Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Sep 17, 2018

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

Past Ask Boswell chats

What are your thoughts on Victor Robles so far? Obviously a small sample size and he hasn't gotten many chances to start, but do you think he's ready offensively for the bigs next year, or should he begin the season at Triple-A?

I doubt that Robles can be accurately evaluated until next spring training, then in the regular season when he can play every day. That's a problem for the Nats who certainly would like to have more answers NOW but can't get them.

Robles had a serious elbow injury early this season which cost him months of playing time. When he got back with AAA Syracuse, he slumped for a while, then brought his average back up (.278 in 158 ABs at Syracuse) but never showed his normal power with just two home runs and 10 RBI.

The Nats assumed Robles, soon to be 21, would almost certainly be ready to start in CF by opening day of '19, but they did not know how long it would take for Juan Soto to arrive. That turned out to be backward.

The Nats now have a big problem in evaluating, and projecting, this post-injury Robles when they are considering how hard to go after Bryce Harper as a free agent. Robles still looks confident at the plate, though he's 3-for-20 since his call-up, and spectacular in CF where he made a sprinting wall-crashing catch in Atlanta and also threw out a Brave at second on what looked like a fairly easy double in the LF alley. He's probably even better than Michael A. Taylor in CF. But will he hit .250/.310/.410 next year if you play him every day, not much better than Michael A., Or will it be closer to the .285/.365/.465 with 15 HRs and 20+ steals that they've expected Robles would someday meet, probably sooner than later.

My assumption is that he's going to be the player he's always been predicted to be unless his exciting recklessness got him badly hurt and lowered his ceiling. Has that already happened? I doubt it. The Nats don't think so. 

But if Harper goes, then the production of Soto, Robles, and Eaton will determine whether the Nats should have battled to keep him. We KNOW what Harper will continue to be __a .900 OPS with tons of homers and walks, mediocre defense (but not a problem), sometimes careless base-running but a great love of the big moment. He probably won't be your team leader, too self-focused, but he also won't be a clubhouse problem.

Talk about a fascinating baseball question!    

Tom, you've written many times about how you feel about seeing professional athletes laughing and joking it up in the locker room after a loss. Why does this bother you so much? Athletes are paid to perform, not to win. Winning is the responsibility of the coach and GM. Are you saying that the athletes you saw yesterday did not give their full effort on the field? Without naming the players, your readers have no idea who you're writing about or why. Please consider giving your readers names the next time you see it.

It bothers me because I have seldom seen any coach, manager or GM of champions, who did not believe that excellent teams "lose hard." You don't have to be "fake mournful." But you should be seriously upset by a very bad performance, especially in a game that could/should have been won, like Sunday's. Josh Norman, who loses very hard, was upset afterwards and had to "talk it out" for a long time. And, no, not just because he always talks a lot. 

This is minor in the bigger picture for the Skins. But this is something that does not change "with the times" or with the sport. You will not find a happy LeBron James after a seriously disappointing loss or Steph Curry. You won't see the Caps laughing after they lose. It's not just that the Hogs of long ago looked like they might take your head off if you asked a question that hit their hot button, it's that the BEST NFL teams and players take loses serious. DeSean Jackson, who caught a 75-yard TD on the first play from scrimmage yesterday for the Bucs, was about as outgoing as players get, but you could always tell he was personally ticked off in defeat.

It's a minor issue, more "not a good look" than anything tangible and significant. No need to name anybody for something so easy to misjudge. But it's also one of the many tip-offs to the team's culture. One reason the Nats brought in Jayson Werth, and are sorry to lose Daniel Murphy, and value Max Scherzer so highly is that teammates feel a need to respect the seriousness of their effort and everyday commitment to their play. There was plenty that I didn't like a lot about Mike Shanahan. But his players knew how hard HE lost. And he has a couple of Super Bowl rings.

Is there a payroll scenario that allows the Nats to keep both or is it simply one or the other? How does the fact that they are both Boras clients impact this process, if at all? Are there any lessons learned from the Phillies experience of the '90s when they were successful and gave out too big contracts to Howard, Hamels, Lee, etc and were stuck with underperforming or hurt players afterwards?

