Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Jul 25, 2016

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

Past Ask Boswell chats

Of course, he's exciting, but of greater importance, he can only gain the experience he needs to help the Nats in October by playing regularly for the next two months. Wouldn't platooning be a step backwards in his development? CF is pretty open at the moment.

I don’t want to see anybody except Trea Turner bat leadoff again for the Nationals until -- let me count this on my fingers, that would be -- 2023.

Turner is ready NOW. It is the Nats job to find a place to play him. My solution would be simple: Put Turner in CF, give him the job to lose and make Ben Revere a (good) fourth OF.  

On Sunday, Turner slashed a liner into the rightfield corner, tripped rounding second base, momentarily lost his balance and still reached third without any hint of a close play. (Said his foot hit the top of the bag, not the side, which can always causes slips.) In the last week at Nats Park, he has tripled three times -- once into the rightfield corner on Sunday, once off the right-centerfield wall and once into the leftfield corner (without even drawing a tag) on a ball I’ve almost never seen turned into a triple.

He’s also beaten out TWO absolutely routine grounders to short -- one for an infield hit vs LA and another on Sunday when his speed rattled veteran Alexi Ramirez to badly that he bobbled the ball three times and never threw. If Ramirez had made a clean play, I think Turner would still have beaten it out for a hit. When you see a SS take a fourth step to his left to field a Turner grounder, look out, it's going to be close at first. Turner also  for an infield hit and stolen four bases -- one of them a theft of home plate (!) and another on Sunday when he semi-deliberately got picked off by Matt Thornton and beat the throw-and-tag to second base by four or five feet. Afterwards, he explained that he was running on the first baseman (who's young), not the catcher. "If Adrian Gonzalez (a Gold Glove winner) had been there, I wouldn't have done it," he said. Of course, if Thornton (a lefty) had thrown home he'd have had second easily.

Right now, Turner is the kind of quick-twitch athlete who's not going to be bothered by most fastballs. But he's going to strikeout more in MLB than he has in the minors. He'll improve on that, but it will take time. He misses really good moving sinkers down-and-in from RHers, rather than fouling them off. Off-speed can tie him up at times and teams are already "junking him" because they see he can smoke the fastball, even the fastball inside at the belt. But I think he can hit .265-.285 right now and run wild on the bases. He's just the spark the top of this lineup needs after a season of absolutely awful production there.

Taylor clearly needs work at AAA to K less (much less) and he's already been sent down. Revere should be judged not just on '16 (.216 and an .263 on-base %) but on his last few years ('14-through-'16) combined when he's hit .291 but with only a .321 on-base  percentage and a weak .679 OPS. He has a wonderful clubhouse (and field) disposition, always energized. But he has no power, seldom walks and -- worrisome to me -- his ability to steal bases seems to be shrinking fast. In '14, he got on base 201 times and had 49 steals -- almost 25 percent of the times he got on base! In '15, that dropped to 31 steals in 214 times on base -- or about one-in-seven rather than one-in-four the previous season(s). This year, he has only 10 steals in 68 times on base -- the same 1-in-7 ratio. Turner has 4 steals in four attempts in 13 times on base  -- ~30 percent of the time.

Turner is a key part of the future -- somewhere. Espinosa is a FA after '17 and Murphy after '18. So Turner is going to end up being a middle infielder. But, with Revere "only" signed through '17, I think it's time to try the CF experiment. If it doesn't work, you can switch back. That won't taste good. But with two months in CF, you get a sense if you want Turner out there in the playoffs (Nats at 85 percent probability of making the playoffs). 

Asked about CF after the game, Turner said, "I did it in Syracuse. I've embraced it, I guess...I was 'fine' (in AAA) -- got to a couple of tough balls. I made all the plays. But (in MLB) you'd have to learn how to play all the walls  (in different parks). There'd be a lot to learn."

Turner has a stronger arm than Revere, who is below average for a CF. Turner would probably be about average out there. In 15 days, you might say, "You just can't risk a novice in CF." OK, if that's how it goes, live with it. 

But give it a try, I say.

