Ask Boswell: All things Washington sports

Aug 13, 2012

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

Past Ask Boswell chats

Boz - welcome back! Like many who have been on the Nats bandwagon for a few years now, until just recently I found myself preconditioned to look ahead to next season and beyond. No more. I'm not wasting another minute contemplating what prospect might be big-league ready next year, or what trade chips we should cash in to get some coveted position player. This ride is too sweet to enjoy anything other than the present. Question: Werth/Morse/Desmond/Tracy/Storen have all missed significant time and should therefore still be fresh as September approaches. Could their injuries be the "silver lining" that propels this team deep into the playoffs?

First, it's great to be back. The next 80 days through the end of the World Series and the first half of the Redskins season will be crazy, but great crazy.

Lots to get to today.

Rory McIlroy really is The Next One. That's cast in stone now after the 8-shoit win at the PGA . Tiger, it appears, has learned to choke on the weekend in majors, which shocks me __I suspected other problems, but not that one. He'll have to unlearn it just like a young/great player.

The Olympics was a blast but I'm not going to comment on it much except to praise our coverage. The Brits really pulled it off. But if you don't do the suffering __and after covering about 8 Olympics I promise you it's a brutal three weeks, in part because you have to learn about 10 sports__ I don't think you should run your mouth too much about your view from an ocean away.

Looks like the Orioles have found their Bryce Harper in Manny Machado who has three homers in his first four games. On Friday night, he hit two homers that were caught by the SAME fan. Will he stay hot and help the O's reach the playoffs. It took the league more than 40 games to get a book on Harper and slow him down. If it's the same with Machado, the season will be almost over before they get a fix on him.

But lets start with the Nats.

Yes, their injuries will turn out to be their silver lining. All the players you name should be fresher than normal in October. Also, Zimmerman spent 15 days on the DL and missed the 4-day All-Star break, so he shouldn't be too worn out. Equally important, MANY Nats have flourished in larger roles and should feel very comfortable and confident back in lesser roles in Sept-Oct: the whole bullpen, Tyler Moore, Lombardozzi, Flores now back at backup catcher.

The only thing working against the Nats is the Strasburg Shutdown __which is wise, but painful. However, it should take a lot of pressure off the team __and put it on Rizzo. If they "fail" at some point, Riz will take a lot of the heat. So, the 25 who are left should be able to free-wheel it. Hey, they're not to "blame."

When we talked last 3 weeks ago, the Nats have a 3 1/2 game lead over the Braves in the N.L. East. Now it is 4 1/2 games. So nothing much has changed there. BUT by going 18-5 in their last 23 games, they have virtually clinched a playoff spot. Those stats you see that the Nats have a 97.7% chance of making the playoffs are correct. They are close to a lock because 88 wins will probably be enough.

However, their job is to aim much higher and win the N.L. East against a very worthy foe in the Braves.

Did anyone else notice the lack of television and coaches' timeouts in the final eight minutes of the game yesterday? Yes, I know that with the big money from television advertisers, the NCAA and NBA will never go back to the way things were, but I loved the way the game kept moving yesterday. No "under 4 minute TV-timeout." No coaching T.O. on every made basket. It let the players play the game.

The only "big story" in the Olympics that I didn't follow was Dream Team II. After they beat Nigeria by 83 points and didn't stop shooting 3's __make 87 points on treys__ I didn't feel like having much to do with them. Yes, I heard all Coach K's lame excuses for bad sportsmanship. But, of course, he missed the main point. What is there about "STOP SHOOTING 3's" that he doesn't understand? If you are really the coach __with authority__ and you know you are representing the USA, you should simply tell your team, "They are packing it inside to force us to shoot 3s. But we're 40 points ahead already. We're not shooting 'em any more. Figure out another way." 

