Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Mar 11, 2019

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

Past Ask Boswell chats

Let's get going on our chat today.

We have plenty of subjects, including a new Skins QB, in Case Keenum, news from Nats spring training and the red-hot Caps, winners of seven straight games. The chat will have a "break" for about half-an-hour so I can go down the hall at the Nationals complex here in West Palm Beach to interview a few players. Maybe corner an exec and see if the Nats are trying to add a reliever. I appreciate your patience during the "break," but I'll be baaaaack.

You've said you're open to rule changes that might speed up the game. It's interesting to see what they'll be trying out in the Atlantic League, but what's the point of moving back the mound? Is run-scoring so low that we need to tilt the balance in favor of hitters (and probably prolong games as a result)? As someone who's seen the Nats score 20+ more than once, as well as a very exciting no-hitter, I'm skeptical.

I'm very interested in seeing many of the new rules in use there because I think I'll like most of them. Shorter time between innings (which will never happen in the majors because of TV ads). Using both a home plate ump AND ball-strike-calling technology. Using bases that are 18 inches on a side, not 15 inches. Making a reliever face a minimum of three batters (or retire the side). No mound visits at all, except to change pitchers. And a couple more.

BUT I agree with you that pushing back the mound two feet is an insane idea. And the players think so, too. Of course, pitchers would hate it and perhaps risk injury. "What, they didn't have enough home runs last year?" said Anibal Sanchez, knowing that HRs were way up last season. 

"Baseball is a beautiful game. Why can't they leave it alone?" said Adam Eaton.

One reason they are using this experiment in the Atlantic League is that it's an "independent league" --meaning players who are not good enough to hook on with ANY MLB team. So, they are perfect guinea pigs in MLB's eyes. If a pitcher blows out his arm, and who knows if the extra distance would be a factor, then he's not the "property" of any team and nobody can get mad. The players agreed to the conditions of playing in that league, perhaps a last-ditch effort. So, he has no recourse. Those guys would run the bases counter-clockwise if they thought it would help them sign with a big league organization.

Luis Garcia is looking pretty good in spring training. Do you think the Nationals might move him to 3rd if Rendon doesn't sign an extension by the all-star break? Or do you think they might move to keep Dozier and move Kieboom to 3rd if Dozier has a strong first half? One thing I don't see is the Nationals letting Rendon have them over a barrel if negotiations don't get done early.

Luis Garcia went 3-for-3 on Sunday, including a bunt hit. But he's only 18 years old -- 18! "Today you had a nice 'senior year,'" manager Davey Martinez told him, meaning that a normal 18-year-old would still be in high school.

Garcia is a special prospect. But he is nowhere close to the major leagues. What's remarkable is that he is, the Nats think, the youngest player currently in the MAIN CLUBHOUSE of any major league team. That's an oddball distinction --a record nobody really keeps. But players certainly know that making it to the main room, with only about 35 lockers. Just like they notice that Carter Kieboom is No. 8 --the number that a future starter or star would get. Garcia is No. 63! He knows where he stands --he's the future.

The Nats will not do anything with Rendon except hug him and try to get him signed. It would be unthinkable to punish him by benching him just because he's in a great negotiating position. Rendon DOES have the Nats over a barrel because he is a GREAT player. And, after Harper leaving, they certainly don't want to lose him, too.

Hey, that's baseball life, sometimes the team gets the bargain, like Brian Dozier on a one-year deal, and sometimes the player has all the leverage, like Patrick Corbin who got $140M --the last $20-to-$40M of it because the Nats needed a starting pitcher so badly, and especially a lefty to match with Scherzer and Strasburg.

GIven the Nats lack of bullpen depth, it seems odd simply release Solis. I understand he is out of options, but he still may have accepted an assignment to AAA (Fresno?!!?). Or is this to clear 40-man roster space for potential free agent signing(Kimrel or other)?

In our dreams, it would be Kimbrel. It's far more likely to be lefty Tony Sipp who'll be added soon. He's a useful lefty who would replace Solis but actually be able to get out left-handed hitters.

Solis is one of my favorite players to talk with, but he's been a constant frustration to himself and the Nats his whole career. He had too many injuries as a starter, then gave up big hits in Game Five in both the '16 and '17 playoffs, then finally was just awful last year with an ERA over 6.00. He has four good pitches and should be an MLB pitcher, maybe even a good one. But he needs a fresh start.

Here's hoping somebody gives him a job soon. Obviously, the Nats couldn't get anything in trade, so, at least as I understand it, they just released him. No hard feelings. Do it while he still has time to catch on with another team and maybe make their opening day club.

Sammy was stunned. Didn't see it coming. I don't think he's ever completely understood the degree to which he's been running out of chances in recent years. 

Now that Harper has departed for greener pastures (if you can call Philly that...), who do you think will primarily play RF this season - Eaton? Robles? Taylor? Recall in your article when the Nats traded for Eaton two years ago that while he slots well for them in CF, he's truly an elite corner outfielder.

