Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Jul 22, 2019

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

Past Ask Boswell chats

We've got juicy subjects this morning!

Ireland's Shane Lowry wins Open! That's one of the best feel-good stories of the year! But are half of golf's top "stars" now major chokers? You've got big names like Rory and Jordan Spieth in multi-year slumps in majors. Dustin Johnson and Ricky Fowler have major problems with choking in the big ones, as far as I'm concerned. 

Fowler pumped his drive OB at No. 1 on Sunday when he had a chance --in theory-- to get into the fight. There are several others, too. What's up with this bunch? Rich and happy. Aside from Koepka, who BURNS to win all. Even Tiger knows there are courses, and weather conditions (cold) that give him little chance. 

After late loses in 3 cities will Nats get a quality reliever by 7/31? Will the Nats, especially the Lerners, who showed no interest in Craig Kimbrel when the Cubs grabbed him for only $43M a few weeks ago, finally realize that they have a desperate need for a set-up man --and that person is not currently in the organization?

Will they also stop this nonsense about being hindered in deals by the luxury tax if they go over $206M for '19. Any penalties would be chicken feed --a couple of million bucks-- compared to a payroll that size. 

Also, can Mike Rizzo find the stomach to deal his precious prospects --aside from Carter Kieboom, who is untouchable-- for a reliever? Are the Nats destined to "go cheap" when they have a team that seems "built for October" (Brian Dozier) if it can get there? 

Also, can Katie Ledecky "get my fight back" after a shocking tough loss in the 400M freestyle? 

Did the Wiz 'settle' for a front office shuffle --and a name change to "Monumental Basketball" (yawn)-- in their ham-handed GM search? Or is Tommy Sheppard up to the job? 

Your thoughts, and mine, on our big new HOF class. 

So, here we go!

Hi Tom, Thanks for doing these chats. They are great. Is it realistic to think the Nats can get a reliever of consequence without giving up a major prospect. The farm is getting rather thin. I heard teams are asking for Carter Kieboom for Diekman or anyone on the Giants. That is a steep price. Also, when will Rizzo learn to build a good bullpen upfront rather than trade for one mid-season?

The Nats seem to be pushing two fallacies on the public concerning the difficulty of trading for a set-up man.

First, there is no reason they should be worrying about any payroll implications (luxury tax). Do they think fans can't do simple math? Rendon already makes $18.8M now. To sign him long-term there's no way his yearly salary goes up beyond $28M. So, that's only +$9M for '20. Ryan Zimmerman's $16M deal is gone in '20, so is Dozier's $9M (if you keep Rendon and put Kieboom in the lineup.) Kendrick and Adams make $7.8M. Will they be back?

The point: It's not a close fit.

Also, the kind of cheap merchandise they are now putting out there: Shane Green (Det), Sam Dyson (SF) and Jake Diekman (KC), all making <$2M, do not require anything close to a "top prospect" in return.

The last 10 days may have upgraded the Nats trade pieces because Fedde, Voth and Joe Ross all had credible starts. Several teams need a 5th starter. Some contending teams would almost settle for a warm body. By the modest pitching standards of '19, the Nats now have SEVEN starters. Or at least six, since it's too soon to say much good about Ross' switch back to starting. That's good. Do the Nats --who have their Big Four locked up through '20-- run the risk of trading Voth or Ross for a reliever? (I'd keep Fedde.)

I'm sure we'll return to this!   

What is your take on ESPN and Dan La Batard's comments? You do an excellent job keeping politics out of your chats and columns for the most part. I understand both ESPN's and La Batard's POV. La Batard has a platform and he has to fill airtime. He feels passionately about something the President said or did and he want to use his one platform to discuss it. Meanwhile ESPN wants viewers from all political persuasions. ESPN knows that we, the viewer/listener/reader, have many platforms for political discussions. We turn to sports to get away from the political discussion. And when it occurs in a place where we don't want it, we get frustrated about it and stop turning into that platform.

I think that ONE aspect of this discussion is simple. (Most aspects are not). Those who work for media outlets that have the word "sports" in their name have, traditionally, had a hard time taking on controversial political subjects because their bosses are worried (for all the predictable rea$on$) and try to keep them subdued. So it drives them crazy because they have powerful feelings and don't want to be silent at a time in history that some of them feel is pivotal to the country that they love; in particular, they don't want to remain silent on issues which they feel they understand from personal experience. Their consciences tell them, "Don't remain silent."

