Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Oct 02, 2017

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

Past Ask Boswell chats

I assume Jackson will be left off the NLDS roster. Does Rizzo also consider leaving Roark off in favor of another bullpen arm or bench bat? How do Strasburg's and Scherzer's recent cramping history factor into this decision?

Because Max cramped up Saturday and you want him 100 percent for as long as your October lasts, I suspect that the rotation will be Strasburg, Scherzer, Gonzalez, Roark and Scherzer (on full rest) in Game 5 if there is one.

However, if Strasburg is as impressive in G1 as he has been for the last 2 1/2 years -- Nats 52-13 in his starts -- there'd be an interesting decision.

The Nats have NOT announced a rotation. Baker hinted after the game yesterday that Max's hammy would maybe/probably change things a little. Which could only mean that it was originally going to be Max, then Stras but now is more likely to be Stras then Max.

I think the New, Improved and Mature Strasburg is the hidden element in this Nats team. That's why I did a column on him recently when Werth called him "just a big, hairy, scary furry animal out there."

Every team wants to "go deep in October." Yes, euphemism. But your strategy has to be built to allow that to happen. For the Nats, I think Strasburg has to establish himself as a dominant playoff ace. No reason he can't do it. So, do it now in G1. If Cubs win, then you have Max in "the ace spot" in G2, just as Joe Tore always tried to use Andy Pettitte in Game 2 because he thought 1) if you'd lost G1, getting a split, back to 1-1, was vital and 2) if you won G1, you needed a pitcher with some killer in him to win G2 and get you to 2-0.

I'd say Max's cramp is a one-time event. If he's OK for his next start, then it's history. If it's bigger than he thinks, that's a whole different story. Strasburg's calf cramps have popped up three or four times now. He's famous for sweating SO much. But I think they need to analyze this again -- a "rethink," so to speak.

I don't know how much caffeine Stars consumes -- in a week or on game day. (For all I know it could be "none.") But this is certainly the Red Bull (or whatever drink) era now that they test for uppers.

Rizzo and I talked on Sunday about the days long ago when clubhouses had a regular pot of coffee and a "hot pot" which had greenies (amphetamines) already in it. Riz also mentioned an ex-Nat OFer, whom I won't name because why make fun of him, that had SEVEN Red Bulls before every game.

Orioles 20-game winner Pat Dobson once said, "I was never out-pitched, I was just out-greenied."

 

FanGraphs says it doesn't matter how hot or cold you are in September when it comes to playoff performance. You seem to have a "yes, but" (or maybe even a "no" view: That good, crisp baseball does carry over in some why. Can you share your thoughts on this? Thanks.

I read the FanGraphs piece. Their final point was that the (slight) predictive element was a team's full-year record, like the Nats 97-65, not their September record. If that's true, then the pecking order starting the p;layoffs, though by tiny margins, would be Dodgers, Cleveland, Houston and Nats. I'd only change that by moving the Dodgers down to third. They may win a round or two, bujt they certainly don't look like a team that's going to win a Series this year. He was strong in his first start back from the DL, but since then in five starts he has a 4.23 ERA and a .306 batting-average-against. Not a good sign for a team that probably needs FIVE good starts from him to go all the way.

Boz - no question, just thanks to you, Chelsea, Jorge, Barry, and others at the Post who brought stories and perspectives all season long and helped make this season a journey to remember. If the Nats do their jobs as well as the Post team has done its job, we have an exciting month of baseball to look forward to!

Thanks very much from us, I'm sure.

Did you change your position after the last 2 bummers?

I believe my position last week in the chat was that, if forced to predict (which is just guessing), I'd say that the Nats would lose in the first round to the Cubs. And the Indians would win the Series.

I also said that if the Nats, now "healthy," looked sharp and Harper started to hit over the final week, I might change my tilt on the Nats-Cubs series. Well, the Nats played poorly most of the week, EXCEPT for an almost perfect game against tough Garritt Cole on Friday which felt EXACTLY like a playoff game with them grinding him down despite excellent stuff and a 99 mph fastball. If THAT lineup shows up, and grinds every at bat like that, the Nats could bet anybody. 