It's not "either/or."

But it is very easy to see how the Nats if they did not sign Haper, could afford to sign a free agent starting pitcher, a second baseman and a reliever, and also get an extension done with Rendon at some point. 

It is harder to see how the Nats fill all their needs, especially PITCHING needs, if they commit >$30M-a-year to Harper.

A big part of a team's future is how players emerge as they hit the majors. For example, in '16, Trea Turner was fabulous. That settled the "shortstop of the future." Since then, he hasn't hit as well as expected, but he has turned out to be a better fielder. Right now, Turner is 31st in MLB in WAR (Fangraphs) at 4.1. (Rendon is 13th in MLB at 5.1, Soto 36th at 3.8 and Harper 44th at 3.4).

You never know in advance who will OWN a position as soon as they arrive. If either Erick Fedde or Joe Ross (or any other SP) currently looked at as "can't miss" prospect as Turner, Soto, Harper, Zimmerman or Jordan Zimmermann were when they arrived, then the Nats could focus more on Harper. But because Strasburg keeps having injuries, Max will have to age someday, Gio is gone, Roark hasn't been at his best the last two years and there IS NOT a real 5th starter, the Nats have to think about their pitching needs. (Bullpen, too.)

The Phils gave out big contracts to stars at ages when you could expect injuries to arrive during their deals, though not as fast as they did! Harper is very DIFFERENT. He is 25. In theory, he doesn't have to show much age for 5-to-7 years. Maybe more. The Nats showed NO interest in keeping Gio, already 32, or Murphy, already breaking down when he has to play a ton at 2d base. Rendon, now 28, would be signing an extension for ages 30-to-whatever. That's good because he can't demand as much money for those years at 30+, just as J.D. Martinez, no matter how wonderful he was last year and this season, only got $110M/5 years last offseason. But it's also bad because, well, if you give Rendon a 5-yr deal he'll be 34 in his final year. I'd do it. But there's a lot of difference between making a big investment in Harper for ages 26-through-32 or Rendon at 30-to-??.

No, in case that 26-through-32 for Harper (7 years) caught your eye, I would not consider giving a 10-year deal to anybody.  

Hi Tom, I've got Ruth, Cobb, Gehrig and Williams (not necessarily in that order). With me so far? I need a fifth. Who you got?

Since it's a good topic, let me just list the top hitters in history by OPS+, adjusted for era, since 1900. I've left out Bonds and Shoeless Joe Jackson.

Ruth 206

Ted Williams 190

Gehrig 179

Rogers Hornsby 175

MIKE TROUT 175

Mickey Mantle 172

Ty Cobb 168

Jimmie Foxx 173

You have to JUSTIFY any other names. But I'd include Hank Aaron because he was SO great past age 35. And 755 honest home runs matter.

Trout has to play a LOT more years.

 

When you say some players aren't gritty/tough/serious enough for a truly competitive clubhouse culture, are you thinking of Anthony "it's just a game" Rendon? The attitude doesn't seem to hold back on his performance, but I wonder about his impact on the other guys.

Everybody knows that the word "team" means SOMETHING. But I'll be darned if anybody can truly define it. Part of it is the MIX of personalities. You need all types. Rendon could fit on a great, tough team. He couldn't lead it. But you don't need 25 leaders. 

BTW, Rendon made one of the best defensive plays I've ever seen on Sunday while playing in the normal SS spot because of a shift. He went FAR to his right and made an amazingly powerful leaping throw to first.

It's the first video at mlb.com on the Nats game on Sunday.

 

Was Gruden simply out coached yesterday by Frank Reich? It sure appeared that way. The Colts seem prepared for everything the Skins did.

Yes,

Gruden came very close to admitting it afterward.

Why wasn't Frank Reich, former Maryland QB, chosen as coach of the Terps when he was considered years ago? I'm with Boomer Esiason on this, Maryland blew it. And they blew it when faced with an obvious choice. Reich may only have thrown 40 TD passes in the NFL, but it looks like, after a long wait, he's going to be a good head coach in Indy.