In theory, Harper may face the Nats in as many as 247 games in the next 13 years (19 x 13)! So, he's going to beat the Nats a few times, that's for sure. There's no reason to think that he will stop being a .900 career OPS players. (Of course, Ryan Zimmerman has been a .887 OPS player the last two years, so let's not get TOO carried away, even as good as Harper is.)

There's a big Harper profile on ESPN today. His "money quote" on the Nats deal concerns the $100M of the $300M offer that was deferred money as far out as 25 years with the first $200M in the first 10 years of the deal.

"Harper said: "It's like, 'What does that do for me? What does that do for my family?'"

Well, I guess it doesn't do too much for you if you and your family are planning on buying a PLANET in the next few years. But I can't think of too many other things that $200M in the first 10 years can't buy.

I'll admit that the Nats camp is calmer and less exciting minus Bryce. He was always fun and always finding a spotlight. I noticed one of the quotes that are written in big letters around the top of the Nats clubhouse. It said, "Getting good players is easy. Gettin' 'em to play together is the hard part," -Casey Stengel.

The Nats make that point a lot, as well as talking about how hard and long they are working on fundamental drills and trying to play a tighter brand of baseball. Don't know if it's pointed at Bryce at all. Okay, yeah, it probably is. But it could also be a sign of "Harper Remorse."

If you don't think you'll miss him, you're probably kidding yourself.  

You know that at least a couple of times over the next few years, Harper is going to singlehandedly beat the Nats with one mighty blow, maybe even in an important playoff push game. Will Rizzo, the Lerners, the fans be able to look at the long term without second-guessing the decision to let him go?

Over the 15 years that I've been doing this chat, I think we're just starting Year 15 right about now, I've accidentally done plenty of goofy dopey things. The latest: My previous answer --about Harper-- was actually a response to THIS question, about "Harper Remorse."

In the true Chat spirit of typos and general what-the-hell, I figured I'd answer THAT question, about who's going to play RF, in THIS answer to the Harp Remorse Q. Got that?

RF should be a position of much greater defensive strength this year because that's Eaton's best position defensively --by a lot-- in part because he charges the ball so well and has such a strong arm when he has those running starts versus runners trying to go 1st to 3rd.

There are going to be days when Eaton rests or takes a day off against a tough lefthander. Martinez has said that they'll give Victor Robles some time in RF in spring training so that, on those days, Taylor can play center, where he's a polished Gold Glove quality defender.

Soto is working hard to improve on defense in LF, but THAT is where he shows that he's only 20 years old. He's still going to make some mistakes no matter how hard he tries or how many balls he takes off the bat to prep himself. To prevent extra-base hits going over his head, he'll have to "play deep and cut across" --the traditional "hide a poor outfielder" strategy throughout baseball history. Soto's limits are part of why it's so important for the Nats to have TWO excellent CFers in Taylor and Robles, as well as Eaton, who was a defensive star (according to analytics) with the White Sox but since his injury in '17 hasn't quite reached that level as a Nat, but is a good defender. It struck me that Eaton may still be as good in RF as Jayson Werth was when he first came to D.C. with a strong rep as a RFer.

One note on Robles: He's gifted when he sees the ball. But sometimes he still has problems picking up the ball against a "high sky." Yesterday, he played a long but routine 390-foot fly ball to straight center into a ground rule double because he lost sight at the last instant and never touched the ball. He had sunglasses but he didn't do the big-league-trick that many other players did under the same conditions on Sunday -- use their glove to shield the sun and move the glove from side to side so that you can "refocus" on the sky and pick up the ball again. Robles glove never left his side. Tiny thing. But there's no sport that even approaches the level of "refined skill" and attention to detail that baseball demands. That's why you see even exceptional prospects playing 300-to-500 games in the minors. Yet you see players going straight from college, often after one year in basketball, into starting lineups in the NBA and NFL.

 

Should the Redskins Staff only focus on a quality Safety and WR in Free Agency?

YES.

Very good point. We always hear about "the best available athlete" or the need to get the best possible O-line to disguise the limits of a QB, in this case the new Skins QB Case Keenum.

But some teams, at some times, are SO BAD on one or two UNITS that you aren't really just upgrading one position out of 11 when you make a draft pick -- you are upgrading an entire unit of wide receivers (sometimes three or even four on the field at once) or the whole defensive backfield, which often uses five defensive backs or even six.

I've mocked the Skins inability to pick a WR for several years now. They are HISTORICALLY awful over the last 25 years. If the young Jerry Rice had walked into their building they'd probably have mistaken him for a computer tech and never let him catch a pass. But next month they just have to nail a pick at one of those 2 positions --WR or safety-- with the 15th pick. The Skins have used Top 10 picks for safeties (Taylor and Landry) in the past. And they've wasted more 1st round WR picks than almost any franchise since '92.