Also, Sunday's game was ugly in many ways and insanely long. The Nats left 16 men on base. But that means they got 24 men on base! It was easy to miss that they got 16 hits. Harper finally looked better with a walk, a line single to the OPPOSITE field (very important for him) and a 110+ mph single to right that he really ripped. Her might have just turned the corner.

But your apparent assumption that I somehow think the Nats are going to win the WS this year has no basis in anything. There are EIGHT really strong teams this year. The Nats are perhaps third or fourth best over the season. But is there some new and different team now -- because they are healthy. Well, it better come into existence REAL FAST.

But it might. That's why everybody will be so excited at 7:31 on Friday.  

Either you or someone mentioned Gio was under the weather for last nites game. What did you mean by that?

He's been sick for a few days, looked gaunt and pale after the game, may have lost some weight. Players get sick, too. 

If there had been any other reasonable options, he probably wouldn't have pitched. But Fedde is out for the season, EJax went six innings Thursday, Strasburg and Max have cramp issues and Roark pitched Weds. Cole was used in long relief on Saturday. So, who's going to pitch? Gio was stuck with the job. Too bad because his ERA jumped to 2.96.

He wasn't happy about it. Asked how he would evaluate his season, he said, "Before today? I felt like I actually did something." In the dugout after the 5-run first inning apparently Strasburg gave him a pep talk about toughing it out to save the pen.

Gio's accurate summary of Sunday's game: "This was a game we do not want to think about."

Will it be the same as the season finale with Harper batting 2nd?

Harper's poor week, even though he looked better Sunday, has solved the problem, I think. They almost HAVE to bat him No. 2 because he isn't hitting well enough to bat No. 3-4-5. So, there's no reason to get a headache analyzing it.

Also, Rendon (100th RBI on Sunday), Murphy (just RED hot) and Zimmerman (back on track for weeks and with a huge game on Friday) can be left right where they are.

The only other option would be to bat Harper sixth and that's silly -- an insult. Also, Bryce likes the lights, so why not find out if they ignite him on Friday! 

Barry wrote a good column about the reasons to bat Harper second anyway and they are all logical.

Here are some advantages to Turner-Harper-Rendon-Murphy-Z'man. First, it's R-L-R-L-R. Second, you can't pitch around Harper, as Maddon has shown he likes to do, because Rendon and Murphy are true protection, even if the Cubs seem to have good ideas on how to pitch to Zim. Also, Murphy barely needs "protection" he's hot -- he smokes everything, even pitches well off the plate. So, it barely matters that the Cubs may not fear Zim. One pitcher who was interviewed last week for a story on The Tough Out in Baseball, picked Murphy as his nemesis because "his heat zone is 'everywhere,' even six feet off the plate." (Or something like that.

What is the DISADVANTAGE of batting Harper No.2? It cuts into Turner's running game to a degree because Harper's style is -- in Babe Ruth's words --to "pick a good one and sock it." He's not going to work counts to the same degree as Rendon or Werth and give Turner a chance to drives the Cubs nuts with steals. Also, since Harper hits LHed, if Turner is on 1st base there is reason to keep him there to "keep the hole open" for Harper to pull the ball through. Rendon and Werth can use that hole, too, but as RHed hitters, it's not as valuable to them.

The Nats are an interesting case study because the argument in favor of putting a great hitter at No. 2 is very strong, maybe even indisputable -- in the abstract. But games aren't played in the abstract. Some players get it in their heads that they hit better -- or worse -- in certain spots in the order. Once THEY believe it, it becomes an additional factor that "theory" can't account for. Rendon has hit much better at No. 6 than No. 2. Does that have something to do with his personality? Werth loves to work the pitcher and, now that he's old, appreciates not having to be as much of a home-run threat. At No.2, he thinks he can focus on on-base percentage and if he gets some power, that's gravy. Since he came back from his broken toe, it looks like Werth has lost some power -- I've seldom seen so many warning-track outs. It must be driving Jayson crazy. He's a "legs hitter." Look at how much he bends his knees to get down to hit low pitches, rather than golfing the ball. With the foot injury, he couldn't do as much (or at some points any) running. I think he's just getting his legs back. But that means, at No. 6, he doesn't keep like he has the proper tool set. That's a power spot, not an on-base-percentage spot -- what to set up Matt Wieters to drive in runs?

