Ask Boswell

Jul 05, 2011

Washington Post Sports Columnist Tom Boswell answered your questions about baseball, local D.C. sports and more.

Past Ask Boswell chats

Lots of great subjects, especially Nats. Also, Wimbledon, British Open in sight, no Tiger at his AT&T. Plenty more. So lets go. 

Do you think it might make sense for the Nats to move Danny Espinosa to SS next year? He's a solid defender whose got great range and the arm to make throws from the hole. An added bonus would be that this might free up a spot at 2nd base for Alex Meyer, since 3rd base looks occupied for the foreseeable future.

Very good question.

(Meyers is a 6-foot-7 pitcher. Anthony Rendon is the potential 2nd baseman you're talking about, but he hasn't even signed yet. But once he does, could be in the big leagues in '13, I'd guess. "Best college hitter" by far in '10. "fell to the Nats at No. 6 this year.)

But there's a more pressing (good) issue in focus for the Nats now that  Steve Lombardozzi, son of a MLB 2nd baseman, has moved up to AAA and is tearing it up at Syracuse, going 28/66 or .424 to bring is AA/AAA slash up to .332/.379/.466.

Offensively, he's been a switch-hitting numbers machine with increasing extra-base power each year. In '09 at Hagerstown .296/.375/.395, then last year at Potomac and Harrisburg is was .294/.371/.431. So, he gets b etter as he goes up. His steals have gone from  16 to 24 to 19 already this year. Lombardozzi and Espinosa, both switch-hitters, batting No. 1 and 2 with Espinosa at SS is too obvious an option to overlook. Lombardozzi is a singles-doubles hitter, with a few HRs. Defensively, he makes few errors. Range, I don't know but the Nats have liked him for years. But it's crowded! Bottom line, Lom is  going to be somebody's 2nd for years. He looks like a  can't miss big leaguer. That doesn't mean "star" big leaguer. Maybe. We'll see. But will it be with the Nats?

The Nats feel that Desmond now needs to make the adjustments at the plate that he appears to have made successfully on defense. He can't hold down a middle-infield job with a franchise that's so talent rich at those positions by hitting .217 with little power (3 HRs) and a terrible 16/78 walk/K ratio. Eventually, Nats want to see him spread out his stance, make more contact, move his head less __they now think it moves a foot or more during a swing__ and can still hit 10 homers by accident. He's really strong. But he needs to get moving on fixing his hitting because he's looked bad all year. Good makeup, lotta heart and the best range at SS of all of them. He's your No. 1 option in a perfecty world. But he has to hit more.

I'd say Ian has beaten the error problem and is now normal in that area. He has tightened up his throwing motion on routine plays __more a catcher's throw from the ear which seems to give more consistency. And he's worked on better fundamentals/footwork in getting balls on good hops. I talked to him last week and he said that "in the past it felt like I was thinking about five things at once when I was making a play. Now I'm only thinking of one thing." (Making the play correctly.)

Nobody doubts that Espinosa can play SS, which was always his position. He has better hands than Dez and an even better arm as well as more consistency (less errors at SS in the minors.) But Desmond has more range. That matters. And Dez has team leader potential is he's hitting like he did last year __.269, .700 OPS, 10 homers, 65 RBI.  

It's a nice problem to have and opens up trades at some point.  Also, D Norris is hitting well in the minors, always has great on-base %, so there is a surplus of catchers, too.  

Hi Tom, Rumor has it that part of the reason Bryce Harper skipped High A Potomac is because of the field condition there. Any truth to this? I have heard the field and stadium in Potomac is sub par in every category.

Even Davey joked yesterday that it was the field that made the Nats skip Harper to AA.  Of course, Rizzo said the field's fine. I have no idea. But that's what any GM has to say, if only for legal reasons.

The Nats have said that improvements are needed. Well, make 'em. Maybe you don't lose Harper to injury there, but is somebody else at risk? ITOH, "bad fields" are part of baseball tradition. But it's a tradition that the Nats should try to avoid being part of.

