Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Apr 29, 2019

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

Past Ask Boswell chats

A lot has happened since last Monday.

Some of it has been brutally disappointing like the Caps Game 7 double-overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricane. The Canes are now up 2-0 on Barry Trotz and his Isles. Which makes it seem like the path to playing for another Stanley Cup really was fairly open. 

Some of it has been fascinating, but risky, like the Skins' picking Dwayne Haskins with the 15th pick as their QB of the future. Let's talk about what you can get at QB for a mid-First Round draft pick.

And some of it a surprise, like Juan Soto, Victor Robles and Carter Kieboom all homering on the same day on Sunday. First time 3 players under 22 all homered for the same team EVER in MLB history. 

So, let's get rolling.

I'm one of the fans who is bordering on apathy, but the draft was a bit different for recent times. I feel semi good about it, and this is the first thing I've felt the Skins have done right in years. Why should I hate it as well? Talk me out of my acceptance.

Go right ahead and feel good, imo.

Many chatters have groans for many years that "nothing really good will ever happen to the Skins as long as Dan Snyder owns the team."

I always try to point out that even the worst owners --and Snyder has certainly been a bad owner and frequently an embarrassment (on about a dozen levels) to those of us who have followed the team all our lives-- do not always have bad teams. Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes even lousy owners make a good decision. It's really difficult to be wrong ALL the time. My illustration is that, imo, Peter Angelos has been just as bad an owner in MLB as Snyder has been in the NFL, yet he stumbled into hiring Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette when they were unemployed as manager and GM. After v14 straight losing seasons under Angelos --which would be hard to do even if you tried to loss-- the Orioles went to the playoffs in '12,'14 and'16 with 93, 96 and 80 wins. In '14, they got to the A.L. Championship Series. They've collapsed since, but over a five-year period I think they led the A.L. in wins. I would have taken 100-to-1 odds that could never happen. And I'd have lost.

That may have taught me a little lesson about thinking that character or behavior are absolutely, directly related to pro sports success! The Skins are still a disfunctional organization --but one which has pockets of competence within it. In other words, don't hope TOO much, because you'll probably be disappointed, but also do not GIVE UP hope, because pro sports has such built-in parity and just a couple of huge breaks can change the picture a lot.

For example, the Nats were so bad that they got the 1/1 pick in consecutive drafts and through pure luck those were the Strasburg and Harper drafts.

As I wrote in the chat last week, Dwayne Haskins is a big-arm talent from a big-time program (Ohio State) with a famous coach (Urban Meyers). His TD-INT ration last year, while finishing 3rd for the Heisman Trophy, was, I believe, 50-8. Despite all that, Haskins fell right into the Skins arms and Snyder was extremely aware of his whole career because Haskins went to Bullis School (the same as Snyder's son) and one of Haskins' main mentors was ex-Skin Shawn Spriggs, who is close to Snyder.

Will Haskins be the Franchise QB for 10+ years? It's actually possible. But there are also enough valid question marks to wonder if, like plenty of QB's who are not taken until the middle of the 1st round, he might simply be mediocre. (I doubt he'll be a bust.)

Haskins had an awful time at the combine in the 40: 5.03. He better be able to move in the pocket and reset the pocket, because he sure isn't going to be a scrambling or broken-play QB, which has been very popular in the NFL in recent years. When you hear a QB compared to Dan Marino by those who tout him, as Haskins is, then you know he throws a beautiful ball, can throw deep, but also will always be a pocket passer and target for blizters and rushers. I saw Haskins this year in all of three games, including versus Maryland (which OSU should have lost). I thought he looked very good, but I didn't see "great." But then I wasn't focused on him, I was watching the whole game. 

There are plenty of knocks on him: only started for one year at OSU so he SHOULD be raw with trouble reading defenses. That doesn't mean he WILL have trouble reading defenses --it just means that one year as a starter isn't usually enough.

Jay Gruden has already said that anybody taken with a No. 15 pick will presumably get a chance to conpete for the job (versus Keenam and Colt). My guess is that Haskins would profit by a year to learn the position, but that isn't usually the way the Skins operate.

I'll get back to other aspects of the Skins draft in later answers.  

Hi Bos: Of NBA, NFL, MBL and NHL: I think the most electrifying sport during the playoff's, not necessarily during the regular season, is the NHL. What are your thoughts in ranking the above leagues in playoffs? Thanks

The NHL is clearly the most exciting. And the dumbest.

