Ask Boswell

Aug 15, 2011

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

Past Ask Boswell chats

Hi Boz, Welcome back, we missed you. What is your take on Espinosa's struggles at the plate?

Thanks. Glad to be back. And so much to talk about.

Redskins look disciplined and sharp against the Steelers. That's what Grossman can do when he has time to throw. The issue is what he does, and how often he might turn the ball over, when he IS pressured. Thought Tim Hightower looked especially encouraging. But I'm biased since he went to Episcopal in Alexandria.

The PGA finish was fabulous, even though almost nobody ever heard of Bradley and Dufner until this weekend. Bradley can hit it 360 yards, has the elite golf background (nephew of HOFer Pat Bradley). But I have to admit I was rooting like crazy for the lumpy underdog. Wonder why? Too bad (almost) that golf is so brutal. Once you start to leak oil on the last mile, especially if it is anywhere near as tough as in the last four holes were in Atlanta, everything conspired to compound your problems. Two shots killed Dufner. His three-putt in regulation and that fabulous match-play style 12nd shot by Bradley on the first playoff hole. Dufner collects himself (after going bogey-bogey-bogey at 15-16-17) and drilled it to five feet for birdie on a loooong uphill 190-yard shot. But Bradley stiffs it to "unmissable" length. Dufner missess with one of his few poor putting strokes inside 12 feet, Bradley makes and it's headed toward "Over and Out."

We'll get to Tiger.

The Nats have a midnight deadline to sign their '11 draft picks, especially Anthony Rendon (6th overall), Alex Meyer (pitcher 23rd) and Brian Goodwin (34th) __all Scott Boras clients__ as well as their gamble with the third-round pick (96th overall) for Matt Purke, a southpaw from TCU who has been projected as a high first-round pick sinch high school.

There's risk with Purke, who looked for a blink like he'd gotten a $6-million deal out of high school, because he's had shoulder problems and may have lost a couple of miles off his fastball.

But Rizzo and the Lerners have decided to build through the draft because 1) that's where the best cheap (or semi-cheap) talent can be found the way baseball is currently structured and 2) the Nats are a scouting-based front office so the draft is where you should shine. Nobody in baseball "pays up" more consistently than the Nats in the amateur draft. But they need to keep that record intact tonight.

Purke will be a close call, because he'll probably want a few million, but it's not a disaster if he doesn't sign. However, if they get everybody you're going to hear a lot of draft gurus praising the Nats for taking their best shot. After Werth's bad year for $126-million, I'd think that the Nats are looking at the much better bang-for-the-buck that they've gotten out of their draft picks in recent years.

Which brings us to Espinosa, a Boras client and 3rd rounder who's worked out well. We're at the beginning of finding out if he's merely a good big leaguer __which he obviously is__ or whether he can adpat, get out of slumps and and im prove enough as a hitter to be a star. He swings at too many bad pitches, like many rookies. But he has several "chase" areas. That hurts. He has to lay off the high-away fastball __a rare weakness__ as well as the breaking ball down and in. With two strikes, he'll chase in the dirty. There are three immediate first steps. Bunt a little more, which he's stared to do. Hit to the opposite field more __which he's good at but seemed to forget once he hit those 17 homers. And, fianlly, simply be more patient and draw more walks when he's hitting No. 2. Espinosa needs to remember that with Z'man, Morse behind him, no pitcher wants to walk him. If he'll wait for fastballs in good counts, he'll get enough of them. But he can't foul 'em back, which he's been doing, when he gets "his" pitch. I think he'll be fine and will end up, in '12-'13, panning out near the upper end of expectations.  

Tom, An excellent week for St. John's University (Chris Mullen inducted into the basketball HOF and Keegan Bradley PGA Champ), but a better week for golf. The sport is served very well by exciting finishes just as well as by domination by superstars. Funny how some folks hate the Yankees for winning so much, but don't watch golf unless Tiger or Phil is on the leaderboard. These people would've missed all of yesterday's drama.

I must have watched 15-18 hours of the PGA __and on vacation. What's wrong with me. It was wonderful drama.  The fact that top-ranked players like Stricker, Donald, Westwood and others made runs, or were in position to, but couldn't do it, showed how spectacularly Bradley and Dufner were playing. 

Nice point about Yanks vs Tiger-Phil.

I have a friend who says that "everybody has a house of cards inside their head. Tiger's house has fallen down."

