Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Dec 14, 2015

Washington Post Sports Columnist Tom Boswell answered your questions about the Redskins, Capitals, Nationals, Wizards, the NFL and more.

Past Ask Boswell chats

The headline writers keep talking about the Nats "whiffing" on free agents, but it looks like they're doing fine to me. The bullpen is much improved. Zobrist seems to have taken a little less to go to the Cubs, but I suspect that's a location and Maddon discount, not that he doesn't want to play for the Nats. Heyward seems to be getting more money, not less, and with the opt-outs he's really in the driver's seat if he performs well. I'd like to see a lefty bat, but without relegating Taylor to the bench permanently--someone more in the Alex Gordon, Parra tier. What's your take? Is my outlook on Rizzo too rosy?

If you like mediocre but decent relievers who can work the sixth, seventh or long relief, then you should be in heaven! Y. Petit and Shawn Kelley guys with a long track record. Petit can spot start a little. What do they see in Kelley that's worth $15M for three years? Maybe we'll find out. He had a 2.45 ERA with the Padres last year and, for the first time in his career, went from poor control (walks) to pretty good. So, maybe improved command or an extra pitch. The Nats scouting is very good. So you can root for him to be a surprise. But his ERA w the Yanks in '13-'14 was 4.50. That's also "reality."

What did they get in Trevor Goitt? That's the question for me. At 22 had a nice rookie year -- 47.2 innings, 3.02 but only 27 strikeouts, which isn't many for somebody who averaged 96.2 on his fastball. Will he be a "back-end" guy in a year or two? He's the one with the higher ceiling, I assume. 

Nats have wanted Zobrist for more than a year. Not a "must have," but they can't be happy to have $60M turned down for the Cubs $56M.

Not a good winter so far, in my book. They need a LHed hitter. Who?

There's lots of talent left on the market, but not at the positions where the Nats need the most help. Relivers are down to Clippard and lesser. LH hitting second? Daniel Murphy. CF? Nobody they want (Fowler, Span). Lots of "B" or "C" SPs for depth, like Leake. But nobody who changes your team.

Lets see if they have a trade up their sleeve. They've shocked up with big deals or signings before. (Cueto's out there.) Rizzo has imagination, that's for sure.

Can you explain the areas craziness over a mediocre team that has accomplished so little? As an outsider it is simply bewildering.

Sure, I can explain.

The Skins haven't just been bad for most of the last 20+ years. They have been demoralizing or hard to enjoy/support. Often they've been mortifying with their in-fighting or huge flop seasons after being "off-season champs."

Now they have a QB who looks like he's steadily improving, despite a weak running game. And Cousins is an easy-to-like fourth-round underdog who's maxing out his talent. He's now 14th and 17th in the two main QB rating systems.

Gruden is sane, funny and resembles a normal human being. That's a step up. The team's effort is very good, usually.

I thought they played very well -- even better than a 24-21 win on the road would indicate. Their effort was far better than the Bears who, in the first half, looked like they were far from ready to play.

The Skins have built an interesting team that is improving. If they were still 6-7 with the same results but had NO chance to make the playoffs, I'd still say the same things. The facts that they may win the NFC East in a down year and have a home playoff game is just (possibly) gravy. Given the misery in about 12 of the last 22 years and only a half-dozen exciting seasons, what's not to like?

Go crazy? Well, that's a DC phenomenon. That's just how it is here. Let people enjoy themselves. I was walking into the Dallas MNF game and enjoyed seeing all the smiling faces. But that's just me. I'd weird. I like it when people smile.

The Redskins have had a history, at least with Dan Snyder, of dumping talent (Ryan Clark) we can do without in search of the next best thing (Haynesworth & Archuleta) and failing miserably. Really the only question one needs to ask who out there is better than Djax with as much speed or can disorient a defense. With Cousins gone who are you going to count on? RGIII? Colt McCoy? Some other castoff from another team? For my money I would stick with Cousins until there IS someone better out there and right now there is no one better. I am sure that they will cut RGIII after the season and if not picked up (which I doubt) or after he is cut by the next team possibly resign him not as a QB but either or both KR/PR. I can name two former college Qbs who played KR & PR for the Redskins. Joe Theismann and Brian Mitchell. How did it work out for those two especially Mitchell who in fact never returned a punt or kickoff in college.

