Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Jan 06, 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

Hi Tom, love your insight on all topics, DC sports. Do you have a wish list of potential coaches that might turn this thing around? I remember Gibb's first year, started out what 0-5? But they stuck with him thankfully. Who might the next Gibbs be out there?

I like Jim Caldwell, Ravens offensive coordinator. But so may the Lions and he seems to be aimed for that job. He made sure he interviewed with them first and put the Skins off a few days.

Caldwell is actually the only one that gets me a little excited. Any time you hire a successful coordinator, whether offense or defense, it's still something of a crap shoot if he has never coached an NFL team. Obviously tons of these choices have worked out. BUT the eveluation skills of your front office and owner are tested when you go for an OC or DC. Do you trust the Skins people in those positions, especially -- as our story recently pointed out -- Snyder tends to interject himself on major decisions and nobody says "No" to Dan. Or they don't say it loudly or insistently.

When you are talking about OCs and DCs, doesn't matter if it's Sean McDermott (Carolina), Perry Fewells (Giants), Darrell Bevell (Seattle), Greg Roman (SF). They all have a huge question mark beside them. Jay Gruden is interesting. Wonder if the Bengals ugly loss over the weekend will hurt the three coaches on their staff who are being considered for various jobs.

The reason Caldwell is different is that he's coached a team (Indy) to the Super Bowl, his first year, and got fired after his third year, which was awful without Peyton Manning. So he's had success with a great QB and has worked with an extremely stable/smart organization in the Ravens. But I assume the Lions get him.

One thing worries me for the Skins. All the well-known names, like Smith to Tampa Bay and Cowher (won't coach this year), disappeared quickly.  So the Skins have to pick someone who has little or no marketing "buzz." You know they hate to hire an coordinator who has been with an "enemy" in the NFC East. There'll be a tendency to go with someone Bruce Allen has worked with in the past or that Snyder falls in love with. I'm not sure either standard is a wonderful one.

I don't see a single "original" name on the Skins interview list yet. It's like they listened to the quick-hit talk radio list -- quick, who ares the OCs who works with Kaepernich, Russell and other mobile young QBs.  

Of course it was "original thinking" that produced Zorn. So maybe the current predictable, but comprehensive list is the lesser of evils.

The Redskins list Dwight Schar and Frederick W. Smith as part-owners. Why do the Redskins have part-owners?

Dan Snyder had several fairly significant part owners when he first bought the team, but he gradually increased his ownership (bought them out, whatever) until he becames almost the only owner. That has been a very wise investment. 

What do the Nationals have in Rendon? Is he the top three pick that some projected before his injury in college or has his ceiling been adjusted lower?

The Nats think Rendon will be a career .290 hitter or better with lots of doubles early in his career and 20-homer power as he fills out. He's sometimes mentioned -- by the optimistic -- with Edgar Martinez. At 23 last year Rendon hit .265 with a .725 OPS. Martinez, at 24-25-26, only had 246 abs in the majors and hit .268 with a .702 OPS. So Rendon is far ahead of that. No reason to be at all impatient with the year he had last year.

I've always seen a similarity -- if you want to believe in his high end ability -- of Bill Madlock. Mad Dog hit .313 at 23 then won the N.L. batting title the next two years. So some guys who have great hand-eye coordination, always put the barrel on the ball, hit to all fields and have a swing that coaches love to watch -- like Maddock -- arrive very, very fast. So, Rendon is already not in that class. Should be fascintating. Physically, he looks like a second baseman but will he ever be more than slightly below average at that spot defensively? At third base, with time, more think he's above average, maybe even very good with a plus arm and quick first-step reactions.

Rendon is one of a half-dozen key players for the Nats future. They don't all have to be stars rather than just "good players." But a few of them need to max out.

Hi Tom, I was so inspired by your noting the December 29th date that I mentioned it to a Red Sox fan (as in fanatic). Thinking it was my idea he wrote back "I told some real baseball fans. The ones I talk to in hushed tones during the season. Each and every one has broken into a huge grin and asked who ever told me that, and why did not they know that. Wherever you got it, I have gotten great mileage out of it. Thanks." He now knows who it came from. Thanks again.

Thanks. That mid-point of the winter changes every year, depending on the date of the last game of the World Series and the first spring training game. But it's usually around Dec 19th because Series usually ends very close to 11/1 and first spring game, which is 2/28 this year, I think, is always around 3/1.

