Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Jul 15, 2019

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

Past Ask Boswell chats

So, there is bad tired.

And there is good tired. The past week has been the good kind --almost exhausted from fun sports viewing. After one of the best Wimbledon men's finals ever, will Novak Djokovic (16 major wins at 32) end up passing Roger Federer's record 20 titles? We got to see the huge flaw in top-level tennis --the need for tie-breakers, but the sense of unfairness when one person players better (Federer) but is defeated by a foe who wins all the tie-breakers (3). 

That match was so exciting that my wife (a tennis fan) couldn't watch (a Federer fan)and had to be told updates. 

Looks like the Nats have the Phils number this year. They're 9-5 and have overscored the Phils by 19 runs. (That's a lot in 14 games.) 

Is the NL East now almost entirely Nats-Brave? Since his hot two games in DC in early April, Harper is 7-for-41 (.171) versus Nats and has had little impact on the last dozen games. Is the "book" out on Bryce and do the Nats have a copy? 

Also, Max Scherzer to the IL is the biggest scare possible for the Nats. This week we'll find out if he's correct that he just needs a little rest --or will his bad back linger? 

Last week's Home Run Derby totally over-shadowed the ASG --again. That "mid-summer classic" has a hard time living up to its flashy name. 

This week brings the British Open --and one of Tiger Woods best chances to play a course in a major that should suit him --it's not long and other golfers think the Masters and (some) British Opens will be his best chances for major wins in the future. 

Also, what do with think of Dave Martinez now that we have a 30-12 counter-balance to 19-31? Is he one of those quiet, upbeat tone-setters who fit well with a contender? Or will 14 games against the tough Braves --with four this week-- be too tough an in-game managerial task for him? We're about to find out.

So, let's hit it!

Hey Mr. Boswell, what advice would you give to young journalists who are about to enter college?

It's an exciting and extremely valuable field. But be aware that journalism has faced brutal economic challenges in the last 20 years. And the financial model for the future remains unclear, except for a few outlets.

In a sense, this is similar to the period when I started. Journalism was not a "hot" field at all. It was distinctly "cold," not well paid or especially well respected, relative to its societal value. The only reason you went into journalism, and stayed in it, was because it grabbed you and wouldn't let go. Then, within a few years, the tide turned with the Pentagon Papers and Watergate. You never know when history, or even the history of an industry, will change radically. What followed was a wonderful 25+ years to be a journalist. Followed by a quick trip over the (internet) cliff.

There's never been a more important time for quality journalism in America, and the world, than right now. When basic facts are challenged, the relentless pursuit of even more facts, and firmer, indisputable ground for making judgments, is needed. So, if you feel the "calling," then, by all means, follow it. At the college level, that means getting the broadest (and most difficult) education you can handle in the widest range of subjects --even those which are not your strength. Do NOT focus on journalism NOW. That's for later. Instead, you might want to read "Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World" by David Epstein. It debunks all the "specialize early and be a one-subject nerd" theories of recent time. In addition to subjects like English, history, politics, economics and anthropology, you might want to go outside your comfort zone and go as far in a foreign language, math, chemistry, biology as you can handle. I never enjoyed a college course more than 19th-century French symbolist poetry (Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Mallarme, Apollinaire, Valery (a world-class mathematician, too), etc --conducted in French. I can't explain why they help me understand people, conceptualize and write better than I would if I'd never read them --and all the great writers in English who were inspired, influenced by them. But it certainly has a lot to do with "range" and expanding your reach. 

Well, I didn't think that would be the first question/answer! But then, as Mallarme wrote, "Un Coup de des" --"a thrown of the dice (can never abolish chance)."   

Has the Nats' turnaround changed your opinion about Dave Martinez as a manager? At one point, you wrote that he "probably" should not be managing the Nats. But, as you say, "Everything changes everything." Has Martinez shown any growth? Is any part of the Nats' turnaround due to his approach, so that his players play for him?

