Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Jul 22, 2013

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, Phil now has five major wins and 20 (!) top 3s in majors. Some numbers on players with similar major win totals: Seve: 5/10, Faldo: 6/12, Watson: 8/17, Palmer: 7/19, Trevino: 6/9, Floyd: 4/10, Els: 4/15. I'm particularly surprised that he has more top 3s than Watson and Palmer, and his number of top 3s is almost surely to go up (if not his number of wins). Near misses aren't wins of course, but they are indicative of sustained excellent play and have to be worth something.

That's a wonderful way to frame the discussion. Many will ask where Phil now stands in the golf hierarchy. I think it's pretty clear because his EIGHT runner-up finishes in majors do help his case. After all, nobody has ever held Jack Nicklaus' 19 runner-up finishes in majors against him. It's always considered one of his greatest accomplishments. He almost HAD to win 18 majors because he was always so close to winning.

The obvious top names (and their # of major wins) are Jack (18), Tiger (14), Hagen (11), Hogan (9), Player (9), Watson (8). I don't think many/any would put Phil with them. I wouldn't anyway. Though a couple of more wins would cause a huge rethink.

Then come Palmer, Bobby Jones, Harry Vardon and Sam Snead at seven. I have no opinion on Vardon. Snead never won the U.S. Open, but neither has Phil. Snead's whole career is monumental. So I'd rank Mickelson behind all of these, too.

BUT I would now put Phil AHEAD of both players with six majors -- Lee Trevino and Nick Faldo -- because of the overall greater strength of his performance in majors. Faldo had six major wins and three runner-ups to Phil's five and eight. Trevino only had nine top-three finishes to Phil's 20.

I'd also put Mickelson's record -- after yesterday -- ahead of Byron Nelson and Seve Ballesteros, who also had five majors wins.

So, for me, Phil just jumped over Seve, Byron, Lee and Sir Nick into 11th or 12th place all-time (depending on Vardon). I'd never have dreamed he could do it just 10 years ago when he was 0-for-46 in majors to start his career before winning the '04 Masters.

Congratulations, indeed!!!

...Riggelman hadn't quit? He certainly would have been replaced at the end of the '11 season, by a coach who isn't a short-timer. I love Davey, and I don't blame him for this year's woes. But, surely, one of the reasons his "message" isn't getting across is because he's a short-timer. "You want me to change my delivery/approach at the plate/baserunning? You're not going to be here next year, what's the point of changing now if the next guy might just change me back?" What would this season would be like if this was year two of the new guy's regime (Francona?), instead of the final year of Davey's.

Johnson hasn't lost the room or the players' respect and attention. "Lame duck" is not the problem. It could become a problem in September if they are out of it.

Davey set the perfect tone last year. The Nats were baseball nobodies and Washington was a town that had nothing in the sport since 1933. What they needed was a big-time high-profile manager who absolutely believed in them, put his reputation on the line for them and made a number of changes (muscle bench, not punch-and-judy utility men with gloves and speed, as well as transforming Desmond as a hitter) from the Riggleman regime, which was unpopular and sometimes mocked by key playersd.

But this season, if anything, Davey contributed to the team having perhaps too much confidence, bravado, Natitude. If they had turned their 7-2 start into another 14-4, maybe they'd have gone from strength to strength. But the 15-0 loss in Cincinnati and bad loses to the Barves in Atlanta changed the momentum and the pressure. So, "World Series or Bust," while a perfectly reasonable goal for ANY team that won 98 games and then added key off-season pieces was just an extra added burden. Davey had a lot of answers last year. So far this year, no.

I am horrified with the Caps' offseason, so far. Your thoughts?  Three questions for you, Boz: 1.) Are the Caps now officially in rebuild mode, after getting worse this offseason? 2.) Does GM really expect fans to buy his spiel that Laich can play 2C, when he's been unable to do it in the past? 3.) When will fans have had enough of this, and start to give the Caps the Redskins treatment?

It strikes me as a very poor off-season. They'll probably look back and wonder why on earth they didn't try -- hard and early -- to sign their second-highest scorer, Mike Ribeiro. Laich is a wonderful articulate and tough team leader. But, when moving into a far tougher division, this was not the year to subtract talent.