Boz, The difference between an okay team and a truly good (or excellent team) is the ability to not play down to the competition, and to beat bad teams when they should. Well - a 9-2 stretch vs. the given-up Marlins, the AAA Astros, and an underachieving Diamondbacks team would qualify, wouldn't it? And the credit really has to go to the hitting! The pitching has remained excellent of course (though with rough patches throughout the rotation during those three series), but having Zim, Morse, and LaRoche 3-4-5 and mashing really changes the complexion of the lineup. Unrelatedly, but: the Nats are really never gonna hear the end of the shut-Stras-down second-guessing unless they sweet the World Series, are they?

As I've often said, you make your season with two or three winning streaks where you go +10. The  Nats now have a 14-4 streak in spring and a 16-4 thru Saturday nite's win. The other key is to avoid the -10 streak. They have. But what's amazing is if the Nats now went on an 0-11 streak, starting Sunday, then won their next game to end the slump, they'd be 72-54. If they played 16-20 ball after that, they'd still be 88-74 and probably be a wildcard. That's NOT the goal. But if shows how important their good play against bad-to-mediocre teams has been. They've almost taken the Total Disaster scenario __miss the playoffs entirely__ off the table.

I do want to intruduce a note of sanity in the current Nats enthusiasm. What is it WORTH to have the best record in the N.L. after play on August 12th? I looked back on the last 10 years. Only ONE N.L. team in the Nats current position went on to reach the World Series and NONE won it. The post-season format is, as everybody says, a crapshoot. The 10 A.L. teams that led their whole league on 8/12 did better __4 went to the Series and three won it. Still, for all 20 teams in the Nats current spot, only 3 won the Series and only 5 (25% went). And three of them faded so badly that __under the current four-wildcard setup__ they would have made the post-season as the FINAL WC. That inherent capriciousness in October baseball is another reason that the "Go For It" folks who want Strasburg to pitch 240 IPs this year (after 44 last year) aren't being very sensible.  

However, there's another side of the coin. Being without Strasburg is an true negative, but not an unmitigated negative. At one level, it's a nice break, too. It’s almost a law that all conspicuous teams or performers have to have a “controversy” __while it’s real or not__ attached to them. If one doesn’t exist, it will be invented.

For the next few weeks, the dopes __sorry, the truth tellers__ can focus on what, to the Nats front office, is a non-issue. Now the Nats players themselves are going to have mixed feelings about being without Strasburg. They won't "like it."QWhat's to like? But they saw how the team treated Jordan Zimmermann’s recovery last year. It worked spectacularly. It was best for Zimmermann and best for the teams. The results are on view every five days. Ballplayers know that the best available decision in a game doesn’t insure a favorable outcome. You can send up the right pinch hitter and he strikes out. But you still send up the proper guy. You do it the right way __according to your best-estimate view of what the right way is__ then you live with it. 

     The last thing a new-face team needs in September is accurate criticism. You could ask why the Nats can’t stop the running game even with a catcher in Kuert Suzuki who was one of the best right up until the day he had to cope with the jumps that Nat pitchers allowed. Or we could have a rush-and-ruin debate about Bryce Harper. The Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman could be measured, every millisecond, by their $125-million deals.

     Now, none of that will happen. Or is will happen at much lower decibel levels. Even after Strasburg has stopped pitching, the critics will keep talking about it every time the Nats lose. It’s unlikely to bother the Nats. It will probably just annoy them __in a good we’ll-show-‘em way. It’s a potential pressure reducer. Every time someone says, “Oh, woe, what could they have done with Strasburg?” the Nats have the choice to think, “Yeah, well, maybe we’ll show you what we can do with the 25 we have.” Will they respond that way? We'll see.

      The dream late-season pressure scenario for a baseball team is to have the manager or, in this case, the general manager, pre-selected as the target of criticism for any failure, rather than the players themselves. If the Nats lose, it’ll be Rizzo’s fault, well, sort of. If they win the division or play for the pennant or even get to the Series, they’ll get even more credit because there was no Strasburg.

If they lose Game Seven of the Series, Rizzo will just have to live with it, as he accepts his Executive of the Year award.

