Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Jun 10, 2019

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

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Here we go,

There is certainly lots to talk about this morning, some exciting others not so much. Like the Warriors at the Raptors in Game 5 tonight in Toronto as Golden State tries to stay alive --and has Kevin Durant back (finally). 

Also, last night's 5-1 Bruins win against St. Louis forces a Game 7 against the Blues back in Boston Wednesday. 

However, in Boston, and everywhere, far more of our thoughts and prayers are with ex-Red Sox star David Ortiz who was shot in the back while sitting in a bar in the Dominican Republic on Sunday night. Appears from surveillance video that a man walked up behind him and shot him in the back. Reports are out that he needed 6 hours of surgery and will be in intensive care for the next 24 hours. But "out of danger" is the important part. The bullet went through his body and came out the other side.

Also, let's talk all things DC sports, starting with the Nats frustrating split in San Diego which showed how powerful their strengths are --the dominant pitching of Scherzer and Strasburg-- but also how they "managed" to let two winnable one-run games slip away on what shoulda/coulda been at least a 3-1 visit to the Pads. 

For subscribers to the post, this chat will be just like all our other chats over the last 15 years. For non-subscribers, I'm told that this is the first day of a new "log-in" requirement that will now be required for those without Post subscriptions. There is NO charge. But an e-mail address is required. 

I hope that many of you will take the time to figure out and do this log-in process because it is our chatters --their quality questions, humor and sharp needles-- that make this chat so much fun for me to do and for others to enjoy. 

For non-subscribers, stick with us (me) on the chat if you can, please. For all current Post subscribers, nothing changes so... 

And.....We're off and running!!!!!!

Was Turner's amazing rookie season a mirage?

Yes, it was a kind of miraage in the sense that he's not going to hit .340, be a modern Tim Raines and also hit 20 homers-a-year. He's not going to the Hall of Fame.

But if he stays healthy, he'll probably still go to an All-Star Game. Or maybe 2 or 3. When he was still in the minors I asked GM Mike Rizzo for a general appraisal. He said, off the cuff, just a helpful sense of Trea, not as specific a prediction as it looks like when it's typed out, "He'll go to a couple of All-Star games." That was when many said Trea didn't have the arm for SS and would need to play 2d. Rizzo just said, "He's a shortstop."

Trea's 45-foot homer to dead CF on Sunday --the second of the Nats FOUR STRAIGHT homers-- was a very good sign that, probably, his (previously broken) index finger on his right hand is gradually getting better. Even with only 9 fingers on the bat, and that index finger still stuck out, he can hit it 425'!. That shows how important it is to "throw the bat" at the ball in the baseball swing. You aren't strangling the bat. To get maximum distance, you need to have a firm grip, but still be able to WHIP IT. 

Last year, Trea played in all 162 games, led the NL in steals (43) and scored over 100 runs. In many years that would have gotten him on the AS team in '18. He thinks he can hit .290 or .300. I think so, too. BUT he may not bunt asd much in future as he has in the past because of the danger to his hands and wrists --he's had a break in one finger and one wrist already in his career. Those appear to be the only parts of his body that he tends to get hurt. So, preserve them!

Has there ever been a less than full time player voted to or put on the AllStar team? I am writing in Howie Kendrick’s name everyday on my AllStar ballot.

Yes, I am almost sure that there has been. Chatters, please send any examples if you come up with them! Not a super-utility man like Zobrist who plays almost everyday even when everybody on the team is healthy, but a player like Howie who is stepping up with a huge season even though the Nats are constantly trying to find days to rest him so that he'll stay healthy and fresh all season at 35 and coming back from a torn Achilles Heel last year.

Let's keep it simple: With the injuries so far this year to Zimmerman and Adams at 1st base, as well as Rendon, Soto and Turner --all draining the offense-- Kendricks has saved the season (such as it is). Without him, the Nats might be 10-or-more games out of 1st, rather than 7 behind the Phils and 6 behind the Braves for the 2nd wild card.

