Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Jun 26, 2017

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

Past Ask Boswell chats

For all the struggles the newspaper industry has faced in recent years, It seems to me the Washington Post sports section is doing just fine. The beat writers are all superb, and it's a privilege to read thoughtful and insightful columns each day from you, Svrluga, Jenkins, Kilgore, Steinberg, and others. From this long-time reader's perspective, the Post has maintained an exceptional standard through a remarkably turbulent time. I'm sure an owner with deep pockets helps, but there has to be more to it than that. How has the Post managed to excel while others faltered?

Thanks very much from all of us.

And I agree. This is the best WaPo sports department since I fetched coffee in '69. It's kind of silly to grade writers once you get past "I really really like this writer." But you can quantify depth. I don't think we've ever had FIVE columnists this good now that Barry has joined the group. And we have others who add fine columns, too. I don't think we've ever had a group of beat writers this good. I'm certain that we have never had gifted graphs people and multi-platform presentations as good as we do now. We've never had better "idea people" as editors. Also, the 24/7 cycle has allowed FAR more writers to interact with readers in far more ways. That blows away what was possible until fairly recently.

In both quantity and quality, I don't think it's close. But you don't know what some of those other staffs could have produced if they'd had as many platforms and the "infinite space" of the internet. Last week I did a 9,500-word chat. That may be ridiculous, but it also was not even possible before. We've gotten wonderful support, like every other department, with ability to greatly expand staff under owner Jeff Bezos. He thinks that you appeal to customers by offering them, More and Better, not less. That's working in all parts of the paper. People get it. We even made money in our last period. Ten years ago, nobody thought any paper/media-outlet could do that in any period. Of course we've transitioned to digital as well or better than anybody. Final point, Matt Vita, the sports editor, and Matt Rennie, deputy sports editor, are the best 1-2 punch we've ever had in those two spots. I don't want to break it down to individuals because we've had wonderful people, no need to dis anybody just because these are good days. 

Not long ago, former Wapo owner Donald Graham, who was once sports editor and is as knowledgeable about sports, from his childhood days at Shirley Povich's knee, as anybody you will find, posted on his Facebook page that he thought the proper question to ask about the current Post sports page was whether it was the best ever in America in any period. If there's a No. 1-2-3 in that photo finish, this staff is in it. Beyond that, I'd be too biased (and cheerful) to comment.

Is this "sports news" subject worthy of comment?

Sure it is!

(But today's chat will be more like two hours than last week's Whatever That Was.)

You've said the Nats should do everything they can to get a closer. Did n't they try to do just that in the offseason? A couple of closers signed with other teams, but it didn't seem to be the Nats offer that was insufficient to land them; they just chose to stay with their current team (Jansen) or signed for an outrageous amount of money (Melancon). Who should they go after now? How many elite closers are there that are available? Yes, they need a closer, but who specifically could they get?

They  could have gotten Dave Roberston of the White Sox  and Holland of the Rockies who now leads the N.L. in saves. Both deals were as good as done. Robertson would have been the immediate fix until Holland, coming back from surgery, was ready in June. Then you see where you stand, who's the closer, who's the set-up man. Holland was ready months ahead of schedule, by opening day.

This was NOT Plan A. They went hard after Melancon (wouldn't go to ~$70M to try for a pure 'out-bid') and Jansen (wanted to stay in LA, no real chance there) as a first option. But this was one heck of a Plan C. That's when the ownership stalled or sank the deals. Not criminal neglect -- you never know: what if Treinen had worked out well, Glover had stayed healthy as a set-up man, along with Kelley, and by Aug. 1 you could STILL have looked for another big arm, even though you didn't totally need it, as the Cubs did with Chapman last year.

The problem is that they gambled on that final LUCKY makeshift plan with a group of pitchers NONE of whom had ever been a true quality closer for any team.

That's what I call Plan Z -- no real plan (from ownership). When that fails, you're getting what you deserve.

On Friday, yet ANOTHER National simply walked up to me and said, "When the hell are they going to get this done? What are they waiting for? Waiting is just doing more damage." 