Everybody will have their own response. There is no "correct" set of feelings on something as basic as the first Excellent Baseball Team in Washington since the '30's. I plan to enjoy it. Be critical and analytical, but in the context of the town having a fresh and extremely positive experience.

Hi Mr. Boswell. Whats the deal with Angel Hernandez? As umpires go he is the pits of the world. How does he keep his job? I think he and maybe some other umps have it in for Bryce.

I've expressed myself on Hernandez before. I think, in the past, he's carried grudges. He's been aggressive in getting in players faces. Does he now? He sure had a "bad night" after Harper showed him up. (The MLB.TV guys are crazy. Harper didn't "do it the right way" __NOT FOR A 19--YEAR-OLD. There is no "right way" for a teenager to bark at a veteran ump and keep barking. It's lose-lose-lose.)

There will always be umps that a team or player perceive to be "bad." Some will actually be bad. But it's a CORE part of the game. Ted Williams knew he had better eyes and a better sense of the strike zone than the umpires. So he NEVER argued with an ump and was proud of it. Not even when he was 20. If this policy was good enough for Teddy Ballgame, it's good enough for Harper. Umps, in time, learned the strike zone by studying what Williams thought was the strike zone! If I remember correctly, there's even a one-liner about an ump, after saying "Ball," telling a catcher, "When it's a strike, Mr. Williams will tell you it's a strike."

Nobody has ever been bigger than the game. Certainly Harper isn't. Tough sport. And a tough sport where self-control is essential. Harper has almost all the right instincts for the game, it seems to me. And I think he'll learn how to deal with umps __including bad umps or umps having a bad night.

Welcome back, Boz. This question will seem a bit late, but what info do you have regarding the trade for Kurt Suzuki? I read that the team wasn't happy with Flores because the deviated from game plans. What does that mean? I had always thought that other teams' batting averages were lower when Flores caught because he called a good game. But now I definitely get the feeling that this trade means Flores won't be back next year. So what happened here?

Flores just wore down from playing everyday. His bat died. He and his pitchers couldn't stop the running game. BUT, until he wore down, Flores looked like a fine backup catcher for '13 behind (presumably) Wilson Ramos.

So, when the Nats got a chance to grab an actual starting-quality defensive catcher in Suzuki __who'd proved he had full-season stamina__ they grabbed him..for this year AND nexy year. It's similar to the target-of-opportunity when they grabbed Edwin Jackson for one yr for $11M. It's actually low risk. In MLB, you have to understand that wasting $10M doesn't kill you; and if he keeps hitting .210, Suzuki may be an anchor eventually. But making bad $100M deals does kill you for years. The Lerners seem to have recognized the (big) distinction.

As for Flores future, it's complicated. Suzuki was a 14-homer .260-hitting near-All--Star catcher for three years. If he gets back to that, he's a big plus. If he never hits well again, plenty of teams have prospered w cacth-and-throw backstops. So, he's great insurance if Ramos takes a long time to recover, I'm not even going to type it after all the hard luck the guy has had. I think he'll make it back. 

Overview: The Nats are very deep at catcher in the minors. Flores is eligible for arbitration next year. So, relative to what he showed this year, he might be expensive. If you have Suzuki, Ramos, Flores, Leon and Solano, where does everybody stand?

If Flores plays well as a backup and hits better/throws better when he's fairly fresh, then his value increases. If he doesn't, then like all players, he makes the team's decision for them.     

Welcome back! With Bryce struggling so badly, do you think Davey goes Left/Right platoon with Moore the rest of the way? Will he even consider it?

I just said that this a.m. to our sports editor. As a question.

Moore has actually hit a bit better vs RHers. I don't think you platoon. Just as you sacrifice some up-side in '12 by protecting Strasburg's arm, I think you also sacrifice some upside this year for the sake of keeping Harper's enormous self-confidence intact. One is an obviopus issue, the other is more subtle __but important, as Davey knows.