I talked to Baker about where Turner fits after the game Sunday. He thinks he's "ready" offensively. "Where do you play him? Zim is coming back Tuesday (off the DL) and he's a key hitter for us?"

I suggested a couple of exotic rotation possibilities with Turner playing both second and CF at different times when differ players got days off. That would mean having Murphy play some 1st (on Zim off days)and 3rd (on Rendon off days). Dusty winced, as he should have. "I don't want to mess with Murph (hitting .355)," he said.

Then, speaking generally, not specifically about Turner, he said, "I prefer to make moves that only impact one position in the lineup."

Well, I agree with Dusty. And, speaking SPECIFICALLY, I'd make the painful decision to put Turner in CF full-time over good-guy Revere. You need to be able to manufacture runs in the playoffs and get after elite-level starters in the first inning in playoffs games. Looks like that's going to be a Turner job for a lot of years. So, might as well get started. JMHO.

Tom, what is the MLB definition of a sell out? The games last Tuesday and Thursday were announced sell outs with attendance less than 39,000, which left about 2,500 empty seats each game.

I don't know. It's possible that some tickets were given away as "comps" to kids groups. Or some such thing.

Nats attendance is now 13th in MLB at 31,626 average. Last year, they were 11th at 32,343. Since Nats crowds are always strongest when school is out and tourists come to town in summer the Nats will probably end up almost exactly where they did last year -- when they were pre-season WS favorites. This year, KC and Colorado at 12th and 11th in attendance at 32,888 and 33,048 -- and the Royals and Rox both look pretty dead for post-season play. (KC is down to 4.5 percent probability.) They may fade. I doubt Nats would catch them both.

O's are kind of disappointing at 20th in attendance and only 27,266 a game. Don't O's fans like these Bash Birds? Last year, they were 19th in attendance with 29,374. And that's at significantly lower prices than comparable location-for-location Nats tickets.

I saw some numbers on TV viewership for Nats and O's a few days ago. O's have excellent penetration of a smallish 2-million market. Nats have decent penetration of a big market (6 million). I don't distrust these MASN TV rating numbers -- but I have never entirely trusted them either. I'd like to know a lot more about what is counted and what isn't (like DirecTV) and what regions (like Richmond and South of DC). And I wonder if there's any way to put a thumb on the scales of TV ratings -- here or in any city. You'd think, with all the money involved, that it would be scrutinized every carefully -- so I'll go along with that working assumption. But I'd like to know more about methodology, etc.

At this stage of his career, it's now clear that Papelbon is unable to pitch three consecutive days. Does his apparent "handicap" become less of one come October? Should Mike account for this at the trade deadline knowing the difference between regular and post-season?

You are correct that there are far more off days in October, so a 35-year-old reliever like Papelbon would be less of a problem. But Sunday showed how narrow his margin of safety is. Ramos did a poor job of blocking a ball in the dirt -- it went as a wild pitch, putting a man on second. A single scored the go-ahead run and took the air out of Pap who couldn't get another out. Without the WP, I suspect he gets out of that two on, two out, 6-6 jam. 

As I wrote in my column about Chapman, the only relievers who can help the Nats aree those who are clearly better than Papelbon -- and that means Chapman (two month rental and not too expensive in prospects), Andrew Miller (signed through '18 and very expensive) and maybe, if they are sellers now, Wade Davis of the Royals (signed through '17).

If the Cubs get Chapman, and they are after him, it's a big blow to the Nats since he's the perfect neutralizer of Murphy and Harper, both lefty bats. Chapman as a Cub might turn a Cubs-Nats playoff series from "close, with Cubs a slight favorite" to "Cubs a big favorite."

Chapman's domestic behavior issues are major baggage, in my book, even though there were no charges pressed and he has served his MLB suspension. The Nats and Lereners have to evaluate that. The baseball (only) analysis is that Chapman is a fit -- in need and manageable cost -- for the Nats (and several other clubs).

Wade Davis is very interesting to me. Rizzzo like players, like Papelbon last year, who are 1 1/3-year additions.

Has Lucas Giolito's stock fallen enough -- and it has fallen -- for him to be in a Davis trade. I assume "No" -- he's too valuable to deal. But a week ago I'd have said, "Are you nuts?" Now I'd at least think about it.