Suzuki, Soriano, LaRoche. Any reason the Nats shouldn't be sellers this year?

Well, wait until July 29-30-31 just as every team does when they are something like 48-50. What if they go 9-1 between now and the deadline? The Rays started the season like the Nats -- 40-38. Since then, they've gone 17-2.

My point this morning was that the Nats need to pull together and figure out whats wrong with them and play better, regardless of where they finish. Because this team is going to stay pretty much intact through '15. And should. What you DON'T do is give up on this team and this season. You just put it in their hands and say, "You have enough. Take better care of your business. We're not going to give away parts of the future to help you the last 10 weeks because you haven't played well enough to justify it. But we aren't going to pull the rug out from under you either. This is a talented team, a future contender and maybe still a contenbder this year. Get it together -- yourselves."

Soriano and LaRoche are part of next year's plans. So is Span. Although I think he looks like the big conceptual mistake by Rizzo. The day he was traded, I said I thought it was a good move, but a risky one because they had a power style of offense and they were changing it -- in part based on "advanced metrics" like WAR in which Span looked like a steal because of defense, speed and on-base percentage, all of which the stat contingent love. I don't remember my exact phrase but it was something like "WAR better be right."

Defense is great. And Span is fun to watch. Good arm, too. Good in the clubhouse. But you fundamentally change the nature of your offense when you install a leadoff man who may hit 1 home run in 700 plate appearance and simultaneously subtract a home run position -- which might contribute 20-25 homers -- from your lineup. The issue wasn't Michael Morse. That was a good trade and still is (Ian Krol plus two solid SP prospects). You could have resigned LaRoche and put Tyler Moore in LF or a Moore/Bernadina platoon to keep them both sharp.

But being sellers is interesting IF the Nats just fall on their face before 7/31. Nobody wants anybody on the Nats bench, except Suzuki. So, if you went 2-8 by 7/31 and were 50-58 and really decided to throw in the towell, you could trade him. I still wouldn't do it. He wouldn't bring much. And you shouldn't give up on seasons for talented teams until the last dog dies.

REMEMBER, both the Skins and Caps were in WORSE shape than the Nats are now and the entire town gave up on both those teams. The Skins were 3-6, then went 7-0. Not one soul predicted that. The Caps were 12-16-1, then went 15-2-2. Both won their divisions.

Span needs to go. It feels like an dark whole in the lineup every time he is playing. He poses absolutely no threat at all, and never seems to make truly solid contact. Its almost always a weak grounder to second, but even on the off chance that he does lay into one it ends up as a routine fly ball ebcause he has nothing as far as power is concerned. Moreover for someone who was touted as a table setting speedster coming in, he is not dangerous on the base paths what so ever. Why hasn't Davey given Bernadina a run in center for a series or two yet? There is a buzz in the crowd whenever he comes up to bat, and he just feels alot more capable of doing damage at the plate than Span does. Not to mention, he is just as good (if not better) in the field than Span and definitely is more adept on the basepaths. Get the Shark in there! This team needs a jolt of energy from somewhere and Bernadina should at least be given a shot because Span seems like a lost cause at this point.

Bernadina has the worst baseball instincts anyone has ever seen. In the outfield, on the bases and in pitch anticipation. It's nice that the crowd loves him. He makes some wonderful athletic plays.

I asked Davey yesterday at his post-game presser how a team that works hard, cares and has talent could continue to make endless fundamental mistakes for 98 games and I mentioned a few examples, including Bernadina's gaffe getting thrown out at second after his RBI single on Saturday night which killed a first-and-third rally in a 1-1 game. Davey gave a lengthy answer, but on the Roger part he just said, "That's Bernadina" and went on to his next point. Every reporter understood. Bernadina was a useful fourth or fifth outfielder last year. This year he got rusty and has just been lost and bad. I'm glad he has a following. But, like Lombardozzi, he has a place in the universal baseball scheme and it isn't as an "answer" to major problems. If they are used properly, they can both help a good team. 

In your humble opinion, is he the best golfer without a major?