Howie's production in 156 at-bats is insane: 11 homers, 39 RBI with a .327 average and .960 OPS. Obviously, Kendrick is not going to get >600 plate appearances as he did in all his years as an everyday player. But, to give a sense of his pace of production, if he had 624 at-bats, he'd have 44 homers and 157 RBI! So, it's not an insult to say that what he's doing is "unsustainable." That's Babe Ruth. It shows that getting Zimmerman back, at some point, is probably going to be important to spread playing time and keep Kendrick productive. At this point, maximizing Howie's '19 season is probably a lot more important than maxing out whatever Zim may contribute.

Based on all that you know today about the Nats, the Lerners, Mike Rizzo, etc, you think the Nats will end up working out an extension for Tony 2-bags? Of course the related question is does Tony want to remain here.

I assume it depends on Tony. The Nats certainly want him. When you talk to players, they understand that contracts are all about "comparable." There are PLENTY of comparables to use with Rendon. At the high end, maybe too high, is Nolan Arenado's extension. Also, Jose Altuve's extension. Within the Nats, as I've pointed out before, the Nats have paid $30M-a-year for Scherzer's age 30-through-36 season. Love Rendon, but he doesn't bring as much value as Max. Also, Nats are paying Strasburg $25M-a-year for his five seasons at age 30-through-34 --a total of $125M for those years. 

I'm not going to fret every week, or write constantly about this. A price shouldn't be hard to find. If Rendon wants to test the market, that's absolutely his right. I'm sure he understands the history of free agency --that once ANYBODY is "free," there is much less chance that he'll come back to his original team. Partly because he may find a team, or a deal... that he likes better.

The Redskins have problems in most areas of their franchise. Were you surprised to hear that Trent Williams is unhappy with the medical staff?

I was surprised. Trent never complains and plays through pain. They all do, but even by NFL standards, he's one of the tough guys.

I guess the Skins under Snyder had failed to check ONE of the boxes for total franchise incompetence: Alienate your best player of the last decade (7 Pro Bowls) over a medical issue.

HOW unhappy is Trent? We'll find out. But, until now, except for the disgusted or resigned expression on his face at his locker following losses, we didn't know that he was particularly unhappy at all.

The only person at Skins Park who is consistently happy seems to be Jay Gruden. He's amazing. 

World culture for thousands of years has had mysterious or mythological tales about a Gateway to Hell. From the Fengu Ghost City in the Far East to Aeneas, Odysseus and Orpheus (trying to find Eurydice) all finding separate entrances to the underworld in myth. 

If it turns out that the actual cave, crack in the earth or portal is somewhere near Ashburn, I think they should make Jay the greeter at the gate.   

WPFT injuries seem inordinate, which leads me to question their coaching, practice habits, off-field training and conditioning, and now, with Trent Williams, their medical and sports injury practices. Do you have any insight into these factors? Thanks, Boz, you're the best.

Thanks. Sorry I can't help more on this one --injuries are such a murky area. So far, we only have 20 years of Snyder Era data, but from that tiny sample, I guess I'd  go with "All of the Above."

In years past i have always enjoyed watching golf tournaments on TV. I think Nick Faldo is a terrific commentator with wit and insight that is unequaled. But this year I find myself loosing interest and turning off the TV. These guys out there playing are so far removed from real life you just can't relate to them. Examples: Earlier this year Faldo joking about Rory's new jet, Kuchar short changing his Mexican caddie and saying the tip he gave him is a lot of money in Mexico. Pictures of Jack Nicklaus and Rory grinning with Donald Trump as they play around on one of Trump's courses,Phil and Tiger playing for nine million dollars winner take all of other peoples money and the one that bugged me the most was at last years Memorial I think when Jack Nicklaus was talking about caddie's and said he wanted a caddie who knew the three ups- show up, keep up and shut up. Seemed so dismissive of a person doing manual labor for you so you can play a game and not have to break a sweat. In the age of Trump I wonder if pro golf is as marketable as it once was and if it's stars are as relatable as years gone by.

