Ask Boswell

Aug 29, 2011

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

Past Ask Boswell chats

No one wanted Beck or Sexy Rexie. they arent even making a million dolars a year. Moss would be the third receiver on the other 31 teams in the NFL. OL is still a question mark. Haslett is not the answer as DC. Dl and secondary big question marks. Isnt Coach Mikie's only goal is to get his spawn a head coaching job. Remember the Lions won all their preseason games and wne t 0-16. Skins go 3-13 and have the worst record. With the #1 pick they select waht's his name the Stanford QB. He opts to go back to school and get his MBA and refuses to play for the Skins. Skins will always be awful with the current owner , the worst owner in professional sports in the soalr system if not the universe.


I was playing golf with a friend on Friday and said that I must be crazy but I think the national magazine pundits __and the fans like you__ have it completely backwards. The Skins look much better in areas that really matter __discipline, crisp execution, enthusiasm__ that they have lacked for much of the last 20 years. I said, "people are saying they are going to win 2-3-4-5 games. I think they may win 7-8-9. My friend said he agreed, but "How tough is their schedule?"

So I studied it. The Skins play 10 (t-e-n) teams that had losing records last year with an average record of 5.6-10.4. And they only play six games with winners who had an averaged record of 10.8-5.2.

At you can find the SRS __simple rating system__ which isn't all that simple! But point differential matters a lot. Looking at their schedule, I'd say that if they are not at all better __hard to believe__ they'd go 6-10 this year. But if they are even a tad better, they jump to 8-8. Getting above that would be tough.

Last year I predicted 6-10 when many thought they'd be better. They were 6-10. This year many think they will be worse than 6-10. I'll be amazed, ex-huge-injuries, if they aren't better.

Hi Tom, Great article the other day about Davey Johnson. I couldn't agree with you more. I hope the last week hasn't changed anything. Now that we're looking to next year, the record matters less. It's fun to see Davey doing things with an eye on next year (ie letting Zimmerman try to pitch out of a jam last week). One other question. Is it time to think about moving on from Ian Desmond? If Lombardozzi can hit when he's called up in September I think it boils down to keeping Desmond vs Espinosa. I'll take Espinosa any day. Finally, I'm holding out hope that they still get an ace in the offseason - Greinke or some one else. I think an ace will help more than a center fielder. Thanks. Pittsburgh Nats fan

Good points. Nothing will be decided with Davey until after the season. The point of my column was that Rizzo __who's the most important person by far in making a managerial decision__ was VERY happy with the job Johnson was doing as of one week ago. Would a losing streak or September collapse change that? "Everything changes everything" __Earl W. It would depend on what caused it and how Davey deals with it.

When things went bad the last few years, Rizzo and Kasten were always in/around the clubhouse to support managers who didn't have big reputations. You can bet Rizzo will let Davey handle the current skid by himself __as he should. I have to say that I think Davey is as good a big-picture thinker __building a roster, developing young players, constructing a lineup__ as you'll find. I'm not as impressed with his in-game decisions so far as I was in the '80's and '90's. I'm still forming my own opinion on how he's doing. 

Desmond is going to be a tough call over the next year or so. Rizzo and Johnson both like him a lot __"wears" a defeat hard and comes by the next day to get even with the game. Lots of energy. Like and semi-coveted by some other teams. I see the 28-29 error pace this year and still think he's got questionable hands for a SS. But his throwing has been wonderful this year __strong and accurate. But he's got to hit like '10 and field like '11 (at least, if not better) to hold the SS job long term because the Nats seem to have so many options with Lombardozzi coming and Rendon perhaps moving to 2nd at some point.

Does Desmond really look like a No. 1 or 2 hitter? Free swinger. That's a problem. Rendon led all of college baseball in on-base percentage. Lombardozzi has a .375 OBP in the minors. But Desmond had #s as good or better than Lombo in the minors.

I agree that the starting rotation is a bigger issue than CF. After Strasburg and Z'mann you have a lot of decent pitchers, but you need a strong No. 3. Lannan's dependable (except against Phils 1-12!). Until we see Peacock and Milone it's all talk and minor-league number projection. Still think adding a big pitcher is Job ! in either this off-season or the next.   