It's still you, Lee. Sorry.

Loved Mickelson's win. But watching Westwood was brutal. His whole career it's been his putting that failed him. This time, his swing -- his strength -- killed him. Didn't hit a fairway on the front side. I think most in golf would now assume he's gut shot and will never win a major. Not because Phil won but because Westwood collapsed and insured that SOMEBODY else would win. It happened to be Phil. I hope that's wrong about Lee.

I can't tell you the times I've hustled across courses on Sunday to catch up with Westwood who suddenly "had his big chance," only to fold the instant I got there. I have actually sworn NEVER to hurry after him again on a Sunday. ANY other palyer, yes. Westwood, no. Not dislike. I like him. Just been burned too many times. 

IMO the most exciting final round of a major since Jack winning the Masters in 1986 with a 31 on the back nine on Sunday. Watching Phil play is just riveting - win or lose. And he never makes excuses and is so gracious. A true champion in the mold of Nicklaus.

I watched every minute of all four rounds using fast-forward. It doesn't take any longer than watching four MLB/NFL games. It was just a fabulous tournament from front to back. And ESPN did a good job. They informed me and I don't think they ANNOYED me even once. That's hard to do when a telecast has so many voices. 

There has been an amazing amount of riveting golf since '86! This was a fabulous invidual performance -- a 66 when nobody else except Poulter could even get out of his own way. But there are at least 20 majors since '86 that would compete with Sunday because they came down to a final shot. This Open was so SATISFYING. Maybe that's the right category. Or something similar.

I'll never forget Tom Watson coming within a yard or so on his approach shot at the 72nd hole of winning the British Open at age 59. It's certainly been said that pain tends to be more intense than pleasure. Thanks to Phil, this pleasure in his win was pretty darn intense!

Man, did Tiger look bad by compariuson. Getting caught yelling a curse again in mid-round. Grumping his way around and then talking about how "close" he was AGAIN. He keeps saying he can't read the greens so that's why he putts badly in majors. COME ON. That's the No. 1 cop out in golf. When you say "Can't read 'em, cant' read 'em" often enough, as if it's the fault of the greens, that's the same as saying, "I can'gt putt like I used to and I can't get it fixed. I can't putt like I used to and..."

Poulter and Mickelson could read 'em. They made more "sea goers" in one day than I make in two years.

Any thoughts on A. Kilgore's article on Cal Ripken ?

Every team that doesn't go to the World Series this year should offer Cal a job as its manager for next season. Including the Nats. He won't take it, I assume.

With Rizzo one year removed from being Executive of the Year, there is no "Nolan-Ryan-like" job for Ripken with the Nats now. Ryan is the boss in Texas. Ripken isn't going to be somebody's assistant. And it would be nuts to make him your rookie team president above Rizzo and lose him and plenty of his key people, too.

So, as far as the Nats are concerned, I assume its "manager or nothing." Which presumably means "nothing." But we can always dream! I think he'd be a great manager. Why would he want the aggravation?

(Pssst, Cal, what a great CHALLENGE! You want to test all your ideas and your dad's ideas. The O's have Buck. That job's not open. Your old pal Davey will still be around to whisper in your ear next year. Come on, you can do it.)

Nope, it ain't gonna fly.

After this awful series with the Dodgers, do you see the Nats being a seller at the deadline?

No. And they shouldn't be. Players like LaRoche and Soriano are signed for '14.

Espinosa has cooled back off at AAA: 2-for-20 with seven Ks. You can't get decent value in trade for him now. Why would you do something crazy like trade LaRoche, give up on Z'amn at third, bring Espinosa back up to play 2nd and move Rendon to third? That just says "panic."

Enjoy the last 64 games. I'm not kidding. In the NBA you will always see a super team like the Heat or Lakers run off a big winning streak. But you don't see half the teams in the league do it. In baseball, you DO. In any year, about half the teams have super-hot streaks and often more than one such streak. I'm going to go work it out for my own satisfaction. That always includes EVERY team in the playoffs and even a few teams that don't even play .500. The Nats probably need 88 wins to be "right there" on the last day of the season. They need one big hoty streak and no big slumps to make it exciting. BUT the recent 2-8 really changes the odds on whether that hot streak -- even if they get it -- is enough to undo all the false starts.