Based on the lackluster start, do you think the Redskins have a shot at NFC East title? The Giants and the Eagles seem to be done already. Or should we be worrying about a .500 record first?

In the NFL, almost anything can happen in the big arc between 5-11 and 11-5, even though the Skins have not won 11 games since '91!! But, right now, I'd say the Skins have a better chance of being 6-10 than winning the NFC East. 

The Eagles lost BEFORE the return of Carson Wentz at QB, which may come next week.

My guess and, come on, we're all just guesstimating, for the Skins before the year was 7-9. I thought Smith would be a good QB, but a step down from Cousins. Smith had great skill-position stars in KC in '17, Tyreek Hill, Kareem Hunt and Travis Kelce, who had more than 3,500 yards of rushing and receiving. Smith made wonderful use of them. But the question was always: What can a precise smart, mobile game-manager QB do with the collection of injury-prone (Reed, maybe Thomspon) or mediocre skill players in D.C.? Cousins went 7-9 with >4,000 yards with Samaje Perine (603 yds, 3.4 avg) as his leading rusher and Josh "Dropson" at wide receiver with his awful 44.9% catch percentage. For reference, Hill's catch percentage in KC for Smith last year was 71.4%.

Arizona gave Jay Gruden a chance to call plays against plenty of man-to-man coverage. Every coach talks about "getting into a rhythm." Well, I watched the Cards-Skins game again on Sunday a.m. before going to the Indy game. The Skins just shredded the Cards, play after play, almost never faced a tough 3rd down conversion in the whole 1st half. 

Reich saw it, too. He played a soft cover-two defense, took away anything deep and minimized most chances for Reed and Thompson to simply beat their men one-on-one. Instead, Indy conceded a ton of short dump passes, then tried to bash the receivers. It worked. The Skins seldom had third-and-short. (Indy had third-and-short all day for its pick-play passes vs the Skins largely man-to-man defenses.)

In just a few weeks, we'll have a MUCH clearer idea of which teams are good and which lousy. But, right now, the only two games left on the Skins schedule which look as relatively "easy" as this Arizona-Indy start are the two with aged Eli and the Giants. There are also a few toss-up games. 

I'd take .500 right now. That would maintain some interest. Skins face two with SB champ Eagles, Green Bay with Rodgers, Saints with Brees, Carolina with Cam, Jags who just beat Pats, Atlanta with Matt Ryan and Bucs with Ryan Fitz-magic. How's that for 8 tough games after you just handed one to Indy?

Boz, wouldn't you take Girardi over Davey if he were willing and able to manage the team next season?

Probably not. Means you'd have to turn everything upside down, including the coaching staff and start again, again.

And you wasted a year of Davey learning the team and how to handle in-game pitching decisions.

Joe's phone wasn't exactly blowing up with job offers this season, was it?

What's your take on the 'skins not even trying to score in the last 2 minutes and needing to score twice to win? I understand "taking what the defense gives you" but if you aren't even going to try to score, why not take a knee, let the clock run out and let the rest of us us get on with our day?

It looked pathetic.

On two cautious pointless drives in the last 7:30 of the 4th, Smith completed 14 of 17 dink-and-dunk passes to uncontested receivers for 111 yards, all of it, in effect, stat padding.

The contrast to Cousins was stark. He led 4th-quarter drives of 71, 75 and 75 yards for scores at famously hostile Lambeau Field. Once, he was clobbered. and got a roughly the passer penalty, just as he threw off his back foot, a 70-yard bomb in the air. (Yes, it was intercepted, and the roughing call on Matthews was bogus). But Cousins was attempting plays that might actually pull out the game. The second "drive" was just one play, a 75-yard TD pass. The TD that tied the game at 29-29 and an eventual overtime session was a throw into double coverage with 0:36 that was both lucky and gutsy, in an almost non-existent window between two defenders. But Cousins was NOT trying to defend his image and avoid a pick. In OT, the Vikes had TWO chances for FG's to win. Missed both, the second a 35-yard PAT equivalent.

Of course, Cousins has FAR more weapons. But the Skins looked like they had semi-given up in a two-score, 21-9, game. 

