Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

May 20, 2019

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

Past Ask Boswell chats

On a beautiful spring morning..... 

Let's talk about Brooks Koepka going wire-to-wire to win the PGA, but not before a bogey-bogey-bogey-bogey streak on the back 9 and nerve-testing 40 on the final nine. Also, what's the deal with Dustin Johnson. He made a fine run to get to 8-under par on a tough day. But then as soon as he got to one shot behind he immediately imploded. DJ is a great talent, but I have seen him avoid winning majors in as many different ways as any elite player in the last 40 years. Is his only-one-major win, getting in his head? 

I think the Nats are about to play quite well from now until the All-Star break, and probably for the week afterward --stars back from injury, very soft sked with 14 games against the worst teams in MLB, and 32 games against losers, in their next 48 games. Sometimes everything works against you --injuries, sked and a bullpen in flames. Sometimes everything reverses at once and works in your favor. If the Nats can't take advantage of that by getting to (roughly)49-45 --and within sight of the Phils whom they play 7 times in this stretch, then by mid-July, it may be time for big changes --with the manager or trades at the deadline. 

Also, let's have your questions and thoughts on the NBA and NHL playoffs. Can anybody stop the Warriors, with or without KD? Do you think, about 3 times a week, that "the Caps should still be playing" and thinking about back-to-back Stanley Cups? You name it, you got it! 

Let's go.

Clearly the biggest, though not the only, problem the Nats face is their bullpen. I did a bit of research. Every reliever except Doolittle is doing much worse than their career stats would suggest. For Suero, Jennings, Grace, Barraclough, Sipp, Rosenthal and Miller their ERA for the Nats in 2019 is 7.43 while their career ERAs are 3.40. This is crazy. While clearly Rizzo didn't pit together the best pen they are the worst in baseball because every one of these guys is underperforming, some by a lot. Is this just an incredibly bad random outcome or is there some reason for this?

You and the Nats front office (and ownership) are thinking exactly the same thing --and even making up similar charts of past performance and the current massacre.

No. 1-- You always look at the players first for either credit or blame. Easy as it is to fire a pitching coach or question the manager's use of his bullpen, there is NOBODY on whom to place primary blame for a 7.43 group ERA except the pitchers themselves. They are not just "under-performing." In many cases, they are endangering their careers.

Sooner or later, the Nats are going call somebody up from AAA who actually wins a job. Maybe it's just arrived Tanner Rainey who touches 101 mph but is as wild as they come --16.0 K-per-9-inn in AAA, but 6.0 walks. Jobs will be lost. Or trades will be made with some current relievers eventually homeless. And with not much of a resume to get their next job. Does this put extra pressure on them? Sure. But the bullpen is The Pressure Place, so if they can't handle it, they're in the wrong line of work. It takes a mentally-tough breed to do their job.

If you are currently in the Nats pen picture, you are back in the "suspect" category, whether you are returning from injury (Rosenthal), aging and injured this year (Tony Sipp), only have a limited MLB track record (Justin Miller, Wander Suero) or looked solid before the season began but now have folks asking questions about your ability (Grace, Barraclough). 

The Nats have been trying to make a trade for a reliever. I asked Rizzo about this and he looked at me like I was nuts. "What do you think. My phone...." He stopped. I think he was about to say "is on fire night and day trying to pry somebody away from anybody." But all he finished by saying was, "Nobody is trading right now." Especially for relievers who are usually a prime commodity in late July just before the trade deadline when they command the most in return.

Soon, Rosenthal will get his next --and perhaps last chance with the Nats. He's a big factor. Could be so good, because his arm is sound and his velocity is at 100. But he has been such a mess. In his work in the minors he's been in-between --slightly encouraging, but still with one very wild and worrisome game.

No. 2-- When things get this bad for an entire unit on a team that is supposed to be a contender you start hearing an old baseball phrase --"Nobody is getting better." Why? Also, such thoughts are followed by "Are they being coached or managed DOWN."