That's a tough spot to be in. It's always been that way at sports-only outlets. Good work can be done on MANY important issues that are "Outside the Lines" and such work has been for many decades --at least as far back as Jackie Robinson (before I was born). Cover scandals of all kinds? Yes, usually. Integrity of the game issues, yes. Things like CTE, yes --though often maybe years late. But red-blue hot-button social/political issues, no. Not usually. Unless it's done through discussing the political stances taken by athletes --which goes back at least 50 years to Ali, Frank Robinson, etc. And extends to current athletes like Colin Kaepernick.

Media outlets like the Washington Post have a much larger reach in subject matter --like maybe 100 times wider than sports. Our sports department has a VERY wide field of vision on what we cover. We're always looking for ways to stretch into difficult and important issues which connect with sports. BUT there is probably no publication/outlet on earth that has more highly-qualified people offering informed political commentary--both world and American politics-- than we do. Anybody at the paper who wants to submit a column on a non-sport topic --including one which is purely a strong political opinion-- can do so through the appropriate department. If it's good enough to "crack the lineup" of the op-ed page or the Outlook section, then they'll take it. But, of course, your opinion would have to be some new insight or approach to a topic --not just "I agree with everybody on my side." Long ago, I wrote a couple of long pieces for Outlook. I take enormous pride in the work done by all sections of the WaPo since I arrived in '69 --from the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, both of which I watched from 100 feet away as a "copy boy, then preps sports reporter-- to our current excellent work on serious political issues. But it also means that --and this is certainly a personal choice-- if I make my stance on political issues clear a FEW time in columns, and occasionally in chats-- then that feels appropriate to me. For example.

My point --just a small one within this general topic-- it's not logical to compare the positions of those who work at the Post, NYT, etc., with those who work for ESPN, SI, etc.

I respect Dan --it's Le Batard, btw-- for taking a strong stand. If I worked at ESPN, I'd probably feel like my head was exploding. But I work for the WaPo which has MANY people who have invested years, and decades, in becoming true experts on political issues. I think my primary responsibility is NOT to jump into their areas --and, perhaps, say dumb things. Looking back over my life, I've had plenty of firm political positions that proved to be wrong. Believe it or not, after putting 50 years into studying sports at the WaPo --as well as 10 years before that of being addicted to sports-- my opinion on sports REALLY IS more likely to have value than my opinions on politics.

There's no "right" answer to your question. Everybody --including those in the sports media-- can make their own choices on how to express themselves on important issues, including politics.

Golf has always been a game of inconsistency. Nobody plays well all the time, even the top players in the world (side note: this is why Tiger's many records related to missed cuts is maybe his most incredible stat). Inevitably after every major (every tournament?) there are columns about who's done, who'll never contend again, etc. Boring. Golf careers need to be looked at in their entirety, or at least long term trends. How many times have we seen someone go through a stretch along the lines of "missed 5 cuts in his last 10 tournaments" and then wins the next week? I saw an article today saying Dustin Johnson was 2019's biggest majors choker -- he was 2nd at the Masters and the PGA and made the cut in the other 2. Come on!

VERY good points! Thanks a lot.

Jack Nicklaus, believe it or not, went through multi-year mini-slumps when he did not win majors even though his overall record in those years remained wonderful. (It drove him nuts.) We may be seeing that now with several of the world's top-ranked players who are in "majors dry spells" of various lengths: Dustin Johnson (No.1 in world), Rory McIlroy (no. 2), Justin Rose (No. 3), Justin Thomas (No. 9).

Of those, the only one that I think has real trouble handling pressure --in part because he has seldom been a consistent putter and nerves can show up in the hands-- is Dustin Johnson. He's approaching the point where we may ask, as has been asked in the past, why Greg Norman and Tom Weiskopf, with huge talent, couldn't win more of the Big Ones. Now, instead of watching him as if he's a temporarily caged monster who may break loose and win everything, I tend to look at him as somebody who will never, or seldom, kind the key to get out of that Mental Majors Prison. I hope he wins another. At 35, I doubt he's going to discover the magic key to putting --it's almost a separate game from golf. So, I doubt he'll win more than one more. 

Fowler worries me. He pumped his drive OB at No. 1 on Sunday when --in theory-- he might have gotten into the fight. It's one thing for J.B. Holmes, who's been in a long bad slump and just found lightning in a bottle for a few days, to find himself in third place entering Sunday and then go OB at No. 1 (and shoot 89!!!). But that should never happen to a player at Fowler's level and with all the shot options he had there. It makes you think, "He wants it too badly." Or "the game is in his head." Some, like Sergio Garcia, looked like that for many years, then finally got their major. I hope it doesn't take Fowler that long to get ONE. He just never inspires me with confidence.

