Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Aug 14, 2017

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

Past Ask Boswell chats

Tom, how do you feel about Madson 8th and Doolittle 9th? Madson has been dominant, why not switch them? And what do you think was behind the decision to put them where they are?

Madson, no matter how great he looks right now -- and he does -- has expressed a preference for the eighth, although he's glad to pitch where needed, and has closed some in the past. But he's been a set-up man on the THREE World Series teams were he's been a key man. In '08, Brad Lidge closed (1.95 ERA) with Chad Durbin and Madson (3.05 in 76 games) also strong as well as lefty JC Romero. In the '09 Series, it was Lidge and Madson (3.26 in 79 games) as well as Scott Eyre in spots. And in '15 Madson (2.13 ERA, 68 games) was part of one of the great bullpens with Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera as well as Luke Hochevar and Franklin Morales.

Doolittle loves the emotional rush of closing and does a very good job of it. Because he's had shoulder trouble with DL trips for a month or more in both '16 and '17 closer is a good roll for him because the closer is least likely to haev to warm up more than once in a game. For closers it's "get 'em up, get 'em in."

Kimnsler has been a fine closer the last > 1 1/2 years. If Doolittle had problems along the way, perhaps he'd be the next logical closer, keeping Madson locked in where he's so effective. I don't know. No need to think out every hypothetical. The pen guys all say the same: Wherever they need me.

It's an amazing transformation. Perez has been good all year in the JC Romero role, as Madson calls it. Matt Albers was effective again last night and is having a career year. We shouldn't look down our noses at vets having career years. I looked at the pens of the last 20 World Series teams. Everybody didn't know Dan Otereo (1.53 ERA) in '16 or Octavio Dotel, Fernando Salas, Mike Adams, Ramon Martinez, Alexi Orando, Chad Bradford, Manny Delcarmen or Manny Corpas whern they went to the mound -- in the World Series. But they played key roles. Sammy Solis, now healthy, and others may fit in behind those five I mentioned. Koda Glover, if he gets healthjy, Joe Blanton, if he becomes '15-'16 Blanton again, or Shawn Kelley, or Enny Romero, all have the arms to make this a very long 8-man post-season bullpen. 

After Eaton's injury, do you think Dusty told the team "don't kill yourself trying for an infield single"? After they built up an insurmountable division lead and decent lead on the Cubs too and the field was barely dry enough to play and it was still raining, do you think he reminded them?

No manager would do that. These guys all played on wet, or just pain lousy fields all the way up through the minors. They know that "be careful out there" is always balanced against the need to play hard and, at times, take risks.

Managers just don't play "nanny." Ironically, by about the 3rd inning, that field was in very good, and not wet shape. The early sprinkles, not the big storms, were what made first base wet and slick.

On Sunday, Harper pointed out that he "DIDN'T EVER LUNGE" for the bag -- which extends the front leg, makes for a hard landing and is a partial cause for some injuries at first base. He was in his normal stride.

Every player has to listen to the game to allow the sport to TELL THEM how hard they can play and still stay in one piece enough for maximum production. It is different for every player. Pete Rose even ran to first on walks. Ripken hustled and ran hard, but he never seemed out-of-balance or out of control. Partly because he wasn't very fast! Eddie Murray had the gift of playing at what looked like a sane 90 percent effort while still getting 100 percent production. He seldom if ever left his feet to field a ball. Either it didn't feel natural to him or he didn't see the need to bang up his upper body which he used, to better purpose, hitting 500 homers and getting 3,000 hits.

Two of Harper's early injuries were in lopsided games with the Nats five-or-more runs ahead. You need to know game situation, too. UNLESS you are one of those few guys who just never seem to get hurt. Harper is NOT one of them.

IMO, he needs to hustle when it  is called for -- which is the majority of the time. And he almost always does. He need to give a "hard 90" -- which means "run it out" but don't try to break the Olympic record -- at all times. Sometimes he doesn't. Not a huge deal, but every player see the standard that is set by the star. I suspect it's reached the point where that is his unstated superstar prerogative. On the long list of qualities you'd like to have in a great player, running everything out is a box I like to see checked. But I admit it isn't essential. Not when you're being asked to play 150+ games. 