Brach, Britton, and O'Day. Not quite the Yankees' trio, but the Yankees aren't going anywhere.

I have seldom seen "statistical disrespect" like the Post-Season Probability numbers on the MLB site (from FanGraphs) for the O's, especially relative to the Nats. The O's ARE in first place, aren't they??

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/standings/probability.jsp?ymd=20160725

Nats are given an 85.2 percent chance to win the DIVISION (with their 4 1/2 game lead) and 95.7 percent  -- virtual certainty -- to make the playoffs.

The O's are given only a 23.0 percent chance to win their DIVISION even though they are ahead of Bosotn by 1 1/2 games. Boston gets a 54.8 percent chance to win the AL East.

Overall, the Birds get a 67.8 percent chance to make the playoffs with 44.8 percent of that being as a wild card. Boston gets an 87.9 percent chance to make the post-season. Can a computer wear Red Sox?

I hope Brian Cashman looks at those odds -- which incorporate run-differential as a measure of team strength and future schedule, etc. Because the Yanks odds to win the AL East are 1 percent and to make the playoffs only 8 percent.

If you want the Cubs NOT to get Chapman, root for a Yankee winning streak NOW.

I think Buck Showalter could turn any trio with some talent into a wonderful back end of the pen. He's amazing. Sure, they pitch. But, year after year, Buck finds a way. The names change -- the one constant is the name "Showalter." I bet he could take Rivero, Treinen and Koda Glover right now and, in a month, have you thinking they are equivalent or close to Brach, Britton and O'Day.

BTW, Koda Glover is also ready RIGHT NOW. His average fastball velocity in his two games put him No. 1 among Nats at 97.4 mph. Second, Renaldo Lopez at 96.5 who, in my book (and Baker's) looked exceptional in his start against the Dodgers. He got too much of the plate with some fastballs. But all three of his pitches -- FB, curve, changeup -- looked like "plus" pitches on his nine strikeouts.

FYI, other Nats FB average velocity for '16: Treinen 95.1, Strasburg 95.0, Scherzer 94.3.

Lopez was throwing 97 on the final pitches of his 105-pitch start. He's moved ahead of Giolito in the minds of some Nats decision makers (maybe all of them). Those things so back and forth. But Lopez went back down to Syrac use and pitched a complete game shutout on Sunday with no walks and seven K's. He really has poise. He shook off a three-run Dodger 1st inning and came back with a span of eighth straight outs with six strikeouts. I was really impressed with him and Glover, too. Giolito has a wonderful personality, willingness to learn. But he also has a lot to learn/polish and he knows it.

After Sunday, Giolito said his problem, in all three starts really, was that he couldn't count on throwing his secondary pitches -- a good 12-6 curve and a changeup-in-the-making -- for strikes when he needed to. "Major league hitters just take the off-speed pitches out of the equation...The changeup was not there today...Last start in Syracuse, the changeup was good...You HAVE to command off-speed pitches (in MLB)...and be able to throw a changeup in a hitter's count...Once there is traffic (on the bases) and I'm mostly only throwing fastballs, it doesn't really work out."

Hi Tom, What am I missing with Nats' pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez? I was disappointed with their call-up performances. Both have excellent fastballs, but major league hitters can hit 96-mph fastballs. What other skills will they have to develop to be successful?

99.2 mph, and 64 percent of them for strikes. Lopez is close to the real deal right now and coming fast. Don't be fooled by his one-game line: 4 2/3-10-6-6--12-9.

He threw 61 fastballs, the highest at 99.2 mph and 64 percent of them for strikes. That'll do nicely. His curve was even better -- 21 of 33 for strikes (63.6 percent) and SEVEN swings and misses. In all, he had 14 swings and misses in 105 pitches.

That was the biggest worry with Giolito. In three starts, he had only 6.0 percent swings and misses -- by far the lowest of ANY Nats pitcher this year -- with only one swing-and-miss Sunday.

