Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Mar 03, 2014

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

Now that Nene is out for the next six weeks; do you think that the Wizards' penchant for losing to inferior teams, especially at home, will end knowing that their talent level has decreased and that they can no longer afford to overlook teams?

I've been impressed so far by their reaction since his injury, including Ariza's 40 points on Sunday, Wall and Gortat's 31-point games in the triple-overtime win, not to mention a SIX-game winning streak. For years the Wiz reacted to bad breaks, which all teams have, about as badly as you'll see. Not this time, so far. It's a good test of growth for them.

In addition to John Wall's improved play over the last year I think the biggest change in the Wiz is the maturity of veterans like Ariza, Nene, Webster (and now Andre Miller) who understand and support Randy Wittman's coaching. As I've been saying here for quite a while, I think Wittman is a good coach who reached Wall in the middle of last year and has things going in a good direction. 

It's certainly fun to look at an over-.500 team with exciting young guards. Lot of questions -- especially will Nene return by the end of the season.

What I especially like is that the Wiz not only get double-digit scoring from six players but that, for the first time ina long time, they have five players who grade out "above average" for the NBA (usually ~15.0) in PER -- Player Efficiency Rating, which includes every stat's impact. Wall 20.4, Gortat 16.9, Ariza 16.8, Nene 16.4 Booker 15.0, Beal 14.1, Webster 12.3. That, to me, is an indication that they are playing together better and Wittman is giving them tools to have many players contribute in different ways.

Orlov scores two and still winds up being the goat, which he richly deserved. If Schultz or Saleski had been on the ice when Orlov boarded Schenn, Orlov would have been reduced to a pulp before he left the ice.

I thought Oates did a good job of telling the truth without burying Orlov too badly. The hit on Orlov was simply the Flyer (Schenn) playing tough. "That's their guy's job," said Oates. It was a terrible situational (mental) error to risk a major penalty in the middle of the third period with a two goal lead. Maybe he was too excited by his first two-goal game. Well, calm down and as Oates said, "Be disciplined."

I like Oates as a coach a lot but some of the blame for the Caps squandering 14 two-goal leads this year (!!!) has to be on the coach, right? Doesn't discipline -- team-wide -- show up when you are in a "winning position" (chess term).

Boz - I know it's early in spring training but Walters is 5-5 and making some impressive defensive plays. Do you foresee him being more than a September call up this year - perhaps a quality utility player? He also seems like a sharp kid and an interesting character.

I've been watching him since LAST spring training. Davey was very, very high on him -- as a hitter with power, as a graceful natural shortstop with a strong arm. (Johnson thought he was not just good but a future star. Probably liked him as much or more than any position player in the system who didn't make the big-league team last year.) I think he is a serious prospect who has gotten somewhat overlooked because he fans a lot. Very rare to see a SS who can hit 29 HR last year in only 134 games and 487 ABs -- and do it at AAA. His walk-K ratio was awful -- 20-134. I don't think that sholuld stop him. He carries himself like he is ready and he really looks like a ballplayer. A very nice guy to talk with, too.

Where do you put him to get the most out of him both now and long-term? Tough question. He's 24. Best case is Espinosa hits well and you have to figure out what to do with Walters. But there are similarities -- both switch-hit, both have really good raw tools, both K too much, both are natural big-arm shortstops. (Nats got him for Jason Marquis from Arizona.)

I'll go on and say it -- I think Walters will be a good starting SS for somebody some day. As for '14, just don't know, but it's great that he's making them notice his bat speed, gap-to-gap power and an excellent dive-to-his-right bounce up and throw out runner play on Sunday.   

