Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Jun 01, 2020

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

Past Ask Boswell chats

Man, am I glad to have you chatters as my therapy! 

I was talking to my editor a little while ago. I said, “It has all finally gotten to me. Everything blowing up around the country, the pandemic and the re-opening of America where every place I look, I see 16 people crammed on a small boat on a little creek –like a human Covid-19 buffet-- because being cooped up has driven them all nuts. 

And on top of that, this is my 80th day without sports. 

I’ll admit, it’s finally all gotten me down.” My wise editor said: “I bet the chatters will make you feel better.” I realized he was right! Community! I don’t even care if you write to say, “Your previous answer was idiotic!” The floor is open. 

One-knee protests, the 1925 World Series, the when/how/if of sports reopening and any subject you choose. 

However, I will say that when I heard about some of the police who took a knee alongside the demonstrators, my eyes kind of got blurry. It’s been so long between generous, decent gestures or symbols of “I get it –even though you probably don’t think I do. We’re in this together.” 

So, lets chat –together.

What do you think about Japan's idea of fan feedback Is it fake crowd noise? And, regarding the sex dolls, who knew what they were unless they were familiar with them? And where did they think baby dolls came from, anyway?

Ha! Thanks for that nice amusing start.

I have to admit that I was one of those who could have looked at the dolls forever and thought nobody of it.

Who is the first photographer who tells an editor, "Boss, before you run this picture, you DO know that those are SEX dolls --right?"

Hi Boz. Good piece by Barry Svrluga this week. Sad. Many fond memories watching Os climb their way through the Baltimore farm system. Living in CNY, I also delighted in tracking up-and-coming Nats through SYR. Is now the time to book tickets to Omaha? Also, ever spend a part of a summer walking the farm?

The Nats MLB players have been stand-up guys on this one --they are going to contribute money to make the Nat minor leaguers whole on their pay cut. Here's our story.

The Lerners should be ashamed. They can give out championship rings with 108 diamonds, 32 sapphires and 30 rubies but they have released 30 minor leaguers and cut the pay of all their other minor leaguers by 25% --down to $300-a-week!?

I guess it's no fun these days to be heavily invested in commercial real estate or in malls --both of which are getting crushed by long-term trends and now by the pandemic accelerent to those changes. And owning an MLB team isn't quite the money-printing machine it used to be. If the Lerners aren't careful they'll be down to their last few billion.  

My suspicion is that there has been a call for "solidarity" among owners to show the union how tough they can be. What that usually means --well, for the last 40+ years, anyway-- is that they "get tough" with the little people in the game, then they buckle when they meet up with the union. At one time, it was the umps who got kicked as a kind of warning to players. (It didn't work.) 


Is there going to be any sort of baseball season this year?

But that may happen.

But the answer is probably "Yes." IMO, the only thing that will stop it is a major blow-up in virus cases.

The players and owners, as always, will go to the last minute --they usually settle at 11:59 p.m. This tim, however, there is no CBA deadline --so that flexibility may tempt them into even more brinksmanship.

But they will get it done because revenue of $6B --no matter how you split it-- is SO much bigger than $0.00 which is probably the most powerful eye-catching amount of money on earth.

Obviously, MLB has huge advantages to reopening compared to the NBA, NHL and NFL. Baseball has natural social distancing during play, except for the momentary "meetings" between players sliding into bases, etc. But compared to the constant contact of the other major sports, it's almost no contact at all. The league in South Korea --if I remember from the one game I watched for a little while-- shows how masks can be used. Also, MLB is OUTDOORS --which the virus never likes.

Two "mystery" factors. You can find credible projections of Covid new cases and deaths which show a dramatic drop over the next five weeks, assuming sensible social distancing and other best-practices during a gradual re-opening. If those projections are close to correct, you'll probably see MLB. In fact, I almost find these projections too rosy to believe --although if you change the "assumptions" that generate the graphs, you get much different --and worse-- results.

However, I think this is also sometimes accused of being the too-optimistic projection method.

We'll find out soon enough.

The other X factor is MLB's unique labor-management history of finding ways to screw up a butterscotch sundae on a hot day. This should not be all that hard --financially. TRhe medical safety issues --that may be hard. But just watch --MLB will reverse that and find the financial arguments to be the tough ones.