57,013. The attendance. FAR less than capacity. Featuring a number of people willing to quickly boo this team, and they did. Including a number of people who left early, even though the game wasn't technically out of reach. Two questions: 1) Is this FINALLY the moment that causes Dan Snyder to do some self-evaluation and realize what everyone has concluded long ago: he's the problem and until he changes how he runs this team, things will not improve? 2) If you're the mayor of DC or the governor of VA or MD, or the head of the county council in one of the suburbs, are you really all that interested in sinking taxpayer money into a stadium for an NFL team that doesn't come close to selling out? It's a bad enough investment for the municipality under good circumstances, but now...?

PERFECT question!

I hate you.

That was going to be, almost word for word, one of my ANSWERS today! I was just waiting for the appropriate question. You stole the show, congrats.

The Skins and Snyder have been "losing the city" for years, one sleazy act or gut-punch firing or miserable season at a time. But a combination of factors seems to have brought the whole problem to a head in one scary (to the Skins) crowd number: 57,013.

That is in a stadium that was built by Jack Kent Cooke for more than 91,000! Because he needed the seats in those days!

Now, the Skins are the fourth-best major-sport pro team in D.C. in terms of intrinsic interest behind the Caps (FAR behind the Caps), the Nats (who have stars, and four division flags and hopes) and the Wiz who have at least gotten to the Final Eight. Quiz: Who is the only Skins coach to get to the round of eight in the 21st century? Answer: Joe Gibbs II.

Also, D.C. United has a first-rate new stadium in a booming area of town with an improving team. The Mystics just reached the WNBA Finals. The available Sports Dollar in any metro area only goes so far. And, one by one, over many years, a lot of people are finding that they are hockey or baseball or basketball or soccer or college sports fans or "other" fans.

The entire NFL is losing some of its TV viewers. So it's a bad coincidence of timing for the Skins.  

I don't know if anything can change an NFL owner's basic personality when he's well into his 50's. But if crowds like this continue, with plenty of Colts jerseys in the crowd, it's certainly not going to help the value of his franchise.

The last point which you make is perhaps the most important. The NFL is still an enormously popular sport, but one that's showing signs of sagging interest due, in part, to CTE issues. Do you really want to be the politician who beats the drum to help build a stadium that may cost billions for a sport that may be in a secular decline, with a franchise that has seen its fan base gradually shrink for many years and a team owner that many sensible people wouldn't trust as far as they could throw him?

In particular, D.C. has been very fortunate to come out looking smart on so many sports facilities. Viewed nationwide, this is NOT the rule. More often than not, taxpayers and municipalities tend to be the suckers, not the beneficiaries. "Past performance is no guarantee of future results."      

Maddon's allowing Strop to bat in the eighth inning of Thursday's make-up game was a strange decision which wound up getting his best reliever hurt. Does he get a pass for this strange decision?.

I believe in the "how stupid would I feel" rule, in sports and in everyday life.

When faced with a tricky decision, ask yourself: If I do this and it blows up in my face, would I feel like an idiot or would I just feel like I was incredibly unlucky?

I assume Joe ought to feel, at least according to my rule, pretty darn stupid. Because what happened to Strop was not some 10,000-to-1 long shot piece of incredibly bad luck. When you let valuable pitchers do something that they seldom if ever do, like hit and run the bases in a tight game situation where they think they should go 100%, and the pitcher gets hurt, that is not just bad luck. That's bad luck coupled with bad judgment. And that's on the manager.

Dear Mr. Boswell, Chelsea Janes article tonight (September 16) on the Nationals says "Current widespread front-office thinking holds that RBI do not say much about a player's productivity..." 1) Why is that? 2) What stat should the Nats look at if they want to be better than 27th in MLB in "players left in scoring position per game" next year? (see https://www.teamrankings.com/mlb/stat/runners-left-in-scoring-position-per-game) Thank you. Greg Miller Bethesda, MD

If you want to score runs, don't worry about "Who are our 'RBI Men.'" Just put together a long lineup of players almost all of whom have an OPS that is above average. MLB average OPS this year is .728. That includes pitchers. So, for hitters, add a few points.