Everybody wants Spieth to find his swing again --especially his game off the tee. No matter how great your short game and putting --and he made everything at Portrush--it's tough to overcome being short and crooked! Looking at him now, even though he's still only 25, it's hard to believe he was in serious contention to win four majors in a row just a few years ago. He and Rory are the two that golf NEEDS.

Felt bad for Rory on Thurs. Some golf disasters require years for full recovery. And some golf wounds never heal. He gave the most dignified, honest post-round TV interview after his 78 (or was it 79 --it was so bad that I want to forget). "A pretty tough day...The course is playable. Guys shot scores today. I didn't do that. That's why I'm where I'm at and struggling to be around for the weekend."

What's going to bother him twice as much is that he not only made a hideous quad on the first hole of an event on his boyhood home course, but then he made triple at the 18th, too! If he had parred EITHER hole, he'd have made the cut. It's one thing to overcome a Sunday collapse at the Masters when you are very young, which he did, winning four majors after that. But it's tough to blow up on the one day in your golf life when you most want to play well when you are 30. This has to be a case of "what doesn't kill me makes me stronger." 

Like many golf fans, Rory is one of my favorites. Just want to see him come back and play his best in the big events for many years. I don't like watching these psychologically damaging rounds of golf. Anybody who's ever been addicted to golf (me, even at my hacker level) knows that NO GAME attacks you internally, makes you feel like SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH ME, like golf. It's like you are crumbling inside and you can't stop it from happening or getting worse. It attacks your will, your sense of self. I've never felt that in any other activity --not just sports but anything-- in life. Yet many golfers --maybe all?-- understand the feeling. 

Which brings up an 800-year-old question: Is golf a healthy activity for humans? 

Zimmerman is not gonna play a full season ever again, probably not even a half season. In a division with Alonso, Freeman and Hoskyns, what do the Nats need to do to upgrade at 1st? I realize he has been a very important player for the Nats for a long time.

I assume the Nats and Zim both understand that they need a new first baseman --preferably a full-timer-- next year. After watching Zim's injury recur last night, my immediate reaction was, "Well, that's it." I hope I'm wrong. I don't mean he won't play again --just that I doubt he'll ever be able to stay healthy for very long again. 

Remember, he had the same issues in '17 and he played a full year. But I think he's gotten everything out of that body that he's going to get. I hope he's back in a few weeks (or whatever) and can add a piece --probably a limited piece-- in September and October, if they get there. But my first impression is that it's hard to see him back in '20 with such a severe missed-games issue. 

I'm not sure he'd even want to be a DH, if asked, by an AL team. I guess we'll always have the 1,000th RBI and the two head-first slides --"safe"-- in one game earlier this month. He just can't make himself play at anything but 100% and it's cut into his career. But it's earned him tons of respect. I can't tell you how many Nats players over the years have volunteered that "Zim ALWAYS hustles --on EVERYTHING." 

In that area, he set a leadership example --which wasn't always followed. He was also that rare power hitter who studied, and took pride in his ability to turn average (or later below average) speed into above-average base-running efficiency. Rendon continues that tradition.  

Zim's numbers were good enough the last two years --when healthy-- for the Nats to go with the Zim/Adams platoon this year with Howie Kendrick as a back-up option if Zim had another long injury. It's worked spectacularly --as has the whole bench. Adams, Kendrick, Suzuki and Parra have 42 homers and 144 RBI in 672 at-bats!!

But that can't be your plan for the future with Howie and Suzuki at 35 and Parra 32. Adams is 30 but looks best in a platoon where he doesn't get worn out or face many lefties. The free-agent market for players like Adams (on a one-year deal) is soft enough that the Nats COULD probably bring him back next year and see how many ABs he gets.

The Nats options for '20 are not as excellent as you'd prefer. That's why re-signing Rendon is SO important. If he leaves, and Zim is no longer a factor, how do you keep a strong lineup, even if you add young Carter Kieboom to it?

You can sign a free agent first baseman. Weak group: Pearce, Moreland, Thames, Bour, Duda. (The Cubs will pick up Anthony Rizzo's option in '20. Also, I assume, in '21.) 

You can think about moving Juan Soto to 1st base --which isn't necessary since his defense is improving, but does give you a larger selection of free-agent hitters to pursue. Marcell Ozuna (Cards, 29) is a solid power bat. Yasiel Puig is a handful but talented. Starling Marte, 31. Not sure I see an answer there. 

Could you move Dozier, if he continues to finish a 25-HR bounce-back year, at first base next year w Kieboom at 2nd? I mentioned 1st base to Dozier as an eventual career destination. He didn't snap at me (or laugh at me). He really likes playing with the Nats. But he's a lot more of a plus as a second baseman.

Now you see why the Nats have continued to give Zim chances to get healthy or stay semi-healthy. It's not THAT easy to get a 115 OPS+ first baseman (Zim in '18) even if he only plays half the year. 

All of this adds to "SIGN RENDON!"

Many e-mail me to say, "Why don't the Nats sign Rendon? Just get it done."

I smack my head. By the time the player gets to his walk year, HE controls the situation. Early in your career, the team controls YOU --hence the phrase "under team control." Later you are a FREE Agent. Hence the word "FREE." (Is this hard?)

The team can make offers. Or even "bid against itself" during that last season. But the way it usually works --if a player WANTS to stay-- is that the player-and-his-agent approach the team (from a position of strength) and say, "Wanna talk? We really like it here. But we're not coming to you hat in hand. We're just giving you the first chance to make a big play for me. But this is going to cost you a LOT of money." 

When the player-agent DON'T make that step during the last season, or don't respond for many weeks to a late-season offer by the team (like the Nats $300M to Harper), that is when the team has to say, "This guy is going to test the market. That is his right. But it isn't good news for us. That means we probably won't be able to sign him --IF we can sign him at all-- until next January. Jeeez, can we wait THAT long to build our team for next year?"

The answer to Who is the Nats first baseman with Zim hurt now is: Adams, Kendrick and Dozier play the right side of the infield. They'll all get plenty of ABs. Just hope none of 'em get hurt with Zim hurt, too.

The answer to "Who is the first baseman in '20?" is a lot trickier. You could gamble on Adams/Kendrick again, if you can resign them. (They make $7.5M combined this year.) But after Howie's season-ending injury in '18, the risk in that is obvious. 

Bos, there was ANOTHER court hearing on 12-July - do you have any information to share? At this point, it's been ~7 years? Is there any doubt that the Orioles are not acting in good faith? At what point does the Commissioner step in?

The Orioles are acting in bad faith. There's never been any question about that.

It's ironic that when this MASN deal was being cooked up long ago NONE of the current players on the Washington side had any part in it or even knew what transpired. Nobody had made any bid for the team (including the Lerners). So they were not a party to the deal. MLB made the MASN deal with the O's, then the Lerners later bought the team (and the TV deal as part of it). They were still the ex-Expos back then. Nobody in the Nats front office then cared at all about some TV deal that far in the future --they just wanted to keep their jobs and get the team moved to a new town.

As far as I can tell, plenty of people in Baltimore who were in the discussions then are still around --and painting the picture their way. As far as I can tell, the only person in DC who's still around who was following this issue --day-to-day, week-to-week-- back then --by talking to Bud Selig about it and writing about it, was me. And my memory of the way Bud said the deal was intended to work --maybe he was talking out of different sides of his mouth to DC and Balto people-- was that the Orioles/MASN got a DREAM deal in the beginning with that 90%/10% division of equity in MASN for the O's in Year One. 

OTOH, Washington's assurance --its only assurance-- of fair play, or something even remotely like fair play, was that, every five years, the payout to the Nats for their RSN rights would be set at prevailing market rates. And the decision on that price would be made by a group/committee within MLB. NOT some outside body. IOW, baseball itself knew what a raw deal DC had gotten on TV rights, but at least MLB would have the decency to have its own people in ownership --the ones who'd voted 29-1 for the Expos-to-DC move-- be the ones to set the price of the reset. This is just my memory of it --who knew that, 15 years later, they'd still be fighting over it. 

It used to drive Kasten crazy that the O's were, from the beginning, trying to do every legal move to delay the reset which would have brought MUCH higher prices to the Nats. The O's were, and still are, imo, just trying to welsh on the basic intentions of what was a GREAT TV deal for Baltimore.

My assumption is that Bud dawdled on this so that Rob Manfred could deal with it when he became commish.

HA! Manfred won't even twist arms to get teams to extend netting further down the foul lines to protect kids, including little children, from 100 mp.h. foul balls. For now, he wants to "leave it to the teams."

Well, he's also, whether he admits it or not, leaving it to the teams --in this case the Nats and O's-- to fight this out legally for the next 100 years.