I was away during the trade deadline and I come back a couple of weeks later and see that Bourn and Rasmus were both dealt for middling packages, but not to the Nats! Was Rizzo not that interested in trading for someone like them or am I over-rating them?

As soon as they signed Werth I asked Rizzo if Werth would end up in CF at any point. He said he thought he could play CF for a season or two at some point __maybe '12-'13 or '13-'14. But that only one of many scenarios. I asked Werth about it in Florida. He was open to the idea. But there are so many variables you can't predict. BUT Werth played CF on Saturday. I thought I was nuts for bringing it up as a possibility. Seems its might stillfit somewhere in the plan. Also, you'd hate to spend $126M for a No. 2 hitter. But the Nats desperately need somebody on base.

At any rate, one reason they didn't want to overspend in a trade at the deadline is because they could use Werth in CF (maybe) until Goodwin (just drafted) or someone else is developed. 


Harper is on the 40 man roster. Once the Harrisburg season is complete, would there be any consideration to bringing him up and have him just sit with the MLB team? He wouldn't get in the game, but he could see how mature things are at the major leage level.

Interesting point. Getting a major league contract and being put on the MLB roster was, I believe, a negotiating point when Harper first signed. However, being brought up in September is something you earn. Harper had a very good season. Maybe not great, great, but certainly in line with expectations, especially when you consider he's 18. But I doubt they'd call him up after his hamstring injury, even if it seemed better. I haven't heard it mentioned.

But I see your point about picking up experience. However, he saw these guys in spring training and will again next year. When he comes up, whether it's June 12, Sept 12 or June '13, I doubt he'll go back down.

Sorry he isn't the answer. Nats need someone along the lines of the Pittsburgh Steelers or Tampa Bay Bucs head coaches as replacement. No old retreads.

Important decision. Not an easy or simple one for any manager/coach who's been away for 11 years. But, big picture, Davey has been one of the best (win percentage and brains) since WWII. Don't be too quick to judge.

Reports have it that a few Nats cleared trade waivers this month, including Tom Gorzelanny and CMW. Gorzo is a lefty, and CMW has been effective most of his recent starts. Do you expect the Nats to deal these or other players to contenders at the deadline? Will the Nats try to hold guys like CMW or Laynce Nix even if they are free agents after the season?

The Nats have invested two years and $3M in Wang, so if he continues to pitch solidly you can assume that they very much want to sign him as a free agent. Right now, he looks roughly as good as Jason Marquis was. But his ceiling, if he comes back even stronger (shoulder) next year is much higher than Marquis who's a .500 4.40 ERA guy.

Doubt you could get much for Gorz right now. Besides, he's under team control through '13. You want to keep him because he shouldn't be expensive next year, he gives you depth of inventory at LH SP and he could help in the bullpen. It's nice to have LHP with high K ratios in your system.

Nix is in a number game at 1st/OF with LaRoche back and Gomes in the picture. I haven't looked into that.

Wang is the most interesting by far. However, his 3.82 ERA right now my be a little deceptive. He's had a lot of balls hit right at fielders and very few Ks. Still, he looks pretty good. His FIP (fielder independent pitching) projects an ERA of 4.64. In his Yankee days his actual ERA and FIP were usually about the same (as you'd expect) with ERAs of 3.63 and 3.70 in '06 and '07 vs FIPs of 3.91 and 3.79.

Biggest point with Wang: He seems to be getting gradually better. Getting to see him start six more games should give a clear picture.

Do you find it kind of ironic that the Yankees are complaining about the O's rescheduling a game without their input, when the Yanks did the same thing to the O's earlier this year and are making the Twins fly to NY on Sept 18th, when the Twins are in the middle of a homestand? They have to be the most arrogant team in sports.

Agree. The Yanks rank No. 1 and No. 2 in sports for arrogance. And I'm not sure who is No. 3.

I'd like to share a Flanagan yarn from Canada (you know, that country where the Nationals used to live). In August 1989 Toronto's Kelly Gruber hit a homer, double and triple. His next hit was a double but he was held at first to become the first Blue Jay to hit for the cycle. At a kangaroo court after the game, judge Flanagan imposed a five dollar fine for "stretching a double into a single". He brought a lot of smiles to baseball fans on both sides of the border and we'll miss him greatly.