But you still have to TRY to pick a WR and a safety to replace D.J. Swearinger. You can't let two entire UNITS of your team get this weak. (And the entire defensive backfield is tied together in its defensive calls and mutual dependence.)

There are almost NO questions about the Skins this morning. I realize it is "out of season" and that the draft is still several weeks away. I realize that the Skins have become Incredibly Fan Repellent. But this is ridiculous! You have to ask questions when they just got a new STARTING QB! (Yes, Keenum and Colt McCoy will have a "competition," but Keenum is a proven decent NFL QB with no particular pattern of getting hurt. He's GOING to start.)

There used to be STACKS of Skins questions every chat of the year! Talk about a sign of the times.

I have two very strong reactions --which are almost opposite-- to getting Keenum for what amounts to almost nothing (a $3.5M salary and a swap of a 6th rd pick for a 7th rder).

First, Keenum can probably help the Skins go 6-10 to 8-8, make plenty of games competitive and perhaps save Jay Gruden from a lousy season and a firing. That's good, at least in my book. I don't enjoy watching 3-13 teams. And I've covered enough Skin Coach Firings for several lifetimes.

But my second reaction is "Oh, no! What an awful time for GM Bruce Allen to grow a brain, make a smart low-cost, low-risk trade that really stabilizes the team and prevents them from going 3-13 in '19 and getting a GREAT draft pick position in '20!" 

Keenum really is a decent quarterback, probably at the Jason Campbell level. Before long, I'm sure the Skins will try to convince us that Keenum is a star. So, a comparison like Campbell helps ground us. Jason had an 82.3 QB rating as a Skin, going 20-32 as a starter while Keenum's career mark in 84.5 in a much easier era for passer stats.

Maybe Keenum is more like Gus Frerotte (on his better days) for overall efficiency. Don't be misled too much by Keenum's standout year in '17 with the Vikings when he was 11-3 as a starter. A quality team can lift an average-at-best QB up a lot. Frerotte had years when his record as a starter was 9-7 (with the Skins), 9-6 and 8-3.

So, part of me is happy that the Skins got a QB with a career 26-28 record as a starter because he may be able to avoid a '19 implosion.  I can find interest in a 7-9, 8-8, 9-7 team, which seems like what Jay Gruden is capable of producing. And I also enjoy Gruden as a coach because he's a smart offensive mind and so much fun as an off-the-cuff accidental quipper!

(Yes, I know his teams are inconsistently motivated. Meaning that sometimes they appear to have no motivation whatsoever -- you're surprised they found the energy to get their pads on by kickoff. And I know he can't manage the clock in the final 2 minutes of a half or 4Q. Jay is so clock-averse I wonder if somebody has to set his alarm clock FOR him. But, all and all, I wouldn't enjoy seeing him get fired after a 3-13 season in which Colt McCoy doesn't make it to November in one piece.)        

But a different part of me knows that the only way the Skins are going to escape the Dan-and-Bruce Curse, even if only for a few years, is with an All-Pro QB that they probably only get with a very high draft pick that they can't mess up.

I suspect many fans fight this same dilemma.

"Oh, good, the Skins got a semi-competent QB. They won't be awful. I can still watch the games --sometimes."

"Oh, no, the Skins got a semi-competent QB. They've just squandered their chance to be awful! Now I won't REALLY LOVE to watch their games for years. "

 

Should I look in Leesburg for the most acreage or just go to half street ?

Plenty of Nats players will help with that real estate search!

Who has the lowest ERA in the last 100 years in MLB among pitchers with at least 500 innings?

Yes, Craig Kimbrel at 1.91. 2nd place is back at 2.20.

Talked to Mike Rizzo about this a couple of hours ago. The price would be high. There'd be a lux-tax hit in '19 (maybe $5-6-million range) and, most annoying to him it seemed, there'd be compensation cost, a 2nd round draft pick and $1M in international bonus pool money because Kimbrel turned down a qualifying offer from the Red Sox.

One Nats vet said, chuckling, "I can tell you one thing -- Craig Kimbrel is a helluva lot better than whoever that second-round draft pick turns out to be." 

The fans want Kimbrel. (So do the fans of 29 other teams.) The Nats players want Kimbrel. (So do the players on 29 other teams.) But right now it sure doesn't feel like the Nats want Kimbrel, or not a whole lot and not at the prices he still must be asking.

For reference, Kimbrel asked for $100M for six years, which would be a record for a reliever. Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen signed 5-yr deals two winters ago for $86M and $80M. Neither has been as effective since those deals as they were utterly-dominant before. They still get plenty of people out. But they make you worry about years No. 3-4-5 of those deals. For reference, Mark Melanson also got $62-million for four years in that same off-season. He's been a bust. 

