Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Nov 04, 2019

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

Past Ask Boswell chats

NATIONALS WIN WORLD SERIES! 

First: Exactly how happy ARE you? What was your favorite moment, memory? From a game. From the parade? Who is you post-season MVP? Biggest goat among teams the Nats beat? Who had the biggest headache after Game 7 of the World Series that the Nats won? Dan Snyder, Peter Angelos or Bryce Harper? 

Other questions for the day. 

Where does this World Series rank among The Best Ever, the Biggest Upset, The Most Odds Defying, The Most Exciting? 

I think these are different categories, some overlapping. You may have others. What were the most important game-changing plays in the Nats post-season? 

Baseball-Reference.com has a very strong opinion! They work out the percentage change in a team's chance to win before an at-bat begins and its percentage chance to win after that at-bat. 

The difference is how much that play CHANGED the chance of victory. I would not have gotten this right. Two plays are BY FAR the most important in changing those games. And, by coincidence, they were both in season-on-the-line winner-take-all games.

1) At a HUGE 58% change in the Nats chances of winning. 

Far more important than any other play in October by 25%! Juan Soto's two-run single, and the subsequent error in RF that scored three Nats runs to turn a 3-1 deficit in the wildcard game against Milwaukee into a 4-3 lead. Runner-up: At +33% --Howie Kendrick's 2-run homer in Game Seven of the World Series to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead. 

Next, at +25%, to my slight surprise, is Soto's home run off Kershaw --back-to-back after Rendon's homer-- in Game 5 of the NLDS. 

OK, let's go!

Hi Tom - How do you see the ballpark and general Nats atmosphere carrying over into next year? Did Nats fandom just get a shot in the arm that will leave a lasting impact? I was living in New England when the Sox one in 2004 and the next season was all things pink hats, playoff atmosphere all summer, etc.

Great point.

I think attendance will jump by several thousand and ballpark atmosphere will go up a notch. The post-season crowds were through the roof.

I think the Nats will work out a new deal with Stephen Strasburg and that he will be back. And I think they will go very hard after Anthony Rendon. I'd say they went 80-to-90% hard after Bryce Harper and will go 110-to-120% hard after Rendon.

What on earth do I mean by that? I don't know. I'm just btrying to find a way to express the seriousness with which the team will go after the players. They'd have been glad to sign Harper, but I think they were resigned to him leaving and had "moved on" in their own minds when he showed no interest in their $300M offer, with lots of deferrals.

The Nats ABSOLUTELY must work things out with Strasburg. This is not optional. And I think they will. He really loves DC and the team.

As I've said, I think the Nats should overpay for Rendon. If they have to go to $240M --which is pretty nutty for  player that will be 30 next season-- I still think they need to do it.

If the Nats can KEEP both Strasburg and Rendon, they will still have room UNDER the Competitive Balance Tax to build a good bullpen and be a VERY serious contender next year. And the town will go crazy for them. Remember, lots of money is coming off that payroll. Zim's $16M (he may come back for $5M), Dozier's $9M (Carter Kieboom comes up), Trevor Rosenthal ($9M gone) and several others, including less to Gomes. Strasburg already made $25M and Rendon $18.4M. 

They stayed under the CBT last year --it was a goal. That gives them some flexibility.

HOWEVER, just a warning to the nice Lerner family, if neither Strasburg nor Rendon come back, they better have one hell of an off-season in free agency replacing them or they may see a DECREASE in attendance next year.

Wht happened last week can increase attendance, interest and revenue for the Nats for the next 10 to 15 years even if they don't win another WS in that time. But they MUST ACT RIGHT NOW. The franchise has been given an image-changing new reality. That has huge economic value. In business, I think it might qualify on the balance sheet as "Goodwill." It's the difference --to exaggerate-- between a bottle of soda that says "Brand X" and one that says "Coca-Cola."