The NHL has FAR too much parity. The NBA usually has far too little --you know who's going to win most series and you can often predict 3 of the final 4 teams before the playoffs even begin.

MLB, because of its three rounds of playoffs, usually has a valid World Series winner, not a fluke. But early rounds, especially the five-game first round --that the Nats have never escaped-- is far too close to a fluke coin flip.

I think the NFL has the best balance between regular-season proof of pedigree and post-season affirmation of that talent.

Unfortunately, that means the Patriots are in the Super Bowl every (other) year.

The Caps were suffering after Game 7 on Wednesday night. But they should b suffering even worse now that they see Carolina beating the Islanders, and Barry Trotz, in the first two games of their series 1-0 and 2-1 --both on the Island.

That does NOT mean that if the Caps had beaten the Canes that they'd also have beaten the Islanders. The NHL is very match-up driven. Just because X beats Y and Y beats Z does not mean that X would have beaten Z.

But it does TEND to work out that way!

Which has to make the Caps hurt even worse. If the slanders, with more than a week's rest, could beat an exhausted and injured Canes team in 2 games at home, I bet they couldn't have handled the Caps either. Everybody praises Trotz for overachieving with a team that lost a star and captain in John Tavares before he even arrived.

Making things worse --the Bruins and CBJ are tied at 1-1. If Boston advances, the Caps will really have heart burn since they've owned the Bruins since '12. Columbus looked great against Tampa Bay. But if Boston beats them, and CBJ is NOT some juggernaut created by brilliant deadline trades, then the Caps are going to see that they really did have as easy a chance to Cup repeat as you will ever get. NO repeat is easy, or even 50-50. But they might have had a manageable a trip through four rounds as you'll ever get.

This is (at least) the second time in the Ovechkin Era that the "draw" has completely opened up --after the Caps had already been knocked out.

Usually, I'm not big on saying that the difference in the playoffs in any sport is coach-manager driven. When you lean toward saying that the players decided the winner, you are usually right. When you obsess about the coaching --being a second-guesser-- it's often lazy and you realize eventually that you were wrong. 

But in real time, and watching replays of Cap-Canes games, including Game 7, I really think the Caps were out-coached. Todd Reirden has the resume to be an NHL coach. But his Caps played the Canes NINE TIMES in a span of a few weeks --they played the Canes twice late in the season twice. When you play a team nine times in a short period of time, with the same rosters, the same styles of play, and you NEVER figure out how to get the puck out of your own zone consistently and you never figure out how to enter the other team's zone efficiently and you look lost on many power plays, doesn't that say, "SOMEBODY is getting outcoached."

Reirden explained during the series that the Canes were gambling on applying intense pressure --especially on the forecheck but also challenging the Caps in the neutral zone. This means you SHOULD be able to figure out how to make the Canes pay for all this pressure, which is akin to gambling, by getting odd-man rushes."We didn't execute as well as I thought we would," said Reirden after wards about being unable to punish the Canes for all their aggressiveness.

After their loss the Caps were reasonably accountable. But they didn't win any prizes in that area. They gave the Canes credit. But Reirden also brought up the injuries to T J Oshie and Kempny after the loss, while some players mentioned how bouncy the ice became late in Game 7 and in the overtimes. Well, the Caners were without two players in Game 7, too --Ferland and Svechnikov (KOed by Ovechkin) who are two of their top six scorers this season.  

 Game 2, with the Caps ahead 2-0, the Caps had beaten the Canes SIX straight times this season --4-0 in regular season, then 2-0 in the playoffs.  demeanor said "rookie" 

So Washington won the draft (or something like that). Obviously, this should be taken with a grain of salt. In retrospect, Kansas City won the draft two years ago, but back then the assessment was not so kind (and that's an understatement). Still, it remains somewhat amazing that the local team didn't totally roast itself in either the offseason or the draft. 8-8, here we come!

The other player who could make the Skins draft special is edge rusher Montez Sweat, whom the Skins traded up to get with the 26th overall pick. Many had him ranked much higher.

Analyzing the NFL draft is comically imprecise. I always make fun of those who try --especially the Combine Gurus. But I am willing to admit that SOME combine numbers catch your eye. Sweat is 6-foot-6, 260 pounds and had the FASTEST TIME EVER at the combine in the 40 for a defensive lineman (or edge rusher in a 3-4) of 4.41. That is insane. A 260-pound edge rusher with long arms and speed that is better than --well-- plenty of people the Skins have drafted over the years to play WR!