Well, they sure aren't being coached and managed UP so far.

Nobody has ever been able to explain to me "What makes a good manager?" There are many elements. Ultimately, I end up stuck with "They play well for him" or "They play like crud for him."

For two years, despite many injuries, the Nats played VERY well for Dusty Baker. He "reached" some players --like Michael A. Taylor. Or invested extreme confidence in some --like calling Ryan Zimmerman "the key" to the team when many considered him washed up. Zim was Dusty's "pick to click" --he said it over and over, tying his judgment to Zim's performance. Zim went 36-108-.306 that year. Is that psychological magic sauce or coincidence?  

This year, nobody is Playing Better (than expected) under Martinez. Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin, Doolittle and Rendon have been wonderful. So what? They are stars or superstars. What about the other 20?

In evaluating Martinez in coming weeks --and he is being evaluated-- all those things will come into the picture.

But the bullpen --and team fundamentals-- will probably be the two main litmus tests. On Friday, the Nats pen gave up 11 runs in the last three innings, as I pointed out in my column this morning. On Sunday night, fundamentals were a  nightmare. In the first-inning, Jeremy Hellickson started walk-walk-walk, then later hit a batter. A passed ball by Suzuki set up an unearned run in what ended up as a one-run defeat. Parra probably cost the Nats a run by over-sliding second base on an attempt for a double. Certainly, he knew that Heyward, one of the best RFers I've ever seen, was out there. If you gamble on him, you HAVE to make it. Oh, and the McGowin inning --two wild pitches, then they can't pick up a safety squeeze bunt by Hendricks (with two strikes) cleanly to make a play at the plate.

Games like those, bullpen disaster Friday and fundamentals mischief on Sunday better start going away. And clean impressive games, like the 5-2 win on Saturday, better start occurring much more frequently.

Juan Soto was standing on second with two outs in the bottom of the sixth when Gerardo Parra singled center. Soto did not score on the play, yet the defense botched the ball so badly that Parra wound up on second. I'm really looking forward the return of major league baseball to the nation's capital. When do you think it might happen?

The comment on ESPN: "How Soto doesn't score on that ball is beyond me."

Yes, another fundamental mistake.

A-Rod tried to cover for Soto by talking about him taking a jab step back toward 2nd after taking a huge secondary lead. 

Please. 

With two outs, Soto didn't round 3rd hard enough and Henley didn't get a decent read on a wild throw to the plate from CF that went over the Cubs and catcher AND the pitcher backing up the play all the way to the screen.

Parra read the throw easily and jogged to 2nd. Soto and Henley both ended up about a foot from 3rd base watching the play that they both misread.

Yes, this is what gets managers fired. The Mets are close to canning Mickey Callaway because the Mets aren't hitting --at all. They aren't cutting Callaway much slack because he hasn't had Cespedes, Jed Lowrie and others this year.

The Nats next seven games are against the skidding Mets and then four with the Marlins at home. It would be a good time to go 5-2. A very bad time to find a way to go 3-4. Unfair pressure in May? Not when you're 8 games behind the Phils and Bryce Harper has started to slug again. The worse you play, the more pressure you put on yourself --even early in the season.

BUT the Nats have played better the last 10 games, against good teams --5-5. You can feel the impact of the return of Rendon, Soto and Turner.

Rendon has found his stroke and is crushing again. Soto looks better --just missed a homer with a double off the top of the wall on Sunday after 3 RBI on Saturday. Turner may have a tough time with his index finger not even able to hold the bat. If it makes him feel better, Willie Mays hit his whole career with the index finger of his left hand off the bat and the little finger of his left hand around the knob.

Are the Warriors actually better without Kevin Durant? They are 29-1 without him and with Curry most recently. They haven't lost in the playoffs since he was injured. And to the untrained eye, boy are they more fun to watch. It was such a strange free agent move. Makes me wonder what could have been, both with the Warriors achieving all-time great status on their own, or with Durant creating a worthy foe with his own team.

