Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Jun 06, 2016

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

Past Ask Boswell chats

Hi Tom, I love your well thought out chats! Question on the NBA. What did you think of Jerry West's comments about how Lebron should not be criticized for his track record in the Finals. While I agree with West, I think Lebron has a bit more stink on him with this latest go-round with Cleveland given the hand that he had in shaping their roster. LBJ put together a team that he thought could compete while West (and others) never really had that opportunity. His place as de-facto Cleveland GM adds to the criticism that others don't have.

I admit West's generosity of spirit!

The NBA Finals are over. Too bad. Hope I'm wrong. But, as everybody sees, there's a huge gulf between these teams. LeBron still has his Big Rig drives to the basket and he still knows where to be on the floor to collect rebounds and find teammates with good passes. He still has a lot of game. But LeBron looks old. He moves old. I've never noticed it much before, but GS plays so young and quick and relentlessly that, if you JUST watch James for several minutes at a time, it looks like he's playing in cement shoes compared to the Warriors. LBJ saves energy in dozens of little ways so that he can still explode when he needs it (though not like he once did). But, man, do the Warriors look for the back door against him -- and find it open often. The TV folks never like to mention who's giving up backdoor layups and dunks -- but it's often LeBron who gets lost in the switches or is a half-step slow.

Yes, he built and GMed the team -- and it can't compete with GS. So, he'll get blame. But this is probably as far as this collection of Cleev talent could go. This looks like a 73-win team against a 57-win team -- oh, IT IS a 73-vs-57 series, isn't it!? Look back in NBA for previous Finals with a 16-win gap between the teams and tell me how the "lesser team" fared! 

Back to West and a (long) digression. Just skip it is you don't care about anything that happened between '60 and '69! That's okay, you can feel that way. Jerry West was one of the greatest players ever -- but Bill Russell absolutely owned him. And the Lakers. So, West's "bad record" in the Finals is really just the existence of Russell -- the biggest FORCE on a game in NBA history. I don't think I've ever seen one player defeat a team -- mentally and psychologically -- as much as Russell ate the West-Elgin-Baylor Lakers alive time after time. Russell was the greatest defender anybody has ever seen -- both 1-on-1, shutting down an opposing star center and also, simultaneously, shutting down opponents 1-on-5. He was 6-10, only about 230 but super quick and there best leaping big man ever (including everybody now). His reach was so long that the first time he was photographed with 7-foot-1 1/4 Wilt Chamberlain, they both, at the request of the photog, put their arms up straight over their heads to see how high they could reach. The story goes that Russell's arms were so long that his fingertips lapped OVER Chamberlain's. So, you have to imagine a player with the wingspan of a 7-foot-2 center who played with the quickness of a 6-6 leaper. He was the quickest off the floor on his 1st, 2nd, 3d and, if necessary, 17th jump. He'd grab rebounds above the rim, spin in the air and fire an outlet pass to mid-court or beyond before he came down. And he'd do it several times a game. West was a fabulous driver and leaper, as well as J shooter. West was exactly Curry's size but a much better jumper -- backward tomahawk jams in games that you'd expect of a 6-8 forward. But Russell was always waiting for him above the rim. He blocked or changed more West shots than all the other centers in the league. If Russell were 27 today and faced Curry, you could overplay Steph constantly (OK, that wouldn't stop him) and funnel him to Russell. As slick as Curry is, I just don't think he has the elevation or hang time to cope with Russell. I always wished Russ could have faced Shaq, who was a bulkier but less athletically gifted Chamberlain. Shaq may have been better coordinated at some things. But Wilt could play almost any sport.

I ended last week by mentioning Russell. So I guess it was a good bet that I'd return to him.

Hi Tom, Why does Wilson Ramos, the Nats' catcher, hit to right field so often? He reminds me of Derek Jeter in that way. You would think a man of his size and power would pull the ball.

That's one of the key factors in why he is a good hitter -- and why scouts/coaches have always thought he could develop over his career and be even better than in his previous years.

Ramos can hit the outside pitch to RF, sometimes with 390-foot-plus power. And he can fight off the fastball that jams him -- and still get it over the infield for a hit. But when he turns on the ball he can blast it. This is EXACTLY how he should hit. And when he's hitting best, he's usually using RF most.

It's going to be fascinating to see how long he can keep this up with his new improved vision -- like, perhaps, the rest of his career. I don't mean >.340. I mean be a Top Hitting Catcher. Or DH/catcher in the AL. If it works out, it really couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

I don't see how the Nats could ever feel confident heading into the postseason with Papelbon at the back of the pen. Any chance they make a play for Andrew Miller?