Cousins has proved himself -- to me. He's your QB. Not great, but good. Will he be even better with time, with a better run game, with a deep threat who's healthy? Go ahead and try to sign him. 

OTOH, Cousins hasn't been hurt. Every NFL QBN gets hurt eventually. How well do they come back? Dalton looked big and semi-indestructible until yesterday he tries to make a tackle and breaks his THROWING thumb. You can't live in fear of that. What you note with Cousins is that he seems to be fairly mobile in the pocket -- he certainly was Sunday. He throws best (maybe) on bootlegs off play action -- which aren't dangerous plays. He gets rid of the ball quickly. And he takes a hit without truly getting drilled too often. So (with crossed fingers) assume that (maybe) durability is one of his strengths, even though he certainly isn't a big guy. Some, like Brees, just have the knack of surviving despite normal-human size.

DJax is a tougher question. He's fabulous as a deep threat. Repeat: fabulous. One if the best ever -- both to the eye and in NFL history is most plays for more than 50 yards and most LONG TD plays. 

But that's it. That's all he does. He doesn't block (he's tiny for the NFL) and you wouldn't want him to block TOO much at about 170 pounds! So he "tips" your plays because when he's in it's 70 percent pass and 70 percent run when he isn't. He gets hurt. The eight missed games this year are likely to be more the rule as he ages. It's not like he's the only guy on earth who can stretch a defense. It's hard to find a WR with his exact skill set, but it is NOT that hard to find a >1,000 WR who can get open deep ENOUGH to expand your offensive options.

IOW, it's a lot harder to find the 12-th-to-20th best QB in the NF -- see how Cousins keeps moving up the Chat Ladder!! --than it is to find/draft a WR who, including all duties, is 90 percent of DJax.

Everyone will be fascinated to see where RGIII is next year. Look at it this way: how many other NFL players -- who'd lost a step or two after a bad knee injury -- EVER got a whole year of rest and rehab  in mid-career to get their some of their speed and basic knee-strength back again. If, in future, RGIII is capable of taking advantage of "a sabbatical" from contact, then good for him.

....

This just in: Serena Williams wins SI Sportsperson of the Year. I'm informed: First solo woman in over 30 years and just the fourth tennis player.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2015/12/14/serena-williams-beats-out-horse-to-win-si-sportsperson-of-the-year/    

The Warriors have a shot at an historic 73-9, the Panthers at 16-0. When the end of the season nears, each will have cinched the No. 1 seed. Should they be resting and protecting Stephan Currie/Cam Newton et al? Or go all out for the regular season record? (My vote: go for the record. Fifty teams have won the Super Bowl but only one has ever gone undefeated, an no team has ever gone 19-0. Others say its all about the Ring. What say you?

This is a fascinating subject because, over time, the public and media emphasis between regular-season greatness and post-season success has shifted significantly -- toward post-season and "rings."

Why?

IMO, most of the reasons for the shift toward "Ring Worship" -- while obvious on the surface -- are actually somewhat shallow when you look at them harder. 

"Long ago," which wasn't really that long ago, the post-season in most sports had fewer teams. Yes, I remember when MLB and NFL only had two or four teams that advanced. In that climate, regular-season superiority was given (imo) is fair due as a true test. Not the ONLY test. But a very valid one.

What's happened since to change it? Mostly monetary incentives have changed. Both TV and the leagues now have enormous $$$ motivation to make the post-season their real money-making season -- their showcase, their definition of themselves. It doesn't matter what the "best" test is. The sexiest test is the Ring! So, lets "god it up!" That has the side "benefit" that we can call everybody who doesn't get the one ring a "choker." That creates a separate category of wonderful teams/people who can be targets of criticism in an era when negative gets attention, hits, eyeballs. "If it bleeds, it leads" has always been true. But in sports there's a tendency -- more each decade, I sometimes suspect -- to look for Several Goats (who get eliminated along the way) to One Champion. Then, because the post-season is seen/sold as SOOO important, you have a whole lot of "loser" stories to pitch/see, rather than just one winner story/angle.