But, bottom line, I think they'll play. That's why I wrote a column last week on why a shorter season, and the near-certainty of getting the DH in the NL this year ('20) will help the Nats --perhaps more than any team in MLB.

Dear Bos, As a diehard Nats fan, I love Max as a player and role model. And I also know that the owners are far better able to weather a summer without baseball than the players, and they will use that advantage to screw as much money as they can back from the players. But to date there are 40 million Americans out of work with 0% of their salaries, and most of those have lost their health insurance as a result. I really cannot understand how the stance of the players now is that they will accept no further cuts or even negotiate with the owners over this. So Max only gets a quarter of his $30 million per season for playing a game for half a season in 2020, and he won't even negotiate? Yes, I get it--it's usually the owners who screw the players in every work stoppage. But don't the players understand that the fans generally blame the players for this? The absolutist rejection of the owners' offer now makes it impossible for them to compromise without looking weak. They have really boxed themselves into a corner and don't seem to know it.

I agree with every point that you make.

One of the ways out of the box, in theory, is to play more games --more than 100, not 82-- so that the revenue "pie" is bigger. The theory is simple: Tghe players have agreed to a pro-rated salary structure. If they play 81 games, they get 50% of their salary. But if they play 114 --the latest number mentioned-- the players make more money while the owners (probably) lose less --at least in the player's views.

The players need to understand two unique aspects of their current situation.

This is the first time EVER that owners may be BETTER off --or "less badly off"-- financially if they do not play at all in '20. Aside from "continuity" and the general health of the game, their motivations --to play in a money-losing environment, like a restaurant that feels is HAS to open, even at 50% capacity or less, are more limited than in the past. 

The owners are like very wealthy business people --who own a Fortune 500 company-- who also own a nice restaurant, but one which is almost financially insignificant compared to their main business. So, unlike a restaurant owned by a small business person, the billionaire can yawn and say, "It's a good restaurant. People will come back next year. So, we'll just wait until there's a treatment and a vaccine."

Second factor: Players may not understand how LITTLE WE CARE whether there is a 2020 season. I get a lot of e-mail from fans who say, "Just keep it simple --no '20 season. Come back in '21. I can live with that."

OK, I care. But not as much as I thought I would.  

MLB needs a year off. Both sides are acting like glass bowls. Scherzer popping off about how players aren't going to take another pay cut! What was the first pay cut? Agreeing not to be paid for work you didn't do? What a sacrifice. And then MLB comes up with a banded pay scale that seems designed to antagonize the players' union and cast the players as greedy if they don't accept. That's the best the billionaire owners can do? This is a pox on both of their houses and both sides are alienating fans. Let 'em sit out a year and see if they can find a little appreciation and respect for the fans and each other.


As I just wrote: I get a lot of e-mails will viewpoints similar to this. Both players and owners might want to pay attention.

Why not do a follow up to your article about game 7 of the 1925 World Series? There is now a Katharine Brush library at a school in Connecticut but 1925 she was a 23 year old reporter covering the World Series. Her account of what happened to her and of the reporters who helped her to file a story appears in her book "This Is On Me".

I just googled "Katharine Brush" (1902-1952) who is described as "an American newspaper columnist, short-story writer and novelist --one of the highest-paid writers of her time (the '20's and '30's).

You've gotten me interested in "This Is On Me." Maybe, with Amazon's help, if they have her book, I can follow up.  

Mr. Boswell, Thank you for these chats. First a digression. I recall how you recounted in one of your books that Earl Weaver told a young Tom Boswell that he expected you to leave the sports desk for political reporting. You responding that you were a sports writer and intended to stay a sports writer, Earl, you said, was stuck with you. These chats show you would have made as good a political reporter as you are a sports writer. Your use of statistics to explain where the U.S. stands vis-a-vis Germany in controlling the corona virus was every bit as clear as your use of comparables to put Juan Soto's accomplishments in context. Now, my question: The Nationals often appear to do the right thing vis-a-vis their players, be it shutting down Steven Strasberg to protect his arm in 2012 or sending Daniel Hudson home for the birth of his son during the playoffs last year, and importantly having the GM, not the player, take the heat. Washington's professional football team seems to do the opposite (viz Trent Williams and Kirk Cousins looking to leave.) To what extent have the Nationals benefited, and the football team paid a price, in free agent signings, player willingness to rework contracts, or otherwise because of their respective approaches to dealing with their players?