The people who added that value --for many years to come-- must get compensated. That's how baseball works. This year, Strasburg and Rendon got very lucky --they were great at the right (free agent) time. But the Lerners got lucky, too --they won a World Series that could have escaped them in a hundred different ways.

You can't keep the whole team together. But you must keep Strasburg. And you can't FORCE Rendon to play in DC if --in the back of his mind-- he wants to play someplace else. NOBODY knows what is in Anthony's mind, as far as I know --including his teammates. He seems happy here. Everybody loves him. He's a good person with excellent values. But you never know. Does he love perfect weather --like So Cal? Some players do.

Let me put it this way: winning the World Series TENDS to keep teams together --if financially possible, tends to get business deals done, tends to make everybody like everybody else even more and want to keep a good thing going. Some WS-winning rosters HAVE to blow up --there just isn't enough money to go around to make it work. That is NOT the case with the Nats. There will be valuable players and "pieces" subtracted. But this team has a heck of a window in '20 and '21.

 

Adam Eaton had an outstanding World Series, though fewer dramatic moments than Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto. Perhaps because of that, his contributions don't seem to have been noticed much - unsung as you pointed out a few days ago. Could you talk about Eaton's role - credit where credit is due? Thank you!

Eaton was excellent. According to baseball-reference.dom, Eaton had THE most important play in both Game Two and Game Four against St. Louis (both doubles in key spots) and well as the nthird most important hit in Game Three against the Cards.

And I don't even think that was his best Series --his best was the WORLD Series. His home run vs. Verlander in Game Six was huge. It stunned the crowd and set ther stage for Soto's hom run to "answer" Bregman's Hotdog Homer.

My leading "unsung heroes would be Eaton at No. 1. There is an old-fashioned stat --no, I'm not pushing it, but it helps make a point: "runs produced." That is RBI + runs - home runs. You subtract the home run total because a HR "cvounts twice" --once as a RBI and once as a run. Yeah, I know it's not that good a stat.

But here are the World Series leaders in Runs Produced: Soto 10, EATON 9, Rendon 9, Bregman 8. 

Pretty good company! In the WS, Eaton hit .320.

My No. 2 unsung hero would be Patrick Corbin --I didn't give him enough credit, that's for sure. He had that one awful 6-run inning in relief against the Dodgers that blows up his stats. His three starts were just OK --he was so amped up that he fanned 26 in just 17 innings in those staerts but walked 10.

However, he TRANSFORMED the Nats bullpen. It's not accurate to say he became the Nats' equivalent of Josh Hader,  but, well, kind of, sort of. He got four big outs in the Gamer Five clincher vs the Dodgers and NINE monster outs against the Astros to be the winning pitcher in Game Seven of the World Series! Corbin also had an important shutout inning in Game One of the World Series.

So, the Dodgers won 106 games, the Astros 107. Who are they going to see in their off-season  nightmares? Corbin coming out of the bullpen in the games that eliminated them.

After his awful six-run "debut" as a reliever, he went 5 2/3 shutout innings with 3 hits, no walks and 8 Ks. What is remarkable about that is that a $140-million pitcher got BOMBED in his first attempt at relief. He could have said, "I just got mortified coast-to-coast going this stupid relief thing. I'm not doin' THAT any more." Instead, he pitched in relief FOUR more times with a 0.00 ERA and, as soon as he entered Game Seven of the WS, the feel of the game changed. It's like the Nats realized, "Corbin is ON. They aren't going to score anymore! They only got TWO lousy runs off Max! They let us hang in this game --the dopes. They could have knocked us out. That was their mistake. Now it's OUR turn." And Corbin, I think, was that shot in the arm when he ended the bottom of the sixth with a punch out and a DP grounder. 

Of course, another unsung Nats hero is ALEX BREGMAN! I wrote in this chat last week that once teams go into hitting slumps in the World Series they almost never come out of them because --imo-- they turn inward, get depressed, get down in a funk, thinking "Oh, no, we're choking." I think I asked what catalyst might change this trend for the Nats? What would get them out of their hitting slump and their inward self-critical gaze? I think it was Bregman carrying his stupid bat past first base on his home run off Strasburg in WS G6.

I tweeted at the time: "Bregman on solo HR in 1st carries bat to 1st base, admiring, leaves it 10' toward 2d. If Astros win WS, it'll just be next twist in hotdogging, back to Ruth --who cares. But if Astros somehow lose, it'll be what-a-dope, woke-'em-up turning pt. Poor risk-reward by a smart guy."

My final unsung Nats hero is Daniel Hudson. THIS to me is the made-for-TV-movie. Hudson's had a solid career, including a 16-win year as a starter before elbow surgery. He came back as a reliever and has a 3.94 ERA in 314 games. Mr. Journeyman. Very well-liked by teammates. But this guy should not have it in him to pitch to a 1.44 ERA in his 24 games for the Nats in the regular season when, with Doolittle injured, they were desperate for a closer. Hudson may be the only pitcher ever who has come out and said DURING the post-season that he is not comfortable closing, that he'd prefer Doolittle do it --almost saying, in effect: I'm not really good enough, dominant enough for this job. BUT I'LL DO MY BEST. (He did NOT say that. I'm interpreting his stance.) 

So, what does he do? He fans Corey Seager with the bases loaded to end Game Two of the NLCS againstthe Dodgers in a 4-2 Nats win and he finishes out Game Seven of the WS throwing his glove in the air after the final strikeout!

Corbin and Hudson, plus Doolittle --and some Strasburg and Scherzer-- gave the Nats a GOOD enough bullpen!

I wrote a column about the Nats being a pirate ship trying to board a frigate full of treasure --the treasure being the world title-- by breaking all the rules and making up their own --like pirates-- by using $525M worth of starting pitchers as relievers. How could they attempt such a crazy thing? By exploiting the 13 --THIRTEEN-- off days that they had in October to circumvent their own bullpen and, essentially, use a six man pitching staff to win the World Series. Tanner Rainey and Fernando Rodney were a bit of help, too. And Jos Ross saved the pen with two good innings in relief, then FIVE decent innings on just two days rest when Max couldn't start G5 of the WS. 

The whole thing was a beautiful month-long act of thievery!

Damned if they didn't do it! Well, blimey!

 

Hey Boz, Do you think winning the WS will have an impact in keeping Strasburg & Tony 2 Bags here for the foreseeable future? Will ownership treat them differently now that they were so vital to beating the Astros? What are your predictions on getting a deal done?

Ironically, it will make them more expensive, but I think it will also increase the chances that they stay because their work has just put a big mountain of money in front  of the Lernrers now that they have a world champion product to offer. My guesstimate: the chances with Strasburg are good to very good and the chances with Rendon are decent-to-good but kind of mysterious, too, because he's hard to figure out (for me). 

Somebody needs to take Stephen out next to the stature of Walter Johnson, give him a big hug --okay, maybe not a hug--  and show him EXACTLY the spot where HIS stature will be someday, right next to the HOF Big Train, especially if he stays.

Side note: I was going back through the 12 post-season games the Nats won last night. It's even more incredible when you "rewind" the whole thing and see how many tim es it looked like they were DEAD.

As I've said for years, the difference between advancing or disappearing in post-season is TINY. The Nats have now played eight post-season series --I count the Brewers game since it was winner-advances-- and they are 4-4. In all those games combined, their record is 19-17. That is what you would EXPECT when the top teams play each other.

In an odd way, they could have gone 4-4 and 19-17, but done it in a different sequence and won a couple of those Game-Five-Loss Division Series, but been knocked out in the NLCS and then they would never even have GOTTEN to a World Series, much less WON one. 

 

 

Rizzo was prepared for Harper to leave by having Eaton in place. The only backup plan for Rendon seems to be hoping for second prize in Donaldson. Is that about it for 2020? Looking down the road, if you're into Rendon for ~$35M for ~7 years, what does that mean for Turner, Soto, and Robles?

Carter Kieboom.

But let's just think of him as a 2d baseman next year. No negativity allowed around here right now.

Which crowd was better, Washington or Houston???

Washington.

No knock. Houston was very good.

But Washington outdoors was louder than Houston was indoors. And louder more of the time.

As one national baseball writer said to me, half in jest, Houston prefers to play with the roof closed --even when it is 73 degrees outdoors and 74 degrees indoors-- so that they can have the air blowers pointed out when the Astros are at bat and switched to point in when the other team is at bat.

Is it the Astros reputation in MLB that if they could get away with something like that, then they might just do it? 

Put it this way: Would the Patriots do it?

What an absolute whirlwind of a month and the most emphatic "flip of a switch" I've ever seen a team make once the playoffs started. These guys simply would not be denied, and Strasburg's "buzzsaw" quote will go down in lore...I wonder if they is a direct comparison to them. The easy (and lazy) narrative sort of implies Cinderella...but that's not these guys. They had a top 5 payroll and as much talent as anyone...what other teams have made this IMPROBABLE a run without being Cinderella? '90 Reds? '04 Pistons? I'm really having trouble putting this team in historical context...and still can't believe this happened!

Yes, they are a tough team to pin down.

They had a lot of talent and, when healthy, they were a beast --86-43 after May 23rd with a +203 run differential.

BUT I can't remember a World Series team that had as big a weakness as the Nats bullpen --which finished DEAD LAST in ERA in MLB --5.66. One of the five worst in the last 50 years.

Sometimes it clarifies things to say " Money talks." The odds at Caesars in Vegas had the Nats as the third longest long-shot ever to win the WS --after the '46 Cards and the '90 Reds. Even the 1919 Black Sox were not as big a favorite when they threw the World Series.

Those Vegas odd include the "wisdom of the market" on the Nats bad bullpen, the 107-win strength of the Astros and the Astros home field (Ha!) advantage.

I tried to phrase my view as accurately as I could (one three hours sleep) the a.m. after Game Seven: "The Nationals just pulled off the greatest postseason upset run in the history of baseball. And I doubt it’s even a close call."

I would try to make that more precise by saying that the Nats just pulled off the greatest postseason brink-of-disaster run in the history of baseball.

As I worked out in that column, the chances of coming from behind in FIVE elimination games --from the worst spots that the Nats were in during those games-- was about.0003. A few math folks contacted me to say they thought I'd figure that out correctly. Is it really meaningful to measure from "worst moment." I don't know. But it's INTERESTING (to me).

Two other teams won the World Series after surviving six elimination games in one post-season. The '12 Giants and the '85 Royals. But out of all 12 of those elimination games, there was only one "come-from-behind" win and that was from (I looked 'em all up, but this is from memory) a one-run deficit in the second inning. 

The Nats were down late three times and down in mid-game in a fourth elimination game. Also, look who was trying to o the eliminating! Two teams that won 106 and 107 games!

When you include the 19-31 start and all the elimination comeback wins, I think this has to be the long shot of all long shots to actually end up winning it all. "They're dead!" (No, they're not.) "They're dead! (No, they're not.) And on and on and on.

Also, I think the difficultly of the Nats schedule this year is overlooked. Washington played 96 teams with .500-or-better records! The Astros only played 63 against winners!

The Nats ended up playing 113 games against winners! That's a tough slog. No wonder they were battle tested. Against teams that won 100-or-more they were 12-10. Not bad.

Also, I remember writing that after September 1st they would play 24-of-27 against winners to end the season and so, now we'll "find out how good they are."

Well, I'd say we found out. Counting post-season they finished 28-16 with only three games against teams under .500 (3 with the Fish).