I've only realized this perspective in answering this question. Don't know why it never hit me before. Maybe I'll rethink it. But, for this a.m., let go with the idea and see where it leads.

I think a 16-0 season (Carolina) or a most-wins-in-NBA history season would be remembered -- by me, anyway --longer than just another team with rings. Though rings are great. For example, everybody remembers the '72 Dolphins who finished their perfect season against the Skins in 1/73. Quick, who won the Super Bowls that were played 5, 10 and 15 years later -- after the seasons of '77, '82 and '87?  Hard to go 3-for-3 on that! (Oakland, SF, Giants).

The grind on the Warriors (and Curry) would have really drained them if 24-0 had become 34-0. (But it would have been incredible theater.) I'm not glad they lost at 24-0 because I enjoy them so much. But I think snapping the streak will allow them to have a better shot at 73-9.

The Warriors are about 10 deep and have plenty of size. They can control minutes for stars -- they already are. The Panthers, because of the nature of the NFL, probably can't "rest" Cam and others and still win out vs at Giants, at Atlanta and Tampa Bay.

Look how wonderfully the Warriors are spreading out time -- already.

Curry (34.9 min) and Draymond Green (34.7) aren't even up to the 36-minute level often assumed as the level for a top player. After that, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala are at 31.6, 30.1, and 28.2. The minutes given to the bench are incredible for any NBA era: 20.9, 20.2, 20.0, 14.9, 13.5. The Warriors 10th and 11th men are both averaging 4.7 points a game!

There's a wonderful contrast to this Warrior decision. The best regular-season team the Celtics ever had (68 wins) was in '72-'73. The average minutes for John Havlicek, Dave Cowens and Jo Jo White: 42.1, 41.8 and 39.6!! And they ran the fast break constantly -- never stopped running, if they could help it -- and sometimes pressed full-court, often from half-court if they were behind. Here are the top "minutes" off the bench: 19.8 (Don Nelson), 12.0 and 9.8.

What happened to the Celts in spring of '73? They lost the famous Willis Reed Game in Game Seven to the Knicks. The Knicks deserve the credit. But did the Celts (coach Tommy Heinsohn) use their stars too many minutes in the regular season? 

The next year, the Celts played their stars somewhat less and won the NBA title.

The Warriors have the best of both worlds -- 24-1, but without using ANYBODY on the whole roster too much. This is ANOTHER example of how great they are.

BTW: Curry average 32.3 pts in 34.9 minutes. He's like all the best of Super-Showman Pete Maravich but without >50 percent of all Pete's crazy turnovers and insane missed shots. Watching Curry dribble two balls at the same time, going between his legs with both, was like watching some of Maravich's old dribbling drills, which probably still haven't been equaled. Curry's release is SO quick, his handle so near-perfect and his range so long that, imo, he's the best distance shooter ever -- by a margin.

We'll talk more Curry, and Cam, as the year goes along!

Wow, the WAS football team won on the road for the first time this year. Ignore their MNF performance against DAL, they are destined for the Super Bowl now, aren't they. (Does the sarcasm come through clearly? I can't wait for the season to be over to listen to all the off-season plans that will make the team the 2016 favorites...)

In the last three games I think you've seen two "coaching wins" by the Skins staff, and one dramatic loss (to the Cowboys). Dallas really stunned the Skins with blitzs and stunts, especially on Washington's right side. The Bears were vanilla by comparison, and paid for it. In key downs, the Skins had plays called where somebody was running free for an easy catch -- right play call at the right time. The Bears seldom did. 