Finally, there are times -- wet field or when you are playing while nursing a minor but tricky issue like a tight quad or hamstring -- when you need to be extra aware that this isn't the time for 100 percent effort 100 percent of the time. But EVEN THEN it's tricky to say how exactly you apply that talk-is-cheap wisdom.

Baseball is a rough game. Both in individual plays and in the way it grinds you down and makes you more susceptible to injuries. 

Players have been sprinting past first base for >125 years, over all kinds of bases and in every weather condition. That's not going to change. But that last step to first base has extra danger, and everybody knows it. As a first baseman, I was always careful not to let my foot get an inch or two on top of the base when a runner was arriving -- for both our sakes. 

You just can't take the risk out of the game. Some of it happens at outfield walls. Some of it comes from pitches near your head or body. But the action at every base has risk, always has, always will.

Mr. Boswell, When I watched Harper injure himself on that wet base over the weekend, I was worried that I jinxed him by discussing his potential for injury earlier in the week. A personal trainer at my gym who is not a tremendous baseball fan asked me if I thought that Harper had a shot of breaking the career mark for home runs (in my mind that's 755, but that's for another discussion). My response was that he has plenty of ability to challenge those types of numbers. He really is that good. And he's actually getting better with respect to pitch selection and (occasionally) driving the ball to left field. However, given his propensity to play with max effort all of the time and also the fact that his workout habits are in my (admittedly inexperienced) opinion potentially going to wear down his joints, I doubted that he will have the longevity to reach those types of legendary milestones. Basically, when I see Harper on youtube deadlifting (with good but not perfect technique) weights that offer diminishing returns for baseball players, I worry that he might have to pay the piper down the road. So on Saturday night when I saw this kid hyperextend his leg so badly that he was catapulted four or five feet off the ground, I thought for sure that several ligaments had to have been damaged. Accordingly, I'm in disbelief that he didn't severely injury himself (I'm still knocking on wood because I know bone bruises can be long-lasting, and I also know that the Nats have at times missed things on x-rays and MRIs). My question to you is whether it's possible that the workout regimen that I worried was too arduous and ill-focused may have somehow kept that knee together? He's mentioned that he has some good joint flexibility, but it must've taken quite a bit of strength to keep that hyperextension from being more severe (hence the catapult effect). Or was he just very lucky?

Long question, semi-short answer. (Just to reverse the norm here.)

Harper is a beast. Can't tell you how many teammates have said that. He's not THAT tall. He doesn't look THAT big when you look at him in street clothes. But when you get up close to him you see the HUGE hands, the thick feet, just the feeling that 6-foot-2, 215 pounds (or whatever) isn't truly measuring him, just as Willie Mays hands or Wes Unseld's oak-tree-like presence tell you that height and weights stats aren't even touching what it's like to have to cover or cope with these guys.

How did he survive that flip? Part of that is weight-lifting, which I assume certainly hasn't hurting him yet. Maybe weightlifters on the chat can give more info. Part is every other kind of exercise which promotes flexibility. And part is the good luck of your parents genes. 

When you've pushed yourself incredibly hard -- and pushed your luck, too, probably for all of your life -- there's a tendency to keep pushing it.

Listening (forgive me) to ESPN this morning apparently "everyone" is talking about how to fix the bases in the wake of Harper's injury. MAke them ground level, make them stickier so no slippage, etc etc. My God Tom, such knee-jerk (no pun intended honestly) reactions. Ground level, how does a field tag the bag? Stickier, how does a runner's foot not get stuck (like they did in the old bags) and have a worse injury? It was a freak thing just like Harper said. Can't we leave well enough alone? And separately, wasn't replay designed not to determine the 100th of an inch between safe and out, but to make sure obvious mistakes were fixed? The umps and "the guys in NY" seem to be taking a lot of time trying to determine bang bang plays where the ump was in position and made a good call rather than fixing obvious misses. Oh well. Get off my lawn.

Hey, you've got a good lawn. Make 'em get off it!

I laugh at most (not all) of the "change first base" talk. Anybody who has played first base knows you can't make it flat! You can't even consider it. It's idiotic. The fielder's foot will INEVITABLY and frequently slide back over the base. Wait until you see the injuries then! My hero as a boy (yes, Roy Sievers) was injured when Jerry Lumpe stepped on his ankle at first base when Roy, in the Post's picture that day, got his foot a little bit back on the bag. Or at least that's how my 10-year-old memory recalls it.