It looks like the star reliever market has now dropped back from the Chapman-Jansen level to the Melancon level. If I were Kimbrel's agent, I'd be telling him to look for a four-year deal, because he did NOT look his best in the second half of '18 and he had a lousy post-season and not to expect more than $16M-a-year. Maybe $60M for 4 years is what he gets -- and is worth. Markets change. NO reliever this winter has gotten more than three years (several) or more than $39M (Zach Britton).

Kimbrel is better than all of them. BUT coming off his 2nd half AND his post-season, he is not that much better. He picked a bad time to stub his toe. He needs to face reality, bank his $60M or whatever, or else get a short-term contract and do it all over again. I'd take the four years in a heartbeat.

Would the Nats offer that much? I doubt it. But Rizzo runs silently. And Kimbrel is his one "crabby" subject.

One other factor: GM's have MOs. Rizzo is NOT to buy expensive free agent relievers but, instead, to TRADE prospects for a star reliever at the trade deadline as teams with good closers fall out of the pennant races. He's done it with Papelbon, Melancon, Doolittle, and Madson, among others. Kimbrel would break "his" mold. But it might be a brilliant "overlap" with the '19-'20-'21 Nats "window. 

I suspect I'll have more to say on the subject.  

Current NHL stats show that Tampa Bat has a +85 Goal Differential. The team with the second best Goal Differential is Toronto with +51. The Bolts also have won 10 more games than the teams with the second most number of wins, Boston and Toronto. Is Tampa Bay that good, or are they playing in a very weak division?

Tampa Bay is that good. It's a very good thing that the Caps are playing their best now -- on a seven-game winning streak -- because they will need nothing less than their very best against the Lightning. And, to be honest, the way the Lightning are playing that might not be enough. Against the TB attack, Braden Holtby will certainly have to raise his game to his '18 playoff level. 

Circle the two Caps-Lightning showdowns that are approaching: at Tampa Bay on March 16th and in D.C. on March 20th. That gives us a reference point. Oh, I'll be there on the 20th.

When the Caps look back on their Stanley Cup victory last year it will be their Game Seven win, on the road, rather than their defeat of the Golden Knights for the Cup that will stand out as THE game. No, it won't even be knocking out the hated Pens, delicious as that was, that mattered most. With hindsight, it's easier to see that the Lightning was the real powerhouse.

Last year, Tampa Bay's scoring seemed spectacular with Nikita Kucherov, the great Steven Stamkos and young Brayden Point scoring 100, 86 and 66 points as TB went 54-23-5. THAT was scary!

Now, they are MUCH better. Point is 22 years old and a much-improved center. Kucherov is having an historic season and Stamkos, at 28, is still prime Stamkos. With 13 games LEFT, that trio now has 110, 82 and 79 points!

These guys are so great that they remind me of the '15-'16 and '16-'17 Capitals that won the President's Trophy!

Actually, this Lightning team looks even better, at least for now, than those Cap teams. The Caps had points-percentages of .732 and .720 in '15-'16 and '16-'17 with goal differentials of +59 and +81.

Right now, Tampa Bay is at .783 and is +85 in goals with all those games left.

So, do your job, everybody, put all that "favorite" weight on the Lightning. The poor Caps have no chance.

Now, at least, all that President's Trophy pressure and the disappointing playoff record that have gone along with it for many years, will be on the other skate.

I hope that helps, because this Lightning team really DOES look like a regular-season juggernaut.  

You wrote about Harper, “If you don't think you'll miss him, you're probably kidding yourself.” Being a true fan means missing lots of players, whether gone by trade, free agency, retirement, or even death. What about you? As a sportswriter (harboring an inner fan I suspect), you spend a lot of your life with players. What happens when they leave your orbit (or, as in Harper’s case, move to an outlying planet)? On a personal level, how do you deal with it? Do you stay in contact with any folks you once covered? Do you still miss Earl Weaver? Etc....

Interesting that you asked. I wondered if I'd miss him, too. So, I thought about this subject last week. I went back through everybody I'd covered for 29 years on the Oriole beat and now 15 with the Nats, including plenty of Hall of Famers and All-Stars, some for many years, some for a few. I even made a list of 'em.

I realized that, once they left, I never missed any of them FOR EVEN A MINUTE. They might as well have disappeared in a puff of smoke. Maybe that really IS the difference between reporting and being a fan.

I think the one player who would have been an exception, where it may have been impossible NOT to be a fan, to a degree, was the one player who NEVER left: Cal Ripken. I'd have missed him, and I REALLY would have missed him if he'd broken Gehrig's record in some other city!

It's ironic. I constantly meet decent run-of-the-mill players who don't like to talk to the press or don't seem to want to "talk the game." But I have only met a handful of GREAT players who did NOT want to talk about baseball as soon as they discovered that you LOVED it. A few just had a policy of not talking --like Lee May, who hit over 350 homers-- because he never wanted to be in a controversy. But everybody told me what a great guy he was (and funny) underneath this forbidding exterior. One day I went up to him and said (paraphrase), "Lee, I know you are IN THERE. But I won't bother you. After you retire, THEN we'll talk." He almost smiled. After he retired, we did talk. Good guy.