If I had to bet, I'd say that Bud knew the original deal was murky, debatable, but he saw the benefits of a team in DC and put off the day of reckoning on Nats/O's/MASN. Selig was world-class at kicking the can down the road. But this may be his personal record for a deadline on addressing a tough problem --eternity.

Through decades of being a bad to occasionally mediocre basketball team, the one thing the Bullets / Wizards didn't have to worry about was the broadcasting team of Steve Buckhantz and Phil Chenier. The owners hung on to GMs and executives for years past their expiration date, what gives? At the very least, it appears tone deaf and almost Ashburn-esque (Frank Herzog out for Larry Michael, still bitter about that one). Or even the Orioles dumping Johnny Miller. Not the regional team owners you would want to emulate. It might be difficult to win in today's NBA where superstars basically pick teammates like it's a rec league game. But you'd expect the same leadership group that runs the Capitals to demonstrate a certain level of class and self-awareness when dealing with a fan-favorite like Buckhantz. Any insight on what is going on here?

Let's see: Horrible 40-year record as an NBA franchise. Consistently lousy front office performance in the Grunfeld era. BUT the one bright spot, an excellent TV tandem to make it all seem slightly bearable.

The Leonsis solution! Keep everybody in the front office that has failed! Just can Grunfeld. Give it all a new phony name: "Monumental Basketball" and include the new shabby GAMBLING ON PRO SPORTS arm of your operation under the basketball umbrella.

But FIRE Phil and Buck.

There is a name for this.

CONSISTENCY!

So we and everyone in baseball knows the Nats need relievers. Rizzo says he wants controllable arms and not just rentals. Well that means we are going to have to give something up. What prospects do you think are on the table (Kieboom, Garcia, Crowe)?

Sometimes it's important to say, "They know more than I do."

In recent years, fans and pundits and sometimes me, I suspect, have grumbled about the Nats passing up trades because they wanted to keep those much-sought minor leaguers named Robles, Soto and C Kieboom. Before that, Trea Turner in the minors. Everybody said, "Who knows how good they will REALLY be? All prospects are suspects until they prove it in the majors. How can Rizzo be so sure he is right about these guys?"

The other side of the coin, when the Nats traded Vasquez, Treinen, Giolito, Lopez, Robbie Ray, Souza and others, Rizzo always said, "We think they are going to be good. Maybe REALLY good. You have to give up something to get something."

Sometimes the Lerners make mistakes in judgment. IMO, they should have gone after Craig Kimbrel in March. Or ABSOLUTELY a few weeks ago when they should have been fighting the Cubs --who got him for a measly $43M/3yrs with a team option. After a rough rusty first 3 games, Kimbrel's ERA is 0.00 in his last six games with one hits allowed and 10 strikeouts in six innings. IOW, he looks like Craig Kimbrel. There was risk in signing him. And he may turn sour on the Cubs in the future. But right now it sure looks like the Nats blew it by not even being IN THE GAME for him recently --when they knew EXACTLY how badly they needed him. The front office and players wanted him --yes, they always want reinforcements. But, after brief contact in the spring, the Lerners weren't interested --at all.  

How overrated are the Dodgers? They have a sparkling record, but they play in the one of the worst divisions in MLB history, they're a mediocre road team, and they don't hit lefties well. I have to think Scherzer, Strasburg, and Corbin would give the Nats a huge advantage in a play-off series where two of them would pitch twice.

As I suspect you know, there are no bad teams in the NL West. There are also no other very good teams: 50-50, 50-50, 47-52, 47-52. So the Dodgers record is real.

They're 41-12 at home with an insane +149 run differential. On the road, their solid 27-23 mark might be even better considering their +49 run differential.

I'd take the Dodgers over the Nats in a 5-game series, even though (lefty) Corbin should be a good match-up and Kenley Jansen isn't the closer he once was. But in a 5-game series "being better" is only a small advantage. Since '95 in all 5-game series, the team with the better regular-season record has won 43 series and lost 44. Yes, lost more. It's always a toss-up --or pretty close. The Nats would have a perfectly reasonable chance. We may see a preview this weekend when the Dodgers arrive for a three-game series Fri-Sat-Sun. If Nats make it as WC and win WC/WC game you already know it's 99% that they ply the Dodgers in the DS.

If you want to hang your hat on recent Nats success --33-15 with very nice +76 run diff, then feel free. Even Dodgers only have the 2d-best record, to the Nats, since May 24 (35-17). But Dodgers still have the run-diff edge with +103.

Dodgers, Yanks and Braves have looked really good ALL season --the Yanks despite lots of injuries. But in the last 50 games, Dodgers, Nats and Yanks have played best. (Braves & Oakland, too.) 

It's probably/maybe BETTER to play the Dodgers in a 5-game series, not 7-game. But who wants to risk a 50-50 WC/WC game to get to that 5-game DS? (Nobody.)

Please provide a little primer on the traditional roles of the manager, the pitching coach, and the bench coach when it comes to tactical bullpen management. Because I'd like to know how Friday night's disaster could/should have been avoided.

It's the manager's call. The pitching coach can kibitz.

HOWEVER...

You can't use the next game to justify strategy in the previous game. (Because even managers can't see the future.) But those who think the Friday loss in Atlanta was bungled looked a lot LESS brilliant 24 hours later. And Martinez looked more farsighted. Not saying it was the right call on Friday. Just saying that Sat was a perfect illustration of why it wasn't a simple 90-10 decision, but more complex than that.

On Friday, in a 3-3 game, Martinez did NOT bring Doolittle in to start the bottom of the 9th (or bring him into the middle of the 9th when Rodney got in a two-on, no-out jam that led to loss).

His reasoning, he said: To win the game, the Nats would have to score in the top of the 10th (or 11th, 12th, etc) and THEN they would need a closer. That is Doolittle's job. So, hold him back to do his job.

Martinez said he wanted to keep Doolittle available for the rest of the series, including a possible game in which he would get MORE than 3 outs. Well, what do you know, it happened THE NEXT DAY.

Martinez could not have known it would work out so well. Instead of using Doo for 3 outs on Friday in a 3-3 game --with no certainty of a win even if Doo was perfect, he got to use him for FIVE outs on Saturday in a game the Nats LED. And it worked.

Well (you say) why not use him in the 9th on Friday for 3 outs, then STILL use him for 5 outs on Saturday? You could. But it's asking a lot. Also, then Doo would be "down" for Sunday if you had a late lead (and the Sunday game was close into the 6th).

Of course, you can bring him into the 9th inning Friday and LEAVE him in to pitch the 10th, too. That would be a temptation. If that were the case he would definitely not be pitching 5 outs on Saturday.

Managing --it ain't as easy as it looks. Fans tend to see 90-10 in a lot of 60-40 situation. For example, last Wednesday's loss in Baltimore, when Fedde was taken out with a 2-1 lead after 6 innings and only 66 pitches, was much closer to a 60-40 call than a bungle.

Fedde has never gone more than 6 innings in 21 starts. Hadn't pitched since 7/2 --so maybe not "stretched out" and thus injury prone at that moment. They are going to need him or Voth or SOMEBODY as 5th starter. He'd had 94-min rain delay which drains energy in a young pitcher chomping at the bit to compete for a spot. One-run lead. The pitch-to-contact guy facing bad team, but one w 112 HR. Fresh (enough) bullpen. Gonna take him out as soon as anybody gets on anyway so he doesn't face "losing run." Why not give reliever a clean inning w no base-runners? It's a 60-40 call, one way or other. I'd say 60--40 in favor of leaving him in but...

Not saying Martinez doesn't make some poor bullpen decisions --I got a list. Do they outweigh his other good qualities? There are 10 more games with Atlanta, and lots of other tough games, where we'll see how he handles it.

I know you are not a doctor but is Max Scherzer's injury one that is likely to recur? Do you think that the Nats are managing him correctly by allowing him to go so far into games with a high pitch count?

The Nats and Sports Medicine has been a touchy subject at times over the last eight years of the Nats being a contender. So far, I don't think this one with Max Scherzer is a problem.

Cortisone shots mask pain, they don't cure injuries. So that's always a worry. Max has had cortisone shots before. Nobody plays "discomfort-free" very much of the time. Scherzer seems to know his body about as well as anyone.

There was some element of macho in his 117 pitches with the black eye vs Phils. But in his last four starts (since broken nose) he's averaged 107 pitches. For the year, he's averaged 107 pitches. Last year, averaged 106 pitches. (With Dusty in '17, 100 pitches. You know, Dusty the Arm Killer).

I think everyone in DC agrees that Mike Rizzo is a very good GM but how much of his success is driven by luck? Imagine if Ian Desmond had signed his $107M/7yr contract offer and Jordan Zimmermann had signed his $121M/6yr contract offer - Zimmermann has been worth 0.5 WAR with Detroit and Desmond has been worth negative 0.2! If those players had accepted the contracts, how much different would our perception of Rizzo be?