Right now, looks like the Bills may feel like they are all-but-dead at 6-7 for any AFC wildcard because the Jets, Steelers and Chiefs are all 8-5 and hot. So, Skins may catch a break on Sunday, to a degree, at FedEx. The following game at Philly will be huge. But the season finale in Dallas may not be as tough now that the Boys look finished  at 4-9. If they lose next Saturday to the Jets, how are you going to keep 'em playing hard through week 17. So, Skins may only get 80 percent of the Best of the Boys in the last game.

Yes, I like the Skins chances to finish 8-8 and win the NFC East, especially with Arizona at Philly next Sunday night. No NFL predictions here! I tried picking all the games against the spread on Sunday using my own proprietary method (joke). The (latest) Method is now in the trash can.

In a softball-laden Q&A with Mark Lerner, he admitted that the scoreboard clock with the bats for hands is "I’m sorry to say it looks like it’s impossible to fix" - what the heck Bos, in the year 2015, they cannot find someone to fix an analog clock? Is this another matter of cost between the Nats and the stadium owner?

I thought that was pretty funny, too. If you and I and 200 million other people collect $100M and give it to the Nats, do you think they could find a way to fix a CLOCK. 

So, the answer really is that the Nats WON'T fix the clock because 1) it's difficult, 2) it'd kinda expensive for...well...you know...a darn clock or 3) pick your own answer.

Did anything come out of the meetings of note in terms of procedural changes? Also, it sure looks like the Cubs loaded up on top-level talent during the meetings (Heyward, Zobrist, etc.)...

Heyward and Zobrist will be wonderful test cases for some of the Advanced Metrics now in vogue. Heyward has never driven in more than 82 runs and averaged 14 homers in recent years. But WAR has him as the ninth-best played in MLB over the last four years. I think he's good. I don't think he's anything like that good. And I watched him 18 times a year vs the Nats. Zobrist is similar. Rated as a top star by WAR methods. But his .355 on-base percentage and defensive limits at 2d base would make traditional analysis rank him as a very good but not great player.

In Tampa Bay, the Rays and Maddon HAD to look for value-at-a-discount through using such stats. And it worked -- to a point. The Cubs are a high-dollar team that doesn't have to pay $184M plus $56M = $240M for two "market inefficiency" players.

Last year, the Dodgers went "all in" on advanced metrics and rebuilt their team to (vastly) improve their defense while getting rid of or minimizing players who were stars by more old-fashioned numbers. That worked out poorly for them. The idea was that they'd reduce the runs they allowed by more than the offense they subtracted. 

The answer, please: '14 Dodgers go 94-68 with a +101 run differential (718-617). In '15, they have THE BIGGEST payroll in MLB history, in part because they keep paying expensive old players while adding these new secret-weapon Advanced Metrics parts. (Like Jimmy Rollins!?????) LA went 92-70, only outscored the league by 72 runs (667-595) and got knocked out of playoffs early DESPITE monster years from both Kershaw and Greinke.

Will the Cubs of '16 be the Dodgers of '15 -- too smart by half? A team that doesn't see the obvious -- you need DEEPER starting pitching more than you need an improved lineup.

The Cubs could still add starting pitching in addition to Lackey.

....

I've often noted, to help Nats and O's fans understand what is going on with high-profile free agents who may, or may not leave, that if you don't sign a star TWO years before he can walk then he's probably already gone. And if you don't sign him before Opening Day on his walk year, then he is gone more than 90 percent of the time. And all that stuff about "we can still sign him after he's a free agent" is just eye wash.

So far this winter, 10 free agents have had a chance to sign for more than $30M. Nine of them got the cash from a new team. Only O'Day stayed -- with the O's for $31M/4 years.

Of those who signed for more than $50M, all six went to new teams. So, don't look for Chris Davis to be in Baltimore in '16 (Trumbo was the "insurance" signing) and don't look for Strasburg in DC in '17 if he isn't signed by Opening Day of '16. That's just how it works. No flies on anybody. 

Lots of pitchers signing bog deals and closers on the move. J-Hey is a Cubbie. What is the current interest level in Ian Desmond around MLB?