You make some interesting and painful points about the game, especially as I am heading to the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach tomorrow. When you lump these factors together, they feel like they have more weight than any of them individually.

The $9-Million Match was nauseating to me. Just a total fake non-event.

There is a long tradition of pro golfers playing with U.S. Presidents, going back to Ike in the '50s. But no U.S. President has had as much of a tarnishing effect on those who associate with him, or work for him, as this one. You are correct, I think, that the golf-Trump connection is a generally damaging one that isn't going to go away --at least for a while. Let's not go into that quagmire today. 

My general feeling has been that, with Tiger winning a major again, and contending several times --including T9 at the Memorial-- that golf is in what may be its richest era for the total number, and aggregate magnitude, of stars.

Sometimes the highest-ranked players have not won major titles, which lowers their status until they do. Or they have not won multiple majors. However, Tigers 10-year drought left the door open for lots of players to win lots of those 40+ majors. So, you have an unusual combination --two huge old stars in Tiger and, at least by popularity, Phil Mickelson (still No. 24 in the world)-- as well as a World Top 20 filled with major winners.

In 40+ years of covering the golf tour, I've NEVER seen a time when the Top 30 in the world had so many recognizable names, personalities, different nationalities and styles of play --all of them major champions and some with 2, 3 or 4 majors: No. 1 Brooks Koepka (3 majors), No. 2 Dustin Johnson, No. 3 Rory McIlroy, No. 4 Justin Rose,  No. 5 Tiger, Molinari and Thomas. Those guys are all in the Top 10. Then, still in the Top 30, you have Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed. 

Then there are the players that golf fans WANT to see win their first major: Rickie Fowler, Tommy Fleetwood, Tony Finau, Jon Rahm and Xander Schauffele. And those are just MY favorites that I tend to root for. Some like Bryson DeChambeau (No. 9). 

I DON'T think that this is a monochromatic group! While acknowledging that they are all golfers, that is quite a range, including range of backgrounds.

My short answer: I understand your feelings. If you are able to look at golf as a game, then it's healthy. If you step back further, some people, or maybe plenty of people, may have trouble digesting the current group-portrait of the game because one president keeps sticking his face into the photo.

Later this week, Pebble Creek joins Baltusrol, Oakmont and Oakland Hills as the only sites with 6 or more US Opens and deservedly so. There's nothing better than prime time championship golf on Father's Day weekend. I don't think we'll ever see a 12 under 15 stroke margin of victory at Pebble again like Tiger did in 2000 (was that really 19 years ago?!) the field is just too good. DJ always shows up in Opens, that's where my money will be. Who ya got Tom?

This will be my 5th U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and I try to remind myself, from past experience, that Pebble --depending on weather, course conditions, toughness of rough-- can accommodate a wide range of winners, from long hitters and all-time greats like Nicklaus ('72), Tom Watson ('82, he was long then) and  Tiger ('00, at his most titanic), to short-hitting Tom Kite ('92) and Graeme McDowell ('10). In other words, if you think you can pick a winner by matching style-of-game to type-of-course, then Pebble may confound you. It tests creativity, wind play, sometimes incredibly tough green-side rough, which means you have to AVOID it and hit a ton of greens because nobody can score OUT of it.

Odds makers have the big hitters and big names at the top __in order-- Koepka (13-2), DJ (7-1), Tiger (10-1), Rory (10-1). Then Cantley (16-1, recent winner), Jordan Spieth (16-1), Rose (20-1) and Fowler (20-1). 

I like Spieth, not a long hitter, who's had three straight Top 10 after being in a slump. But computer models have him contending, then fading. Rose is totally mature now. I don't think he'd fold with a lead. DJ --he's still got to show me that he doesn't have a choke button. He "should" have 3 or 4 majors by now. Everybody would love to see Fowler win on a classic course.