The Baseball Solstice. I "borrowed" this idea from a fan who e-mailed me a few weeks ago on another subject and mentioned it. You nice folks, by e-mail to the post, comments or chats, are a wonderful source of ideas, feedback and info that has never been available before. It's really appreciated. Including (most of) the criticism, too. 

Boz, love your chats and opinions, but you seem to be piling on the Redskins with everyone else, and I'm not sure it's justified. Are they a bit dysfunctional? Sure, but that's mainly a media-driven story. It's all about wins and losses at the end of the day, and there's a razor-thin margin in the NFL these days. Everyone seems to be ignoring a pretty strong core of offensive players in RGIII, Morris, Garcon and Reed, and a strong defensive front-7 (if they keep Orakpo). Throw in the fact that they now have a lot of money to spend on the offensive line and defensive secondary, and one could easily see huge improvement next year. Especially if RGIII comes back fully healthy with a real offseason of work.

All that is possible. Unfortunately, I suspect that is the Skins operating assumption and, before long, as happens EVERY YEAR, the best-case scenario will evolve over the off-season into their Minimum Acceptable Outcome. This is a disasterous habit of organizational thought and the Skins fall into it every year. There is a RANGE of outcomes.

The contrast with Rizzo is interesting. He said a while back that he thought the Nats were "about a 90-win team" in both '12 and '13. In '12, a lot of things went right and they won 98 and really did have a chance to go a ways in October. Last year, the lower end of plausible outcomes arrived. The reason they haven't "blown things up" is because they see the last two seasons COMBINED as very close to their estimates an average of 92 wins a year.

In Boston GM Theo Epstein said, even with the big Boston payroll, he wanted to win at least 90 games every year but that building for a lot more than that -- demanding 98 or 100 wins of yourself -- led to impatient misallocation of resources. That's where you need to be, aiming "at 90" or "above 90" as your threshold -- unless you can afford to have a >$200M budget and try to be amazing every year (which seems to fail almost as often as the saner approach of shooting for 90 or so wins.

There is nothing like this in the Skins mindset. It is always "we are close." They went 3-13 last year. IMO, they are NOT CLOSE. If you watched Luck, Brees, Rodgers, Kaepernick and even Alex Smith over the weekend you saw the large gap between the RGIII of '13 and where he needs to be to take a team to the playoffs. The RGIII of '12, with >800 yards rushing, is never coming back. He and his family don't want him to be that kind of player. So, eventually, he's going to have to be as good at resetting the pocket, reading defenses, managing the clock, passing accurately and only running the ball himself in crucial "game situations" or in post-season. And he is a LONG way from their levels in those areas in '13. He should improve in '14 just by healing more, getting the knee brace off and having an off-season to work on passing mechanics, accuracy and reading defenses. But he has a long way to go. He'll be "good" next year, rather than "average" as he was this year. But will he be Very Good or Wonderful in '14? That's a long distance to cover very quickly WITHOUT the ability to rush for ~900 yds per 16 games.

So, big picture, I'd say: Can we please use 3-13 and a total organizational implosion as a chance to chill out?

Worst news: there are few organizations in any spoirt that are willing to chill out -- even slight, ever -- than the Skins with their huge empotional and financial investment in marketing themselves as A Great Franhcise. Hello!? Reality check. The Skins are NOT a "great franchise." You're not allowed to have a 22-year slump and say you are what you used to be. They are a team with the resources to be great and a crazy devoted fan base and, in the fairly distance past, an excellent tradition. But can we have just an iota of modesty, please? In the case of the Skins, that's a lot to ask. But it's a New Year, so we can hope. Good luck to Bruce Allen. He takes a lot of grief. If he's actually given typical-GM control, lets see what he can do with it.     

Sportswriters are having fun dinging Snyder for his coaching carousel, but I haven't forgotten that the sportswriter community by and large has approved of every coaching decision he's made. Schottenheimer was agreed to be a great hire. Everyone thought it was worth taking a chance on Spurrier. No one disagreed with the return of Gibbs. Jim Zorn was heralded as a breath of fresh air after all the celebrity coaches. And no one thought Shanahan was a bad hire. (There was disagreement about the original firing of Norv Turner, but the intervening years have hardly shown that to be a bad decision). Certainly, I'd love to see coaching stability on this team. But when one looks at the specifics and asks, "what would you have done differently from Snyder at each point along the way?", it gets a lot harder to answer. P.S. And someone still needs to explain to me why it's bad for the owner to be friends with the star QB.