Looks like Desmond will be a loser in turning down $107M from Nats. But an even bigger loser will probably be Fister who, after his great '14, was offered a Shields-type-deal by the Nats. Shields got $75M for four years from the Pads. If Fister was offered anything remotely like that, he's probably going to wish he'd taken it. 

Hypothetical: What if, 365 days ago, Nats had announced that they had signed JZ'mann, Desmond, Fister and Span to contracts that, at that time, would have looked like "market deals" amounting to much more than $300M and perhaps close to $350M. Would Nats fans have cheered then? And how much would they be crying now? At least now the Nats have tons of room within their budget to sign players or trade for bigger contracts or eat contracts (part of Escobar's, maybe more of Papelbon's). Unfortunately, right now it looks like their money is Confederate Money -- like the Orioles was for so long. The Nats reputation took one hit after another within the industry during all of '15. It just never stopped. Now it may be showing up in an O'Day or Zobrist picking other teams. Though the current Cubs, for Heyward or anybody else, are one of the Dream Destinations now.  

The Nats showed again that they're not afraid to spend money, throwing a bunch of it at Jason Heyward, who took less money to go to the Cubs. Two questions: 1) does Heyward's decision (along with Zobrist's and O'Day's) indicate some sort of perception in the league that DC is not the place to be? Could Papelbon have poisoned the well to the point that until he's gone, guys will be reluctant to come in? 2) Since Heyward took less, could you see that lowering the market for Chris Davis to where the Nats might take a stab at him? You'd have to move Harper to center, which is a little scary, but if you're looking for a big lefty bat, Davis' is pretty darn big.

I don't think they want to put Harper in CF when his career path looks so clear now as a future GG RFer.

Also, you don't want to see Davis in the OF on a regular basis, even though he played 30 games out there last year with the O's (vs 111 at 1st). Even if you signed him (in theory) you'd have two first basemen on long term deals -- the other Ryan Zimmerman. And you don't want either of them in the OF. Just imagine: Werth would have to go back to RF.

After perusing the Heisman requisites, why/how in the name of Sam Hill did Keenan Reynolds get left out? I know and realize that the Naval Academy is not on the same power structure page of the prime 5 conferences, but he has lived up to and surpassed every single criteria for a Heisman nomination. Scholar-athlete, performance, character, et.al. I just don't get it or I am not up on 21st century ideals: media, media, media.

Reynolds certainly would've had my support.

It's be interesting to see if Navy coach Ken Niamatalolo stays after his visit to BYU today. He's perfect for Navy. He loves them. They love him. He was crying on Saturday -- yeah, he should've been after barely beating Army 21-17 -- with emotion as he looked at the scene. I hope he stays. But then that seems to be my emotional bias: When I see somebody who is very happy in a situation, I find it very easy to imagine them continuing to stay happy. When I think of them leaving/changing my sense of the world is that it is VERY hard to know all the reasons why you are happy (or semi-happy or sufficiently content or whatever you want to call it) and it is also VERY hard to imagine all the reasons why you might be less happy (or not very happy at all) in the new place/situation. We tend to think we understand ourselves and know why things in our life are the way they are. I'm suspicious of that, in others, and in myself. I think you change when you are unhappy/unsatisfied because that is Hard Data and what the hell do you have to lose? But when you are pretty happy and you change anyway -- man, you sure have to "trust life" or trust your own judgment or your luck (or The Big Money You Just Got) to serve as a margin of error.

Anyway, in 1492, you can be pretty sure I wouldn't have been signing up on Columbus' ship. I'd have been the bozo on the beach saying, "Yeah, I see his reasoning, but what if the world IS flat." Funny, we're still talking about ol' Chris 517 years later. So there must be something to say for that risk-taking attitude.

...

You want to know how the Skins can win the NFC East -- in DETAIL. You know you do. Admit it. So, here's Neil to tell us how it can be done...

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fancy-stats/wp/2015/12/14/an-updated-look-at-how-the-redskins-can-win-the-nfc-east/

Should the Nats be concerned that both Heyward and Zobrist turned down bigger contract offers from the Nats to play for the Cubs?

No.