They keep eating away at their margin of error.

But that doesn't mean you become a seller.

Boz, Two quick questions: First, isn't it galling to the team that Rafael Soriano acts differently on the mound -- e.g., windup vs. stretch -- depending on whether or not it is a save situation? In other words, pitching in a non-save situation is beneath him. Second, isn't it time to start sitting Span against lefties and platooning him with Hairston?

Yes. And yes.

In Soriano's case, it may not be galling, but it is certainly noticed. I'm not sure he was even available to pitch on Sunday after working Friday and Saturday in tie-game situations. Just a footnote.

I think that "saves" are so much the definition of Soriano's job that he has tied up all his best rituals and good luck mannerisms and psyche-out tricks to use in those situations.  But the handful of times he's used in tie-game spots -- as all closers are used every year -- it seems to put him at a disadvanatge. I talked to a Nats reliever yesterday about this and he said, "It's just totally different pitching in save situation and tie-game spots. In a tie game, a hitter still has 'nothing to lose' by jumping on an 0-0 pitch or being aggressive. In a save spot, hitters don't want to give away one of those last three outs by being too aggressive."

Yes, it's obviously time to sit Span vs lefties since you now have Scott Hairston (career ~.815 OPS vs southpaws) to put in LF and it's not going to "wear Harper down" to play perhaps 15-20 games in CF. He's already had a 31-day DL rest.

The Nats HAVE to hit to get untracked. So you play your best hitting lineup. JMO. 

The public (TV viewers and galleries) seems to like Phil because he smiles and waves and seems always gracious ... do players like him for the same reason, or do they like him for his dedication, hard work, etc etc? Or is it all a ruse and they all hate him but don't say so because the public loves him? Reverse question, is Tiger as distant and aloof in the clubhouse as he seems on the course?

The other players really like Phil. For all of those reasons. A dozen years ago, maybe less so. But that's why watching him mature and, in some ways, change has been such a pleasure.

Tiger is admired for his incredible talent. Pro athletes have a judge-not-that-ye-be-not-judged view on the personal lives and problems of most other players.

Now cheating  -- which is very very rare in golf -- is entirely different. For that reputation, and I could only name a couple of examples, you are widely disliked. So I know what "strong dislike" feels like in the way players talk about eachother. That doesn't exist for Tiger in my experience.

As for popularity, his tournament at Congressional didn't have the kind of field this yeasr that Nicklaus and Palmer's events have, due to their personal appeal and influence with top 50 players. We'll see how he does next year in D.C. But I'd say that Tiger is probably better liked than many think. With all his problems in recent years, it's natural to look for an undercurrent of dislike from other players. I certanly sense it in some members of the media. But far less with U.S. players. International players? More edge.

Everybody says Nats Park can't get an All-Star Game because the surrounding area isn't developed enough. But how does that explain sites like Busch Stadium (their development plan is further behind than ours), Angel Stadium (surrounded by parking lots and freeways), or Citi Field (surrounded by parking lots, a subway line, and a junkyard)?

Nats Park has the potential to improve enormously in just a few years. You can't help Citi Field and its surround Deathscape or the remote Big A. They are what they are. St. Louis is short walking distance from downtown hotels and the Arch. I'm not expert, but I've been to St. Louis a lot in the last 15 years and it seems their development always seems to be less than anticipated.

How good has Gio been over the past two months? I was at Saturday night's game, and just as I was sure that the Nats wouldn't score with the bases loaded and one out, I felt the same when the Dodgers has runners on second and third with one out. Gio seems to have figured it out, and right now he's pitching like he's the ace of the team.

Since April (2-2, 5.34 ERA), Gio has gone 6-1 with a 2.04 ERA in 14 starts and a .585 OPS-vs. With reasonable run support, he could be 11-3, not 7-3. To be, he's the most entertaining of the three Nats star starters to watch. He just made Yasiel Puig look overmatched. Got him out three different ways in three  at bats. Weak 5-3 dribbler in first at bats on a diet of curves. Just pounded him on the hands for a K the next time. Then threw him three perfect low changeups in a full-count swinging K the last time.