Marty, Joe and Mike were glamor choices, the later two with the risk that they were "past their expiration date" in an ultra-tough fast-changing sport.But you're right, I'd include someone who "bought" all of these as good hires.

Spurrier always had risk. Some in town didn't see it. I'll give myself credit on this one. I always saw it, as soon as he thought that any of his Florida QBs -- who, once they got to the NFL, were the equivalent of MLB fifth starters or AAAA players -- could make his offense work in the NFL.

As soon as Zorn didn't know the team colors -- everybody said, "Oh, anybody can make a mistake" -- I thought, "But you can't make THAT mistake."

Ancient case-by-case hiring history aside, there's a bigger problem. I thought our long weekend piece on Snyder's whole organization and managerial style (by Rick Maese) was excellent. This is a franchise that has fear of failure and fear of firing running all the way through it. That's a Snyder tone. To some degree he wants it, too some degree it's just his personality that gives off that vibe. And it is very seldom, imo, a good business ethos in any company in any industry. Their turnover throughout the organization, and smart people who leave disillusioned, is very high. The Skins problem goes beyond The Coach. It becomes: What can this coach do in this environment. And the answer has consistently been: Less than expected.

Sooner or later the Skins and Snyder are going to get it right for a few years. It's the nature of pro sports not to be able to succeed -- or fail -- indefinitely. I just hope it gets turned in ther right direction while Griffin can still get back to full strength and show what he can be.

Just make a list of the eight QBs who are left in the playoffs. It's always been a Quarterback and Coach league. With the enormous offense these days and the ability of mobile QBs to be uniquely effective, it is more than ever a QUARTERBACK and coach league. They are no longer both capitalized. One is ALL CAPS, the other is lower case (or close to it). P.S.: I don't think Mike Shanahan liked that subtle but important change in the NFL scheme of things.

As long as Dan Snyder keeps people like Tony Wylie around who do nothing more than feed his ego and view that everyone is out to get him, this team will never amount to anything. Agree?

I have never seen a pro team in any sport where the public relations director had any significant impact on the franchise -- beyond doing his job. So don't blame Tony. He's visible. But that shouldn't make him a target. But there is a larger problem: the Skins have been a culture of Yes Folk and Snyder has also consistently chosen to take advice from ordinary or pliable people who don't challenge him. Come on, 10 years of Vinny Cerrato tells you worlds of information about the person who picks him as his right-hand man.

When a team goes VERY bad, it is easier to see the flaws. That is an opportunity -- to identify them and try to correct them. The media and public can be depended upon to try to "help" that process. Probably in loud and sometimes obnoxious voices. I'll try to turn down the obnoxious knob as much as possible. But teams that have had eras of glory can also stay very bad for a very long time -- see the Browns in the NFL or the Orioles from '98 to '11. There's nothing wrong with some criticism. It's deserved, imo.  

During this off-season I've set a goal of seeing every baseball movie in the Onondaga County Library System (I live in Syr. NY). I'm almost done with the Ken Burns series and have enjoyed hearing from both you and Shirley Povich (the only time I've heard him speak.) My favorite commentator however, (sorry) is Buck O'Neill. Did you ever meet him and if so is he as pleasant in person as he is on the screen? (Also, is it true Cool Papa Bell once hit a line drive up the middle and hit himself in the head sliding into second base?)

Buck is everybody's favorite. Yes, my wife and I got to meet Buck when there were some festivities involving the "Baseball" series that took place in D.C. At some points we all rode around on a bus together. He was just as sweet, funny, charming, smart and full of stories in person as he was in the TV series.

I hadn't heard about the Cool Papa line drive! If you made it up, don't tell anybody. Maybe in 20 years it'll work its way into those "baseball quotes" books.

I've seen a number of sportswriters justify their HOF choices by citing the number of "wins" accrued by a pitcher. Hasn't SABR concluded that the win stat should be relegated to the statistical scrap heap? I would hate to see a worthy HOFer like Mussina get excluded because he didn't hit some arbitrary number of "wins" (300).

Wins have been put in context, like batting average. That's good.