This was certainly not the most EXCITING World Series. There was one GREAT game --Game Six. Game Seven was close, tense and with a shocker of a finish. There have been better Game Sevens that went down to the last pitch --but it was a very good one. Game One was heart-stoppingly close --not a "great" game but nerve wracking. And Game Two, until the Suzuki homer, was a 2-2 tie and, all in all, a good game. But Games Three, Four and Five in D.C. were so boring that MLB-TV isn't even showing any of them in its rotation of 2-hour condensed versions of the post-season games. Everything else involving the Nats is on but it's like those three games went up in smoke. (What was impressive was how "into" those games the Nats crowd was, trying to will a good game to break out.) On the other hand, you can't ask for a better thrilling game at Nats Park than the wildcard/wildcard game. My editors are still keeping --perhaps for blackmail purposes-- my running game story on how the Nats season ended in defeat in the first game of the post-season. (You often have to write two columns simultaneously --a win and a loss-- because you have to file your column before the last pitch, or within five minutes if it really is a last-pitch game. Then, maybe an hour later, you can do some touch-ups, writing and add quotes. If deadline fall right, it can be more like 75 minutes. One game I was having trouble to my "write-through" and was later than "requested." All my very excellent and forbearing editor said when I called to make sure he had my copy was, "Boz, you're killin' me."  

No matter how many Cy Young trophies or 20-game winning seasons Lucas Giolioto or Dane Dunning have, the Eaton trade was worth it. He was a thorn in the side of the Astros the entire series and hit .320 with 2 HR, 6 RBI's and seemed to get on base when it mattered the most. Rizzo used his minor league prospects as trade bait to better the major league team, which is exactly what they should be used for.

The Eaton trade also gave the Nats "optionality" on Harper if it became clear --and the Nats sure thought it became clear-- that he had no particular preference for staying in D.C. and was going to string out the free-agent process into February or March to get the last dollar. Having Eaton allowed them to move on to add Corbin, Anibal Sanchez, Suzuki, Gomes, Dozier and others.

When I re-watched Game 7, I was struck by the swamp in front of home plate. Smoltz mentioned it briefly once the first time a ball splated through it. It seemed obvious from the color of the dirt in front of home plate that at least that area had been soaked to the max. Maybe the grass between there and mound as well. Every ground ball the Nats hit (it seemed) lost all its speed on its first hop. and wet dirt sprayed up. (The Astros seemed unaffected, as they seem to go for the uppercut swing.) And Grienke unsurprisingly made a bunch of relatively easy fielding plays on those "dead" balls. And then Grienke wins a Gold Glove for the regular season, with analysts noting all his fielding plays in game 7! Any baseball fan knows groundskeepers have been doctoring fields as long as the game has been played, but this seemed to approach crossing some line. Is there a line? Should MLB take charge of field conditions for playoff games? Luckily the game didn't turn on the handful of balls in play affected. But it could have.

Oh, you mean the Astros would look for an edge in the way they prepared their field?

It's part of the game, up to a point.

....

Different point. One of the best slow-heart-beat, time-to-be-a-hero moments I've seen in the World Series was Rendon's two-run homer after a crazy, stupid call at first bae on Trea Turner. If they Nats don't score any runs that inning, and only lead 3-2, do they hold on? 

I mentioned in the intro the "best turning point plays" according to baseball-reference.com. No. 4 was in Game Five against the Dodgers. But it was no Howie's grand slam --"only" +15% chance of winning because the bases were already loaded with no outs. And it wasn't Rendon's homer off Kershaw (+12%). It was Rendon's double in the TENTH inning to put men on second and third with NO OUTS in a tie game -- that's +24%-- because the probability is so high that you will 1) score at least one run and likely more and 2) go on to win because the other team only has 3 more out.

Hey Boz- how much credit do you think Davey gets for this whole thing? Is he a "great" manager now? I always had questions about him but you can't argue with this year's results...

He's excellent in the clubhouse and one-on-one with people. He works well with Rizzo. He's genuinely humble and that puts him in sync with a team that while very high in athletic arrogance --Scherzer, Rendon, Soto, Strasburg-- is also very high in personal humility. (Can you be "high" in humility? Anyway, you know what I mean. Big talent, big confidence, a lot of good guys who are also leaders, and leaders in different ways, who enforce an "all egos checked at the door" culture.)

How do the contributors who didn't get a chance to contribute much feel about the WS victory? Happy to be there and/or some regret that they didn't get a chance on the big stage. I'm thinking Dozier, Taylor, Adams, Parra... (Also, that Houston bit has been going around since the days of the Astrodome.)

Taylor got some chances to play (7-for-21, 2 homers) --more than he'd ever have expected in August-- and may have brought himself back up to solid fourth-outfielder status. In 38 career post-season at bats, he has four homers, 10 RBI and a 1.027 OPS. It goes to show you never can tell.

I felt bad for Dozier and Adams. But they both had 20 homers this years and had chances in regular season to build a resume for their next contract. Astrubal Cabrera earned his playing time. I assume Parra will be back because LHed pinch hitters who can play all 3 OF spots, have two gold gloves and have some speed are excellent 24th or 25th men. And, of course, he's IS the Parra Shark. Parra has had a >1300 hit career, has made about $42M and will probably enjoy coming back to a team and town that loves him for a reserves wage. Anyway, I hope so. Besides, he'll be 33 --so that means the Nats are the only team that does not have him categorized as "deceased."

Soto could have very well been the WS MVP - he was in the middle of every rally, had huge moments, and had that nice catch in at his shoes in Game 7 with 2 outs. What is this guy's ceiling? Mike Trout? Bellinger? Mickey Mantle?

Ceiling means that pretty much everything works out right. IOW, it's not a prediction. But he keeps looking like Mel Ott --who was so good so young that he was in the majors at 17 (23 for 60). Career slash line: .304/.414/.533. Great RBI man with 1860 and nine seasons with 100+. Six home run titles --511 homers. Had 100 walks 10 times. Score 100 nine times. Not as fast as Soto --just mya guess because he seldom stole. But he had a lot of OF assists from RF so he probably had a good arm. So, maybe, all in all, a "plus OFer," as Soto will probably be. 

He helped the N.Y. Giants win three pennants. Instant HOFer. Played a lot in the '30s with a jack-rabbit ball, but the ball has a heart-beat these days, too.

IF it would require 7 years and $210M ($30M average value) to sign Strasburg or 8 years and $260M ($35M average) which one would you sign? I realize that is a big if, but Cole is 2 years younger and had his Tommy John surgery 4 years later, 2010 for Stras and 2014 for Cole. Do you think those are realistic projections for what it will take to sign Stras and Cole?

Please realize that all the crazy numbers you will be hearing thrown around these days --like the ones you mention-- are Scott Boras generated numbers --which means he pulls them out of thin air, then multiplies by two. (That's his job.) When Strasburg was coming out of college he got the rumor started that he'd sign for $40M. Scott and I had a lot of long good talks --hours of them-- about Stras. But early on I mentioned a few previous deals and said, "You'll set a record, but it'll about $15M because there are all sorts of 'comps.' So lets drop that subject and talk about other things." It was $15M. Same with Harper. I ballpark guesstimated $10M --also a record. He got $9.9M. This is not rocket science. Everybody negotiates off everybody else.

During the rally on Saturday, Rendon said something like "hey fans, you're enthusiasm has been noted, don't worry!" I know he's an enigma wrapped in a puzzle but that statement gave me some hope that he might like to stay.

I noticed that, too.

Last week you wrote a really interesting response after game 5 about teams that get stuck in a "Total Team Hitting Slump," and gave a lot of examples/statistics of how hard it is to get out of that hitting slump. I'm sure you were as glad as everyone else to be wrong (you even said you hoped you were!). Since there are so many examples of teams that can't get out of hitting slumps, I'm wondering why you think the Nats were able to go into Houston and starting hitting again, as if the games at Nats Park hadn't happened? Just the general resiliency this team has shown all along, or were there other factors at play?

Alex Bregman.

After that game, I heard two things I never thought I'd hear.

Dave Martinez said, "We didn't like it."

And Bregman stood in front of reporters and said, "I was wrong."

There were other smooth it over words on both sides. But THAT is the core of it --the Nats found an excuse to get pissed, Bregman handed it to them on a platter, he knew it, he wished he hadn't done it. The Nats still had to hit the ball. But the shrinks say (I think) that anger directed inward is depression and anger directed outward is home runs. 

I've lived in the area for all my life and definitely think this still was quite true until quite recently. There are so many aspects to this...DC is a city full of transients that root for other teams. I recall seeing the then Bullets at the Capital Centre play the Celtics and more than half the crowd rooting for Boston. But now the Captials and Nats have both won championships and the Redskins continue to perpetually struggle. Is changing the name and building a stadium in DC the only way they can be saved?

Who the heck says they should be saved. Let 'em start acting right and "save" themselves. As for building a football stadium for them in D.C., why not just have every Washington resident toss their wallet onto the Mall, then come back the next day and see how much money Dan and Bruce have let them keep. 

Boz, I was born in Falls Church, Va in 1981. I’ve lived here my entire life, and the Nats’ victory in the World Series is without a doubt the best moment in my life as a sports fan. In a lot of ways, growing up in the DC area was like winning the lottery: many of our public schools are excellent, the area has been growing like gangbusters for 50 years, and there is much to see and do while living here. But for me, there was a hole: no baseball team. That hole didn’t make this a bad place to grow up. But the hole was there. That changed in 2005, and the win last week made me think about a number of things. I thought about all the afternoons and evenings I could have spent with my grandmother (a Tigers fan who moved to the area in the 80s) listening to the local team on the radio. I thought about going to see games with my dad at RFK as a young boy. I thought about trying to convince my parents to let me ride the Metro by myself as a middle-schooler to go see games during the summer. And I thought about all the effort my idiot friends and I would have put in to figuring out how to drink beer at home games during summers in high school. None of these things happened, and it makes me sad to think about what could have been. But the baseball team I always wanted finally came to DC in 2005, and that team just won the World Series. I don’t know if this experience in 2019 would have been sweeter if we had a team in DC when I was young. But it’s so sweet right now that I don’t care. The hole is still there, but it doesn't matter anymore.

That's beautiful. Thanks very much.

How about those Nats! There were tough choices for the WS MVP. Stras was obviously a fine choice. But what about Rendon, Eaton and Soto? Rendon’s made key defensive stops, and his hitting from the 7th inning on was clutch and critical. Eaton led the team in batting average, and had key RBIs. And of course, Soto’s home runs were huge. Did the three fielders “cancel” each other out in the MVP race? Or was Stras just so much more impactful? Where do you come out?

When they announced that there was a three-way tie for World Series MVP in '81, I thought it was about as stupid as it could be.

But if they'd given it to Strasburg, Rendon and Soto, I'd have thought it was accurate. Eaton, pretty close. He drove 'em crazy. They others knocked 'em dead.

Will the Nats’ intensity last into next season? Or will the feeling be more like post-graduation, having finally achieved that long-strived-for goal? Can the team keep up the brotherhood, especially as the faces change? Can they turn around and do it all over again?

There's a famous phrase for this --"The melancholy of all things completed." I think Nietzsche usually gets credit. There's a lot of truth in it. But I plan to delay it for several months, at the least, and probably several years.

Often there is a one-year let down. Not always. But you often see longer-term cultures build. When I covered the O's from '76 through '83, they were in the concluding portion of a 23-season run as the best team in baseball. The culture was in place --people changed but not the culture-- and it lasted a long time.