Strasburg and Gio turned Puig inside out so badly that he wasn't in the lineup on Sunday. Yes, the way he banged into the wall to catch Rendon's foul fly on Friday may have contributed. He's banged himself up on walls already twice, like Harper but not as badly.

BTW, I hate to say that anything is the Best I've Ever Seen. I always think later, "That's stupid. You just can't REMEMBER what was better." But Puig's throw to nail Harper at third on Friday (ump got it wrong, called him safe) may have been one of the best throws I've ever seen. Saw Ellis Valentine (~1980) throw from CF warning track to plate on one hop off the down-slope of the pitcher's mound in Montreal once. Harper called Puig's arm "an absolute cannon."

Going to be fascinating to see how the league works Puig. His ultra-aggressive approach and bad-ball chasing make me wonder if he's as good a student of hitting as Harper and Machado are. But what stage presence and tools!

Phil stated that he didn't think that he could win "The Open." But why is the British so different than what is on this side of the Atlantic? Looking at TV, I see three differences: no trees, waist high grass, and six foot bunker walls. Is there something more subtle going on?

It's so entirely different it almost feels like a different game (to me at least).

WIND. The "truth serum of golf." It tells you exactly how purely you have hit your ball (or not). No trees, plus wind means that you are always being examined.

Bump-and-run: Or "playing along the ground." Totally different. Instead of shooting an arrow high in the air and letting it stick where you aim it (U.S. golf), you skip a rock along a lake and hope it bounces six times to get to the other side (The Open).

The bunkers in Britain are terrifying. Nothing like most major U.S. courses.

Ugly: Links courses are hideous. They depress you. How can you play your best when you want to kind a human skull, meditate on it like Hamlet, then go have a few dismal pints. Okay, okay, that's just my minority view. I HATE links course. I wouldn't play St. Andrews twice if it were across the street with a $20 greens fee. I thought Muirfield was the exception in the Opens I covered -- it's pretty enough.

There's plenty more. In the U.S. you ask, "How can I make my ball go a longer distance." You yell, "Go, go, hit a sprinkler head." At The Open, you ask, "How can I make the damn ball STOP." On Sunday it was like playing on a highway. Seriously, players were using layup cl,ubs so that they wouldn't hit their drives into a down-wind cross bunker at 400 yards. And at least one player drove the ball on the middle of that 448-yard hole.

At Muirfield, the conditions were so hard that some players almost never used driver and were teeing off with 4-5-6 irons constantly. I half expected somebody to reach a 450-yard par four by hitting wedge-wedge. Then bounce through the green and make double bogey.

Boz! I am a big fan of your work. When will you admit that the Orioles are going to have a better record than the Nationals this year?


Don't lay your hang ups on me, gentle reader!

I enjoy good baseball. That's what the Orioles are playing right now. The Nats aren't. It'd be more fun if they both were, like last year. And they still may.

After sitting at Nationals Park through all of that excruciating game on Saturday, I asked out loud "what does Ian Krol have to do to at least merit a chance at pitching the seventh inning of games with a lead?" So I'll ask you, don't you think he at least deserves a look? Every time he comes in it seems like he gets batters out, something Storen is having a tough time with lately. I know Krol hasn't done it in a lot of crucial situations yet, but that is mostly because he hasn't gotten the chance. Am I just crazy here? I'm tired of worrying about Storen's psyche by the way, make some damn pitches and the psyche will be fine. I don't think he refunds his salary based on his psyche.

Krol has earned all the work they want to give him.

Storen has had some bad moments. But he's also been quite unlucky. And that's part of a relievers burden with small sample sizes and game-turning moments.

For example, Storen's Fielder Independent Pitching (FIP) and X-FIP (with a normal # of fly balls becoming homers) are 3.79 and 3.35. I often average the two -- for example, 3.57 for Storen. That's about how he's pitched, IMO.

Soriano's FIP is 3.38 and his X-FIP is 4.04 for an average of the two of 3.71.

About the same. Not very good. But not a big problem.

What are their ERAs?