You have summarized the differences between the two franchises so well that your question is its own answer.

The Nats current treatment of their minor league players is one of the few times when they have done something out-of-character as far as making Washington seem like an excellent baseball home. For example, Lucas Giolito was not expected to sign out of high school. He was lined up to go to a top college. But the Nats handling of Strasburg in '12 is one reason, according to his family, that he signed with the Nats. Also, Giolito also had signs of elbow strain. Within his first few innings, he blew out his elbow and needed TJ surgery. The Nats, of course, stood by him, gave him th best care while he recovred and coached him up until he was the No. 1 prospect in the minor leagues. Then Lucas was a key piece in the trade for Adam Eaton.

We don't know yet whether the Nats "won" that trade or not. But without Giolito there would probably not have been an Eaton trade. And Eaton is one of the KEY players in the '19 season and title run --both on the field and as a tem leader. So, Strasburg treatment leads, in part, to GIolito signing which leads, in part, to Eaton trade which leads, in part, to a WS win! It's not a direct line, of course, but this is an example of "doing well by doing good" --or at least by trying to "act right."

The Skins, of course, are the complete opposite. They have a terrible reputation. When a Pro Bowl QB and a six-time Pro Bowl left tackle WANT to leave, and find a way to leave, that tells you what you need to know, even after all the Skins spin.

Thanks for your comment about political writing. It would be a mental and emotional soul-bender these days. Just one example: My dad, politically, was Bernie Sanders --but 85 years ago. He was the president of the first union at the Library of Congress --an integrated union, of which he was proud, although I never heard him mention it. During "white flight" from DC in the '50's, my parents never even considered moving from our home on Lexington Place, NE. So, for decades, we were the only white family for many blocks in any direction. It was never a problem. We knew our neighbors, they knew us. My friends and I in the neighborhood played in each other's houses --burst through the front door when we were playing "chase" and just said, "Excuse me, Mrs. Wash, can I run up to your attic so I can get on the roof and run down the block (on the roof tops) to get away from (her son) Lamont?" The H St riot corridor was four blocks from our house --some houses were in fire down the alley. I was in college then and called home to find out the situation. My mom said, "Oh, I'm looking out the back window. I can see Mrs. Alexander pushing a cart up the alley. She's been looting Kendall's Grocery. Good. Old man Kendall has been robbing their neighborhood for years." 

So, my perspective --on many things-- is quite different. As a child I was already aware of all the problems we saw then, and have never stopped seeing. I've always hoped for the best from America but to say that I honestly expected it would be an exaggeration. I'd seen too much too close for too long. The police who came into out neighborhood were seen by my friends and I, and our neighbors, as people who, in many cases, didn't know where they were, how to act and, in some cases, were probably afraid --though with no reason. I had a feeling for the problems of the police. But I was much more aware --much more-- of the problems of my neighbors and my friends which are now called "Black Lives Matter." I was white, so I didn't have that issue. But I sure as heck could seen it. Then, later, I had various reasons to spend a lot of time in Northern Virginia and Souther Virgini in that same period. Many fine people. But it was stunning to me to hear the casual racism fromMANY whites who felt that they knew EVERYTHING about the people who lived next door and down the street from me when none of them knew One Damn Thing. Total ignorance combined with total conviction that they were fully informed. 

So, yes, my sympathies are almost entirely with the protesters. But there are plenty of great people who are police. When my wife told me that some of the police in various places were kneeling in front of, and with the demonstrators, I couldn't even speak I got so choked up. That is the country we should be and still can be. But since I was a kid, maybe seven years old, I grew up seeing how far this country had to go --a thousand miles, not just a few miles-- and, for the most part, didn't know it.