As long as the comment comes from someone who has played, I'll listen. But everybody has used anchored bases for 60 years. From the stands, they look rock hard. They aren't. They're solid but they have a little "give." How much? The amount that countless people, players, bag-makers, MLB execs have decided is a good amount of "give" for safety, so you DON'T slip. Could that be refined, done a little better? Maybe. Take a look at it? Sure. Make big changes to first base? No. Stop, just stop. We were watching guys race across first base all day at Nats Park in the DH on Sunday and reporters would joke, "Gosh, Difo didn't break his leg. Or do a flip. It's a MIRACLE! What an athlete that guy is! He was, gosh oh golly, running really fast and he survived running across first base!"

I WILL point out that MLB has ALWAYS tried shamelessly to jam in these last-time-in-town, play-it-or-lose-the-date/gate games no matter the length of delay, inconvenience to fans or the OBVIOUS unstated reason. MONEY. When Mike Rizzo mentioned how much he believed in the "integrity of the season, the full 162 games" on Sunday, I suppressed a laugh. Maybe that's really what Mike believes. But I promise you that no GM can say ANYTHING different. (And stay out of hot water with his owner, the league.) Because if you cancel that game and only play 161 games, then 100 percent of the money that the home team would have made in a 162-game season is NOT coming back.

People with rain checks will NOT come to one additional game at some mystical hypothetical future because they have a rain-check-ticket to use at some future time.

My wife and I were at that Saturday game with friends as fans. At about 7:55 p.m., after a 50-minute delay (with no rain yet, but a monsoon and lightning coming), I went and looked at the sky. It was the official End of the World sky. That meant maybe an hour-plus of storm, at least, maybe another near hour before they played. Or even more waiting than that if the rain lingered. We'd already waited about an hour and nobody was allowed in their seat (danger of lightning), so everybody was sitting on the ground and the concession lines were infinitely long. I said, "We need to get out of here. We have less than 10 minutes to get to the car before the storm hits. They'll wait all night to start this game or they''ll lose the gate."

On the drive home, I had to explain how they'd wait at least three hours to bang a last-time-in-town game that had no feasible make-up date. Just money.

I congratulate the people who stayed. (Although I suspect many were just trapped by the storm, then when it was over said, "Well, hell, we're here. Lets wait for the game.") But those who stayed were also lucky because my experience of many such situations is that MLB would have waited quite a bit longer that 10:05 to start. Try 11:05. JMHO.

Given the even worse than usual turmoil and turnover of key players (especially receivers) isn't 8-8 an opmistic prediction?

I'm already backing away from my optimistic max-pick of 8-8 in a previous chat. I'm backing away fast.

For most teams, a rotten first exhibition game -- against a team from 40 miles away that you intensely dislike and that has intensely disliked you for many years -- wouldn't mean TOO much. Just like that season finale last year against a division rival -- the Giants -- that you intensely dislike and that has intensely disliked you for many years -- that one went well, too, right? (How did that first playoff game turn out? I forget.) 

With the Skins, context devours substance and personalities neuter talent. This is a franchise that is squarely under a dark cloud of its own making. As long as things go well -- not too many injuries or an easy schedule or whatever -- they can ignore the sky. But when things get ugly, they'll look up, remember all the ugliness of the recent past -- or the 20-year past -- and thing will get even uglier quickly.

So far, things are not going well -- already. Even before they lost 23-3 to the Ravens, the Skins had the seventh-hardest schedule in the NFL -- seven games with playoff teams from'16 and nine teams with .500-or-better records in '16. The opponent W-L record was .543.

Losing Scot McCloughan was a big blow. The official line is that they won't miss him or that he was a negative.  He was a major positive. He'll be missed. Players loved him. He had the best football brain in the building.

The Kirk Cousins acrimony is a blow. The official line is that it wasn't. Nonsense.If you l,ioved 1,000 miles from D.C. and had no attachments to the Skins, would you believe such a thing? Of course you wouldn't. You'd say, "What a mess. That's not going to end well. If Cousins stinks, that's bad. If he's hurt, that's bad. If he's good, he's gone. Nice work, guys."

The offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator are both gone. Hey, no problem -- it'll be a seamless transition, just like all the other seamless transitions the Skins have pulled off in recent memory. (Right.) The head coach, who had trouble managing the clock when somebody else was calling the plays, now has to do both. Everybody likes Jay Gruden. But good luck with that. 

I've listened to all the EXTREME pre-season enthusiasm from Richmond from the voices of the team about what a WONDERFUL team they have. Josh Doctson is....NO, not "slightly injured." Can't be! Trent Murphy, out for the season already? It's like watching one of those horror movies where all the teenagers are in the cabin in the deep woods and somebody says, "Did you guys just hear something outside?" Oh, no, there's nothing outside. Perfectly safe. Just three infantry battalions of the undead and all 700 members of Dracula's extended family. No problems. No worries. It'll be all right. What could go wrong? We're the Skins!

It's always more fun to cover 10-6 than 6-10.  More fun for fans, more readers, more interest, more fresh story lines -- not the old worn out story lines that this team has exhausted. And if they start 4-1, that winning will fix a lot of potential problems.

But I watched the 23-3 loss to the Ravens in the first exhibition. I watched it twice. (Give me a medal.) In the entire first half I decided to write down every good thing that I saw the Skins do, every good play by any player. Here's what I got.

"Jonathan Allen gets good pressure, recovers quickly for sack from behind."

"Jay looks great without the weight."

"Poor Doug Williams."

And finally...

"What is the record for consecutive three-and-outs without a positive yardage total for the game?" 

But, you know, with the Skins it always looks darkest just before....Dan decides to make some decisions.

If the Skins have a great season, it is going to be amazing to write about. Imagine how much I can learn! Things will have to happen that I have never seen before! But that's what so much fun about it. Looking forward to seeing how the teenagers slay the battalions of the un-dead. (They always do, you know.)

How concerned should Nats fans be about Harper's comments on wanting the MVP award and so possibly rushing back too soon?

Not much. I'd rather have him motivated to come back. In baseball, you need people/players with engines like that. Besides, after his experience with his nagging shoulder issues last year he has a fresh memory of what not to do -- as he indicated obliquely in his comments on Sunday.

If it still hurts, don't play yet. If it feels good, push it a little, then a little more. You have more than seven weeks if you need it.

I'd worry more about the recoveries of Trea Turner, Stephen Strasburg (rehab start tonight), Jayson Werth, Koda Glover, Shaun Kelley, Enny Romero and six others. Because there are so many of them. And you REALLY want/need Turner, Strasburg and Werth, plus at least one more pen arm, back to 100 percent if you think you are going to have a fighting chance to get past the Cubs and THIS '17 Dodgers team. 

My guess is the Nats have a five man bench for the postseason. Lobaton is probably a lock as is Lind, Difo, and Kendicks. That's a catcher, an infielder and a half and an outfielder and a half as Lind can play first or left field. Who is the fifth? Where is Brian Goodwin and how doesn't he make the team for the playoffs?

They love Stephen Drew's versatility, experience and lefty bat with (in other seasons) pop. It's going to be a tight fit, especially because you'd prefer, all things being equal, to have players like Difo and Goodwin who figure in your future for years to get playoff experience. But there's also good reason to want players who've already HAD that kind of experience. This is a question for six weeks from now. Then you see who's still healthy and who's hot. You don't want to go into a five-game series wondering, "Will this guy's bat wake up?" Not if you already has somebody who's swinging well.

With all the attention on the signings of Bryce, Murph, and Dusty (!!???!), when is the window for taking Rendon off the market? He is an absolute stud both offensively and defensively, and he is too valuable to test FA, even if he is a Boras client. Right now I'd make this the most pressing signing.

I think you're right that Rendon should be a major focus.

First, it's important to realize that, unfortunately for the Nats, Murphy will turn 34 on 4/1/19. That's like a bad April Fool's joke on Washington. This is almost exactly like the situation with Wilson Ramos after his All-Star season last year. He was a hitter who, as a catcher, appeared to have an expiration date. So he was worth MUCH more to an A.L. that had the insurance policy of being able to move him to DH as he aged or if injuries diminished him as a catcher.