You make a fascinating point. I didn't know about the 29-1 stat. Do other chatters know if that is accurate? Games with Curry but without KD? Certainly seems extreme/improbable.

The point is that they sure don't seem to miss him. Draymond Green, one of the biggest nightmare matchups in the NBA, just steps up and does everything --defend, rebound, get nasty, have an uncanny feel for interior passes and finding the right man in transition. Then, the other night, he scored 20, too, since they needed it.

Like many b-ball fans, I hate the current trend where NBA superstars "choose up sides" to make a super team and, let's face it, steal championships the way the Yankees used to buy pennants.

The last Supergroups that I liked were the Yardbirds and the Traveling Wilburys. I probably need to catch up on Them Crooked Vultures. But in the NBA, it stinks for exactly the reasons you mention.

Durant is so amazing to watch. It's hard to believe any team can be as good without him, much less better.

IMO, GS will need him if they face the Bucks in the Finals. Steve Kerr's latest update: Durant's calf strain is "a little more serious than we thought" and KD won't be available until (earliest) a Game Six against Portland --if then. When the injury happened, it didn't look like anything. Just a tweak.

Good thing for the Warriors that a dislocated middle finger on his non-shooting hand doesn't bother Steph!

What’s the rule about “two steps” trying to prevent/protect? Is there an advantage to the pitcher, like Doolittle, who taps? The Cubs guy clearly steps on that foot then picks it up so that’s more obvious.

There was discussion of a new rules interpretation during spring training. Doolittle doesn't need to "tap" and usually misses the ground, so it shouldn't be an issue for him.

Using some sort of "delay" in your pitching motion, to throw off timely and create a visual distraction is as old as baseball. Satchel Paige was a master of different windups and mid-delivery hesitations (which are legal.) From Luis Tiant to Fernando Valenzuela to Johnny Cueto there have been pitchers who turned their backs on hitters in mid-delivery --except on the pitches when they didn't! Some Nats pitchers use a (legal) quick pitch --an abbreviated delivery with a short quick stride rather than their normal much more deliberate higher-knee-raise delivery (like Jeremy Hellickson, not that it's been helping him much this year).

....

This is a good place to talk about Stephen Strasburg who, through 10 starts, is the SECOND BEST pitcher in MLB this year, slightly behind Max Scherzer --2.2 WAR to 1.9.

Strasburg's decision a couple of years ago to throw every pitch from the stretch may prove to be a real career enhancer. The longer he's done it, the more it has helped him keep his mechanics tight and balanced. His bad habit of falling off the mound to his left has been greatly decreased which may also decrease a tendency toward arm strain. He stays on-line a very high percentage of the time now, which helps his consistency and location. Also, when there are runners on base, he isn't psyched out and is merely the same pitcher.

I've mentioned this before, but when Greg Maddux threw BETWEEN starts, he NEVER practiced from his windup. He ONLY practiced from the stretch. Why? Because with nobody on base, he focused on throwing strikes, getting quick contact, avoiding home runs, but worrying almost not at all about giving up a single. He felt that pitching with a runner on base was the central skill in pitching --so THAT is what he practiced 100% when he threw BETWEEN starts.

Strasburg --a.k.a, The One Who Stayed-- has gradually developed into one of the most under-rated performers in baseball. In the last FIVE years, take a guess at the Nats winning percentage in his starts. Remember, FIVE years and 97 starts.

It's .721. (70-27) That's the pace of a team that wins 117 games!

Since the start of the '12 season, when Bryce Harper arrived in D.C., Harper's WAR has been 32.1. In the same time, Strasburg's has been 29.1! (FanGraphs) In the last four years, Strasburg has the edge, 13.9 to 12.8. 

The knock on Strasburg --and we live in a sports culture where, if there is one thing negative that can be said about somebody it will be repeated 1,000 times because that is the easy, dumb thing to do-- is that he's injury prone.