But anybody who thinks that some pitchers don't "know how to lose" is crazy. (I don't mean you!)

Human psychology is powerful in all games and baseball is near the top of the list. Lack of confidence or self-destructive habits show up in all parts of life -- bad decisions at key moments, inability to control emotions. It happens in baseball, too. Stats capture tons of things. I love them. But they don't capture everything. In short, I don't know if some players are "clutch." I suspect that if they could "raise their level" they'd already have done it on many other occassions. But I am SURE that there are athletes who CHOKE. Those who don't, or who choke less, will seem "clutch" relative to the entire data sample that includes those who do not cope well with high pressure or expectations.

There are some players, and some pitchers, who are not damaged, dragged down, by crisis situations as much as others. I suspect that shows up in W-L percentage over a career. Mussina, for example, would just about define self-confidence and high self-esteem in an athlete. He thinks he deserves to win.

If Mussina gets in the Hall, I think a key, or maybe even the key factor should be that he is one of a very short list of pitchers who were >100 wins above .500 in their careers. On the whole, he played with above average teams in Baltimore and New York. But so have a lot of others who didn't last 20 years and end up 270-153. (I still think he's a tough call with the 3.68 ERA. But he played in a high-hitting era. And he finished in the top 6 in Cy Young Award voting NINE times -- the first time at age 23, the last time at age 39. That's a lot of excellence and a lot of consistency over a lot of years.

After watching the Chiefs field their fourth and fifth-string corners (one of whom hadn't played a down on defense all season) on the last Colts drive of the game, I wonder what the NFL can do to prevent the widespread occurrence of concussions. By my count, at least six players left the field due to concussion symptoms (including Jamaal Charles and at least one of the Chiefs CBs) and only one returned. None of these concussions were due to dirty plays, but the sheer number of concussions in one game is striking and startling.

The NFL would probably right a check for $1-billion to anyone who could cut their concussion problem in half.

It's not just the biggest problem in football. Right now it is the biggest problem that ANY sport has in any area. It has the potential to erode the game at every level over the next 20 years. When problems are that threatening "something" tends to get done. Better equipment, even if it looks "ugly" or not cool at first. Something.

Luck's comeback was one of the most amazing I've ever seen. I watched the whole game over AGAIN last night.  Once he got rolling he was throwing every pass in a window the size of an archer's bullseye. It's been proved that NFL QB's can do that -- on an empty field with an archer's target 15-25-35 yards away. But Luck did it with 11 men trying to prevent.

His fumble recovery touchdown was a kind of signature play, at least to me. Watch him. He never takes his eyes off the play and never goes stiff-legged. He's always in a "football position," ready to react. In a situation where there was a 1-in-10,000 chance that he might be able to do something constructive he was both mentally and physically ready to make the play. Then he turned it into a touchdown, not a fall on the ball. It looked like two of his linemen were so excited, so proud of him, or amazed at him, that they didn't even know how to express it when he got to his feet in the endzone and spiked the ball -- like they wanted to pick him up on their shoulders and carry him off the field.

I remember when Luck was drafted there were people who wondered, since he was so low key, never promoted himself or did anything flamboyant, whether he would be enough of "a leader" or an energizing player to be a truly great QB.

Now it looks like "lead" may actually be the thing he does best. And after the game he didn't duck his responsibility for three INTs, two of them entirely his fault. He and Russell Wilson are very impressive leaders. I think Griffin can be, too. But he may need to fine-tune some things -- like national ad campaigns and "Griffining."

Hi Tom, Have you ever wondered what it would be like to sit down with George Will over a cup of coffee and just talk baseball? I'd be willing to bet that ESPN or MLB.COM would pick up the broadcast rights in a heartbeat.

Long ago, when we all lived in the same part of D.C., probably in the '80's, George and Charles Krauthammer and I had some lunches just to talk. Vague memory now. But we've all visited each other's homes and I've talked a lot of baseball, and other things (not politics), with both of them over the years.

" (The Washington Post doesn't let its writers vote.)"

Conflict of interest.

I thought it was a good decision then (maybe 10 years ago) and still do. We COVER MLB. What are "we" doing voting on "their" award?