One of the lessons of my youth, growing up on Lexington Place, going to very diverse St. Mark's Church on Capital Hill, spending summers working on my grandfather's 90-acre chicken and corn farm in a town of 1500 in Delaware as well as going to both public schools (in DC) and private schools and private college was an intense awareness of how little people in different parts of American society knew ANYTHING --first hand-- about each other. As a result, "politics" has probably been a more worrisome word --a symbol of incredibly complex and almost (but not quite) insoluble problems-- to me than to many. I end up empathizing with (almost) everybody --which isn't the same as having answers. Sorry to digress.

My Dad grew-up in downtown DC - although he spent a lot of the summers of his youth with family up in The Bronx, NY. So he had every opportunity to be a Yankees fan. But his Mom, my Grandmother, would never have forgiven him. She was the only bigger Senators fan in the family than my Dad. Although most of my Dad’s memories of the Senators were of second division finishes, he had many stories - many in Yankee Stadium - of the Nats spoiling Yankee seasons with some unexpected great pitching performance from some usually mediocre Nats hurler. Decades later he would tell these stories in great detail and with still a lot of glee in his voice. He could still recite lineups from memory too. As a child my Dad would go, by himself, to Griffith Stadium to see many games each year. He would walk to games 20 blocks through downtown DC each way and no one ever had a thought that such a thing might have been at all dangerous for a child to do. He told me stories of walking home though neighborhoods and every house would have folks sitting on their porch or stoop on a hot summer’s evening, trying to stay cool, and they would ask him, “How did the Nats do today?” and, most of the time he would say, “The bums lost another one.” But his love and loyalty for the Nats never wavered. I was 7 when the second iteration of the Senators left for Texas. I only have vague memories of going to games at RFK that last season before they left. My childhood was robbed of the kinds of baseball memories my Dad loved so much. I know my Dad and I would have seen hundreds of games together over the years and I would have my own stories today. If only… By the time the Expos moved to DC my parents lived in Florida and I was living in Manassas. So our chances to see Nats games together were limited. But we did pretty well. Over the years we saw games together in Miami, Tampa, Cincinnati, in DC of course and even a couple at Dodger Stadium. I would also come down almost every spring for his birthday to go with him to see games in Viera and the last couple of years to West Palm. Many of those games were filled with retelling of old Senators stories. We had tickets for a game this spring but it was cancelled. Dad was born in March of 1933. Just a few weeks before the Senators started their last World Series season. He died this past Thursday. The last Nats game he and I watched together was Game-7 of the first DC World Series since 1933. Only this time, they won! I will always remember him saying, “I never thought I would ever see this!” Mark Twain had Haley’s Comet. My Dad had Washington World Series. You saw it, Dad. Thanks for the memories!

Thanks for this.

This is a long "question" but you folks might enjoy reading it to the END.

The Nationals put the motto "Go 1-0 Everyday" on their World Series rings, but I remember Davey's motto last season as "Go 1-0 Today". "Go 1-0 Today" means focus only on today's game, not yesterday or tomorrow. "Go 1-0 Everyday" means "Go Undefeated". Maybe it is a small distinction, but it bugs me because "Go 1-0 Today" was such a better motto for a baseball team.

You are exactly right.

I missed that mistake, but just double-checked. The ring has it wrong --and as you note, it is a BIG mistake.

"Go 1-0 Everyday" is the same nonsense we hear everywhere, or it borders on it --win 'em all.

The core of "Go 1-0 today" is its basic sanity!  Control what can be controlled. Don't live strangled by the past or overwhelmed by the size of the future. In a sense, there is also self-forgiveness in "Go 1-0 today," since it implies that you won't go 1-0 everyday, but that shouldn't change your healthy positive approach.

Jeez, they would even have saved ROOM with the engraving of "today," not "everyday."  

Behind all the smokescreen isn’t the MLB situation really simple? Billionaires who have made substantial profits over several years of labor peace after consistently conspiring to limit salaries and who have seen a huge surge in the value of their franchises first try to sneak in a salery cap and then propose a pay reduction expressly designed to devide the players Union. Players, whose short careers are salery restricted for first few years, agree to a substantial pay cut, but are then pressured to agree to further reductions based on the possibility of reduced profits for the owners, who refuse to provide documentation on their finances, unlike the openness of player payment. Even just simple baseball fans (like most of us) can understand the basics of the situation and why the players are rejecting the owners proposals. Those of us old enough to remember the previous labor conflicts where the owners greed cost entire seasons can even more clearly see the behind the smoke screen and fear for this years season.

Thanks, Marvin.

(See, I can give short answers.)

What did MLB, the NBA, and the NHL do in April 1968? Were sports able to reunite communities after they were torn asunder? Do you think that the fact that there are no sports now will be a detriment to trying to find a way to heal?

The voices of thoughtful athletes can be of considerable value now.

Along these lines, we have an interesting story that I haven't finished reading yet.

But the words, and influence, of many people who have visibility can also be of help --something considerable help.

Hope I have this right, but one of the people that I appreciated in '68 was singer James Brown who had a calming effect during a concert in Boston the night after the Martin Luther King assasination and, if I remember correctly, also came to DC as a healer and voice of peaceful protest. He'd had a rough life, including prison, and lots of people knew it. But he was on the side of protesting, but not undermining the message with looting.

BTW, this was not an easy distinction, or decision, in '68 any more than it is today. It was felt then, by some, that >100 years after the end of the Civil War, that "enough is enough." Now, we're 155 years past it, so it's no surprise that the issue of "Enuff?" comes up again. My family was strongly in favor of MLK's peaceful-protest position --we all walked down to the "I Have A Dream" demonstration/speech. But my mother also thought it was important for me to know that King's religious faith and incredible patience were not the only response to racism which white people needed to understand. In '65, my freshman year in college, my mother gave me (just-published) "The Autobiography of Malcolm X."

Back then, a big part of education was considered to be reading, and thinking seriously about things which made you very uncomfortable. The "silo" society --everybody in their own echo chamber, didn't exist yet. There was partisan ship, but nothing like now. I remember my dad, in retirement, reading Virginia Wolf (whom I liked a lot) and some of the other writers in the Bloomsbury Group who were considered very conservative --defend the status quo-- in their time and probably would have disagreed with my father, an FDR man,  on just about everything. My father said she was a wonderful writer, he'd never given her her due, so he was making up for it by reading her "better-late-than-never."  

Boz - what is Nationals Ownership doing?? You just won the WS, you have great feelings all around and they do this? Knocking 100 bucks for the minor league players who barely make a wage as is?? PLEASE tell me someone up top says the optics ALONE is awful on this....

It's a real head shaker --no matter why they did it.

Nats players shook their heads, too, then opened their wallets.

Good morning, Boz. Sally Jenkins's article over the weekend was really on the mark. The NFL owners look really bad now for blackballing Colin Kaepernick from the league when he was only protesting against the exact type of thing that happened in Minneapolis last week. The NFL owners knew what Kaepernick's real message was, but pretended to only see a black man disrespecting the flag. I haven't heard any NFL owners make any statements or give any interviews. They're really in a tight spot. As Jenkins implied, you either support what Kaepernick was trying to do or you support what happened to George Floyd. We now know what side the owners took because there's no room in the middle.

You're right, imo. I tweeted that on Saturday: "Two knees. One protesting in the grass, one pressing on the back of a man’s neck. Choose. You have to choose which knee you will defend." Sally Jenkins w one of the best columns you'll read --on Colin Kaepernick, the NFL & America's time to decide.

If you missed it --but I don't think many did!-- here's the link.

Not a sympathizer of either the owners or players. But to me, the MLBPA needs to be careful of what line in the sand they draw. If they persist to insist that they get full salary this season (deferred or otherwise) for a sub-162 game season, than they are basically saying: "Sure, the country is approaching 20% unemployment, and fans, front office staff, minor leaguers, basically EVERYONE IN THE COUNTRY has been impacted by this pandemic with layoffs, pay cuts, furloughs, et al. But we're digging our heels in for full salaries just because we should" -- ?! -- most of the players are not old enough to remember the fallout from the '95 strike. They are playing with matches and gasoline here. If there is no season - but the NFL, NBA, NHL, and college sports DO play this season - it will make them look even more like Ebenezer Scrooge. And I will make it a point to cancel my season tickets and make sure neither the players or owners get a DAMN CENT FROM FOR ME for as many years as it takes. And I'll feel REAL GOOD doing it, too.

This is a very well framed counter-argument to a previous chatter's post --the one to which I answered, "Thanks, Marvin (Miller)."