It speaks well for Mike Rizzo that his name has not come up in this chat. The other names that have  not come up are all the people he has hired, put in place, coordinated, shielded from issues that might have distracted them and shown respect and appreciation --scouts at all levels, analytics department, player development, every manager and coach in the system, the medical and training staffs (which got torn down and built back up several years ago0,  the international operation which has gone from below zero to Soto and Robles. Have I forgotten anything? Oh, every good trade. And taking 100% of the public flack for owners who, while fine folks, don't like the spotligtht --or the heat that goes with it. The day Rizzo goes out the door....no, don't LET him go out the door. 

I told Rizzo in September that I thought this was the best job he'd done with any of his teams because he'd had the MOST TO DO. He had to replace Harper --yet he ended up with an offense that scored 102 MORE runs without Harper --873-to-771. Offense was up this year, but not nearly that much. In the rotation, he had to replace Gio and Roark --and upgraded with Corbin and Sanchez. He had to build platoons from scratch at catcher and 2d base, as well as 1st base where he had to assume Zimmerman might be hurt more than healthy. So, he did. This year, the Nats catchers --just the actual catcher that day, not adding together Gomes and Suzuki's stats because sometimes they DHed or PH-- had 28 homers and 100 RBI. The second basemen --aided by Rizzo getting Astrubal Cabrera when nobody else wqas smart enough)-- had 30 homers and 96 RBI. The first basemen, largely because Rizzo identified Howie Kendrick has a late-career bloomer in '16, and also hired the hitting coach (Kevin Long) who helped Kendrick vastly improve himeslf, combined for 37 home runs, 128 RBI and hit .280. No, that is not a misprint. Also, when everybody wanted to incinerate his manager he not only stood by him he told people --like me-- eye to eye, calmly, "You all have this guy pegged wrong. He is EXACTLY the manager I want running this team." Of course, I had to add, "Well, at least you really screwed up the bullpen otherwise somebody would have to give you some credit." Where he pulled Daniel Hudson from I don't know. But his smart-ass answer to my smart-ass bullpen remark was, "Wait until you see the three guys we got coming into our bullpen in October --they've all got 230 strikeouts. (Add about seven "bleeps.") 

After Game Five of the World Series, he was off behind Martinez office, looking as happy as I've ever seen him --like he just knew what was going to happen.

I asked him how fast cortisone shots worked in cases like Scherzer's. He got annoyed and tried to blow off the question. But I said, "I'm only asking because I just watched him get dressed and he looks perfect. He put on his shirt, arm over his head, like there was nothing wrong with him. He didn't wince. I couldn't get dressed that fast when I was 30. He was into his locker and out of here in one minute. So, I think some cortisone shots work really fast. And you think Max is starting Game Seven after Strasburg wins Game Six and then all the pressure falls on them."

"When you were 30? You musta been pretty slow," said Rizzo, laughing. "Max probably dressed fast because he didn't want to answer questions LIKE THAT ONE."

"Maybe you caught a break he didn't match up with Cole today, but now he can go in Gamer Seven."

"Give Cole credit. Not many teams would've hit what he was throwing today."

"So you don't think Max is going to 'pitch an inning out of the pen' in Game Seven, like everybody's saying. You think he's going to start. And the team probably figures he will, too."

"That's what we're hoping," said Rizzo, which is the quote I manged to get into the final edition of my column. I included a description of Scherzer dressing quickly with no discomfort. As with a hundred things that happened in October '19, Scherzer didn't have to wake up feeling good the day of Game Seven. But things went the Nationals way --unlike '12, '14, '16 and '17. Scherzer battled through five inning and set the stage for something that I believe Rizzo saw as a very plausible Last Act in Houston. One which had him in a very good mood.  

Now, a city of six million is in a similar mood! So, all things considered, I think it will be a long time before "the melancholy of all things completed" swamps me. Or D.C.

The last month has given Washington more than enough to keep it smiling through winter and into spring. When, just guessing, the  Nationals will be good again.

...

That's it for this week. I'm now going to go to sleep for a very long time. My guess is that I'll chat again in two weeks. Have a GREAT week.  

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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