WHEN Werth is a .375+ on-base guy who works counts and maxes out Turner's speed,, you can make a case that the order is most synergistic and best with Werth at No. 2. Even then, it's s close call. But until that Werth reappears, Harper is a very good Accidental No. 2.

I'll get to some Skins here soon. But October baseball is simply a lot more important and exciting than Week Four football, even though tonight's game in K.C. is going to be fascinating since, right now, it's so hard to get a read on how good ANYBODY is in the NFL.

But if the Skins beat the 3-0 Chiefs, the town will go nuts. And it should, even at "only" 3-1. The win over the Rams in L.A. looks better each week as Sean McVay's team keeps shocking people. The Eagles now look like a good team, so losing to them isn't quite as terrible, even though losing a HOME in the NFC East is a very bad idea.

Also, the 0-4 Giants now look like two potential Skins wins, not 1-1 . And the 2-2 Cowboys, with Elliot feeling like an ominous bad cloud over their season, now look like a team you could beat at FedEx. 

All in all, this is as delightfully confusing a first four weeks in the NFL as I can remember.

And I enjoy seeing the Pats and Cowboys struggle. Had enough of 'em. Really enjoy watching Brady play, but got over Belichick long ago. When you spend 95 percent of your time in public view cultivating the image of a total jerk, don't you run the risk -- over decades -- of becoming more like that Public Guy and less like the private Best Self that Bill's Annapolis friends say that he has?

Here's how I read your column this morning on the value of having two great pitchers. You thought, "Most of the fan base feels, justifiably, nervous because (1) the Nats have never won a playoff series, and sometimes have lost in the most ignoble way, (2) we are heading into a series against a hot Cubs team, (3) the Nats offense, of late, has been horrible, and (4) bad omen, but Max is cramping. Therefore, I [Tom Boswell] will try to find something positive to say." Okay -- thanks for the positive thoughts. Now, put it together. Do the Nats have enough to win the first series?

No, actually, this was the process. I watched Strasburg on Friday. I said, "Holy sh*t, this guy has never looked better. Everything is working. Start after start, just unhittable. And never better than this game. Right now, he defines 'great pitching beats great hitting.''" Then Saturday night, I was looking for the slightly disappointing version of Scherzer that I've been watching in recent weeks. Still effective, but a guy who, in the playoffs against a hot hitting team like the Cubs is going to give up 2-3-4 runs in five or six innings, not 0-1-2 runs in six or seven innings. Big difference. Then I watched him pitch and said, "Holy s**t, this guy has FOUND IT. Everybody talks about 'finding it at the right time.' Well, for these two guys, this defines it."

The cramps were an issue. But what I saw, before the cramps, were two guys who gave up three singles in 11 shutout innings and, even if the Pirates lineup was zilch, their STUFF and command was off the charts." I felt that my eyesight w as vindicated when Max said, before the Sunday game, that he had finally "put it all together" -- after a season full of nagging and unfamiliar physical ills.

An hour later, Rizzo said,"Scherzer deserves to win Cy Young again even though he hasn't had one start ALL SEASON when he was 100 percent. Until maybe on Saturday night. Then he gets a bleeping cramp. What he's done all year despite the finger, the neck and all that, shows you how great he is."

The only thing that changed the tone of the column -- probably for the better -- was that the team just did not come close to the kind of "I like to get hot LATE" scenario that Baker has been preaching. So, the sloppy play, the poor games from Gio and Roark, the blown saves by Doolitle and Kintzler, gave a little more sobriety and balance to the piece.

Because if Strasburg and Scherzer DON'T have cramps, and they DO pitch like they did on Friday and Saturday, they are going to be a big ugly mess to cope with.

Going to the Cubs/Nats game in Chicago on Monday... HUGE Nats fan... Do I wear my gear or do I cheer in a nondescript white shirt?