In last week's chat the issue of Jerry Smith's hall of fame chances was brought up. Despite his excellent statistics, it is likely that Smith's sexuality played a role in his lack of support for his election. However, you have to consider that by adding Smith, the mediocre (at best) Redskins of the mid-to-late 1960's would be represented by three HOF receivers and one HOF quarterback. That may be one too many for the voters to take. In my research I can find four teams that had two HOF receivers at the same time for a significant number of years: L.A. Rams (Tom Fears and Crazy Legs Hirsch); Baltimore Colts (Ray Berry and John Mackey); Steelers (Swann and Stallworth); and Chargers (Kellen Winslow and Charlie Joiner). These teams with only two HOF receivers were winners most of the time.

Good research. Thanks.

I don't think Smith's sexual orientation will or has had any impact on his election chances. What IS important is that he didn't play on winning teams -- just for an exciting offensive machine. So, the "third receiver" thing may be a semi-conscious factor for voters. To this day, I think Mitchell, Taylor and Smith in their primes were the most exciting trio of Skins receivers that I've watched, especially because Bobby M and Charley T were so amazing after the catch and Smith had a knack for getting in the end zone. 

IF Danny Espinosa can find his swing and cut down on the strikeouts, could Matt Williams get 300+ ABs for him alternating between 2nd/SS/3rd as a super utility?

Yes. And I think that is Plan A because they certainly want Rendon to keep improving as a hitter -- which means he would presumably keep the second base job if he did.

One of the Nats biggest potential areas of improvement is the possibility of getting ~1,000 at bats off the bench from McLouth, Espinosa and Lobaton who, as a group, could put up a .750 OPS in a pretty good year. (That assumes Espinosa can hit .235 or some such -- hardly a foregone conclussion.) Tyler Moore needs to improve on '13 by a lot, too.

Last season these are the guys who were all AWFUL off the bench with OPS of .616 or lower (which is pathetic): Suzuki, Moore, Lombardozzi .278 on-base percentage, Espinosa, Bernadina, Tracy. That's the way to totally incinerate 1403 plate appearances. Those guys got to the plate 300 more times combined than Harper, Ramos and Rendon -- and completely negated their good work.

A good bench needs to hold its own -- at or near the league-wide OPS (or whatever measures you prefer) -- so that the good work of your stars lifts the whole team. You can't have a bench that's an anchor with 1700+ PA in which they suck and undo the production of the more famous/better players. Last year, the Bench Anchor was huge. 

can't stand seeing another Caps debacle. Is it time to trade every star they have, blow it all up, and re-start the whole mess?

Haven't you heard -- Evgeny Kuznetsov is coming (and he's going to stay at Ovi's house).

That could help in time. But the history of young Russian players who enter the NHL is modest. Not big impact as a rule.

The Caps are a .500 team. Before the season I said that with the division changes (tougher schedule) the Caps would be in a battle just to make the playoffs.

So, after all these years, I finally fall for hockey and the Caps in the last 5+ years, watch them all the time (on my own time) and now their window as a really elite team closes. I guess it was a gift anyway -- now I enjoy hockey, too. But it is disappointing that this team just doesn't seem to have a core of exceptional players who could make a deep Cup run. Ovi is scoring as much as he can and they still are an average team. Just an aside: after nine seasons in the NHL Ovechkin just doesn't have the super-human motor that he did for many years. Time takes its toll. So, he focuses on what he does best. But, man, he just floats around the ice on defense or when he doesn't sense a chance coming. No surprise that he was in chicken-with-head-cut-off mode on a couple of Flyers goals yesterday (JMO).

So, no, there are not enough "stars" that you could get a lot to "re-start." You play with what you've got, try to improve, let Oates become an established coach. It's not the end of the world to have pro teams in town that play .500 -- like the Wiz and Caps. It's just that expectations frame our emotions. So, the Wiz at three games over .500 seems like progress while the Caps on the edge of the playoffs seems like such a downer after the last half-dozen years. As I noted in my Sunday column, "windows" don't stay open forever. You have to "capitalize" and the Caps never did. Maybe, one of these years, we'll see them have an entertaining low-expectation playoff run. (But not holding my breath.)