What we've seen the last few days __give Harper a bit of rest, but don't platoon__ is correct. I think it's clear, no matter what anybody with the nats says__ that Harper has been worn down BY EVERYTHING. Not just playing in MLB but all the attention, All-Star game, controversies with Hamels and Ozzie Guillen and the two smash-a-bat episodes. Last year, he says he lost some weight and strength as the year wore on. Not a lot. But enough that he wanted to figure out how to avoid it in futiure. Looks like some of the same is happning now. 

Mantlke was sent back to the minors in mid-season when he was a rookie. And Willie Mays didn't start every game for Leo Durocher when he was a rookie. A day off once in a while shouldn't be hard for a 19-year-old to accept. 

Of course, as soon as/if Harper gets hot again __and all players are streaky__ this discussion will change!


Tom -- Hope this isn't unduly repetitive, but regarding Strasburg's "inning limitation", what's your view on its implementation this season? I understand the original purpose, I guess, but given the fact that this looks very much like the "lightening caught in a bottle" season for the Nats, that they could very well go all the way, and that it could be many years -- if ever -- before they get back in this position, shouldn't the Nats reevasluate how they handle Strasburg? Medical opinions allowing, of course, but there are varying levels of conservatism there, I imagine. Just askin'....

There isn't a team in baseball with a better-looking future for the next five years than the Nats. This isn't a lightning in a bottle season. Or at least I can't find anybody in baseball who thinks it is. It's the beginning of a period of consistent contention for the Nats __most likely. Nothing is certain. But it's close to certain.

This is a "teaching moment" and I think the Nats are teaching the right things. You build __in business or in sports__ by following "best practices" as you understand them and thinking long term. Because Washington baseball has been bad for a long time there is a misunderstanding that the future must be similar. It doesn't. Baseball history is FULL of teams that were bad, then got good and STAYED good for 10-to-25 years. (Excluding the Yanks, a $pecialCa$e.)

The Lerners have, literally and figuratively, always been sound long-term BUILDERS. That's what they are doing now. If Ted Lerner can be patient in his 80's for the sake of creating a franchise that will bring pleasure to his home town for many years, you'd think that the Nats fan base, which probably averages less than HALF his age, could show patience, too. 

Boz, man the Nats look loaded now that Werth is back and Desi will be coming back soon. This offense looks loaded and the bench has 2-3 guys who would be starting on other teams. Now I see what Rizz was so excited about. I guess the only hole in the lineup depends on whether Harper pulls out of his slump. What do you think?

I think Rizzo and Johnson saw all of this very clearly because they are two of the best talent evaluators in the business. But I don't think it was that hard to see. I've taken needling over the last couple of years from colleagues who didn't see what I saw. I suspect the Nats talent is still being underestimated.

Bobby Cox told me his last year managing that I was reading Detwiler wrong and that he'd be very good. Now, he's 13th in the N.L. in ERA, 13th in WHIP, 11th (!) in OPS-against and 13th in pitch. I've thought Espinosa would be an excellent player, not just a good one, and still do. There's is no element of "fluke" in Morse. He's a big-time middle-of-the-order power hitter. He'll always K, but he hits the ball so hard that his Babip and batting avearge will always be higher than expected. Werth will have the last word with his critics, especially now that he can be one-of-many in the center fo the lineup. I don't think that the crowd that believes Strasburg-is-doomed-to-arm-injury-because-of-his-delivery is correct. Will he be this good for 3,000 IP? I have no idea. But if he has an elite career for less than 1000-1200 IP, I'll be surprised. As for Harper, any teenager who has a .750 OPS at 19 is going to finish in the Top 10 in MVP voting more than once in his career; that may be the very low end of outcomes.

Enjoy it. The Nats are not a GREAT team. You have to prove that and prove it over severral seasons, not one. But what you are watchin g now is not a mirage.