He didn't even have to say what subject he was talking about or whom "they" were but it's the bullpen and the Lerners.

A team has a problem when all a reporter has to do is say, "How's it going?" and an established part of the team blasts the owners for not understanding what's happening in their own dugout/clubhouse.

Rizzo's official public position is that there is no rush, almost six weeks until the trade deadline. I said, "Between now an then, somebody will go 12-18 who thinks they are going to go 18-12 and, when they realize their dead in the playoff race they'll be a trade partner." "Exactly," said Rizzo.

But that's gambling that the person or persons you want are still available. The Cubs' lineup is a mess right now without (from last year) Dexter Fowler (gone as a FA), Kyle Schwarber (back to AAA after hitting .171), Jason Heyward (the $185-M bust on the DL) and Ben Zobrist (the $50M free agnt of '16 showing age at 36 and on the DL).

That subtracts FOUR LHed bats who were part of the Cubs attack in the World Series.Can the Nats pen hold down leads against this decimated group? If not...

Mr B. Do you think the Cubs will intentionally walk Harper each at bat this year with Zim and Murph right behind him ? When will Werth be back , even as a pinch hitter?

Heh, heh, heh, think Harp and Zim have their own ideas about how to answer for the four-game fiasco in Chicago last May?

On Sunday, Harper played a kind of not-quite-awake-yet OF in the first inning that may have cost Roark a run or three. But, after his walk off hit on Friday, a 1-for-4 on Saturday and then a 3-for-3 with a walk on Sunday, he looks like he's hitting decently enough -- not his best, but not in a slump either -- to tempt the Cubs to pitch around him. Dusty has been giving Zim rest recently, like Sunday because he knows Ryan remembers his embarrassment last year and wants to flip the script. So, Zim's as fresh, yet sharp as you can be after 75 games. This is one of the areas where Baker is a VERY good manager, just not a merely good manager. He understands his people, what motivates them, what consideration they would appreciate and which might also help their performance in an important moment.

Lets step back: in spring training, Dusty REALLY didn't want to bat Eaton-Harper-Murphy in a row, LH-LH-LH, because it made the Nats vulnerable  to LHed starters or relievers. Also, and Baker knows it though most don't, Trea Turner has been a very poor hitter vs LHers ever since he came up last year -- he has extreme reverse split with an OPS 200 pts higher vs. RHed pitchers. So, in effect, the Nats lineup would have started with four  straight LH hitters. (The last two years, '15-'16, Eaton had 27 homers vs RHed pitchers and ONE vs a RHer. In his career, Turner has 20 homers vs RHers and ONE vs LHed pitchers.)

Now, Baker has Zim to split up Harper-Zim-Murphy-Rendon -- L-R-L-R.

It's going to be a lot tougher for Joe Maddon to look smart this week. Even if he pitches around harper at times and survives Zim, how will he do if Harper is still on base when Murphy and Rendon arrive?  

More a question of the Sports Staff and what "makes news" vs who makes it. I know you don't direct content, but I have trouble reconciling what I consider to be a collective source of information and insight in WaPo's excellent baseball coverage and commentary with last week's trashy, splashy trip down NYPost lane...twice! Why the dip into the gutter with strange attempts at inciting the booing of Drew? Yech...I still have that taste in my mouth.

I don't think I can name any other (generally popular) reliever who had a hand in two disastrous playoff loses in two (very) disappointing seasons, then imploded -- complete loss of command -- against a main division foe (Mets), then after that all-hope-for-'15-is-lost game, broke his hand and disabled himself for the season by punching his locker. That's pretty memorable and charged stuff.

Nats fans, as a group, are amazingly understanding. Too much? Just right? Maybe in-between those two? Tough call. But the reaction to Storen -- great guy, valuable piece of the franchise transformation from '10-'11 to '12-'15, but a certified (MLB is unfair) goat three times -- was a very interesting story.