I've always thought the Cubs had very good, very smart fans. I'd go with the home gear. Are you in the bleachers? That's a tougher call anywhere because, for decades, "Bleachers Bums" and such has been a catchy tag and sometimes fans try to live up, or down to it. Can't speak to Wrigley. Yankee and Red Sox bleachers are just a totally "other" place. 

I can now cheer for my childhood team again,, now that they're back in LA. They seem to be a much better team than many expected... the comeback against Dallas was fun to watch; I had written them off in the 2nd Q.

Really sorry I didn't get to watch that game, just highlights.

When Sean McVay wins, he certainly doesn't seem surprised by it, does he! He already "acts like he's been there before," even when he hasn't. Don't think it's an act. Just really good. I like Jay Gruden, but I hope he's not "the one that got away" from the Skins. 

Do you think MLB will ever shorten the layoff between the end of the season and the start of the Division Series? Other then TV Revenue their is no reason they can't play both Wild Card games on the same day. What can teams do to try and stay sharp? I know Matt Williams had the Nats play a scrimmage game in 2014, but that didn't help our bats any.

When you actually try to block out the days on a calendar you see how hard it is to please both TV and common sense while also avoiding four off days for three division champs (this year the three in the N.L.) The three-day layoff -- this year in the A.L., isn't quite as bad, obviously.

You don't want to end the season on a Monday, which would be the way to make the layoff one day shorter.

MLB has a fabulous post-season format for thrills, but two BIG problems for basic fairness -- the pre-DS layoff and the incredible (inexplicable, so far) World Series homefield advantage since '86 when the home team in the Series got to use its own league's DH rules. The winning percentage in the World Series of the team with home field advantage is now over .600 (!!!) for 30 World Series with a huge run differential that predict just such a W-L record. You start at home with your crowd and your rules and you come back home for 6-7 with your fans and your rules. I hate that it is a big deal. I hope that it reverses. But I've been waiting since '86 for that change and year after year I can FEEL it in the parks. It can be overcome. But it takes a great team, like the 108-win Cubs last year, or an amazing performance, like MadBum in '14 to overcome it. Maybe those two Series were the beginning of a change. We can hope so. But I sure wouldn't bet -- as in bet with real money -- on it changing.

I've been a little bit befuddled why Max Scherzer has been staying in some of these games as long as he has- I don't know how much of it was Dusty's decision vs. Max wanting to stay in, but it just never made sense to me. We need fresh, healthy pitchers for the playoffs. Now I'm worried Strasburg is the only Nats pitcher that truly fits into that category right now (hoping Gio's last couple starts were just flukes and/or backing off in anticipation of the playoffs). I have no idea if Max's injury has anything to do with his overuse, but surely it's got some folks in the organization questioning decisions that were made.

For much of the season the Nats 1-2-3-4 starters were all way up in the Top 10 in MLB in total pitches. By an interesting accident, both Max and Stras had what (for now) appear to be minor nagging injuries that cost them DL time. But it also lowered their total pitches for the season -- which could help in October.

Max ended up 20th in total pitches (where he has been No. 1 or close to it in past years) while Strasburg ended up 48th.

They'd have rather not had the injuries, of course. But you don't always know it when you catch a break. We'll see it it matters. 

As a symbol of the Nats' emergence in 2011-2012, it would be so sad to see Werth playing for another team (e.g., Orioles). Is there no way the Nats can keep him?

Man, would he love to. Somebody was joking last night about all the implications if the Nats did somehow end up having a parade this year. Werth said, "Maybe THAT'S the way to (get to) come back!" He grinned like a kid. But, man, is he bummed about the reality of his situation. You can sum up his problems in six words: Harper, Eaton, Taylor, Robles, Goodwin, Soto. There just isn't a place for a .225-hitting 38-year-old beloved OF when those six are in your control. And five of 'em are back in '19 and '20 and plenty of them beyond that. You're not going to trade 'em away and hope that Jayson was a bounce-back healthy year at 39.