Does Mussina get in to HOF?

I think he eventually gets in because he's one of only a handful of pitchers who won more than 100 more games than they lost (270-153). It's a fine and superb group. I think there are only about 5-or-6 pitchers who top his plus-117.

But he's a close call for HOF. Yes, I realize that there is a strong stat-based bunch who think he is a pure HOFer, no question. I think it's a harder call.  And I don't think there were many people who appreciated Mussina more than I did. REALLY enjoyed him.

He had a 3.63 career ERA (not so pretty) but it came when he was clean in a high-hitting dirty era. His ERA+ -- adjusted ERA -- looks better at 123 (tied for 84th in history. Marichal was 123. Feller was 122.

Boz - As excited as I am to dive into Nationals baseball, I'd be remissed if I didn't pause to acknowledge this incredible Wizards season. When Nene went down I was almost certain hope was lost - but I have never been so pleased to be wrong. A year ago Agent David Falk told the Wizards to get rid of Wall and indicated he'd never be an elite PG. Has Wall done enough to at least quiet the doubters for a bit?

Everybody will have their own theory on Wall, but I think the home game against Detroit last year was a turning point. If I remember correctly he sulked on the bench during the game. Several vet players really got on him -- not by name, but they made it clear who they were talking about -- and Wittman also took a play-the-game-right position. Wall improved after that very quickly and was wonderful the last 20 games of the season. IOW, he responded maturely to criticism. I asked in a couple of chats whether the Wall of those last 20 games was the New Wall or just a Big Contract Push Wall. Looks like we have our answer. 

Also, slowly, he has pulled his shooting up from eggregious (and absolute bottom two percent of the NBA) to probably adequate. His True Shooting Percentage has gone up each year -- .494, .502, .521, .525. But it's his "effective field-goal percentage" (which divides the total number of points you score from the floor by the the total points you'd have made if you hit every shot) that was so horrible. And he's worked his way up -- .427, .424, .449 and now .467. 

Sorry about that "eFG%" stuff, but it matters. He doesn't have to be a great shooter to be an outstanding player. But he can't be a bricklayer. And he isn't anymore. Beal, for example, is .497 on TS% and .471 on eFG%. 

Beal and Wall rank eighth and ninth on the Wiz in effective shooting. Sometimes reputations and reality aren't quite tthe same. eFG% measures both 2-pt and 3-pt shots. The top Wiz players are Ariza .567 -- miles above Beal and Wall -- Webster .562, Booker .548 and Gortat .540. 

Hi, Tom - I'm old enough to remember the criticism leveled at Jim Brown by those who didn't like him - he didn't block. Thanks.

Ha!! Thanks.

I never saw him make one good block in his career. And he wasn't much interested in catching passes either.

And the best NFL player -- relative to his era -- that I ever saw. By a clear margin. For a Jim Brown to exist today, he'd need to weight about 260 (not Brown's 232) and be one of the world's 20 fastest 100-meter dash men, plus he'd have to be the single most competitive, arrogant and mean player in the league. He loved to break your will and if he broke your body in the process, well, so much the better. He's the only back I've ever seen who either mortified or terrified every tackler he ever faced. And he usually did both.

He seems to be really struggling this year. If he does not win a major this year, do you think he will be an underdog in breaking Jack's record?

I think he's a clear underdog right now.

I have a friend who's the chief of staff of the Smithsonian and one of my favorite golfing partners for many year. She has a wonderful swing. She told me just months after the fire hydrant incident that Tiger would never win another major. To paraphrase (hope I get this right): His mystique was destroyed in the eyes of others. His self-image was shattered in his own eyes. She teases me periodically -- since I was in the majority, for a long time, who thought Tiger was 50-50 to break Jack's record -- that he still hasn't won another major. She doesn't dislike him. It's just golf/personality analysis.