In contrast, here are the swing and miss percentages of pertinent Nats pitchers this year: No. 1 Glover (15.8 percent). (Okay, okay, in two innings. But almost everything he threw was 98 at the knees or a 90-92 slider right where he wanted to spot it. He didn't even get to his best pitches (supposedly) his curve and change-up. Others: Shawn Kelley 15.8 percent, Scherzer 15.6 percent (VERY high for a starter), Rivero (14.7 percent), Lopez (12.4 percent), Solis 11.9.

The next two: PAPELBON 11.2 percent, AHEAD of Strasburg at 11.1 percent. Yes, Stras has MUCH better stuff and gets far more strikeouts -- 11.04 per nine innings to 8.24 for Papelbon. But, technically, it is incorrect to say that Papelbon doesn't have "swing and miss stuff." He does NOT have as good swing-and-miss stuff as he did in his prime or as MANY relievers do -- like Kelley and Rivero. But Papelbon is not defenseless out there.

Tom, I read your column, and you failed to ask the most important question about Bryce Harper. Who is he? You still write as if he is a sure fire hall of famer, one of the best in the game, etc. Yet, but for last season, he has been a borderline all star, at best. Other than last season he has batted somewhere between .250 and .270. He has hit somewhere between 20-30 hrs. Pretty good numbers, but not numbers worth the acclaim he continues to receive. We are already in late July. I appreciate Bryce is young, but sure fire hall of famers don't have 3.5 month slumps during the prime of their career.

Glad to answer this one. I tried earlier and the answer got "locked up"  and lost.

We know who Harper is. He's been in the bigs for almost five years. His career OPS is .895. Where does that rank among active players?

Pujols    .970

Trout .961

M Cabrera   .957

Votto   .951 (perhaps over-rated by OPS because he walks so much, drives in so few runs)

A-Fraud    .933

Ortiz   .931

GOLDSCHMIDT     .929

Braun *    .909

Stanton     .900

Matt Holliday    .898

HARPER     .895

Prince Fielder    .887

This includes Harper at 19 and 20 when few, if any of these others played in MLB. So, lets throw out 19 and 20 and see where we are with Harper's OPS at 21-22-23 combined.

Harper     .941!!!

That would be fifth among active players. And a HOF level. 

Don't worry about Harper. His LOW end possibility is Reggie Jackson -- high K's, mediocre BA. Far more likely is that his slash line of the last three years is him -- especially since he had a major injury in '14 and a huge slump this year. The monster MVP '15? Very few players EVER have that year -- even once. He had it at 22. He'll probably have one or two more like it -- in the next 10 years.

Here's that How He Really Is slash line (imo): .290/.408/.533. OPS: .941. That's an excellent slugger with a high on-base percentage because he is feared so much. But the .290 may say he's more a No. 4 hitter than a No. 3. Though the .408 certainly means he could be either.

The world is full of things to worry about. Bryce Harper's ability to hit isn't one of them.

But he is frustrated. He does feel like, for now, he's in quicksand and fighting too hard. And everybody is in his ear. Last year, the only people he listened to were his hitting coach an d his manager Matt Williams. That would be a good model now. The only thing that concerned me was when -- in my column --Harper said that he was thinking along with the pitch sequences called by Yadi Molina and Buster Posey. When you have Harper's hitting ability, hitting knowledge and (MLB) hitting experience, you don't need to think THAT much. He needs to simplify and relax -- which is a hard combination, but he'll get there. (See, see, see how impossible it is NOT to try to give this guy advice -- even a sportswriter can't resist.)

Hey, Boz, One thing that's concerned me all season is an extended injury in the starting rotation. With Bronson Aroyo injured and Lucas Giolito unable to command his secondary pitches, it doesn't look like we have too much ready for an extended big league role, except Mat Latos, should the occasion arise. Since the Diamondbacks are shopping Shelby Miller do you think it's worth checking in on him?

Reynaldo Lopez.

What does the slump this year mean for his future? I can't imagine the Nats would be willing to sign him to a long-term contract after this season, and I can't imagine Boras has any interest in signing a short term or low money deal. So if there aren't going to be talks this summer, does trading him make sense at all? The theory would be you should trade him instead of letting him walk and trade him before he has another lousy season and his value declines further.

There is no need to do ANYTHING now.

But it is fascinating to watch panic. Ask any Nats veteran if they are "worried about Bryce Harper ever hitting again." After that tough loss Sunday, they need a good laugh.

If you want to ask about the future hitting of Ryan Zimmerman at 31, with a foot/heel injury to keep under control and a history of right shoulder problems, then THAT is okay. THAT'S not nutty.

But I imagine Ryan is a little ticked off. I suspect he's been ready to play for a while but the Nats were in no hurry to bring him back so that they could get a better look at  -- and showcase -- Trea Turner.  Maybe approach -- kind of  like, Oh, Ryan Zimmerman, is he still in our organization? -- would certainly be "motivational" to many players. Zim went down to Potomac and beat up on the poor A+-ball kids for three games with 5-for-12 with a double, homer and five RBI over the weekend.

In the last two years combined, in 627 at bats, (slightly more than a full season)  Zimmerman has 38 doubles, 28 homers and 111 RBI. Read that twice. BUT he is hitting .236. Why? Two reasons. He is striking out slightly more than in the past. That's probably age. That is bad. But it probably only means he's not a .285 hitter anymore but more like .265-.270 -- with power. His batting-average-on-balls-in-play has been awful the last two years -- which is really one season's worth of ABs. That's a fluke. Happens all the time. It'll even out, especially since Zim's velocity-of-the-bat numbers this year are very high.

In short, he doesn't make contact quite as well as he once did. That may never change. And that may mean he's more a 5-6 hitter than 3-4. But the BABIP will normalize over time. He's an excellent defensive first baseman. And 365 days from now I will enjoy answering questions about how nice it is that Ryan Zimmerman, though not quite what he once was, certainly didn't turn out to be a problem. 

Here, bluntly, is what I see on several core players and prospects. Stcherzer and a more mature Strasburg are now on the same level as any 1-2 punch in post season. Papelbon does not look (to me)  like a closer than can get you past a loss in the NLCS. He's still a good Old Pro but he's not good enough for what this team needs. Turner is ready now and should play. Revere is having a nightmare year in a new town, but is far better than he's showing. But he needs to sit. Giolito was  quite a long ways from what I expected -- his fastball command was better than I anticipated, but his velocity (and ability to get swinging strikes with it) was less. Lopez, still young and increasing his innings year by year, is too good as a future starter to switch to the bullpen now as a kind of K-Rod wing-and-a-prayer like the Angels pulled off in '02. It's okay to throw things at the TV after Harper pops up (again and again), but don't throw large solid objects because you are going to want a Big Screen when he breaks out -- which he will. Cross your fingers, if you want, for Zim -- but he probably won't need it. And, finally, will somebody tell Dusty not to work Tanner Roark quite so hard. He's much too valuable to be in the Top 10 in MLB in most pitches thrown in '16. He's a 200 IP, 13-to-16 win guy. NOT a 225 inning workhorse. There's a big difference. He will always say, "Yes." So, sometimes, the manager has to say "No" to him going out for the 7th or the 8th when he's already near or at 100 pitches. This guy's under team control through '19 -- protect him. It's not Roark's problem that Gio Gonzalez doesn't go as deep into games as his talent should allow him to do. It is Gio's problem. Make some poor slob in the bullpen make up for the "Gio innings deficient" by working a little more at the back end of Roark's starts. 

Boz, Two questions this a.m. I saw Drew Storen was just DFA'd by the Blue Jays after posting a 6.21 ERA. I'm very sorry to see that and am wondering whether you believe he is finished in baseball. Second, with Zim returning to 1B and Murphy to 2B, do you think the Nats will try Trea Turner in CF? How much longer can they let Revere struggle, and Turner seems a much better option at the top of the order.

Looks like Drew Storen may be Chad Cordero 2.0.Cordero retired at 28 with a 20-15 record and 330.1 innings pitched in relief. He was worked to death and burned out after being a first-round draft pick (No. 20 overall) from a top California college baseball program (Cal-St Fullerton). His career WAR for the Nats was 7.6. He was an All-Star once and FIFTH for Cy Young once! He never got to his big free agent payday -- arm shot. But he made $11.5-million.

As of today, Storen is also 28, also, like Cordero, has been in the majors for seven years and has pitched 367.1 innings in relief. His record: 22-16. Yes, Cordero's was 20-15. The Chief hasd a better career ERA (2.89 to 3.31). Storen has a 5.5 WAR in DC. He also was just shy of hitting free agency. But, thanks to a $8.375M deal this year in Toronto, he'll end up making at least $20.9-M in his career. Oh, Storen was also a first round pick (10th overall) from a top California college baseball program (Stanford).

The relief pitcher's life is one of constant abuse. Their careers are even more in peril than starters, imo. If they get burned up with overuse -- and too many times getting hot -- the way Matt Williams overused Aaron Barrett according to some Nats, then that's...well, it's part of the life, but The Bear should have been husbanded better, imo.

Barrett tried to come back from his second TJ surgery over the weekend. He threw a pitch and his arm broke. As in "snap." Think twice the next time you are tempted to boo a young reliever after a bad day (not many Nats fans do).

The ones like Papelbon who NEVER go on the DL until they are 35 should be in an exhibit at the Natural History Museum.    

Hey Boz, a random question. Why do the starters on the Nats sit in the dugout rather than in the bullpen? The camera always seems to find Sherzer doing something ridiculous, but he's always in the dugout. Is this typical across all of baseball?

Yes.

If they went to the bullpen, they'd have wet stuff thrown at them. If they stayed in the clubhouse, they'd look like they didn't care about the game and were not studying opposing hitters. And they enjoy sitting together, laughing, and having the best seat in the house until it is Their Day and they turn on, in many cases, an entirely different personality.

What do the Nats think about Harper's slump? Are they at all frustrated by how much time he's spent on off-the-field activities? Is there worry that he can't get out of it? How does the slump affect his future with the team?

There may be some truth to MVP-itis. Every time I see that stupid UA commercial where it looks like he just climbed out of a coal mine, then they focus on his latest pair of hideous glowing shoes as he swings I want to say, "Less commercials. And more times at bat where your feet are as balanced and 'unhurried' as they are in that damn commercial."

Harper is smart. He learns. He'll take lessons from this experience. (You don't see him running face-first into walls in recent years, do you?)

BTW, young players all create impressions. But every once in a while you meet one that just has MLB-presence, a mind that works on baseball in a truly analytical way. Trea Turner talked Sunday about how his best at bat of the day was a line-out to rightfield in the ninth -- not his triple or single or the infield error that he forced -- because he was facing the same pitcher who had "made me look silly" with his slider the last time they met. Even though the pitcher throws 98, his slider is his best weapon. Turner slashed it to RF. It just happened to be caught. Turner just turned 23. He's ready in all ways, I think. We'll see.

Saw a surprising figure the other day -- Michael A. Taylor only has 21 career games in Triple-A (coincidentally, the same # as Bryce). Is this comforting? (i.e., he still has a chance to "get right" and reach his ceiling) Or concerning? (i.e. his development could be permanently stunted)

He's somebody everybody immediately likes and roots for. But he probably needs a normal amount of time in AAA. He's back there now, facing plenty of veterans with savvy and multiple breaking balls and off-speed pitches. That's what he needs to face, more than the raw talent at AA, which he can handle.

For four years now Mike Rizzo hasn't just been bad at assembling bullpens - he has been incompetent. There was the Drew Storen disaster, Rafael Soriano, Papelbon, and remember the season he started with exactly ONE lefty arm in the bullpen and acted as if everything was going to be fine? And now here we are yet again, with a huge need in the bullpen and a seller's market which will result in either an extreme overpay for a rental or settling for a lesser arm. I like Rizzo in almost all other aspects but he is horrible at assembling a contending-quality bullpen.

And you've put a lot of research into this, have you?

You made me curious. Right now, even after Sunday's loss, the Nats have the No. 1 bullpen ERA in baseball.

And only one team has a (slightly) better ration of saves-to-save-opportunities -- the Yankees with Betances, Miller and Chapman.

But you are, sort of, right that when the Nats have very good bullpens they win the N.L. East (4th best pen ERA in MLB in '14 and 7th best in MLB in '12), but when they have had merely good or mediocre pens, they haven't won the division -- 10th best ERA out of 30 in '15 and 17th out of 30 in '13.

So, that's No. 1-10-4-17-7 in ERA in the last five years. That's well above average -- in the top quarter of all teams overall.

You could, and can ask for a little more. But, all in all, these have been good to very good pens. And so far, this one is the best. With Solis coming back and Glover on call. 

The emotional reaction to a blown save is so much stronger than the emotional reaction to anything else in baseball that it really distorts perception of bullpens and closers. "They STINK!"

On Saturday night, Papelbon got out of a jam in the top of the ninth and ended up getting the win when the Nats walked off against the Pads pen. One night later, a totally different feeling. I said to Espinosa, "You guys work in a really weird profession. Can you think of ANY job where the same people go through such completely different emotions from one day to the next -- and it happens over and over, but you have to cope with it."

Danny, whose dad is a successful lawyer, if I remember correctly, thought and said, "Maybe in the stock market, if you make a ton of money one day, then the market -- or your stock -- crashes the next day."

I thought that was a sharp off-the-cuff answer.

Is it time to bring out the old 'NATINALS' game day jerseys? Feels like the season is slipping away or do you attribute their slow second half to just the normal swing of a long season?

Unbelievable.

For the last month, from June 26th to tomorrow (July 26th) when they get to Cleveland, the Nats have gone 15-9 and won 6-of-7 head-to-head from the Mets.

It's rare for a team to outscore it's opponents by more than one-run-a-game. The Nats have never done it. They were plus-138 and plus-131 in their two NL East title years. This year, they are on pace for +178 runs.

How good is that? In this century, 16 seasons -- '00 through '15 -- there have been only 24 such teams. Of the 24, 23 made the playoffs. Of those 23, 13 won the division series. Of the 13 that advance, 8 of 13 went to the World Series. Of the eight that made the World Series, five of the eight won it all.

So, I wouldn't get too depressed! Teams like this are quite good. And, at every level of the post-season, they seem to do better than 50-50.

So, in making thee playoffs: 23-1.

In winning the Division Series: `13-10.

In winning the LCS: 8-5.

In winning the World Series: 5-3.

This shows two things. The Nats show every indication of being a very good team, probably the best DC has had so far -- by a little.

But even if they are, it is REALLY HARD to advance in a multi-tiered baseball post-season where even being that rare team which outscores its foes BY A TON only gives you a somewhat better than .50o0 chance to advance: like those 13-10,8-5 and 5-3 ratios show.

I'm headed on vacation for a while. This was a baseball chat because -- the Olympic don't start until Aug. 5. The Skins aren't even in camp yet. The NBA and NHL are asleep. The PGA doesn't start until Thursday (I'd really like to see Spieth get himself squared away in a major THIS season after his Masters blowup in April). Almost all the questions were about MLB.

AND I don't know whether the toilets are going to work in Brazil any more than anybody else does.

But I DID know that the crooked scummy folks who run the Olympics were NOT going to ban everybody from the nation run by their Big Buddy Vladimir Putin.

Good luck to everybody in Brazil. Here's hoping the athletics is thrilling and everything else is pretty boring. Beijing looked like it might be a three-week nightmare and it wasn't. Fingers crossed. Thanks for the great questions.

I expect to chat next on Monday August 8th at 11 a.m.

Cheers.

Something about your column on Bryce today reminded me of Tiger Woods - a perfectionist always tinkering with his swing trying to make it better, no matter the kind of historic greatness he's already achieving. Do you see similarities? Did Bryce tinker too much with what was working and throw things out of whack?

Tiger's tinkering actually worked for many years. It was one of the best parts of him as a players.

The injuries got him, especially the unnecessary ones from all the extreme military-type prove-myself-to-myself he did with "special forces" type outfits and friends.

Jack Nicklaus never stopped tinkering. He stayed with the same basics more than Tiger did. But he said you HAD to keep learning -- and especially RELEARNING things that you'd forgotten that you already knew. One day about age 40 he was talking about how he'd "remembered" some key thought in his putting and it had gotten him hot again on the greens. Then he laughed and said, "But I've already forgotten more about golf than I'll ever know."

Meaning, in part, that you better keep learning because you are certain to keep forgetting!

In response to Sale's outburst and suspension, I read a quote from a baseball type who said "You'd be surprised how many times a team quietly sends a guy home after an outburst. And one of their alibis is 'flu like symptoms." I've also read that "flu like symptoms" has often been used in the past as a replacement for "too hungover to play." Any truth to either of those claims? (And I ask this, knowing the Nats had several players down this week with "flu like symptoms" who appeared to be really sick)

You're right on all points. Including the point that the Nats had some guys who really did look sick.

The Babe had a lot of "flu-like symptoms." Usually played and hit two homers, according to Shirley.

Boz: What happened to Drew Storen (spell?)? I mean I am shocked to see that he went from one of baseball's best closing men to an ERA of over 6.00! Many thanks for these chats- I look forward to them every week.

Don't know. Hope he's healthy and gets more shots somewhere else. There's no way a healthy Storen shouldn't have a job somewhere in somebody's bullpen. But, given his performance this year, some Nats were expecting Sunday's DFA.

Reports that the Cubs got him. Thoughts?

Wanted to wait until it seems to be a done deal before commenting.

Cubs got Chapman, for all that I see. If he'd gone to any of 28 other teams, I wouldn't have considered it a major factor for the Nationals. But the Cubs are the exception. This is bad news for the Nats if they meet the Cubs in the post-season -- most likely guess would be in the NLCS.

The Cubs' pen had problems with the Nats when Washington took two-of-three in DC in their last meeting. And those Cub bullpen problems have continued. They needed Chapman. They want to win now. And they went high for him.

Maybe this IS the Cubs year. If so, hard to begrudge 'em after 108 years! Apparently Theo wasn't too concerned about baggage.

Next up, Wade Davis?

Out of here.

If reports are to be believed, the Cubs are giving up their top rated prospect for 2 months of Chapman. Would the Nats be in on him for that price? Seems really steep, though.

Yankees gave up the No. 24 overall prospect in baseball -- a middle infielder. He was the Yanks' top prospect -- but they have a lousy depleted system.

Might be similar to the Nats giving up Trea Turner or Renaldo Lopez, plus three others, including one decent prospect, for Chapman.

If that is correct: Turner, plus 3, for two months of Chapman. Or Lopez, plus 3, for Chapman -- no, I wouldn't have done it. As I said in my column, something like Austin Voth (or Fedde), plus Michael A. Taylor, plus another 'body" -- all for Chapman, I would do. That's a lot, imo. Cubs went higher.

Tom, I was watching the HOF ceremonies yesterday and what struck me was how less devastating baseball is to the body and brain than is football. Mike Schmidt looked like a picture of health compared to contemporary NFL HOFer Harry Carson. Rod Carew looks like he can still smack a double in the gap.

I can't imagine why any sane multi-sport athlete would choose football over baseball if there was a reasonably equal chance of making it in both sports. The pay, longevity and, and, of course, long-term health issues ENORMOUSLY favor baseball.

But baseball is the harder game. Not the more violent. But harder. Fewer can do it. Few footballers can also make it in baseball. A lot of baseball players can, or could have played football. It's be fun list. It was, to me, remarkable that Jackie Robinson -- a college football star -- was also an MLB HOFer. (And Bo Jackson remains the most over-rated baseball player I ever saw. Career /250/.309/.474. Had one season w more than 78 RBI. One All-Star game.

Yes, I was in Memorial Stadium the night he defied gravity and ran up the outfield wall and back down like a 235-pound Spiderman. And I was there for his monster HR to CF in the All-Star game. Once in a while, he ran into one.

But here's my bottom line on Bo as a baseball player (and, by the way, a "negative" defensive player.)

Jackson: 694 games. Career WAR 8.3.

Danny Espinosa: 719 games. Career WAR 9.3. 

Are we getting the pesky Nationals questions out of the way now that there are only 2 days left before 6 months of blanket Redskins coverage?

Yes.

I doubt that we (or I) will undercover the Defending NFC East Champion Skins!

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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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