If you do that, SOMEBODY will drive 'em in.

Before the All-Star game, with major injuries, or recovery from injury for Eaton, Murphy, Zimmerman and Wieters, plus ~25 DL games for Rendon, the Nats had the 16th best OPS in MLB. And they were 18th in runs scored.

After the All-Star game, with Eaton, Murphy, Zim and Wieters recovered, Rendon back and Harper out of his slump (perhaps related to having to carry less weight), the Nats have LED THE MAJORS in runs (288) and are SECOND in MLB in OPS.

This is not rocket science.

After the ASG, the Nats OPS numbers are: Harper 1.012, Soto .976, Zim .958, Murphy (before trade) .904, Rendon .877, Eaton (.762), Difo (.746), Turner (.746), Kieboom (.712), Reynolds (.702) and Wieters (.686).

They can't AVOID scoring.  (But their pitching has been poor, 18th in ERA, so they are only 28-26.)

Teams also win a lot of games if they can figure out ways to score more runs, (higher OPS players is a nice operating theory), and allow fewer runs with improved defense or pitchers with a lower OPS-versus! Wow! What a shock!

This leads to a better Run Differential. And usually, Run Diff is directly related to W-L record. Except when it isn't. Over a multi-year period, like FIVE years, Run Diff is always right. Within one year, it'll drive you crazy. Your record in one-run games has a huge impact. That may be related to the quality of relief pitching or managing or luck or the somewhat capricious distribution of runs, like winning 25-4 but losing a lot of one-run games. 

This year, the Dodgers SHOULD be 90-60, not 82-68 and fighting for their playoff lives. The Nats "should" be 83-67, not 76-74, and leading for the NL wild card by one game over St. Louis and Arizona. But they ain't. One of the zillion reasons we love baseball is because it is not some chilly inhuman formula.

In evaluating any team, like the Nats, don't say that "W-L record doesn't really matter. It was an unlucky one-year fluke." But DO put quite a bit of weight on "expected W-L" record. Do you split the difference? I tend to think that "expected wins" has more predictive value than W-L record. But I could be wrong. I think the Dodgers would be unwise to think that they were TERRIBLY disappointing if they miss the playoffs, although everybody else will think that. I suspect they should look at that 90-60 "expected win" record and think that retooling, not massive roster changes and psycho-analyzing, is what's necessary. 

If you are DETERMINED to look at a player's RBI total, then you might also go to baseball-reference to find out how many men were on base during his at-bats, and how many on each base, relative to the league norm for his number of plate appearances.

For example, go to "game logs" for '18 on Harper's page.

https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/gl.fcgi?id=harpebr03&t=b&year=2018

In 634 plate appearances, he has 95 RBI. He's had 381 men on base, 195 on first, 128 on second and 58 on third. 

Luckily for our comparison, the AVERAGE MLB hitter who has 634 plate appearances has 376 men on base, almost exactly Harpeer's MOB total, 191 on first, 127 on second and 63 on third. 

But the average player only has 71 RBI in those 634 PA's. Compared to Harper's 95.

Yes, baseball-reference is one day behind and doesn't have Bryce's two RBI on Sunday. He's now at 97.

juan Soto's impact is interesting. He's gotten on base a LOT for Ryan Zimmerman. Zim has often been an excellent RBI man, (gales of laughter.) This year, he has 47 RBI in the number of plate appearances that would normally produce 32! Wow, what a clutch hitter! Except, part of the reason is that he's had 221 men on base, not the 169 that you'd expect.

Okay, Soto. In 440 plate appearances, he has 63 RBI, not the league average 49. He's had 287 men on base, not the 261 average.

 

I enjoy listening to Nats' broadcasts on the radio a lot. One question that I have is how, perched high-up over the field, the announcers are able to tell what kind of pitches are thrown. I figured it was by the velocity of the pitches combined with good scouting -- 88 mph from a certain's pitcher's hand, then that must be a slider, and so on. But then the other day, they called out a 4-seam fastball. Really, Is that credible?