I'm not convinced he doesn't win another major. I'm stubborn. I'd not guess "one or two." But his body was used hard in his training and in the (beautifully controlled) violence of his swing. Now, he keeps breaking down. He did NOT WD on Sunday because he was playing badly. NOTHING but a real injury, and a lot of pain, would get him to pull out of JACK'S OWN TOURNAMENT. Nicklaus only had two WDs in his career, I think. You can bet Tiger knows that Jack had the rep of never giving in to pain -- always finishing the round or the tournament if at all possible. I was there for one of Jack's WDs -- at the Masters, I think (back pain).

I'd like to see an analysis of Tiger's play in the six weeks after he pulled out of an event or walked off the course in mid-round. Because it has to REALLY hurt for him to do it. I suspect that record is not good and puts a shadow over his chances at the Masters. I could be wrong. Maybe he bounces back fairly well. I'll see if I can track it down. 

I'm a native Washingtonian who has lived in Syracuse since 1975 (Orange by 12 over the Terps as I'm typing.) so I have interest in both the Nationals and Chiefs (and Auburn to some degree). Just finished reading your last chat and noted your comments on the depth of the Nats' pitching staff. Wondering if you might comment on what we might expect in Syracuse this year. We could really use a good team as we lost somewhere between half a million and a million dollars last year.

In Viera some of the Nats people were saying, "Look at what we'll have at Syracuse this year." Their bulk of talent has tended to be lower down in the minors and they're glad if the AAA teams has talent. The Syracuse starting rotafion should be especially good. Taylor Jordan may be on it. Don't know their exact plans for where some others, like Solis and AJ Cole, will start the year or move by mid-season. Have fun!

Maybe a chatter who studies the minors can offer us a plausible top-dozen players at Syracuse this year.   

Hi Boz! Diamondbacks vs. Dodgers in Australia; Why isn't this an EXHIBITION game? To have any official game while the rest of MLB is still in Spring Training is dumb! Obviously the Dodgers think so too. Want to promote the game ABROAD? Fine. Promote the game abroad. Then treat it like a promotion and not a REAL game that counts. What's your opinion! Thanks!

I hate the opposite-side-of-the-world Opening Days. And I think they are a decided disadvantage to the team that has to do it. Greinke moaned about it last week and had to be guided back toward the MLB company line. Kasten said something like: "That's why we love Zack...He's contrarian." Wish I'd been there when he said it so I could have laughed 'til I cried to see if Stan would break into his true (often hidden) character and laugh, too. 

I know why MLB does it -- international marketing and $$$. I guess I don't blame them. But it's a raw deal for the team that has to do it. And it just feels ridiculous.

Wasn't there once a baseball tradition on Opening Day that had something to do with Washington, D.C.

It's just a vague memory.

I own a baseball with hand-drawn picture of Harp with current stats and space for an autograph. The ball is beautifully drawn by the person who sells balls of retired players at the Baseball Hall of Fame. He did this one at my request as he is a family friend. I would like an autograph on the ball and wonder the best way to do this in person rather than mailing it, As a more than 65 year fan I love DC teams and enjoy your columns so much. Any helpful information would be appreciated. Thank you. Carol Dikei

Bryce signs but where and when is not something I pay attention to. Sorry. Before spring training games he signs after the workouts but that's over for this year. Maybe you should contact the Nats. Sounds like you've done a really nice thing and it is exactly the kind of True Fan thing that Harper would appreciate and enjoy (if I read him right), but getting it to work in any hot-autograph situation is something I'm not good at answering. Best of luck.

Assuming you could afford them all and they would resign, if you had to who on the current roster to make "lifelong" Nats - who would you choose among Desmond/Zimmermann/Strasburg/Harper? And who is the most replaceable?

In terms of value, everyday players are much more predictable in performance. So, Harper would be No. 1. Normally, I might put Desmond No. 2 because he's excellent and any long-term deal with a pitcher has a large injury factor. But the Nats have Espinosa and Walters as at least theoretical replacements. So, I'd put Strasburg second, despite the "reverse W" stuff, then Desmond and Z'mann last. Jordan is excellent but the Nats have a lot of starting piktching arriving by '16. (But I bet they won't be as good as Zimmermann).