Players AND owners should look at BOTH of these types of sentiments because both are strongly felt and both will have damaging repercussions for MLB if there is no season when/if it seems that there could/should been one.

IOW, if there is no season because of money-fighting the game will get blown up FROM BOTH SIDES.

It could be one of the few hot topics in '20 on which >90% of Americans can agree: Baseball is out of its mind if it doesn't settle its problems when everybody else has much BIGGER problems. 

(They CAN'T be this dumb. Even I don't think they are this dumb. And part of my job for almost all of my adult life --from early labor fights to the canceled '94 World Series through PEDs and now Astros cheating-- was to cover "MLB dumb.")

“After hearing that Nationals minor league players are facing additional pay cuts, the current members of the Washington Nationals Major League Baseball club will be coming together and committing funds to make whole the lost wages from the weekly stipends,” [Sean] Doolittle wrote. “All of us were minor leaguers at one point in our careers and we know how important the weekly stipends are for them and their families during these uncertain times.”


But when "classy" is also a good strategy, that seems like win-win. 

I was 16, we had just moved back to DC where my father had gotten his dream job as a Senior Scientist at the Library of Congress. I had grown up in the DC area and moved to California from Annandale in 1962 so I was excited to be back to see my Senators play. There was a double-header (remember those?) with the Angles (we had lived about a mile from Angel's stadium in Orange County. My mom needed the car so she dropped me off at the stadium and said she would pick me up when the second game was over (my dad always listened to all the games). I was to wait by the Armory. I always brought my transistor radio (remember those?) to listen to the game. After the second game I was walking across the parking lot to the Armory when a young black kid (probably about 11) came up to me and mumbled "let me see that radio." I held it up, he said "no, give it to me." I said "no." As we walked across Pennsylvania Avenue he suddenly slugged me in the jaw (I was 16, and much bigger, so it didn't have all that much of an effect). I should note that at the time the Detroit riots were in full swing. I suddenly noticed a "gang" of about 15 kids coming towards me led by a stocky, short guy with a HUGE scar across his face. I began to think I was in real trouble. As they approached scar face said "whats going on Leroy.' Leroy said "he's got my radio." Scarface: "that's not your radio Leroy, get out of here." Leroy ran away. Scarface said to me "Leroy might have a big brother, you might not want to stay here." I didn't. I went back and called my mother, she was still at home having. missed the end of the game. I still think about this in times like this, and wonder whatever happened to my black brother guardian angel, whatever happened to Leroy. RIP George Floyd.

That certainly rings true. I hope I haven't told this story before. Maybe I have. When I was in my teens, the only time we ever had a crime at my house somebody kicked in the front window, stole our TV, stereo, radios, etc. When my mother got home she said, "It was kids." I asked why. She said, "They took the fruit off the dining room table. Only kids would steal fruit."

I must have mentioned it to friends. The next day when my parents came back from work, everything that had been taken had been returned to the front porch in good condition. Except the fruit.


Mr. Boswell, I was struck by the sheer volume of statements, social media posts, and other actions from athletes, teams, and sports leagues in support of protests or calling for some form of justice or need for action on race issues. I don't recall such swift and supportive statements from teams and leagues in the past, do you?

No, I don't.

I think this is a unique period in our history. And people understand that they need to speak, if they actually believe in anything, even if it makes them uncomfortable or takes them outside their comfort zone. I could be wrong about that! After all, I fired Dave Martinez. But that's probably the reason I brought up some things this morning that I've managed not to impose on readers for 50 years. This will not become my habit. But I do think we are in a moment when anybody who has any knowledge, experience or empathy for the difficulty and complexity that we are going through --anybody who can see more than one side, or simply see from any slightly different point of view-- doesn't do much harm by contributing that perspective.   

Available on Amazon, but also for checkout (via Inter Library Loan, if necessary):


With the pandemic, my only outlet for exercise is to take long walks around my neighborhood in NW DC. It's amazing how many Nats hats and t-shirts I see while I'm out. I hope they haven't lost an opportunity to expand their fan base since they can't fully capitalize on the World Series win.

For an upbeat ending, I'll close with "Nats gear" sightings!

Thanks for all the questions and thoughts. See you next Monday at 11 a.m.


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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