Mr. Boswell, You made what now appears to be a ridiculous statement in the spring saying you would take the Orioles pitching staff over the Nats staff INCLUDING Strasburg. I appreciate your baseball insights but c'mon, that was really dumb.

I don't remember my exact words, but I'd certainly be delighted to take them back and eat them now.

Showwalter asked a lot of his young pitchers down the stretch last year. I wondered how they'd bounce back. Not saying Buck's a problem, but Matusz looks awful and he was comparable, a few months ago, to Jordan Z in long-term value. His FB is down enough that you wonder if an elbow or shoulder problem won't inevitably show up as he continues to pitch in the minors.

Remember, even the B raves trio __Smoltz, Glavine, Maddox__ took 2-3 years in the majors before it was clear how good they were. The O's still have promising arms. But, now, I'd say almost every part of the Nats future looks better. Peacock, Milone, Detwiler ready to help in the MLB rotation now or fairly soon. Cole, Ray and Solis eating up A Ball. Solis will move up fast because he's older and came out of college. I'm even curious about Brad Meyers, 25, 6-foot-6, who has 38 K and 0 walks at Syracuse.

But the number that jumps out is Peacock leading all minor leaguers in baseball in K's with 129 (and only 23 walks). Rizzo confirms that his fastball is mid-90's and the JZ'mann stuff comparison, that Ryan Z made recently, is sensible. 

It brought back memories of that glorious 1997 season, until the Indians and Angelos so brutally ended it. I saw 2 of the Randy Johnson games, including a day game after a postponed night game, at which games the O's offer open seating. So I sat right behind the O's (1B) dugoit and did my best John Kruk imitation from the stands. When they announced the starting line-ups, I thought D Johnson was conceding the game. Of course I could not have been more wrong. I've often wondered why other managers didn't adopt this "pecked to death by ducks" approach. The 2 things for which long-time Orioles fans will never forgive Angelos are (1) firing Jon Miller (which he still doesn't get) and (2) firing Davey Johnson. Too bad we're stuck w/him forever at least longer than I'll be on this earth, so they will never be a winner in my lifetime.

Davey just fell into the Nats laps.

Talked to a former prominent MLB exec who said __paraphrase__ that the Rig-Riz scene wasn't what anybody would want. But the end result, getting Johnson, was a big upgrade.

Tom, you called it right. I'm happy for Clippard. Now I'm hoping that Michael Morse will get the last spot on the roster. What do you think his chances are?

Vote. (I don't know whether it would proper for me to add my 25 votes!) I suspect this is a showdown with Phils fans who WILL vote for Victorino. Morse deserves it more. Missing games this week will keep him from piling up more stats. Still, I'd say vote early and often.

I'm concerned that Zimm's missing some routine (for him) plays, but I assume he knows what he's doing. You usually don't see -- or maybe you just don't notice -- a drastic change in form in mid-season. Is this an unusual thing for a player to be doing, or is it more in line with the constant tinkering that players always do? Also, is there any worry about this getting in his head? When other players had serious problems throwing (e.g. Steve Blass, Steve Sax, Chuck Knoblauch), did they arise out of the blue, or were they the result of trying to change their throwing form?

If it hasn't gotten into his head after all these years of semi-problems, I don't think it will. I suspect he's actually glad to try to change his mechanics because his only weakness was a scatter arm and a few truly terrifying Knoblach-like throws. When I've talked to him about it, he says it's a project for this season but that he should be at full strength on throws before the end of the season. If he's made the switch and gotten to 100% arm strength by next February, that'd be fine.

Now, about his hitting...

It really is pretty amazing that the Nats are at .500 with almost no production __or below Replacement Player production__ out of all the players they thought would hit 3-4-5 for them this year, Z'man, LaRoche and Worth.