This situation may be ever worse with Murphy because he isn't just a good hitter, he is now a GREAT hitter. If you are an A.L. team, then it is absolutely sensible for your to offer Murphy a five-year contract and maybe more based on his performance at 31, 32 (this year) and 33.

Why? Use Edgar Martinez, the greatest DH, as an illustration. At ages 32-33, he averaged 28 homers with 108 RBI and an average just over .340. At ages 34-through-38 (five years), he hit .325 and averaged 28 homers and 111 RBI.

Nothing changed. What if he'd had to play third base all those years (as Edgar sometimes did when younger)? Would he last lasted so long? Martinez at 40 still had 24 homers, 98 RBI and a .895 OPS.

Same with Hal McRae, a wonderful DH. From 34-through-37, he hit .300 -- above his .290 career mark.

So, somebody in the A.L. is going to offer Murphy a 5-6-or-7 year deal at a big annual number. How could the Nats possibly take thee risk of matching, or approaching that number -- not because they don't think Murphy can hit AND play the field in '19 and '20. But what about playing the field in '21, '22, '23 and maybe '24? Even playing first base isn't easy -- not as easy as sitting in the dugout being a DH!

I hate to be the bearer of bad news. It's just business. It's nobody's fault. It's the biggest problem with having the DH rule in one league and not in the other. It SUCKS certain types of talent out of the N.L. as they age -- like Albert Pujols. N.L. teams just throw up their hands. They can't justify competing for those players.

It's not fair. I hate it. Murphy is one of my favorite players to watch -- ever. And, as long as he goes to the A.L., the Lord know how long he'll keep hitting like this. History suggest that the answer is "for many years."

But not as a Nat. Rats.

Nobody else seems to have noticed this, or mentioned it, as far as I know. Yet it is obvious. And there's no way around it. Even if you said, "He could play first base," it's just not the same value proposition, the same risk-reward business decision. DH is DH.

So, Rendon is the one. I'm sure the Nats know it, not because they've told me (they haven't) but because they are smart, or in thos case, they see the obvious. You may want to consider cheering for Rendon every time he makes a good play -- or even a bad one. He will not lack suitors. And as he ages, he appears to be exactly the kind of player who will not need, or want the DH role. He loves third. And someday first base will look perfectly comfy.  

Part of the Nats' impressive record stems from poor competition in the NL East. When do you see the Mets, Phillies, Braves, or Marlins offering a threat to the Nats, and in what order of resurgence? Thanks.

What's most interesting to me is that, head-to-head since '12, the Nats have, in sequence, not only beaten the Phils, then the Braves, then the Mets out of the distinction of being the top team in the N.L. East but they almost seem to have beaten the will to fight out of them -- one after another -- with the Mets the last to fall apart and wonder if the immediate future looks so red-white-and-blue that a major rebuild would be sensible. Except for the Marlins, and their tragedy with Jose Fernandez, the teams in the N.L. East have CHOSEN to be bad -- "rebuild" -- because they couldn't compete with the Nats. I give the Braves credit for trying to develop for the future while still using veterans like Kemp, Markakis and Phillips -- all well past their p;rimes -- and Freeman in a watchable lineup. In a sense the Nats did that in the Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham days, saying, "Come see some homers. Try to forget that we stink."

I've always said that right around the 110-day mark in the season is the best time to spot teams that are just about to fall apart, after unrealistically promising starts, or simply give up because it is so hard to grind when you know 90+ loses are coming.

The Brewers appear to be collapsing 11-18 since AS break. The Astros pitching shows cracks (12-16 and 3-7) that were not fixed at the trade deadline. If they don't fix something, they won';t look like MLB's second-best team for long, no matter how good their young hitting may be. I'm surprised the D'backs are 12-16 and staggering. I thought they'd stay strong. Colorado (13-13) has so many rookie starting pitchers that some almost have to hit an innings or quality-of-competition wall. The Royals and Tigers (both 3-7) don't look like they have another push in them. Could be wrong.