I wrote a column on Trea Turner that's up on the net now. As soon as I met him he reminded me, in his maturity and student of the game quality, of Ripken. Not comparing them as players. But it's like talking to a 40-year-old coach. Same with Cal. Trea and I were talking so long that Brian Dozier came by, teasing, and said, "Jez, this is a LONG interview. You were talking before I..." Then he listed all the stuff he did while we were talking. "We're having a CONVERSATION," said Turner. 

Back to the subject!

I covered Eddie Murray for 12 fabulous years. Great all around player, easily better than Harper. He had six straight years where he would have driven in 110-to-124 runs except that the strike in '81 held him to 78 RBI, instead of his pace for 120. He won a gold glove at 1st base, was a quiet team leader and never made a mental mistake. And durable! In his first 18 seasons, he averaged fewer than 10 games missed per season. After he left, the next spring, I ran into him in Dodger camp. It was good to see him. We gave each other some ritual grinning grief. But it's not like they are GONE. That happens when they RETIRE. That's when I tend to miss them a little.

I was chatting with Rendon the other day and mentioned to him that he hated to talk to the media just as much as Murray always did, but that I'd made a deal with Murray that we'd just talk to each other like normal people, no interview aspect, no quotes, when we bumped into each other. But I made a deal that I'd never bug him about all the daily dumb stuff if I could ask him to talk, on the record, for 20 minutes twice a season. "I never used the second time. I saved that in case he was ever in some big controversy." Rendon laughed, the reporter laying a trap. "But I'd use one of them for a feature story once a year." I don't think Anthony's ready for the 20-20 deal yet! He's one of the well-liked, most playful people in baseball, but he just doesn't think all of that is anybody's business.  

I covered Mussina for nine years. We got along well, but not with that informal dish-the-dirt relationship you can have with a lot of players and a LOT of managers the first 30-or-so years I was on the beat. But as soon as he got to the Yankees, in spring training, I said, "Got a minute?" He sat on a golf cart and we talked for an hour. THEN he wanted to dish! So he was more fun AFTER he was gone.

I liked, but didn't "miss" Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmerman, Harold Baines, Lee Smith, Robby Alomar and many others. It's good when you see them again.

I guess that fans don't understand that reporters and athletes share a workplace. It's just not like fans cheering, or jeering a player. We KNOW them. They aren't BALLPLAYERS. They are PEOPLE. And when the ballplayer changes teams, the person doesn't die or disappear. In fact, he usually helps you get to know other players on THAT team. 

So, I'm looking forward to seeing Bryce as a Phillie. He LOVES to talk baseball and he doesn't mind if you nag him about stuff you think he did wrong. Like Reggie Jackson, he likes to explain the inner workings of the Bryce.

Thanks for a wonderful question. Richard Justice and I were talking in the press box and we were STILL telling "Earl Stories." They never go away. So, I guess we DO miss him! The crabbiest SOB of them all. He'd NEVER believe it! It's a shame he never really understood how much people liked him --not because he was nice (he wasn't) but because he had this crusty hard-won wisdom, a 14-year-old's wise-ass humor, and a kindness that he tried VERY hard to hide.

Which reminds me! I was walking around the upper deck of Ballpark of the Palm Beaches and I heard a voice say, "Hey, Tom!" It was Jack McKeon, the Nats newest front-office addition. We talked for I don't know how long. Just the sharpest, funniest stories. He's 88 and the same quickness and memory as when I first met him in the '70s.

"Aw, I work out every day," he said, explaining his vitality, and holding his half-chewed but un-smoked cigar, as always. Can't do without the Trader Jack cigar prop.

"We're talkin' about the SEVENTIES," said Jack to a bunch of baseball people going past as if it was something they couldn't possibly understand, like "We're talking about the Stone Age."

Actually, we were talking about the '50's. When I was a 10-year-old kid loving the Senators in '57, McKeon was ALREADY in his fourth year as a minor league manager and his second year managing in the minors for the Senators. 

"I got a record I didn't even know about," said Jack, who was the oldest manager ever to win the World Series at 72 with the Markins in 2003. "I'm the only guy who ever won 1,000 games as a manager in the majors and also won 1,000 games as a manager in the minors!"

I can't wait to see Jack again. "Hey, Jack, that record you got --1,000 and 1,000-- you forgot to tell me that you LOST TWO thousand games in the minors leagues."

McKeon managed over 6,500 games in pro ball, and that doesn't count all the years he was a general manager and once rebuilt the Padres into a World Series team.

Jack isn't the oldest person in the Nats' front office. That is Rizzo's dad, who is 89. They say he's just as sharp as McKeon. And they've got more than 140 years of baseball stories.

