Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Apr 08, 2019

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

Past Ask Boswell chats

This morning, we have lots of great topics. 

UVA vs Texas Tech tonight in the men's NCAA basketball final. 

The incredible 82-81 Baylor win over Notre Dame last night for the women's title --probably my favorite game in this March Madness so far because Baylor won despite losing All-American Lauren Cox late in the 3rd quarter, but still beat the defending National Champion, even after Notre Dame came back from 17 points down and nosed ahead. 

Also, this is Masters week and Tiger looks primed to challenge, IMO. 

And the Caps now know who they'll play in the first round--Carolina. Are the Hurricanes the team they beat four times by 14-4 this year? Or are they the dangerous team with the 3rd most points in the NHL since the All-Star break? 

HOWEVER, it will probably be hard not to talk about the Nats bullpen in flames. Should they go hard to sign Craig Kimbrel, even though it would probably take a month for him to be ready for an MLB game? What is wrong with Trevor Rosenthal and how can he be fixed? How much of this is manager Davey Martinez's fault and how much is he just a victim of an ill-conceived bullpen? 

Ready, set, GO.

Is it ok to panic now, or do we wait until the Phillies score 5 plus runs in each 8th inning?

You don't have to panic. The manager is already doing that for you. I got an e-mail from a nice fan this a.m. who said "I don't know that much about baseball," then he gave a perfect analysis of Martinez' three questionable decisions on Sunday. 

Why was Scherzer sent out for the 7th inning?

He had been hit by a liner in the 5th. At 83 pitches, with 12-1 lead, give him an easy start. Only bad things can happen by leaving him in. Max got one out, was charged with three earned runs. Ended at 100 pitches. This is a case of: You Asked For It.

Why not use Joe Ross, just up from minors and a starter by trade, to start the 7th or 8th inning. No pressure. Huge lead. Why the 9th? It's not a save situation. But it is totally unfamiliar to him. He gave up 3 runs, got hooked, Doolittle had to get last two ours.

If Rosenthal is such a key to bullpen, then why have such a quick hook with him, show little confidence, risk showing him up and embarrassing  him. He had a ONE-PITCH outing earlier. On Sunday on the mound, he was begging for another hitter in his two batter outing. Why not give it to him?

If a fan who doesn't even claim to be a fan sees this many decisions which go against the obvious ways of baseball thinking, what must other (like players) think?

Martinez gave a very strong post-game press conference after the Nats hideous 9-8 walk-off win vs Phils on Wednesday. That's a big position in my book for him. But major league managers have tended to be catchers (who work with pitchers constantly) or middle infielders, plus a few ex-pitchers. OR they have managing EXPERIENCE somewhere in pro ball where they learned to habndle pitch, run a bullpen. The Nats hired Martinez with ZERO games as a manager, not even in the minors. "Pitchers" have never been his job. He's probably actually doing a good job of learning on the fly. But why did the Nats hire a manager who NEEDED to learn about handling a pitching staff on the fly at the big-league level?

It's way too early to do anything crazy. EXCEPT for the bullpen, many things have gone right. You MUST show  patience. It is ridiculous to think that FIVE pitchers can all have ERA's of at least 13.50 and that, combined, Rosenthal, Seuro, Grace, Ross and Sipp have given up 23 earned runs in 8 1/3 innings. That's an ERA of 24.84. 

Normal for them would be 3.84. The other half of the question is: How will the Nats look when they perform even semi-normally?

I asked you this last week and I'll ask again. Given that Rosenthal had exactly this problem -- lack of control, inability to get people out -- in his last stop, in StL, BEFORE his TJ surgery, why did people ASSUME he'd be great once he came back from TJ? He was booed out of St. Louis, and Cardinals fans are civil. A related point: People are now saying, it's become a mental thing for him. No kidding! But a big part of the mental drain has to be that his problems did not start this February in spring training. I feel for the guy, but expecting him to morph suddenly into a different pitcher -- well, I know pitchers sometimes/often come back from TJ throwing harder. I never heard of one who came back with better control.

I must not have seen your question last week. You've certainly hit an important point. I noticed what you're talking about this morning. Starting with '16, Rosenthal has pitched in 99 games with an ERA of 4.60 and has walked 5.4 men per 9 innings. In '16, before his TJ in last '17, he walked 29 in 40 1/3 innings. It's been a long time since he was the monster of earlier years.

If all his problems were this season, and post-TJ, I'd say, "Come on, he'll work it out." But even when he was near-great in back-to-back years he still walked people. But he was almost unhittable.

As you may recall, I have been thumping for the Nats to sign Kimbrel since this March 12th column.

It's pretty informative when Doolittle points to the locker between him and Rosnethal and says, "We'd have room for him right here!"

Teams seem to be waiting until after the June 4th draft so that they can sign Kimbrel without giving up draft picks or international money. Don't wait! The Nats need to decide: Do we want to pay something like $16M x 4 years for him or don;t we? If it's "Yes," then do it now. If it's "No," then forget about it and seek other remedies. But don't say, "Yes, but lets WAIT until after the draft."

By then, he will be gone because several contenders look at their pens and get scared --but none with as much reason as the Nats.

 

I don't understand what it is about baseball that causes players to completely lose their feel for the game, or at least an aspect of the game. Chris Davis couldn't hit a little league pitch at the moment. Rick Ankiel, one of the best pitchers in his day, completely lost his throwing ability and had to move outfield. Even the Nats' Ryan Zimmerman forgot, somehow, how to make a routine overhand throw from third base to first. This does not happen in other sports! Okay, perhaps golf. But aside from those two, this doesn't happen. Tennis players don't go from having a killer backhand to hitting balls into the crowd. Basketball players don't completely lose their feel for free throws. Football receivers don't go from catching everything thrown their way to dropping pass after pass. What is it about baseball?

GREAT subject. We may, unfortunately, have to watch now and find out if Trevor Rosnethal's control falls in the same category. I doubt it. Let him work it out.

I think the reason is because, while all the major sports require great athleticism at most positions, baseball demands the most precisely refined skills with the smallest margin of error in basic skills that must be repeated constantly.

Also, NFL, NBA and NHL players always REACT (and quickly) because the game is continuous and you have little time to think, to freeze, to over-analyze. In baseball, there is a pause of at least 15 seconds between every pitch and tons of other times to THINK.

Put those two aspects together: very precise actions (like the pitcher's release point or a hitter's timing) and time to THINK and get paralysis from analysis.

You're right that the other sport with this issue is GOLF. I once followed Ian Baker-Finch, former British Open champ, after he "lost it" and couldn't even make cuts --time after time. He tried to overcome it for years. Never did. His swing looked perfect. Fellow pros couldn't figure out the flaw. But several times a round he'd hit a drive that, about 150 yards off the tee, put on its left blinker light and hooked left-of-left until it was OB or in somebody's four-foot-tall shrubs. 

This was one of the most painful columns I ever had to write: "The Man Who Forgot How To Play Golf." But just imagine how Baker-Finch felt.

 

 

What happens first, Rosenthal gets someone out or Chris Davis gets a hit?

Chris Davis is such a good guy. And you know he can't be this bad. (But he is.) Right now, he'd help the O's even if he were no better than in '16-'17 when he hit .218 but still ran into one  sometimes and hit a homer every 16 at bats. The guy who had years with 53 homers, 138 RBI and 47 homers with 117 RBI is long gone. But the O's would like to have back that .220-hitting, 30-homer guy.

For this year, plus the next three, the O's still owe Davis another $92M.

When people talk about MLB's fear of long contracts is useful to remember that a guy who his 53 homers at 27 and 47 at 29 can be washed up and TOTALLY USELESS after 30. Not 32 or 35. After 30.

I tend to forget the big stars who flamed out. Once upon a time, I'd have bet anything that switch-hitting Reuben Sierra __a poor man's Eddie Murray__ had a shot at Cooperstown.  He averaged 100 RBI from age 21 through 29. Then, after 30, almost. The game can grind you down physically and grind you up mentally as the league studies every new flaw that you exhibit --especially the hitting flaws that show up as >1,500-game mileage and the inevitable injuries add up and subtly change your skill set.

Hi Boz, I am sure you will receive a torrent of Nats bullpen questions. My question is two-part. While it now looks like the Dozier signing was a MASSIVE mistake, it also looks like it might be the reason the Lerners do not go out and sign Kimbrell. Apparently they are over the Lux tax or close to it should they now sign Kimbrell. Boy, in hindsight, Keiboom would have been the perfect fit at second base considering Dozier cannot play anymore. The Dozier money should have been used for Kimbrel. Nats are in a pickle no?

I understand why you feel that way. A .040 average looks ugly! Brian Dozier has had 25 at bats. Jeeez, folks.

He has always been a streak hitter and a streak slugger his whole career. And this is exactly how he always looks in slumps. Now, with Turner out with an injury, Dozier will HAVE to start at least 90% of the games for a couple of months. So, the Nats can't lose confidence in him even if they wanted to (which they don't). He'll have time to work his way out of this. He's trying to hard. Maybe it's the bet-on-myself one-year deal. I think the grind of the season --playing EVERY day-- will actually help him. 

If you can find somebody who will give you 2-to-1 odds that Dozier will NOT hit 20 homers this year, I'd say Take It. Put me down for 24 homers or  more. Two years ago, after his first 86 ABs, Dozier had two homers and a sickly .661 OPS. After that, he hit 32 homers with an .888 OPS the rest of the season.It's his pattern. 

Also, he LOVES hot weather. After the All-Star break that year, he hit .304 with a .985 OPS. When I talked to him in Florida, he was excited to FINALLY get to play in a home park where it was really HOT! When the average temperature gets about 80, Dozier's OPS will go above .800. When it gets over 90, watch his fly balls carry out. This is a BRAVE prediction! (Or stupid.) I doubt you'll find many that agree with me.

However, as the sign in my office says --my wife gave it to me for Xmas-- "I don't need a second opinion. I like mine just fine."

....

To answer your question directly, Dozier's $9M one-year deal and Kimbrel are NOT connected. And the lux tax is the softest semi-cap imaginable. It would cost the Nats a FEW million extra this year, and nothing over the next few years, if they signed Kimbrel for $16M-a-year and Rendon for $25M-a-year. 

You can get a good sense of the Nats future payrolls here. And how much "falls off" after this year. (Remember, Rendon already makes $18.8M-a-year, so his "raise" isn't THAT big.)

 

 

Boz--Why play the video tribute to Harper knowing most fans would boo so hard? Seemed out of place. Thank you!

I bet the Nats thought he would be cheered!

OMG, THAT happened since our last chat! Talk about information overload at this time of the year with MLB starting, March Madness, NBA and NHL match-ups being decided, the Masters on tap and the NFL draft in a couple of weeks. It's ridiculous!

The crux of the Nats fan reaction, imo, was that they did not give a damn about the details of the various contract offers to Harper. All they cared about was the final result: 1) He turned down $300M, even if $100M of it was deferred far into the future and 2) he ended up doing it to became a Phillie.

Ballplayers learn to say, "Baseball is a game AND a business." They separate the two. They are rational about other players decisions because they want the same consideration nin return. BUT for fans, baseball is a game and a PASSION. It is not a BUSINESS AT ALL to them, except that they --THE FANS-- actually PAY for the whole damn thing!

The fan's loyalty --even while paying significant bucks to come watch you play-- is extremely high. Most fans can FEEL the money coming out of their pockets after a night at the ballpark. So they react: "Yeah, YOU, Mr. Hotshot Ballplayer, turn down $300M --in whatever form-- to become a Phillie!??? Well, Bleep You, buddy. I BACKED you for years. I didn't boo you when you screwed up or when people in other towns got on your case. I was even still in your corner when you were hitting.2124 at the All-Star break last year with (yawn) 54 RBI in 94 games while the team floundered. What did I do when you won the stupid Home Run Derby hitting mush balls from your dad?? I gave you like a dozen standing ovations, bro, when you were hitting .214 against real pitchers. Go on, go to Philly--see if THEY do that for you.

"So, yeah, 'BOOOOOO!!!'"

...

DO NOT READ WHAT FOLLOWS. It will bore you to death. It's the kind of thing that can only exist deep in a "chat" for those --like me-- who just can't get enough detail on a big story. My advice: Skip to the next answer.

Now, for the last time, I'm going to break down the Net Present Value of the Harper offers --because they probably aren't very close to what you think.

Here are the only assumptions I'm using. SI reported that the Nats original offer to Harper had a net present value of $184M. It is a fair assumption that this number came from the Boras/Harper camp or at the least had a nodding agreement from them that it was close. I consulted a financial expert at a Fortune 500 company about this $184M number. He analyzed the publicly-available information and said that it appeared Boras had used 5% --or something very close to it-- as the discount rate that must be plugged into the NPV calculation. He said that seemed like a "fair" number to him. (You can make any contract offer look like it's worth much more if you apply a lower discount rate --like the 3% Federal Reserve discount rate. You can make it look like it is worth much less if you apply a higher discount rate --like the assumptions some pension funds use that they can make 7.5%-a-year on their investments, or even 10% if your standard is the long-term rate of return on the S&P 500.) 

So, I take it as Boras-blessed gospel that the first Nat offer had a NPV of about $184M if you use a 5% discount rate. In order to have an apples-to-apples comparison, we must also use a 5% discount rate to find the NPV for any other offer.

Here we go. I swear to God this is the last time I will ever mention any of this. But all of this is almost universally misunderstood --or no attempt is even made to understand it-- and that annoys me. 

Nats first offer: Net Present Value of $184-million for 10 years or an Average Annual NPV of $18.4-milion.

Phils final offer: Net Present Value of $238.6million for 13 years or an Average Annual NPV of $18.35M.

The NATS first offer, which Harper/Boras never tried to negotiate upward, was a bit HIGHER --per year-- than the Phils final offer. No one ever mentions this. It certainly appears to me to be the case. Or so close as not to constitute a meaningful difference. 

What WAS the advantage of the Phils offer, in Harper's eyes: Three EXTRA YEARS of certainly that he'd be paid. THAT is what makes the Phils offer "BETTER" --not the pay-per-year (even with deferred money) but the extra guaranteed years.

Now we come to another question that is never asked, much less answered. I have no idea why.

How much would those three extra years --at ages 36-37-38-- have been worth to Harper if he'd stayed in Washington and continued to play at those ages? Nobody will ever know. But I can give you a guess. At those ages, David Ortiz, Derek Jeter, Carlos Beltran and Adrian Beltre AVERAGED $52-million for those three years combined. So, if Harper remains a great player, and plays for 20 years, as he always says that he wants to do, then he'd probably (in my hypothetical) view have ended up with about the same, or maybe more if he'd stayed with the Nats.

Remember, old superstars tend to make a lot of money, either because they can still play, or their teams foolishly extend them in mid-mega-deal or they are viewed as drawing cards even in decline. For example. at 36-37-38, Albert Pujols will make $78M and will be owned $67M MORE after that at ages 39 and 40. At ages 36-37-38, Miguel Cabrera will make $90M with ANOTHER $64M at ages 39 and 40.

Of course, and this is important, the Nats FIRST offer in fall of '18 and the Phils LAST offer in February of '19 were never on the table simultaneously. Harper never had a CHOICE between them.

The Nats first offer was on the table from late September through all of October into early November. Then it was taken off the table. The Nats then signed Rosenthal, Suzuki and Gomes before landing Corbin. After the Corbin deal, Mark Lerner said in a radio interview that he did not expect Harper to return, that the original offer was off the table and that if the Nats ever came back to Harper, tf probably would be for LESS money than the original $300M, because they had already spent so much (especially Corbin) and would have to spend more. That's exactly what happened. But Boras and Harper now --conveniently-- act like that "lower" contract possibility that was discussed (but not offered) at their December 23rd meeting at Ted Lerner's in Palm Springs, was a big and disappointing surprise. Oh, what an insult! Actually, it was what they should have expected. The $140M to Corbin changed the game --for the Nats. Reading between the lines, it appears that Boras kept selling Harper the idea that he could talk Ted into matching any offer that he ever got, even if it was in March --just like the Scherzer deal. With hindsight, that now seems like a Boras miscalculation or daydream. That Ted-Will-Match-Anybody idea NEVER EXISTED. Anywhere. Except in Boras/Harper world or in their "make a market" leaks. The Nats never took that position publicly or privately and, in fact, Mark Lerner said just the opposite publicly. In the fog of multi-team negotiations in December, January and February, it was helpful to Boras/Harper to keep the Nats "in the game," at least hypothetically. 

In recent weeks, Bryce has sounded a bit bewildered about how he ended up a Phillie. Let me give him my best effort at an explanation. There is no "fault" in this --by anybody. I'm just not sure, even after being at his press conference in DC last week, that he really understands the sequencing of the things he was part of or how "everything changes everything" was constantly at work.

(This is tea-leaf reading based on covering free agency for the Post for 43 years. No "inside info.")

First, unlike many players who've negotiated home-town-discount deals two years before free agency (Mike Trout twice, Ryan Z'man), Harper never indicated ANY interest at all at any time in doing that. Thus, his message to the Nats was, "I'm going to test the market." In baseball, looking at the 40+-year history of free agency, that means that you are already roughly 90 percent "gone."

Harper also did not approach the Nts during his walk year, like Strasburg, who signed a seven-year extension in May of his walk year. Again, this say, "I'm testing the market." Since the pattern of Boras clients is to sign late in the off-season, not early, the Nats had to assume they needed a Plan B to "move on" from Harper and that they would have to implement it fast as soon as free agency started.

Third, Harper should have understood, or Boras should have told him, that in light of the awful free agent market the previous off-season, that Harper should be careful about spitting on an offer from his original team. For decades, the proper negotiating position for a player in October of '18 would have been, "Nuts to you. Others will offer me a lot more." However, in October of '18, the correct reading --with hindsight-- would have been, "Bryce, we can't be SURE that this off-season is going to be like the '76-through-'16 past. The owners may be colluding against us. Or the market may just be going through a serious correction. One genuine possibility is that if you want to stay in Washington, then we have to negotiate off this $300M and see how much of the $100M in deferred money we can claw back to get a higher NPV. Of course, if you stay with the Nats, you may also feel like a fool in a few months if Manny Machado signs for $350M, none deferred, and you settled for a lot less in DC. BUT if you turn the Nats down now, you better figure there's a good chance you won't come back. While you're waiting --in November, December and Januray-- they may be SPENDING."

Finally, if either Boras or Harper included the Ted Will Save Us At The Last Minute clause in their thinking, we now know that they were dead wrong. By mid-January itf was clear Harper wouldn't come within miles of all that speculation about "$400M for 10 years." If Ted was going to "match" --heck, if Ted was still making those calls-- he have let Boras-Harper know. Obviously, he didn't.

As I've said before, I think Harper acted reasonably --but he's lucky that his best offer was from a team and a town as good as Philly and not the 100-loss less-popular-side-of-Chicago White Sox! And I think the Nats acted reasonably. It turns out that their original offer, even WITH all the deferred money, was close to market value.   

If Harper is a bit confused about how his life ended up where it did, I think it's because Boras was wrong --or just honestly confused-- about how this whole process would play out.

I apologize, in depth, for wading back into this swamp one last time. I warned you not to read it.

Boz: I think one of your greatest columns EVER is the one you did on legalized gambling. I have to say I was absolutely disgusted by Ted Leonsis decision to put a sports book in HIS ARENA. Because Snyder has been so awful and Ted Lerner is so out of the public eye, Ted Leonsis gets the Uncle Ted treatment (this has been building for years and pre-Stanley Cup). But when is billions, two major sports teams and countless other endeavors not enough to the point where you have to put a sports book to encourage gambling in your own stadium where your teams play. Disgusting, Uncle Ted.

I agree with you completely --which is to be expected, I guess, since you agree with me! Funny how that works.

Ted Leonsis has turned my stomach on this whole business. He thinks he is ahead of a money-making trend that is vital to the financial health of pro sports. I think he is ahead of the curve in dragging both pro sports and his own good name down into the general mire of the gambling world.

I think I nailed this column. I wouldn't change a word. And if Ted Leonsis saw all the POSITIVE reaction I got to this column, and how LITTLE (almost none) in support of his view, he might lose a little sleep.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/if-legalized-gambling-is-the-future-our-sports-are-really-in-trouble/2018/10/05/61c4755e-c727-11e8-b2b5-79270f9cce17_story.html?utm_term=.7ab1d944e3cc

Tom, thanks always for these fantastic chats!! Has anyone computed how low the win probability was for Virginia in the final seconds of each of the last two games—must have been something well under five percent in each. I cannot remember a similar pair of miraculous final second wins so late in an NCAA tournament. Also, does the Texas Tech defense remind you of 1980s Georgetown—-great quickness and strength, chest up on every ballhandler, swipe at every dribble, dare the refs to call all the potential fouls (they never do), and have depth to cover foul trouble if fouls get called? What is your pick for tonight?

This has been the Great Escape year for March Madness. Some of the most amazing escapes in the last 5 seconds, all over your bracket. And I guess Virginia is now the poster child. Does that mean they finally play their A Game and win the national title? I think it will take their A Game. They deserve to be where they are --I'll be rooting for them. But they've pulled all the rabbit's feet out of all the hats.

First, just a note. Sometimes I read the comments on stories/columns on controversial subjects, like the final seconds of UVA-Auburn. Sometimes, the IQ or sophistication of the posters is very high, imo. It helps me clarify my thinking, or adds info because the posters are fanatics about the season, or history, of a particular team or player. They provide free column-building data. THANKS. Sometimes the comments are the opposite: moronic, biased, childish, mean. And the discussion heads straight for the gutter.

College basketball, even involving quality schools like UVA, Md and GU, seem to bring out the idiots in force. It's very discouraging. In this case, are these people UVA students or grads? I'd hate to think so. Or is age 18-to-22 a fragile-ego and identity-building time in life when some people conflate themselves so closely with a school team that they think "I am defending the HONOR of my team, my school and myself --only total victory in this argument will suffice."

For example, the foul on the Guy jukp shot from the corner with 0.6 remaining was clearly correct. It's SLIGHTLY a close call. But, with replay, a neutral person would have been much more bothered by a "no call" than a foul call, imo.

The possible foul call --that was not made-- at about 3.0 seconds, when an Auburn play gt a hand full of UVA jersey was another of a zillion times in a basketball game that a whistle COULD be blown. But whether it was or wasn't called isn't worth getting worked up about --"play on" in the game itself and in your life as a fan.

What shocked me was the way many commenters --and I assume this I also true of radio talk shops and water-cooler debates-- did not understand, or did not WANT to understand that the Double Dribble was in an entirely different category. It's not too far from the missed interference call that kept the Saints out of the Super Bowl. It's not THAT bad because the double dribble rule isn't QUITE as obvious __at full speed__ as the total obliteration of a receiver well before the ball ever gets there.

But the double dribble rule is crystal clear. We've (almost) all played basketball up to a level (fifth grade, maybe, or earlier) where you KNOW that you can't dribble the ball off your own leg, chase it down, PICK IT UP with both hands, then start dribbling again!

So, the missed call changed the outcome of the game. There are a million games with a million close calls or non-calls, especially in basketball, where we as fans tacitly agree that WE WON'T BITCH ABOUT THAT or we can never watch basketball again. But there are SOME plays that are big, clear, important and in a different category when they are blown. If a team hangs on to win a game by one point because of a blatant goal tend that isn't called with 0:01 left to play, that is AWFUL. That is different. We are FORCED to talk about it, give it prominence and also regret that such a great game had to have such a lousy call muddying up our feelings at the end. The UVA double dribble was like that.

You can't ignore it.

But you can also work through it. Shake your head. Say "it's all part of the whole insane UVA story --"From UMBC to Cinderfellas in a year, maybe." And besides, who says a Wahoo shouldn't get ONE big break every few basketball generations!?

Texas Tech's defense, and rim defense, too, have impressed me the whole tournament. They have looked like a better team in the tourney and have certainly PLAYED much better than Virginia --beating a No. 1 seed (Gonzaga, 75-69), TWO No. 2 seeds (Michigan, 63-44 and Michigan State, 61-51). Even Buffalo was a No. 6 seed.

If Texas Tech beats UVA --another No. 1 seed-- that's going to be one of the highest-quality trips to a title in NCAA history. Has anybody ever beaten two No. 1s and two No. 2s?

OTOH, UVA had had every kind of bracket break. They got a scare for a half from No. 16 seed Gardner-Webb. Then they got a No. 9 seed in Oklahoma (W, 63-51). To get to the Elite Eight they only had to beat a No. 12 seed --Oregon and they only won by four points, 53-49. Finally, we have the two miracle games against Purdue in OT and now Auburn, too. If Virginia wins, THAT pass and shot to force OT with Purdue will be The Play of the season.

Generally, I prefer the deserving team with the lower ranking __Texas Tech is a No. 3 seed, and was picked to finish SEVENTH in it own conference before the season!! I'll root for UVA just because I've followed and enjoyed them for years and got to cover them some in the Ralph Sampson era.

But lemme warn you, I wouldn't go bettin' a bunch of money on this game. Last I saw, UVA was a one-point favorite. Part of that, I think, is because they have the high-national-ranking pedigree in recent years, plus the ACC blue blood. They are the "classy" team and pick. In basketball, who is Texas Tech? Isn't that where Bobby Knight goes to coach when he is in disgrace ('01) and they are glad to take him? 

Recent form favors Texas Tech by a lot. They are very athletic and you describe their defense well. If anybody wins this game convincingly, it's more likely to be Texas Tech. But the smart money isn't wrong very often, or by very much, so that one-point margin is more likely to be right than I am. My only point: Sometimes you can figure 'em out. This may not be one of those times. UVA has proven its quality all season. They have played under the shadow of the UMBC game all March. They say it has motivated them. If so, why so many close games against teams they should handle? Why so many miracles to advance? Maybe that UMBA upset was still a weight for the Cavs. What if, in the championship game, they finally relax, clamp down their D and play their best!?

Gonna be fun. I won't play expect on college basketball. I'm sure I can name, and describe the game of, more players in the Baylor-Notre Dame game last night than I can in the UVA-Texas Tech game tonight. But I'll go "UVA."

BTW, I really enjoyed Kim Mulkey's comments after her third (coaching) national title (as well as one as a player): "I just know that when you lose a big-time player (6-foot-4 Lauren Cox with 1:12 left in the 3d period) in the middle of a National Championship game, you're not supposed to win." Then she didn't turn the moment into a cluiche by saying anything else! YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO WIN. Which means that you and your team also know that you are SUPPOSED to lose --that's life, that's basketball. Bur they didn't. Of course it kind of helped to have 6-foot-7 Kalami Brown, who has  remarkable touch adn quickness near the basket, so that you still have one Very Big when your other Big is out. 

In an interview during a timeout, asked about Cox' injury, Mulkey said, "I could cry right now. But I gotta go work." 

Of all the tournament games I've watched in the last few weeks (dozens), I'd say that the two teams that raised their play the most --great shooting under pressure, team work, key blocked shots-- Baylor and Notre Dame were No. 1. Neither showed pressure until two rushed three-pointers by Notre Dame in the last minute. But they were by shooters who had been making them --Marina Mabrey who carried Notre Dame back and Arike Ogunbowale who almost DID IT AGAIN!  

Yes, too bad that Arike missed one of her two foul shots to try to tie the game and force OT. But I don't think, ultimately, that she'll be remembered for THIS year, but for making the game-winning shots in both the semis and finals last year.  

Of course, the star down the stretch, and on the final driving layup for Baylor, was Chloe Jackson who was the Washington Post's Girls Basketball Player of the Year at Riverdale Baptist in Upper Marlboro, Md. She ended up with 26 points (13-25 shooting), 5 assists and a couple fo rebounds. And did it while playing point guard, not her lifelong position.     

Why didn't Kimbrel do a normal off-season, even though he wasn't signed? He knows someone will eventually sign him, so why didn't he stay close to being ready, rather than needing a month or whatever to come back up to speed?

Kimbrel has, according the normal reports, done just what any pitcher does in the off-season. He can't be expected to try to "simulate" throwing 99 mph to Freddie Freeman on some high school field to his uncle. Kimbrel is doing it properly. But with June 4 less than two months away, it discourages teams from sacrificing picks and international $$ space to sign him NOW. What they forget is that EVERYBODY will jump into the bidding then --it will be a mob scene and probably a desperate auction. Maybe Kimbrel, having waited this long, would be wise to wait some more. But, from the point of view of a contender with a serious bullpen issue, you can get a jump on the competition now by acting quickly. Is it WORTH it? If you NEED the player and it helps you GET the player, then maybe that answers your question. Just like the Nats thought that they REALLY needed Corbin but to GET him they were going to have to go an extra year __at least__ to get him. As Rizzo said, "Sometimes, you can be smart but you end up getting the player that you know you REALLY need. Or you can stop being so smart and GET THE PLAYER."

What do you think of the current state of NBA? I realize high scoring may mean better entertainment but it is getting ridiculous. Where is the rivalry and physicality that used to make games fun to watch. Can anything be done to bring the 90s NBA back? It is just not fun anymore...

I trend to put a low value on humans who can shoot jump shots, even long ones, while I put a high value on players who have the gifts to perform all the other beautiful, exciting, acrobatic acts of basketball.

The reason is simple. I loved basketball. Probably spent more hours playing it than anything. (It's the D.C. kid religion.) But it was my worst of the three major sports. I wasn't fast and I couldn't jump at all (by basketball standards). But I could shoot jump shots. It's easy. It's a low-level athletic skill compared to so many other things in basketball or in sports. Sure, Steph is amazing. But the NBA and college basketball is just gagging on tons of "pretty good" shooters who just jack up 3's because ...drum roll... it's the smart percentage play because the point values are WRONG. A three-point shot should not be worth 50% MORE than a two-point shot. That is an aesthetic abomination. It is nonsense. It warps everything in the game and distorts the sport. What should the trey really be worth? I don't know. Maybe 2.5 points. Maybe 2.666. BUT NOT THREE. They just picked that number for convenience. But you can't have a scoreboard that reads, 65.66 to 56.33 or some such nonsense. So we're all stuck with it.Basketball is still excellent. But not as excellent as it should be. I don't, in the real world, know how you fix it. Move the line out further?

I always wondered if I'd have been better if the three-point line had come to high schools much sooner. When I was at SSS, we had very good basketball teams. The year after I graduated we were ranked (I think) No. 5 in the whole DC area. Our center Mike Neer was 6-foot-7 and high jumped 7-feet (and a fraction) when he went to Navy (still the Academy record). 

There is no way that I belonged on any of those teams, not even as the third or fourth guard. We were playing St. Johns (the DeMatha rival) and really excellent schools. But if the stupid three-point shot had existed, I might have been the last man on the bench __the zone buster! What a joke. I was proud of playing football and baseball, albeit at "my level." But the idea that a different rule would have made me a "basketball player" means that there is something wrong with THE RULE. 

New to baseball, so forgive me if this is a naive question: Can pitchers serve as both starters and relievers?

Yeah, yeah, very funny.

Yes, you can be both on all teams EXCEPT the Nationals. Then you are either a starter or a...disaster.

When does he stop being Mr. Nice Guy?

I think he stopped last Wednesday. I hope he did it in time.

The bullpen questions are depressing, so let me ask whether you think the ref should have swallowed his whistle at the end of the UVA-Auburn game? On the one hand, refs made a very similar call in an identical situation at the end of Tenn-Purdue. On the other hand, it did seem inconsistent with the way the rest of the game was called, as evidenced by both teams scrambling to get the other into the bonus at the end.

Mankind will be discussing this 1,000 years after all theological questions are laid to rest. What we are debating is what distinguishes "justified belief" (it was right to blow the whistle) from "opinion" (swallow the whistle 'cause you don't really know). Such essentially epistemological issues may never be settled.

"You gotta call THAT" and "NO you don't" will still be with the human race in the year 5,000. Of course, we'll probably have had to left Earth by 2090. 

No...this is not an Olympic Hockey reference. It's something much bigger! Mr. Bullet Proof (pun intended)….Mr. I've been horrible at my job for the last 16 years and gotten extensions and raises...Mr. let's sign subpar players to mega deals...Mr. every European player I've drafted have stunk....was FINALLY let go. Yes, I'm referring to Ernie G. Finally there is some hope. Yes, I know it will likely take YEARS to undo the harm done, but mayyyyybe if we get a GM who isn't a sucker for a Yugo at a great price, we have a little hope. Tommy Shepherd is mentioned as have a few others. Who is the best GM for the Wiz? And that answer relies on the 'best'...wait for it...who is willing to take on the daunting task for a rebuild with Wall on the books, etc.

I don't know.

But like you, I do, for the first time in years, feel hope.

Or was that just a bad oyster?

 

Just once more, I want to see Tiger and Phil play together on Sunday afternoon with the Masters on the line. Phil won at Pebble earlier this year with a solid performance, but has had the typical up-and-down results that define his late career. Tiger hasn't won, but has been more consistent. I'm not old enough to have watched Jack play Augusta, but for me, Tiger and Phil have played the course consistently better than any other golfers. In the early aughts, they were both top-five finishers at the Masters literally every year for a decade. What is the chance we get a final duel for the ages?

The odds aren't good because I think Phil is finally past it. But there isn't a scribe with breath in their body who wouldn't take that final pairing.

When the writers in our house used to "draft" everybody in the field and have prize money, a fairly simple method got you decent picks. 1) Who is great? (World Rankings) 2) Who is hot? ('19 money list). 3) Who has won or been close to winning before at Augusta. 4) Rule out the players who "can't play the Masters" because they almost never learn.

Conduct your own study.

Top players that I like --besides the "immortals" that everybody knows too well already. Xander Schauffele, Tommy Fleetwood and Tony Finau. Enjoy 'em all. They are ranked No. 10, 13 and 15 in the world. Finau --three Top 10s in majors last year-- believes he's suited to the course.

Hey Boz! Thanks for mentioning the Women's Basketball Championship game in your intro. The women don't get the same attention as the men, and that's such a shame because they are equally capable of thrilling basketball. Last night's game was epic. Baylor was on a mission from the start. Notre Dame fell behind but fought back, absolutely played their hearts out, and almost pulled it off at the end. Cox, one of the Bears' best players all season long, went down right when they needed her most. But Jackson could not miss. Then with two seconds left, Ogunbowale, who led all scorers and played like her hair was on fire, missed a crucial free throw. Ugh heartbreak! But so it goes. Both of those programs should be so proud of their teams.

Agreed.

Wizards fan, for some strange reason. What odds to you give Buck coming back as the announcer for next year? I why are the Wizards dumb enough to think getting rid of him would be a good idea?

Buck has been one of my favorite announcers for years. The Wiz are, and have been, lucky to have him. Not the other way around. You can start the post-Ernie era by bringing him back. HE wasn't the problem!

Hi Boz. Thanks for doing these chats. I hear a lot of negative commentary on the lack of star power in the finals matchup. I see it differently: these two teams (I can speak about UVa especially since I follow them closely) are fun to watch for their team play and hard nosed defense, developed by good coaches who have time to develop a team approach with players that stay for at least a few years. What's your take?

We agree. I love it when the One-and-Done teams get bounced and the actual basketballs TEAMS advance.

TV would love the ratings. I probably prefer this. When I watched Zion my reactions were: "Wow! OMG, is he still raw. Wow!" I hope he gets an NBA coach who will truly COACH him because he needs it --a lot-- if he's going to reach the MJ, LeBron mountain. He'll be All-NBA eventually, no matter what. I mean a LOT better than that. One of the greats! That's a long journey, even for him.

I think the Canes are a formidable opponent for the Caps and should not be taken lightly. They play fast and ugly and are very well coached and captained. I would look for this series to go long as it will be hard for the Caps to beat them 8 times in one year without some adversity. Aho is a threat at all times. What is your take?

I know all the good stuff about the Canes, I think. Justin Williams, as Caps fans know, is a good leader. The Canes are a rising team that is unexplored territory. I don't think they'll knock off the SC champs. I think the 4-0 regular season record and the 14-4 in goals is the tip-off. Caps in Five.

But it does bother me that the Caps are only 17th in the NHL in goals against and save percentage. Carolina has balanced scoring but not multiple great scorers. That may mean that average defense and goal tending by the Caps could give them hope. Holtby needs to turn back the clock 365 days, although he's been better. Don't think losing Mical Kempny will bother them --yet.

If Nats' had an average bullpen they would be 6 - 2 and looking down at the rest of the National league. They are doing a lot of good things so far: scoring runs without Harper, playing small-ball. They're playing good defense; Dozier has a hole in his bat but his glove is very good. Gomes looks like he's going to have an All Star year. The Nats are stealing bases, putting together two-out rallies, getting timely hits, taking their walks: how much of this is Martinez?

Nice to see him get some credit, too. Yes, the good stuff has his finger prints on it, too.

It's almost unbelievable how quick time has gone as the Caps are gearing up to defend the Cup starting this Thursday. How do you think this team will fare in the early rounds? Not even a year removed from winning Game 5 in Vegas, are you worried about how a slow start and a long first series could affect the team for the rest of the playoffs?

One series at a time. One game at a time. One period at a time. One shift at a time. The think the Caps have finally learned, and internalized that. Took long enough. But I think they have.

Yes, I want Caps-Bolts, too. But don't think about it. Far too soon.

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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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