What do you make of this quote from Lou Holtz about Charlie Strong's historic hiring in Texas? "The thing that impressed me most was his attitude ... his people skills and his ability to communicate," Holtz told the Courier-Journal. "I found as we went along that his greatest asset was common sense. He's great with players ... but he's not a hip-hop coach. He really, truly could have coached for (Ohio State's old-school taskmaster) Woody Hayes with no problem whatsoever." Lou Holtz is such a clown. Now he is some sort of elder statesman. That's a joke. But his "hip hop" coaching reference shows the racist perceptions black coaches still need to overcome. A shame. Still great that the school that fielded the last white National Championship football team has a black coach.

For many years, I've changed the channel when I see Holtz face. As you listen to him, you can hear your brain cells screaming as they die.

Are the Nationals still trying to sell the naming rights to the stadium?

Not aggressively. Nationals Park works well. But if they ever win a World Series or go to a couple of them, then the naming rights will be a lot more, I would think. The Lerners are patient long-term players in everything.

Do you think there is any chance that Rizzo will sign Eric O'Flaherty?

Rizzo told me that the Nats were only looking at LH relievers on 1-year deals. O'Flaherty has been one of the most effective relievers in baseball but, even coming off major surgery, I would think he could get a multi-year deal. If he couldn't, or not on terms he liked, maybe the Nats could still luck into him on a 1-year "soft-pillow" deal so he could prove himself and set himself up for a big contract when he proves he's healthy. He's only 29. But that's a remote possibility, not something I'd expect.

Isn't this is the same player personnel team that built this team with massive holes and created the salary cap issue? How can we have any confidence that we can build a real team with the unqualified Bruce Allen at the helm?

"Traditional brilliant-player-evaluator GM" has never been Bruce Allen's reputation. But he could, in theory, delegate and head the discussion of players and get good results.

No, his curriculum vitae doesn't resemble Bobby Beathard's.

You're up by a point with two minutes left, almost no timeouts and your opponent has a first down near your goal line. So, either you hope for a turnover or missed chipshot field goal (not likely), or let your opponent walk in for a TD and hope you can score a TD in two minutes (some chance). Why wouldn't a coach choose the latter? It may not be in his blood to do so, but he's paid to win.

Interesting. I watched all four games and I have to admit that, in real time, this did not cross my mind.

Sometimes the team with the ball will not accept the TD and deliberately falls at the one-yard line. But if you can bluff like it's a real play, sometimes they are already in the endzone before they know that they have taken the bait.

I wish I could remember the exact situation -- Eagles had few times outs but was it 1 or 0? But I can't. I may go back and look at the tape to see if that was a missed opportunity. You can't just sit there, let the clock run down to nothing, and lose on a 95-percent field goal.  

How can you have an award named for a player, yet that player has not been elected to the Hall? ( Edgar Martinez - DH award) is it just bias against the DH ?

Because he only has 2,247 hits, 309 homers, 1261 RBI and doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame. He only had one RVBI title, no HR titles, two batting titles. The .312 average and very high on-base and OPS (.933) make him a candidate. But his inability to play defense MATTERS. It is incorrect to say "he didn't cost his team anything on defense -- negative WAR -- because he never played defense." The DH takes up the DH spot so another player CANNOT use it. By being inept, or injury prone yourself, you take another good bat out of the line. You "burn up the DH spot" every day.

I'm still thinking about Edgar. But not much.

Boz, What a great and unexpected article on the Hall of Fame, summing up all true baseball fans' own torn feelings over what is now happening. And spot on for pointing out that players like Mike Piazza, never named in any official report as a steroid user, have arguable suffered just as much as the cohort of Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, and McGuire. My question, however, is will all this focus on the steroid era--over players who actually cheated on the field of play and lied about it for years--maybe help Pete Rose, whose principal sin was being addicted to gambling? I for one believe that it would be a grave injustice to enshrine Bonds, Clemens, et al. in the Hall before Pete Rose.

Thanks. That was the rare column that was more a "lament without a solution," than an attempt to be constructive -- because nobody has figured out a way to put the Hall back together again.

Gambling on the game and cheating by breaking clearly expressed rules to gain an advanatge are, I would think, the two certain ways to keep yourself out of an honorary museum that cites three things -- character, sportsmanship and integrity (I think) -- on its instructions to voters. So I think Rose, and the eight always-named superstar users may be out for good. That's how I see it anyway. But the 37 percent who voted for Bonds and Clemens last year did so are serious thought, I assume. When 37 percent disgaree, there must be some serious grounds for disagreement.