He has had injuries. But he's also averaged 27 starts a year for the last seven years --about five a year below perfect attendance.

What if, this year, with 10 starts already, he matches his career high of 34 starts? He'd end up with 279 strikeouts.

Thus far he has the highest K/9 ratio of his career --11.35. He still gives up few homers. His walks are close to his lowest ever (2.22/9 IP). His FIP (Fielder Independent Pitching) is a brilliant 2.76. That means his ERA will probably trend down from its current 3.32. His best FIP ever was 2.72 when his ERA was 2.52.

Why is this so important for the Nats future? Because Strasburg, who is under contract through '23, is having this outstanding start AS A PITCHER, not a fastball finger. 

Since '12, Strasburg's fastball usage has trended down from 65% to 49.7% now. He's gradually used his curveball --which is currently his most effective pitch (CB/C = 3.25)-- more and more in those years, from 19% to 30.5% now. His changeup, also devastating, has stayed about the same --then 16%, now 18.5%. 

Back when Strasburg had Tommy John surgery, the ONLY predictions that were NOT made about him were that he would have a LONG career and that his off-speed pitches might make him just as devastating in his 30's as he was in his 20's as a more conventional power pitcher.

We'll see how his 30's work out. But right now, he's pitching as well as he ever has --though doing it somewhat differently-- and with what appears to be less strain on his arm.

Sure glad they shut him down. A great decision that keeps paying off, including the fact that Strasburg cited it as a reason why he initiated talks for a seven-year extension with the Nats, because "they took care of me" so well when he was young.

Why have the Yankees been so much more successful in filling injury-created holes from within than the Nats? Is Brian Cashman that much better than Mike Rizzo?

No reason whatsoever. It's not a meaningful comparison. 

The Yanks have been an amazing outlier --congratulations to them for overcoming so many injuries. I doubt I've ever seen anything like it. But using that as a measuring stick for other teams is silly. When Max struck out 20 Tigers, nobody said, "Why didn't this OTHER pitcher strike out 20 men, too. What's wrong with him?"  

The Nats have merely been a typical team that got crushed by its injuries.

If anything, the Nats had one of their better benches this year. Howie Kenrick has an OPS over .900. The catching tandem of Suzuki and Gomes has been a big upgrade, especially Suzuki, so far, and that is part of "bench." Matt Adams is part of a decent 1st-base tandem --you don't expect BOTH to get hurt at the same time. First basemen (well, except Zimmerman) seldom get hurt. Difo and Taylor projected as typical bench players, maybe even good ones, but neither took advantage of his opportunities. (Now they don't even help you make a trade.)  

Well (you say) how come the Nats didn't have even MORE depth in the minors? Because almost nobody ever does. Almost no team has big-time prospects stacked up in the minors like cordwood. The Nats actually had one of the best ones in Carter Kieboom at the position of their greatest need after Turner got hurt --shortstop. It's just a bad break that Kieboom wasn't quite ready yet. But he WILL be ready soon! In AAA, he now has 28 RBI in 27 games and is slashing .359/.484/,653. Those are not typos. He went back down and is doing just what you are supposed to do after you hit .128 in your first 39 at-bats in the Majors (with 2 homers) --he's making everybody else pay for his pain. Carter will be back --and he will be good.

Sometimes I forget that I've covered baseball for 45 years and that I actually do know something about it. I like to be fair. I don't like being outlandish or making wild predictions, then saying, "Ooops, gosh, I got that one totally wrong --how cute of me," then going on like nothing happened, like "everybody makes mistake" so just laugh along with me --which is a familiar sports columnist shtick (though not at the Post, I'm glad to say.) 