My guess is they end up keeping two of the four with major extentions as long-time Nats. Three of four would pleasantly surprise me. Four for four would be close to a baseball miracle. That's part of the "window" subject. It's just hard to do. I think the Nats, internally, may be pointed toward a max of five mega deals with Werth and Zimmerman the first two. Just my guess, they dream of keeping all four, plan to try hard to keep three and (I hope) KNOW that they HAVE to nail two of them. You just can't let that much talent get away.

The Nats will be tempted to lean toward Harper and Strasburg because of their gate drawing power, which JZ (quiet) and Desmond (team-oriented classy) will not be flashy enough to match. But that means you are counting on signing one or two Boras clients long-term. Very risky. 

I am not impressed with the Nats' bench, because it is a bucket full of strikeouts. Does this open a door for Jamey Carroll to make the Opening Day roster? Would it be a bad sign if he did?

You have nailed Carroll's value -- he can do all the fundamental little things that matter late in low-scoring one-run games.

If Espinosa hits enough and Carroll makes the team, too, which can happen, that's not a bad sign. Just means Walters is back in AAA.

But you make a very good point about the number of K's on the bench w Espinosa, Moore. McLouth is NOT a strikeout player -- only 86 Ks in 593 PAs last year. So he should be a valuable late-and-close bench player, too. 

If Zach Walters continues his excellent play from the end of last year deep into the Spring, and Danny Espinosa parties like it's 2012, do you see the Nats dealing Espinosa this year, or are his defensive skills at short and second too valuable to lose?

The Nats certainly have plausible pieces to make a trade -- Espinosa/Walters, Roark/Jordan, Storen and, I suspose, LaRoche if you were looking for a first baseman.

But who do they WANT in that trade? I know the Dodgers had some interest in Espinosa late last year. How much? Don't know. But HanRam, at this stage of his career, is about as limited a shortstop as you'll see on a contender. Shouldn't he be back at third?

I understand that the Bullets' best years were before you became a Washington Post columnist. During your 30 years at the Post, were there any Bullets/Wizards teams you enjoyed watching that you felt did not reach their full potential (for whatever reason)?

I had to stop laughing. Been at the Post 44 years and rode in Unseld's car (to do a feature story) in the parade from old Cap Center to 14th and Penn Ave for NBA title celebration. There were fans on both sides of the parade for the entire way -- which was probably 15 miles? Not deep crowds. But fans strung out the whole way and sometimes two or three deep. Really cool.

"Tragically," the worst thing I can say about the Wiz/Bullets of the last 33 years is that they usually HAVE ended up in the vacinity of their potential. The Bullet-Wiz top (personnel) decisions makers have been nice people but, all in all, about as average at their jobs as you could imagine. Maybe that's a little generous.

Still, what's the fun if you can't fall into the enthusiasm trap once in a while? Just not too often.

The Wiz must come close to the record for most Wasted Fan Enthusiasm over a generation-long period. Whatever levels of support they have had, it was somewhat more than they eventually earned.

But, hey, they are 31-28! Teams don't to win titles to provide their fans with substantial fun. It's all those 20-to-30 win teams that make you want to scream.

Otto Porter Jr. scored his first points (2) since Jan. 24 in Saturday's win over the 76ers. Is it stunting his growth and development as a player to keep him at the very end of the bench? Wouldn't he be better served playing in the D-League? Also, it seems like plenty of fans are already writing him off. What's your take on Otto?

No opinion on Porter. If he barely plays, how can you evaluate? But the .293 percentage from the floor in 218 minutes is fairly terrifying. Has Ernie butchered another very-high pick?