But if  "I think I'll cheat, as the game defines cheating" doesn't get you eliminated from a group that's defined as possessing good character (as it relates to the game), then what would.

The argument that Ty Cobb was a bad guy is irrelevant. I think it's clear that the charcater issues pertains to your professional MLB career. Everybody thinks that everybody has done SOMETHING wrong and many people have done plenty that they regret. What, we aren't ever going to give anybody an award for professional excellence? I think what's obviously intended is: This person was wonderful at our game and he didn't do unethical things in regard to our game. It has nothing to do with "and he was a saint." 

Tom, loved your HoF article. Do you see any solutions to baseball's problem? Will the Hall change the criteria in any meaningful way? I feel the Hall is becoming irrelevant while it is on its current course.

That's what's sad -- nobody really sees a "fix."

I think time will be fairly kind to the MLB HOF. The PED period will recede. In 20 years the sport will have moved on. Bonds and Clemens may not be mere "historical characters" (like Shoeless Joe) rather than vivid memories. But our feelings will be much less intense.

It seems that MLB has gotten to the point -- or is approaching it -- where it's PED testing is as good as we expect of pro sports leagues. IOW, an aggressive, state-of-the-art and honest, but deeply imperfect attempt to catch cheaters. The best net you can make to catch them but a net that will always have holesw in it. For many years, MLB's "net" to catch cheaters was more like a single string.

With that baseline established, I think the future HOF inductees, many years from now, will once again have the presumption that they "deserve to be there."

In your last column, you criticized sabremetricians for playing a part in poisoning the debate for the HoF. How can you make this criticism when you invented the total average statistic?

I made a couple of smart aleck remarks about over-use of stats. But I asssume readers know that I love stats and Sabermetrics (and am guilty at times of dumping a tablespoon of decimal points into an otherwise perfectly good cup of coffee).

I called Sabermetrics  "my favorite art-psuedo-science." That's an attempt to show how much I like it but how careful I want to be NOT to believe that all its results constitute scientific proofs.

But, yes, I see your point. Total Average first appeared in the Post in April of '78, then a couple of years later in Inside Sports (and many more years after that). So I've been working this side of the street for a long time and realize that I'm the wrong person to be too critical of honest (and in the case of Sabermetrics, many brilliant) attempts to understand the game better.

But I get to nag, right?

Boz, Given your consternation about the current state of HOF voting, what changes would you recommend? Or are you simply ready to walk away and put a curse on the HOF?

I'm going to be a little bit sad and pay a little less attention.

But when Greg Maddux gets in on Wednesday, I'll still be just as excited for him. But the whole annual debate, analysis, that used to be a lot of FUN is not much fun any more. And baseball, most of the time, really is supposed to be a pleasure and a distraction, not an Impossible Frustrating Job.

Why do you never appear on PTI with Wilbon and Kornheiser? What do think about the show? What is your opinion on Wilbon's constant put-downs of DC teams?

We've all been friends for decades. I enjoy the show. In general, I'm not much of a TV appearance guy. Once in a while. (Everybody doesn't want to be on TV. I enjoy it that one person recognizes me on sight per year.)

That's it for today. I obviously enjoy chatting here a lot more that talking! See you next Monday.

Not to make this an all-Anthony-Rendon chat, but the two things that make me think he's going to be *very* fine hitter are these: 1) walk rate/SO rate: last year, as a rookie, walk rate already at 7.9% and SO rate at 17.5% - basically league average. His walk rate was 16.9% during his (brief) minor league stint, with the similar 17.3% SO rate. If he manages to split the difference and have a career walk rate of, say, 12.5%, he becomes a VERY valuable hitter, and probably a yearly-top-10 OBP player. Slot him in at No. 2 until 2020. [Edgar Martinez lifetime walk rate - 14.8%] 2) Line-drive rate: already as a rookie, a 28% line-drive rate was well above league average (20%). If he keeps anything like that up, he'll win a batting title some year when his BABIP spikes and the line drives fall - even without good luck, he'll be a great hitter. [Edgar Martinez lifetime LD rate - 24%] How many days until pitchers and catchers report?

Nice! All good points. Rendon had a lot of line drives caught last year. A little more pop with age or a little more luck should change that.

I agree that Caldwell is the most appealing available choice. I read a report saying Ken Whisenhunt is the front-runner for the Detroit job. So maybe the Lions' ineptitude will work to the Redskins' advantage.