I could be wrong (duh), but I really think the Nationals are an 88-90 win team that's about to show up and get into the NL East division race. The trio of Max-Stras-Corbin is remarkable --one of the best ever if they stay healthy. THAT was what I thought might be the team's weak spot --too much dependence on those aces and uncertainty about whether Corbin was a career-year signing who wouldn't be worth the $140M. Corbin looks wonderful. I didn't get to see much of him in Arizona --or focus on him. His slider is the best pitch on the whole Nats staff. And his fastball is plenty good enough and he throws it with excellent command --and misses over the middle of the plate a LOT less than Scherzer. The Nats strength --those Big Three-- is a GREAT strength to have over a long season, as well as the playoffs. All the other things that have gone wrong so far are temporary and can be fixed by time (healing) or roster tweaking (trade for a reliever). Yes, maybe terrible things lie ahead! But that's not baseball analysis, it's coin flipping.

You readers and chatters don't expect me to tell you what the person in the next seat at the ballpark is telling you --"God, they stink. Fire 'em all." Well, sometimes that IS the right reaction. But it's very premature with this team. MLB is a game of streaks.   

 Sometimes part of the good news about a team is that its apparent weakness can't possibly be as bad as it seems. The Nats bullpen has been an utter disaster --but will get (considerably) better because the law-of-endless-sucking is on their side. That's the law that says you can't have a <3.50 career ERA as a group and an >7.50 ERA this season as a group. This is NOT a good bullpen. The Lerners and Rizzo can't just say, "Wait. You'll see. We're right." They are not right. They need another big arm. If they have to wait until July 31 to get it, will they be dead in the race by then?

Finally, it looks like they have a below-average manager. That's an anchor --but not such a big one. If managers matter so much, how come none of them get $330-million 13-year contracts? Plenty of run-of-the-mill managers only get $1-to-$2M --a FRACTION of the average player's salary--  because that's what the industry thinks they are worth. Is the entire MLB industry --now driven by analytics-- incorrect by THAT MUCH?

I always try to remember that I covered Joe Altobelli winning the '83 World Series the season after Earl Weaver had just retired after going 0-for-7-seasons with an Oriole team that had much the same core and was, in general, of similar ability to the '83 team that won it all.

Weaver was one of the great managers. Altobelli was --a great guy. After a lifetime in the game, he knew baseball. And he was the usually positive and calm reassuring Dutch Uncle type. But he had no special skill as a motivator or manager. Different era, different personality types --but, in overall ability, similar to Martinez, I suspect.

....

Flash! From our stellar chat producer Tramel Raggs: The Warriors DO indeed have a 29-1 record when they play WITH Curry but without Durant.

And that IS amazin'!      

So are we seeing in Koepka the reincarnation of Tiger Woods, circa the early 2000's? His domination and coolness under pressure sure seem that way.

No, so far I'd say we are seeing the "reincarnation" of Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth (and others) who have had great multi-major runs before they were 30.

It is incredibly hard to maintain your great golf game over great swathes of time. That is why Nicklaus and Woods are so amazing --and why Woods win at the Masters was so wonderful and shocking. Tiger had lost every part of his game at some point in the previous decade, in addition to all his injuries. But he pulled it ALL back together --body, golf game and competitive psyche-- and all at age 43.

Koepka will now get his due as a great player. I wonder if he will get his due as a candid, colorfully confident and interesting person. After he won his 1st U.S. Open I made the mistake of judging him by his expressionless deliberately boring manner on the course in the 4th round. Then I went to his long, thoughtful and emotional post-win press conference. I came out saying, "Wow, did I get THIS guy wrong." Some, like Arnold Palmer, Phil, a funny Lee Trevino and many others, show us who they are ON the course. That's great --for the game. But some only let their hair down after the ordeal is over --like Faldo, who was thought to be a cold, unfriendly robot when he played but now shows what a smart, mischievous delight he is as an announcer. He's loosened up from his playing days --but those who knew him well back then (which did not include me) always said "that guy is in there. He just doesn't let you see it."

Koepka lets you see it. Just not while he's playing. If he stays at or near the top of the game for the next five years, he'll be a goldmine for reporters --and slowly become something of a fan favorite. Though it's tough for stolid broad-back types like Koepka to be BIG fan favorites.