There are going to be a lot of great memories. And there's going to be  a whole lot of sadness.

Not to bring politics into sports, but Joe West is the George W. Bush of umpires. Incompetent, imperious, and not enough of a man to admit to any mistake. When is MLB going to get serious about reining this guy in?

Forget the politics. Just stick to West. He's the worst. Not in technical terms __calling the plate or the bases. But the worst attitude. Not just the in '11. The worst I've ever seen since getting on the MLB beat in '75. Joe should be proud. That's quite a distinctio. He's looking for trouble and trying to draw attention to himself. If baseball had a commissioner Joe West would be controled. Oh, there is a commissioner.

Boz: Since last season the Skins' O line play is much improved, and their QB decision-making is vastly improved. Which do you think will prove most important this season? Which is most fragile?

The two are so closely linked that you can't evaluate them independent of one another. Without decent protection, no QB can make good decisions __because they are on their backs seeing stars, not Xs and Os.

Sometimes in various sports you see "market inefficiencies" that can be exploited by a smart coach who sees a way to get great value out of players who are not in much demand from other teams. For Shanahan, one key is "zone blocking." Perhaps nobody believes in it to the degree Shanny does __smaller, quicker linemen who can run the stretch play. For years it was thought that it was a concept that worked best in the high altitude of Denver where the smaller O-line survived better. In other words, not really a great idea, just a fluke. Well, we'll see. It doesn't look like a fluke right now with more linemen like Montgomery and Brown than names like Trent Williams.

I watched the Ravens-Skins tape again in slo-mo to watch the line play. They're in sync on most plays. But you can storm them and bulldoze them. That's true of any team, but a bit more with the Skins maybe. And neither Beck nor Grossman has the stature or strength of Campbell or McNabb to rip away from blitzers in the pocket and make a play out of nothing.

Result: A lot of teams will feel they have to bring the house to keep Beck/Grossman from picking them apart with long drives build on a much better running game and short-medium passing. When the defense gambles, we'll see what the trades offs turn out to be. Can Beck/grossman make them pay other enough. Are they __even both of them combined__ going to survive into December if they see tons of pressure.

The System believers will tell you that you can make the D pay a big enough price to make them pick their spots, not just stampede you.

Beck and Grossman are so close I have no idea which Shanny will start. But I'll guess Beck. If you start Grossman and he does pretty well __wins you 6-7-8 games, then when do you ever get to find out if Beck is as good as Mike and Kyle think he is? But if you start Beck, you get some answers about him and, if necessary, you turrn to Grossman, a much more "known quantity," including his three starts in this system last year.

Why did the Nats bring up Marrero on August 27th? Why wouldn't they wait until September 1 when the rosters expand? Who else do you want to see come to the Nats on Thursday? Strasburg (obviously), Peacock, Bernadina...

After his line in Syracuse on Friday nite __5-2-1-1-0-7__ I'm as anxious/happy to see Strasburg as everybody else. He may be like Zimmermann last year __one fine game then one ugly no-command game. Or he may surprise us/me by just being Strasburg immediately.

I want to see Marrero (although that E3 on his first play was a scary start!) who's gone 3-for-8 so far. It looks like Peacock OR Milone will come up (40-man roster issues). I guess they should bring up Milone. OK, there's no doubt at all they should bring up Milone. He's been excellent at every level and has EARNED it. In 85 starts in the minors, he's 36-22 with a 3.08 ERA. This year in 143.1 innings at AAA __you know, the league just below the majors__ he's had 149 strikeouts and only 14 walks.

But he throws about as hard as Lannan did when he first came up. Peacock throws much harder, but, after being drafted like No. 1,251st, he didn't really start to blossom until '10 and then much more this year. Milone, 24, is a bit older. Give him his chance first.

Rizzo muttered about his concerns with exposing somebody they didn't want to lose (off the 40-man) if they brough Lombardozzi up. So, you may not see him. I WANT to see him, that's for sure.