The Lerners had to approve those $100M+ offers. So it's "are the Lerners and Rizzo lucky."

They also offered Mark Teixeira $188M. (That might have been OK.) Much more important, they offered Prince Fielder a lot as a FA and that would have been a disaster. The Nats were in that game before the '12 season --before the Nats run as contenders started. The Tigers got him for $214M for 9 years. OMG! Off the top of my head, I think the Nats were still players at around $180M. What if Detroit hadn't saved them from themselves? Fielder had a good year in '12 (108 RBI), a decent year in '13 (108 RBI again, but less productive), then disaster. His total WAR for the whole contract was 1.3-a-year!  An overpay by >$150M. He didn't even play the last 3 years of the deal --though of course he still got paid.

If they'd gotten Fielder, this nice little Nats Era might not have happened. Or it would have been much more constrained. Could they have gotten Max for $210M? Or gone to $175M to keep Strasburg? Yikes.  

Come back in 5 years (or 10) and see where the Harper deal falls on that list. Lucky he didn't take it? Or wish the Nats still had him.

I'm all for signing Rendon for 5 or even 6 years. But he WILL be 30 next season. Much as ya luv him, nobody that age is a mortal lock to be worth it. (Yes, they signed Max at 30.)

Why do the Nats continue to treat Gomes and Suzuki as equals when Suzuki has far outperformed Yan at the plate? In roughly the same number of at bats, Suzuki has hit .263, 11 HR, 39 RBI, and 22 R compared to Gomes with .198, 3 HR, 20 RBI, and 14 R. Those numbers put Gomes at the bottom of the majors for all hitters. As a point of reference, Severino has put up a .263, 9 HR, 25 RBI, 22 R line in a similar number of ABs, and Weiters has done even better than Gomes in 40% fewer ABs .238, 7 HR, 16 RBI, 11 R. I understand that Suzuki is older and pitchers have preferences in receivers, but he is in great shape and every bit of offense helps at this point.

They figure it'll all even out. Gomes hit 16 homers last year and was an All-Star. It sure hasn't evened out so far.

One point: Suzuki remade himself as a hitter in '17 (into a dead pull power hitter) and his OPS since then is .820 --VERY good for a catcher-- with 42 homers and 139 RBI in 802 at-bats & a .273 average. Think of that as 31 homers and 104 RBI per 600 at-bats. That's good for any position. He can hit. That's who he is now, at least until he gets old. You can't play him constantly or he will wear down at 35. BUT he has always been a very durable catcher. He can probably start significantly more than he has.

Gomes has generally been a pretty good hitting catcher with some power. He hit a 443-foot homer this year --but only has THREE this year when everybody is hitting bombs. Also, this isn't his first bad year --he hit .167 in 237 ABs in '16. (Don't remember if he was injured.) The current version of Suzuki is just a better hitter than Gomes has been in his career (.244/.708 OPS).

Gomes will probably hit more. Hang with him. But I'd switch the balance of the catching duties to more like 60/40 Suzuki until that happens. Then back to ~50/50.

Could we have asked for two better underdog story lines this year than Gary Woodland winning the U.S. Open and, now, Shane Lowry dominating The Open at Royal Portrush? Neither golfer was ranked in the top 50 in the world. So much for Koepka, Speith, Fowler and all the rest of The Wonder Boys. And weren’t Tigers’ post-exit comments kind of alarming about his game and state-of-mind? Didn’t it sound like”the Masters win took every once of mental and physical strength I had left. I may be done playing at that level?”

I like all your points. Woods, Koepka, Woodland and Lowry is a fascinating group. You could have gotten a million-to-one on picking those four. (Lowry did enter the BO at No. 33 in the world. He can PLAY, but, for a 32-year-old, he just hasn't WON that much --four events in Europe and one on PGA Tour.)

Last week I mentioned that some in golf, including players, think that the Masters and British Open are Tiger's two best chances in most years. The Open because it's seldom "too long" for him and because he's so strong on strategy (stay out of Open bunkers) and shaping creative shots through air and on the ground. BUT those of us who said that forgot one big thing. There are pretty days at the British Open but, at the ones I've covered, you're more likely to wish you'd packed five layers of clothes and a few titanium umbrellas. I remember walking Muirfield in 25-to-40 mph raw sideways rain for hours thinking, "What the hell am I doing OUT HERE. And I'm not even playing.")