The Cubs made a push, but the loss of Wilson Contreras for at least a month, and the mediocrity so far of lefty Carlos Quintana seem to have stalled them and made Cards fans sense some nasty fun to come. The Red Sox are awakening, even without David Price ba k yet (9-1). 

And the home run derby is killing the Yankees.Since the Derby Aaron Judge, the best news in MLB before the b reak, is hitting .165 with 46 strikeouts in 97 at bats. You can think what YOU want, but don't tell me the Derby didn't mess him up. Some love it, like Giancarlo Stanton who has been on fire ever since. (Well, before, too.)

Some players aren't impacted at all by the Derby. But almost every year, one or two are. You can't prove causality. But players talk about it, bypass the Derby because of it and worry on the day of the Derby about what damage they will do to their timing by swinging for homers, and by taking so many swings, if they are successful, that they will be totally exhausted afterward -- something you would never do in any hitting session.

Also, PITCHERS watch the Derby. Greg Maddox, for years, watched every ESPN Sports Center highlight that showed a HR that was hit anywhere in baseball. He just wanted to identify every hitters "power zone" and what he liked to hit for distance. The old line: "Tell me where I'm going to die so that I never go there." 

Pitchers watch the Derby to see where hitters ask their pitchers to put the ball. It may not identify their best zones. But what if it does? New "intel." Also, when you see the league "adjust" to hot hitters after the All-Star break, part of it may be exchange of info about hitters among the assembled devious pitchers.

Before the '91 All-Star game, Cal Ripken was having a fabulous hitting season at a point in his career when many thought that his hitting approach was a problem, that he might even be regressing as a hitter. That year, Cal, who had worked with his dad almost exclusively as a hitting coach, sought advice from other sources. I'd have to go back and read old stories to see who it was. A big party of his approach was trying to hit almost everything back up the middle. Before the Derby in the A.L. locker room Cal was really concerned that the Derby was goling to get him to start trying to pull everything again. We talked. I suggested that he keep doling what he'd done all year -- basically tell the Derby to go take a hike and simply drive every pitch in the Derby back up the middle. If several were homers, good. If not, so what -- he wasn't a HR champ or Derby type player. Maybe we both just kicked it around and he came to that conclusion. I'm not claiming anything, except it was certainly a conversation I'll always enjoy remembering. Cal followed his plan and, without trying to hit homers, he won the Derby for the only time in his career with one of the best displays ever up to that point. Then the next night in his first at b at, he hit a home run -- directly over the centerfield fence. Afterward, we had a little grin. He ended up winning his second MVP that year and his hitting never did cool down. He set career highs for homers (34), RBI (114) and batting average (.323) for a qualifying season.

Of course, maybe it's something else with Judge. But I reserve the right to doubt it.

if the city of Richmond loses money, why do they continue to host the Redskins training camp?

Sucker born every minute.

My main concern with building an MLB ballpark in DC to get a team was that it would be a typical MLB boondoggle and the city would regret the expense. It's working out just the opposite. But it is unusual to see two pro-sports sites -- the Verizon Center (unless the name has changed already) and Nats Park -- that actually function as catalysts for positive development and increase a city's tax base. Now that SE has worked out so well, there will always be plenty who want to debate how to divide up the credit for the SE Waterfront and (soon) the development around the new D.C. United soccer a stadium, if that proves a boon, too. "Victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan."

But D.C. should be careful, imo. Having three (or potentially four) big sports facility buildouts that ALL work out well would be very unusual. I'll cross my fingers for whatever municipality ends up shaking hands with Dan Snyder. If there is one.

Boz, I recall you citing Eddie Murray numerous times that he openly admitted to giving 80% daily effort over the 162 game season. He spent minimal time on the disabled list over a 20 year career and it was effort good enough to earn him Hall of Fame entry. I also hear Rizzo regularly praising Bryce for his "hair on fire" effort. Isn't it time for Rizzo to back off from that praise after Bryce's recent injury? Shouldn't it be more about playing smart over playing hard? With his regular habit of giving players off-days, especially the older vets, it seems as if Dusty sides with Murray as well.