The first 50 games of this season showed Martinez in his worst light. With a (BADLY) depleted team he could not find a way to "manage a few more wins." Perhaps nobody could have done better than 22-28 or 23-27 with the problems he faced in the bullpen, and with his 2-3-4-5 hitters on the IL at one time. BUT a team with Max, Stras, Corbin in the rotation, Doolittle closing and the excellent bench help provided by Kendrick, Adams and Suzuki should not go 19-31. And the epic 8th-inning disasters became a psychological barrier/block. He had no answers for that. The damage was maximized on his watch. BUT as one Nats player said to me a week ago, "What was he supposed to do?" He couldn't pitch in relief himself. He couldn't put himself in the No. 2-3-4-5 slot to hit. "It's always on the players," said this Nat. "We win and lose the games --almost always. Managers just aren't that important IN GAME. But how Davey handled himself --the same guy every day, always positive-- that really helped the clubhouse and put us in the position to have the run we're having now." The run AND the fun.

Soon I'll do a column on the long tradition of managers who --for 100 years--have fit into the Dutch Uncle mold. They are the guys of whom it is said, "He's a people person." Or "you can talk about anything with him --the game or your life problems." Or "he doesn't panic and sell us out to take the heat off himself."

MANY of those Dutch Uncle types are NOT very good managers and it takes many years to decide that their easy-riding "player's manager" style may be popular with players but doesn't maximize the W/L record. BUT some of the managers of this type win pennant and championships (Casey Stengel) even though they never seem to be among the "smart managers" or the "innovators" or even the umpire-ankle-chewing "motivators." They don't look like Peerless Leaders that just stepped out of a Marine recruiting poster --like the Phils Gabe Kapler-- and would crush your hand if you shook it. They don't "scare" their players into performing. It's kind of a mystery which are the good ones, and which are just likable, but basically average fellows with amusing quirks (like camels and cabbages).  

The first of this type, that I can find, is Wilbur Robinson, born 1863 --known as "Uncle Robby"-- who won a couple of pennants with the Dodgers a century ago. But there are SO many others. They may have other traits besides the Dutch Uncle ability to understand and reach people --help the rookie, stick with the vet in a slump-- but they all have similar qualities to genial Danny Murtaugh, who won the WS with the Pirates twice, and used to hold his pre-game chats with reporters (yes, I was there) in a rocking chair while silly milk for his ulcers. They tell (often funny) stories or can tease or agitate their players, including stars, but do it in a way that works. Charlie Manuel was a recent example. So is Dusty Baker. Jolly Cholly Grimm, Billy Southworth, Birdie Tebbetts, Kimmy Dykes, Mayo Smith, Red Schoendienst, George Bamberger, Tommy Lasorda, Bob Lemon, Danny Ozark, Don Zimmer, Joe Altobelli. 

The tough job is picking the GOOD "uncles" from the mundane ones. We just don't know about Martinez yet --but 14 head-to-head games with the Braves will be a lot of new data. Also, if the Nats end up as a wild card team, how well do their nerves hold up in a WC/WC game or, after that, a Division Series in which they'd probably be underdogs. I don't mean "do they win" in these tests --whether Braves, WC/WC or Oct. I mean "how do they PLAY" and does the way they play --good or bad-- seem to reflect Martinez in some way.

We always get back to the question: How much is a manager REALLY worth.

And I always say, "If they were VERY valuable, then they'd be paid a LOT more. Baseball can't be wrong about something that basic for 100+ years --and MLB does NOT put much $$$ value on managers."

Of course, it DID take MLB >125 years to figure out "launch angle!" Hey, there are FOUR infielders, and only 20% of ground balls are hits, and no ground ball is ever more than a double, but there are only THREE outfielders charged with covering that vast outfield. And almost all the extra-base hits, and HOMERS, are on balls that go OVER the infield. So, shouldn't we be trying to hit the ball at a somewhat higher angle?"

Yeah, we all missed that from the 1870s into the 2010s. So I guess that managers COULD be worth a lot. (But I doubt it.)

