Tom, This weeks US Open is being played at Merion. A track that is short but requires laser irons into tough pins. I think Tiger and his 2 iron off the tee is going to win this week. Tiger or the field?
The field. I don't think I'd take any golfer who ever lived vs. the field if his last start was 20 shots off the winning score at a course as high quality as Jack's Muirfield.
That said, you make a great point about Merion being vulnerable to a player who can use long irons off the tee in a U.S. Open. The shorter the course, the more that can become a factor. And Tiger, like Jack long ago, is willing to use long irons off the tee extensively if he thinks that's the smart strategy. Woods "stinger" 3-wood should also play well at Merion.
Tiger's biggest problem these days is either with the driver or the putter. He usually says he "couldn't get the speed of the greens right." That can be true. But it's also Excuse One when you don't want to say, "My putting stinks right now."
The U.S. Open is always about putting. Nothing I saw at Augusta made me think Tiger would have a great putting week at the Open. The British Open and PGA Championship usually put less pressure on your putting.
Some other highly ranked golfers who are either shortish but straight hitters or otherwise may be suited to Merion: Kuchar, Snedeker, Keegan Bradley, Stricker, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald (seems like will never win a major), Oosthuizen.
And the big names that are Top 20 world: McIlroy, Adam Scott (anchored putter wins both Masters and U.S. Open? I don't think so), Mickelson. Throw out the long and wild guys, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson.
I've given up on Lee Westwood. I've wasted too much time following him when His First Major turned into His Latest Sunday Collapse. (That probably means he's due.)
The only name I don't want to see - 15th in the world Sergio Garcia. Unless he's paired with Tiger on Sunday. Sorry, that's trashy but would be too good to miss.
Any insights into Espinosa clearing out his locker after the DL move? Haven't seen reports of similar moves after Werth, Stras or Det were put on the DL and they stayed in the dugout....seems fishy.
Davey said, "I love him. He thinks i hate him." Probably a tip there that Espinosa hated the move. It's not that the Nats wanted him to heal, it's that their stated position was that WHENEVER he was well, they expected him to report to AAA to work on his hitting.
In other words, he was sent to the minors. The Nats call it the DL, which is literally accurate. But if your team says, "Get better. Then go to AAA," you have been demoted. If you don't agree with that analysis of your game, you're going to be hot and, maybe, decide that talking would be better delayed until a future date. Remember how John Lannan got mad? That certainly made it harder to consider keeping him in the organization the follwoing year.
I assume the Nats even had the alternative of unilaterally sending Espinosa to the minors in which case he'd have lost significant service time, etc. I suspect it was made clear that he did not have the choice of saying, "No."
You can easily see why Espinosa didn't want to give up his second base job for any significant amount of time: Anthony Rendon. After a nervous 1-for-11 start in MLB, Rendon's hitting .367/.472/.467. While he's made five errors, and will make more at 2nd since it's a new position, he seems to be having a ball and has plenty of quickness, good hands to play second. His arm may not be as big as Espinosa's cannon, but it's special. His relay throw to third in Sunday night's game was long, strong and on the bag.
Which pitchers do you see making it this year, just Zim and Soriano?
Nobody else deserves it.
Among players, Harper may simply be voted on despite limited playing time. But if he's back within the week, he may have All-Star numbers, too.
He's been pretty terrible this season. Do you see the Nats moving him to the 5th spot in the rotation and start skipping his starts?
He's been awful. The biggest disappointment of the season especially since for $13M you had plenty of other options for a 5th starter. (Not Edwin Jackson who got a 5-yr deal w the Cubs.) Without Haren's 41 earned runs allowed, the Nats team ERA would be 3.29 __better than last year and 4th in MLB. As it is, they are 3.55 and 6th.
Yes, I'd start skipping him every time it's possible. He looked like he'd worked out some of his problems. But now his mistakes over the plate are just getting bombed again.
He looks like a classic No. 2 hitter. Do you think he'll move up in the order?
That will be his next stop, eventually. When? Don't know. He can hit behind the runner, hit and run. He's perfect for No. 2 if he continues to hit.
There are lots of basic questions to be answered about various key Nats. Is Werth ever going to be a really valuable offensive player again? He's had 1,121 plate appearances as a Nat. He's hitting .257/.345/.407. So his on-base percentage is the only above-average area - especially for a RFer. Looks like hitting second, rather than 3-4-5 is really all he's qualified to do.
Yes, he's had various injuries that compromise his stats. But at some point you have to say, "This is who he is now." I'd say you wait until the second half of the season to see if he hits with more authority. If he does, you want him at No. 2 to get more at bats. If he doesn't, do you turn to the obvious lineup of the future: Span (who's no great shakes but you're locked into him for two years), Rendon, Harper, Z'man, LaRoche, Werth, Desmond, Ramos. Nobody can tell me that lineup can't be in the top half of the N.L. in runs. That l.ineup also starts off: LH, RH, LH, RH, LH, RH. I suspect we'll see Rendon, Harper, Z'man batting consecutively for quite a while. This assume rendon stays healthy at second. He's a really graceful athlete. You can see why he'd be an exceptional third baseman eventually.
A lot of things have gone wrong for Nats so far. But Z'mann's emergence as an ace-quality pitcher and the very early results on Rendon have long-term implications. Irony: Espinosa may be the most durable player in the organization. Will Rendon stay in one piece? There's no way to protect him. You just have to let him play. At least in MLB he's on better quality fields with better lights and better training facilities. He just turned 23. He may get 5-to-10 pounds bigger which may make him more durable.
In a season where the Nats chances of winning the World Series were about 12 percent to a season where their chances of just making the playoffs are now down to 213.9 percent there will be reasons to look for Bright Spots until/if a hot streak arrives.
Orioles playoff odds, also according to PECOTA (Baseball Prospectus site) are 20.9 percent - the price of playing in the tougher AL East.
Recent questions about Felix Millan and Sam Rice in which you made reference to Shirley Povich got me wondering about his history with Washington Baseball. Did he grow up watching the Senators play? What (as best you might be able to answer this) were his earliest baseball memories? Have you ever met another man named Shirley?
Shirley grew up in Maine. I've played the course in Bar Harbor where he grew up working as a caddie. He came to Washington at age 21 in '24 I think. I don't know if he actually had a byline on the '24 World Series that the Nats won. I should know, but don't.
No, never met another man named Shirley. He always seemed to get a kick out of it, never annoyed. But he had just about the friendliest gentlest disposition of anybody on earth.
What are your initial thoughts on the Nats draft?
Not many thoughts. By the 68th pick it's a minor miracle if you get a future MLBer. Few fans understand how more the rate-of-return is on amatuer draft picks. If you get ONE future MLB player of even average ability out of a whole draft class, that's not too bad. This time, the Nats went for a pitcher who can throw 100 mph but already has arm problems. It's fun to follow their progress. But never expect much after the first 10 picks or so. That's why the Nats were so happy to get Rendon at No. 6 overall. They thought he absolutely couldn't miss (except for injury history).
Like it or not, you are going to get both barrells! The Nats have had excellent draft results in the time that DC fans have a memory of them.
'04 draft: Desmond (No. 84 overall), Bray, Balester.
'05: Zimmerman (4), Maxwell (114), Lannan (324), Stammen (354).
'06: Marrero (15), Brad Peacock (1,231).
'07: Detwiler (6), Jordan Zimmermann (67) D Norris.
'08: Espinosa (87), Tommy Milone (301), T Moore (481), Lombardozzi (571).
'09: Strasburg (1), Storen (9).
'10: Harper (1), so far. Solis, AJ Cole.
'11: Rendon, so far. Also, Skole, Purke and others.
That is a ton of production out of the draft especially when you consider the no-name picks that developed well and got traded for Gio Gonzalez. Milone has turned out to be a solid better-than-Lannan lefty for the A's. This doesn't include the '12 Lucas Giolito pick.
So, if the Nats can get Zimmermann at 67, maybe their pick - at 68 - this year will work out. (No, I haven't memorized his name yet. Sorry.)
So I get that Dr. Andrews is renowned and an expert in his field, truly I understand. But I also have to question the wisdom of sending Bryce and his non-healing knee to someone who doesn't have the most solid reputation in this city at the moment. How can we trust that he can stand up to the organization, especially one that seems to have been supporting frustrating and debilitating machismo from most of its injured players? Especially when he didn't put his foot down against a 23 year old just months ago.
Andrews is Andrews. His rep is solid. Be glad Harper is seeing him. As for RGIII, short of an actual obvious new injury in the Seattle, there's no way any sideline doctor is going to tell an NFL team to take out its starting star QB. That was 100 percent a decision by Shanahan and Griffin. Nobody, apparently, saw a NEW injury to RGIII until he went some with that gruesome injury in the 4Q. Up until then, when he's hobbling and compromised, you're in a world of "I can play, coach, honest" and "Okay, then go play."
Don't kid yourself that there is much "doctoring" being practiced -- aside from on-the-fly does-he-have-a-concussion stuff -- in such situations. A new injury or a big injury, sure, that's different.
Much has been discussed about the loss of Morse and the left-handed relievers contributing to the Nat's struggles this year. The talk after Davey's latest meeting is all about finding "aggression". I can't help but wonder if the loss of Bo Porter may have more significant that any of the on the field changes for the Nats.
Bo was a good coach. Doubt he made much macro difference to the Nats. Don't think I've ever seen a coach who had a big impact on any team except a very good pitching coach or a very few excellent hitting coaches like Lau, Hriniak. The third base coach on a team with Davey as manager? Not much impact.
The Nats got Ian Krol in the Morse deal. I've seen enough since he came up -- throwing 93-to-96 and 8 strikes in 9 pitches on Sunday -- to say, "Make that deal again, immediately." Krol had a 0.69 ERA in AA. Don't know if he can get his slider and changeup over consistently. But lefties don't like facing him.
Nats needed TWO LH relievers to replate Burnett and Michael Gonzalez. Too early to tell but Abad (0.00 ERA in 1st 8 appearances) and Krol MIGHT be good enough. Still, tough tol call on such inexperienced relievers in September or, if they get there, October. Burnett/Gonzalez were seasoned.
Tom, I watched the Nats celebrate their 9th inning victory last week against the Mets and thought that it revealed something about the team. Their joy appeared genuine but excessive, given the circumstances. They acted like they had captured a division title in October, rather than beat an inferior opponent in June. Is this team ready to be a champion? They seem tense and lacking the confidence of their talent.
The Nats got hit by pressure in September last year and got through it decently to win the NL East. They coped well with two STOMPINGS by the Cards in the Division Series and almost stole the series back from a team that had outscored them 2-to-1. But they didn't make it. And it was ugly.
That pressure greeted them from the first week of the season this year -- when they lost 15-0 in Cincy. They have reacted to it poorly. Not atrociously, but nervously, pressing, trying too hard and, in the case of bench players, with no confidence (Moore, Bernadina.)
They want so desperately to "catch fire" that they grasp at any hint -- like the comeback win. That's admirable, but probably not useful! They'll feel the same way about the two wins on Sunday. We'll see what it leads to.
I went back to look at the Oriole teams that many DC fans followed when DC had no team. I was amazed at how LITTLE the first 60 games of the season had to do with how the teams played after that. I covered many of those teams and remember that Be Slow To Judge became my No. 1 rule. Now I can see why. I must have been burned by premature evaluation about 10 times.
'76: 29-31 to 52-32 for an 88-74 season.
'77: 33-27 to 62-31 (!!) for 97-64.
'78: 40-35 to 50-36 for 90-71.
'80: 29-30 (!!) to 71-32 for a 100-win season! That shocked me.
'82 31-28 to 63-40 for 94-68.
There were many more, especially seasons where they started off 35-25 ('86) then ended up awful (41-61) for 76-86.
A lot of truth gets told every year between early June and the AS break. There's a reason they call it a June Swoon. Teams that aren't very good at all find out that this Isn't Your Year after all and basic good teams, like the Nats, get healthy and get untracked.
However, the Nats REALISTIC goals have changed. They may have begun the year aimed at 100 wins and the NL East title. They might still win the division, though anybody with any sense of probabilities would doubt it from -7 1/2 games with 100 left. But they should be pointed at 88-to-91 wins which would give them excellent playoff chances in this two wild card setup. Fans will be very surprised, I suspect, at how often 88-89 wins gets teams in the playoffs over the next decade. And 90 will (almost) always make it.
The Cards made the WC with 88 wins last year. In the tougher AL, which had a season edge over the NL, it was harder -- 89 and 90 wins DIDN'T make it. I'm assuming the AL will still win th AL-NL series this year. The AL is currently four wins ahead.
Boz, looking back on the first third of the season and all of the ups and downs with the Nats, I wonder how much can be attributed to just the young players--Harper running into walls, etc. Great potential and also maddening inconsistency. There is a tendency with youth that when huge (perhaps unrealistic) expectations get heaped on them they may buckle under them. Anything there?
Yes, there is a lot in that. As I often say, the story of baseball teams is a long multi-year saga -- if there is considerable talent in play. It doesn't come together on a neat schedule. That's what makes it frustrating in the short term but so fascinating in the longer term.
Sometimes the biggest factors are actually easy to miss. Strasburg and Harper are the team's most talented pitcher and hitter. Strasburg is 3-5 and his ERA is deceptively low because he's given up a ton of unearned runs; they scored while he was on the mound whether or not they are technically unearned. He's having a decent but mediocre season. And Harper-vs-Walls has cost him about five weeks of production already.
When Strasburg, Z'mann, Gio, Harper and Z'man are all healthy -- just those five, the 1-2-3 starters and the 3-4 hitters -- the Nats are one team, a very good one. When they start being subtracted, they change a LOT. And that is true for most (not all) teams when you are talking about 1-2-3 starters and 3-4 hitters. Stars matter.
Today or tomorrow, we'll know the fate of Harper's knee. Can Anthony Rendon's loose style and hitting ability keep the Nats going until Harper is back in the lineup? With Harper back, that's a pretty solid lineup and Ramos can't be too far behind. It's a long season and I like the fight they showed yesterday coming back in game 2.
Leaving aside the tempting crystal-ball foolishness, this is a REALLY interesting team, even at 31-31. Rendon's progress only adds to it.
Yes, this season feels like a Disappointment In Progress. Haren is an anchor. Span is merely okay. The bench strangled. Will Werth ever be 90 percent of Werth again? Z'man's arm just spooks the whole team at times -- though he looks a LITTLE better to me lately. Storen's still not sorted out. And all those errors!
BUT the big question to ask about teams that still have 100 games left is: what's broken that CAN NOT be fixed? With the Nats, the answer is still: Nothing. They have no season-ending injuries to crucial players. Later THIS month, you could see a lineup of Span, Werth, Harper, Z'man, LaR, Desmond, Rendon, Ramos. A rotation with Strasburg, Gio, Z'mann, Detwiler and a bullpen with Soriano, Clippard, Storen, Stammen and a couple of kid lefties. Does THAT team play .600, not .500. Does that team ever get healthy all at the same time? And stay healthy?
One thing I can tell you, the Nats are a close team internally. They certainly haven't changed their view of themselves much, not with 100 games left. Their biggest problem that stats can identify is the lowest on-base percentage in MLB. Their worst position was second base with Espinosa's OBP under .180 and Lombardozzi a bad .235. If what we see so far is roughly what we get, then Rendon adds about 100 points of on-base percentage at that position.
With season ERA's being practically the same (and very good) for the two teams, how do you see these two staffs matching up for the remainder of the season? I'm particularly interested in durability and what Beachy's return portends.
How good will Beachy be coming off surgery? Will Haren get back to .500, 4.00 ERA or will Nats have to view him as a dead loss and find another 5th starter in trade? How long do you wait to make that decision?
In a short post-season series, if it gets to that, I like the Nats 1-2-3 starters better. But the Braves have certainly looked better head-to-head so far this year.
More potential even than Bryce or Trout? Good enough to resurrect the Dodgers' season?
I heard Vin going crazy broadcasting his 4th homer the other night. I can't remember seeing this many huge impact players this young.
Also, Shelby Miller and Matt Harvey are already Must See power pitchers. Baseball is in VERY good sharp in terms of young impact stars.
Won't be long until everybody can pronounce Ysiel Puig.
He looks like Matt Stairs this year. How did he avoid getting cut?
When Moore is ready to come back up from minors or Espinosa returns (if he doesn't have shoulder surgery) you'd think Tracy's spot would be in trouble. If Rendon stays at second, you could have two switch-hitters on the bench in Sept with Lombardozzi and Espinosa. Tracy's popular but he's at the age and career place where he just has to produce to stay. That's life in the big leagues. (We'll always have his Goon Squad.)
You've mentioned often that the Nats have an easy schedule going forward: per Coolstandings.com, the Nat's remaining opponents have a combined record of .468, which is really low. But Atlanta's remaining opponents have a combined record of .453. From 7.5 games back, I just don't see how Atlanta will be caught.
I don't know how many times I've heard "They can't be caught." I covered EVERY game of the season between the Red Sox and Yankees in '78. The Yankees were 14 games behind on July 19th. By Sept. 14, with 18 games left in the regular season, the Yanks had not only caught up but they were AHEAD. Then the Red Sox had to catch THEM. And they did it, forcing The Bucky Dent Playoff Game. (Still one of my three favorites ever.)
NEVER SELL BASEBALL SHORT. Teams tend toward streaks -- winning or losing. Leaders tend to feel pressure. Favorites, after they become underdogs, suddely feel less pressure when they are chasing. The Yankees LOVED running down the Red Sox from behind.
Hey Boz, I'm not quite sure why they brought up Rendon this early in the season? Lombo is a versatile second baseman so why not put him at second base? I get that Rendon will be a fixture of the infield at some point (2 years fast forward; Rendon 3B, Zim 1B) but why not give Lombo a shot at second? Does Davey not like Lombo's game? I wonder, what gives? Keep up the good work!
Everybody likes Lombardozzi and admires the way he has gotten the most out of his talent. He's a fine utility man. But the evidence, to date, is that utility man is exactly what he is. The last two years, he's gotten a lot of playing time. He's seldom rusty. In 550 at bats, he has three homers and 41 RBI while hitting .256/.292/.329. That doesn't keep you in the everyday lineup of a 90-loss team. I don't like to be blunt about such a useful team player. He really does have value. But Rendon has more poteential as a defensive second baseman, too. Cheer for Lombo. Be glad when he's up in tough spots, because he's a tough kid who deserves success. But there's a reason he was picked 571st in the draft while Rendon was picked sixth with a $7.2-million contract. Enjoy them both. Just understand that their respective ceilings are astronomically different. As long as he hits enough that it seems his development is not being damaged, Rendon must play.
Do you think Baseball can survive in DC given how transient the city is and how many games there are? It's one thing to have eight home games per season like in the NFL, but major league baseball has a lot more. Given so few people are actually from DC, if they aren't doing well, I can easily see attendance drop dramatically unless enough people in the area are here to cheer for the other team.
With all due respect, I hear this ridiculous completely-backwards argument a few times a year. Join the real world (baseball version). Times have changed. This is bunk.
First of all, studies have been done in the last few years on the relative "transience" of all major cities. The Washington area ranks right in the MIDDLE of the national average for big cities. It's just not true any more. That "transient" image came from the four-year political cycle. The DC area now has almost SIX MILLION people. Only a TINY fraction of those are tied to shifts in government. When I grew up, it was a tenth of that.
The result is that DC-Baltimore is now a baseball powerhouse for attendance. The Nats (33,689) are now 9th, ahead of both the Red Sox and Cubs. The combined attendance of the Nats and O's is 62,308 and neither franchise has won a post-season series in more than 20 years. This attendance, with huge crowds recently for the O's, has come out merely for the promise of good baseball and the possibility that one or both of the teams go to a World Series someday.
DC/Balto now has better combined attendance than SF/Oakland (62,211) even though SF has the No. 1 attendance in baseball and is defending world champ. DC/Balt is far ahead of Chicago's Cubs and White Sox (54,702).
And DC/Balt is only FIVE PERCENT behind the combined attendance of the NEW YORK teams, Yankees and Mets (65,413).
DC/Balto also has higher attendance that the two teams in Texas, Penn, Ohiop and Florida. If you want to know who might "leave," look at the Marlins and Rays with a combined attendance of 35,956.
By the end of this season, the Nats may have average attendance that's higher than the Marlins and Rays COMBINED. This matters to me because for years I wrote that baseball would be supported better in Washington than in any Florida city and explained why. My reasons (and plenty of others said the same things) turned out to be correct. Florida has been a disaster for MLB. But both Miami and Tampa Bay got expansion teams LONG before DC got a team back.
Sorry to be rude. I realize that people hear this argument and think, "Well, there must be SOMETHING to it, because I keep hearing it." There is nothing to it. It is wrong. (News flash: The earth is still round.) Get a new ax to grind. This one is broken. Baseball will stay in Washington for generations. It's a done deal, a decided question.
Tom, whatever happened to the Screwball that pitchers like Stu Miller used to throw? I was taught by a Pro how to throw it but haven't seen it in years?
The circle changeup, and other changeups, seem to serve much the same function with less wear on the arm.
But, come on, SOMEBODY must throw a screwball, right? Or need to learn one.
Davey hasn't been to shy about the bullpen mess he got in the spring. Rizzo made a lot of wrong calls this year from Haren's value, to no Left, to Duke over Gorzo etc. Davey had taken some heat for the surprisingly bad start but Rizzo should take some lumps too. The almost wholesale turnover of bench/relievers is an indication that the GM didn't have a good offseason. Is this crimping Rizzo's long-term contract talks?
Rizzo needs to take some lumps, too.
Haren looks like a bust. Maybe that changes. But I see no hints of it. He escaped in Baltimore because everybody caught the early-inning rockets he gave up. Soriano was an A+. He's saved the bullpen and looks like he's got two years of good closing in him. But the no short LHed relievers just looks like a bad decision.
Davey pretty good at nailing himself. It's better to do it to yourself before others get the chance. Because they WILL figure out what you're screwed up.
Hey Tom. Seems like there is a growing trend where high-profile draft picks end up in the majors faster than they used to. Stras and Harper are examples, and not undeservedly. Gausman for the O's is another example. Could training and coaching be such that the average age/experience of an MLB-ready prospect is dropping, and accordingly the lower end is also dropping? Has the temptation to find the Next Big Thing increased ("hey, we want a Mike Trout too!")? ESPN has a yearly magazine issue devoted to the very idea.
The 19 and 20 year olds is different. But seeing excellent players arrive at 21-22 is normal for future STARS -- look at Orioles like Ripken, Murray, Mussina. The BEST identify themselves quickly. That's why it was good to see Rendon arrive at 22. When you styart seeing debuts at 24-25 you ask, "Well, if he's THAT good, why wasn't he here by now?" Many greats have arrived at that age. But being in the majors at 21-22, muc less 20, is a real tipoff of a special talent because baseball is SO MUCH a game of ACQUIRED skills. Everybody gets better for at least five years or more. ALL of the Harpers, Machados and Rendons will get even better. Okay, it's early on Rendon. But he looks like a "natural hitter."
That's about it for this week. I'll be at the U.S. Open, really looking forward to it. Lets chat next Monday!
I'm a pretty big NBA fan in that I actually watch games in November, but I've been finding myself not that interested in these playoffs. Maybe it's just too long of a season - it's approaching mid-June and we're still going. Or is it something else? I can't put my finger on it, can you?
I watched GameOne ansd loved it __because I really enjoy the Spurs and dislike the philosophies of Pat Riley. I tapd Game Two, but when I saw the blow out score, didn;t bother to watch it. Over the next 10 years, I suspect the NBA has some trouble holding its audience. I have LOVED the NBA since Bill Russell-Wilt. But I can feel the grip loosening. I was even in NBA fantasy leagues.
Went to see "42" over the weekend. Loved the scene where Wendell Smith told Jackie Robinson that he was going "to be his Boswell." Didn't know you had a following all the way back in 1947. Nice.
Nice to see that James Boswell Humor hasn't died. No relation. But Samuel Johnson did call his Boswell, the original biographer in English lit, "Bozzie," even hundreds of years.
Probably not his earliest memories of the game, but I remember him writing about sitting on the dock with his friends, waiting for the packet boat to arrive with the latest newspapers and the box scores that they contained.
I did memorize the name of the number 68 draft pick. I may be too geeked up on baseball for my own good. His numbers in college are underwhelming but, evidently, his 98 mph fastball isn't.
Thanks for this, too.
Is there any chance he could end up with the Nats?
A July 31st deal for a starting pitcher, even a top one, is very much something the Nats will consider. They would have to completely fall apart to be "sellers." Anything is possible __when you mess around and get to 31-31 you open yourself up to the one Horror Losing Streak__ but I don't anticipate that.