Some say he dropped because a misdiagnosis at the combine of a heart condition. Others say he didn't do well in abn interview. Or they look back a few years when he left Michigan State and ended up back in JC before becoming a star at Miss St. Here is Les Carpenter's excellent story on that in the Post:

What strikes me is that Haskins is both high risk AND high reward --he COULD be very good-- and the same applies to Sweat.

The "tell" on what the NFL thinks of Haskins is --to- me-- the fact that he was the third QB taken in the 1st round, not the 1st or 2d QB. The NFL studies college quarterback the way the KGB studies your social media accounts. They don't miss ANYTHING.

In '18, the 3d QB picked --at 7th overall, was Josh Allen by Buffalo.

In '17, the 3rd QB pick --at 12th overall-- was Deshaun Watson. THAT is the way the Skins hope this pans out.

In '12, the 3rd QB picked, at 8th overall was Ryan Tannehill.

Here are a few other roughly similar cases of QBs picked between 10th and 16th overall: Josh Rosen (in '18) was picked 10th over all, somebody-named-Mahomes was picked 10th overall in '17 and E.J. Manuerl was picked 16th overall in '13.

So, there is your very-wide range --from Mahomes and Watson to guys who define mediocre-or-less. Haskins could be any of them. But it will at least make Skins training camp, exhibition season and early season somewhat interesting. 

BTW, Derek Carr and Jimmy Garappolo are recent SECOND-rd QB picks. So, just because 14 teams did NOT draft Haskins, and the Giants took The Duke QB at 6th overall does NOT mean that the Skins talked themselves into  a stupid Snyder-pick for a QB with some local roots.

Haskins has been quoted as saying he will have "a chip on my shoulder" because he was picked, rather than much higher, and that "the league messed up." So, the NFL messed up! That's a brave quote. He'll have to live up to it or live with it. (Kind of like having a coach ride a camel to spring training. Some things don't get forgotten.) 

Earl Weaver said you don’t start making judgments on a team until the 40 game mark. So, yes, it’s early. We’re only at 26 for the Nats. But the pace of everything is accelerated these days. After a month I think the starting pitching is outstanding. The acquisition of Gomes/Suzuki has provided excellent catching offense and defense, both a black hole in recent years. Pitching has been fortunate to have no injuries, the batters far less so. Now three-quarters of the infield is down. The two troubling spots are the bullpen, which remains a mess despite Sunday’s outstanding effort, and, surprisingly, the defense. While he’s no Daniel Murphy, I’m sorry, Brian Dozier is not passing the eye test. Far too many muffs and less-than-smooth plays. And Adam Eaton! I thought he was supposed to be a very good rightfielder. He’s not. Seems to get poor reads off the bat. That bases-clearing ball over his head in Colorado was a calamity. And then we have the manager. After a full season plus 26 games, I dunno... Your thoughts?

Usually, when a team with high expectations, a very big payroll AND as good a 1-2-3 at the top of their rotation as any team in baseball gets off to  12-14 start that is full of ugly games and blown late leads you'd expect to find at least a half-dozen things wrong. 

But these Nats are different. They have one huge thing wrong --their bullpen. And one huge question --is the manager a big part of their problem, or has he been HANDED a problem (bullpen) and maybe he's OK, even if he's nothing special.

Entering Sunday's game, the Nats bullpen had given up 25 MORE runs than the average MLB bullpen. That's right. It's also incredible. With the 15th or 16th-best bullpen ERA in MLB, the Nats would have allowed 25 fewer runs. Whcih would have given them a plus-26 run differential.

If you are +26 in run-differential through 25 games, you will almost certainly have a 14-11 or 15-10 or 16-9 record --not 11-14 as the Nats entered Sunday. My wife and I were at the game with friends. I mentioned this stat to George Will. You don't usually get much of a rise out of George, even though he loves baseball. He said, "WHAT!!??? Have you written that yet?" I laughed and said, "I WILL."

He realized that this one stat explains everything --at least so far-- in their season. And it's a stat that has to revert to something akin to normal pretty soon. You can't have a bullpen ERA of 7.75 forever! Naturally, things being what they are, the Nats pitched eight shutout innings of relief in ONE game on Sunday! Now they aren't even dead last in pen ERA (that goes to the O's) Maybe the worm is already turning with Joe Ross and Erick Fedde being turned into relievers.