Glad to see Werth at No. 5 where he belongs. It doesn't take Davey long to get rid of the foolishness and put Werth where he's comfortable and a proven producer while also getting Espinosa up at No. 2 __so he can get about 17 x 4 = 68 more platee appearances by moving up four spots in the order. 

Hey Bos, I just wanted to throw some red meat to all the Stairs' haters out there. Do you know that Stairs has a higher career slugging percentage than Roberto Clemente: 477 to 475? (Courtesy of Joe Posnanski) See Nats' fans, Stairs is a stud!

Staris has had a fine career. And his body always looked like the one he has now! He's just a hitter. Now, can he still hit at 43? With all the nagging injuries, he'll get some ABs at 1st base, is suspect, though Johnson really wants to have two legit bats __one LH, one RH__ on the bench beside him for the late innings. 


Too early to promote Bryce Harper or the right time?

Right on schedule.

Okay, here are the slash lines, almost identical for each, and the number of games played for three players who were in A-ball at 18.

Who are they?

Appleton: 65 games: .319/.379/.605. OPS .984.

San Bernadino: 58 games: .338/.431/.575. OPS 1.007

Hagerstown: 72 games: .318/.423/.554. OPS .977.

Okay, it's Alex Rodriguez (626 homers), Ken Griffey Jr (630 homers) and Bryce Harper.

Harper went 2-for-3 with a walk in his first game in AA. If he's like the very tip top hitting prospects, he'll beat the same tattoo on the heads of AA pitchers, too.

Doesn't seem like there's much doubt that Rizzo has Harper on the A-Rod/Junior fast track. So, expect to see him the majors a little at 19 and a lot at 20, if he shows he can handle it.

I have been reading the Q&A about the Redskins. Do you think we will have a season this year? If so will the team be better than last year? thanks, B.Bowers

When the NFL gets a labor agreement, I'll talk about football again. Until then, the NFL and NBA will get what they deserve when it comes to my one-cents worth: Nothing. (At least not in chats.)


Boz, I think Mike Rizzo should get an A for his efforts over the last year. 4 moves in particular make him a top 10 executive: 1. Ramos for Capps 2. Trading Willingham 3, Letting Dunn walk 4. Greinke saving Rizzo from Rizzo [maybe the biggest move/non move] Things are looking up on all fronts, eh?

I mostly agree.

But Joel Hanrahan is the hottest closer in baseball __a perfect 0-for-25 in saves with a 1.40 ERA and dominant stuff numbers__ and just made the N.L. All-Star team.

So, Sean Burnett, who now has a 3.24 ERA in 144 games as a Nat, and remanins useful despite bad outtings this year, is a nice lefty to have. But with Nyjer Morgan doing well in Milwaukee and Hanrahan turning into a star __and he always had stuff almost as good as Henry Rodriguez__ that trade looks like a smallish defeat for Rizzo. And a big loss if Burnett doesn't return to form. (I think he will. He's throwing 92-93. It's bad location, bad luck, not bad stuff, that's hurting him.)

Also note that Aaron Crow made the All-Star team for K.C. Looks like the Nats did a good scouting job. They nailed Crowe at No. 9 in '09.  ( But the Nats couldn't get him signed.) Then they picked a winner with Storen in '10 at No. 10.

Scouting and player development is the most improtant of the "three legs" of the team-building stool. Trades matter. But you have to get key free agent pieces, too. I hope the Lerners experience so far with Marquis, LaRoche and especially Werth don't sour them on the obvious long-proven need to keep taking shots at the right FAs at the right price.

Over the weekend, someone in baseball said to me, "Do you think the White Sox would trade Adam Dunn for Jayson Werth __right now, straight up, including their current contracts. NO, of course, they wouldn't. Dunn and Werth may both start hitting again. But the difference in risk between a $56-million mistake and a $126-million mistake is enormous!"

Carl Crawford, still out with an injury and having a poor season, is an example of $143-million risk while Dan Uggla, whose awful .175 season is almost entirely a by-product of his insanely low .179 BABIP, is an example of "mere" $60M risk.