Tiger's railroad-track-scared back HATES cold, wet conditions --meaning most British Opens in the future-- unless he catches an easy week.

Yes, he sounded old-ish and kind of beaten down. But also doubly happy that he DID win the Masters.

As much as we all made of that amazing win, in hindsight it's possible that we'll see it, and the whole year building up to it as an even more remarkable accomplishment of will. Woods really had a 10-year project to win another major --through every kind of problem, including the self-inflicted ones. 

My gut-level response, now that it's a few months in the past, is that I'm really glad for him that he did it. Because I'm not sure he'll do it again --or maybe once more at most. The golf world --the sports world-- is going to wait a long, long time to see a comeback that faced so many different kinds of psychological, physical and technical golf mountains to climb.  

To paraphrase a wise writer about baseball: Golf is hard. It's hard to shoot well all the time, especially when there are plenty of talented players also trying to shoot well. Or at least that's how it seems to me from my couch, and I admit I can only consistently break 100 if I'm playing nine holes. So why do you think this is less a case of "golf is hard" and "these here bums are chokers"?

I might have been guilty of a chat-bait choice of words. Sorry.

BUT golf does bring out the UNDENIABLE CHOKE more often than any other sport. Pro golfers themselves say it, and I've even had some cite it to me as a reason to call golf a "sport" not a "game." It's not an argument based on logic. It's just their way of saying, "Look what we ENDURE. How can you call THAT a 'game?'' They have a point.

Hello; first-time chat person here. I recently saw some highlights of the recent World Cup final for cricket, and it was exciting even while not understanding all the rules. For England and New Zealand fans, it was akin to the the most exciting Super Bowl ever. Do you think there’s a chance that USA cricket could be built up into something on these shores, like soccer is starting to become?

I went to one cricket match in my life --at Lord's Cricket Ground. Several cricket writers tried to explain the game to me over a VERY long day --many hours. I learned what a "silly mid-off" was and why he was so silly. (Plays close to the batsman, but without any glove, if I remember correctly.)

I wanted to see Viv Richards, all-time great, bat in an England-West Indies match. He was "on deck" for what seemed like all day. At the end, I mentioned that it was too bad I'd never gotten to see him bat --sort of a disappointing introduction to their no-doubt wonderful game. Better luck next time, don't you know. I was informed that I had just witnessed one of the greatest comebacks, greatest days, in the history of cricket and one of the worst national mortifications in the history of British sport as England blew a 10-trillion-to-nothing lead (or however they keep score.) I'd missed it.

I believe that my response was, "Oh.......never mind."

...

See you next week --as the Trade Deadline looms. Thanks for all your fine questions, jabs and insights.  

The #sticktosports folks, such as the poster above, drive me nuts. Did everybody choose to skip reading any history, where sports have almost always been political, and been a platform for those who may be otherwise voiceless? Jesse Owens at the Munich Olympics? Most of the early 20th century of boxing is tinged (to put it mildly) with race-related issues and problems. Jackie Robinson and the integration of baseball is 100% politics as well. 1968 Olympics. Those who participate in or cover sports should not be silenced because you don't like what they say. Change the channel, or maybe stop and listen, and see if their position might teach you something, even if you ultimately disagree. Stomping your feet and decrying the whole intersection between sports and politics--which has been there for ages and ages--is not a mature response.

Politics intersects with almost everything. Always has. That's why it is inevitable that sports writers will always deal with sports-related issues that cross with politics. And why we should.

But, as in many things, the current President confronts us with different issues, not so much of sports, or even of policies within our normal politics, but of the subject which consumes him above all others combined --himself.

Your discussion of Dan Le Batard and how to mix commentary on sports and politics reminded me of something Ernest Hemingway said back in 1934: "Books should be about the people you know, that you love and hate ... If you write them truly they will have all the economic implications a book can hold." Given the context of the times (the Great Depression), read "politics" for "economics." The way a sportswriter covers athletes -- their triumphs, their struggles, their foibles, their sins -- will inevitably reflect how he feels about them and will reveal pretty much everything you need to know about the writer himself, whether he's humble or pompous, principled or crooked, compassionate or cruel. You may never write about politics per se, but your values are on display every day. And in the long run, that may have more of an impact on your readers than anything you could ever say about the latest political brouhaha. Anyway, my two cents (and that's about what it's worth!)

Well put. Thanks for your thoughts.

(Never thought we'd get Hemingway into this chat. As Yogi Berra --supposedly-- said, when told that Papa was a writer, "So, Ernie, what paper do you write for?")

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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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