Does Max's back injury (from carrying the team) influence Rizzo's decision whether to add another competent starting pitcher before the trade deadline? It seems like they're making due with spot starters in addition to the big 4, but couldn't just one injury leave a glaring hole?

The Nats need another back-end reliever. That can make them a threat to the Braves --eventually-- and a genuine threat in October if they get there (and get into a 5-game series). 

They probably should NOT pay the price to get a 5th starter. Why? Because, by definition, a 5th starter isn't much good --probably has an ERA between 4.00 and 4.75. Probably doesn't average more than 5 1/3 innings per start. And such a pitcher probably only has one or two years of team control (which is one reason they are on the market. You don't trade a 4th or 5th starter with 3-4-5 years of control. It's too hard to replace them.)

The Nats already have three pitchers who are just ONE STEP --but an important step-- from being 5th starters right now: Fedde, Ross and Voth. Of course, all of them look disappointing now. It's tough to have patience with players whose ceiling is only "back-end starter." But that 24-25-26-27-year old who is struggling can also be a nice piece for your team if he ever turns the corner --like Tanner Roark. He arrived with zero expectations. But he clicked. Sometimes, it's one additional picth --Mike Boddicker came up with a great change-up --he called it a "fosh ball" that turned him from an eternal AAAA pitcher into a star for several years with the O's and others. 

Fedde has three pitches and sometimes looks like he's almost good enough for the job. Hellickson --has anybody spotted him anywhere?-- if healthy, is just like the 5th starter you'd probably have to trade for. Ross is frustrating. If he could get a 3rd off-speed pitch, his FB-slider would "play" well enough. But he just can't seem to do it. Voth is very easy to like, but except for one start (with extra rest) when he had a FB with some strong finish, he looks very AAAA.

Simplify: If the Nats have significant injuries to more than one of their Top Four starters, this just isn't going to Be Their Season. Not after the anchor of 19-31. So don't spend significant resources trying to save the '19 season for a second time. See what you have in Fedde, Ross, Voth. If you have to use two of them in the rotation for a while at some point, then you are REALLY going to need a solid bullpen to eat up those extra innings from short-ish starts. That is ANOTHER reason why adding a reliever is the first, and probably also a second priority. 

At the trade deadline, Rizzo likes to add players with 1 1/3 years of control, not just 2 months. But getting somebody who's also a Nat in '20 is going to cost more at a time when "inventory" like Difo, Michael A. Taylor and others now in the minors is in a bare market, to say the least. (Taylor has switched to No. 34 in the minors --for Harper luck?) 

As a result, this may be the year to go after a two-month rental. There will be about a half-dozen decent relievers available --I listed them two weeks ago.

Don't forget, in the everything-changes-everything world, Tanner Rainey struck out the side on Sunday on 13 pitches --all strikes, and all nasty sliders and 97-99 FB. Suero has looked pretty good, too. Fernando Rodney does not fit my idea of an "answer." But he certainly looks like a big-league reliever right now. The big key is not over-working Doolittle and blowing him out. Sean told Martinez on Sunday that he was not available for a third-straight day in relief. That's good --Doo needs to do that whenever he thinks it's smart. Now he gets two days off until the O's mini-series (2 games) this week.  

To directly answer your question, if Max injury is significant and he's going to miss several starts --and there is NO evidence of this right now-- then you have a problem that getting a mundane 5th starter will not help. You're going to have to roll with Strasburg, Corbin, Sanchez, X and Y from Fedde, Ross, Voth and Hellickson. That's not good. But it's not the end of the world. The Nats are now 49-43. The whole NL is so flattened out that it looks like 85-86 wins may be a wild card. The Nats can play .500 for quite a while and still be in decent shape. Tough it out until Max is back. If that is this weekend in Atlanta, great. If longer, that is why you tried so hard to get back OVER .500, not just TOO .500. The Nats don't have a lot of breathing room right now, but they do have some. The standings are, for the moment, their friends. Think how stunned the Phillies are right now --even after a nice w-o win on Sunday. They were 10 games ahead of the Nats about a minute ago and now they are 1 1/2 games behind them. Here's the NL WC picture

Strasburg is a creature of habit, so pushing him by a day isn't ideal. And if the Nats pitch two straight call-ups against the O's, the odds are good that the bullpen will be gassed heading into Atlanta. There's my "con" case. But on the "pro" side -- are the Nats really going to have potential season-altering series against the Braves with neither Stras nor Max??? I don't know where I land. Do you have a solid answer?

