  will underrate him and he'll leave. But I doubt it. He's a core piece for them. It's be ironic to see Greinke who, in part, didn't want to be traded to the Nats because they'd have had to give up 3-4 prospects, including a couple like J Z'mann, Espinosa. Now he might get to play with all of them still in DC.

In yesterday's Lady Terps game, Tianna Hawkins fell on her hip, and was unable to shoot her free throws. She came back from the locker room a few minutes later, and on TV they said she would be able to go back in the game. I thought that once you have someone else take your fouls shots, you were done.

That must have been an amazing comeback from 18 points down! I assume refs would never mess up a rule that basic.

Really glad the Lady Terps pulled it out because I sure can't get interested in a Final Four match between Calipari and Pitino __what a pair. After Louisville won, Pitino hogged the mike in the TV interviews while his players all stood around and said nothing. Then he did it again. 

Okay, the beer vendor here is so loud that he bellowed, "ICE COLD BEER" so loudly that Lannan stepped off the mound. And gave up a sacrifice fly on the next pitch. Now 3-2 Nats in the bottom of the fourth.



I hear this on sports talk radio constantly: "With all these measures toward player safety, Goodell is positioning himself to show the players that the game is now safe enough to expand to an 18-game season." Is this all just media speculation, or to your knowledge is there any evidence that this truly is part of Goodell's motivation?

The NFL has bigger problems than getting to 18 games, even though they'd like to do it.

Congressional Hearings on the bounties may be in the works. Those of us who live in D.C. tend to think of these as jokes because they are cheap show-trial PR for politicians and everybody knows it. But they actually scare the pro leagues. Honest. These people make the laws and if you make them look bad __by refusing to grovel__ they might just make one with your name on it.

Who do you think will be the head coach of the Wizards next year and do you see Ernie Grunfeld coming back next year?

Randy Wittman has gotten more out of this bunch than I thought he could. The assumption has been that he couldn't overcome the lack of talent to get the job. He's impressed me.

This is Nene's 10th year in the NBA. No way he stays in one piece long enough to justify his contract. But it's nice to see an actual smart veteran NBA player on the floor with this bunch. He couldn't cope with Hibbert's height the other night, but when he has a matchup he can handle, he's fun. It may even give Wall a bit of hope.

Still think EG's specialty is smashing the bumper of the family car, then desperately pounding out the metal so it doesn't look quite so bad before dad gets home.

Tom: Any thoughts on the death of boxing writer Bert Sugar? I'm sure you must have gotten to know him when you were covering boxing. Did not know until I read the obit that he was from DC originally and went to U. of Maryland.

Sorry to hear it and didn't know of the local connection (before my time). Bert was one of the vivid and most knowledgeable figures of a whole boxing age. Always with the fedora and cigar (always chewing it, as I remember). Back in the days when Ring Magaizne was a bible.

There's also a fine eulogy to Furman Bisher, who died at 93, written by Dave Kindred, who was wonderful at the Post for many years.

Boz, Not that Bryce needed any more motivation, but given the banged-up Morse-Ankiel-LaRoche situation, doesn't it seem like the situation shifts from Harper being "nice to have whenever he's ready" to "we're waiting - get yourself ready"? Not that this will get him up any sooner than end of April at the very minimum (and then only if he's just crushing the ball, patrolling center with aplomb and the bigs' outfield is still banged up), but still, interesting.

Johnson made an aside yesterday that showed he was thinking of Harper as an earliest-possible-return answer to some problems. Which would, realistically, be May 1 when they get back from a road trip.

Bernadina just homered WAY over the fence to deep rightcenter. Every year all the other players talk about his tools. After his second straight homer game he may get one more chance to show he's more than a fourth OF. Or make himself tradeable to a team that can play him more.

Lannan leaves with a 6-2 lead after five innings. His line: 5-2-(1-1)-1-5. 71 pitches, 48 strikes. Looks just fine, ready to go.

Boz, Seeing Joakim Sora go down and the Royals confronted with next year either, a) picking up an $8.5M option on a closer who's coming back from a season-ending injury, or, b) letting him walk and getting nothing in return, how amazingly genius do the Nats look for both flipping Capps at the absolute peak of his value (for a catcher who might be calling pitches for the next decade - how badly would the Twins have liked to have Ramos back given what's happened to Mauer?), and also loading up on arms that'll be able to slide in for Storen when he's injured now and when, as young closers generally do, he blows out his arm, too? Looking pretty good.

Good analysis of some things the front office has done correctly. A closer for a 10-year catcher is a steal. And relievers tend to have a short half-life, so you need depth.

Some stories yesterday of relievers who got burned up by overuse for insufficient reason, like Chad Cordero, which always gets a sad nod. Storen noted that even last year Johnson wasn't using him as hard as he'd been worked previously (Clippard, too) with a view to longevity.

"I believe fatigue is cumulative, even from one season to the next," said Storen. least according to this brilliant ESPN piece

I had a long chat with Strasburg about that today. You'll see it later this week. (I saw Al Leiter's demonstration on ESPN of your elbows hitting the wall behind you when you did the "Reverse W" move.) Stras disagreed __strongly. Says he thinks the problem is not mechanics, but inability to repeat your own proper mechanics.

I've seen a lot of pitchers who threw with the Strasburg "move" who lasted many years. 

Boz: My buddy and I split up our Nats tickets yesterday. I realized later that, for the first time since the inaugural season I wasn't picking games based on who they were playing. I just want to see the Nats! I don't care who they're playing. (Well, other than the O's as we do our own home and home series when the Nats and O's play. So that game mattered - but no others.) That's real progress, and I felt so good when I thought about it. So tell me the injuries they have now won't spoil things. Lie if you have to!

Nothing is spoiled. Things even out. The last two days: Nats 19, Other Guys 2. That's real, too. Sure, bad teams playing on the road. But add it to the stats.

Expect a good team that will probably be in a playoff race in September. How deep in September?

Werth said, "We have a lot of talent here right now. We only lack on thing __experience. But by September 1, we will have experience, too."

Well, that's pretty fast to get ALL the experience you need. But he also pointed out that he'd been on teams that came from far back in September to reach the playoffs.

Whether they are a good team that's soon going to be very good __or not__ the Nationals certainly believe it themselves. And Brad Lidge and DeRosa both came specifically because they thought the Nats were ready to win and were ready to make use of veteran depth (in their cases with lots of brains) in a playoff race. 

Great stuff you write about Redskins, Nats etc, but you said a couple of weeks ago that it did not matter if the Redskins drafted RGIII or Luck- From what I gather after Griffin's pro day, I it seems to me the redskins really would rather have RGIII- What do you think about this? Thanks

That's one column I wanted gto write and just didn't have time. Maybe I still will. I KNEW somebody would decide that RGIII was MUCH better than :Luck and make that case. I just didn't know it would be Merril Hoge on ESPN.

He said he had spent 120 hours (120 HOURS!!!!???) breaking down the film of EVERY PLAY of Luck and RGIII's careers. He said that in every category you could measure as a passer that Griffin was just MUCH better than Luck __more accurate, stronger arm, got the ball out faster. Said Luck had more experience reading defenses in a pro-style offense and graded them "equal" on athleticism, which I thought was a sop to Luck, though he is a very good athlete for a QB. But RGIII is a very good athlete for an Olympic decathalete.

Before the draft I think there will be considerable discussion of the possibility that RGIII is better, maybe clearly better. Once something starts 'trending" it has a life of its own, whether it's true or not.

Luck chose to throw into the wind outdoors on his throw day. I liked what I saw, but wasn't knocked out __for a 1/1. Hope the Skins get RGIII. Both are probably going to be very good. But Luck is less likely to be worth the astronomical 1-1-1-2.  

who will have the better career when all is said and done? strasburg, harper, zimmerman, john wall, RG3, ovechkin?

Great to be able to ASK such a question!

Maybe that'll be a good place to start next week.

Nats are kickin' it around a little. "Get 'em on the back field, Davey," yelled a fan after some poor fundamentals in the infield. Now 7-4 Nats.

See you next week. Is there enough to chat about this days or what! Lotta fun. Last thought: Anybody But Kentucky. So, for Tracee, lets go KU. Cheers.

How long was Mickey Mantle's tape job in Griffith stadium? Believe it or not I was there (scout's honor). I grew up in Chevy chase and a bunch of us would take the bus downtown and switch to the trolley. You could get in for $.50 and sit just about anywhere if you ;were a kid. 3 or 4 of us went to a couple of dozen games or more for several years.

565-feet off Chuck Stobbs.

Fireside Book of base for many years had a diagram of Babe Ruth's longest, and thought to be the longest ever (supposedly) measured __602 feet in old Tigers Stadium. The park never changed. I used to point out the spot to players where the ball left the park in deep right centerfield. They'd ALWAYS say, "Where was homeplate then." I'd say, "Right here."

Not one of them ever believed. "It's not possible." Well, whether it was 602 or not, thousands of people saw it leave __right there.

But the Babe didn't hit his own roadster in the parking lot.  

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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