Soriano 2.36 with 25 saves. Storen 4.91 with a lot of criticism.

Nobody said the game was fair.

I wonder what the MLB record is for most times having the bases loaded with no outs yet coming away with zilch? The Nats have got to be nearing this record.

I think they already broke the old record and are working on a mark for the ages.

FWIW, Davey is totally mystified by the "ability" of the offense not to score. It's like a reverse "gift." Last year, through 71 games, they scored ~3.7 runs-a-game (same as this year, so far). After that, in '12, the Nats scored OVER 5.0, which would be No. 2 in baseball this year behind Boston. Will that happen again? Or even some milder version?

Yesterday's Nats lineup had seven hitters (ex-Span) who have an average OPS this year of .808 -- all fall between .750 and .879. No outliers or abnormal seasons, though plenty of games lost to injury. The average CAREER OPS of those seven is .798 -- all fall between .749 (Desmond) and .835. If you normalized Desmond, it would probably be ~.808. The NL's OPS is only .707! Span doesn't even distort this metric -- .670 this year, .736 career. Even if the Nats pitchers hit very little, even if the bench stinks, it should not be possible for a lineup with such component parts -- seven ~.800 OPS players and a .670 hitter -- to be 29th out of 30 in scoring.

But it is happening. Earl would say it can't continue. We'll see.

To borrow a word from Abraham Lincoln, when are the Nats going to disenthrall themselves of the attitude that they are a much better team than their record indicates? After 98 games, the Nats ARE their record. Period.

After 162 games, they are their record. 

Then next year, they will be something else.

But they do need to stop living in the past or, perhaps, living in REFERENCE to the past, rather than being entirely in the present. And even enjoying the present. They'd have to go 50-14 to be 98-64 again. Not going to happen. Get different goals, a fresh frame of reference.

Tiger sounded halting, hesitant and nervous in his post-round interview. Racked with self-doubt. Very unlike the unshakeable self-assurance of yesterday's action hero. Did you detect the same thing? What do you make of him now? -Jim Junewicz

After the first three rounds I thought he was more relaxed, candid and less defensive than usual (in recent years). Thought it was good. Tough to let your guard down after a Sunday 74. But the way he stood over his missed 6-foot par putt at No. 1 -- just staring down at the ground for a long time like he couldn't believe he'd made bogey (on a birdie hole) from the middle of the first  fairway was both telling and a little sad. I'm not a hater by nature. I like people with talent to fulfill it. And I like people with problems to solve them.

Your point about Jack having 18 majors and 19 runners-up or top threes makes me wonder whether that strong correlation exists in general, and whether there are golfers who have a lot of wins without a lot of runners-up or vice-versa. We've seen in baseball that you have to be good to reach the playoffs or World Series but you don't have to be the best. That should be true in golf as well: you have to be good to reach the leaderboard, but you can win or lose a tournament on a fluke. (I don't have an answer for this; maybe you can get a column out of it.)

Good idea.

Angel Cabrera is a recent multi-major champion who has a reputation for "closing the deal" in big ones on the rare times that he has a chance. "Not afraid to win." He's only finished in the Top Six four times in his life in majors, yet has two wins and almost won the Masters again this year until Scott's great play beat him in the playoff. 

Beloved analyst and two-time U.S. Open champion may be the most extreme example. Or maybe he's the luckiest nice man alive. He played in 53 majors and only finished in the top SEVEN three times. But he won twice. He missed the cut 21 times!

I started covering the U.S. Open in '79 and I'm pretty sure the only one I've missed was '85 (could be wrong). So I arrived one year after North's first Open win and missed his second win because I was assigned to cover something else.

I've seen a recent increase in the criticism of Davey Johnson's managerial decisions. I can't believe fans are blaming him for where the Nats currently stand. I put the blame on the players. It's execution that's at fault. Right? What else could/should Davey do that he hasn't already tried?

Fans get angry. That's natural. It's their job. You hope to get your frustrations OUT by following sports, not increase them.

The easiest person to criticize is the manager, especially if you don't really know that much about baseball. Also, people who are simply mean by nature or angry from their own disappointments seem to ENJOY screaming at baseball managers. The implication is always: "Any idiot could do better than that, including an idiot like me."

Don Zimmer once said to me, "There are only two jobs that every man in America is absolutely certain that he could do. Run a bed-and-breakfast and manage a major league team."

I guess by "run a bed-and-breakfast" Zim meant hand out room keys, fix breakfast and not fall asleep at the front desk.

The one minus against Phil (in my mind at least) is that three out of his five majors came on one course (Augusta), where being a bomber is more important than accuracy. I'd still put Seve, and Faldo ahead of Phil.

Good point. But Tom Watson won five British Opens which suited his game living in Kansas City -- wild, windy, flat.

They all count.

I was so in favor of the Span acquisition, now it just looks horrible. Do you think he can get back to the .392 On Base Percentage he has in 2009 or is he really a .317 OBP guy? Will this team ever solve CF and lead off?

He's .331 in OBP the last four seasons combined. The A.L. OBP this year (no pitchers hitting) is .320. So, an average player gets on base only one percent less often than Span. He's a very good CFer. He's on pace to steal 17 bases, the same as last year.

That's about it for today. Thanks for the questions. I'll be on vacation for a couple of weeks. Look forward to it. But also look forward to all the action when I get back. Cheers!

Ok, first, let me say, I have kind of given up on the playoffs, which lets me enjoy the baseball as much as the team. With the Nats not being in contention, I wonder if keeping Soriano is a great idea. Storen 2011 had a better year than Soriano is having...Storen was solid down the stretch after recovering from injury. He had one meltdown, which happened to be the most important save of his career to date. I would like to see confidence in Storen restored. And Clip has been on fire.

Interesting. The Red Sox and others are certainly in the closer market. But you'd have to pay a goodly price in prospects to get a 25-save, 2.36 ERA AL East-tested closer who pitched well in post-season and World Series and is signed through '14. Those are the same reasons the Nats would want to keep him.

I find it a bit ironic and pathetic how immature Jayson Werth is. For someone who chastised Nyjer Morgan for professionalism when he first arrived to the club, he hasn't exactly been the model citizen. From biting at reporters for holding mics too close to his face to getting tossed in extra innings of Saturday night's game arguing ball/strike calls that were legitimate. Crying to the ump in extra innings of a game where you could only muster one run is placing the burden of blame on the wrong lap. His empty HR's yesterday might massage his stats but it won't change the fact that the $127mil man has come up small with RISP time and time again. I fear that if he were a black or latino player he would be labeled as a "poor attitude" player, rather than a "fierce competitor." Am I reading too much into this? Love your work Boz!!

In the case of Saturday's ejection, I assume he's just trying to light a fire, or get out frustration, after he'd been called out in what would (very high probability with Nats down 3-1) his last at bat of the game. Highly likely, they'd either lose or come back to win before he was due up again.

Werth's season is one of the better stories this season. Here's something I'd never have guessed. In his years in Philly, adjusted for ballpark, Werth's OPS+ was 130. The last two years with the Nats it's been 125 and this year 132! When he's healthy and playing he's actually hitting exactly as well -- in terms of slash line -- as he did in Philly.

He hit two homers yesterday off Kershaw. In a fourth or fifth outfielder, I'd grouch that it was stat-padding. But in a 3-4-5-6 hitter, it always matters that the main bats get hot, grow confidence continue a good approach. Werth is 34 and playing every day -- running the bases hard and playing a good RF -- with one late, three screws and eight pins in his left wrist. 

The Orioles have paid Brian Roberts $50M to produce almost nothing the last five years. It's not his fault. He was really hurt. But Werth deserves some credit, even though he's crusty at times, for getting his butt on the field every day he can get olut there and producing for the last 616 plate appearances over two years at something close to his Phillies-prime years.

After the awful season he had in '11, did you really think that would ever happen? Or after his gruesome wrist injury last year? But he has. He's a tough cuss. You can't have too much of that.

I think you sometimes come down too hard on Span. I know he is in kind of a slump right now but at the beginning of the year he was really producing (and getting on base a lot). Span does not need go - he just needs to get in top form (and he will)!

Point taken.

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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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