Look at the top level decisions being made by the Phils, Marlins and Mets. Read between the lines. They are all "saying" that it may take 2 or 3 years before they can reconfigure themselves to compete with the Nats. There's a column just in those decisions. Trade Hanley Ramirez __for next to nothing! Trade Hunter Pence for much less than you gave away in prospects just 1 year before to get him! TRY to trade Cliff Lee! Beg for somebody to take Johan Santana off your hands in trade! On and on.  The Nats and Braves, or Braves and Nats, are seen as the cream of the N.L. East by THE REST OF the N.L. East. That's hard to believe. But actions speak louder than words. 


I keep waiting for the Yankees to fold, because of their pitching, but they are still winning. What is happening? Is it their division, or do they just have too good a lineup?

Evil is not always punished.



Tom, You have written extensively and informitively on the Strasburg innings limit issue. You have stated clearly that for you, and apparently the team, that there is no question. . .there is no choice. . .this is a medical decision and it doesn't matter if the innings limit comes in the ninth inning of a perfect game in game 7 of the World Series, at 160 he must stop pitching. You have editorialized that there can be no reasonable disagreement on this issue and that those who do so are. . .I think you called dissenters nincompoops. . .or some other such name. So to my question. . .why do I hear many very knowledgeable and experienced baseball minds, former players, managers and GMs alike expressing the nincompoop opinion? Do you really think they are all nincompoops? Do you really think they take that opinion just for shock value and to give themselves something to talk about? In the interest of full disclosure, I too am a nincompoop! One of the few in the echo chamber of the Nats chattering classes I find. . .but I firmly believe IF Strasburg is our best option to win this year AND he wants to take whatever medical risk it incurs, that he should pitch past his 160 innings limit. There is just no guarantee we will ever be this good again. . .or he could get hurt in some other way. Apply the resources you have to achieve your mission. The Nats mission is to win. Do you see ANY room for the innings limit to change?

There is no subject up for public discussion in this country __no matter how obvious__ that doesn't not have a well-reasoned and completely wrong group of nincompoops who'll take the opposite side.

One of my biggest weaknesses __it's a long list__ is that I'm not a "natural columnist" who has lots of VERY strong opinions. And almost no doubts about those opinions __including the ones that are nuts. I'm a reasonable, see-both-sides, try-to-be-fair person by nature __God, how boring. But I'm dead flat certain that I'm right on this one. (Which doesn't mean I'm not wrong.) Yeah, yeah, I'm sure I'll return to the subject.

As for the Nats winning the '12 World Series WITH Strasburg, I'll refer to the immortal words of Cowboys running back Duane Thomas when asked on national TV how it felt to win the "ultimate game" (the Super Bowl). Thomas said (haven't looked up the exact quote): "If it's the 'ultimate game,' how come they play it again next year?"



Tom, Welcome back from vacation. It was really impressive that Rory was able to turn in another great performance (8 shots!) in a major especially after being so non-competitive since March. Maybe this will be his MO for years to come: fly under the radar and then win a major by eight. Incidently, Tiger will be 37 at next year's Master's. Jack was 38 when he won his 15th major. The career trajectories are very similar.

Nice poitns. I certainly agree.

Just 14 months ago at Congressional everybody “knew” that McIlroy was the next Seve, Tiger or Jack. Be sure to put Seve in there because he was great when very young and great for his whole career __but never won anywhere near 14 or 18 majors.

      Then, after a brief (in retrospect) slump this summer by Rory, plenty of people wondered if they’d jumped the gun. “Rory’s in love but it sure ain’t helping’ his game” stories appeared. Would he have a career detour? Nope. Now, on Saturday and Sunday, McIlroy has underlined that he really is: The Next One.

       Maybe his modus operandi will be the runaway. But his putting on Sunday was as good as I’ve ever seen in a major by Nicklaus, Watson or Woods __who were all otherworldly at times. Will he be consistent or more hot-and-cold? We’ll see. Can he win 10 majors? He’s only 23. I’ll say, “Yes.” Can he catch Nicklaus? We all went down that road with Tiger. And we found out just how amazingly LOOOOO NG that road actually is. Jack’s 18 is looking more special, not less. And his ability to manage himself throughout a whole lifetime probably surpasses his golf.      



I read the excellent analyses by Jayson Stark and Jeff Passan on the Stras shutdown issue and remain convinced that Rizzo is doing the most prudent thing by limiting SS's innings this year. But I'm less convinced that Rizzo et al were as forward looking as they could have been in not being more creative in skipping starts and other ways to delay the inevitable, perhaps through the playoffs. I realize that skipping or delaying starts doesn't avoid side sessions and other wear and tear, but Rizzo has always emphasized the intensity of SS's outings is as important as the number of pitches he threw. Couldn't Rizzo have pushed Strasburg into the playoffs without surpassing the restrictions they want to (and should) put on him?

The Nats were not, and are not able to see the future. If they had "shut down" Strasburg in April and May so he could pitch through September and October in the Nats world championship season....come on, that is insane! 

Right now, there is no certainty WHATSOEVER, that the Nats will win the N.L. East. That should be their main goal right now __because it is the only goal over which they have direct influence RIGHT NOW. You can't play October games in August. And the best weay to win the N.L. East is pack all of Strasburg's 160-170 innings into the regualr season. BTW, if the Nats let SS pitch ~16t8 IP, they Nats will probably not need a new starting pitcher (Lannan) until AFTER their last game with the Braves on Sept 16th.

There is a passion in some of the analysis of Strasburg __from those with no particular in terest in Washington baseball__ that tells me a nerve has been struck. What is that nerve? It's not anything about Strasburg.

Here's a thought: If the World Series is something that you can shrug off, if you can say "We won't risk an arm for a 10% shot at maybe a title," perhaps that threatens some people who have an unconscious vested interest in the Fall Classic being very, very, very important.

Maybe D.C. has a different slant because we did without a baseball team for 33 years and it didn't change a damn thing. The Cherry Blossoms still came out. Some people adopted, or semi-adopted the Orioles and some didn't. In all those years, I didn't meet one person in the Washington area who was DISTRAUGHT that there was no baseball. It would be great to get it back __a bonus. And a lot of people worked hard for it and are very happy that it returned. But baseball wasn't essential to a conteneted civic life.

By accident, I think Washington, and most Nats fans, have a wise and still somewhat distanced view of "team building" __IN PART because we have watched how impatience and Win Now have done much to ruin the Redskins for the last 20 years.


Boz, with a run differential of minus 40 something, how in the heck are the Orioles even close to contending let alone above .500? Showalter should get manager of the century with this collection of rags.

The combination of an excellent bullpen and a smart manager can overcome run differential __for one season. Davey Johnson did it with the '84 Mets who won 90 games despite a -24 run differential.

The O's have had the bullpen, the strong morale and the win-small, lose-big formula that lets a team play above its run-differential __sometimes for a whole season.

But it's still sitting there like a black cloud at -49, right next to that 22-6 record in one-run games. That 22-6 is a .786 winning percentage. Still, at 9 games over .500, with Wildcard incentive, the '12 O's may do the almost impossible. Even the remarkable '89 O's (87-75) had a +22 run differential.

You can beat DF, and several teams do it every year. (Yes, "that's why they play the games.") But the large majority don't beat it, and if they do, not by more than a few games. The O's are PLUS TEN WINS on Mr. Luck.   

Thomas, Was in Philly last week on biz and was listening to local sports radio. The station was doing a Phillies "down on the farm" segment. They had a Phillies scout on and he was talking about the Phils young talent when the conversation shifted to division rivals. This scout could not stop gushing about Alex Myer, the Nats pitching prospect. He basically said, "the rich will be getting richer" when Myer come up to the bigs. What do you think of this kid? Can he be that good?

That's what I hear about Alex Meyer, too.

After going 7-4 with a 3.10 ERA at Hagerstown, he was moved up to Potomac (A+) where he's 2-1 with a 0.93 ERA in five starts. Combined, he's 2.57 with 85 hits allowed in 119 innings with 40 walks and 133 K's.

Those minor league stats, almost across the board on a per-9-innings basis, CLOSELY mirror another current Nats starter.