Boz, How long until the team starts to worry a bit more about Zimmerman? I know he thought it was for the best to skip Spring Training last year, but I thought that was changing? We're half way into March and his game log for spring training is as follows 4 Games. 7 At Bats. 1 Hit Now that we're no longer having to placate to a baby like Harper. Can we take off the kid gloves and hold Zimmerman accountable?

Talked to Zim this morning. All's well. He said it takes him so long in the training room just to get ready to play a game, sometimes 80 minutes with the trainers working on his body then 20 minutes of weight work for strength. "I feel like one of the dinosaurs. So old. So broke," he said smiling. "They call it a 'grind.' The stuff we do daily is not good for your health. Baseball is unhealthy.

"I saw (retired) Michael Cuddyer the other day. I said, 'You look GREAT!' He said, 'Yeah, of course, I do -- I'm not playin' baseball anymore. I go to bed at 9 o'clock if I want. I can work out (for health, not to rehab injuries).'"

"Now, when he plays golf, he's the YOUNGEST guy in his group!" said Zimmerman. "When you retire, you go from feeling like a dinosaur --so old, so broke-- to being the youngest guy at everything!

"You love the game and you want to do it as long as you can," said Zim, "but being the 'youngest' at everything --that's going to be an interesting feeling."

BTW, Zim's OPS the last two years is .892 with 35 homers and 113 RBI per 162 games, not that far below Bryce Harper the last two years, .940, 38 and 113.

"So, I get 300 million?" said Zim.

No, but you get all the dinosaur food you can eat.   

It seems like the Redskins can do no right in the eyes of a lot of the media. Keenum came relatively cheap, is low risk, and is a viable option to compete with McCoy. Did I miss a press release form the Skins' front office where they rolled out the red carpet and acted like Keenum is supposed to be the savior of the franchise. If not, why is everyone dogging them so bad for the trade? I give them credit for what seems fairly measured and low risk. I get your qualms with them being too scared to go into full rebuilding mode, but this seems much more shrewd than coughing up 80M on a fully guaranteed contract for a quarterback that doesn't seem like he can win more than 8 or 9 games in a season.

It's a good football move. I respect it.

It's just not in the nature of players, coaches or owners to, essentially, quit. And everybody dogs them even worse when they tank. So, when you see a cheap sensible way to compete or hope to compete, I don't think you can ask them to avoid it. And I'd rather watch 7-9, or with tons of luck 9-7, than expect 5-11 and watch 4-12, 3-13. Remember, the Skins have had EIGHT seasons of 5-11, 4-12 or 3-13 since they last went 11-5. It's painful. I don't want to watch it again just to draft another Heath Shuler.

Is he the best GM in hockey? If you look at not just the deadline acquisitions the last two years, which were brilliant, but also the signing of Niskanen and Orpik (twice!) and Oshie and Connolly. It is good to be a Caps fan these days.

I'll stay in my lane, not pretend to evaluate the whole NHL, and say that everything he's done impresses me. And it looks like his choice of coach in Todd Reirden is working fine too. He also has a really calm, confident but not at all arrogant demeanor. I'm really glad to see the Caps playing their best heading into the playoffs. It's very hard to repeat -- WAY against the odds. So I find it nice --dignified-- that a team that just won its first Cup at least gets to go into its "defense" of that Cup with (I hope) good health and good form. If you lose, you lose. But it seems appropriate, to me, for them to go into that fight the right way--in good health, with deadline trades and playing to their form. And, with a little luck, it seems that they will.

Is this the Nats' highest stake season since they've been in DC? Win and they potentially establish themselves as a franchise that's bigger than any one star. The crowds will finally be there to see the team, rather than staking out a claim to All-Star tickets or coming to see Bryce Harper swing for the fences and flick his hair. Lose and they risk sinking back to pre-Strasburg attendance levels. Serious long-term damage - at least until they win again.

The upside is probably correct. I doubt that the downside you outline has much chance of materializing. The Nats are entrenched in DC. Four division flags, four 95-win years and the top players they have now, like a 300K ace, are plenty to keep any fan interested.

When the Nats got Strasburg and Harper in back-to-back drafts I thought that it would be remarkable, after looking at draft history,  if they turned out as good as Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, who were the strongest pair of 1/1s to get drafted close together by the same team, and both pan out, in the draft era since '65. And I also thought that I'd be pleased if they just were able to keep ONE of those two, assuming they panned out. To think you'd get two 1/1s, that both would live up to expectations, or come close, and that both would be "career Nats" was way beyond what normally happens.

At this point, I expect Strasburg to age well, adapt to having a bit less of a fastball but "pitch" better. We'll see on him, but he's generally under-rated and over-nagged.

