Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Dec 18, 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, there are always a lot of know-nothings screaming for Kirk's or Gruden's heads, because they don't think beyond their next run to the fridge for another Bud Lite, but the fact is what the Redskins need after a season playing the toughest schedule with a bunch of backups and still (almost) being respectable, is consistency. Manusky brought the defense to respectability, despite injuries. Gruden brought the offense, and the team as a whole, the same thing after more injuries than you'd wish on an enemy. And Kirk, my God imagine how he'd be playing behind a real O-line and with real receivers. So get all three signed, and there's a chance to build something here. Let one or two or all three go and it's more of the same we've seen the last 20 years. The only position that needs to be filled is that of (a real) GM. Unless the owner would like to step down, collect his billions, and sell to someone who know show to actually run something a team whose name doesn't begin with "fantasy."

The Skins certainly attract more know-nothing commenters than any other subject in the Post sports section, that's for sure.

You make good points. Let me add one -- a big one.

The No. 1 FACT of Skins '16 season may have been the amazing good health of the Skins whole roster. I have NEVER seen anyone mention it. Nine of the 11 defensive starters played in at least 14 games and others in the rotation like Compton, Jean-Francois, Hood missed zero games.

The only important offensive skill player to miss more than one game was Reed (missed four). A "big injury" in '16 was Niles Paul! The O-line made 105-of-112 starts. THAT team should've won 10. That's the team to rip for underachieving, gagging in late-season home games. (I did.)

This injured team has ELEVEN projected starters on IR: Long, Lauvao, Pryor, Thompson, Kelley, Reed, Cravens, Phil Taylor Sr, Mason Foster (brains of defense), No. 1-pick J Allen, Compton. Others, like Trent Murphy, are out for year. Both Zack Brfown (NFL's leading tackler) and All-Pro Trent Williams were also out Sunday. On Sunday, Skins used their 26th different O-line combination.

Last year, Garcon and DJax missed one game combined. They've been replaced by total-bust Pryor (20 catches, 240 yards) and still-a-project Doctson (29 for 404). Reed is out for yr after just 211 yards receiving.

Just trying to help Skins fans see the team clearly, criticize those who deserve it, like (Snidely) Snyder & Allen, but enjoy those who are actually on the field, many playing banged up, who are producing or even over-achieving now.

... understand why the NFL has allowed replay to completely take over the game, like a cancer eating at real life in real time. The Steelers lose an obvious touchdown (in real life and in real time) because the "catch" rule has been adjusted to account for replays at super-slo-mo from half a dozen angles. Had the same player been handed the ball and dove over the line of scrimmage and allowed 1/8 inch of the point of the ball to "break the plane" and then he loses the ball, it's still a touchdown. The NFL, and its refs, cannot even define a legal catch, although we all know one when we see one, in rel life and in real time, and that was one. So, here's the solution: eliminate replay, and only call a touchdown a touchdown when it is what a touchdown used to be, literally a "touching down" of the ball in the end zone. No breaking of some imaginary plane, no reaching for a pylon when the player is all but out of bounds ... the player must possess the ball and touch it down in the end zone. Also, get off my lawn.

You've certainly spotted the 800-pound gorilla of a problem in the NFL, but I don't like the "touch it down in the EZ" as a solution. The NFL has increasingly amazing athletes in each new decade. You have to let them do all the dazzling acrobatic tricks that they can do -- and reaching back while you are in mid-air "out of bounds" and touching the pylon with the ball is one of my favorites.

I thought Tim Hasselbeck on ESPN this a.m. made the best point. To flip the ruling that was made on the field (a TD for Pittsburgh), you have to have, in his words, "clear and obvious" evidence for a reversal. Tim's point was that, even though "the ball moved" as Jesse James hit the ground there is NO clear evidence that his right hand was not UNDER the ball the entire time. The ball may have moved and he also hit the ground, BUT the ball may not have hit the ground -- ever. So, that's a TD and the Steelers win.

As for the rule in general, I think the NFL wishes that they had somebody, anybody who could write a rule that makes it clear What Is A Catch. I don't think that actually want to look this ridiculous this often just for the free publicity and heat of a huge controversy in the biggest game so far this year.