I don't think Nats fans will ever forget what he contributed to the franchise transformation. I think they really "got it." His teammates certainly did. It was a very affectionate farewell final series for Werth. He was really touched by the video tribute on Sunday. Of his feelings about Washington, he just shrugged and said, "This is home."

 

This looks like it may well happen, and it will be fascinating. If Stras and the Nats win, major momentum. And Stras takes care of some of the "not as big-time as Max" undercurrent. And Max next in Game 2 (fingers crossed). If he loses ... What do you make of all this?

What I make of it is that ANYTHING can happen in a five-game baseball series and you never know what triggers it.

I realize that Everything Will Feel Totally Different on Friday. But I still have a certain respect for recent form -- which favors the Cubs. Their experience in the playoffs the last two years, especially winning it all, has to be a positive.

However, Dave Jageler points out that the '04 Red Sox "broke the curse" after 86 years, then the next season they went to the DS and were SWEPT by the White Sox who went on to win their only World Series since dinosaurs umpired the bases (1917). So, reversing curses clearly has no proven carry-over value.

Tom, you’ve taught us that the baseball playoffs are a separate season, that chance plays a major role during the playoffs, especially with the 5-game format of the Division Series. Given that, I have been reminding myself in recent days that no matter what happens beginning Friday, it won’t spoil what has been a wonderful Nats season. They won almost 60 percent of their games. I spent many an enjoyable hour this summer watching them play.

That's true. And always worth remembering.

But, every year, I find myself enjoying, and approving of the baseball post-season more and more because it feels like the players and the sporty itself are the sole meaningful focus, not the valuable but somehow denaturing trend to analyze everything with math and decimal points.

I love decimal points, God knows. But that's not what drew me to the game originally, to play it or follow it. On Friday, when there is a high line drive in the gap, we are not going to be analyzing its launch angle and exit velocity as the ball streaks through the air. We (or you, anyway) will just be yelling, "CATCH IT" or "DROP! DROP!" That is, if you can get enough air in your lungs to make any sound at all.

When you talk to players about statistics, plenty of them respect the numbers, but there is a kind of sadness behind their eyes, like the joy in theior talent, the pride in their hard-won craft and the excitement of being utterly in the living moment is undermined by having every footstep quantified.

An example, sort of, I was talking to Matt Wieters yesterday about how you cope with facing a team with multiple aces, the way the Orioles beat Detroit in '14 when they had three Cy Youngs -- Verlander, Scherzer and David Price. Wieters, being modest, mentioned that this was the year when he was out with TJ surgery; what he didn't mention was that the O's sent him to be an advance scout on the Tigers. His analysis of how to pitch to the Tigers -- especially J.D. Martinez and Miggy Cabrera -- was important. He may have had ideas on how to hit the aces, too. So, he went through some of the big-picture patterns of the series.

But then he said, "I still think it came down to one play. Delmon Young's clutch pinch-hit for us in Game 2." That three-run one-out double put the O's ahead 7-6 and Britton closed out the win in the ninth to put the O's in control 2-0, rather than simply splitting at home -- a moral victory for the Tigers. 

Of course, there's a "number" to lay on that Delmon double -- it changed the O's chances of winning from just 24 percent to 88 percent -- about as huge a jump as you ever see on any one play. That's a wWPA -- winning-team Win Probability Added -- of 52 percent. (Yes, I know that doesn't appear to add to 52 percent. Just one more annoying thing about "advanced" stats.)

But Wieters just lit up at the memory of Young's hit. No "stat" is going to give you that feeling. Maybe it would be like Adam Lind having such a pivotal moment for the Nats in Game Two on Saturday night.

I like to see things "even out" over time and not have cursed franchises -- like the Caps. But I'm always balancing the long-view fairness with instantaneous elation or dejection.

They both have a place -- a big place.

And I like that. 

You provoked a Twitter fight this morning with your perfectly valid observations on the advantage conveyed to Rockies hitters by playing in Colorado for half of their games. Do you think that any changes should be made in determining who wins the batting title or are you just noting facts for the record?

Sane fans may want to skip this. But it's interested me for years and I finally got it off my chest.

Last night I tweeted:

"Daniel Murphy edges Justin Turner for real NL batting title .3221 to .3217. Blackmon? Like (all) fake Colorado BA champs he doesn't count."