Nats fans I talk to find the young players, Soto, Robles, Turner, very exciting and Rendon is better than any of them. Robles seems at home playing against MLBers. It seems like his natural level, even though he's only 21. If he hits .265, steals bases and plays well in CF, I suspect fans will understand that he's just one level away from being special. He has the OMG physique. Giving Corbin a 6-year deal is very dicey. But if he has ONE good year this season, so fans see what they got, I expect they'll be excited by him, too. You now have three starting pitchers who've had >240 strikeout seasons. The Nats farm system is thin in depth, but its top two prospects are REALLY good. You'd like to have depth AND quality. But quality is more important --by far.   

I suspect Davey Martinez is the person under the greatest scrutiny from fans. The Nats have the talent to be part of an excellent NL East brawl. So, we'll probably all get a sense of how Davey handles it.

By the way, when someone has "Davey Martinez" on his door, on his desk, and on his fungo bat, I tend to think that his name is "Davey," even if he always says, "Dave, Davey, makes no difference to me." The Post "style" has him as Dave. That's not a problem. But, just between us chickens, I call him "Davey."

 

Do you think the wizards should keep John Wall or move on?

Oh, no, they've been bad for a long time, but lets not overreact. I don't think they have to move to another city.

This one confuses me. Do they want less scoring than now?

It gives Manny Machado more room NOT to step on your ankle. And no lame excuses if he does.

Boz, The Braves' latest round of young pitchers (led by Mike Foltynewicz, now set to miss Opening Day) seem to maybe be echoing the LAST round of young Atlanta hurlers (Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, and others), and coming up lame this spring. What's going on in Atlanta?

The stat gurus predicted some "reversion" for this group. They certainly passed the "eye test" for me last year. I guess they have to pass the "medical" test now.

I try never to use the word "tragic" about a sports career not panning out, but Medlen was such a Maddox clone, had such a chance to be remarkable that I was very sad to see him burn out so young. 

Max is 34. Strass and Corbin have had Tommy John surgeries and multiple injuries. Anibal Sanchez has had good years and bad. Hellickson can't pitch past the 5th inning. Is it realistic to think this rotation really going to be functional, much less good for the whole season?

A couple of weeks ago, I was thinking the same thing. So I went through the ages of every starting rotation on every contender. Almost EVERYBODY looks like this, pitchers just scare the daylights out of you.

Seems like half of 'em have had TJ surgery. The question is: Did they make it back all the way from that surgery. Then you add six-to-eight years of a new elbow. Stras is getting up there in Second Elbow Age, but some last a very long time. Corbin is only in his third year back from TJ and the normal scout-read on his stellar '18 season is that he's "proof" of what a successful new elbow looks like, meaning he's a 29-year-old pitcher with a three-year-old elbow.

In LA, Kershaw is aching, AGAIN. Rich Hill is ancient. CC Sabathia is 500 years old. Are David Price and Chris Sale too old at 33 and 30?

Yes, the Nat rotation could be vulnerable. But Sanchez and Hellickson just had back-to-back four-inning shutout starts. At this time of year, what you watch for is serious injuries as pitchers ramp back up to 100% effort. So far, only Koda Glover, who really does seem "injury plagued," has blown. Each week down here that nobody "blows" is a good sign that they get to the Starting Line at 100%. That's a big challenge for every rotation. (And they're not there yet.)   

I remember someone writing (it may have been you), that only Ricky Henderson and Pete Rose should slide head first, because those guys were tanks. Can Trea make it through the season with that many hard slides, or will we be looking at a hand or shoulder injury. Are they talking to Trea about sliding feet first?

I talked to Trea about his durability yesterday. Even back through the minors, he's been good at avoiding injuries while making athletic moves, avoiding a tag, reacting instinctively to a bad hop, slipping going over first base. But that fastball to the wrist broke a bone in '17.

Regardless of past durability, I hate head-first slides. Physiologically, they make no sense. If you can only steal successfully 65% of the time, then (statistically) it isn't even worth stealing at all. But if, like Trea, you can steal 124-for-149 (83%), then maybe you can play it a little safer, feet first, and settle for 121 out of 149.

That's it for today. Thanks for all your great questions and takes. See you all at 11 a.m. next Monday.

Unfortunately, it will not be from West Palm where the temperature, as I head out the door, is 82 degrees. Spring isn't far away, honest! Cheers.   

I'm really impressed with Spencer's modesty in comparing himself to his brother. But it appears the Nats think highly of both of them. How about you - which one of them do you see as having the greatest upside potential, both this season and looking down the road.

Some players have "it." Does that mean they are "regulars" who play 140-or-more games for five or six years in their prime? Does it mean they have 10+-year careers and have 1,500 hits? (Davey Martinez had 1,599). Does it mean they make an All-Star team or two, like both Nats catchers Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes? Does it mean they are on the Hall of Fame Ballot, a distinction in itself even if you get 1% of the vote and get knocked off after one year? Or are you even better than that, which almost never happens.