Go, Lions -- skip Caldwell!

How much do teams generally overvalue their own prospects when looking at a trade?

Quite a bit.

I like it when GMs refer to their young minor league players as "inventory." They luv 'em, of course, 'cause they picked them and signed and developed them. But it shows a nice sense of realistic distance -- most of them won't pan out the way you hope.

Boz, you know we all love you, but I just couldn't stop laughing when in your column today, you quoted some people taking shots at the (paraphrasing) sun-deprived stat nerds. You know you can't say good morning without dropping a few advanced statistics about the sunrise and the current temperature trends and how this explains the correct managerial strategy and blah, blah, blah. But we mean that with love.

Point taken. Even with a "touche."

Both were assistants at Maryland under Friedgen. O'Brien is now HC in Houston. Your colleague, Mark Maske, just tweeted that the Redskins have added Franklin to their list of planned interviews. I wonder why Maryland didn't think either was worthy to lead their program???

Well said. A subject for another day.

What in the world is going on with the Caps' goalie situation? I could understand sitting Holtby if they had some hot alternative, but Grubauer seemed to have the same problems as Holtby did. The Caps seem far too willing to start over with goalies. They need to stick with Holtby and let him figure out how to ride out hard times.

They sure seem to go through Hot Young Goalies, don't they? A good topic.

Sorry, gotta get out of here. Far too many good questions. Thanks again.

The reason teams usually don't fail indefinitely is because they get high draft picks in the next year's draft. So your theory works for all teams that don't trade away all their draft picks for one player (see Washington's football team).


Bos, regarding clutch - I submit that everyone who makes it to the majors is clutch. If you are a choke artist, and are measurable worrse when it is "late and close" - than you get weeded out at a lower level - HS, college, the minors. In MLB, when it is "late and close" - hitters have clutch at bats, pitchers have clutch strikeouts, and players like Brooks Robinson can take over a World Series with clutch fielding. IMO, that's why clutch is so hard to measure at the MLB level - most everyone has it.

Tom Watson once said, "We all choke. It's just a question of how much."

The HOW MUCH is very important in sports. Saying that "choking" or "not choking" (which may be the same as "clutch" isn't part of the game just ignores far too much. As I've written, several Nats choked in the Division Series against the Cards. The pressure impacted them more than it normally does. So, they have to get better at coping with it. Most do. But it is REAL. 


ERA is important - but ERA+ (that is, ERA relative to league average) is MUCH more important. Moose had a 3.68 career ERA, yes - but a 123 ERA+ (23% better than league average) and a 1.19 WHIP For comparison's sake: Jack Morris - 3.90 ERA/ 105 ERA+/1.30 WHIP Nolan Ryan - 3.19/112/1.25 Tom Glavine - 3.54/118/1.31 Moose - 3.68/123/1.19 Jim Palmer - 2.86/125/1.18 Bob Gibson - 2.91/127/1.19 Tom Seaver - 2.86/127/1.12 Maddux - 3.16/132/1.14 Randy Johnson - 3.19/135/1.17 Pedro Martinez - 2.93/154(!)/1.05(!!) That's the company he's in - overshadowed by three historically great pitchers of the same era, but comfortably in the same league as other all-time greats like Palmer and Seaver, relative to his era, and ahead of Glavine and others who are in the Hall or conversation (his career WAR is almost identical to Bob Gibson, for one).

Yes, I like his ERA+ and have been looking at it. But it's still part of a "maybe" verdict for me, along with many other factors. Thanks.

"Why" do you "use" quotation marks in so "many" of your "responses" when those are words that have actual meaning, not "fake" or "intended" meaning

New Year's Resolution: Less quotation marks. And less words with caps. But those bad-writing crutches are part of the difficulty of chats. You don't have time to write your best. It's the classic: "Sorry for the long letter. I didn't have time to write a short one."

So, how's that Werth contract looking now?

Many in baseball this winter have noted that Werth could probably get a contract this winter -- if he were a free agent -- that would be close to the contract years he still has remaining with the Nats.

So, within the industry, the verdict on the Werth signing has come full circle and now looks sensible -- especially since the Nats won 98, won a division, became a national story since he arrived and became a team leader (probably the team leader). Hope that's not some new kind of jinx.

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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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