Thanks for bringing up Pap. My former sports editor (for 28 years, DC HOF) George Solomon e-mailed me this a.m. to say that Papelbon reminded him of Don (Full Pack) Stanhouse, the closer for the '78 and '79 Orioles. He was called "Full Pack" by the team because he put so many men on base (before escaping) that Earl Weaver smoked "a full pack" of cigarettes while ducking back into the tunnel (he couldn't stand to watch) as Stanhouse wriggled through his interminable innings -- often the eighth and ninth. 

I looked up Stanhouse because it actually is a good analogy to Papelbon (in some ways, not others) and illustrates the point that an escape-artist c loser may work out well in regular season, but in post-season, against better hitting teams, they tend to get smoked and contribute to not winning the big prize.

However, Stanhouse, who was a career journeyman and NEVER exceptional (as Papelbon was for MANY years), was far more extreme than I remembered.

How times change! Stanhouse didn't pitch that often and went two innings frequently. He "never gave in" to the hitter, always nibbling or trying to get them to get themselves out chasing. He was incredibly hard to hit -- batting average against like .200. But he walked more hitters than I remembered (by far) -- 103 walks in 147.1 innings!! And only 76 strikeouts. What??? Nobody would allow that today. His WHIP (walks-plus-hits-per-inning) was awful (1.439) so he really DID have two or three men on base every time you looked up. His ERA in '78-'79 was 2.87 -- almost exactly Papelpon's now and he saved 45 games over two years. And was an All-Star in '79!
As will probably happen with Papelbon the better hitting teams in the '79 post-season killed him. The White Sox and Pirates could rake. Stanhouse gave up 11 hits & 6 walks in FIVE innings (17 men on base) and had an ERA of 9.00 in the '79 post-season. He had no saves and NO strikeouts! And he got a loss in the World Series.
But, somehow, they MADE a World Series with him.
The O's didn't win a Series until they got a real (modern-style) closer in Tippy Martinez (2.35 ERA and 1.094 WHIP) with lots of K's, an almost unhittable pitch (curve) and good control.

The point to me is that if your goal is to win the N.L. East against a Mets team that may have some injury/offense problems all year, then Papelbon may be good enough to close for a 92-to-96 win team. But if you think you are going to get through more than one round of the playoffs with him -- assuming he keeps looking like he has this season -- you're probably crazy. He's got guts and heart and every kind of knowledge on how to escape tough situations. With the bases loaded and no outs, up 10-9, in the bottom of the ninth on Sunday, he didn't just escape, he got the next two outs on a total of FOUR smart pitches. He jammed a young hitter who popped out on the first pitch. Then he got a three-pitch punch out. It was classic crafty relief pitching. But in my experience -- I can't stop remembering the resemblance to late-career Jeff Reardon who got blown up in the WS -- you've really got to get lucky (especially in a three-tiered playoff structure) to advance with a "never-give-in keep-foolin'-em" closer. If they can't trade for someone better, then maybe you hold your breath. But the better the Nats play -- meaning if they continue something like their current 98-win pace -- and the more they look like they could/will win the division, then the more you give up future resources for a better stuff closer. Conversely, the worse they play between now and July 31 trade deadline, the less you figure they can make the Series this year and the less you are willing to give up much to add a better (on paper) closer.      

How well do you think Commissioner Manfred has done in the short time he has been on the job? What do you think of the recent proposals to raise the lower part of the strike zone and to eliminate the required pitches on intentional walks?

The bottom of the K zone needed to be raised a couple of inches. In recent years, umps have been forced, out of concern for job security, to call the zone as technology dictates it rather than as common sense and decades of experience had defined it for many years. So, MLB is admitting that the bottom of the zone was better FOR BASEBALL when it was NOT called as literally defined in the rules. MLB is changing the rule to get the game -- and home plate umps -- back to where they already were before every pitch could be tracked precisely.

This is good on all counts. It gets the bottom of the zone back where it should be. That should increase run scoring just a little -- it's currently about 8.65 runs a game. The aesthetic ideal, not just in imo but in  the view of plenty of others, is that the sport works best with about nine runs a game. Ten is too many. Eight isn't enough. The closer to nine the better.

The IW change is cosmetic and immaterial. Yawn.