No, not Strasburg. Jordaan Zimmermann: 2.60 ERA in 235 IP with 73 walks and 246 K's. 

Tom: Glad you are back; missed the chats Hasn't his managing of the pitching been one of the strongest elements of Davey's managing job this year? Will the addition of Lannan and a reliever allow him to bring a fairly rested bullpen to the playoffs, especially if they clinch with 4-5 games left? Also what is your over/under for Nats wins at 98?

He's done a remarkable job. No Nats starter is in the Top 40 in number of pitches thrown. And the b ullpen should get more rest with Storen back and increasing his role.

The Nats are on pace for 100 wins and have 19 games left with winning teams and 28 with losers. They also have more games left at home than on the road. So 98 doesn't seen crazy. But I have a rule of thumb. Don't overanalyze a team when its very hot or very cold. And the Nats have been very hot. To counterbalance that, assume a five game losing streak (or winning streak). So, pretend the Nats are 71-49, not 71-44. Then you might say...oh, rats, that's still really, really high.

Okay, lets assume the Nats have just started an 0-11 slump that takes them to 71-54. Then what would they have to do to get to 88 wins and, probably still make the last wildcard. Hmmmm, looks like after the 0-11, they'd just need to go 17-20. 


(But, of course, it is. Just wanted to slip that in there. The last three weeks has changed the playoff picture, though not the NL East picture, a LOT.)      

If America ever loses its dominance in getting gold medals, basketball just needs to do what swimming and track and field did. Just make more events. Why not have a 5 minute basketball competition, a 10 minute basketball competition, a 30 minute competition, a 3 on 3 half court game etc. The combinations are endless. My point is that the olympics gold medal count for countries is completely distorted by these events that give out dozens of medals compared to one basketball or soccer gold medal.

With the Olympics, you just have to incorporate the bizarre number of medals available in some sports in all of your thinking. However, when a Phelps has to compete many times in a fairly short period of days, that's praise worthy, too.

However, the decathlon is still 10 events. And it never gets its due (imo).

Am I the only one who is tired of seeing athletes mop their sweat in their country's flags?

You have a point, no doubt about it. Just when I thought there was nothing new left to dislike.

But I think Henry David Thoreau would approve of using national flags as towels, just to keep patriotism, that last refuge of scoundrels, in check.

Hey Boz, We missed you, hope you had a relaxing vacation. One point I'd like to raise that in the non-stop innings limit discussion, even if you think the Nats are being way too conservative, wouldn't it be irreponsible to just keep running Strasburg out there? what if they go deep in the playoffs, each going close to the distance, what 220 -230 innings? I also can't stand the comments from retired pitchers that say they would give up their arm for that world series win. He's just starting his career, would he really give up his entire career for the chance to play in the playoffs? no guarantee they are going to win it.

Strasbnurg pitched 44.1 IP at all levels last year. This year, including 23 IP in spring training, if he took his regular turn right through this hypothetical World Series (that all the fuss is about) he'd end up __my best guess__ right around 244 IP.

Yeah, that's makes great sense. Jump him 200 IP in a year.

And the skip a turn, push him back a day stuff may cut 10-15 innings off that. 

How does that stack up against other NL rotations expected to be in the playoffs?

I looked at it. Nobody in the N.L. is better. But the Reds and Giants may be roughly as good. (What do they do with Lincecum?)

The Reds bullpen is amazing. If I were handicapping a hypothetical N.L. post-season __assuming everything stayed the same as it is now (which it won't) and no Strasburg__ I'd make the Reds the favorite and the Nats the "no. 2 seed."

RGWho? Natitude!

I really liked the way RGIII looked, if only that tiny sample. Went through progressions quickly, threw with authority over the middle and didn't look lost at any point. (Except the botched handoff.)

However, if you want to know why Luck went No. 1 and RGIII at No. 2, you only had to look at Luck's 10-for-16, 188 yard day. He was so polished, and looked like (shhhh) P Manning so much that it was scary. How good IS that guy? And he's BIG. RGIII looks "medium sized."  Not "small." Not a problem. But he looks like a guy who definitely needs protection. Right now, that O-line is a total hodge-podge. 