As far as I know, the Nats don't know if Max can pitch in Atlanta, but, currently, assume that he can. Until that changes to "no, he can't go," then let's keep it simple and say there's nothing much wrong with him.

This is a touchy call. The O's stink. But their 4 games with the Nat will "be their season" in the eyes of their owners. So, they'll play like it's their World Series this week. Can you beat the O's with X & Y from the Fedde, Ross, McG, etc group? Can you go 1-1 with those AAAA guys, and hold back Strasburg for Thursday in Atlanta? Or do you just use Stras in turn and don't out-think yourself at a time when you are playing so well.

Here's the data you want on Stras-and-rest. He likes his ritual better than his ritual likes him. In his career, his ERA on normal 4-day rest is 3.30 in 112 starts. With an extra day (5-days) his ERA is 3.00 in 71 starts. And on 6-or-more days rest it's 3.10 in 42 starts.

I've always thought that the No. 1 consideration with Stras was keeping him healthy for the whole season. Clearly, an extra day does not bother his pitching. This year, his ERAs with 4, 5 and 6+ days of rest are 2.75, 3.57 and 5.09. Not enough diff between 4 and 5 to make a difference --to me, anyway.

The Nats are playing very well. I think you just keep cruising, don't over-think, focus on winning TWO from the O's, even if that means Stras on Weds.  

ONE thing changes this. If Max says he CAN'T pitch in Atlanta, then push Strasburg back a day so that you have Stras, Corbin, Sanchez and X in Atlanta, not the Scary Rotation of Corbin, Sanchez, X and Y. 

So Bos are you ever going to comment on this very interesting analysis about NFL qbs and their perceived contributions? https://www.dailynorseman.com/2019/5/18/18623742/vikings-kirk-cousins-all-stats-but-nothing-super

Nice pull. Good read.

We will never be free of Kirk Cousins (or Bryce Harper). And that's probably more good than it's bad.

The key point in this story is a point I always try to make --Cousins, with a running game, is a good-to-excellent QB. But Cousins, without a running game,  is only a good QB and one who has trouble beating winning teams that key on stopping him. 

Joe Theismann needed a running game. When he had it, he won a Super Bowl and went to two of them. He had John Riggins in '82-'83-'84. When Doug Williams and Mark Rypien won Super Bowls, they both had running games that, in the regular season, ranked No. 7 in yardage. And they were excellent goal-line teams ranking No. 1 and No. 3 in rushing TDs. Rypien had Byner (1,048 yds) and Ervins (680). William (and Schroeder) had about a dozen RBs, but put together they were good enough.

The NFL has been full of QBs who jumped up a level or two when they had a running game, going back as far as Bart Starr, a HOF QB, but in an attack that almost always felt like it was Packer Sweep first, then Starr as a counter-puncher and game manager.

This question of "how much running game do they need to be championship-contending QBs" is a fascinating one. I'll try to look into it to see if there are any clear patterns/surprises.

But, all in all, I was underwhelmed in Cousins play last year, as I've written a couple of times, and would lower my previous evaluations of him by a notch. I'd still put him in the top half of the 32, but outside the Top 10.

Cousins last season and Harper this year with the Phils have both been under incredible pressure to change towns, justify their reasons for leaving their previous teams, deliver a big season immediately, prove they are "worth the mega-money" and face down their critics --in Cousins case that he can't win big games, or rule the 4th quarter and in Harper's case that he's a self-branding machine but "only" the 15th, 25th or 35th best all-around player in the game. When you include pitchers, being 25th best is a LOT. But it's a long way from "generational player" and $330M for 13 yrs. 