One of the first major problems on which Manfred will be judged is his handling of the Nats-O's MASN blood feud. As expected, he's taken the same line as Selig before him -- MLB has procedures and committees for dealing with internal issues and disputes between teams. When you buy a team and join in that Club, then you have agreed to its methods of settling many issues, and to the enormous powers of the commish for the Best Interests of the Games. Manfred has simply said, "Do it over again" on trying to get the dispute settled by sending it before MLB's revenue committee. (The "last time" was screwed up because the Nats didn't recognize an obvious conflict of interest in being represented by the same law firm that also represents MLB. The judge in the last round of this battle sided with the Nationals, or said that there was insufficient grounds to side wiwth the O's, on EVERY point -- except the mess-up in choice of law firm. The ruling read like the judge was having apoplexy every time he thought about how the Nats had messed it up (the only law firm ON EARTH not to use) and wasted everybody's time and energy and money.

The MLB Revenue Committee now has all-new members from the last time when they came up with a number for the Nats of $60M-a-year in MASN money that was much higher than the O's ridiculous evaluation of $35M-a-year and the Nats ridiculous evaluation that it was worth $108M-a-year. The logical number may have moved up a little since then.

MASN/O's just, obviously, want to pay as little as possible and hold on to every cent as long as possible. In typical fashion, they want to use every legal method to avoid paying up. Ultimately, it won't work __except in the sense that it's better for you to pay what you owe years after it was actually due if you're shameless enough, and have enough lawyers, to find a way to delay it. There was a "reset" date for a new valuation. And, eventually, that reset figure will be put in place and paid. As one MLB executive told me, the Nats "will get paid. They'll just get it in one big check paid later rather than in three (or four) smaller checks that are paid sooner."

It's an ugly little fight that really amounts to about $20-M-a-year to the Nats. But it exposes how much the ownerships of the two clubs dislike each other. And that's being generous. But, because the Lerners are so rich, and because they've managed to defer a lot of salary in big deals for Scherzer and Strasburg (that agent Scout Boras agree to), the Nats shouldn't be damaged significantly either short term or long term. But that doesn't mean the O's have shown any "good faith" whatsoever. They're still mad (and probably always will be) that the Nats exist at all -- every team in MLB wanted a team in DC, except the  O's. And they'll do anything to throw sand in the gears of the Nats.

I probably shows the wisdom of fans that some of them continue to enjoy both the Nats and O's -- seeing them as actual baseball teams, rather than mere extensions of their feuding ownerships. Enjoy what you enjoy, and leave it at that; and, that way, you have an NL and AL team 40 miles apart so you can follow the whole sport, on TV or in person. But, more each year, I can understand Nats or Washington fans who say, "I've changed. Now I hope the Orioles go 0-162." It's a tenable position. The longer MLB takes to get a resolution to the MASN problem, the more damage it will suffer in losing Two Team Fans who are willing to spend time, money or affection on both teams. And it's the O's who will lose on that net-net because Baltimore fans dislike the Nats and would never root for both. It's Washington fans, or some of them, who take a broader view. I even have friends whose license plate is "Nats/Os." The irony is that the O's are enjoying being thumb-in-your-eye slow-pay deadbeats in the short term, but will inevitably have to pay what they owe, while they simultaneously lose long-term fans in the Washington area that they might have kept for generations.  

How do you feel about the Nats sitting Trea Turner following his strong Friday night performance?

The Nats have a weird and complex problem. I change my mind on what they should do every day.

They brought The Kid up and said he'd only be around until Zim got back from paternity leave. IOW: no big deal and "there's nothing to see here." Turrner would get to start one game vs a LHer in Cincy as a reward for his fine work at Syracuse, then come off the bench Saturday and Sunday when the Reds threw RHers.

Good plan. BUT...

Turner goes out and, with the rest of the team sleep-walking, smokes a single and double about 100 mph each, beats out an infield hit versus a gas-throwin' RHer as his speed puts pressure on the Reds infield; and he also draws a walk. On base 4-for-4. And looks super confident doing it.

Now what do you do? Baker always tells his players his intentions for them days ahead. That's his method. Well, he's not going to throw out 20 years of managerial experience just so he can say, "Hey, Trea, why don't you start again on Saturday." He goes with Espinosa at SS and he hits a late-game home run -- his fifth in his last 10 games -- to tie it up 3-3. Could have "saved the game" and led to a win. It didn't. But Espinosa would have gotten The Biggest Pressure Hit -- which is always the one that TIES the game and prevents a loss, not the one that "merely" wins it. So, I don't object to anything over the weekend. Except that the team, after a long stretch of tough games looked like it was taking paid vacation for a lot of the 27 innings in Cincy. That happens. Long season. 