Then: "That's back-to-back Real NL batting titles for Murphy. LeMahieu's didn't count in '16 either. He sat out to protect 1 pt lead. AND mile hi."

Rockies PR (good for them) tweeted that "some troll" must have hacked my account. They SHOULD defend their guys.

But this morning, just to set the record straight, I tweeted:

"Blackmon in '17: Away games, batted .276 w 31 extra-base-hits & .708 OPS. Blackmon in Colorado: hit .391 w 65 EBH & 1.239 OPS. Rest my case."

How amazing is that.

"Rox 10 bat champs hit .392 at Coors but .306 on road. NONE of 10 hit better on road than runner-up hit for whole year both H&A. Just a fact."

Who says I can't have a deliberately inflammatory "hot take."

So, can Tony Gwynn, Chipper Jones, John Olerud, Matty Alou (twice) and Murphy (twice) have their batting titles back now, please?

First, batting average, wins for pitchers and RBI for hitters don't, and shouldn't, get the respect that they once did. Starting in '78, I was one of those pushing for better stats -- now called "advanced" -- like my Total Average that gave more weight to walks, on-base percentage, etc.

But winning the batting title still matters in baseball -- to every player who has a chance to win, the fans who root for those players and, at salary time, maybe even there, too. AND it measures a true and valuable skill -- getting hits a very high percentage of the time. I love on-base percentage, too. But when was the last time anybody went from first-to-third or first-to-home or second-to-home on a WALK? Never. A walk is NOT (quite) as good as a hit.

The reason so few people talk about this is because it is an insoluble problem. So who wants to rub salt in the wound? Maybe only me after seeing Murphy get jobbed two years in a row. And even then probably only for this one day.

The Rockies are in Colorado. They aren't going anywhere. It's always going to be a mile high. They are a thriving franchise with a fabulous fan base. Once again this year, the Rockies outdrew the Nats, finishing 8th in attendance even though they have NEVER had a team finish first in its division since inception in '93 and have only had ewo 90-win season (92 and 90 in '09 and '07).

Actually, the Nats finished strongly in attendance this year -- 11th in MLB. That's the fourth time the Nats have been 11th -- '05, '13, '15 and '17. Someday, Top 10? This year they missed by ~34,000 fans.

Anyway, it's just the nature of playing at such altitude that the ball flies MUCH further, so the fences have to be much more distant. But that creates HUGE amounts of outfield space where balls can fall in for hits. It's not so much a "home-run park" as it is the ultimate hitter's heaven for batting average.

The monstrous Coors Field advantage for hitters is greater than the edges to hitters or pitchers in other parks which also have a bias.

To me, this is an unfortunate question of degrees of unfairness. It's a slight to several excellent Colorado hitters to point out that they would not have won batting titles if they had played in any other park. But, COME ON, it is even more unfair, year after year, to say that guys like Cuddyer ('13), LeMahieu ('16) and Blackmon...

Oh, you get it.

Unfortunately, you can't fix it.

I don't know if you caught any of the Chargers Eagles game, but the crowd was dominated by Eagles fans and it was hilarious listening to the announcers try to find away to rationalize that without saying that nobody cares about or wanted the LA Chargers. I really hope this and the Raiders move fail miserably and the NFL is forced to admit a mistake.

It may fail. But the NFL will NEVER admit it's a mistake.

(See, aren't those short answers better.)

In the wake of Hugh Hefner's passing, Tony Kornheiser mentioned on his podcast that you conducted a few Playboy Interviews back in the day (and he recalled you were paid pretty well too). Any recollections about those?

They are just like any other interviews. You do 'em at ballparks, not at Heff's tacky mansion.

But they were all fun since I usually got to spend about a week working on them, seeing the subjects of the interviews in their homes or in different settings. I remember enjoying stories on Greg Maddux and Ken Griffey, Jr., an a Playboy Interview with Charles Barkley. 

It took days for get Maddux to get interested, but once he did, he was wonderful. We'd talk in the Braves dugout in spring training not long after sunrise before almost anybody else was there.