IOW, if you think the Cousins of last year and the Harper of this season are the best versions of Capt Kirk and BamBam that you'll ever see, I think it'd be wise to wait another two or three years before saying it in public.   

Tom, Didn't baseball players used to stay up late chasing women and now they're harming their performance staying up late playing Fortnite. Some NFL teams won't draft players that play Fortnite and how concerned are you that Trea Turner is a prominent Fortnite player who live-streams himself playing Fortnite?

I'd rather have 'em in Save the World mode in Fortnite than back in the '70's and '80's when the theme song of many ballplayers late at night might have been  "Some New Kind of Kick." (Cramps, written by lead singer Lux Interior.) Back then, there was a HOFer (old oft-reported story, no need to use his name) who dove into bases head-first instead of sliding because he had a little bottle of cocaine in his back pocket. 

As for Turner, he plays with as much energy as anybody in baseball and if no bones are broken he plays every day. So, whatever he's doing, keep on doing it.

As for the addictive properties of video games --or for that matter, everything from Facebook, to everything that there has ever been from Twitter to Instagram to Snapchat to whatever-- those addictive properties are real. And, in quantity, dangerous to your health --mental health certainly, ability to deal with other people in reality, not an alternative safe world. I know because I've been semi-addicted to some of them over the years. 

Repetitive behaviors with tiny, but constant psychological reinforcements --which tell you "keep doing this --over and over-- and you'll keep get tiny jolts of psychological pleasure, are one of the issues of the age. One of the luckiest things that happened in my family is that my son never liked video games. I have no idea why. If it had been me, growing up in the '90's and '00's, I'd have been among the worst of the worst, I expect. 

Every repetitive tiny-pleasure activity, from pool to pinball, always hooked me. There's one on-line game I currently play on my phone when I'm bored. Won't say which (because it's stupid, not hip). I looked to see how many hours I'd wasted on it. It was close to a thousand. I know whereof I speak. 

Get your kids, and yourself, off this stuff to the degree you can. Think of your "smart phone" as the one thing in your life that is most likely to make you dumb. And unhappy. Again, this is not a case of "do as I do." I'm guilty, too.

Guice's latest injury, on top of the staggering team injuries over the last two seasons, suggests either something is really wrong with the WPFT training staff or unrecoverable bad karma of Snyder. Which do you think is more likely?

The status of Trent Williams will be another important data point.

How would you evaluate Victor Robles' first season in the majors? Other than the occasional baserunning mistake, it seems like he is a more than adequate replacement for Harper at this point who can only get better.

No, he doesn't replace Harper. But he's having a very nice rookie season --more power than expected at age 22, ultra-tough, competitive, not afraid of big moments. His stats "play up." In other words, he makes impact plays that change games. He's already (quietly) part of the team leadership structure. He gets hit by a ton of pitches, which has always worried me. But after watching him, I'm SLIGHTLY less worried. But you can't get hit that often and NEVER miss time. I just want him to duck his shoulder and turn away from the pitch when it's near his head --rather than lean back and have the ball "follow you in."

OTOH, let's not get carried away. The upper end of projections for Robles was "the next" --you are always "the next somebody"-- Andrew McCutchen. That's not happening so far. At 22, Cutch slashed .286/.365/.471 for an .836 OPS in 493 ABs. Robles is .250/.323/.443 for .767 in a big year for offense --which puts his OPS+ at 94, or 6% below MLB average. His defense and base-running, of course, increase his value.

Let's hope "he can only get better." Because he definitely has room to become better --at everything. But, most physically gifted rookies who are also emotionally and athletically comfortable as MLBers, DO get better. Robles definitely fits that description.