Of course, the use as relievers of Ross and Fedde, long believed to be Key Rotation Pieces of the Future --and both still 25-- is a sign of both total desperation and lack of perceived options by the Nats. It's like "Who the Hell is Left? Well, call 'em up, make 'em relievers, hope they can help us keep from sinking now and pray that they don't hurt their arms while we are jerking them around."

Obviously, if any of the current five starters gets hurt, you'd need either Ross or Fedde or both to fill out the rotation. But they need to be "stretched out" to throw 75-to-90 pitches if they are going to be starters. If they've been in the bullpen for weeks, where they are pitching much more often but also maxing out at 20, 30 or at most 40 pitches, their arms have not been conditioned properly to use them as starters until they work back up to that level. 

I've never seen a player --who might be the 15th most important on your roster-- do as much damage by collapsing as Trevor Rosenthal. I feel bad for him. But I feel worse for the team and its fans. Rosenthal is a good guy who has been a star closer and he's trying hard. Also, he's coming back from TJ surgery which is a difficult adjustment since You Have A New Arm and it doesn't work exactly like the old one. But between his own incredible bean-the-mascot wildness and Dave Martinez total non-trust way of using him, you're on the verge of having a Lost Player, at least for this year. I hope Rosenthal bounces back. It would solve a LOT of things. Talk about a domino effect. But, with reason, Martinez just will not use him in a tight "game situation." On one hand, he is such an important piece --the set-up man, the bridge to Doolittle-- that you ALMOST have to keep sending him back out there until it clicks and he's an effective reliever again. But, I said "ALMOST." You can be so bad that normal rules no longer apply. In his last appearance, Rosenthal hit a batter, had threewild pitches in one one inning the Lord knows what else. I believe he has not allowed 18 men on base while getting nine outs. That is not a helpful ratio. And the theory --mentioned by Doolittle in a recent column that you probably ought to just "keep sending him back out there"-- may not apply, at least for now.

To answer your question:Fix the bullpen, then figure out if that has already fixed the team without analyzing the manager too much. Better relievers make all those late-inning decisions look smarter. I still have plenty of doubts about Martinez. But address one thing at a time --THE BULLPEN.

How do you fix it? That'll probably be another question!



Boz, in your history covering the game, how unique is it to have three such talented players join what was already a talented team? It seems rare in my memory. I grew up an Orioles fan and there is one comparable moment, but it only featured two players. The Orioles added Bobby Grich and Don Baylor to the team after the '71 season in which the O's went to the World Series for the third straight year. BTW, go look at their AAA numbers before they came up; they destroyed that league. The Orioles felt comfortable with their addition to trade Frank Robinson to the Dodgers for Doyle Alexander and not much else and to trade Davey Johnson to the Braves for (ugh) Earl Williams. But these three guys are joining a team that has done well but really underachieved at the same time. It'll be interesting to see if they can be difference makers this year (that is, if Rizzo fixes the bullpen). What memories do they spark for you?

It reminds me a bit on the first team I covered --the '76 Orioles. Their rookies (or first full-ish year) included Dennis Martinez, 22, Rich Dauer, 23 and Mike Flanagan 24. They they robbed the Yankees in a trade in June that brought lefty Tippy Martinez, 26, Rick Dempsey, 26 and Scott McGregor, 22. Those players were all at the heart of the O's success for the next EIGHT years. 

But this is more remarkable. It would be hard for a team to get a better long-term jolt than what is happening now with Juan Sotto (on pace for 36 homers and 137 RBI), Victor Robles (pace for 118 runs, 42 steals, 24 homers, .265 w .787 OPS as a rookie) and Carter Kieboom.

In the Arizona Fall Ledague (all  the top MLB prospects), spring training (where he hit two homers in one game off Justin Verlander) and AAA (where he was hitting .379, Kieboom has put together a combined 182 at bats --about a third of a season-- inwhich he is hitting .324 with 39 runs, 33 RBI, 12 doubles, two triples and 8 homers. That has changed how he is perceived --from a prospect with plenty of things to prove against better competition and a guy who is way more than holding his own against the best in the minors, plsu MLBers in spring training and now ibn 3 games with the Nats. For a full-season guesstimate, triple those Kieboom numbers for his last 182 at bats. It's 117 runs, 36 doubles, 6 triples, 24 homers, 99 RBI, 120 walks and (only) 135 strikeouts).