I was watching the Angels-Rangers game last night and up came Endy Chavez of the Rangers, hitting .313, another Nats center field castoff. Along with Niger Morgan of Milwaukee, both are playing well for first place teams. Do the Nats have a blind spot for this position? I hope they stick with Rick Ankiel who is now hitting better because he is healthy and made, according to the Nats announcer, one of the best outfield throws he had ever seen in nailing that Cincinnati Red player at third yesterday.

Ankiel throw was amazing. But he was 30 feet inside the RF wall and had his full momentum behind the throw when he released it. That's why it arrived on a farily low line (!!!). However, I saw Harper in Bowie this summer make the SAME throw __from LF back to 1st base to try to double off a runner after a great catch. But Harper had crashed into the wall and threw the ball 30 feet further than Ankiel with no momentum. Just bounced off the wall and hurled it. It landed 4 feet short of 1st base on a perfect line. The 1st baseman was handcuiffed by the hop and bobbled it. So, that's what Harper has for an arm. The arc of his throw was higher than Ankiel's.

Speaking of ex-Nats, not just Chavez, Morgan and Joel Hanrahan (one of the best closers in MLB for the Pirates). But look at Josh Willingham. Nats (Riz) thought his back wouldn't hold up. Loved his attitude. But thought he'd probably break down.

Well, Willingham has missed about 23 games, but he's also hit 23 homers and driven in 79 runs with an .813 OPS in a ballpark with huge foul territory that kills hitters. Way to go, Josh, good guy. Last year in 450 plate appearances for Nats, he had 16 homers, 56 RBI and .848 OPS. This year, he already has 447 plate appearances with those 23 homers and 79 RBI.

Yes, the Nats may end up getting Henry Rodriguez (who has value) for a 30-100 outfielder.

Who''d have dreamed, with hindsight, that the Nats already had two corner outfielders who would have big seasons __Willingaham and Morse__ who'd have much better years than Werth.

But it's early. Just wait six more year! (Ouch.)

Very sad but also very gratifying to read and listen to all the tributes to Mike Flanagan. People who do this presumably think they are doing the right thing, but they leave behind so much grief and heartache. Watching Jim Palmer crying on televison was almost too much to bear.

I've heard from a lot of people who know more about suicides, depression, etc., than I do. It's convinced me to keep my policy (in my column last week) of trying not to 'mind read' and pretend I have any real idea what was behind this.

Flanny and I have had a couple of serious talks, one 20 years ago near the end of his career and one a couple of years ago, about things that were bothering him to a degree. But NOTHING on this scale. I never saw this, or anything like it, coming. Like so many people, it really shook me up. 

(I will say one thing: Those who think this can be attributed to the Orioles W-L record in recent times are too waaaay off base. Flanny loved the Orioles. But he wasn't unbalanced about it. Now THAT we have talked plenty about. For example, he would have been willing to work for teams other teams. BTW, players who were drafted when he was half of the GM teams include: Weiters, Britton, Arietta, Matusz, Berken and Reimold.

The national media have ranked the 'skins as the worst team in the NFL in the upcoming season. Some forecasters have the Redskins losing back to back games to the Bills and Panthers who were pathetic last year, but they have the 'skins winning either 2 or 3 games during the season. If they cannot beat the Bills and Panthers, whom can they beat? I personally think that Shanahan and Allen have upgraded the 'skins in many positions, but the loss of the rookie Jenkins will definitely hurt. Any projections for the 'skins record in 2011?

The conventional answer __if you think, as I do, that the Skins are better this year__ is that their best chances towin are Arizona, @Rams, @Carolina, @Buffalo, SF, Dallas (home), @Seattle __those are all in the first 11 games. The schedule gets tough late, but they certainly have a chance to raise some hell early. Also, they'd stack up well against Minny (McNabb!?) on Xmas Eve.

Injuries can stop any team and definitely this one. But a 'little interest' season (except for us DC Skins nuts) has turned into Probably Quite Interesting.

But 7-9 or 8-8 doesn't bring you any Luck.

The Redskins looked good against a very good Ravens team last week, and just as they were ready to really run up the score the referees stepped in and gave the ball back to the Ravens twice, allowing the Ravens to stay close, until their scrubbs scored in the closing seconds to win the game. Back when George Allen, Jack Pardee, and Joe Gibbs I were the Redskins coaches, I felt that the 'skins had to beat both the other team and the refs if they wanted to win, especially when they played the Cowpokes. I wish the TV folks would show replays of these so called penalties, especially when the call totally changes the flow of the game.

The Skins are one of the most popular, rich teams in the NFL. Trust me, they have NOT gotten the shaft from the zebras over the last 40 years! Glamor teams, even when they are in long slumps __Okay, very, very long slumps__ still don't have to worry about such sunconscious factors influencing their fate. One Vinnie is worth 1,000 bad calls. 

Pudge, Ramos, and Flores. Going into 2012, that seems like one catcher too many. A good problem to have, but what will the Nats do about it?

Ramos is a solid long-term starter. But he has to stop doing things like swinging at a 3-0 pitch (and flying out) late in a game with the Nats four runs down. You used to get benched for that.

Flores looks like a decent backup. But I'd much prefer Pudge return for '12 __if the price isn't silly__ because he's so good with young pitchers' confidence __Stras, Z',mann and Peacock, Milone if they arrive.

SS said that he thought it would be easier to pitch to higher level players because they had an approach when they came to the plate, vs. the lower level players, who just came up hacking. Could you elaborate on that? I know I'm missing something, but if the "just hacking" approach works, why would ML player do something similar? Regarding Davey's ejection, I'm reminded of the great Charlie Slowes quote: "It's Joe West's world; we're just living in it."

Sorry, "just go up and hack" doesn't work against 98 mph fastball, great curve and best changeup __when they are in decent spots. IMO, SS got some pitches over the plate and some kids got lucky in Hagerstown.

Or maybe Hagerstown is the only place in earth where Strasburg is hittable. His ERA there is 9.95 in three starts. Everywhere else in the minors combined, it's under 2.00!

I originally thought the Birds were being unfair to the Yankees but then I read that New York has put others teams in more difficult positions and that there were a number of alternatives that New York said no to as well. I also think that New York is a big draw and a money maker for the hosting team, so there is a lot of money for Baltimore in the balance. These are all new issues for me and I was wondering what your opinion is. Thanks.

The Orioles very seldom get annoyed by things like this. I assume they are right. If Buck says it was "disrespectful," I suspect it was.

Whenever the Yankees do NOT want to play is the time that I would prefer.

Harrisburg is a lock to be in the Eastern League Playoffs. Harper has stated that he would like to come back and play for Harrisburg. Any word on how the NATS feel about that?

Hadn't heard that. Interesting. I'll look into for next week. Harper loves to play. And, even with a good last 10 days in AA, he didn't put up impressive numbers. He probably wants to improve that to boost the whole tone of his season and pace of his advancement. Don't blame him. Nats should do whatever they'd do with any other good AA player, but not invent new Bryce rules. But it's nice that he's 18 and he just can't get enough baseball. Guess the long season didn't wear him down!

A few weeks back you wrote that Boras's clients often out perform the average. You seemed to think that this was because Boras's methods of selecting clients were so good. Does he actually turn down anyone who walks in the door, assuming they have MLB talent?

He's selective. Probably very selective because you don't want the reputation that you are spread too thin to give good service. However, I find it interesting that, despite his huge rep, he doesn't just represent stars. Alberto Gonzalez (for one) was a client. Also, Jesus Flores, I believe. Pretty soon, the Nats are going to need a 40-man roster just for Boras clients.

Nyjer Morgan and Endy Chavez are playing pretty well for their respective teams -- but in part time roles. Chavez is hitting .307 in 220 plate appearances. Morgan .305 and dropping as he's playing more. The key is that they play for stable contenders in a manageable role. Much more was or would have been required of them with the Nationals - Morgan collapses when more is asked of him. And enough looking backwards, the team is in desperate need of someone who can be a steady lead-off man for the future.


There's no rule the Nats couldn't have used Morgan in such a role. What's broken him out is that the Brewers have told him to forget walks and steals! Since he almost only faces RH pitchers, they want him to be aggressive, swing the bat and with some power. He's slugging .432 __surprising for a 'slap hitter.'

But it would have been hard for him to go into the role with the Nats after he'd owned the whole job in CF. That's part of why "change of scenery" works. New town, new job description and a willingness to adapt to survive.


So at what point will the Nats announce Strasburg's second first start in the majors? Soon, no? They gotta have time to sell the tickets!

When they are sure it won't blow up in their faces and cause them a bunch of unnecessary grief. Folks, this is all happening on a standard rehab sked. It's not a conspiracy. Look at their sked for yourselves. He'll havee five starts, as it now appears. In almost every scenario, three would be at home and two on the road. If it turns out that the first three are all at home __the 6th, 11th and 16th__ that's an accident. Then  he'd pitch on the road the 21st and 26th.

Lotta permutations. If they DON'T get him three starts at home, they are throwing away money and, from a fans point of view, giving less chances to welcome him back.

As I've said, one rainout changes it all. Buyer beware.

A fun end of the season with the other guy first rounders coming along. Ross Detwiler seems to be putting it together. If Detwiler continues to perform well, does he get packaged for a new CF? Is he over the problem of being solved by opposing hitters 2nd time through or so?

Detwiler has been encouraging, but too soon yet. Sorry to be a wset blanket but his FIP (4.21) is out of whack with his ERA (2.86). But he looks better to me than he has before. More aggressive. He's out of options next year I believe, so this is the make-it-or-break-it time for him and the Nats in '12. I think he will, and should be, given a big shot to make the rotation. Not many LHers with arms that good. Somebody give that guy a chocolate milkshake about five times a day, please.

So what's with the wide variety of media opinions on the Skins this year? Athlon has them as the worst team in the NFC. Others are saying that they'll win two or three. But the MNF guys all picked the over for the Redskins winning six games -- a couple of them, way over. I understand that opinions are like, well, you know ... but usually there's a pretty good consensus. With this year's Redskins, there's not.

Everybody wants to spot the latest thing. And the Skins have played very well against three good teams so far. Yes, I know __no Payton, one series for Big ben, etc.

Also, Shanahan is a strong taste that doesn't appeal to all. So opinion on him is divided. Some would like to see him fail: See, see, it was all Elway. Shanny's a football X-and-O fanatic and some think he believes he invented football. I kind of LIKE guys who think they invented their sport!

Baseball strategy question for you: Bottom of the 10th, runners on first and second, nobody out. Tie game. Batter at the plate is oh-fer, with three Ks, two looking. What do you do?

If, as I seem to recall, it's Jayson Werth in the last home let him hit?

Heh, heh, love loaded questions.

Do you see an way that the home team would let Torrain go in favor of Helu and Royster? He is injured a lot and these guys are younger and can do what he does if not better in time. I just see us letting one go and then they blossom somewhere else. While Torrain is not gonna be any more than what he already is: servicable, injury prone, and absent for parts of the season.

Please, don't spell as badly as I do __and did last week. It's Torain. When he's good, he's very very good __742 yards with a 4.5 average last year and only 2 fumbles.

I really enjoy Tim Hightower. Is he really a fumbler? I looked up the numbers. In Arizona, he had a net -11 on fumbles __he fumbled 12 times, recovered one fumble. That doesn't mean the Cards lost the ball all 11 times. But it does mean that Hightower put it on the ground that often __in a total of 557 rushes plus catches. Or about one net-negative fumble per 50 touches.

I checked Clinton Portis. In seven years as a Redskins he was a net -10 on fumbles (18 fumbles, 8 recovered fumbles) in a total of 1,667 rushes and 176 receptions. So, Portis was a net-negative fumble once in each 184.3 touches.

I hope that's wrong and Highhtower isn't really three times as likely to fumble (and not recover a fumble) as Portis. He's conscious of it. He's had five fumbles each of the last two years in about 145 carries. Believe it or not, that's quite a few. The Skins have had recent years with one fumble by all their running backs combined.

Just be glad they have both Hightower and Torain and Helu looks promising. 

They may be close to a .500 team, but their last five games are tough: Jets, Patriots, at Giants, Vikings, and at Philadelphia. They will need to load up on wins early because they could lose each of those last five.