I think that's a great metaphor for self-confidence, mental health, lots of things __a house of cards that you built inside your own head and try to keep intact. And, of course, when the house falls down, you can rebuild it. But in Tiger's case its like EVERY card has been smashed flat and some of them are nopw bent! So it's harder to get them to balance the way they did before when you try to get that new house-of-=cards to be as tall as the old one.

Tiger will get better. This was the bottom __20 traps, four balls in the water in two days, beaten by five club pros. Come on, that better be the bottom. But how high will that mental "house of cards" be when he rebuild it as much as he can in '12-'13-'14? Once, it was a skyscrapper of confidence, self-esteem and intimidating mystique. Now, even best case, I don't see how he ever gets back to anywhere near that altitude. Win again? Win majors again? I'd still say, "Yes." Catch Jack? I'm slowly shifting toward "no" on that. But next season __completely healthy with tons of practice and time to work on his latest new swing__ that will tell us tons.

But will he ever again seem invincible on the last nine holes of a major? That seems to be gone forever. Which will make it all the more amazing if he ever actually does it! My bias is always toward seeing people succeed, overcome their problems, rebuild their lives __even people who have crashed through their own mistakes after they made a billion dollars. So, nothing about his collapse makes me feel good when I watch it. But there are a lot opf people who seem to enjoy it. As I've said, that tells you something about them, but nothing about Woods.      

Boz - I made a dinner bet with a Yankees fan that the Nats would win 77 games this year. Should I start saving up or start picking the restaurant??

I'm going back to my pre-season number of 75-87. They are better. And the biggest long-term stories have worked out well or very well __Jordan Z'mann and Strasburg's arms, Espinosa and Ramos, Morse duplicating his emergence in '10 as well as improvement from Lannan, development of Storen and several bright spots in the minors. And I suspect Werth will get his OPS over .800 next year, though I don't expect to see .900 again. But this team still has holes and a lack of confidence at times. That's right, not enough "swagger." That's the biggest problem with Werth __he couldn't helpt change the level of confidence without producing at the plate. If they end up with 75-76-77 wins, not 80-82, it may underline to the Lerners that they aren't so close to contention and still need to be active in the free agent market.

Bryce Harper's 460-480 foot home run to win a game hopefully has instilled confidence in Harper. He is also become a proven base runner with some stolen bases. He is showing good hustle on the basis and in the outfield. He had a brief mental lapse, or something, when he strayed too far off second base so the shortstop could tag him out. Hopefully he'll learn from that. He also swings and misses at too many curve balls. You have to learn to hit the curve ball to make it to the majors. It seems when he gets disguisted with himself, he takes it out on the fans. He walks by fans and avoids them after a bad game. He needs to realize the fans are what pays his salary. Also, and this is important, the fans he walks by, he hears them booing him or not clapping for him in the next games. He needs to connects with fans. He's young, but he's getting there.

Can't back up everything you say, but much of it sounds like what I hear. I heard Harper take a tough riding from the crowd in Bowie his first time up last month. But by the time he'd hit two doubles in the same inning of Zach Britton and made a 300-foot throw from LF back to 1st base, even the O's fans were grudgingly cheering him, as well as the Nats fans who were there.

It's tough to win over rival fans in Philly and NY. Maybe impossible. But Bryce should remember that in most places, especially the minrs, if you respond to fans by "killin' 'em with kindness" you can probably win them to your side very fast. Smile, joke, sign autoghraphs for the loudmouths and they'll be stunned. It's like kissing babies for politicans. You have a hard time hating a guy who's shaken your hand or signed a ball for you and made a quip.

Oh, that walk-off homer was a true BOMB. IU wish I knew how far that ball really went. OTOH, Harper's AA numbers, while rising, show that he has work to do. You may not see him at Nats Park in June-July '12 but more like a '12 September call up (when he'll still only be 19). Of course, his bat will define his pace through the minors. But even if he's up for good in June '13, that's VERY fast star quality progress. Don't rush him.

After beating the Super Bowl runners up so convincingly, is it too early to think that the Redskins will be going to the Super Bowl this year? (sarcasm alert)

I never imagined the Skins could look that good that fast with so little practice time against such a good veteran Steeler team. I know, I know, don't read too much into a 16-7 win at home with Big Ben plays one series. But, also, don't read too LITTLE into it either.

For 20 years, with the exception of a few seasons, I've screamed about the Redskins lack of team discipline, their lack of internal team chemistry and accountability, their inability to motivate themselves consistently and their sense of a "star entitlement" that simply wasn't merited by their play. In short, they thought they were much better than they were. In some cases, they were living in their own pasts or counting all the money they'd just heisted from the Skins. Some didn't work hard enough. Plenty didn't "show up every week." And under Spurrier and Zorn they had coaches who didn't match the NFL norm for fanatical work habits and high demands. So, those fopur years were a total loss and were followed by complete rebuildings. Spurrier may have been one of the must out-of-his--league NFL coaches ever.

Shanahan takes us back nearly 40 years to the arrival of George Allen. He's a workaholic, a bad guy to cross, an egotist __somebody who has always had to "show 'em" and work harder than everybody else. Allen because he was a non-athlete and Shanny as the tough little guy with the big football brain. Believe it or not, Gibbs I also had some of that crazy lopsided obsessiveness about him as well as a very tough edge when (non-star) players didn't get on the right page instantly. In the '80's, Joe __the sleep at the park obsessive__ would joke that it was ironic he coached in Washington because he was worried that, someday, somebody would asked him who the Pre4sident of the United States was and be might be one election behind.

Shanahan, like Allen, only asks to be judged as a football coach. That's almost all that matters to him. His NFL legacy. That kind of personality adds drama to any team __because the coach makes the stakes so soul-wrenchingly deep since that's how important it is to him. Those guys can go off the rails and lose their teams. But thyey can also produce amazing one-year turnarounds. Like Parcells. Or, in baseball, Billy Martin. Though it's unfair to compare anybody to Martin because  he wasn't just "crazy" in the everyday sports meaning of the term __ie., fanatical to win.

Shanahan could be one of the crash-and-burn guys. But I wouldn't bet on it. If there are too many injuries, of course this team isn't deep enough to survive it. But I'm eyes-wide-open to the possibility that the Skins will be better than the national (dismal) concensus. 

And I can't wait to see John Beck. Because NOBODY outside Redskins Park can possibly have any sensible idea of how good he is __or isn't. And Shanahan has stamped him as at least good. Maybe more. Harde to believe. We'll see. But a great subject. As contrasted with the hopeless years of  Zorn, Cerrato and Snyder.   

 

How would you evaluate his performance to date? Petrhaps unrealistically, I expected more, but I do hope he chooses to return next season.

He's been good at "overview" of the roster. He hasn't been as good at handling games as I remembered him. But part of that is because he has been managing like a front-office surrogate rather than a butt-on-the-hot-seat manager who feels he has to win every game.

For example, Johnson almost certainly has put Werth, Espinosa, Morse, Desmond and Ramos in the proper long-term spots in the batting oprder __and all hit in goofy stopgap spots for Rig who was managing for a contract. Espinosa may not pan out at No. 2 and could have to take his K's back to No. 6 or 7 someday. But you want to find out if he can hit .260 with .340 OBP and handle No. 2 because he'd max out. Davey realized that Desmond needed a hitter behind him __not a pitcher__ so he could cope with No. 7 but had big problems at No. 8. Nobody likes No. 8, but Ramos seems to suffer there less than Desmond, so Johnson gave Desmopnd some chances there. Werth is comfortable at No. 5, so leave him there. There have been lots of "information gatheriong" roster decision, including Matthues in the bullpen.

By the way, to the people who say that Werth flourished in Phiully because of Utley, Howard, Rollins and Victorino, let me point out that __most of the time__ werth batted BEHIND them. He was "protecting" them. They weren't protecting him. They benefits from Werth behind them, not the other way 'round. Yes, he got more RBI chances. But the Phils had offensive problems all of last year and Werth still had a season that got him $126M.

However, Davey, to me at least, doesn't have the saturation familiarity with his players that some Nats nuts have. So they sense when he's making a pitching decision that won't work out well. A dozen times so far (at least), I've thought, "Well, 90 per cent of the people who watch every Nationals game are now screaming 'No!!!' And they are probably right __at least as far as the result of this one games goes." He certainly hasn't had a good feel for when to stick with Livan and when to hook him. In Philly on Friday, he got it right.

Johnson has had to semi-apologize a few times for games where he was as much a reson for the loss as any player. And, to save Clippard and Storen __they were just getting burned up Chad Cordero-style before he came__  he's had six games get out of hand when the Nats allowed 10-or-more runs. Off the top of my head I think the Nats only gave up 10 runs twice under Riggleman this year. Part of the reason is Johnson's confidence in his own judgment __it's astronomical. So what if they lose 11-3 to the Phils? He knows why he did what he did and has a reason, usually, for why one loss may set up two wins later in the week or month. But the Nats recent past has been so awful that those kinds of defeats shake a fragile team that's trying to get to respectability.

In short, I hope Davey is back next year because he's coped with countless huge star players, so the Strasburgs, Harpers, Werths are old hat to him. It's hard to have that kind of credibility. But will he want to come back?

My analysis of him will only be a fraction of the analysis he does on himself. He'll be a tough judge of himself, I suspect. I learn more baseball in any month around Johnson __yes, after all these years__ than I learn in a year around most others.  All in all, I'd say Davey would need an off-season and spring training to really find out if he's back in the saddle properly. But you're allowed to worry.  

We won our first pre-season game, over the Steelers, no less! The Super Bowl is inevitable! Can you please help bring some of my giddier colleagues back to earth, before the Redskins do the same?

No reason to start off a season depressed. There's always plenty of time for that! I thought Grossman had exactly the kind of on-rhythm game that is normal for him when he has little pressure. Maybe that's faint prasise, but it's praise. Hightower (736 rushing yards in Arizona last year) ran with authority. That's really needed because Torrain (742 yards as a Skin), as good as he looked at times last year, has shown injury problems. RB is an awful position for a guiy who's not indestructible when still young. Torrain missed four games with a hamstring last year. Now he's had four screws put in his left wrist. Every time he runs left, tacklers are going to teast that left hand or try to strip him if he carries the ball with his inside arm. Hightower is a class act. I'll overlook how much all St. Stephens and St. Agnes ex-athletes hate The School Across Seminary Road.

Also, Kerrigan made a couple of good plays __sudden, decisive__ playing at a new position at LB. Lots of good stuff when you rerun the tape. But how much did the Steelers care? How simple was their game plan?

Still, when the Skins are bad, everybody uses the last 19 years to say, "Look! They are bad!" When they really play well, say, "They really played crisply." One penalty, no turnovers, right. Looking at them you'd say, "What lockout?"

Even w/MacPhail and Showalter, they are on pace for 100 loses. I may be the dean of their season ticket holders (41 years and counting) and after seeing 3 miserable losses last week, just don't feel like going back to the park. Since they're on the road for10 days and I can walk to the park, I'll undoubtedly reconsider. I'm starting to think the number of young pitching arms they have ruined over the past decade is more than coincidental.

Truly distressing developments this year in Bal'mer. Will Matusz arm every regain its strength? Tillman looks inconsistent and uninspired. Bergesen is the only one who'll consistently challenge hitters and throw strikes early in the count in almost every game __but he's a 5.00 ERA guy, so what difference does it make if his "approach" is correct? What on earth happened to Britton? Between the majors and minors he's allowed a 12-run inning to the Yanks (nine of them his), an eight-run first to the Red Sox and a seven-run fifth inning to the Hagerstown Suns. Does that kind of shellshock leave scares? And everybody gets hurt. 

The O's have been signing tire-patch free agents like D Lee (now injured since his trade) and Vlad for years. That's not enough. You have to get past that. See: Nats let Marquis go. He's the $15M, 2-yr tire patch. You have to build on a stronger foundation than that. But the O's don't have the economic foundation these days to take a Werth-like megarisk. (Yes, I get the irony of that. Check back in 365 days for an update.) Just don't think the Birds can pull the trigger or get a "Yes" from a free agent like Prince Fielder, just as their dance with Teixeira was mostly probably for show.

Ugggg. No words of encouragement except that they aren't THIS bad. They've only lost 100 twice since they got to Baltimore in '54 __in '54 and '88. I'd have bet anything it wouldn't happen this year. Sheinin and I talked about it in the spring. He might have bet Twice Anything. Crazy cruel game sometimes.

Will Purke sign by the deadline? Any rumors our of the front office on our chances?

Just got back from vacation. I'll be watching as midnight arrives, just like you.

I understand MLB has a rule against showing replays of close plays on the scoreboard. I disagree since, as was poijted out following the Joyce call, the entire country and those in the stadium restrooms could see the replay, so why not the folks in the stands? Anyway, I saw several games in Norfolk last week (O's AAA team) and they showed several close plays on the scoreboard. So I'm wondering, are they experimenting with this in the minors? Sure the umps don't like it, and fans boo clearly erroneous calls (as happened at least twice). But it doesn't seem to hurt the other professional sports that allo this (I'm thinking all of them?:) and wonder if MLB would be willing to give it a try.

Good points. I'm in favorite of experimenting as much as possible in the minors and then using as much replay as possible at the major league level. You need to get people INTO the ballpark, not give them more reasons to watch at home on TV. If there is a little risk of showing up umps. And you can't incite crowds of 20K, 30K, 40K. It's touchy. But you can do more than is done now. 

In 2013, what are the chances that this is the lineup we see every day: Ramos, Morse, Rendon, Espinosa, Zimmerman, Harper, CF, Werth?

A pretty good chance. If Rendon can play 2nd well enough, he projects as a helluva hitter. Maybe "only" 15-20 homers, but if his college career at Rice doesn't say, "Born to .300 hitter in the Bigs" then whose does?

Desmond has to hit better to hold his spot, even with his improved defense. Because his batting average is no worse than several other Nats many fail to understand that he has been almost The Worst Offensive Player in Baseball this year.  Doesn't walk. Only four homers. helpless against sliders from RHers in clutch spots. His whole career, until this year, says he should be an average hitter, or better, for a MLB SS. He needs to wake up __there have been a few recent signs__ or he's going to force the Nats to confront decisions that they hoped he'd allow them to avoid. They GAVE him the job for two full years. You have to add up those two years and ask, "Is that enough?" Because he has such a good attitude, and is so athletic, he's going to get the benefit of every doubt.  

Tom, Welcome back. We missed you. If I look at the MLB salaries and standings from last week, the Nats are 9th from the bottom in payroll and 14th from the bottom in Wins/Losses. Any significance to this stat? Also too bad about Marquis in Arizona.

Thanks. I actually missed chatting. I'm surprised the Nats are that high in payroll. I'll double check.

Marquis gave up like a seven m illion runs in nhis first two stars for the D'backs then had his left fibula broken by a liner off his right shin yesterday. After his leg was broken he 1) stayed on the mound, 2) batted the next inning and 3) in the next inning collapsed in pain in a heap on a pitch that hit the Mets Thole ON THE RIGHT SHIN. They collapsed in perfect sync on the mound and at the plate. Sad for Marquis. But weird, unique to see.

Marquis has always been a tough guy. In spring training, all the Nats staff ran past me one day entering the clubhouse __all very similar, tall, lanky. Marquis comes by looking like the misfit, maybe 5-10 and square. He's always had the fire. And 100+ wins to show for it. Of course, sometimes the fire burns out of control __as it did in the marathon Rig cuss out in Baltimore.  

If you are thought to be a bad team and you look bad in preseason, people say, "I told you so." However, if you look good, people just say, "Remember, it is just preseason; it doesn't mean anything." How could the Redskins do any more than they did? In the 1 series in which they played against the Steelers' starters, they kept the Steelers offense from marching too far down the field and against the Steelers' defense, they had a very long drive (that ended in a short missed field goal). Will the Redskins win the Super Bowl? Of course not. Might they be better than many had thought? It now seems possible. If you are thought to be a bad team, aren't preseason games a "lose-lose" proposition in the realm of public opinion?

Well, when you've generally been disappointing or bitterly disappointing or even mortifyingly disappointing for many of the previous 19 seasons, it's pretty easy to find yourself in "lose-lose." There's also a way to get out! (Win-win-win.)

We onloy have to wait 10 more days for a lot of info __the Indy and Raven games are exhibitions, but in the Skins case I sure wouldn't call them meaningless.

However, it's true that pre-season seems to be a poor predictor of the Redskins. I'll dig it out. But there have been some nice preseasons followed by dismal years. In the case of '11, having some luck with injuries, especially at key skill positions, is even more important than usual.

So, you hate to see Cooley having problems after the latest knee surgery and Beck missing a game and Torrain out and Landry not practicing yet. It can add up fast for a 6-10 team with a lot of new people getting to know eachother.

It's odd. I was playing golf in a group that included two doctors last week. They both have long-time Redskin sympathies. I said something positive about the Steeler exhibtion. Silence. "I hate the owner," said one. "I hate the owner. What a creep," said the other.

I said, "Come on, you have to divide the team nd the coaches away from the owners or you'll spend your life hating half of the teams in pro sports."

"You're right," said one of the doctors, who was actually the head of an entire major local hospital. "But I still hate the owner."

The other doc said, "You can only get yourself hated that much if you are always trying too hard to be loved."

I offer that last bit for what it's worth.

This Jayson Werth quote appears in the Post today: " His batting average, now .225, has been the measure most commonly held against Werth. "It's an important stat to the public I think, to the fans," Werth said. "I don't put a whole lot of weight in average." Now I understand Werth's self interest to downgrade batting average as a time tested method of measurement of relative success, but wait a minute buster. In these days of WAR, and WHIP, a whole other bunch of acronyms I don't really understand, (I'm just a member of the public, a fan), but you as a charter member of the Stathead club, what is your reaction to such a dis?

The problem is that Werth's slugging percentage and run production are just as lousy as his batting average. The only thing he's done right in draw some walks __which have relatively little value when you're batting No. 5 BEHIND the best hitters at 3-4.

The guy plays hard. His teammates like him. He's been decent since the All-Star break. He's going to be in office in rightfield in D.C. longer than the average U.S. President is in the White House, so make the best of it.

Mr. Boz ... know that johnson's reputation and previous success are widely known, but seems to me that the Nats simply haven't played as well since he became manager. that's either because they were playing over their abilities just before the manager change, or he's not getting them to play their best. pitching's not as good, defense has had numerous errors even while some on the team are hitting better. what gives?

It's a fair question. The really bad games stick out because there were so few of them before.

 

Johnson has a 50-year track record of success at almost every level of baseball. If he, somehow, had one more team that got to the World Series, or maybe even an LCS, it might be enough to get him in the Hall of Fame. Every manager in history with a better winning percentage than Johnson is in the HOF or will be, as well as many in Cooperstown with worse records. If "benefit of the doubt" ever had meaning in baseball, it's probably Johnson. But, like Gibbs who also came back after 11 years away, you have to reprove yourself. That's just reality. 

I am a longtime fan and always enjoy your work. Did you see the article in SI about Trevor Bauer? I was very interested in Bauer's reaction to seeing Strasburg pitch - feeling that he was an injury waiting to happen. As someone much closer to the scene than us casual observers, is this view that the conventional wisdom on pitching mechanics has not protected the pitchers going to take hold - particularly if guys like Bauer are successful?

I haven't read the Bauer article yet but will. Strasburg's shoulder, which put him on the DL last year, has always been the No. 1 issue for the Mechanics Gurus. Not the elbow.

If you want to root really, really hard for a fabulous talent who appears to be an extremely solid person, then root for Strasburg to make a full comeback. But even if he does, you want him to stay healthy as long as a Doc Gooden rather than simply have a fine season or three then blow out like Mark Prior or Kerry Wood.

We're going to be holding our breath as long as he pitches. But that doesn't mean you don't bring him back in September to the majors. That's a norm rehab. You just have to roll the dice and hope Stephen gets to play out some semblance of a full career.

Whatever drama surrounded his arrival last year has now been raised even higher because of the elbow surgery and the (honest) concerns about his mechanics. But, imo, the LAST thing you do is say, "Son, when you come back from TJ surgery, we want to CHANGE your delivery." That's just as likely to work out badly. Let him try to come back as himself, but some blue-penciled version of himself. Besides, theories on arm injuries have been around as long as baseball. And one thing has never varied: the theories always change.

Boz, I've been to a few games since Ryan's return and his throwing worries me. He looks... tentative when he throws, and sometimes it looks almost like he's lobbing the ball to first base. Should I be worried? He's definitely gotten his hitting stroke back but he needs to return to his stellar defense if he's going to earn a place in Cooperstown.

A coluple of months ago I thought he looked awful. I actually think he's gotten progressively better. I starting to think __but far from convinced__ that he may end up with a more accfurate arm in '12 than he had early in his career. But, yes, it is obvious that on some throws he is improvizing or "hiding" his throwing problems. I suspect that with the "new" overhand delivery his issues are less likely to be in his head as his career progresses. Now, it's a matter of whether he can build up a strong enough and consistent enough arm to stay at 3rd for the next five-plus years. Or does he look at 1st base at some point. Rendon is a third baseman. You'd always prefer a healthy Z'man with a decent arm. But it would comfort the Nats at night, I bet, if they had Rendon in the system, too. Having options is good.

There's speculation that the Nats will try to sign Jose Reyes this off season. Leave aside whether the speculation is informed. Do you think this would be a wise move?

Forget it.

Shortstop is just about the Nats position of least need.  Then, if you signed Reyes (even in theory), you have to trade Desmond at lowest value, keep Espinosa at 2nd forever and thius block Lombardozzi. You also create one LESS available position for Rendon if he develops and you ALSO pay a Werth-like contract at top-of-the-market prices for a guy who's had attitude questions his whole career.

Now, watch 'em go and sign the guy. After Dunn's excellent season, going opposite to may ideas is probably a useful theory. Reyes might do okay at solving the leadoff problem, ya think!

Sooooo, would you still trade all of the Nats' young pitchers for all of the O's?

Oh, I remember that. No, I wouldn't trade 'em now!

What about Chien-Ming Wang!? One game means little, but (believe it or not) his three starts combined (bad as they seemed) are very close to his good-season career stats for OPS-against and most other metrics. Hmmm. He could have as many as nine more starts.

Question: If they are gopod starts, will he resign with the Nats, in part perhaps because 29 other teams wouldn't even give him a chance in '10 while the Nats paid him $2M, then another $1M (p-lus incentives) in '11.

He's a free agent. So, don't count on him for '12 yet. And at what point might the Nats be convinced enough by his comback to offer him a contract extesnion for '13-'14 (p0r whatever) before this season is even over. And would Wang even be interested. Could get fascinating.

Looking at his performance friday, do you think at this early point, He is a lock as the opening day starter against the Giants.

The NFL is a multi-back league and has been for some time. It doesn't matter much who starts. Both, if healthy, will get plenty of work. Evan Ropyster only looked so-so (to me) in his spot duty. Be glad to have two RBs who both gained over 725 yards last year. Maybe they could do the same, as a combo, this year.

I'd like to see the Nats take the throwback view here . Like the Sox had with Dwight Evans, who took years to get his swing "right" - he always had power, but then he became a dangerous hitter. And if Espi never hits, having a Mark Belanger-like player isn't all bad.

Espinosa is all ballplayer and is already a fixture. There are like 20 teams that woul;d trade for him in 30 seconds. But that doesn't mean he doesn't need to improve his command of the strike zone and improve as a hitter. But he almost certainly will. Pick any top middle infielder from Utley to anybody __I looked up about 20 of 'em six weeks ago__ and the large majority get better at the plate after their rookie year. We won't know the real Espinosa until '13, I expect.

Why do so many sports writers past judgement before seeing a product on the field. Guilty until proven innocent. As in John Beck can't do this or Zrex Grossman can't do that?

Grossman has a documented history with a Super Bowl team. The only living creature in the Washington area, outside Redskins Park, who can recognize John Beck on sight is his dog. And the dog probably has to sniff to be sure.

See you next week. That was a fun way to come back from vacation. Thanks.

It seems to me that, when Rig walked away, everyone worried that the team would be disrupted and fall into a tailspin. It appears that this has happened, and it is not necessarily Davey's fault. Could he have prevented it from happening? Maybe. On the other hand he seems to have decided that his job was to prepare for 2012, not chase the 2011 wild card. In which case you can hardly blame him. This isn't really a wild card team. A .500 team at best, sure, but not as good as Atlanta, or even Arizona or St. Louis. Eh, maybe St. Louis.

Nice analysis. Like I always say, you come here to find out what the chatters think! I may post a couple of more "questions" that contain a lot of good answer. 

You make a good point about winning over fans being like politics. Harrisburg is like Iowa. It is considered a "fan friendly stadium". It reminds me of the old Morris Udall joke where a New Hampshire voter says he doesn't know anything about a Presidential candidate, he's only met him three times. Harrisburg is a town where the fans interact with the players. If they haven't met you three times, they don't know who you are.

"only met him three times." Love it.

A good motto for Harper or any minor leaguer.

 

How do you think the Nats 3-4-5 hitters for 2011 (and 2012 projections) stack up to the 2009/2010 combo? Obviously, Werth's horrible '11 season hurts, but I gotta think he'll rebound in '12. Morse coming into his own really helps, and Zimm is still Zimm, with maybe a bit less pop this year due to the injury.

At some point in '12, with the left-handed LaRoche presumably back, you might want to "break up the right-handed bats" with LaRoche hitting 5th and Werth 6th. Now that's a deep lineup. If you can't relax __or get ticked off__ hitting 6th, nothing will do it.

That's really it. I'll save some of the good leftovers for next week. Thanks again.

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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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