In recent years, the Nats have had a LOT of players with "it." Nats fans may not QUITE grasp how much top talent they've gotten to see since '12. It doesn't stay like that forever. But Carter Kieboom fits in the "it" group. Remember, he's a first-round pick even if he was 28th overall. Yesterday he hit a homer and had another long ball blown back into the park. He is EXPECTED to be a very good player. After seeing him last year, I thought "big league starter," but I didn't see Zim, Turner, Rendon, etc., ability that jumps out. Now I'm revising that upward. But I don't want to get too excited. I never thought Danny Espinosa would totally flounder. For glove, arm, speed and power, he had "it." But at the MLB level, he just didn't have the "hit" tool, the hardest thing in sports, hitting a baseball thrown by an MLB pitcher. Same with Michael A. Taylor, every tool, plus personality, except the "hit tool." He's fixed something this spring, but he still has to prove it, and this is his 10th pro season.

But Kieboom looks like the real thing. Got the build, the look, the confidence. Let's see how AAA treats him. What's his natural position?

Spencer is very outgoing and popular, a diligent worker. He's hit better. My hope for him, since he's already 27 and has both Gomes and Suzuki ahead of him on deals that may work out to be multi-year, is that he impresses somebody and gets traded to a team where he can play, or at least be a valued backup, because I think he can play. I don't see how he ever gets a chance with the Nats until he's 30. He deserves better than that. Maybe he's NOT just a good glove, smart tough catcher with a a .235 bat and not much power. But even if that IS what he is, then he should still be somebody's solid backup, have a career and make some money. If there is anybody on this 40-man of whom I think: I really hope this guy gets a real chance SOMEWHERE, it's Spencer Kieboom.   

Is it time to admit that Koda Glover isn't ever going to be the guy the Nats hoped? Seems like we're heading towards a repeat of last years "light" injury lagging late into the year

Seems like it.

Luckily, I'm wrong a lot. .

Where do you think Gio will end up, and will he continue to be a starter ?

Wake up, Gio! Sign SOMEWHERE! This is a "prove it" year for you, not a multi-year-deal-or-wait year

I assume your time at the Post crossed over with Mr Jenkins: Would you say a few words about him? Thanks,

Best for last -- in Dan's case, at any rate.

I think I read somewhere that Dan covered more than 250 major golf tournaments (as well as many other things). To help show how amazing this longevity is, and how much he LOVED the sports and people he covered, and loved being around them, I've covered more than 100 golf tournaments since '76 that Dan was also writing about, and that puts me about 150 behind!

For a long time, Dan, who was almost 20 years older than I am and who was nationally famous for writing about Arnold Palmer's charge at Cherry Hills in the U.S. Open in '60 when I was still only 12 years old, was one of those very large sportswriting figures that I didn't feel comfortable approaching when I was young in the business.

Dan was also famous and "big" in a way that almost no sportswriter ever is. Ring Lardner, Daymon Runyon and a few others showed up all over the place, with novels, plays, movie deals, friendships with Presidents, appearances on TV, you name it.  But Dan was, at least in my view, the most dynamic of all these figures because he'd been a formidable enough golfer to play with Hogan, enough of a man's man to hang out with Palmer and also a chain-smoking, comfortable-in-a-saloon Texas rascal whom many (me) could only imagine being in some alternate life. And, from the first times I saw him holding court in the clubhouse at lunch at the Masters, he seemed to do it naturally, off-handedly, as if the Augusta National members might hang out there the other 51 weeks a year, but when it really mattered, the place belonged to him, without his trying in the least to take possession!

The story might have ended there and I might never have gotten to know anything but the surface of the public, famous Dan Jenkins. I'd just have loved and laughed with his writing and that would have been it. But Dan's daughter Sally, who is a completely different writer than her father but, in my opinion, every bit as good, created a nice natural bridge to meet her dad. Many times at many tournaments.

As a result, my lasting personal memory of Dan will be almost completely different than the tough-but-funny, cigarette in corner of mouth, ultimate sports scribe. Instead, it will be much softer and, I hope, true to the man, who is never the same as the writer. I'll always see him as the loving, doting dad who absolutely adored his daughter, couldn't have been prouder of her, busting a button in the corniest sense just being around her, at dozens of golf tournaments over the years. The link with Sally, a wonderful colleague in the Post sports department, just made it natural to talk to Dan and discover that he was --warm, nice and generous in his comments about others (except The Great who were always in danger). Of course, he was tears-to-your-eyes funny because he just couldn't help being that way since it was so core to his angle on life. So, what I'll remember is: I don't think I was ever around a father and his adult son or daughter where both so obviously adored each other, "got" everything about each other, approved of each other, yet (because they were Jenkinses) didn't show off about it.

So, you'll read a lot about what a wonderful writer Dan was and the celebrity part. But there's a photo of Sally and Dan that ran with her wonderful column on her dad in the Post where she's beaming and he's doing all he can to hold back a grin. My wife, of course, loved the column, and the photo; she said, "Dan sounds like he was the perfect scoundrel dad." Good enough for 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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