We all tried to gauge the crowd reaction. It was uniquely hard to do because the main cheer FOR Storn when he was a Nat was "DREEEEW," which sounds as close to "boooo" as it gets. And the response varied from the first announcement of his name to his appearance on the mound -- there were three or four opportunities to react. I'll be darned if I could guesstimate it -- and I've shamelessly guesstimated countless sports moments where you had to say, 'How should I characterize that reaction?'

I'd say there were PLENTY of BOOOS-and-DREEEWS, all at once, so it sounded like 60-40 boos (to me). But how many were DREEEEWS.

It's minor. It's interesting. But it was certainly worth commenting/writing about. Storen is a memorable piece of Nats history, a really smart guy and someone who has experienced most of the classic MLB career arc by 30. Now he's the "old" vet who's throwing only 90, but from all kinds of angles and with multiple breaking pitches.


On a reliever note, the Nats front office didn't have any perfect record on this. After Plans A, B and C were going nowhere, they also had a deal done for Ziegler, 37, as another arm in the pen and somebody who, at times, had actually been a closer. He'd just have been another possibility. But they really liked the old sidearmer. He's been awful.

The Nats have a remarkable record of identifying and developing talent. Look at Taylor and Goodwin now, or how Robbie Ray, who they were high on but felt they had to use in a big trade, is now one of the best LHed starters in the NL. Felipe Rivero, too. But they were wrong about Brad Ziegler who'd had a long very good career -- looks like he was toast. When he pitched against the Nats recently, LHed hitters couldn't wait to crush him for five runs in one inning. 

Hi Tom. Really enjoyed your column on Murphy this weekend. Why has there been so little talk on extending his contract beyond '18? I understand that Bryce is seen as a more valuable player, but Murphy's newfound approach to hitting suggests he still has a lot of gas left in the tank, despite the fact that he's getting older.

Thanks very much.

I think it's logical for both sides to see how Murph does for the entire '17 season and post-season. This certainly looks like The Real New Murphy. If so, then he's worth a lot, even at 32, because "hitters hit." Tat's a skill that ages well, though perhaps you play fewer games each year, from 150 down to 115 over the contract. But do such proven pure hitters, with the hand-eye coordination gift off the charts, sign multi-year deals as 2d basemen in an NL town (where Zim figures to be the 1st baseman in '18 and '19 and maybe '20) when they could sign with an AL team that could use them, over a period of years, at 2d, 3d (where Murphy has played), maybe LF and certainly 1st before, eventually, using him some or a lot at DH?

You WANT to sign Murphy because he is such a fine hitter, teammate and love-the-battle competitor. But, just like Wilson Ramos last year, that damn DH creates situations where someone who is a superior hitter but plays a position where he may not stay for the whole contract is significantly more valuable to an AL team. And everybody knows it. The NL team often just gives up. He really is WORTH a lot more to the AL team. So why compete for that guy?

The main reason that the AL now seems ENTRENCHED as the better league is because hitting talent, as it ages, gravitates to the AL. It is an unfair structural advantage for the AL.

So, after all these years, I have finally made up my mind about the designated hitter. Over time, as a project for MLB and the union to work through, the DH needs to be abolished "for the good of the game." How long does that take, especially since Commissioner Manfred can't even use the powers of his office to push the MASN dispute toward conclusion -- just threw up his hands last week and described it as "intractable." 

If he thinks MASN is unmanageable, uncontrollable, difficult and awkward -- the definition of intractable -- wait until/if he tries to get rid of the DH.

Does he not have an understanding of the concept of risk vs. reward? Down four runs, no outs, middle of the order coming up, and a hittable pitcher on the hill. Players and coaches often fall back on the cliche of "being aggressive" - that shouldn't equate to being stupid and lacking awareness of the situation at hand. Any competent Little League coach should be sufficiently clued in to hold a runner in that situation. It's pretty reasonable to expect major leaguers to be able to make that play......or perhaps he thought he had Jayson Werth running.