To answer your question, we are about four MORE majors away from discussing Koepka as the next Nicklaus or Woods.

It is incredibly hard to be great for two or three years. It is exponentially harder to be great for 10 years --much less 20.  

A few seasons back, during a game in which I had box seats at Nats Park (my usual seats are in the 300 level). Wilson Ramos got charged with a passed ball on a play I was convinced the official scorer would have called differently if he had seen the play from my sight line. Later that season (around the All-Star break), I noticed Ramos had only that one passed ball. I noticed in this morning's boxscore that Kurk Suzuki was charged with his fourth passed ball of this season last night (it's not even Memorial Day). One night earlier, Strasburg and Gomes got crossed up with each other on consecutive pitches. By now you see where I'm going with this. The conventional wisdom was that the Nats upgraded significantly at catcher during the offseason with Suzuki and Gomes, and their offensive stats seem to bear that out. But with the exception of Corbin and Doolittle, EVERY Nats pitcher is performing below expectations. Just a hunch, but could the new pair of catchers have anything to do with the poor overall pitching?

Unfamiliarity could definitely be a problem. But Gomes --his defense, pitch-calling, hindering the running game and rapport with pitchers-- was always praised as a key to the wonderful staffs in Cleveland in recent years. He was an All-Star LAST year.

Suzuki is an excellent pitch-framer and is one of the most nimble athletic catchers of his generation.

So, what is going on with all the "cross ups" and endless pitches in the dirt --or head-high-- that lead to WPs or PBs? I'll have to ask when the Nats get back home later this week.

Now, let's resort to the last of all options --the facts.

What matters is how many wild pitches=plus-passed balls a team has. How many balls "get away" regardless of who gets the blame?

The Nats DO have the most passed balls --9.

But six teams have more WP+PB than the Nats total of 25. The Nats are bad. But the O's (36), Angels (34), Cubs (28), Rangers (28), Braves (26) and A's are worse.

Did you see Joel Sherman's column in the NY Post from last week. Do you believe that if things don't improve that the Nats could actually move Max?

Yes.

No.

On another subject, it's also far too early to talk about the Nats and Rendon waiting until after the season to be serious about an extension.

In some areas, local baseball media tends to be much closer to the subject than the national media that runs into town for a quick hit and the hottest angle, whether there's much to it or not.

Several months ago, I spoke with one of the three or four most respected baseball reporters of my lifetime, whom I greatly admire. We talked about various issues concerning the Nats.

He had a lot of opinions and seemed quite sure of himself. I mostly listened and thought, "How can he be so backward on so many things? He's really GOOD. Or am I crazy?" And it played out as I expected. It's really hard to know everything about 30 teams.

Boz, Submitting this (series of) question(s) early as we watch Bryce Harper slide toward the .200 line and the Post publishes a good analysis of what ails him. 1) Are any other hitters as affected by the shift as Bryce? 2) Does his violent swing, coupled with playing professionally since he was a teen, portend itself to a body that will break down? 3) Do you think he will rebound to being a .270 hitter again or is he now more like a .235 hitter? Does he have any more .300+ seasons in him? 4) Who is his best comp as a hitter? These days, he reminds me of Adam Dunn at 2x / 3x the price. Thx, as always, for your great work, Boz!

I was wondering about similar things at the time you posted this question.

Then on Saturday, Bryce hit a 466-foot homer over the wall BEHIND the wall in straight centerfield in the Phillies park, onto Ashburn Alley. Also had a double and a walk. Then on Sunday, he had a single and a three-run homer. He's hitting .235 with his OPS up to .834 (career .898).

Reports of Bryce's demise have been premature.