Being in tune with the pace/effort of the game is ANOTHER gift, not just something you decide to do. Hank Aaron made wonderful defensive plays and stole bases. But he always seemed under control, never straining and almost never in any danger of an injury. I talked to Ken Griffey, Jr., several times about why he kept smashing into walls, getting plates put in his wrist, etc. He said some variant on "That's me. That's just how I play." Meaning, also, that is he tried to play differently he might get hurt just as much but wouldn't be as good a player.

IOW, easy for us to say, hard for them to do. But that applies to so many things for all of us that reflect our nature, not just our conscious calculating decisions. How many times do you think my wife has told me I'm nuts to be chatting at 2 p.m. She is right. But I looked up and it's 2:15. I thought it might be 1.

Athletes don't come with remote control dials so that fans and media can dial their effort up or down so that it perfectly suits OUR idea of what is appropriate/wise in every situation. Who says we'd even know? I've wanted to tell Ryan Zimmerman "STOP THAT -- you're going to get hurt again and blow up a great season" more than  a dozen times this year. But, come on, what do I know? He's the great athlete. He KNOWS the theory of "finding a smart balance." But he has to do it in real time -- and sometimes, in real time -- here he comes full speed into home plate, sliding face first at age 32 with a long injury history, including his shoulder. He's done it within the last week. And he is SMART. 

I wish Harper could turn it down 10 percent sometimes when the score is lopsided or the field is dicey. And I wish he could turn it up 30 percent on the rare, but annoying occasions when the game ANNOYS HIM and, in a blink, he's gotten in a funk and hasn't run one out on a ball where, granted, he's going to be out by 15 feet anyway.

You take 'em like you find 'em. Just like everybody we meet in life outside of sports. Everybody is a "package." How many billions of dollars have been spent on "self-help" books, methods, exercises, meditation, you name it. Few of us are satisfied, much less delighted with ourselves -- and those few who are in love with themselves probably qualify as mentally ill -- but look how hard it is to change the simplest habit.

So, maybe we (me) should look in the mirror before nit-picking.

The horrible scene in Charlottesville throws into stark relief how Kaepernick has been treated for making a political statement and raising a point about how our society enables such a thing to happen (and how such treatment of minorities happens every day, just not as publicized and such scale). Now will someone sign Kaepernick already or will people condemn Charlottesville with one hand and continue to blackball Kaep with the other?

Thanks. I hadn't put the two together. Though it's pretty obvious, isn't it.

After seeing majors played on American soil on non-American ugly courses like Chambers Bay, treeless Oakmont and Erin Hills, wasn't it a joy to see the great Quail Hollow course for the PGA Championship this weekend? Preceded by the great traditional Firestone course the week before. The USGA needs to take lessons on course selection from the PGA. And wasn't it fun to see the Bombers stymied by Quail Hollow? A fun tournament, yes?

I agree on all points. Thanks.

I watched all four days, helped by tape, and I really thought the course "identified" specific strengths and especially weaknesses of some top players. I have assumed that Hideki Matsuyama would win a major soon. Big talent, great presence and gallery appeal. Long hitter. But his putting, usually thought to be adequate, just not a strength, really looked like it couldn't stand up to THOSE greens. Maybe to others. Including other majors. However, at 25, he still has time to tighten up some of the Still, he's further away than I thought.

Ricky Fowler, also appealing, seems to play better off the lead, getting back in the hunt, but then pulling back when he gets close to the fire. So many over the years are like that. It's a tough issue -- one which isn't specific, just a sense of the player -- that's hard to overcome. But it certainly seems like the Spieth, Justin Thomas, Flower trio of buddies is all going to have a turn or several. 

From the moment he sank his 15-foot bogey putt at No. 1 it seemed like Thomas calmed down and sensed it might be his day. Granted, it's lucky to bounce out of the trees into the fairway at the 10th and have a putt hanging on the lip decide, finally, to drop. But he also took control of the tournament, and played like he was going to take it, win it, and not fear it, in contrast to others, like Kevin Kisner (No. 25 in the world) who appeared to be the opposite -- nope, not going to happen for me.