But, in the league where so much is wrong, I also don't think that they HATE the controversy -- as long as it is about an exciting play on the field.

One of the worst things a sport can have is an inherent flaw in its basic nature which gives the game a kind of murky impurity. In the NBA, the block-charge rule and traveling are both calls that are so difficult, and calls on which stars get so much infuriating leeway, that it lowers the Greatness Grade that you give the sport. Not a lot, but some.

In the NFL, aside from the huge problems with violence, CTE, etc., there are just so many rules and so many calls -- like "holding" that could be called on almost any play -- that are in that murky world of "we'll just ignore the fact that this is an intractable problem with our game."

MLB may be the only sport which doesn't have an intractable flaw that subtracts from the sport. The closest might be the arbitrariness of the strike zone of each individual umpire. If MLB ever uses PitchTrack or the like to call balls and strikes, that may someday be eliminated.

Tom - I need a short primer on the mindset of MLB owners. Do these people join this fairly limited fraternity for ego or to actually run a profitable business? Bruce Sherman, the new primary owner of the Marlins is a "venture capitalist" who buys properties, sells off their assets, lays off employees and cashes out. It appears he is doing the same to the Marlins and Jeter is the unfortunate face of this. Did MLB not properly vet this guy? Who would buy a season ticket for this organization? On the other end of the spectrum are the Lerners. I read somewhere that Ted is in the top 3 of wealthy MLB owners. Do they view the Nats as a totally separate business entity that has a balance sheet where the ins must exceed the outs and they have no plans of augmenting payroll with their own capital to afford Harper, Rendon, etc? The value of the franchise has already quadrupled per Forbes, do they really have spending limits?

What owners SHOULD feel about "profitability" and what they do feel are often different. One of the first two or three things I said to Ted Lerner after he bought the team was, "Please tell me that you DO understand that you just bought a business is which you are SUPPOSED to lose money (on a going-concern basis), but make it all back, plus a ton of appreciation, when you or your family sell the team on some distant day." I used a teasing voice, and we talked about it some. I mentioned that a study had been done about that time ('04-'05) that showed that the annualized return to the owners of all MLB franchises that had ever been sold in the history of the game was about 12 percent. A 12 percent CAGR in the stock market over a long period of time would be excellent. 

Ted said they weren't going to take any money out of the team for the first 10 years. That sounded good. But it quickly turned out that he'd found a way around that. He used revenues from the Nats to pay the interest on the debt he'd used to buy the team. The Lerners put in lots of cash but, like every ownership, took out plenty of debt, too. So, over time, it's just like you or me paying the mortgage on a home. Eventually, even if it takes 30 years, the debt is paid off. Then we own the house outright. And that house has probably been appreciating at about 2 percent-a-year (historically in the US). So, in the end, we've used leverage (usually 80-percent debt to 20-percent down payment) to get a decent long-term return on investment on our home. In the Lerners case, the debt ratio allowed by MLB is more like 60/40. So, the leverage isn't as wonderful as a home mortgage. But because franchise values have, almost always, gone up for more than a century -- and more than house prices go up -- owners have DONE GREAT with their long-term return.

So, while the Lerners have not "taken money out" of the team, they have let the fans pay their mortgage on Nats Park every year. In the end, their equity in the team will end up at 100 percent. But the fans, not the owners, will have paid the bill.

IOW, the Lerners have done OK, by the (low) standards of sports owners in viewing the Nats as not just an investment-for-return but as a possession of the whole DMV community. Just OK. Nothing noble. And parts of a operation-- not on the baseball operation side -- have always been run below the funding levels of the average MLB team. That drove Kasten crazy.  But, so far, Bruce Sherman seems to be another of the lowlifes in the Jeff Loria mold.  And he's letting Derek Jeter, who owns 4% of the team, take the fall for all the bad publicity as the Bad Cop.

Once again, the kind of rich guy (Jeter) is the stooge for the REALLY rich billionaire guy.  

Is it conceivable that the team's reluctance to "go low" on WRs this year have to do with blunting Cousins overall productivity, thereby lowering the final number offered to him in a long-term contract?