I'd known Griffey's dad for many years. He, Dan Driessen, Roric Harrison and I were almost swept off a road in Puerto Rico by a flash flood when we were driving from San Juan to Caguas. I told Junior that if we hadn't been lucky, and Harrison a good driver, he'd never have been born. So, Griffey and I talked in the visitors clubhouse at Orioles Park for hours every afternoon as Junior, an AVID golfer, came in early to watch the PGA Championship. There were a lot of interesting things that he'd never talked about before. So, I file the story with Playboy and their "fact checkers" who have to verify every facts and quote, call the Mariners to check out everything. The Mariners are stunned and say, "Playboy? We haven't okayed any interview with Ken Griffey, Jr., with Playboy." Playboy calls me. I say, "We don't have to 'check with the Mariners.' It's DONE. What, do they think they OWN him? Did this just stop being a free country? I've known this guy for years. We just sat down and talked. For hours. I taped it. He knew exactly what it was for and was in favor of it. Tell them to go ***." So that's what Playboy told them. Never heard another word. And it was a good story. Junior liked it, too.

Loved spending a few days with Barkley. He comes back to his hotel to get his messages in the lobby. He just shakes his head and hands the receiver to me. "Will you listen to these women. Are they crazy?" says Chuck. And there are women -- unknown to him -- leaving provocative messages for him on his room phone. Barkley, of course, just erases the messages. (I'm pretty sure he has seen "Fatal Attraction" and got the message of the movie.) But it still makes me chuckle.

I'd known Barkley before the interview. Toward the end of it, I told him, "NOW I've finally figured out who you remind me of. SAME personality -- my wife!" I'm not sure he got it. My wife said, "What???!!!" I said, "Start with smart, funny, loyal, adventurous and unfiltered." That was one of my good days.  

One other thing about those Playboy pieces. I'd have needed to receive a check with THREE additional zeroes to get "TK money." But if you hustle up some freelance jobs, it does help pay your son's tuition.

That's it for today. Skins mania will have to endure the test of tonight's game in KC. I'm thinking that when you wife gives birth and you play QB in the NFL about 48 hours later, like Cousins will have to do, that will either be inspiring or exhausting. But, my two cents, athletes tend to rise in such emotionally inspired moments. 

We'll have a short chat next Monday before Game 3 in Chicago. Thanks again.

Everyone knows that Mike Rizzo has oodles of respect for Jayson Werth as a baseball mind, so why no consider bringing Werth back as a bench coach who can come off the bench a handful of games every year as an injury call-up?

Werth thinks, and has always thought, that he will play as long as his grandfather, Ducky Schofield. That means a FEW more years, not just one or two. He's said, "They'll have to tear the uniform off me." Really hope that works out for him.

Am I correct in thinking that having Howie Kendrick and Adam Lind available for DH duty give the Nats the best NL matchup against the AL?

Yes.

It's very unusual. Like the Cubs having Kyle Schwarber materialize as a DH in last year's World Series.

Is there really a market in the AL for a .225-hitting 38-year-old oft-injured DH? Maybe it's time for Jayson to move on to coaching/managing. The Nats can keep him in the organization, starting in Potomac so he doesn't have to move while his kids finish school.

Keep givin' it to him!! Bring a "Werth Is Washed Up" sign.

After he duplicates his 1.188 OPS in the playoffs from last year, there may be interest. Or, at least, I suspect that is his view.

Do you put Robles on the roster against the Cubs? with his skills he could make a difference as a pinch runner, hitter or late defensive replacement.

It's tempting. Cubs are vulnerable to speed. I like Robles for the DS. You can hold back Brian Goodwin until a (possible) NLCS series and give him more time to get ready. Also, Goodwin as a LH pinch hitter vs Dodgers RHers in pen would be a good match-up if that's how it works out. But if Robles does very well versus Cubs, you can revisit the idea. 

Yes, I know. But in the playoffs, you assume best cases and prepare for them. You can always pack your bags and go home for the winter.