You really get a sense of the flow of rounds, and the interaction between play and personality in golf, when you watch with fast forward that zooms you past all the commercials, players who aren't relevant this week and announcer chit-chat. You just see the flow of shot after shot, how momentum arrives, or dissipates. For example, Patrick Reed (T2) actually thought that his bogey at the 18th -- which didn't cost him anything in the end but second place alone --happened without him "hitting any bad shots." I give Nick Faldo credit for saying he nearly fell out of the booth because Reed's weak chip shot at the 18th was so bad under pressure. Also, just love Dottie Pepper with "that was a bad, bad golf shot." You can almost see her shaking her head like the best professor in college who is disappointed in a student who can do so much better. She may tell it straighter, while also being fair, than any announcer right now. 

Thanks for the PGA question. And for all your questions, so many of which I did get to this week. See you next Monday at 11 a.m. Much appreciate all your thoughts and perspectives.     

Boz, He may make me a little nervous with his 9th inning Houdini Acts, but I greatly enjoyed reading UVA alum, Sean Doolittle's, comments about the weekend's events in Charlottesville. Wonderful to see a pro athlete speak up with such force and intellect...

I was impressed with Doolittle's ability to put his feelings into words in a spontaneous interview setting with both passion and yet precision of thought.

Granted, if you can't see that white supremacists are evil, then you're lost. (Like so many people, my father did two tours in Europe in WWII fighting against just these horrid ideas.) Nevertheless, it's still hard to make your points sensibly on a topic where the haters primary purpose, or one of them, is to arouse hate and irrationality as a response. I thought Doolittle did himself and his university proud in a very dark time in our history. 

That was a lot of fun to watch! At one point I think there were five guys tied for the lead in the final round. That's an exceptionally rare occurrence. The greens looked pretty much impossible for the first rounds but a little softer yesterday. Or maybe the players got used to them and figured out what the ball would do. In any case, I enjoyed Sally Jenkins's columns on the championship. She made it feel like the reader was there. I always enjoyed Herbert Warren Wind's columns in the New Yorker for the same reason.

Sally can do it!

And her dad Dan's tweets had me chuckling all week.

Probably better to get humbled in early August then to cruise through a game, no?

I think you're right. There's such a tendency in this whole region to buy into preseason Skins delusions that it may prove to be a real break for the team to get a wake up call with plenty of time to learn it's lessons. Not find yourself 0-2 in September before you understand how much work has to be done and how hard it is to incorporate new players and a new defensive coordinator.

As the Nats announcers pointed out, the team finished three games in the same calendar day, since Saturday night's game ended after midnight. I can't imagine that happening before, other than tripleheaders during the early 1900s.

See the three games in about 24 hours on the last weekend of the '82 season in  Memorial Stadium between the O's and the Brewers. The O's needed to win four in a row in three days to beat them by a game. After three wins in (sort of) "one day" by lopsided scores, it felt like Jim Palmer "had" to beat Don Sutton on Sunday. (That's not how it works.)

I know this is a silly question, but I can't find anyone who knows the answer: Is the organ music that's played at Nats game "live" or prerecorded? Do they have an organist at the games?

You ask and our chat producer Kelyn Soong delivers!

From 2015: At Nationals Park in Washington, Van Hoose hits all the right notes

Boz, Can golf be exciting without a superstar (i.e. Tiger, Phil) but instead with a cadre of cool cats under the age of 30 - Spieth, Thomas, Koepka, Day, etc? The Master's, US Open, Open, and PGA have all been good TV this year IMHO.

I think that they are proving it can be done. This is one of the better periods in golf for me. We're seeing great talents define themselves -- mold both their  careers and their competitive personalities -- as we watch. And it's going to take shape -- who's great, who's good and who's probably not quite going to have what it takes -- in just a few years.

Even before his walk-off grand slam, Howie Kendricks seemed too good to believe. Why was he overlooked by other teams and available to be picked up by Rizzo at such a bargain?

I've never seen a better deadline-deal FIT of team needs -- multiple needs -- and a player that nobody mentioned.

The Nats needed a veteran RH bat who hit No. 2 (like Werth) and play LF. They needed someone who also gave them in f depth at both second, where Kendrick is good, and third, too, in a pinch. And you don't want to give up too much speed. He gives a little of that. Plus a .290 career average. Enthusiasm with coming to D.C. A great rep as a teammates. And, after playing for the Dodgers in '15 and '16, he may have some ideas on how to pitch to them or hit against them, too. 

See you next week. Thanks again.

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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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