With a normal Batting Average on Balls In Play, Uggla would have normal numbers, though "only" 12 homers because Atlanta isn't as good a power park for RHers as Miami. BTW, Espinosa's BABIP still hasn't caught up to normal, much less his .323 rate in the minors. Doin't know at what level his power will continue, but his batting average, over time, will almost inevitably rise. 

Hey Boz - Do you think the Nats will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline? Rizzo says they could do both, but as usual I don't believe him. Davey is already clamoring for more bats. Doesn't want to play small ball. What a coincidence, the fans don't want to see small ball either. Might take a lot to get Livan and Marquis signed next year the way things are going. I do, however, have hope that Dum Dum gets Balester's attention because even though he's a west coast flake, he still has a 95 mph four-seamer and knee-buckling breaking stuff. Which is more than anyone's ever said about Detwiler.

Actually, Detwiler consistently throws 92-93 sometimes 94 when he's going well and has an even better breaking ball. He wasn't picked No. 6 overall for no reason. But he hasn't pitched up to his talent yet. In Viera, he was universally talked about by coaches as the most impressive, including J Z'mann. But then, there were no hitters at the plate. Be interesting to see Detwiler grab this probably-one-time-only start to make an impression. The better he pitches, the more you can think about trading Marquis. 

Re Marquis: when his sinker was amazing for several starts in a row, he looked wonderful. But he's streaky with that pitch. Then, as in his last starts, he can get whacked. He is his long-term numbers. And that's close to a 4.50 ERA over a decade. If you think you can use Detwiler (or someone else) to replace his innings, then you can trade him. And you can assume that Peacock or Milone or one-of-several at AAA will finish off Zimmermann's season after he hits his post-surgery innings limit.

July 31st will be interesting. But, as always for all teams, the record on July 28-29-30 will be vital. If the Nats are five games over .500 or five games under will make a big difference in their thinking. At .50o, after 20 more games, I'd think they'd still demand good value for Marquis b efore they'd deal him.

What unique questions/decisions for the Nats to face in July!!

Also, Rizzo is a lot more likely to think that a playoff run actually could happen with Johnson as manager. Just how it is.

Boz, I have seen the Nats about a dozen times this season and finally noticed something about Werth's swing this weekend at the double header. It seems like he can't get around on fastballs. It looks like he is always hitting the ball to the right side of the field or fouling off 90+mph fastballs. This weekend the left fielders started shading towards center on him. To put it more bluntly, he is hitting like he is 5 years older than he actually is (looks like Pudge actually). Is his hitting problems more then a slump or an injury? Could this the new Werth reality? I can't recall a time when he has hit the ball with authority to left field.

When your mechanics and your mind are both messed up, you are always "late" on the fastball. And, even to my eye, his mechanics are ridiculous at times. What is this swing where his hands never roll over? If it were golf, you'd scream, "Release the club!" Without the pronation of the wrists, you lose power in both sports. He's like a golfer "blocking" the ball to the right. Also, as golf and baseball swings have gotten a lot more similar in the last 30 years, post-Lau, you see other similar problems. Always in golf and normally in baseball, you hit off a "firm front side." Werth's front side breaks down, isn't firm. Ray Knight goes nuts on TV and he's right.

When any hitter's mechanics get better, then the mind gets better. You relax, hold the club/bat more loosely and, surely, you are quicker, even though you are trying less hard.

IOW, there's no way to tell if Werth is showing age because it's so obvious that his swing isn't his Phils swing and he's got tension written on him. (Why wouldn't he? He cares. He's from a third-generation MLB family. This stuff is LIFE to him and the people around him. This is not a guy who is going to take a slump or a big-contract-fail-to-perform situation lightly. If anything, and Johnsonsaid it immediately, he is trying much too hard.

It's good for his baseball sanity that __as we say on July 4__ he can also throw out a runner at the plate, steal a base to set up a win and drive in two men from third base on balls were he took weak swings, but got the ball in play. Players like Crawford and Werth, with multiple tools, or Carlos Beltran when he slumped with a bnig contract, can play other parts of the game and not be dead weight. And their teammates know it and react to their contributions in other areas. But a Dunn or Uggla (poor defense at best) don't get that boost.

A note on FA's who fail in the early weeks/months of their new huge deals: the pitchers are the true disasters far more often. The hitters may have a whole bad year, like Beltran w the Mets, but then bounce back with 3-4 "normal" outstanding years.

FWIW (not much), I don't think there's anything fundamentally wrong with Werth. He has great athletic genes. I'd be more worried about Dunn's body getting old fast. I didn't think it would. Maybe it isn't. But however much the Big Dunnkey is working out, more would be better. Especially anything lower body that simulates the accidental exercise he got by playing in the field, taking infield practice, etc. 

What do you think of the selections for this year's All-Star Game? I personally think the public did a pretty good job of picking the best starters, with only one or two exceptions.

No big complaints from me on any of the selections. I'll study 'em more. But it sure kills an easy column! Actually, I seldom write that one unless it is just hideous.

How much does Pujols lose in his pending contract due to this injury? He'd seemed to have finally gotten started in the month before his fracture (though not quite to his standard HOF level). Now he'll be basically starting from scratch, and will clearly end up with the poorest season of his career. Or do you think he might roll the dice with a one-year deal, trusting that he'll revert to his mean next year?

Pujols year puts everybody in an even hotter spot. I wouldn't give him a monster 7-yr deal coming off this season.

Z'man and Nats are lucky his injury was this year, not next. Both sides want an extension, but it's easier to reach one when things are fairly close to "normal." Ryan's numbers, for him, are as abnormal as any player in baseball.

As always, thanks for the chat! What are the chances that the 2012 middle infield is Espinosa at SS and Lombardozzi at 2B? Desmond is playing himself out of the big leagues in my opinion. Even though his batting average were okay in 2010 all his other peripherals were below average. With the exception of his fielding he has regressed this year in a big way. Could we see Lombardozzi sometime late this year?

Trust me (or not), Desmond will have a solid 10+-season career at SS like Dunston, Cabrera. He can pick it. His errors are now normal. That seldom if ever regresses once it's established. And he hit last year. There would be a line of teams delighted to have him, especially if they thought they could steal him. I was checking the other day and there are a half-dozen teams with SS's who hit worse than Desmond right now __but that is their norm.  

Were you as surprised as me that this morning's Post story about yesterday's Nats game did not mention the game's strangest and most embarassing play - when Soriano hit a shallow fly to right-center and the Nats two outfielders (Bernadina and Werth) let it drop between them, allowing 2 runs to score? I think it was scored a hit as well, which was mind-boggling.

It was a very bad day for Bernadina and encapsulated all the reasons that there are serious doubts about whether he will ever be an answer in CF. He should have caught Pena's triple to CF. Would only have required a "good" play by a normal CF. He had time to get there under control and the ball wasn't even at the top of the wall.

The two-run pop that fell was a nightmare. First, he didn't  have sunglasses. Or they certainly weren't "on" or down, if he did. And that's all that matters. (Werth did. Real cool looking, too. I think he should forbid himself any "cool" accessories until his average is over .250.) Bernadina sure had those sunglasses on the next inning. Second, he didn't scream "I DON'T SEE IT!!!" With two outs, everybody is running. You're not going to fool anybody by staying silent. But then did he know there were two outs? Even so, you'd yell for help. Third, after the ball dropped, he reacted slowly, then made a lousy one-hop throw to the relay man (Desmond) who didn't make much of a relay throw to the plate. And the play at the plate was still close. 

So, bernadina made about every mistake you can on one play and pcost Z'mann a win. But he also made a great sliding cacth on the warning track in a game the team was losing 8-2 the other day. Maybe one in 20 do that just because it's the right thing to do. He plays hard. He has talent. Johnson's going to give him a chance. But you can;t forget the sungalsses, you can't stay silent (especially w two out) and you can't react to a bunggle by freezing, even for an instant.

Sorry, that is too much about none play. But it has elements of all Bernadina's CF issues the last two years. And solving CF, with Roger or somebody else, is a major problem to address.


Hi Boz, I've not been successful yet in attracting your attention to give a short diagnosis of what you think lies behind the Nats' hitting woes. But hope springs eternal, so I'll try again, since the problem hasn't gone away. What gives? How much do you think is Eckstein, how much rookie growing pains, how much sophomore slump (Desmond), injuries, or some other x factor? Inquiring minds (at least one) want to know the unknowable. Best guesses will do. Thanks.

I've ducked this question on the grounds that "If i knew the answer then..."

However, how many teams do you think have scored less runs than the Nats this year? Yes, they are almost last in batting average. But they have power, steal bases.

EIGHT teams have scored less runs-per-game than the Nats. Most fans haven't adjusted their thinking to howe few runs are being scored now in the semi-post-PED era.

The fact that the Nats can b e so far from the bottom in what matters most __RUNS__ is a reason Davey actually thinks they should have a GOOD offense, not merely a not-so-bad one if everybody contributed. This is a lineup that constantly got shuffled all year and was told, by word and strategy, that it was a small-ball low-scoring team. It isn't. Despite everything, it's ahead of eight teams. If you factored in the DH for AL teams, the Nats would move higher. Correct expectations matter. This lineup should be kept more stable and it should be told, by word and strategy, that it is close to being in the top half of MLB in runs. (That's hardly a lofty goal.)    

How is it that a guy like Nyjer Morgan, who played such unsightly baseball last year in DC is now playing like an all star in Milwaukee? Same goes for Austen Kearns and FLop and possibly Werth.

Baseball, it's a mystery. Sometimes a change of scenery really helps. To the point with Morgan that is was essential. Sometimes a change of scene is dangerous. For example, Dunn getting $54M for four years in Chi, rather than taking the Nats last offer, which was $36M for three years.

Never underestimate the value of happiness __especially when you've actually got it. When Dunn signed with Chi, Kasten was long gone from DC, but he keeps up with everybody. So, he texted to Dunn, "Now I know what to get you for Xmas. A Kindle! So you have something to do between at bats in the AL." Dunn replied: "Keep 'em coming." (He likes sarcasm.)

Okay, got to stick in one more ex-Nat story. Hanrahan came back to Nats Park with the Pirates, don't know if it was this year or last, and got booed.

"Why are they booing me HERE?" asked Hanrahan. "I'm the one who got them Strasburg."

Nice sense of humor from a real good guy who blew a few games late in '09 and "helped" the Nats get the No. 1 pick.


Tom, With the AT&T coming back to Congressional next year, how important is it that Tiger and the Tour get Rory to participate?

very important to get McIlroy over here if it can be done. Walked with Tim Finchem for part of the last round. He downplayed (of course) that McIlroy is based on the European tour while saying how much they'd love to have all the Rory they could get.

However, it the victory ceremony, McIlroy said something that will probably be imp;ortant and mean that he'll lean toward more play in the U.S. He said that the Congressional crowds had embraced him so much that the Open felt like "a home match" and that this huge welcome might influence his thinking in the future. Don't remember the exact phrase.

If McIlroy and his backers and sponsors think that U.S. fans love him __and he is reigning U.S. Open champ, after all, not British Open champ__ then it only makes sense, on several levels, inlcuding $$$ to be more U.S. based.

So, I think we can expect to see more, not less or Rory.

Hi Tom, I am confused as to why Sean Burnett is still on the big league roster. I can't find one statistic for this season that he is doing well in. I know left handed relievers are valuable but only if there are not blowing the game for their team.