"the valuable but somehow denaturing trend to analyze everything with math and decimal points." Who ARE you and what have you done with Tom? Tom answers "How are you?" with 3 paragraphs of statistics backing up his general wellness. (As Tony K. says, we kid because we love)

Guilty as charged.

So where do YOU stand on the various possibilities for the back end of the NLDS roster? Do you trust Goodwin to dodge his rust? Roll with DeAza's "veteran presence"? Or is it time to let Victor Robles loose on the world? Do you carry a 3rd catcher? Just how many LHP do you stack in your bullpen?

It isn't going to be the 24th or 25th man that decides this thing.

You accidentally brought up one of those "decimal point" answers that I'm prone to.

I was shocked (shocked!) when I went back to look at the post-season records of all the World Series champs to see what their total October record was. Of course they have to win 11 games: 3 + 4 +4.

But how many do they LOSE?

I've always assumed that it was a tough slog to win a title with lots of elimination games and tension. Maybe I should have, you know, looked at the record book.

If every series goes the max, you'd have an 11-8 record to win the World Series: 3-2, 4-3 and 4-3.

That's never happened.

But surely there must be lots of teams that go 11-7. I mean, "winning it all" isn't easy.

In 22 years, there has been ONE example of a 11-7 team.

Okay, gotta be a LOT of 11-6 teams, right?

Wrong. Only three.

The average WS winner goes 11-4. (Actually, it's 4.1 loses.)

They CRUSH the opposition. They SWEEP a series (or two) or dominate them 4-1. They maybe/probably have ONE scary memorable series, but the rest is a blitz. Once they get you down, they snap your neck. And one reason is dominant pitching aces!

In the last 22 Series, 18 have been won by teams that only lost five games MAXIMUM. There have been seven champs that went exactly 11-5. There have been four 11-4 teams, four 11-3 teams, two 11-2 teams and one 11-1 team!

I think Dusty is right that IF the Nats get hot at the right time, they really are suited to roll over (shocked) foes. They have the two prototypical aces, plus a very nice Gio, a fine 1-2-3 back of the bullpen and THAT lineup that starts Turner, Harper, Rendon, Murphy and Zimmerman! Do the Nats have the right chemistry? I don't know. But they've got the kind of star power that, if they ever got over the hump, they could start paying folks back for '12, '14 and '16.

But what if they DON'T get rolling?The last week was as "No Mo" as it gets.

Then they may get rolled, as in 0-3.

I don't think this will be a five-game series. I think either the Cubs or Nats will get the other down, throttle 'em and go into the NLCS hot and reach the WS.

I only KNOW one thing -- which usually means that's the one thing I'm absolutely wrong about -- the Dodgers were the hottest team in almost 100 years for almost five months, but they have cooled off now. Ice cold. It's over for them as far as winning the WS. Win a series or two, sure. They're good. But I'll say, "Congrats" and rub the cream pie off my face if they win it all. (OK, you can go bet on the Dodegrs now.)

Of course, the team that fits this "11-4" mold the best is the Indians.

And as I have said several times -- since they lost Game 7 last year -- if forced to choose (a fool's game), I'd pick the Indians. Wonderful team, deep everywhere, best pitching, great manager and organization and they deserve it.

FINALLY, time to stop talking and start WATCHING! 

For the questioner who wondered about cheering for the Nats at Wrigley: I went to a Cardinals game there this season. For all the talk about that being an intense rivalry, there were a LOT of Cardinals fans there, and no significant animosity directed towards them.

Most baseball crowds are wonderful, as long as you understand that you are, in a way, a visitor in someone else's valued place. So, cheer, loudly. But don't go on and on and on about nothing or be obnoxious about it.

Am I unusual in being concerned about Nats' defense when they leave the bases loaded not one, not two, but three times? And why have all our starters save Stras suddenly collapsed? All the overwork from April July is catching up?

Sorry, just have to use your question as an excuse for a story from yesterday that will be lost/forgotten if not told.

Max's line about electrolytes __"Eat your bananas. Monkeys never cramp"__ made the rounds among other players.

One Nat said, "That reminds me of Papelbon. One day he said, 'Eat your blueberries. They are 'anti-accidents.'"

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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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