At No. 3 overall you should almost always get a solid player, at the least. The recent No. 3s: Beal, Enes Kantor, Derrick Favors, James Harden, O.J. Mayo and Al Horford. There's been a ton of solid production in that group. I really liked Porter coming out of college and said so (here). So, if he doesn't pan out, I''m very wrong, too. Apparently, he needs to get bigger, stronger, at the least. Rooting for him.

Did you watch the UVa vs. Syracuse game on Saturday? Any thoughts on the ACC Tournament?

Yes. It's always such fun to watch Boeheim's face go into Lemon Mode in the final minutes when he knows he's lost. Great crowd and nice to see Tony Bennett with an ACC title. Joe Harris was impressive late -- carries himself like a star/leader and Malcolm Broddon knocking down FTs to put it out of reach.

Yeah, yeah, go on and laugh -- I covered the Ralph Sampson press conference when the 7-foot-4 center announced he'd go to UVA. Still remember interviewing him sitting in the stands at UVA after a practice. Very gentle. (Wish he hadn't gotten so much flack in the NBA.) His legs lapped entirely over the row of seats in front. IOW, I had my feet up on the row in front of me. He had his feet on the NEXT row down.   

Rory had a chance to win the PGA National yesterday on the 18th even after his collapse on the back nine. He collapsed. What does that do to his mental state? He tried to sound positive in the post playoff interview but it was obvious he was devastated. He's such a talent and I hope he can get his head right.

He couldn't keep the ball on the planet the whole day. Left, left, left. The same under-pressure mistake that he made at No.10 in the Masters on his bad final day. He went trap-trap-trap on ONE hole. If I had to play my ball from where he hit it, I couldn't break...Oh, sorry, recently I HAVE been hitting my ball in those places.

He'd looked so good the first three days that I was really shocked to see such a swing-mechanics collapse. He had some bad breaks -- stone under his balk in a trap. But when he only had 235 yards into No. 18 in the playoff, I thought he'd drill it on the green. Don't care if the pin is tucked, he's so good he has to have a two-putt for birdie there. But he'd been so close when he played that hole just minutes befoire -- stuffed it to maybe 18' but didn't make it to win -- that he probably took too aggressive a line and ended up in back trap.

IMO, he couldn't hit it right but, at the most crucial moment, he probably didn't think correctly either. He's one of (almost) everybody's favorites, including me. Hope he gets it sorted out soon. He hasn't played much medal play yet this year. So, maybe nothing more than working into four-day form, not just three-day form. But he had a chance to build his lead on Saturday and didn't do that either.

Shows how high the standards are for him that he almost wins and it's "nag, nag, nag" from me. What a swing and length. Just so much fun to watch him. You want to see him get it going and keep it going -- like '11 at Congressional in the U.S. Open with -16 and eight-shot win. DC semi-adopted him after that, so hope he gets the left-left-lefts cured soon.

Hey Boz, long-time reader... love your work, in particular your baseball insight. Should we be concerned about middle infield depth? If Espinosa can't hit over .200, who's left? Jamey Carroll's OBP was .267 in 227 ABs last season... yikes.

See: Zach Walters.

Sometimes bad luck can turn out to be good luck.

Wasn't that Boudreau's problem? Seems like he's doing OK with the Ducks. Maybe it's the players that GMGM provides the coach. Seems like he's gotten a pass for all these years. On a side note, if Crosby's so great why has Pittsburgh only won Stanley Cup - "way" back in 2009 and hasn't been to the Finals since.

Some of the young guns were undiscipled off the ice in their early years. Not a surprise they were undiscipled at times on it, especially in (discipline-oriented) playoffs. That falls on the coach but also further up the line on GMGM and the owner. Ultimately, Ted Leonsis set the organizational tone for his stars and, with hindsight, it was too lax, imo.

(Any high-sticking penalty on The Perfect Crosby is likely to get printed in this chat. Probably Penguin jealousy. My wife thinks all Penguins are adorable. So, it's a conflicted household.) 