It'll be fascinating to see whether Woods can summon all his inner resources, as he did at the Masters, just two months after such a monumental achievement --and one that was so long-sought. He also had to gear up for the PGA Championship --now in May, not late summer. He's had to mount a total-energy push for majors in April, May and now June --three months in a row. That's tough at 43 and with a back which decides each morning --without consulting Woods-- how it is going to feel that day. Tiger would probably like today's weather at Pebble --83 degrees-- more than he will the high temps on Thursday through Sunday --68-66-63-65. With breezes off the Pacific, that is not going to make anybody's back feel warm and flexible like the nice days in Augusta did in April. 

I try not to pick winners at golf tournaments because, among all the sports, golf may inherently be the Least Pickable unless you have an epic player at his peak --like Jack and Tiger at their best.

The only player who looks like a monster talent playing at his best is Koepka. He's still under-rated, even though he's No. 1. That's rare. 

A return of Spieth, a first-major for Fowler, a Rory or Koepka win, a Double Miracle by Tiger, or an appearance by a personal fav like Finau, would all make my week fun.

But there areat least two dozen others that make you think: He really COULD win. And that shows how deep the talent is in golf these days. 

Since you like statistics I am passing along an article about Kirk Cousins and qb ratings which is very thought provoking and applies to all NFL qbs. The premise is that a top ten defense and a running game are crucial to a qbs won loss record and only peyton manning has had a successful won loss record when his team did not have a top ten defense and/or a top ten running game.

Thanks for the link. I'll give it a look. And I'm sure that other chatters will enjoy it, too. All Cousins info --and opinion-- still gets a read around here. I was shocked at how bad he looked under pressure last season. Makes me think that maybe Jay Gruden had more to do with his success, and 4,000-yard seasons, than he gets credit for in designing an offense that suits a QBs talents. 

I love Sean Doolittle, but he hasn't looked great. Meanwhile, Tanner Rainey has. Your thoughts?

When Tanner Rainey throws strikes --which he has been doing-- he looks like a future solid back-end reliever, meaning 7th, 8th or someday maybe 9th. But he's going to have to KEEP throwing enough strikes for a long time before that status can be given to him.

What is very impressive to me is that he has CONSISTENTLY thrown strikes in all 10 of his appearances. He has not had a single "oh, no, here is the wild guy we heard about from the minors a couple of years ago." His overall strike percentage is 64%! For somebody that touches 100, and seems to not to have to strain to sit at 97-98, that's very good --especially because it's his slider that worries hitters more. If he can throw strikes with his fastball, then that breeds strikes because he'll get "slider strikes" on both chase pitches in the dirt as well as sliders he actually throws over the plate. Rainey has ranged from 11-for-13 on strikes to a worst of 15 for 27, which isn't terrible. Martinez always says, "Throw 'strike one.'" and the rest will fall in place for him.

Rainey is a lot better than most thought when he got to the Nats. The Nats were OK with everybody assuming that the Tanner for Tanner trade was mostly about getting away from the $10M salary Tanner Roark would get at arbitration so they could turn around and sign Anibal Sanchez for $9.5M-a-year for two years. It's like everybody looked at Rainey's career --already 26 years old, so not really "young" and wild in AAA last year (6.2 walks-per-9). Then you also look at the incredibly awful brief debut he had with the Reds last year --he gave up 19 earned runs in 7 innings! How is that possible? He allowed 13 hits, walked 12 (a terrifying number all by itself) and gave up 4 homers. So, although fast, he wasn't even hard to hit. And hit hard. "We" all concluded that he was a long-shot throw-in prospect --big arm, bad control, maybe nervous, too-- in what was mostly a salary-dump deal to clear payroll for Sanchez.

Looks like maybe Rizzo and his people knew more than "we" did. In '18 and '19 in 69 innings in AAA, Rainey has a 3.00 ERA and has allowed only three homers and just 41 hits. So, he IS very hard to make contact against. In this age of super-high strikeout totals his 12.7 K-per-9 is not that special. But it's good. His walks were, and are, the concern --6.1-per-9.

With the Nats, he looks REALLY calm and determined on the mound. He's definitely an "evolving story." Because he's on the verge of doing what Rosenthal was supposed to do. If Rosenthal...I don't even want to say it...but Doolittle and some combination of Rainey, Rosenthal and Suero is, potentially, a bullpen.