They SHOULD be concerned that they haven't added a LHed bat or found a way to trade Papelbon for 50 cents on the dollar. Eat half his salary and maybe get a decent prospect back. If you look at his whole career -- AND his overall strong '15 performance -- there is only one logical conclusion: He could help the bullpen of 29 teams in some capacity and he could close for several of them -- even if he is a jerk.

The 30th team is the Nationals.

So, they have a problem. The best response to problems is to accept them for what they are and decide: "It's time to fix our problem, even if it's painful," rather decide to "pretend it doesn't exist, or it's not really so bad or, well, we can work around it."

I have a problem: The three-hour chat from ~10:30 to ~1:30 or later. This is how I am going to face it: With the 2:15 chat from 10:45 to 1:06!!

Think I can do it??? Think I can do it more than one week in a row? It's YOUR fault. There are too many questions that are too good.

See you all next Monday. And thanks again.

Did Rizzo get enough of a return? I suppose a somewhat raw reliever with plus stuff and multiple years of control is worthwhile but still an unproven commodity against Escobar's known strengths.

Solid trade.

You don't want Escobar at SS. (I don't anyway. The Nats talked it up..."always talk up your inventory" Kasten once said, laughing.) Can he play second? You don't know. He was very poor at third despite good hands and low errors. Advanced metrics were very good on pointing out his total lack of range. And you sold high from a position of depth to get a good arm at a position of need -- bullpen. 

Now, we'll see how much they really Gott.

The Nats did a great job this weekend -- the best fanfest yet. But two things were very clear this weekend. First, Harper NEEDS to be a Nat for life. He is the pied piper of little kids, and the biggest attraction the team has. He is beloved. The gut punch to the fans if he goes ... I just can't even imagine. Second, the contract issue is going to hang over his head and the Nats for the next three years. The media asked him about a contract extension. In his interview there with the broadcast team, FP asked him about a contract extension. Even in the Q&A with kids, a kid asked if he would be a National for life. And we are still 3 years away from free agency. Its going to be a huge distraction for everyone. So what are the Lerners going to do about it? The way Rizzo talks, management hasn't even discussed a potential Harper contract at all. Do you believe that?

At the $400M+ level "talks" are going to be between the person with the net worth of $5B and Harper's agent. You don't need input from the GM -- Rizzo LOVES him.

I've expressed myself before. Start early. Run the risk of bidding against yourself for the sake of keeping good faith with Harper, your fans and your own franchise's long-term health. Don't wake up one day and say, "We played it cute with Harper and he didn't stay. All that negotiating 'strategy' wasn't worth a damn. What if we'd just said, 'This is our best offer, based on We Think You're a HOFer" and this is how we arrived at our number. It's not our absolutely final offer. But, come on, Bryce, you know it's very close. There ain't another $50M. Or even another $20M. WE have decided we want you -- $417,987.015 worth. And we'll take YEARS of extra risk that you get hurt or get hit by "life" by putting the deal out there now. So, here's how it stands: Do YOU really want US?"   

Maybe I wouldn't make a good negotiator. But the bigger the stakes, the more I think you keep it simple, base it on trust, be dead honest and take your best shot. But then don't go up another $30M or whatever. Don't act tough -- "Not another dollar." But live with your decision. Don't procrastinate.  In big deal in MLB, it never gets easier as time passes. It usually gets harder.

Random golf question Mr Boswell - IYO (which I highly regard on all subjects) why is Jordan Spieth so great? At the young age of 21, he had arguably one of the best seasons ever (2 majors and missed the British Open playoff by a stroke) with a not so pretty swing (better than Jim Furyk's though) How does he do it...is he just so mentally tougher than everybody else?