I don't Kieboom think will be THAT good. Maybe not nearly that good (.324 with all those other numbers is crazy good). lBut when Soto came up last May with a "career" batting average of .362 in the minors and 102 RBI in 122 games, I thought that was ridiculous and not a projectable number. Silly me. Last season after he was called up, plus this year so far, Robles has an .820 OPS with 27 runs, 7 homers, 10 steals and 21 RBI in what would be about 1/4th of a full season in MLB. Multiply that by four.\

There will be days when they don't look THIS promising. But Robles is (almost too) fearless --and carries himself like a classy star and team leader already. That doesn't mean he WILL be those things. But it's a real good place to start! Soto is just having fun and obviously thinks that he belongs in MLB, unless there is a higher league. Kieboom? Too soon. He got rushed up a little. But when Trea Tuner comes back, they may have a decision to make --who plays 2nd? Kieboom hasn't played much second base and is very raw there --not his fault. I saw him make three scruffy plays in one game at 2d in ST. Turner is one of the best SS in MLB. He's not going anywhere. If Dozier still isn't hitting and, except for the turning DPs very well, keeps looking rocky on defense --well, I won't cros that bridge because I think that, in a month or so when Turner gets back, Dozier will be hitting just fine. And that ought to calm down his fielding. Actually, in his last 17 games, Dozier's OPS is .846 and in his last 9 games it's .912. So, I suspect he's been "fixed" already and we just haven't noticed it yet.

If Zimmerman is still having heel problems, or not hitting, there are a lot of ways to get a lot of ABs for Rendon, Turner, Dozier, Kendrick (.333), Adams and Kieboom in the same infeild because Kendrick can play 1st, 2d, 3d and "anybody" can play first base.

What can reasonably be expected from this trio in their careers? As has been mentioned many times in recent days, the last team to have three players who were all 21-or-younger in the same lineup was the Marlins in '97 with Luis Castill, Mark Kotsay and Edgar Renteria.

Those tjhree names do not make anybody stand up and salute. My first reaction was: Don't oversell these three players. They may not turn out to be any better than Kpotsay, Castillo and Renteria.

But then I looked up the careers of those three Marlins.As often happens, I got schooled.

Those three Marlins  COMBINED for 48 yrs in majors, 6,076 hits (including post-seasons), 8 All-Star teams, total career salaries of $192.6M (lowest $50.7M) and combined career WAR of 82.7. The Nats would take THAT right now for their trio!

Of course, Renteria is famous for having a key World Series vs the Indians. But he made five All-Star teams and won two Gold Gloves. Castillo hit between .296 and .334 seven times and stole 48, 50 and 62 bases in various seasons. Kotsay had 1,784 career hits and profiles like Howie Kendrick as a professional hitter for several teams.

What it shows (me) is that these three players will probably, as a group, be either very good or pretty amazing. I would say my biggest concern is that nobody in a position of authority with the Nats will be able to tell Robles that, once or twice a week, he attempts plays that could end in serious injury because he plays the game heroically, rather than efficiently. The cliche escape here is "you can't reign him in," or "that's how he plays." Or similar nonsense. Robles isn't as good as Pete Reiser of the Dodgers --perhaps the greatest talent ever to demolish himself by repeatedly being unable to make himself play baseball as if it were a game, rather than warfare. In '41, before MLBer had gone into the service --Pearl Harbor was in December__ Reiser was 2nd for NL MVP at age 22. . If Robles is a Reiser, I'm gonna cry. It's Mike Rizzo's job to handle this. I'm afraid he's from the "heroic" school and will handle this the way he handled Harper __by not handling it at all: Let him run into enough walls, get enough injuries with crazy slides at unimportant times in the game and miss enough at bats that he finally figures it out for himself. I would seek "a better way."

The overarching point abpout these Nats is that in the '19-'20-'21 period they are going to have Scherzer, Strasburg and Corbin at the top of the rotation. They are going to have Soto, Robles and Kieboom (presumably) improving every year. They have Trea Turner, Adam Eaton and (I assume) an extended Anthony Rendon. They have options on Gomes through '21 and Suzuki signhed for '20. They have Ross and Fedde who should be at least steady. And they will have money to spend --and still stay under the luxury tax cieling, even after extending Rendon-- because they did not spend it on Harper (who is playing very well in Philly, .six homers, 20 RBI, 250/.911 just like last year). 

That SHOULD be a heckuva team. You'll need a 1st baseman --just about the easiest thing to get. And, oh, yeah, a bullpen.

Did I mentioned the bullpen?

So, Boz, are the Nationals about to face a difficult choice? They can switch both Ross and Fedde to the bullpen to patch things together there, but what do they do if Sanchez and Hellickson continue to struggle? Those two guys are the next starters in line as well. They still need to add pitching, right, no matter how well Ross and Fedde do?

I hate to say "I told 'em so."

Nah, I don't hate it.

In the off-season and spring training, I used columns and chats to say, over and over: This is not a completed bullpen. It needs one more BIG ARM.

Not a warm body. Not a journeyman. But a big-time reliever, as a free agent or in trade, even AFTER they had Doolittle, Rosenthal, Barraclough and the rest. When Rizzo and I chat, I assume he's probably right, even when I think differently. This time, he was wrong. And the Lerners didn't, and apparently still don't, have any serious interest in Craig Kimbrel. Too expensive, too much compensation __in picks and international money. After June 4th amatuer draft, there will no longer be compensation attached to Kimbrel --but then the whole world will be after him. And it'll probably take him until the 4th of July to be ready to pitch in an MLB game.

Hellickson and Sanchez are "crafty vets." The play here is to stick with them, but use Ross and Fedde to arm the bullpen. What happens when injuries come, as they almost always do? Beats me.

Also, Rosenthal needs to get fixed. He can't be this bad. If I were him, I'd certainly accept a minor league assignment to work out the control problems. Apparently he's been sick. When he's well, he needs to check out that health spa in Harrisburg.    

I noticed this weekend that 12 of the Nationals 13 runs were batted in on a HR. Is this team incapable of small ball? Or with all the shifts, can you really not win in MLB with just singles and doubles.

I said last year that if MLB continued to increase its tendency toward more and more home runs --hit with a suspicious juicy ball in '18-- then the game had a serious problem. But wait for that one more jump from Very High to No Longer Baseball.

Well, we've had the jump. MLB has a big problem. Everybody scores by home runs and almost no other way. The game is warped.

At the current pace, the AVERAGE MLB team will hit 215 home runs this year.

The '27 Yankees with Ruth, Gehrig and Murderers Row only hit 158 homers. The '61 Yankees with Maris, Mantle, Berra hit only 240 --then the record. Last year, with Stanton, Judge and the rest, the Yankees set a new record with 267 homers.

Hiow ridiculous is it this year? The Twins, Mariners and Brewers are on pace to hit 317, 308 and 302 home run.

Here is what is worse. MLB studied the ball last year and decided 1) it was not intentionally juiced or changed in how it was SUPPOSED to be made but 2) the ball did in fact go further, leading to more home runs. But the scientists couldn't explain why the "drag coefficient" on the '18 ball was different than previous balls.

So, in this situation, what do you do?


You don't throw up your arms. You're a multi-billion-dollar industry. Find a company that will make a good baseball that flies like the ball of several years ago --when hit 400 feet, it goes 400 feet, not 410 or 415 feet.

Hire THREE companies to make balls. Pay them all. Use the ball that comes closest to the playing characteristics you want. After three years of playing three companies, give the long-term contract for making balls to the company that comes closest to your specs. That will MOTIVATE them to create exactly such a ball.

Will MLB waste a few million dollars in this process? Yes, absolutely.

Who cares.

Because, after all, having several teams hitting 300 homers a year wouldn't damage "the integrity of the game." now would it?

How long a leash does Martinez have? Is Showalter on Rizzo's speed dial? If Martinez fails, does that mean Rizzo is out of chances too (given how Williams failed)?

Someone, in the comments on this chat last week, joked that they wished they had somebody in their life who loved them as much as I loved Ryan Zimmerman --whom I have frequently defended. Well, the same could be said of how much Rizzo seems to love Martinez.

Riz thinks he is an excellent manager and --just you wait-- you'll find out how good he is. The perfect-for-the-job Dave just hasn't shown through yet. If you ask, "What about this move?" or "That move?" it seems like Riz, or the analytics people or everybody combined thinks it was a spiffy move. (I get a migraine.) This all bothers me because I really COULD be wrong. NOTHING on earth is easier than second-guessing how managers handle their pitching in MLB. Also, Dave Martinez really is an extremely easy person to like and he is a good baseball person, an excellent bench coach.When somebody has 1,599 career hits, once batted .318, had a 4.8 WAR season, played 16 seasons at every OF position excellently, and 1st base, too, then was Joe Maddon's righthand man and bench-coach for many years in Tampa Bay (went to World Series) and Cubs (won World Series), HOW BAD CAN HE BE?

But handling pitchers, and handling/building bullpens, is SUCH a big part of a manager's job. That's why so many managers have been catchers (who work with pitchers), as well as a few pitchers (like LaSorda). Middle infielders, too. They're part of the pitch-relaying sequence on every pitch. It's just part of the middle-infielder image that they HAVE to think the game.

You don't see many outfielders who become managers with ZERO minor lague experience where they show, at lower levels, that they DO know pitching and can handle pitchers and a bullpen. Finally, how often do you see an ex-outfielder, even if he has been a bench coach (which has almost nothing to do with pitchers and pitching except when to pinch-hit), who is made a MLB manager with ZERO minor league experience and is also handed a high-ceiling expensive roster built on pitching? 

Also, the Lerners obviously feel that managers are worth almost nothing and have almost no impact on the outcome of game OR THEY WOULD PAY THEM MUCH MORE, so why would the Lerners think that firing such an unimportant person would change how their team is playing?

Next subject: Buck seemed pretty exhausted by the Oriole Experience when I talked with him last year. He seemed to me like a man who needed a rest. R&R. Relight the fuse.

I've never met a smarter baseball man than Showalter. Granted, he's in a dozen-way tie with a bunch of others. (But almost all of the others are in the HOF.) He's up to date on the old and he's up to date on the new. He's 62 and respects both the analytics folks and the scouts. Has he recharged the batteries enough to try again? Does he even have the slightest desire to do it again? How do he and Rizzo get along? (They were in Arizona together for years. In recent years, they've always spoken well of each other.) Are the Lerners still TOTALLY MISGUIDED on how much a good manager should make? Buck's not going to go anywhere for peanuts. He'll want a big-time manager salary to pick up that red-hot branding iron again with his bare hands. He's perfect for TV and probably has a 5-to-10 year run in that forum, if he wants it --looking brilliant, lots of vacations, making his wife happy and never missing dinner if he doesn't want to.

The short of this is that the Lerners probably wouldn't pay the freight for either Buck or Joe Girardi. They never have, have they? (Answer, no.)

Just a reminder: After Matt Williams was fired, the front office's first two choices for manager were Bud Black and Dusty Baker, both with enthusiastic support, but in that order, with Bud the first choice. It was suggested to the Lerners that Black be offered a three-year deal for about $1.0M, $1.1M and $1.2M --total about $3.3M. The Lerner family, in its wisdom, decided to low-ball Black, despite his long career as a fine pitcher and established manager. I've heard, but don't know if it's true, that friends of Black's even told him to try not to be insulted by the first offer that he got from the Nats because the team had an on-going, never-ending, going-back-to-the-Kasten-era problem with getting the Lerners --starting with Ted, but including (almost) all of them-- to understand what things were worth in baseball --like what a manager was worth.

Bud is a good guy. But either he was insulted by the one-year lowball offer or he should have been insulted. Dead deal. To save face, they turned to Dusty who 1) knew his contract wasn't what he deserved but 2) wanted to win a World Series and make the HOF as the first African-American manager so much that he took a lousy deal anyway so he'd have his shot.

So, he won 192 games in two years (avg 96-66), won the N.L. East twice, got to the fifth game of the NLDS twice, lost by one-run twice --once because Max Scherzer blew up in relief-- and was shown the door over the strong objections of the Nats baseball people who had no idea where or how they were going to get a manager who was better than Baker to handle a veteran '18 team that was built to Win Now. They ended up with a rookie manager --but not the one who won the World Series, Alex Cora.

Do I sound like a man without the answer? That's right, I don't have the answer on this one. The biggest problem with nixing Baker was the total lack of a compelling candidate who was not a rookie --meaning an UNKOWABLE commodity as an MLB manager. Choice: Dusty Baker vs. Rookie Manager.  ANY rookie manager.

Now, the Nats are in a similar spot. Martinez has managed nearly 200 games. He learns. Who's better that's available? That wants the Nts job? And that will work for Lerner wages?

Well, I've probably annoyed enough people for one day. Thanks for your patience with the slow start to the chat.And thanks for your excellent questions. See you next Monday at 11 a.m.


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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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