They have a TV monitor which shows just what you see at home. Plenty of fans can identify almost any pitch by speed and ball flight. They (like the rest of us) also have Gameday which gives what every pitch was, two-seam, four-seam. Though Gameday isn't perfect.

It appears very unlikely that the Nats are going to make a miracle run at a playoff spot, but there may some solace in individual player awards. Earlier this month, it looked like Acuna was a lock for NL ROY. Can Soto do enough to tip the voters in his favor? As for Max, it looks like NL Cy Young is going to come down to him, Nola, and DeGrom. What do you think the odds are that Max gets another one this year?

Acuna and deGrom have big leads on Soto and Max and will almost certainly win ROY and CYA.

Acuna has more speed, covers more ground in OF, has more HR (25-20) in a few fewer PAs and, although it's not supposed to count, is one of the main reasons the Braves whipped the Nats sorry rear ends this season. His OPS is the same as Soto's. Acuna deserves it.

I think it is a near-certainty that Soto will be an exceptional hitter for many years because his W/K ratio is so good. Acuma will, too. But his W/K isn't as good, so there's more chance that they may get a bit of a book on him over time. But I wouldn't bet on it. 

In '16, the only tip-off that the league might figure out Trea Turner after his amazing .342 average and .937 OPS in 307 at-bats was his poor ratio of only 19 walks to 59 K's. That said, "Free swinger." Which means: Find out if he will 'chase.' Trea chases. Sliders low and away. High fastballs, especially away. 

As Matt Wieters said the other day, on why Soto seems different and may stay different, "Most great young hitters think they can hit anything. So they swing at everything. Soto doesn't."

Max probably lost any CYA shot with his most recent 6-runs in 4 innings outing. I wondered why he and Martinez elected to let him go for a complete game in his previous start when the bullpen could easily have been used. Get more Ks for 300? "Aura" of CG. Max looked gassed next time out.

Jacob has a huge lead in ERA at 1.78 to 2.42 for Nola and 2.53 for Max. That gap alone will win it. Jacob also has almost as many K's as Max, 251 to Scherzer's 277. Nola only 199. 

Few voters will look much at deGrom's 8-9 record because his other numbers and his consistency have been so incredible. I was an A.L. CYA voter for many years and I would certainly vote for Jacob unless he totally gets bombed in his last 3 starts and ruins his ERA. Since none of the teams involved, Nats, Phils, Mets, will make the playoffs, this is just a pure stat battle.

Some who comment on the Nats tend to gloss over Scherzer's only weakness, he allows home runs. This year, 21 gopher balls to 15 for Nola and 10 for deGrom. It's nice to strike people out. It's nicer not to let them hit the ball over the fence. Max works all over the strike zone, including 'up', while deGrom tend to stay at the knees as much as possible. Scherzer also has (rare) days when his slider flattens out and can lead to a HR. Until Max' last start, I still thought he had a chance for CYA No. 4 if Jacob had a rocky end of September. Now, very unlikely. Doesn't mean you can't hope.  

How would you rank the entertainment value of the more up-and-coming professional sports teams in DC? I'm talking Mystics (women's basketball), Breeze (men's ultimate frisbee), Valor (men's arena football), Kastles (tennis), etc. Which of these are ready for the big stage?

I've always liked women's basketball, so I'm biased in favor of the Mystics in this competition. As I mentioned once in the chat, I flew to Iowa to write about "Machine Gun Molly" Bolin almost 40 years ago when almost nobody had heard of her. Or of the Women's Professional Basketball League. (She once average 32.8 pts a game for a season). I've always thought that women's basketball, like women's tennis, translated completely and had strengths that the men's game sometimes lacked. Team play, passing and shooting have always been remarkable in the women's game. I was sorry the Mystics, after so many rough years, couldn't make a series of it and force Seattle to five games instead of a sweep. But it's tough to beat the combo of legendary point guard and leader Sue Bird (even with that face mask) and Breanna Stewart inside.

Ultimate frisbee was born outside my college dorm room window in '65 by Jared Kass (class of '68) who was a year ahead of me at Amherst College. I watched these lunatics, several of them my friends, playing the game with (apparently) no rules for years. The elliptical lawn behind the Frost Library was a favorite spot.