Practice, practice, practice. Gift: Best putter on earth. Focus: Maybe best short-game of U.S. players. Ego under control -- long enough, but super straight. Amazingly competitive. ENJOYS competing. Like Nicklaus. Actually likes most of his top rivals, doesn't seem to especially dislike any of them, also like Nicklaus. Plays the game for itself -- winning follows. Not destroyed by narrow defeats, like at St. Andrews this year. This is like Nicklaus, too, who was runner-up in more majors than he won -- 19-to-18 wins. Finally, Spieth is grinding much harder, driving harder, at an earlier age than Nicklaus ever did. He's more like the inferno-level-motivation of young Tiger. Spieth jokes about his lost hair -- already. So, we'll see how he "ages." But thiss is his nature. And he's just following it. No sense trying to be a different person. This is working out just fine!

....

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred UPHOLDS lifetime ban on Pete Rose.

Excellent, correct decision.

Boz, Fine to be skeptical but Kelley is a pitcher who started at "so-so" and has become very good. When with the Mariners, he struck out 22% of the batters he faced and had a 3.1:1 K:BB ratio - fine for a reliever ((Drew Storen for his career - 23.4% K rate, 3.3:1 K:BB). When he moved to the Yankees, the K rate shot up to 31.3% - and then stayed at 30.5% and 30.7% the last two years. That's elite. He walked more batters that first year - 10.1% BB rate - but then has trended down the last two years, to 9.1% and then 7.3%. All told, for those three years he has a 3.5:1 K:BB ratio, and 4.2:1 last year. Yes, he had ugly ERAs with the Yankees (though FIP like him just fine - 3.63 and 3.02 in '13 and '14), and he gave up too many HRs in 2013 (he'd given up more earlier in his career) - but his HR rate and HR/FB rate have both trended down from '13 to '15, as well. The last two years in particular give the picture of a dominant late-inning pitcher who strikes out a ton of hitters, doesn't walk too many, and keeps the ball in the park - and one who's gotten better over his career. That seems like a pitcher you want.

Thanks. I looked at all that, except the '13-'14 FIPs which I missed. The poor control and high homers are a worry. But the improvement is there. And some past numbers (high ERA) may have been deceiving. Rizzo and front office are good at this. If it helps the team be less desperate in the bullpen -- and seen by others as not desperate at all -- then it may help get Pap outta town with at least something in return.

Boz, Thoughts on the mini-controversy that erupted from Baker's "impolitic" comments on domestic violence, only to be cleared up - by Baker, but by none of the writers who bashed him initially - when he clarified that, well, his good friend Darryl Hamilton had been killed by his wife? Seems like there was a lot of focus on the "gaffe" and absolutely nobody looked into the very-public and recent reasons behind it.

The Hamilton death (Baker spoke at the funeral) helps give context to one part of his comments. If I'd known it then, I'd have added a sentence about it for context. But I wouldn't have changed anything else. There were lots of things that were wrong with his comments -- as a team spokesman at a large MLB event. It's tough talking 200+ times a year to the media. But it's a big part of the job in '15. You're right, it is a mini-controversy, not a big one -- but I definitely thought it needed to be addressed at a time when, for the last two years, it's been hard to go even one month without another domestic abuse issue involving a star athlete in some sport.

Boz, Now that the signings and trade are actually official, the Nats are at a point where, at least in terms of personnel (not to say personalities), they have a full-to-overfull bullpen of solid MLB arms: Rivero, Perez, Kelley, Gott, Petit, Storen, and Papelbon - with Treinen, Solis, Grace, Martin, Cole, Jordan at AAA. The overfullness leads me to believe that, contra Rizzo's words, the intention is to trade at least one of Storen or Papelbon *but* not to sell for pennies on the dollar. Which do you see being moved - or both? And - final tally for the Clippard trade is one very-useful season of Escobar plus six of Trevor Gott for one not-that-great season of Clippard. I was skeptical at the time, but hard not to see that one as a huge win, now.

Good analysis. Clippard, who faded badly late in the season, for a .314 year from Escobar and now six years off Gott.

The bullpen is now definitely "over-populated" with Oliver Perez also on a two-year free agent deal as one of two lefties in addition to Gott (who cost Escobar) and not insignificant $$ to Kelley, Petit. Plus Rivero, Maybe Storen, Treinan, etc.

Not too difficult to imagine what that could set up. A trade. For LH bat?

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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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