Absolutely. They need to be .500 or better early because it's going to be tough late. And, of course, a fast start builds momentum and morale. A poor starts makes you look at December and say, "6-10, here we come again." 

Boz, Did you notice the splendid silence from the PA in Syracuse during Strasburg's rehab start? Just old-school announcing of the hitters, and the Chiefs fans being left to start their own cheering and two-strike claps. Would that the Nats take notice and make their own games more like going to Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium... we saw it last year whenever Strasburg started... we Nats fans are knowledgeable enough to know what to do without all the PA noise during an at-bat.

I was __and remain__ "without power" during the Strasburg game. I expect BG&E will be as swift as normal in my neighborhood, which means that, by next week, I should be chatting in my own house. Maybe.

Glad Irene was no worse than she was. But, man, that was a scary sounding 18 hours. Good luck to all with cleanup and hope that those falling trees stayed away from you and yours.

I have heard almost nothing about the basketball strike and what seems to be the very real possibility of not having a season this year. When the football strike was on, everyone was up in arms. Is it because we have such a lousy basketball team? Or is it because people have come to realize that professional basketball players are the most arrogant, overpaid athletes in all of sports and just don't care anymore?

None of the above.

You don't hear anything because everybody knows there isn't going to be a '11-'12 NBA season so why waste time talking/writing about it. That's the way the NBA owners have planned it. They think that's best long term. At the very least, they want everybody __including the players__ to THINK it is going to be a very long strike.

When the NBA decides to get serious, then we can pay attention. But, with all the multitude of awful teams in that league who have no chance to contend, big changes are coming before we see another NBA game.

Reading the columns that came pouring in from around the country after Flanagan's death reminded me of the awesome talent that has at some point covered the O's: Richard Justice, Tim Kirkjian, Buster Olney. A great column from Peter Gammons as well. But, as my Dad and I said to each other that day, "We're waiting for Bos." Thanks for the great piece on Flanny.

Don't forget Dan Shaunessey, now of the Boston Globe and Ken Rosenthal. The Baltimore Sun brought 'em in to run up against the Post one after another. It was a lot of fun. For almost 30 years, we killed 'em  (or we stole 'em, like Richard.) Hey, that's our story and we're sticking to it.

BTW, Riupken would invite Kirkjian over to play in his pick-up basketball games with some top talents __ex-college standouts, Wiz/Bullet bench guys . Cal would pretend Tim was just there for an interview or something. Then he'd say, "Oh, well, I'll take the guy who's left over __Kirkjian." Then Tim would torch poor Al Bumbry or somebody who was all-state in high school for 30 points and feed Cal all day. Tim was the all-time ringer. Wish I could have seen it in person. Unstoppable penetrator and outside shooter, I'm told. But never by Kirkjian who is as modest as he seems. Of all the ESPN guys who look __on camera__ like they just got out of a gym, I suspect Kirkjian was actually as good, or maybe a better athlete than any of them.

So what do you think of Strasburg and his potential to return to the majors soon. What should we expect to see from him? BTW I took my 11 year old son to several of his rehab starts one in Prince William (Potomac Nats) two games in Hagerstown (Suns). We even got Stephen to sign my son's sweaty ball cap which he will treasure forever.

My guess: Good this year with flashes like Friday in Syracuse (first 15 hitters went out, almost no solid contact), but I wouldn't be surprised if a poor start or two gets people to fretting about a +4.00 ERA. See: Jordan Z in '10. Next year, he'll almost certainly be wonderful again. Will he be 90-some-% of '10 or 100% of '10 or 102%? I think he'll throw more two-seamers, try to be more pitch efficient in '12.  JMO.

Then we can all start crossing our fingers about how many years he'll stay healthy. He is a talent and a person you hope has a long run, for the sake of the game and for him.

Thanks for all the great questions. I guess YOU folks have power! See you next week when __gosh__ it may be Strasmas Eve.


Where did I say I thought it was a conspiracy? All I asked was when they'd announce it. Will they wait til after his next rehab start, or will they likely announce it before that? You seem to read things into questions sometimes just as an excuse to go off.

Sorry about that. Innocent question.

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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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