Over time, Harper will probably be Harper. Amazing hot streaks. Slumps that he can't figure out. If he plays hard, he gets some injuries. If he pulls back for safety, then he has less value on defense and the bases. There are players who can go very hard almost all the time and seldom get hurt --it's a gift. Harper has lots of gifts. So far, that hasn't been one of them. He tried to make two sliding catching, in foul territory, smashing into the boxseat wall in RF in the same inning in a game a week or so ago. He just got up rubbing his knee to see if he was okay --no damage. I practically yelled at the TV: "Bryce, cut that out!" 

The only serious concern with Harper this season --and it's a trend which may quickly reverse if he is now as hot as I suspect he's getting-- is his alarmingly lower "contact rate" when he swings. Over the last four years it's dropped steadily from (from memory) ~77% to ~66% this year. That's a lot. And accounts for his very high strikeouts last year --which concerned the Nats-- and his even higher strikeouts this year. But it doesn't EXPLAIN the lower contact rate --and whether it will stay poor, or head back up. Or get worse with the years.

Phils fans didn't even need two months to see All of Bryce, including Arrieta (separated from Papelbon at birth) taking a shot at him with a post-game quote. 

With Bryce, there's never a shortage of storylines!

Hi Boz. Have been avidly following you ever since baseball returned to DC and woke me from my 34 year hibernation. You've made some very cogent and sensible suggestions over the years - especially these last few difficult weeks. My question is do you have a sense that anyone in the halls of Nats Management is actually listening? Is your good advice actually being read, thought about and discussed where it should be--at the top?

Yes, sometimes, according to little birdies.

The only owner who ever called to tell me, "This is YOUR idea. You better be right!" was Peter Angelos the day after the O's got Bobby Bonilla. I was right --blind squirrel syndrome.

Will the use of zero-gravity chairs, a laser-therapy, cryotherapy, and giant float pods help the Redskins? https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7048483/Only-AP-Redskins-recovery-methods-aim-reduce-injuries.html

Oh, I can't wait to read this! Thanks.

Can we get a zero-gravity chair for Dan, then set its GPS for "Moon!"

 

Seems like neither Trea nor Soto got much of a rehab stint. Rendon didn't get any. Are they bringing guys back a little hurriedly? It wouldn't surprise me, given how desperate they have been for offense lately. Do the players have any opinions on this?

Yes, they seem to be rushing 'em back --not from the point of view of risking injuries, but in terms of not giving them normal-length rehab assignments in the minors to get their timing back. The fastballs in the minors are 95 mph, too, and the lights are worse. So, risk of injury is the same, or greater in minors. But, man, they NEEDED those guys back in the lineup. It took Rendon and Soto a few days to find it. Anthony definitely has and is red hot. I think Soto's coming around. Turner may be a singles hitter, bunter, stealer and defender for a while. Wouldn't expect much power. But he's still a big upgrade. You hate to see anybody injured, but I really hated seeing Trea get hurt just when I thought he was going to get the All-Star recognition this year that he deserved last year.

the Wizards wouldn't have no luck at all. The draft lottery never seems to favor them, their max deal star probably won't play next year and may never regain his speed, and they have zero cap space. Do they have any choice but to trade Beal and get started on some kind of "process"?

And, today, there are (twitter) reports that their leading candidate for GM (Tim Connelly) was lured back to Denver at the last minute after the job was offered in D.C.

I do NOT know if those reports will prove accurate. As you may have noticed, every tweet isn't true.

Hi Bos, How does the way the season's going affect the Nats' ability and desire to make a deal with Rendon mid-season? How does it affect Rendon's desire to stay a Nat? thanks

The way he's hitting certainly affects my desire to see the Nats offer him a deal that is above Strasburg's extension ($175M, seven years) but with a net-present-value similar to Scherzer's free agent deal ($210M, seven years, but with half of the money deferred into years 8-through-14, if I remember correctly).

Mr B. Why did the Nats align their AAA club with FRESNO? Frequent flyer miles for Rizzo ? These late night/early morning cross country flights doesn't seem conducive to productivity .

I'm sure they have an explanation --in fact, I think I heard it in spring training. I bet they were unlucky. But I don't really want to hear it. They screwed up. And they need to fix it.