That was a coach TOOTBLAN for sure. And it changed the game. Instead of second and third, no outs and Murphy, Rendon coming up in a 6-2 it's man on second with one out. That inning should have ended up with the score 6-3 (worst), 6-4 or even better, considering that the immortal Scott Feldman is pitching. I don't like to criticize third base coaches. Tough job. Only noticed when they are wrong. Flashing a zillion signs. And Henley is beloved. But that was so bad you can't ignore it. Now I probably won't mention him again all year as he does 100 things correctly. There are many mistakes, which are part of the game, and then there are things of which it is said, "That can't happen." Which means you REALLY screwed up. This is the later. (There was SOME reason to send Werth vs the Dodgers, if I remember correctly. Wasn't Espinosa up next with two out?)

With the Dodgers running away with things, there's a 99% chance the Nats and Cubs will be meeting in the NLDS this year. I guess if we want to advance for once we're going to have to take out the champs this time...

Yup, exactly.

The Dodgers will be hard to catch. Especially if you wait another month for a closer. LA got a lot better with rookie Cody Bellinger -- 24 homers since being called up April 25! --upgrading them a lot just as Adrian Gonzalez fades. Like Corey Seager and Trea Turner last year, the league probably won't have Bellinger properly analyzed -- folded, spindled and mutilated -- until next year. Not "figured out," just neutralize a bit.

LAD pitching may NOT be as intimidating in Oct as it is now. Kershaw has given up 17 homers. Still great-great-great. But maybe not quite as great -- no fourth and fifth "greats" in my description. Young LHer Urias was just lost for the season. Rich Hill, what a dumb FA signing, has just set a MLB record for the most consecutive starts to begin a season without going five innings. Great guy. Everybody happy that he "robbed the bank." But he's never stayed healthy for more than 10 minutes at a time in the last 10 years. And McCarthy was part of that 8-wild-pitch fiasco against Colorado on Sunday. The difference was that McCarthy's WPs had that scary "missed his target by 10-to-15 feet look. And after he came out after 3 innings he had the head-in-hands "what the hell was THAT" look. Tough to maintain mechanics at 6-foot-7. Anyway, Dodgers are going to win a lot of games, even in the tougher NL West. But they don't look unbeatable in a seven-game series if you have Scherzer-Strasburg-and-a-quality-LHer (Gio, having a good year) against a Lefty-Heavy lineup.

That's why this Cub series has weight. The Nats have NOT coped well with the instant tension of a five-game series. I've heard Nats says that if they can just get to a seven-game series they'll settle into the post-season and.... Yes, excuses. Well, I'd say it's >85 percent that they meet the Cubs in the first round. So, get ready -- make a memory -- in the Cubs memory bank.

Is it gonna get weird when Gio approaches 180 innings in September? (It's gonna be DAMN close). If I understand correctly, if he hits 180, then Nats have him for next year at 12 million---which is definitely below market for him, unless he craters. And if he doesn't pitch 180.....then...he's a FA? If that's the deal, it's weird isn't it? Gio is basically being penalized for throwing more innings. For a pitcher like him with velocity declining each year as he ages, he DEFINITELY wants to reach free agency ASAP. Perhaps I have the details wrong. In any event, with Fedde becoming a reliever in at least the short term (and thus unproven as a starter), Ross having a rough year with bad injury history, and Roark hitting serious turbulence....keeping Gio has become much huger than I anticipated.

The last time I asked Rizzo about this, it seems you have it right. But it still leaves me shaking my head. I'll try to remember to ask Gio about it. He's adapted -- more curves and change-ups, more conditioning, I think. And he gets the FB in on the hands of LHers better than ever. Wonder if he's the guy that Maddux has helped to refine his approach. Questions, questions.

What's wrong with Tanner? He has gotten shellacked in June. Is the WBC taking a toll on him?

It's the Bobble Head Night Curse. That's when it started. He's growing his beard back and, I think, has put out a hit on all Bobble Heads.

His arm's fine. His stuff is normal. All his pitches are exactly the same velo as last year -- exactly. Ground ball percentage identical. Wieters/Lobaton call the same pitch ratios -- a few more change-ups this year.

But Tanner is a "throw-it-in-a-teacup" command pitcher with good enough but not over-powering stuff. And part of that exception command is that he almost always misses OFF the plate, not down the middle. It's a gift.

9,500 words is fantastic! We don't want less!

My wife sure does. Ever hear of "errands."

Hi Boz, watching the end of the tourney yesterday where Spieth won with an incredible bunker shot and seeing him celebrate with his caddie (who by the way Spieth praised during his post-tourney TV interview) it got me thinking about how a caddie for a tour pro is compensated financially. Do they get a % cut of the pro's winnings? Flat salary? Just curious.

For many years it was usually a percentage, like 5 percent or even 10 percent of winnings, for a good established player. Obviously, it you're a bum and make $60,000/yr, no caddie is going to work on a percentage. And if you are Top 5 in the world, you're not going to make 10% of that. They work it out, based on common sense. And there is demand for good caddies, so they are not without leverage.

BTW, I loved the Spieth shot and celebration. He is, at 23, a huge piece of the golf future. And I have been very concerned about the impact of the 12th hole at the '16 Masters on his whole career. As far as I am concerned, you can't make too big a deal of it. It changed Spieth's most fundamental understanding of what his Worst Case Failure on a golf course could be. It became: I can make 7 on a par 3 to blow the Masters.

So every Tour win is a building block for his confidence. I think he'll get over this, win more majors. But I admit that I like him and pull for him. Good person, good for golf, charismatic player.

ESPN did a fine job on SportsCenter this a.m. with the Spieth highlights, byplay and graphics. "Should we get rid of 'Drop the mic' and switch to 'Throw the Wedge?'" Or "Throw the rake."

Through age 23, Spieth compares pretty well to Woods. (Nobody really compares.) Woods, in 70 events, had 15 wins and in 18 majors had two wins. Spieth, in 112 events, now has 10 wins and in 18 majors also has two wins.

Very nice. Also good to see Spieth, a buddy of Steph Curry, looking athletic in his celebration. No dorky Phil Jump (hop).

BTW, Spieth really fired that wedge after he sank the winning bunker shot in the playoff -- and it didn't miss nailing his caddie Michael Greller by much.

I love all of your baseball coverage, but let me give a shout-out to Goff's soccer coverage. I don't know of any newspaper that covers soccer as well as the WP. I come to the WP for baseball and soccer stories when the front page depresses me!

Yes! Steve does a fabulous job.

I hate to think we are an escape destination but, these days, I suspect we are -- more than ever. Saw George Will in the press box yesterday. Think he'd just been on a Sunday show and looked like he needed some cheering up. It's interesting to me that so many people in government in DC, or journalists covering politics, are baseball fans. Maybe it's because it gives them solace, escape, total change of state of mind, for 8 1/2 months and, in regular season, 162 times a year. And in D.C., you sometimes feel like you need it 362 days a year.  

Most fans may not have noticed this. But set this year aside and the horrific collapse of the division in the short term. The Nats post-2018 window isn't only being extended by players like Turner emerging and Zim RE-emerging.....the re-building and re-tooling projects in the division are looking much worse than expected. Consider: Phillies: Many have been shocked by how little progress the Phillies younger player hopefuls have made. Their superstar of the future, JP Crawford, has suddenly stalled in the minors, MLB players like Franco, Nola, Vasquez, Eickhoff and Herrera have gone backward. Yes they will have money, but it's been a disaster of a rebuilding year. Marlins: Franchise in turmoil and may be STARTING a re-boot in next year or so. This team has never realized how incredibly talented the young core of lineup is (Stanton, Yelich, Realmuto, Ozuna) and surrounded it with the pitching to compete---although who could see Fernandez tragedy coming. Mets: Yes, the pitching injuries could stabilize next year. And they have a potential superstar in Amed Rosario about to come up, plus Conforto is a star. But basically the entire lineup is old/departing/injury prone, and the pitching core is falling apart in one way or another--though Thor and DeGrom will always be a strong 1-2 if they're healthy. But more than anything else, this is the most dysfunctional franchise MANAGEMENT in baseball it seems. ATL: This is where the long term challenge will come. They have a superstar in Freeman, a cornerstone in Swanson, and boatloads of talent on the way. The question will be whether that talent is upper tier or merely useful/middling. Is their future ace and cleanup hitter in the system? It's unclear. Still. What a short term and long term mess.

Very good comments.

I've thought that, sequentially, the Nats of '12-'17 have demoralized, and forced rebuilds or rethinks/retools on 1) The Phils, 2) the Braves and 3) the Mets most recently. The Marlins have talent, but the world's worst luck/ownership.


With Michael A Taylor finally playing like a major leaguer, and with the whiff of desperation that was in the air following the Adam Eaton trade, it seems Mike Rizzo might have a perception problem for trading so much pitching depth to get Eaton – except that only Dane Dunning is pitching well in the White Sox organization. The other two trade pieces Rizzo gave up – Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez – are putting up lackluster numbers in AAA (4.55 FIP for Giolito, 4.73 for Lopez). It’s looking more and more like Giolito, in particular, will never meet expectations. The Eaton trade was a splashy (some said desperate) move for Rizzo, and it cost us a lot of pitching depth. FanGraphs says Eaton and Taylor are about a wash, with a slight edge to Taylor: Eaton with a 0.5 WAR in 23 games, Taylor with 1.5 in 62 games. Plus, Taylor’s doing his damage from the bottom of the lineup, not the top. And even though Trea Turner is underperforming *as a leadoff man* (.307 OBP), the Nats are arguably better with Taylor hitting #8 rather than Eaton leading off. So, two questions. First, does Taylor’s emergence color the perception of the Eaton trade? Second, if Taylor continues to play like this the rest of the year and through the playoffs, what happens to Eaton?

Good info. Thanks.

Werth will be gone next year. So in '18 the Nats NEED an OF of Harper, Eaton and Mr. X, whom they would LOVE to be Taylor. The job would be his if he earns it.

So, the Eaton trade was always a big long-term investment because he's under team control for five years -- a big cushion if Harper leaves, which I think was one reason they gave so much in the trade. A big insurance policy for '18-'21.

Taylor is a major development. I could take the chicken approach and wait a few months more. But I have an opinion now. His career resembles two players so closing at the same age -- and his talents, physique, strengths, weaknesses are so similar to theirs -- that I am ready to “call the race.”

Tony Armas and Mike Cameron.

      Of course, early predictions can look very silly.

      But I think he’ll turn out to be Armas, Cameron or, these days, maybe Aaron Hicks.

At, the player MOST like Armas at age 25  -- out of everybody who ever played -- is Taylor. The same with Cameron -- Taylor is his No. 1 comp ever.

Both Armas and Cameron broke out at age 26, just like Taylor now.

Here's Armas slash after age 25 in 886 at bats with 26 homers and 101 RBI: .236/.273/.363 for a .636 OPS and OPS+ of 77 (lousy). Plus MANY strikeouts. 

The next FIVE years, Armas barely missed a game, average 33 homers and 101 RBI a year while hitting .252/.287/.481 for a .769 OPS. Armas won TWO home run titles, was No. 4, 7 and 12 for MVP and had a powerful arm in CF and RF. He was a mid-order hitter, but would have been even better, maybe, as no. 6 or 7.

At 25 Cameron, in 824 at bats, 23 homers, 100 RBI, had a slash of .229/.315/.376 for an OPS of .691. He ALSO broke out at 26. For the next 11 years, through 2009, he averaged 22 homers, 75 RBI with a .253/.344/.459 slash and .802 OPS. Cameron won 3 gold gloves in CF, ended career with 278 homers, 297 steals and an amazing career WAR of 46.5 -- which is more than half the average career WAR of a Hall of Fame CFer (71.2 WAR).

Aaron Hicks, Yanks, also a stat similar, appears to have broken out this year (.913 OPS in 200 ABs).   

For reference, starting this year, Taylor, in 732 ABs w 22 HRs and 84 RBI, had a slash of .228/.281/.363 for OPS of .644.

What the Nats HOPE they are looking at with MAT is a .255-hitting above-average CF with 25 homer, 20 steal power-speed combo, who strikes out a lot (as Armas and Cameron ALWAYS did) but, as a No. 7 or No. 8 hitter, is a BIG plus player for an already strong team.

We haven't even mentioned Brian Goodwin whose two-year sample is small but sure looks better than projected. If the Nats OF future includes Eaton, Taylor, Robles, Goodwin, Soto and Stevenson, does the need to sign Harper for (astronomical risky number) decrease. If so, that allows Nats to go for extension with Rendon, maybe Murphy.

Is Taylor really this good? Cameron would be enough to cheer. Armas, a HR champ, is extreme. But some players change a team's whole picture -- especially up-the-middle players.

Another point, if you become convinced that Taylor and/or Goodwin are very nice MLB players, then it also means that you could include on of your quality OF prospects -- Stevenson, Robles, Soto -- in a closer package.

You're all saying, "OMG, not Robles or Soto!" Remember, these are low minors "tools" prospects. Like Giolito and Lopez, they may star in the minors but not make the last leap to solid or star in MLB. "Bird in the hand" rule. If Taylor/Goodwin really look to the Nats like they have panned out -- after MANY years of development -- then you can certainly trade ONE of those 3 OF prospects in a closer deal. Or, when Werth gets back, around All-Star game, maybe Goodwin is the "trade piece."

At any rate, Taylor/Goodwin are potential game changers IF they keep playing like this.

Rizzo has done a great job with the Nats. But consider---if you would---the following alternate past and present (let's call it 2015--The No Thank You Version): Jordan Zimmermann accepts the Nats big extension offer (I recall it being like 115 million or something). No Max Scherzer. Ian Desmond also accepts the Nats (similar) extension offer. No trade for Trea Turner. We then either stick with Danny at 2B OR maybe pursue a replacement. But this time, Brandon Phillips doesn't reject trade to the Nats! Either way, it's Danny or Brandon Phillips. No Daniel Murphy. But it gets better. We succeed in landing Jason Heyward as a FA instead of losing out to the Cubs! To review: By basically sheer luck, we ended up with: 1. The best right handed pitcher of the decade, instead of a good Nat who now is either injured or a way below average major league pitcher. 2. An MVP candidate instead of an average infielder. 3. Adam Eaton (get better Adam) million dollars...instead of Jason Heyward. 4. 6 years of a kid who might well average .300/15 HR/55 SB per 162 games while playing excellent shortstop... instead of an overpriced strikeout machine (who is also a great guy and a great Nat!) 5. And again by mostly luck, we are NOT saddled with 3 of the 10 worst contracts in MLB (Desi, Jordan, Heyward). Maybe those guys do better in the future or have slightly different paths staying on Nats, but still....yikes.

YIKES, indeed!!!

Imagine how impossible it would have been in 2005, when New Nats came to town, to have a baseball conversation this complex and sophisticated in Washington!

BTW, with the big Cubs crowds this week the Nats will move into the Top 10 in MLB in attendance for the FIRST time since they came to town.

They've been close -- 11th, 12th and 14th. But it's decent symbolism, especially since the Top 10 is always locked up with two LA teams, two NYC teams, Cards, Cubs, Red Sox. 

That's it for this week. (Sanity prevails.) 

Give me Westbrook for NBA MVP with his historic triple double -- first since Oscar Robertson -- for MVP. Especially since neither team surpassed expectations in the playoffs.

Since you next Monday at 11 a.m. when we'll also have a new PGA Tour winner at Avenel. Look out for, or follow, Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas. Decent field. No Tiger. Still, the same tour stop event that has pleased a lot of DMV folks for decades. Thanks for all your fine fresh ideas. Cheers.

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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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