What the Nats are really facing here is a longer term decision. I don't know if THEY see it this way. But I see it this way.I think that, by August 1st, and earlier than that if possible, you have Turner at SS -- every day -- and you wait for a moment when Espinosa's value is clear as a full-time SS and you trade him, probably as part of a package that gets you a better closer than Papelbon.

That's a lot of moving parts.If just one little miserable detail were different it would, right now, look like an obvious possibility. Espinosa has shown exactly the power you want -- eight homers, 22 RBI in the team's first 57 games. And he has played good defense. Is he good or VERY good at SS? I haven't decided. More advanced stats with a bigger sample size, please. BUT Espinosa has a bad UNLUCKY "batting average on balls in play." His whole career, because he's fast, he's been around .3000 in BABIP. Now he's under .250. With normal luck, he'd be hitting .230-.240-.250 right now with those 8 HRs and 22 RBI and, believe me, teams would be calling the Nats with trade offers for Espinosa. "We need a SS. Espinosa is an MLB starter -- not a wonderful one, but a pretty good one and better than we've got. You have the No. 9 prospect in baseball in Turner. So, even though you appreciate Espinosa, he isn't part of your long-term future. You badly need a closer. Lets talk trade, or even a three-team trade, to make everybody happy, including Espinosa because WE want HIM. Maybe you get a closer out of it. Maybe you get prospects. But Espinosa has VALUE. So, cash him in. Andd set him free from 'When is Trea coming.'"

But Espinosa, and his unlucky BABIP, has him hitting .196. Who's going to trade for a .196 hitter? What do you tell your fans? "You're going to LOVE this Espinosa guy, even though he has 50 Ks already. Just trust us."

Frankly, I've been rooting for Espinosa to be traded to somebody who wants him because I think he deserves a fresh start and I think he's an MLB SS.

But it's unlikely to happen at .196.   

So, this is a tough one. I'd wait. But not forever. But I'd wait until at least the 4th of July to see if Ben Revere starts to get on base .333 -- as he always has. Wait to see if Espinosa gets some luck and gets to .233. But the over-aching premise, at least for me, is this:  I don't think the Nats are going to win the World Series this year. The Cubs are. Sure, sometimes great-looking teams get hurt or turn cold in Oct and disappear. Maybe that happens to the Cubs. And teams a lot worse in the regular season than the current Nats -- teams that only had 80-some wins -- have played their best, or luckiest, in October and won the Series. Think of the long list of Wild Card teams that won it all. BUT I don't think you run a ballclub based on that kind of fingers-crossed wishing.

IMO, the Nats need to focus on creating a better team -- their best possible team -- over the full course of this season. It's a process. But GET STARTED. Don't say, "We're playing pretty darn well. We disappointed everybody last year. Lets not mess with semi-success." The future of the Nats presumably includes Turner at SS or second and Giolito as a SP. Giolito is making progress recently at AA. But he isn't a "now" issue. I think Turner is a "pretty damn soon" issue.

That future team, that makes a run in '17 and/or 18, has Turner at SS and it does not have Papelbon as its closer. That is your underlying assumption about Team Direction.

Espinosa is your SS until the day he isn't. Then he never is again. Then it's Turner, every day -- for years. If, after MANY games -- like 200_ --  you decide that Turner can hit (and steal) but can't play a good enough SS, then you move him to second base and move Murphy to LF in '18 (after Werth's contract is over).

I guess the bottom line is that Turner isn't knocking on the door, he's beating on it. And Espinosa has had 75 years to establish himself. No, not as a SS. You can't keep Treas down for much longer. When the top of your order has been awful and Turner has No. 1 or 2 hitter written all over him, when moving Werth down in the lineup lengthens the order, I think you're going to have to pull the trigger on Turner as your SS within the next few weeks.

If it seems like I think this is a very complicated, very tough question -- not a simple "Bring the kid up, for crying out loud" --then  that's because I do think it's a tough one. Once you bring Turner up, you're asking a lot of him immediately -- improve the top of the order AND field well enough that Espinosa isn't missed too much.

But I'll admit that one game -- Friday night -- said to me, "What if his game translates 90 percent from AAA to the Nats? Imagine how much that changes this team. And perhaps ignites it. There'll be growing pains. But don't you have to get started?"

I think it's down to weeks, and maybe days, before you see a lot of Turner for a long time. Just my gut.

(Will he stay when Zim returns? If so, does he play every day, does he semi-play at both SS and second? Does he...

See how tough this is.) 

Gee Boz, have you seem his current stats? Now that Desmond is playing better than the nationals ss, lf, and cf all of which he could play, do you still believe that the Nats should not have offered him a 1 year deal instead of letting him go to Texas?

There is baseball reality and there is fan fantasy.

In fan fantasy, wish fulfillment rules. If you can imagine it, then it should have been done -- whether there was EVER a day IN REALITY when it could actually have been done or not.

If you owned a Time Machine and could go backwards, there was never a day or a minute when the Nats could have ended up with Desmond on a ONE-YEAR deal. They offered him $108M long ago. He turned it down. They offered him a $15.8M qualifying offer after LAST season -- iow, they said, "Ian, here's $15.8M. Come back and play for one year '16 in DC." The offer you want them to make -- THEY MADE IT. For twice the money he eventually got in Texas ($8M). Desmond turned it down. (Because he did, and the Nats probably hoped he would, they get a draft pick as compensation.)

The Nats proceeded with their winter -- in reality, not in Fan Fantasy. They traded Storen for Revere, a perennial .300 hitter, to play CF. That is, if Michael A. Taylor didn't force himself into the CF job.

What then? Do you propose that somebody should have called Desmond and said, "Ian, you didn't want our qualifying offer. You still think you are going to get a multi-year contract for tens of millions of dollars. But we'd like you to come back to DC TO PLAY CF AND HIT .300. Why? Because we have a crystal ball that says you can do it. Revere? Oh, forget him. Forget what we traded to get him."

It's comical to hear fans say, "How could the Nats not make Desmond their CF?"

Everybody in baseball hoped Desmond would do in Texas just what he is doing now -- including everybody on the Nats who admired or liked him. When he was hitting .050 in April, "everybody" said, "Man, the Nats were smart to get rid of that bum." Now he gets hot for month and...

Good for Desi. But I bet this saga has at least two more twists this season. And there will be Fan Fantasy rewriting of history that never existed. 

Yes, it's all part of the fun.

What can the Nats learn from the Ian Desmond experience to help us in the future, as he has now switched to the outfield, sports an .842 OPS, and strikes out less?

Now that's a sensible way to frame the same question.

Here are some possible answers.

After last season, in December, you could probably have offered Desmond $80M for five years to stay a Nat. Can we have a show a hands for that one? If you'd told him, "but you have to switch to the OF so we have room for Turner at SS," he'd have turned THAT deal down.

I suspect that Desi will end up having hot-and-cold periods as a hitter this year, end up with numbers similar offensively to '12-'13-'14 and play a good CF. That won't make him an All-Star. But it will make him a good player.  

The lesson you learn from this is that you make the best decisions that you can in real time. You try to treat people decently -- as the Nats did Desmond. You assume plenty of things won't work out. Then you go on to the next brutal decision.

Also, everything is intertwined in MLB. If the Nats had kept Desi for $80M, would they have just extended Strasburg?

If we could figure out baseball, we'd stop caring about it!

Explain to me how a hitter as good as Harper can get mired in a slump this bad for almost a month and a half? How is it possible he hasn't broken out of it? He is a shell of the guy who won MVP last year.

One of the reasons I love the chat is that, every week, there is a long line of plaintive passionate sincere questions -- with near agony in the writing voice -- that include phrases like this one about BRYCE HARPER. "He is a shell of the guy who won MVP last year."

I'll give you a couple more.

Why is Michael A. Taylor not in Syracuse? He isn't hitting. His fielding has declined. His base running is atrocious. And he looks lost. Wouldn't sending him to AAA to work on weaknesses and play every day be better for him long term?

Actually, I could have been the writer of this question. Every time I see Taylor (in misery), I wonder: What is best for HIM." It sure looks like it's Syracuse. But what about the double he smoked off the top of the LF wall on Sunday in a 1-for-5 day. Did "it" just click? (Or even a fraction of the "it" that flips a cold hitter into being a red-hot hitter.) Is he about to go off the way he did for all of spring training?

Love your chats! They make Monday morning something to look forward to! Has Baker ever explained why he played Turner in only one game? He was here for three days and did rather well in the first one!

Thanks.

Nice dry "rather well." Yes, rather well.

There are a LOT of really intense, almost wailing questions this morning about the Nats. What is WRONG with Max Scherzer? Will he ever be worth all that money? (He fanned 20 men in a game LAST MONTH.) Will Harper EVER get out of hiss slump? (He was Player of the Month in April.) And MANY more along the same lines.

Murphy and Ramos are hitting in the .380's and .350's. As they each drop 60 points, as they probably will, who will pick up those 120 points? Somebody will. Somebody always does. Revere will get 75 to 100 of 'em. 

The Nats are 34-23 with the third-best record in MLB and are two games ahead of the Mets. And they are PAST the toughest part of their schedule. Yet they have done it with Scherzer giving up a ton of homers, Harper in a six-week slump and Papelbon scaring everybody to death -- as he saves 15 of 17 games. That's two superstars and a controversial closer having years that, in some ways, if you'd been told about them in March, you probably would have said, "Bad times ahead for that team."

Baseball players learn to understand The Life in the minor leagues. The Game is constantly trying to drive you insane. Like Roark on Sunday -- he gives up one bloop, jam shot and seeing-eye grounder -- and a couple of hard hits -- and it looks like he got shelled. HE has to know better. You go 3-for-5 with a double one night, then have to get up early for a day game the next day and go 0-for-5, and you think, "Am I hot or am I cold?" Well, you're slash line is .300/.300/.400 for an OPS of .700. You're neither. It's just baseball.

Think about everything that's required to survive six (or seven) months of pro baseball. No matter mere "talent" is so seldom enough to succeed. You need: The ability to start fresh every day, and totally forget yesterday, even if it was good because that can be a trap, too. The strength to trust your proven ability, not your results of the last few (interminable) weeks. The gift of ignoring all the noise around you -- literary 30K people cheering or booing you EVERY day. 

To get back to your question: Imagine that you are Turner. You have to be ready to be sent back to Syracuse after you have been called up and hit 1.000! (What was I SUPPOSED to do?) And you can't let yourself fall into self-pity when you get back to AAA or you'll be hitting .270 so quick that, then, you WON'T be called back up very soon. Or what if you STAY up, but you have to endure "spot duty" -- like the play one-day-a-week stuff that has Taylor all screwed. Or they say, "Kid, you're up to stay. This is your shot, starting tomorrow in Chi." (It could happen.) Then you have to key down, focus, not get too excited and -- oh --produce.

And ANY of those three things could come walking up to Turner in the next 24 hours. He's 22 years old. He wasn't even a prospect out of high school -- only two college offers. Two years ago this week he didn't even know where he'd be drafted. He'd never played one day as a pro. And, now, he's being asked to have the emotional maturity, and flexibility, to deal with ANY of those three scenarios.     

You know what, having talked with him in spring training, I actually think he probably can. But, at 22, I couldn't have.

Are you attending again this year? If so, I can't wait to corner you and pepper you with Nats questions! Also, your pick to win this year's Open?

Yes. Love it.

It was very important for Jordan Spieth to win again on Tour (two weeks ago) and to do it with a strong weekend (65-65 to win by three). And he did it in his home state of Texas.

Afterward, he said that "no matter what happens the next 30 years" of his career, that this win would be one of the most important events of his golf life. He KNEW he had to shake off what happened at the Masters -- or shake off part of it, anyway --and do it fairly soon. How mature, and accountable to himself, was THAT. Yes, he's also only 22.

Is there any talk of revisiting the replay rules mid-season? Having a runner who beat the tag called out because he lost contact with the bag for a fraction of a second during a pop-up slide is ridiculous. Also, have they thought about drastically limiting the amount of time managers have to ask for a review? A big part of the pace-of-play problem, in addition to the time they take in New York, is the way teams stall while a coach looks at video to decide whether to ask for a review. If you forced managers to request reviews quickly, based on what the naked eye could see, you'd eliminate the stalling and maybe also reduce requests for replay reviews to the most obviously wrong calls.

Looks like Dusty will be one of those pointing out how counter-productive and against the spirit/history of the game those silly replays of tags are to see if you come off the base (or are nudged off the base by a fielder) for 1/millionth of a second. I mentioned that in last week's chat, I think. Anyway, MLB should think of replay as very much an evolving part of the game -- and not always evolving forward toward "more."

In this case, less -- going backwards -- would be more.

The Nats have always maintained that you use your best hitter 3rd to maximize at bats. So why isn't Murphy batting third given how well he is playing? Wouldn't Rendon second, Murphy third and Ramos fourth be the best lineup right now?

You anchor great players. Harper is MVP. He hits third. Forever. In 1999 career at bats, including playing at 19 and having big injuries at 20 and 21, his OPS is now over .900 (.905) and, despite his slump, he is 15th in MLB this year (.934). IOW, a HOF level over a long career. Oh, and he's still only 23.

How much $$$ has Harper's slump cost him? If the Lerners had doubts about paying him big bucks in April,?there is no way they'll pay him the money after his May. And unfortunately June hasn't started out much better

I would offer Harper $400M TODAY and dream that he and Boras would take it. (They wouldn't. They're smart.)

As I just noted, Harper is only 23, he's still figuring things out -- especially the emotional disappointment of a slump after being MVP. But, with everything he's been through, and as young as he is, his career OPS is .905! What neighborhood is that? Mike Schmidt (.908), Ken Griffey, Jr. (.907), Gary Sheffield (.907). Mike Stanton (.900). Perspective, please.

Boz, I assume you're as relieved as I am that the Nats didn't overextend that fragile young man after calling him up. I mean, he was probably worn out already after hitting over .300 in Syracuse, scoring all those runs and stealing all those bases, and then he goes 3-3 in his debut game. Thank goodness Dusty had the good sense to sit him for the weekend and let Espinosa play, so he could go 1-6. Now they've sent him back down again, which is clearly the smart thing to do. Maybe he can finally get that average over .320 again, while we wait for Espinosa to slide his average right up there to .210. Should happen any day now, right? Right?

Nice.

Yes, Turner has been sent back to Syracuse. So I guess he will have to deal with Scenario No. 1 from my previous answer.

Guess whom he will meet at AAA? Bryan Harper, lefthanded relief pitcher, has just moved up from AA to  AAA today. At AA, Bryan had a 1.50 ERA and 16 of his 20 appearances were scoreless. Bryce always said his brother was going to be good. You may get signed to play in the low minors for many reasons. But you only get to AAA one way -- performance.

Is Felipe Rivero this year's Aaron Barrett? Dusty is no Matt Williams, but both managers seem to have overused his young arm.

I agree. Rivero said he liked that level of use. Well, what do you expect him to say? He was over-used last summer by Williams and then, tired, got lit up in some big games. Back then, two of the veteran relievers, who are no longer Nats, were really ticked off at what they viewed as blatant abuse of a wonderful arm and a willing young pitcher who wasn't in position to say "No." You'd be amazed how they defend the interests of someone who is competing to take THEIR job if they think it is wrong. (No, it wasn't Storen.)

Nobody Rivero's age, with his obvious ability, should be on a pace to pitch in 84 games. He's been on 29 of 57 games. Only three relievers in MLB have been in more games and two of them are situational lefties who face very few batters. Rivero has also been asked to pitch in two different innings a few time already.

What a difference a year makes: No triple crown contender. Do many people even know when the Belmont Stakes is? Or the name of the Kentucky Derby winner?

It was great to finally see another Triple Crown winner in American Pharoah. But it was an event, for a weakened sport, which left a vacuum in its wake.

The Cubs winning the NL pennant seems inevitable. But, as we've seen with the Capitals and their inevitable run to the Stanley Cup championship, things don't always work out that way. In retrospect, we can see the holes in the Caps' roster. Pretend it's October 2016. The Cubs didn't win the pennant. What went wrong?

That's too tough.

But I would point out that just about a week ago the Warriors, with the greatest record in NBA history, were on the verge of being knocked out by OKC if the Thunder could just have put together one excellent all-around performance in Game Six. Now, the Warriors are about to be anointed -- or close to it. "Nothing is written." Lawrence of Arabia said that. Well, he said it in the movie. My dad told me, more than once, to read T.E. Lawrence's "Seven Pillars of Wisdom." He didn't offer many suggestions, on anything. Yet I never did it. Doesn't speak well.

Book of Proverbs, 9:1: "Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars"

Hi, Tom! The Cavaliers looked amazing in the early rounds of the playoffs, like real contenders. Now, against Golden State, they look like chumps. Is the talent / level of play between the eastern and western conferences truly THAT pronounced? Or is this just an unusually poor showing by the Cavs?

Yes, it is that pronounced.

Yes, the Cavs are stinking it up and look disspirited and beaten.

In Game One, the Warriors bench played 94 minutes, had 45 points and had ONE TURNOVER. Curry and Thompson were both as bad as they are ever going to be in the same game.

In Game Two, Curry had to sit out most of 3Q with foul trouble, Thomspon, despite a few good moments, merely had a decent game. And the Cavs lost by 33. In Game Two, the Warriors bench played 140 minutes! (And shot 17 for 26 and did lots of other good things.)

If Love misses Game Three, the question may be: Could the Rest of the Warriors (without Curry, Thompson or Green) use its much superior hoop smarts, defense and speed to beat the Cavs starters (minus Love) straight up?

Tom, I loved your piece on Muhammad Ali. Of the greatest athletes of the 20th century, do you think he deserves a spot in the top 5?

Dozens of questions on Trea Turner. One of Muhammad Ali.

Yes, put him  as high on any list as you choose.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/boxing-mma-wrestling/alis-athletic-greatness-was-merely-a-platform-for-the-larger-man/2016/06/04/03c5da50-2a13-11e6-ae4a-3cdd5fe74204_story.html

Thanks for all the questions. See you next week before the U.S. Open -- and the Cubs come to DC for three.

Correction: in 1979 the Orioles played the Angels and Pirates postseason. They played the Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies in 1983. Stanhouse parlayed 1979 into a nice deal with the Dodgers in 1980 and briefly came back with the O's in 1982.

Thanks very much. Glad "Stan the Man Unusual" got paid -- well, a little, by the standards of that time. I don't think my hearing has ever recovered from him playing "Dirty White Boy" (Foreigner) at max volume in the clubhouse in the minutes before the beginning of EVERY O's game. But they sure came out and had some good first innings. 

Mr. Boswell, Thanks for the chat. Do you have any reactions to Trea Turner's three for three night over the weekend? I thought he played well in his brief opportunity and it was good to see him on TV chatting up his veteran teammates like Max Scherzer (what a great guy to give you a pitcher's perspective on the game!). Any Nats folks provide you with takeaways from Turner's brief cameo? And were you surprised that the Nats sent him back to the minor leagues so quickly as opposed to perhaps another player who could use the opportunity for regular at-bats like Michael A. Taylor?

They sent him down to stay sharp, develop a little more and because the next time he comes up, 99% of the people in MLB assume that he will never go back down. Or sit.

I looked at all the good middle infielders -- since you don't know if Turner will be a SS or 2nd -- and how their minor league careers compared to their MLB production. For reference, Turner's minor league slash line is .319/.382/.458 for an .841 OPS in 930 at bats.

I wish there could be an obvious pattern. There isn't. Here are some who hit exactly as well in the majors as the minors (in OPS): Dustin Pedroia (.844 minors, .811 MLB), Joe Panik (.765 minors/.768 majors), Elvis Andrus (.704/.681), Cory Seager so far (.891/.856), Trevor Story (.817/.886).

A couple improved: Cano .756/.853 and Francisco Lindor (.738/.813).

Plenty went down when they got to MLB, BUT not too much. IOW, you could "project" them as big-time players even if their OPS went down, especially in the first year or two as they adjusted. Altuve .867/.773. Kipnis .861/.756. Bogaerts .862/.749.

A couple plummeted: Jean Segura (who made an AS team) from .807 in minors to .676 in MLB so far). . 

But if you start at an OPS of .840 or  .860 throughout the minors, you can go down a lot and still end up a heckuva middle infielder in MLB. And what if, like Jeter, or Pedroia, you stay pretty much the same?

I remember a little while back (maybe a year or so ago?) you wrote a column about the Washington football team being so bad for so long that, statistically speaking, Washington fans should expect a long painful arduous road back to being considered a decent-to-good team. Yes, it was only one season of football, but the organization seems to be run by adults, building around the right players, and suddenly looks like the steadiest and least-distraction-filled team in the division. What do you think now about the team being "good"?

The teams that rebounded quickly and were exceptions to the rule, as I noted in the column, were always led back to winning records -- and even Super Bowls -- by MAJOR stars at QB or new coaches who turned out to be stars. Like Jim Kelly and Marv Levy in Buffalo or Troy A and Jimmy Johnson in Dallas. It does happen. It doesn't USUALLY happen.

There were also plenty of examples of one-year false starts with franchises flopping back where they'd been. But if you think Cousins in some version of Drew Brees (and I've written a column about the strong similarities) and/or that Gruden is special, then the current Skins turnaround can have all thee "legs" you want to dream about. But the QB, coach (and maybe GM) has always been the key element in the past.

Just kidding. Why would anyone ask a question about a .500 team w/ no first round pick and little chance of landing a marquee free agent?

Rough crowd, rough crowd.

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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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