Last week in this chat you essentially said Davey isn't going anywhere, that the club couldn't afford to make a move even if it wanted to since it would contribute to the Nats' terrible rep as manager killers. Then last night and again this morning you say Davey could get canned in a couple of weeks if things don't get a whole lot better. What changed?

I don't think anybody said anything about "a couple of weeks." The trade deadline, for example, is more than a couple of months. I've always thought that the All-Star game was a good time to take stock --even if the decision is tough, like firing Manny Acta (done at the break).

But every week that includes bullpen arson and bad fundamentals does damage to the team's W-L record and the manager's status. That's just baseball. "Everything changes everything."

For reference, on May 1, with the Nats at 12-16, I wrote a column about how tough times (and tons of injuries) would test the Nats as they faced 22 games in 23 days against teams that were (then) all winners.

"By May 24, a guess at when Turner and Zimmerman might return, the Nats’ season could almost be wiped out."

Also: "If the Nats get healthy, provided they are still near .500 and on the pace in the NL East, they are only about one big-armed reliever — have I said this before? — away from being quite a good team, regardless of who manages them.

"But will they make it across what might be an offensive desert for the next three weeks?"

As often happens, the answer was --sort of. The Nats have fallen from 4 1/2 games behind the Phils to 8. They certainly aren't wiped out. But their 7-11 play sure hasn't helped them. Also, they've gotten Rendon, Soto, Turner back a bit sooner than expected with Adams and Zim back soon, too.

The Mets this week are in even rockier shape at the moment than the Nats. So the desert may already be passed.

For context, Rizzo has given Martinez a full public endorsement. But, over the years, he's had to take a lot of stands to get the Lerners to back his points of view. You can only threaten to quit so many times --and that's happened. To what degree was that Rizzo's version of Baseball Kabuki? We'll never know. Sometimes, the Lerners only react to baseball people if they emphasize their point by getting down on the floor and chewing the rug. To save Dusty Baker, you can do quite a bit of yellin'. (And it still didn't work.) To save Dave Martinez, if it comes to that, you'd probably do quite a bit less --with that 101-109 record.

Sometimes, if the team approves of the manager, they ought to win some darn games if they want to continue to see his smiling face.   

Did you get the feeling that Brooks Koepka was semi-choking on the back nine yesterday or was he just playing conservatively with such a big lead?

IMO, he was doing a classic semi-choke. Which means he's human. Then he did a classic gut-check Heimlich maneuver on himself and pulled it out. Which means he's a tough son-of-a-gun. 

I thought it was kind of Faldo not to mention that, once upon a time in a major in which he was involved, a player with a huge lead --was that Greg Norman?-- began to pull a similar semi-choke. But Greg didn't know the golf Heimlich, apparently, and it ended up as a full historic choke. And Norman was No. 1 in the world at the time, I believe.

The point: Even GREAT players sometimes get sucked under by pressure and fall as far as they need to fall to lose. But Brooks Koepka didn't. That's a big "star" on his career record.

That's it for this week. Next Monday is Memorial Day --so no chat. Lets do it Tuesday May 28th instead. Thanks.   

Bos, If you have not seen this you will love it! My Dad took me to a game every series that Boston came to Griffith Stadium starting in 1955 when I was 9 yrs. old. He always told me the same thing. #9 is the the greatest hitter you will ever see! I still agree with his assessment. One of the things I noticed in all the old films was how TW choked up on the bat about 1 1/2 inches. Do you think it might help Zimmerman to do the same thing? My favorite Senators player back then was Mickey Vernon. On my birthday, he gave me a baseball after he asked me my name and I told him my name was Mickey too! Clearly one of the best childhood memories I ever had. Don' miss Teddy Ballgame show.....

Thanks for the heads up! I'll look for it.

I wore No. 9 in high school. (Perhaps the gravest misappropriate of a number ever.)

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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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