No, it was just lousy player evaluation. Terrelle Pryor was an illusion in Cleveland as a 1,000-yard receiver. He was their main target. They were so far behind in so many games that much of Pryor's yardage was just stat padding after the Browns were well behind. He was targeted a ton, caught only 53 percent of the balls thrown to him and plenty of them were simple bubble screens. He was never a quality WR, just an excellent big athlete learning a new position after he didn't make it as a QB. He never ran routes well, he didn't have good hands and Cousins didn't trust that he would read defenses well enough to be exactly where he was supposed to be exactly when he was supposed to be there. All that is obvious -- now. A total bust signing.

In my book, Doctson is a problem, too. He's talented. He can leap and make some high-point catches over smaller defenders. But, after two years, that's about it. He doesn't like to get hit -- by defenders or even by the ground. With about 2:30 left on Sunday, a huge third-down pass went off his hands as he jumped at the Cards 10-yard line, trying to pull in a first-down catch. That was the play when Cousins took a scary hit in the middle of the back from Jones. The Skins would disagree, and so would Scot McLoughlan, but I think Doctson still looks like a poor man's Michael Westbrook (Skins '95-to-'01, fourth overall in the draft). He clogged up one WR spot for most of seven years. Like Doctson, he got hurt (missed 32 starts). Westbrook constantly ended up with like 34 catches a year and about 500 yards -- showy, but not much production. He had one 1,100-yard year. Please call me when/if Doctson ever has an 1,100-yard year.  I doubt he will. Glad to be wrong.

It's remarkable that Cousins ranks seventh or eighth in the NFL this year in QB rating, Yards and TD passes when his two main wide outs have been flops and Jordan Reed has 211 yards receiving. The difference on Sunday was that Blaine Gabbert was AWFUL (43.6 QB rating), especially in the red zone where he was nervous and putrid, while Cousins quietly had a 116 QB rating while completing passes to Kapri Bibbs, Perine (NOT a pass-catching type back), Grant and Paul.

BTW, Bibbs was just so happy after the game. What is the origin of "Kapri?" He said his family told him later that they wanted a name that started with "K" like his brother Keith, but they also wanted something unusual, so they named him after the sporty car the Mercury Capri (but changed the spelling to get the desired "K.")     

Seems that a big trend this off season is NBA style salary dumping. Long term trend? Implications for long term contracts for Harper and others?

It's definitely a trend, especially with teams that want to game the luxury tax rules. If you get under the luxury tax cap for ONE year, then the punishments "reset." If you don't, you keep paying bigger and bigger Lux Cap penalties each year that you go over the limit. 

That's what the Matt Kemp trade to the Dodgers was about -- that and probably nothing else. The Dodgers will now get under the luxury tax cap in '18 which sets them up to go to the moon to try to sign Harper after '18. There's no question that is what this is about -- Dodgers (and Kasten) all in on getting Harper, especially now that the Yanks added Stanton and his $295M deal which reduces the likelihood that they would want to fit Judge, Stanton and Harper in the same lineup, even with a DH in AL and the possibility that they could use one of them -- Judge 6-7, Stanton 6-6 -- at first base someday. Now, it's more likely that the Yanks would target Manny Machado.

For the first time, I'm slightly more optimistic about Harper staying in Washington. Not much, but a little. As I've always said, I see him in L.A. as the most likely outcome. And I never saw him, being from Las Vegas, as a fit in NYC.

If you love Harper and want to be hopeful I'd actually say that the Nats healthy history with agent Scott Boras is the BEST thing they have going for them. First, if Harper tells Boras he wants to stay, at a team discount, Boras has proved that he can get it down -- as in the Strasburg deal in May. 

But, more generally, Boras and Rizzo, and more important Boras and Ted Lerner have a good relationship. Boras has sold him "good goods" that have worked out. Boras can say to Ted, "Hasn't everything I ever told you about my players worked out pretty much just like I said? Others said you were overpaying my guys, but with hindsight didn't it all work out really well for the Nats?"