I was more of a tennis fan during the McEnroe-Lendl generation, when I was also playing tennis as a not-very-good high-school player. I stopped watching during the Sampras years, not so much because of the tennis but because of life. I was under the impression, perhaps because of Sampras-Courier-ARod, that men's tennis was becoming boring, with too much power and very short rallies. But wow, this Wimbledon. There's no lack of power, but even on grass, the sport seems as beautiful and engaging as it ever was. Rallies are fascinating, with each shot shifting the advantage of each point slightly in one or the other player's favor. It's cool having two McEnroes in the booth too.

Great "question!"

Yes, exactly! As I've mentioned, I covered tennis over a 20+year period --sometimes a lot, sometimes just the U.S. Open and a couple of local DC events. But I always loved it --I thought of it as "boxing without the blood."

The current game is amazing --watching long rallies on grass at Wimbledon even though both men are serving, at times,  between 120 and 125 mph! On Sunday, you saw every sort of strategy and decision that the game offers. When to come to the net. But...no, no...not quite yet. Pick a better shot to follow to the net.

Fascinating to see Federer have more winners --94-54-- more than twice as many aces (and against a big server like Djokovic who normally has plenty of aces) and, until the last set, Federer had suffered NO broken serves.

Yet he plays well in the 5th set and gets beaten 13-12 in a tie-breaker!

The only thing wrong with great tennis is that it takes so long that you are exhausted yourself! I waited until almost 11 a.m. to turn to Breakfast at Wimbledon, knowing it might last another 1 or 2 hours. (I could always go back and watch earlier parts of the match.) Instead, it went on for almost another THREE HOURS.

It's an inherent flaw in tennis that tie-breakers can't be avoided. But, to me, it makes the game seem a bit "impure." Not enough to spoil it for me. But you can tell this a.m. that there was a LOT of commentators that had a hard time giving Novak his full due because, in some sense, if this had been a prize fight, you'd have said Federer won a close, but clear "decision." 

Federer has appealed to so many people so deeply, and been such a great ambassador for tennis, that I wonder if Djokovic --if he eventually passes Federer in major championships(now behind 20-to-16)-- will ever get his full due. I'd love to hear the thoughts of chatters on this --either today or next week.

For non-tennis fans, the breakdown of titles goes like this with the sequence Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open.

For Djokovic 7-1-5-3. For Federer 6-1-8-5. So, both stand up well. Of course, at least in my mind, Nadal is kept out of this race since 12 of his 18 major titles have come at the French Open on clay --which is almost a different form of tennis. I suffered through watching marathon matches on clay, or similar slow services, long ago in the D.C. events at 16th and Kennedy Sts. Sorry, clay is an "interesting" test --of stamina and groundstrokes. But what we saw on Sunday --every part of the game in the balance, whether power, stamina, ground strokes, serving, volleying, half-volleys, passing shots and the strategy which grows out of that variety-- THAT is tennis at its best!     

Do you think there's a way to put new life into it? Giving home field advantage in the World Series to the winning league seemed to kinda do that, but only kinda, and I (like most people) didn't like that "solution." Before interleague play, it might have been the only opportunity you'd have to see stars go against each other, but I think the league is better off overall because of interleague play. Maybe get rid of the "every team gets a rep" rule so that you really do have the best players? I can remember at least one year where a bad team sent some no-name reliever with a 5+ ERA. Seems like the last 20 years or so, there's been more of an emphasis on getting everyone in the game, which dilutes the game as an actual game. Making it a little more exclusive might cut down on that, too.

The ASG certainly has problems. In the last dozen or so years I've probably only covered about half of them. Depends on what other things need covering, when the best time is to take some summer vacation, the proximity or appeal of that ASG and also the schedules and preferences of other folks on the staff --because we have a LOT of great baseball writers.