Assuming the Nats fifth starter (whoever it may be though I'm pulling for Detwiler) has a great "fifth starter" season, how good can we expect it to be? Has any fifth starter won 15-20 games? Thank you.

If a "fifth starter" ever wins 15-20 games then everybody forgets he was ever the "fifth starter" at the beginning of the year!

Yes, I'm sure it's happened. Detwiler seems to have a little chip on his shoulder about not giving up that No. 5 spot. Good. He should. And adding a cutter should help him a little. 

Boz, Very good cold-water shower column this weekend on the Nats' window, but something that's really been occurring to me recently is that Rizzo is more than aware of this, and is, in fact, already planning for *multiple* windows with different potential cores and expanded cores. Pitching: yes, JZimm is likely gone after '15. Maybe Fister, too - but Gio is still there (for almost nothing) for '16 (and '17, and '18). And you "only" need two of Detwiler/Roark/Jordan (not bad) Solis/Cole/Giolito/Purke (who knows, but higher ceiling) to work out by then - or, to have developed enough to be packaged for another Gio/Fister. Outfield: Harper and Werth are set through '18 and '19 - Span has a cheap enough option for next year that you pick it up even if you're going to trade him - and McLouth - good enough to start for many teams - is both signed through '15 AND has a team option for '16. Which gives maximum flexibility depending how fast (or not at all) Goodwin and Taylor develop. Infield: the interlocking puzzle here is fascinating - basically every contingency is planned for. Zimm is back this year as a plus 3B? Great - more time to try out Moore/Skole/Brock Peterson and see if *they* are the 30 HR 1B of the future (all could be, or none). If he's not - well, LaRoche is gone, Rendon to 3B, and maybe Espinosa remembers how to hit, even .230. Or, if Desi's gone after '15, you have Espinosa as an elite defender at short, and maybe he doesn't need to really hit. Or Walters. Of course, as you point out, maybe this is their peak and no prospects develop and it's just an aging core. Certainly possible. BUT - I think given the strength of the pipeline, and the combination of talent evaluation and development from Rizzo et al. AND their savvy in trading three quarters for a dollar (a bunch of prospects for a proven big-leaguer), means that Rizzo has several different possible Opening Day lineups in 2016, 17, 18, and 19 already, depending on development/contracts/injuries. The goal isn't the Caps - it's the Cards.

Thanks for the chat "question," Mike.

A ton of good points here. YES, that is exactly how Rizzo (and very good GMs) work. He always says, "We have a Plan A. And a B, C and D, too." How can you not? But most teams, including most DC pro teams, have not over the years.

I doubt that both Z'mann and Fister (FA after '15) will get out of town if they both continue to be effective.

Talking wsith Rizzo a couple of weeks ago he was running through various permutations, like ones you suggest, and just said, "It's all a cycle."

In other words, you can't just say, "These are our players." You have to expect/assume changes -- the player leaves, gets hurt or his status changes (up or down) by a lot. That's why farm systems are SO important in baseball. The NFL and NBA have nothing equivalent. And that's why front office, scouting, minor league coaching, etc., is so important in MLB. It's another reason that baseball is, imo, moer fun to follow year-'round than any other sport. Right now, you are watching players in these exhibtion games who will be under team control for the Nats in 2020 -- and some of them will be starting or will be stars. Solis, Purke, Souza, Skole, Taylor? Who knows! Part of the fun.  

Mr. Boswell, do you take bathroom breaks during your chat?

Never. I'm a young guy. Don't need that stuff.

My Ovechkin comparison is Brett Hull. Hull had ridiculous goal scoring numbers early in his career and even won a Hart Trophy. His Blues teams fizzled in the playoffs. He eventually raised the Cup in Dallas and Detroit, but he was well into his 30's by then. I don't recall him being as criticized as Ovie seems to be. In fact, folks marveled as his ability to score while overlooking his other shortcomings. Maybe I'm wrong on that, but that's just what I remember. So my point is, put me squarely in the "Ovi is unfairly criticized" camp.

Good point, comparison. Thanks.

Sorry for the long chat. It's snowing. What the $%^# else is there to do? But I'll cut it off in a minute.

A long-ago Army buddy, who have the "privilege" of playing lacrosse against Brown (who is also one of the best lacrosse players of all time), told me he prayed Brown would "juke" him out and go around him, because of he wanted to go right through any player on the field - he could do it.


They had to change the lacrosse. Brown would clamp the stick (and ball) to his chest someetimes and just run through/over everybody and jam it down the goalie's through. Now yhou have to cradle the whole way. At last that's what they tell me.

What a great concept. It seems like the Browns would win this hands down. They dress up in dog costumes and hang out in the freezing cold. A few sniffs at AFC conference championship game wins is about it for the last 50 years.

We may have a winner. At least the Wiz have played indoors.

He had 38 (or thereabouts) errors in Syracuse this year. I don't think there should be any serious talk of him spending significant time with the Nats until he can clean up his fielding in AAA.

Walters had 31 Es at SS last year and seven at third. But they make a lot of errors in the minors. Desmond had seasons in the minors when he had 30, 39, 37, 32 and 28 errors.

For comparison, Desmond minor-league feilding percentage as a shortstop was .936. Walters career minor league fielding percen tage at SS is .937!

Okay, you are not going to get that kind of earth-shaking insight anywhere else. (Crimea is probably a little tougher puzzle, so I'll stick with minor league fielding percentages.)

Have you heard anything on what the Redskins are doing with Orakpo? Do you have any thoughts on whether we should tag him or sign him long term or let him walk?

Here's a link to our latest Post update on Orakpo:

I'd tag him. It's easy to say, "Oh, we have cap room this year. We'll get more total talent in the end if we don't spend too much on Orakpo." That's easier said than done. How many free agents ever want to come to 3-13 teams? Those 10 sacks may be harder to replace than many think.

But I'll grant that it's a tough call. Orakpo has had injuries. And the Skins have a LOT of needs.

That's it for today. Thanks for all the fine questions. Hope we've all dug out by NEXT Monday! Cheers.

The position players in Syracuse should also be good, although not quite so good as the pitching. I expect that the OF will be Souza, Perez and Kobernus (Goodwin and Taylor likely start at AA). The catchers will likely be Leon and Solano and (if he accepts the role) Chris Snyder. The infield will probably be some combination of former Cardinals' farmhand Brock Peterson, Walters, Rhymes and possibly Matt Skole - although I think they may return Skole to AA since he only had a split second there last year. All in all it should be a good year in Syracuse. Well, except for the weather :-)


How would you rank the GM's of each local team? I've got 1. Rizzo (by a mile) 2. McPhee 3. Grunfeld 4. Whoever/whatever is running the Redskins. It's pretty bleak after the first one. Your thoughts?

We have a winner.

Hi Tom, Do you think Storen might not be long for the team? I've felt for some time that Game 5 in 2012 truly affected how Rizzo sees him. Also,many like to say they have three guys who have closed in the bullpen. I feel the 7th, 8th and 9th are all different so that theory doesn't always work. Thoughts?

If they deal him, they better get quality for him. He is a smart, determined guy and, with any decent health, I think he'll have a number of years as a fine closer for somebody. He learns.

Give me "smart" in a pitcher every time. There are different kinds of intelligence. But you have to have SOME kind. Storen certainly does.

The phrase "million dollar arm , ten cent head" has lasted forever for good reason. When you hear it, run.

Thanks for the piece on the Nat's window? What is the chance that the Nat's don't have a 3-4-5 year time frame but can do what the Braves did and be around for a decade or more?

The theories they employ are all consistent with Built To Last. 

The theory and the practice? We'll have to wait and see.

Outta here.

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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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