Relievers stats are almost always distorted. "Small sample size." That's why you see 1.40 ERAs and such. With relievers you ALWAYS look at two things: multi-season numbers and the pitcher's actual stuff. Over a career, all but a few of the all-time-great save leaders have had ERAs between 2.80 and 3.50. Burnett's 3.20 for the last three years is very good, if you step back. And my eye (okay, the radar gun) tells me that there's nothing wrong with his arm.

You just have to ride it out with this guy. You don't trade him. You encourage him. Remember, he's lefthanded with a wicked slider. And, over 144 games, he's been real nice. Nobody complained the last two years when his ERA was "too low." Those were small-sample-size accidents, too.

Okay, I know, this is a stupid question. Nats' first round pick Anthony Rendon isn't even signed yet. Premature. STILL! What are they going to do with this guy? Seems to me they have a pretty good third baseman. Also seems to me they have a pretty good second baseman. Any chance Danny slides over to short and Rendon learns to play second? Or do they just hold Rendon for inventory and plan to trade him at some point? Like I said, I know this is a stupid question - but I feel like the Nats' draft went very well and that the franchise is approaching a tipping point. Good young pitching (assuming Stras comes back and keeping fingers crossed for Peacock etc) and some good young hitters (Zimm, Harper, Espinosa and maybe Rendon). 2013 playoffs, here we come!

Pretty much everybody in baseball thinks that the Nats, assuming Strasburg comes back and Harper is eventually a 3-4-5 (or even 6) hitter, are well past the "tipping point." The question, especially now that they accidentally upgraded at manager, is how good they will be and on what time frame and how they might still screw find a way to screw it up.

Folks, you're just going to have to get used to it. Rizzo worked out as a GM. Losing Kasten was too bad, but hasn't undo the progress he pushed for. Strasburg and Storen panned out last year. Clippard was a steal. This year, rookies Espinosa and Ramos are also panning out at the top end of expectations/hopes. Jordan Z'mann turned out to be one of the TJ surgery guys who came back the same or maybe stronger. Every year, Lannan gets bigger and throws 1 m.p.h. harder on his sinker. It's in the Fan Graphs pitch analysis stats. Year by year from rookie season on Lannan fastball: 86.7, 87.5, 88.2, 88.8 and now 89.8 with plenty of games where 92 is normal. Desmond isn't going to make 35 errors. The push to steal all those scouts has led to a better minor league system that is on the verge of producing __Lombardozzi, Peacock, etc. 

That doesn't mean they can't fall back to 75-87 this year. Stuff happens. But the shape of the franchise has fundamentally changed in the last two years and is in a much, much b etter place. That trend is actually going to be hard to reverse. The path of least resistance for the Nationals is up. If you don't see it, you aren't looking. (But I suspect that most here see it, too.)

Hey Boz - What's your take on the booing of Jayson? My take is 1) Nothing good comes of it and it's counter-productive (silence is plenty deafening) 2) It's not like the guy is doggin' it out there, he's working hard in the field, on the bases ect. 3) It's a hitting slump -- not some jerk with a bad attitude and effort issues and 4) Has the DC fan base really earned the right to boo -- shouldn't we work on getting better at our job too? Thanks!

All good points. Werth is playing a helluva lot harder than Nats fans, as a group, are cheering. 

Yes, I know, we're so demographically civilized. But if we're civilized, what's with the booing? Sure, you bought a ticket, so boo if you want. And I have booed players in various sports when I was a paying ticket holder if I thought they were jaking or lazy. I am MUCH more adult now. Do what you want. But I wouldn't be booing Werth right now. Groaning very loudly at times might be an alternative?

Hi from Romania Mr. Boswell ! One question..I keep hearing that Zimm and Werth are gonna start hitting...well let's say that this is true and they will...But exactly WHEN will this be ??

When Transylvania freezes over.