As for Doolittle, I think Martinez just rode him too hard early --and sometimes unnecessarily. As long as he isn't injured, I think the Nats dodged a bullet. Take care of him.

But if Roark (with only one year before free agency) for Rainey (who's not a free agent until 2025) turns out to be a REAL TRADE with Rainey as a valuable reliever, then that will go down as one of Rizzo's GOOD trades. And if Sanchez keeps pitching the way he has in his last two starts, and you --in effect-- get two years of Sanchez and six years of Rainey for one year of Roark, then that can become one heck of a trade. It isn't yet. But it could be. I sure wouldn't have said that a month ago.



I've studied the schedule. I see them as 5 games over .500 at the break. Am I nuts? Also, that Brian Dozier can really hit, can't he?

They better be .500 by the break, at least. They're healthy. The schedule is as easy as it is going to get. When you play atrociously for 50 games, 19-31, you have to ATONE some time. And this would be the time. That's why the two one-run losses in San Diego were such a wasted opportunity.

A two-run error, charged to Rendon but as much or more the fault of a bad Turner throw, was the difference on Thursday. Then on Friday Doolittle threw too many knee-high pitches for strikes. And they got whacked. Almost all the damage was on going back to low heat. If he wants to change eye-plane he needs to do it with his change-up or slider that starts at the knees and ends up lower. Almost as much as hitters can not catch up with his high fastball, they are just as consistently "on" his knee-high fastball. It just doesn't "play" well. It's for games, imo, when he has a two or three-run lead. In a one-run game, he's got to stay with high heat and chase pitches. Maybe one knee-high fastball strike. But not three of them in one appearance. 

On the subject of Dozier, his 32d birthday was on May 15th. That day, he drew a walk as a pinch-hitter. Since then, his OPS in 22 games is 1.015!

How long can this last?

First, I am biased in FAVOR of Dozier. Great in the clubhouse, never got much attention for 28, 42 and 34 homers in Minny in '15-'16-'17 and a Gold Glove, too. Also, when there were five free agent second basemen available in the winter, I kept saying that Dozier looked like the best value --the sleeper.

Here is Dozier's pattern --when he gets hot he STAYS hot, usually for MONTHS. The Nats can only HOPE that it repeats again this year.

After slow starts in '15, '16 and '17, Dozier went on streaks of 72 games, 103 games and 117 games in which he had an OPS of .908, 1.061 and .897 in those three long streaks. In those streaks, he had 19, 37 (!!) and 29 homers. Those previous hot streaks started in April ('15) and twice in May ('16-'17).

So, this has happened before. And Dozier built big seasons on it. Doesn't mean he'll do it for the next two or three months. His slash line RIGHT NOW is right at his CAREER slash line. That is the other possibility --what we've seen so far, all put together, is as good as its gets.

It's going to be fun to see how this one plays out.

That's it for this week.

I wanted to wait until the end of the chat to post about David Ortiz, so the chat would have our latest story on his condition.

I have no further information. Without knowing who did it, why and other questions, it's pointless and even irresponsible to comment. I am left with what I suspect are similar feelings to many of you. Big Papi, a wonderful player and teammate, is beloved far and wide in baseball. You could hardly name ANYONE in baseball that so many people would pull and pray so hard for to get better. This is awful news. His smile filled rooms, and at times entire stadiums. He was a friend and helper to countless people. 

I think I'll be able to manage about a one-hour chat next Monday at 11 a.m. after the U.S. Open as I'm traveling back to D.C. Hope to see you all then. And thanks for sending so many questions this morning. Hope the new "log-in" format --for those who are not subscribers to the Post-- works out smoothly for you. Thanks for your "extra effort."

Max's "No" to Davey Martinez last week is the stuff of legend. But is it also a sign that he has little respect for the manager to make the right decision and no respect for his teammates in the bullpen who he doesn't trust to close his games?

Mostly "stuff of legend" with some of the other stuff around the edges for "legend garnish."

In This Chat
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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