Joel Silver, who became the film producer (Lethal Weapon series, Matrix trilogy, a couple of Die Hard films), learned the ultimate frisbee game as a teenager from Kass who was a summer camp teacher/counselor of Silver's. I think Silver gets a lot of credit for founding the more formal game, if you want to call it formal, by setting up the first "intercollegiate" game between Princeton and Rutgers in '72. Or something. I assume wars have been fought or who gets credit for what. But Kass started it. (And gets credited for it several places.) I saw it. I thought it looked like fun but also seemed semi-ridiculous. Shows what I know. 

http://www.ultimatefrisbeeinfo.com/ultimate_frisbee_history

I seem to recall a local sports pundit recommending the Nats offer Bryce Harper a decent 'take it or leave it' contract before the FA frenzy commences but wouldn't the Nats do themselves a greater favor by making him a 'Nat for life' offer that would help them avoid having to face a Machado/Harper-driven Phillies team 19 times a year for the next 8+ years? Both Harper and Eaton are corner outfielders but Harper has the superior future ahead of him. So bundle Eaton's team-friendly contract into a deal for another starter or 2nd baseman and live happily ever after (as much as a long-suffering Nats fan can be happy, that is...)

That is definitely one of the theories, IF, so close to freedom, Harper really has ANY interest in it; and IF the Lerners want to Set The Market, at a very high level, in a vacuum.

 

With a crowded outfield, what do you think about going after Machado and letting Harper walk?

The Nats best prospects are Robles, Carter Kieboom (SS) and Luis Garcia (SS). Machado wouldn't be a "position of need."

But Machado would still be Machado.

Think this will be an interesting winter, or what!?

Where should he be? What's with the drops? Where should our expectations go from here?

My pet peeve with the Skins over many years is their spectacular incompetence at wasting draft picks, including many HIGH draft picks, on lousy wide receivers.

It's stunning. Doctson looks like the latest in a long line of busts, or at least serious disappointments considering his high draft cost.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/redskins/while-redskins-fixate-on-quarterback-future-heres-their-history-of-wide-receiver-issues/2018/01/26/24b5f5fa-0221-11e8-9d31-d72cf78dbeee_story.html?utm_term=.077a0f5ab58f

Can free-agent speedster Paul Richardson (8 catches, 86 yards in first 2 games) change that pattern of bad evaluations? (Don't answer that.)

What about troubled Josh Gordon? Who had a 1,646-yard season, FIVE years ago?

I'm assuming with all of the reporting tools now at the Post's disposal, there is a way to immediately track how many views every article gets. I'm also assuming that "good news" articles, a Redskins win, a Nats comeback win, Caps players frolicking in a fountain - that these receive more views than "bad news" articles. e.g. today's redskin articles, walk off grand slam loss in Chicago, etc. Are you constantly aware of the views/hits of your articles and how does this knowledge impact how you write?

All of that is available. No doubt it is of value to many.

Trying to predict how your story will be received, as opposed to focusing on doing your best work, is an excellent way to fail. Writing what you truly believe, based on your reporting, your experience, your own hard thinking and plenty of re-writing, attracts readers. Trying to guess what they will "like" is a trap. You are underselling your readers. What do we call people who behave like that when we meet them in real life, I think we call them "phonies."

So I have paid little attention to any of it. But I do love feedback from readers in e-mails, chats, twitter, comments. I often write (long) answers to e-mails, some readers are shocked and then enjoy their responses. That conversation helps me develop ideas, get a different perspective. I want to know what readers THINK, how they feel and why. (And I want to steal their good ideas, or their best 'story' concepts on what might be worth investigating)

It's 3:30 p.m. Why do you think I've now been doing this chat for 4 1/2 hours? (Okay, because I enjoy it. And have enjoyed it since I started chatting in '05.) But I bet this is a heck of a lot better "data", a better way to be connected to readers, whether I agree with them or not, than counting hits.

Well, I guess THAT is definitely it for today. See you next Monday at 11 a.m. THANKS again for joining in.

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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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