Bos, How much responsibility does the hitting coach have for how a team's hitting? I'm not looking for a scapegoat, I'm wondering how much of a real effect the hitting coach has on players. I imagine Ekstein is on the hotseat but that doesn't mean it's his fault.

Well, when teams hit, they get some credit, but not a lot.

So, the reverse probably applies. But it does damage the likelihood of him being the next Great Young Hitter Coach. He works like a dog. He's smart. Besides, the guys who aren't hitting (the worst) are established vets who should barely need a hitting coach at all. Coaches work with the young guys most. Werth and Z'man's problem is Werth and Z'man, not Ekstein.

Now Desmond on the nother hand....

Boz: I don't get to actually see to many games from this time zone, but from I do see, including yesterday's game, it looks like Jayson Werth would rather be having root canal than playing a visible leadership role. Props to him for heads up play last night, but otherwise his body language, not to mention his media skills, are just terrible, especially compared to the franchise players we're used to seeing: exhibit a) ripken exhibit b) zimerman. I'm sure his numbers will come around, but as one of the faces of the ball club, he seems terribly miscast. I always liked him in Philly, and thought he was under the radar and underrated. After the contract he'll never be under the radar. What do do?

It's unusual to see a player who plays hard and smart, but simultaneously has bad body language and doesn't love communication. But Werth is all of those. An usual combination. And this is the start of a long, long marriage.

I never saw Dickey, or Berra in his prime, didn't see Bench (Nats fan at the time and he was, alas, never here), Fisk was pretty good, but watching Pudge for the last two years at the end of his career has been a special treat. That game winning single in the 8th in the Saturday nightcap was the stuff of legend. And, of course, that golden arm and brilliant game management are still intact. No question, just wanted to express a little love for Pudge. And thanks to Rizzo for signing him.

Props to Pudge. And Davey plans to play him a little more while definitely keeping Ramos the starter.

Another bright move by that knucklehead Rizzo and the Lerners. Can they send Werth down to single A Potomac? Not sure which was a bigger knucklehead move in Dc sports signing Haynesworth or Werth!

Do I get to give a Moron Award to the question of the week that incorporates the most levels of dumb in the fewest words?

Yeah, I think I do. And this one gets it. The start of a great tradtion? Unfortunately, probably not since there seem to be so few moron questions here.

Lets see, Haynesworth wouldn't play the 3-4, then wouldn't do this, wouldn't dop that. He's a curse.

Werth either suggested or was fine with batting No. 2, batting leadoff, stealing, anything they want, he does. Yesterday, he played hurt. There's no comparison.


Tom, going to the Nats' true double-header on Saturday (awesome experience: really got to enjoy Nats park with all it has to offer and the different standing room areas to watch the game or take in views of the city), I noticed Nats fans are both knowledgable and clueless: we cheered loudly at a well-executed sacrifice to move a runner into scoring position, and yet, I see fans repeatedly moving and getting up in between pitches during at bats (including a critical bases loaded situation). The ushers did nothing. I remember the ushers at Oriole Park in the 90s would hold people until the end of an at-bat. Any chance the Nationals will take notice of this growing problem?

Good points all. Thanks.

Is .500 just a dream in 2011? What has happened to this club? Is it Buck's fault or should the ownership get the blame for another in a long string of disasters?

Sure looks like, "Better luck next year."

But this is a key time for Buck to keep the room together and show he's the full-grown mature version of himself as manager. I assume he will.

The Nats put a number of tickets on sale this past weekend for $2 and virtually sell out. That shows that the interest is there and maybe the prices are too high. I say numerous young families at the game. Should this be regular feature of their pricing? The sellout atmosphere was fantastic.

You don't want to devalue the product with cheap giveaways. But you want to get people in the park so they can experience your product. It's a balancing act.

I like the cheap tickets and think they're a good idea.

Okay, there are just far too many questions. Thanks. I'll keep reading 'em and maybe drag some of them back next week that are especially good. See you all next week.

Did Riggleman get the Nats improved defense in the divorce?




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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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