Boras got the $126M Werth deal done. That changed the culture. Boras got record deals, at the time, for Strasburg ($15M as a college player) and Harper ($9.9M as a HS or community college player) and Rendon (>7M as a sixth-overall pick, a spot which at that time didn't command nearly that much bonus). Strasburg, Harper and rendon have all been just as good as Boras said. Sure, many others praised them. But Boras, who prides himself above all on  his scouting/talent-evaluation chops, got them all signed as his clients before other agents.

Also, Lerner made a $188M offer to Mark Teixeira as a free agent long ago. He went to the Yanks. But Scott can say, "Mark was worth what you offered, even if he ended up with the Yanks." Finally, Scherzer signed a $210M deal that some in the Nats organization thought was $20M or so too high, even if they loved Max. But it looks like Ted did great on that one, too, by buying the Boras pitch. All Max has done is throw no-hitters, K 20 in a game anad win back-to-back Cy Young Awards.

Scott can say: You paid Max $210M for seven seasons for his age 30-thrtough-36 seasons, even though he is a pitcher, which means he's much more risky than a hitter. If you gave Harper a $400M/10-year deal, you'd be getting his age 26-through-35 seasons! You'd get max years at 26-27-28-29 before you ever even got to age 30 -- the point at which you invested in Max. If Max is worth $30M-a-year from age 30 onward, with all that "pitcher risk," then why isn't Harper worth $40M-a-year when you are starting with four years in his 20's?"

Every time Ted has said "Yes" to a Boras big-money pitch, he's been happy he did. What about Matt Wieters? Well, we'll see in '18 whether he was money ill spent. Even the overpay for Raphael Soriano wasn't so bad in retrospect. (Look up the numbers. He scared you to death but he got plenty of saves. If that's your "bad signing" with an agent then it's not VERY bad.)

It's interesting that Boras client Anthony Rendon, at Nats Fanfest over the weekend, made a comment about (paraphrase) 'why not stay with one team your whole career.' If the Nats sign Rendon to a big extension at some point, it may cut into the money available for Harper. But it might be smart.

Remember, the Adam Eaton trade was, in part, an excellent insurance policy for the probability that Harper would leave after '18. Eaton is signed to a very team-friendly contract through '21. Victor Robles looks almost ready to take over an OF spot. So, as soon as they got Eaton, the Nats knew they only had to find one more OFer by '19, either as a free agent, a trade or through development. What happened? Michael A. Taylor turned out to be a 2.6 WAR player last year in only 106 starts in the OF. What if he is a 3-4-5 WAR player for the next few years? Can't the Harper Money be spent other places?

I'd love to see Harper play in D.C. for many years. But I also see both sides of the risk-reward with him. Harper, and the Nats, have to work that one out -- then live with it for a long time. I try to throw my two cents into the mix when I have strong views. When I'm 50-50 -- on whether Harper is worth the biggest contract in history -- I just lay out the arguments and try to add data or perspectives that are worth including in the analysis. If I get to a strong position, I'll put it out there.

But I'd say that there is an 80 percent chance Harper will be a Dodger or Nat in '19 with more likelihood to L.A.    

Your article on the change of Amherst's mascot was interesting and clearly changing mascots hasn't been a problem for larger schools like Syracuse and St. John's. You claim, however, that the college was named after the town and not Lord Jeffrey, so they didn't need to change the school's name. The town was actually named after Lord Jeffrey, so shouldn't the town and the school change their name?

It's a big deal -- with big implications for a lot of people -- to change the name of a town or a 196-year-old college just because you don't like what some British general did in 1764. Talk about over-reacting! The good you might do is impossible to quantify (if any) while the damage would be easy to see. If something awful is found out some day about John Harvard's ministry, I doubt that Harvard will change its name because it's original benefactor has a re-written reputation.

However, a sports team nickname is NOT REALLY a big deal. Lord Jeffs was only an unofficial nickname anyway, adopted by students, alumni. So, what the heck, you check with the entire "community" which is represented by the nickname and if there is a clear sentiment to change, then change it.