I heard an interview with Lucas Giolito's father this week on a Baseball Prospectus podcast in which he specifically cited the Nats' experience with arm injuries and rehabilitation as a reason that Giolito signed instead of going to UCLA. Do you think the Nats are ahead of the MLB curve on these things? Is this, as Jayson Stark suggested last week in his Strasburg piece, the "new Moneyball"?

The Nats think, and have thought ever since Rizzo arrived, that the "new Moneyball" is giving a 65-35 weighting to the opinions of SCOUTS over number crunchers __while still respecting the New Stats.

One Nats front office person once said to me, "Come on, how hard is that Sabermetric stuff really? Not very hard. Creating it __now that was smart. But now that it's out there, everybody gets it. There's not much edge there any more."

The Zimmermann and Strasburg decisions are a reason the Nats could sign Giolito and its a reason they will have an inside track with the pitchers/agents on the free agent market in the future. For example, Scott Boras is a big fan of Rizzo's player development and rehab views. If Rizzo stands firm on Strasburg __and he will__ then the Nats reputation on this will be cast in stone within the industry. It will be an edge for years. And Rizzo knows it. 

Boz, What can we really expect from the Redskins this year? I'm just a psyched about Mr. Griffin as the next fan. . .but he's a rookie. . .playing behind an O line that is not demonstrably better than in past years. What are reasonable expectation? Finish the season at .500? Beat the Cowboys twice? Squeak in to the playoffs? Help me calibrate the proper level of emotional investment so that I don't get destroyed (again) if/when they collapse!

I studied up on all the 1-2-3 overall pick QB's who became BIG successes to see what they did as rookies. Those that got to play in their first year had an average record of 6-10. Some were better. But the averager is the average. Due to the $$$ punishment that hurt the Skins in signing free agents in the off-season I'd say that __if RGIII works out as expected__ 6-10 is a reasonable expectation. Cam went 6-10 last year.

OK, I've got too much post-vacation energy. Way past time to clear out. Thanks for all the great questions. Good to be back.

Mr. Boswell, Am I correct that Laroche has a mutual option for next year? If so, I assume he'll decline it given his production this year. Again, if so, that means we'd need a multi-year committment to him to keep him. Do you think the team is prepared to do that given that we've got Tyler Moore hanging around and Morse able to play first and the media speculation that we'll be players for Bourn in the off-season? I'm not all that crazy about Bourn and see no way we get him unless we cast-off Laroche to make room for Moore or Morse at first. My gut reaction is to try to resign Laroche (for glove, bat, presence) and make do with Harper/Werth in CF. If that makes Tyler Moore trade bait, okay. I don't see what's so special about Bourn.

You are exactly correct about the LaRoche situation. And the decisions that must be made.

I love Rory as much as the next guy. . .probably more. . .I'm Irish after all. . .but. . .I just don't understand the need to anoint anyone as "The One." There have been a few. . .a very few. . .very special golfers since the 1920s. We all know the names. Woods, Nicklaus, Hogan, etc. And then there are the very good golfers of their generation who don't quite rise to demi-god status. Since Tiger's fall from grace the media and fans have been desperate to anoint the next Tiger. It just doesn't work that way. Rory has been good. . .but not young Tiger good. He could still rise to that level and become "The One." But a few major wins does not a demi-god make. I understand we love heros. . .but fans just don't make heros. . .heros make themselves. Let's wait and see what Rory makes of himself!

All great points.

Except that, at 23, he now owns the record for largest margin of victory in both the U.S. Open (beating Woods) and the PGA (beating Nicklaus.) That does get your attention.

It was actually a quote about Rogers Hornsby according to Baseball Almanac: "Son (to a rookie pitcher), when you pitch a strike, Mr. (Rogers) Hornsby will let you know it." - Umpire Bill Klem


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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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