This year, I took a few days off. Went to Montreal with my wife --wow, give Montreal an A+ as a city to visit, hadn't been in 30 years since Leonard-Duran fight, Expos in playoffs, etc. I watched the Home Run Derby --a good show. Vlad Jr was amazing. Really enjoyed winner Pete Alonzo because he was so strong to all fields. That tends to carry over better to actual MLB games than pure pull-hitting monstrosity. Alonzo is going to be a great Met to watch for years, just like Acuna in Atlanta. We'll have to see --including a lot this weekend-- about the future of Austin Riley, the 22-year-old in Atlanta, who had 9 homers, 25 RBI in his first Braves games with a .324 avg and 1.101 OPS. Physically, he's a beast. But the league figured out that he doesn't like the fastball above his waist or anything soft and away. In his last 34 games, he's hit .213 with .706 OPS and 7 homers, 17 RBI. Can he adjust? How good will the Braves be for YEARS if Riley joins Acuna and, to a lesser degree, Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson, as a top-flight hitter? Or is a "book" on Riley already in place? (Unfortunately for the Nats) I think he's more likely to make adjustments and be a headache for years. 

Final ASG point: I watched the Home Run Derby. I taped the ASG itself. And I haven't watched that tape yet! When a nut like me hasn't watched it yet, that means the product can't be wonderfully compelling.

That's about it for today. Maybe one more, then outta here! Thanks again for all the great questions. That new "log-in" thing for chatters without a Post subscription doesn't seem to be hindering you fine folks very much at all! You have my thanks.

Boz, if Bradley Beal still has two years left on his current contract, why all the talk now on a extension?

There's always a market for bad news.

(And it's a valid topic. Beal is the team's best player and asset. Ahead of the injured Wall at this point.)

Well, after reading that FIRST question, I kinda feel like a dope for the following, but here goes: what's your take, hot or otherwise, on the various Caps signings since 1 July? Any thoughts on that, or too summer for that?

I've done a couple long Caps answers recently. So "too summer for that." My short take is: They're still good. They can still put together another playoff run next year. The clock is obviously ticking --loudly-- on their great names. But the Ovechkin (Backstrom/Holtby/Etc) Era ain't over yet. 

Enjoy what we've still got. Don't fret too much --in July.

Over your career, you've covered two of the most tradition-bound events in sports - the Masters and Wimbledon. Is that kind of tradition good for its respective sport? A curiosity? A hindrance?

The Masters is a great competitive golf tournament because Bobby Jones built the greatest TOURNAMENT course on earth --as a test of golf and for almost guaranteed excitement-- and the Masters has kept the course relevant through all the equipment changes of recent times.

However, the Masters, and the Augusta National Golf Club, are two entirely different things in my mind. The Club has always been decades behind the times and vain about its biases. I started covering a couple of years after Lee Elder broke the "color line" and it took about 25-to-30 years before I could go down Magnolia Lane without my skin crawling a little. Beautiful place, lousy values. The New Yorker, ironically, did a total take-down of the place a few weeks ago --on target, but ironic in the sense that the National has actually improved its behavior a lot in the last decade or so. But, man, do they move slowly. For example, the first time that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice --now an Augusta National member, and one of the first two women to become members-- set foot on the property she arranged (through another W cabinet member) to have someone not associated with the club, but who had been to many Masters, show her around the course that day. That was me. That drew some double-takes from the green jackets. It's tough for ancestor worshipers to live in their own age. And they take it to extremes. BUT they haven't ruined the GOLF TOURNAMENT --yet. The big "secret" about the Masters (The New Yorker missed it) is that they let in bigger and bigger crowds all the time --and never admit it, or give an attendance figure, so that they don't have to deal with questions about what has become extreme over-crowding on the course and a constantly degrading "patron experience" as the years pass. If you want to follow the leaders, or the stars, on the weekend, you better be 7-feet-7 tall, at least. Sure, you can stake out a seat and watch everybody play through that hole. BUT golf spectators have, always and at all venues, had the CHOICE of sitting in one spot, for following play or, in the same day, doing some of both. I defy ANYBODY to "follow the play" in any meaningful way. Every year I've gone out on multiple days each week to see if things are "as bad as last year." The last three years I've just thrown up my hands and said, "Why doesn't anybody TALK about this?" I've written about it. But the general feeling seems to be that if you're lucky or rich enough to go to the Masters who the hell cares Bout your "spectating experience." Heh, heh, maybe that's right. I just remember all the decades when it was such fun to walk the course and, if you knew your way around, jump ahead by a hole or go to appropriate grandstands, and really see a LOT of the golf first hand which actually determine the outcome. Now...good luck.