There's one point I should have underlined more. When Amherst changed its nickname to Mammoths, it didn't do a poll of Native-Americans to find out if they cared about somebody having the nickname "Lord Jeffs." It might be pertinent. But what matters more is how your own students, alumni, faculty -- everybody who is represented by the nickname -- feels about it. If that community -- which in the case of Dan Snyder's team would mostly be his fans and potential customers -- reaches a point where it says, "This Lord Jeff thing, the blankets with smallpox to start an epidemic among Native-Americans, is that REALLY the nickname we WANT? Probably not -- then you can the darn nickname. Of course you'll get a split in opinion, as Amherst did. And, you know this is ALWAYS going to happen, there are even history-rewriters among Amherst alums who want to dig back and make a case that Lord Jeff was, you know, not so out of step with the views of his times, and he maybe didn't actually carry out the blanket thing. Swear to God, we can argue about ANYTHING in this country. 

My main point was that when you don't feel so hot about your nickname anymore, it's not really a big deal to changer. And pretty soon you like the new one. It's been a long time since anybody said to me, "I miss the nickname Washington BULLETS so much. It just makes me miserable that Abe changed it."    

Are a yearlong gift, as is pretty much everything you write ... thanks and Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Thanks very much. And a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays back to everybody.

Did you really mean the chats are a year-LONG gift?

Flash: Miami's excellent catcher J.T. Realmuto, with three more years of team control, says he wants to be traded.

He'd be excellent for the Nats -- and a lot of other teams. He'd be a pricey get in prospects in trade. If I were the Nats, I'd look into it very seriously. The Wieters situation is, at worst, a $12M mistake. That's not much more than peanuts in a world of >$100M contracts. The Nats have hardly had ANY "bad contracts" over-hanging them in their entire existence to date. If you had Wieters and Realmuto together for a year, it wouldn't be the worst thing.

Just a hot first take. But I've been thinking about Realmuto and how hard it is to upgrade this Nats team -- which has few weaknesses but could still get stronger at catcher where Matt was one of the best people and worst (objectively weighed) players in MLB last year. 


Also from out Post story, up now:

"ESPN President John Skipper, one of the most powerful figures in sports and media, resigned from the network Monday, telling employees in an email that he’s struggled with a substance addiction for many years."

I've never met Skipper, have no views on him. Except one. If I were one of the scads of people this guy has fired in recent years, some of whom should have been exactly the people you KEEP, I'm not sure it would make me feel better to know that he had a substance abuse problem when those decisions were made.

He has my sympathy and hopes for recovery.

But I've got ex-ESPN friends who didn't deserve to go who merit some sympathy, too.

If what you say is the 800-pound gorilla, then the 1200-1600 pounder are the reckless players that use their helmets as weapons. Two examples are the hits that Cousins took in the back and in the GB-Car game in which the Car def player blindsided an unsuspecting GB player with a vicious helmet to helmet hit. The player should have been ejected immediately. The NFL says there is no place in the game for something like that but then most of the time the only thing that happens is a 15-yd unnecessary roughness penalty. Luckily my sons never did play competitive football at any level.

Learning the true impact of CTE and concussions has been very important.

But I'm pretty sure of one ugly byproduct of that knowledge: There is now MORE head-hunting in the NFL than before because now everybody who was always a little scared is still scared, but a whole new group of players, who didn't know enough to be worried, now know that they SHOULD be scared of hits to the head.

It's like the NFL talks about more "safety," but the players themselves, because they want to win and know the value of intimidation, see each other as targets with an "X" on their heads. It's human nature -- well, for some people. So, ironically, knowledge of the real risks has probably added an extra layer of danger.

Hey Mr. Boswell, I've got to say, I'm unbelievably impressed by this Caps team. I know the talent is there, but after a year where the management went "all-in", and another early exit from the playoffs, I could have totally seen a sloppy, drained start, but instead, Ovi looks 5 years younger, the kids are doing alright, and Holtby is playing like he's 10 feet tall. Should I move to the Sudan to avoid the inevitable, or is it safe to feel optimistic? (Who am I kidding, I think this is the year!)

I'm pretty close to amazed. I want to see how their current wonderful play holds up on this long road trip. But if they come back still playing anything like they have been recently -- wow.

Got to admit that, for the first time, after the last loss to the Pens last year, I said, "It's going to be a long, long, long, long time before I invest much emotion or empathy in these guys again. They can just wait in line. Thirty years of this crud is enough for a while."

But they are pulling me back in -- some. Your description of them (to date) is exactly right.

I promise NEVER to say anything even mildly optimistic about their post-season chances again.

Tennis! Shot spot is great. Golf is a close second (there is some murkiness on some drop rules, and the business about spectators calling in to officials to note rules violations, which results in huge penalties is silly, but it's close). I'm sure you meant team sports. Soccer is the worst, perhaps. "Gee, let's extend the game an arbitrary five minutes because we feel like it. Also, let's call game changing penalties for contact that didn't occur..."

Thanks! Good points on all counts. (Yes, I meant team sports.)

The intractable flaw in hockey is that a third of the goals in regular season, and half the goals in post-season are half luck. 

Regarding the earlier question about MLB owners, we were talking about this in the office a couple of weeks ago and a friend said that people who buy an MLB/NFL/NBA/ETC team shouldn't look at it as a business to make money but as a boat - something you're going to spend/lose money on but have a lot of fun with. I know, easy for us to say, but I thought the analogy was good nonetheless.

Yes, I agree.

But unlike a boat, you also have a chance to ride at the head of a parade and be remembered fondly in your town a lot longer than a lot of people who probably did more good. (Not saying that is so bad.)

Also, in the major sports, it is VERY hard to lose enough money in the short term to prevent yourself from making money in the long term with appreciation.

Tom - is there anything us fans can do to pressure the MASN process to move along more quickly? Why is it taking so long?

Well, I sure wouldn't be putting a nickel in Peter Angelos pocket if you feel that way. He's the one who's welshing. And I should know. "Boswell" is as Welsh as it gets.  

There's almost no chance Rizzo goes into the season with Cole/Fedde as his 5th starter(s) is there?

Sure there is. Did the Astros have Justin Velander, their most important pitcher in October (5-0, 1.06 ERA), at the beginning of the season? No. He ARRIVED on August 31. And he is the main reason -- the most important piece of the finished puzzle -- that they are world champs. Assuming they win the NL East, it matters who is in the Nats rotation on 10/1/18.   

Hi Tom, are the Nats done this offseason? Do you foresee any Rizzo surprises?

Sighing Kintzler was a big deal. Nobody seems to think so. I do. The Nats "only" won 96 games last year because their bullpen probably cost them 3-4-5-wins in the first four months and injuries cost them a few more. Now, they have Doolittle, Madson, Kintzler back -- at the back. Glover should be 100 percent next year, but not under closer, or even set-up man pressure. Romero and Solis, when they are not even your seventh-eighth-ninth guys, should be comfortable and effective. There's still some chance the Nats might be interested in Wade Davis. There's buzz on it; I'll believe it when I see it. If you want, or need, a bullpen upgrade maybe the time for it is next 8/1/18. See whose arm is still healthy then.

If the Nats could get Lind back, that would help. I suspect somebody will want to give him a shot at 450 at bats next year and on a two-year deal. But if not I hope the Nats realize how valuable he was and what a good hitter he has ALWAYS been.

Except for catcher, which isn't all that bad even if it's Wieters/Severino, and a fifth-sixth-seventh starter, which isn't all that bad with Fedde (healthy), Cole and Ross (back in mid-season, probably), the Nats are a REALLY strong team for '18. That is especially due to the remarkable number of positive developments last season establishing themselves when others were hurt: Taylor, Difo, Goodwin and, by mid-'18, Robles. That is a LOT of quiet addition. And Zimmerman slashed .325/.371/.651 in September. He's probably not going to duplicate '17 (unless he improves his launch angle by at least five degrees), but he's no longer a worry and a weight. Also, Trea Turner proved he was a GOOD defensive shortstop. His career average is over .300. Nobody stops him from stealing anything he wants. What does a full year with him look like? Replacing Werth's dead bat (all due respect) with Eaton is a BIG upgrade.

The Nats only problem -- ha! -- is that they are playing in an era with at least five other REALLY good teams: Astros, Dodgers, Indians, Cubs and Yanks. These are all Could Win 100 teams. (The NL East, of course, helps the Nats have a chance to get "best record" even if they aren't the best team.)

If Rizzo/Nats make significant additions FROM HERE, besides adding another middle-inning bullpen arm or a lefty bench bat, then you are really talking about a special club.

But, you say, they always lose Game 5 of the NLDS. Yes, that is correct. But if there is a year when they AREN'T closed out in the first round by friggin' Clayton Kershaw coming out of the BULLPEN because Kenley Jansen is toast, or in a 9-8 game when a bad ump call costs them two runs and the weak link is (MAX SCHERZER ???), then they can go a long way. So can those other teams. But don't kid yourselves, the Nats can to. They HAVEN'T. But they can.

(I've told my wife many times, not that she cares, 'It lines up for '18 for the Nats to get to the WS but probably lose.' I've felt that since '12. I still do. I don't know why. I don't have many educated hunches. But I've had this one for years.)

Hi, I had to lookup who the WFC GM is and then did a "oh right.." when I remembered that Bruce Allen was quoted as saying the franchise may not replace the GM position and instead promoted Doug Williams to Senor VP of Player Personnel. Will Doug be able to act like a defacto GM when it comes to personnel decisions this off-season or will it be more like Free Agency and Draft decisions by committee? What other NFL team has this setup?

It'll be the usual cluster-fudge. 

Hey Bos. Is it me or does the slow start the Caps had take some of the pressure off of them as the season almost hits the halfway mark? They're playing some of the best hockey in the league, but no one really talks about them as in years prior.

Maybe they are lucky. Being "loved" sure didn't do 'em much good.

Boz, The Nats should pay up for Realmuto - something like Cole (Marlins love their cost-controlled inning-eater pitchers) plus Soto/Kieboom should get it done. Play Wieters as a backup only on the short side of the platoon (687 OPS as RHH, 619 as LHH last year), give Realmuto (who has basically no platoon split over his career) some ABs to spell Zim as well, and you instantly add a couple wins and cover the only glaring position-player deficiency. Pay prospects to get players, always always always.

You are hereby appointed GM for the Rest of December.

Your "murky impurity" answer on sports reminded me of a conversation I've had watching hockey with folks new to the sport. When trying to explain a penalty the answer is often that it just seemed like a 2-minute penalty. No need to get into a discussion about whether it was a hold, a trip, a rough - everyone sort of agrees that it was probably worthy of a 2-minute penalty. Not sure if that makes it better or worse, but a different approach.

I like the wisdom of "seems-like-it-ought-to-be-that-way."

And it seems like this ought to be the end of this week's chat.

Have the happiest of holidays, everybody. There will, of course, NOT be a chat next Monday (Xmas). I assume we'll do it on Tuesday December 26th at 11 a.m.

See you fine folks then. Thanks again.  And "merry, merry."

Haven't heard much so far. Any scuttlebutt you've heard on where he might go and what kind of deal he'll likely get?

I hope he gets anything anywhere. He still probably thinks he can play everyday. I don't think he can. It's adapt-or-disappear time, I suspect. His profile and persona is so much bigger than his game, at least in '17, that it makes him a hard fit in almost any clubhouse, no matter how much he WANTS to fit -- and he will want to accommodate in whatever way he's asked. That Game 5 missed line drive would be a hard way to finish. I think he'll find a home. But I don't know where. As a DH-LF-RF in a park with a small OF, he'd probably hit a bunch of cheap home runs in Baltimore over that 364-foot sign in LF and give them good value. His late-career power profile EXACTLY fits the dimensions of that park, including right-center. His warning-track power would go back to HR power again. He and Buck would get along fine. Buck might even love him. Yeah, he'd shave. TO PLAY he'd go bald. And he started as an Oriole for a bunch of years in the minors as a...catcher. His hero was Cal Ripken. But I'd hate to see him there. His identity is so much "Nat" that I doubt he'd do it. I just don't see how he could possibly fit in D.C. One of my little New Year's hopes would be that he gets one more shot to "play until the tear the uniform off me."

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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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