I've only covered Wimbledon twice --'81 and '84. The first time produced one of the worst experiences of my career, and one of the better stories --funny how making a total fool of yourself makes a good tale.

As far as I can tell, Wimbledon is great tennis and a great tradition, too, although stodgy to be sure. But, after going twice long ago, I am NOT "the Wimbledon expert." If you read "London Calling: The Plight of an Improper Stranger" you'll see why I can't be too tough on 'em.     

BTW, the real Wimbledon Expert --and the Champion of The Summer in sports writing-- has GOT to be our Liz Clarke after the STELLAR string of stories and analyses that she has written on the women's World Cup and then Wimbledon. 

Liz is one of the greats --both person and writer/reporter (as well as Springsteen devotee). Watching her work at the top of her game --for weeks at a time, like the '08 Olympics in Beiijing, no matter how hard the working conditions-- is a peak sports journalism experience. God, she was even exhaustive, yet fair, in covering the Skins for years --which would try the soul of Gandhi. No wonder Joe Gibbs says she's the best NASCAR writer around. (Oh, yeah, NASCAR, too.) I know this is off topic, but sometimes we have to crow about our colleagues. 

Thanks again for your company today. See you next Monday at 11 a.m. When we will have a new British Open winner. It's Rory McIlroy's home course. It's one of the best chances Tiger will have. Koepka is at the top of his game, and career. And you know I keep looking for Tony Finau or Xander S to break through. I'm losin' a little faith in "Fadin' Ricky" Fowler --so maybe that means it's his time. Cheers!

Are we finally finding an equilibrium in which the salary cap is a proper check on "super teams" in favor of "super duos?" Did the lottery change correctly shift focus off of tanking teams? How good does Adam Silver look right now?

As long as you like superstars heading to L.A. and NYC it's just dandy. (When does D.C. get to play?)

Unless Max's trip to the IL causes the Nats to completely unravel this week, the team likely won't be in sales mode before the trade deadline, but how all in should they be on finding help for the second half? Is this a mortgage the future push, or more like "we have a good thing going, let's target some minor tweaks and see what happens" scenario?

I'll go with Door No. 2

I'm not much of a NBA fan but I have to give the league credit for extending their run...post-season, draft, free agency and a summer league that actually has people in seats

Yup.

Hi Tom - A bunch of us made the drive to Citizens Bank Park in Philly yesterday to catch the Nats game and we did something that this 62 year old would never thought he would be doing. We all bought standing room tickets (or in some cases cheaper online actual seats) and spent the entire game just hanging around various spots in the stadium. It hurts me to admit it, but the Phillies stadium is by far the best for doing something like this, with steel countertops all the way around the stadium as well as numerous spots. At one point we were at an outdoor bar area, still within the confines of the stadium and watching the game on giant TV's while the actual thing was happening about 200 feet away. We never sat in a seat and had a great time. When I watch games on TV at home I now realize why there are so many empty seats, it's because there's a huge portion of the crowd just hanging out. I know your job requires you to be pretty much glued to the press box during a game but I'm sure you're seeing the same thing at stadiums across MLB. I'm sure it's great for concession sales just to get the bodies in the park but I wonder what stadiums will look like in 25 years as this trend continues. Will there always be a strong market for an $80 ticket?

The Phils, and Nats Park when it opened, were among the leaders in this wander-the-ballpark movement. My son and his friends always bought cheap tickets and just spent the night hanging out, walking around and had a great time. Nats Park has several thousand "rail bird" spot where you have a countertop to put drinks and food while you eat, watch the game or just hang out. Some of those "rail" spots are right behind the lowerdeck boxseats on the 1st and 3rd base sides.

Yes, this can hurt the market for $80 tickets. But this does not rank high on my list of the world's miseries.  

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."
Recent Chats
  • Next: