Ask Boswell: NFL, MLB, NBA and Washington sports

Sep 21, 2020

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

Past Ask Boswell chats

Today’s topics are obvious and interesting. 

The WFT now has two clear issues. First, they are so dependent on their one outstanding unit –the defensive line—that when they face an extremely mobile QB (Kyle Murray of Arizona) or a very good O-line, they are going to have a hard time staying in the game because their attack, aside from the dazzling Terry McLaurin, is one of the “least offensive in the league.” 

QB Dwayne Haskins has some decent young running backs behind him, but only one real receiving threat at WR or TE. Put that together and you get a 85.5 QB rating in the first two games, which is 22nd in the NFL. That’s about what I expected from Haskins. He’s a bit inaccurate –56.7% completions. But he’s improved from ’19. He just has limited help –especially in the O-Line. That’s why the results on Brandon Scherff’s right knee today are so crucial for the season. With Trent Williams gone, he’s the team’s only Pro Bowl quality O-lineman. If he’s out for a prolonged period, then this offense just became much more vulnerable. Root for as clean a bill of health as possible. 

Also, Bryson DeChambeau’s win at the U.S. Open was truly memorable. For the next few years, as long as his body can take the punishment and endless practice that he puts it through, DeChambeau has a nice window to win a couple of more majors. As I pointed out in my Friday column, it’s very hard to do more than this –a 3-4-5-6-year window when you can accumulate majors. Only two players who have arrived since ’75 have won more than five –Tiger (15) and Faldo (6). 

Let’s also talk about the Nats, especially the bright spots entering the last week of a very disappointing season. Juan Soto goes for the batting title. Or maybe even Trea Turner. Luis Garcia, the youngest player in MLB, is hitting .318 and looks like a permanent part of the infield. And he can improve because, right now, he doesn’t hit lefties at all (.173). Also, Ben Braymer’s nice start and the very good work by converted starter Kyle McGowin, who now throws 75% sliders from the bullpen, have been encouraging. 

There’s much more –the whole NFL Sunday. 

Let’s hit it –over the trees and about 380 yards, leaving a baby wedge to a 500-yard par five, just like Bryson.

When, if ever, will the golf gods decide to place limits on the distance a golf ball can travel through the air? I assume tennis, soccer, basketball, football, hockey, and baseball have standards for their balls that limit their propulsion.

This issue might have been considered this year except for the pandemic. The "Limited Flight" golf ball will almost certainly be seriously discussed for the PGA Tour next year, or at the latest in '22.

Some version of a "shorter" golf ball is needed. You can't make every classic golf course obsolete just because equipment has improved. And you can't expect equipment manufacturers, whose financial health depends on "improved" equipment to stop making clubs and balls that hit it further and, no matter how you swing, tend to straighten out your misses.

The long hitters will still have an advantage, even if you take 20 yards off their drives. DeChambeau would still have a 303.8-yard driving average, instead of 323.8. And the "average pro" would still hit it 276.1 yards. That's far enough. 

Some short hitters would be at a disadvantage. But they always have been. Lets see the bombers like DeChambeau, Wolff, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed, none of whom are in the Top 115 in "driving accuracy" this year do if they have to play out of the rough from 20-to-30 yards further back.

Give it a try.  

I wonder what your thoughts are on how best to telecast baseball. It seems the main vantage point is a center field shot showing the pitcher, catcher, batter and umpire. If the ball is struck, in play, then the camera follows the ball. For myself, I would prefer a wide angle view from behind the plate that shows the infield in its entirety and partially shows the outfield. Your thoughts? Don't most team sports provide a wide angle view of the game?

Well, that's how they telecast baseball games in 1959.

I don't think I want to go back!

I like a 100 times better now.

One quibble, but a pretty big one --very few parks have a CF camera that is PERFECTLY aligned with home plate so that there is no distortion on pitches on the corner and, even more, no distortion in seeing the amount of break on pitches. Most CF cameras make some pitches look better than they are --with more break-- while others look straight than they are. 

When you see a game with a perfectly aligned camera it is fabulous. "NOW I GET IT!!!" You suddenly see why every pitcher's stuff "plays" exactly the way it does.

For example, you'd see why Kyle McGowin, who seemed very limited as a SP with his mere 90 mph fastball, may have a nice future as a middle reliever for the Nats now that he's gone to 75% sliders --which he throws at various speeds to turn that one "breaking ball" into several pitrches with different speeds and shapes. Relievers with one "trick pitch" --and a fastball that they can "show" or nibble with-- have prospered for years. Sergio Romo has been throwing almost all sliders for many years. They work --in Romo's case even in the World Series! Nobody likes to hit a good breaking ball.  

 

When asked what he thought about when standing on the tee, addressing the ball, Sam Snead replied, “Nuthin’.“ Apparently Bryson DeChambeau’s response to that same question would be, “Everything!” An amazing performance. Bos, where do you see this increasing reliance on math and logic leading sports in the decades ahead? Clearly DeChambeau is using “numbers” to take golf in a new direction. We have launch angles and defensive shifting and player efficiency ratings, etc. in other sports. Math and machines seem to be taking over sports. Sure seems inevitable. Is this a good thing?

There will always be many ways to approach golf. That's great. The game needs to be even more open to variety of approach and less swing-theory orthodoxy.

Matthew Wolff, for example, has the most exaggerated "forward press" --a kind of kick-start in his case-- in history. Then he has a backswing that looks like a calmed-down version of late-career Jim Furyk. Of course, nobody looks as zany as Furyk whose clubhead path looked like it was tracing the "Z" for the Mark of Zorro!

But Wolff is enormously long with a first move and a takeaway that would make 99% of youth coaches scream "NOOOO!!" Wolff, excellent at all sports, was lucky to have a First Coach who only cared about results, not the "look" of the swing.

I'm one of those nuts who likes novel approaches to the golf swing. Long ago, I adopted something called "The Golf Swing of the Future" from a book by Mindy Blake. It was a bit bizarre. Nobody adopted it. But I shot the best round of my life --a 73 on Pinehurst No. 1 ( not No. 2)-- with the darned thing. After a while, the appeal faded. But, as Lee Trevino always pointed out, there were MANY ways to hit every shot.

The straightest driver who ever lived --eccentric Moe Norman-- used a single-plan swing similar to DeC.

Here is 11 minutes on ESPN on the swing, legend and life of Moe Norman. Even if you already know about him, you'll love it. (For your sake), please watch.

 

Hi Tom I’m sure the US Open and Bryson’ approach will be discussed today. Putting aside his rapid gain in muscle and distance, I’m wondering how he influences his playing partners. I know slow players negatively impact faster golfers. Personally, his methodical calculations drive me nuts. Both Dustin Johnson and Matthew Wolff played poorly with him over the weekend. Do you have any statistics on how Bryson’s playing partners play when they are paired with him?

DeChambeau, his slow play, his internal monologues, drives Brooks Koepka crazy. They had a little spat within the last year. Koepka said that hitting a golf ball "is not that hard...it's kind of embarrassing." Koepka was talking about slow play in general, and players who take 60-to-75 seconds to fire. But Bryson was under discussion. DeChambeau responded that he thought it was remarkable that players could assimilate all the necessary information and execute a shot "in 45 seconds."

One of the touchiest subjects on Tour has always been whether slow play amounted to gamesmanship. Even Nicklaus was, at tims, on the edge of being criticized. Slow play drove Trevino nuts and often damaged his performance.

I've played in a lot of sportswriter foursomes where, if he went into that 30-second internal monologue about "if I miss it here...if I miss it there...if the winds gusts up....," he might have ended up with a club over his head.

He'll get a lot more scrutiny now. But I think he's fundamentally a good guy and will handle it alright. It's a good thing he won his first major in his FOURTH season at 27, not 2 or 3 years ago because he's grown up a lot, grasped why he sometimes rubbed people the wrong way and has --to a degree-- figured out how to mitigate it.

Nobody (on Tour) is annoyed by a player who swings or thinks differently --like Wolff or Bubba Watson-- as long as they say, "Well, that's just how I swing."   But DeChambeau says that he swings his way --not your way-- because HIS WAY IS BETTER. And the rason he knows it --though he doesn't use there words-- is because he's more rational.

Well, everything isn't rationality. Or robotic precision. Bryson will get beaten by a lot of "feel" players in future years.

Lotta ways to play golf. But it's nice to see The Golf Machine --which some pros now teach-- and variations of it, get some traction. Even DeChambeau, as he's added muscle, has had to rethink some of Homer's theories so that he can "unleash the Kraken" at absolute maximum speed.

Golf is a sport that, in many ways, suits obsessive personalities. DeChambeau, who once talked about practicing for 14 hours --hitting balls-- in one day, is a perfect example. Until they wear their bodies or their nervous systems out --and some never do-- they can progressively master more and more elements of the game over the years. DeChambeau loves to analyze recovery shots and was third in scrambling at Winged Foot. His putting stance looks like an NFL defensive end playing his first round of golf --but DeChambeau is now a very good putter.

His intensity can be an enemy at times. I'll be interested to see if being an Open champ relaxes him under pressure or becomes a burden of high expectation for a perfectionist. Both can happen. I think, and hope, that it just helps him enjoy what he's achieved and feel that he's vindicated the part of him that is such an inventive iconoclast. 

Of course, in golf it doesn't take much to be an iconoclast. I remember when using video to study swings came into the game. I can't carbon-date it. But it was in "my time" --so the last 45 years on Tour. Then somebody said, "You know Bobby Jones loved Hollywood and hung around with movie stars. He was using video to analyze his swing --and make swing videos-- in the 1930's!" Then, golf just "forgot about it" as a central tool for decades.

Here's Jones in a film with Edward G. Robinson, and others. Wacky, old-timey, but it's still Bobby Jones.

There are many others. Wish I could have found a better one quickly --like his instructional video where he wears a costume with each quadrant of the body in different colors.  

 

I didn't get in fast enough last week, but Johnathon Ogden is far and away the most successful DC native. Easy to overlook because he didn't play a glamorous portion, spent his career at a pseudo-rival, went to college on the West Coast, and went to an exclusive DC private school, but I'm pretty sure Vernon Davis would be proud to have been tabbed as more successful than a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Super Bowl Winner, NFL 100 Team, 11 time Pro Bowler, 9 time All-Pro, member of the College Football Hall of Fame, and unanimous All American. Oh, he was a high school All-American in both football and track. Also had zero controversy and is an overall nice guy.

Thank you!! I was hoping to see an NFL answer to our Best DC Athlete by Sport question last week.

St. Albans, right?

Now no one can claim that I've never said anything nice about the (old rival) Bulldogs in this chat! 

At last! We finally have a golfer with enough personality and the unique approach to make following the PGA worthwhile again- been so bland since Tiger left. If he is as good as he seems, could gain a significant number of followers partly based on his defiance of the golf establishment and traditional wisdom as your column explained. Is the hype justified and will we be able to root for him for a long run of defiant success?

He's already won seven PGA Tour events and $20-million in four years. He's been the talk-of-the-Tour, especially in many events since the restart. He was No. 9 in the world BEFORE he won on Sunday.

So, at 27, we should be able to enjoy him for quite a few years. I hope he doesn't push the body-building and violent swing too far. But what is TOO far? If he'd listened to conventional thinking --like my previous sentence-- he wouldn't have gotten where he is this morning. 

Tiger Woods pushed himself to his absolute physical limits and it led to the greatest 12-season era in golf history. As I've mentioned before in this chat, one of the reasons that people are drawn to "the greats" and are fascinated by people who want to climb Mt. Everest --in their field-- is because such people are often not :normal." But their excess is often linked to their achievements, their genius. 

They call him Mad Max Scherzer for a reason. If you are around him all season, from mid-February to the end of the World Series, you see that some people, who seem outwardly normal, can drive themselves --mentally and psychically-- to achieve things that seem almost impossible. Everything about Scherzr, even his slightly funky dlivery that takes some strain off his shoulder, has generally been thought out to the Nth detail, then practiced to the Nth degree.

Hey, I kinda like that "Nth" thing. Think I'll steal it from myself.  

 

Is he the real deal, or does he need "more seasoning" in the minors, as I keep reading online? .381 average, .766 OPS in 107 at bats, and 20 years old. Love the chats. Thanks, Tom in 316 (whenever fans can return to games)

There's very little not to like about Garcia, especially his self-confidence, upbeat nature and desire to learn from older players. That plus exceptional hand-eye coordination, good hands, a SS-quality arm, years of hard work at baseball growing up and, at 20, a 6-foot-2, 211-pound frame certainly speak well for his history.

But "seasoning" is the right word --and a tough question.

He's hitting .372 with a .921 OPS vs RH pitching, but only .172 with a .345 OPS versus LHers. Of course, he did hit a game-winning 427-foot home run against a lefty --if I remember correctly-- who laid in a fastball on 0-0 in a bunt situation in the 10th inning last week.

Also, he has five errors. Not a lot. But with a prospect this good, you don't want to do anything that stunts his eventual development. You don't want him to STILL has a .336 on-base percentage --because of low walks and trouble with lefties-- when he's 25. Some players, by sticking in the majors, simply lock in their weaknesses. I always wondered if that happen to Jason Heyward. He got the big fre agent deal and is a wonderful OFer, but he never became the player than most thought he would become --a great one.

The Nats want Garcvia to get some at bats in the Dominican Republic this winter and work on some things. My guess is that Luis is going to have to improve while playing at the MLB level. He just seems too good to keep down for very long. What if he gets hurt in AAA? Then you feel like an idiot. Or develops bad hitting habits in the minors? Wouldn't you rather have him in the majors with Kevin Long (hitting coach) and Juan Soto studying every swing and helping him?

It may get crowded at 2d and 3rd base next season with Garcia, Kieboom (who's struggling) and Starlin Castro whom the Nats se as a first-rate 2d or 3rd baseman and team leader. Castro is only signed through '21, so that may work itself out by '22. But if Garcia started '21 in the minors for 100-to-200 ABs of polishing, you could rationalize it.

Tough call. I thnk he probably belongs in the majors from Day One next year. But, of course, part of that depends on his work this winter and perhaps next spring, too. Long-term, he looks like a lock --and we can se why the Nats refused to trade him --and everybody asked for him.

Now, next question, when will Carter Kieboom and Victor Robles, who should both be very good players --with Robles probably an All-Star a couple of times-- "turn into themselves?"

 

Boz, Will we ever see Alex Smith again on the playing field? Or is he a permanent sideline fixture?

I hope we never do.

Because, for one thing, it will mean Haskins got hurt or didn't pan out. Or, perhaps, that the WFT was down to its 3rd string QB. 

Post-game on Sunday you could see various Cardinals coming up to Smith, encouraging or congratulating him, and his face just looked so proud. It's his business, not mine/ours. But we are entitled to our feelings --I would not enjoy watching him get sacked while trying to prove he can "make a comeback" and play for a ~5-11 team with a weal O-line and almost no skill-position standouts to help him.

Alex Smith is probably another example of a "Everest climber" that we probably can't ever really understand. Often, the not-normal and the exceptional are not far apart.

Boz, Even though there is a lot to talk about this Monday, I was wondering if Carter Kieboom has shown enough to keep him in the Nats plan for 2021. At this point he seems lost to me. Any thoughts as to whether it is too soon to give up on him? Thanks.

Nobody is going to give up on Carter Kieboom any time soon --and by that I means for YEARS. He's got "long MLB career" written all over him. He's pressing. A 162-game season would do hima world of good, rather than a sprint season where a bad start works on your nerves. He could conceivably play another half-season in AAA to get squared away. But you are looking for the first spot to bring him back up. This is a 25-plus homer third baseman. I know he doesn't look like that now. He looks lost. Here's a tip: Everybody looks exactly the same when they are lost!

I remember him turning around two Verlander fastballs for long homers to left in spring training in '19. That guy will be back. Great work ethic, etc.

One very negative note: You will have a hard time finding any young player who has ever had just ONE extra-0base hit in 119 plate appearances, no matter what the extenuating circumstance were. You can only say "try easier" so many times. Ultimately, the player has to relax and let his own talent out. 

Note: It's a small sample size, just the equivalent of 27.74 full games. But Kieboom is averaging 2.42 assists per nine innings at third base. This era, with all the strikeouts, makes it hard for a 3rd baseman to get as many assists --which are an excellent indicator of range-- as players in earlier times, like the great Mike Schmidt, for example. In his career, Mike averaged 2.40 assist per 9 innings at 3rd in his career. I know, I know --Kieboom's 27.74 games may mean nothing. But he only has three errors and, if we're going to be candid about the bad stuff in his season, then we should mention what might be positive, too.  

Now that we’ve seen significant playing time for Nats rookies, what is your evaluation of them? Any special performers or surprises? Seem as if Kieboom was so overhyped that hard now challenging to fairly evaluate his inconsistent performance. How do you judge his odds of living up to the perhaps unrealistic expectations?

My two cents: Stop worrying about Kieboom and focus on the free agent bats that ARE available --none of them third basemen. Look for corner OFers or 1st basemen.

Anthony Rizzo, despite hitting .212 with .718, will be a glamor free agent name. He may suck attention away from others and give the Nats an opening. The huge "get" would be catcher J.T. Realmuto (.863 OPS) but the price might be prohibitive.

OF Nick Castellanos, 28, who's only hitting .230 but with 13 homers and an .806 OPS might be a very good fit --not insanely expensive, but a very good, still young player who'd fit a need. Will Castellanos want to opt out of his current deal that has 3 more years and $46M on it, with a mutual option after that? Tough call. In a pandemic, maybe you just sit tight with the deal you have. Over the last 5 yrs, he's slashed .282/.334/.503 with 28 homers and 91 RBI per 162 games. And he's a good RFer. Not a big STAR, but a RH bat to put behind Turner and Soto. The Nats could afford him because, presumably, you would not bring back Adam Eaton who made $9.5M this year. If Castellanos is not an option --yes, he may be "wishful thinking"-- I think Eaton still has another good year left in him. (Nats have a $1.5M buy out with Adam and a $10.5M team option which, I assume, is considerably too rich after his poor year. But you can always tear up the deal you have and work out a new one. Tough call because we all saw what Eaton, still "only" 31, could do last year. 

 

This past spring there was a lively discussion about whether the WFT should take Chase Young or Tua (or trade down for more picks) with the No. 2 selection. After reading Svrluga's column this morning, I found myself wondering: What if the WFT had a chance to pick Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields in the next draft? Should they pull the trigger as the Cards did in moving on from Josh Rosen to Kyler Murray?

The only bad thing about that opening win against the Eagles (who are now 0-2) is that it WAS a win. The WFT, as I said last week, looks more like a 5-11 team now, or at least 4-12, not the kind of godawful team that gets a No. 1 pick.

They're probably going to keep playing hard for Ron Rivera. Injuries could easily crush such a thin team and get them back to 3-13. But that Eagles win really "hurts" the chances for a 1st-overall or 2d-overall QB pick in the draft.

Hi Tom, I watched the US Open from the UK. The announcers strongly stated that the R+A and USGA had to "do something" about the style of golf Bryson was playing. They did not elaborate. What do you think is in the works? While I think his approach is fascinating (albeit maddeningly slow which should be penalized so weekend golfers don't stretch their rounds to 5 hours), I do feel melancholy that this is the golf version of a metrics/ tech based simplification of sport. What it is efficient and effective, is not much fun to watch if games become repetitious patterning. I'm thinking of the strike out/ HR in baseball, Three point shot in basketball, and the John Isner like serving that is permeating tennis (outside of the big three). Thoughts?

As I mentioned earlier, the Limited Flight golf ball is on the minds of every governing body in golf. The destruction of Winged Foot's rough by incredible "carry" on drives may be the last straw that forces a change in the legally allowed ball in pro events.

DeChambeau was the only player who attacked almost every hole with driver. But I watched at least 25 hours of that Open --thanks heavens or fast forward-- and there were MANY Bombs-Away players who seldom took out a 3-wood or long-iron off the tee. And they prospered far more than they were penalized by the rough --which they hit into constantly. Look at the Top 12 in the U.S. Open. At least six of them drove it all over the planet for four days, yet came out near the top --DeChambeau, Wolff, Dustin Johnson, Tony Finau, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlron, none of whom are in the Top 115 for driving accuracy this year. And they were all wild at the U.S. Open, too.

DeChambeau MISSED 33 fairways --the most by any US Open winner ever --since they've kept such stats.

There is world-wide tut-tut-tutting right  now: "Something MUST be done." So, it probably will be done.

And your prayers may be answered.  

In your opinion is Haskins inaccuracy a product of his o-line not giving him enough time causing him to rush his throws or at this point in his career, is he just an inaccurate QB?

I hate answers like this: Some of both.

The O-line can improve. Will his accuracy? I wish I could tell you. Players learn how to improve mechanics. Haskins often "misses high" when he has some time. But he bounces some, too, when he's hurried. But he's not "wild everywhere." He has tendencies. Which implies that they might be improved.

I'd force the ball to McLaurin even more than they are. His 4.3 speed isn't just "dash speed," it's football speed. He accelerates with smooth gas and just disappears from defenders, either running patterns or after he catches the ball. He caught a five-yard pattern on Sunday, then fought for extra yardage. I thought he'd done a nice job of turning it into a determined 15-yard gain. It was a 25-yard gain! 

Do you "force" the ball to him even more? Well, he seldom seems to be covered! He has 12 catches (13th in the NFL) for 186 yards (8th in the league). Can you increase the volume without getting him too beaten up since he's a long-term D.C. star? DeAndre Hopkins has average 105 catches a year the last three years. Could McLaurin grab 85-to-90 balls?  (Yes, he's technically on pace for 96 now. But he'll need a lot of 'targets' for 90 --but they'll need every one).   

Good morning, Boz. I got the impression that Ron Rivera's priority yesterday was not to win the game. I say that because he decided to kick a field goal down 20-0 late in the third quarter. The field goal attempt, though successful, did nothing to help Washington as they still trailed by three scores. I realize that Washington is rebuilding, but the coach and players should always try to win during the game. Otherwise they are cheating fans of both teams. It's usually the front office that decides to tank by trading away their best players for draft picks, but the coach should never tank during a game.

Many will agree with your point.

I will be one of those who takes the other side. I liked Rivera's realism. He has a bad team. Maybe not an awful one. But a very poor one, especially on offense. Don't demoralize them. When they have (finally) earned a field goal, then take it, ratrher than a poor gamble that just keeps their point total at "0." I thought it was almost brave of him with everybody thinking, "But this still leaves you THREE scores behind, just like you already WERE."

My defense of the decision is not so much rational as emotional --he wasn't playing the odds, he was "coaching." And I liked the kick-the-clock play to end the game rather than drop back, heave a couple and risk, maybe, another injury at a time in the last minute when, with hindsight, you'd say, "That wasn't worth the risk." 

What's changed? Is it a good idea? Didn't the players want to play? Can individuals still opt out? Doe this present a bad precedent?

Greed. Just greed.

They couldn't stand watching other conferences make a buck.

That may be too simple. But I suspect that by sometime in November you'll see college football shut down. That's just a hard look at the new infection numbers. BTW, the link I put up last week on that subject is done by Washington University, not Johns Hopkins, but it's still a very good model which has been consistently on target throughout the pandemic. England and Spain are already considering shutdowns. My guess is that we will look back and say, "The Big 10 OPENED UP, just when smart people around the world were being realistic and reducing risk as the weather got colder." I'll be glad to be wrong, but this just looks like another example of: America: The Most Scientifically Illiterate Industrialized Democracy on Earth in 2020.

I saw old photos recently of football fans at a college game in the pandemic of 1918-'1919. They were ALL wearing face masks. Everybody understood THEN. Now???

Look, I take this personally, and I have every right to --my wife and I, many of our friends and relatives are in the demographic that is most likely to die or be seriously hurt by this pandemic. And we have MORONS who say, "Masks? Oh, they probably don't help. Maybe they hurt. Social distancing? Who says it helps? I doubt it. My evidence? Oh, I don't have any. I just have an OPINION. I'm entitled to my opinion." 

NO YOU AREN'T.

The world is round.

If you insist that the world is flat, and impose the extremely damaging implications of your anti-fact stupidity or ideology on ME, that is not an opinion. That is evidence of idiocy. Or evil. Or a kind of criminal negligence as a fellow citizen.  

 

The Football Team spent 5 first round picks on the d-line. Do you think this focus on the line has led to neglect on other positions ie (WR, TE, S, etc)?

Yes.

But they have a heck of a D-line.

With that much investment in one unit, will they be able to build the rest of a contending team (someday) around it? 

Joe Gibbs and Bobby Beathard built a heck of an O-line first. No, I don't think we are entering a Glory Era. But I suppose it is better to have SOME plan than NO plan. And, for the last 20 years, it has usually been No plan. Or a new plan every couple of years --and a  blown up, then rebuilt roster to match that new plan.  .

I'll always get a perverse kick out of listening to Marty Schottenheimer talk about how important linebackers and tight ends were to his theory of football. So, he ripped up the old roster, focused on getting 3-4-or-5 good linebackers and 3-or-4 useful TEs. He lasted ONE YEAR. In came Steve Spurrier who probably didn't even know the names of the linebackers and tight ends on his Florida teams! What a comedy. Out go the Marty LBs and TEs. In come Steve's two "minor-league" QBs who played for him at Florida.

At least I think the WFT will emphasize D-line for a lot more than ONE year!

Peter Laviolette seems to check all the boxes off the list of what the Capitals need for the aging group. What's your thought of the choice and of the chances of next years start actually happen?

Quick answer: A few weeks ago, the chatters here --especially the serious NHL fans-- made some very insightful detailed posts/questions about the three veteran-coach front-runners for the Caps job. I really appreciated their contributions. It felt like a real discussion --one which I mostly observed. I think the Chat Board, so to speak, got a good sense that Laviolette was the best choice --experienced, won a Cub, tough enough to get the discipline back into the club's culture but also, as he's aged, able to empathize with players when necessary to bring out their best. IOW, the chatters here taught me --and probably taught "us" as a group-- about the process and the candidates. 

I'm glad the Capitals seem to have agreed.

Why are the Nats so curiously uninterested in developing a homegrown catcher? It seemed like back-up was always the ceiling for Severino and Spencer Kieboom. Read appeared to be the future, and then his PED suspension slowed his momentum. I guess they can just keep signing old vets and hope they strike gold. But that seems like a strategy that fails (Wieters, Gomes) more often than succeeds (Suzuki).

Soto always seems to have long, pleasant, smiling conversations every time he comes to bat against the Phillies when J.T. Realmuto --a free agent this year-- is catching.

Nothing wrong with a little recruiting. Maybe J.TR. will hit behind Bryce next year. Maybe he'll hit behind Soto. Or somebody else on some other team. But teams spot likely candidates for whom they WILL spend years ahead of time, just as they plan to replace ultra-expensive players years ahead of time, the way the Nats got Eaton and (three hours later) I had a column up on our site saying that the Nats had already prepared for their post-Harper era, if it worked out that way with an Eaton, Robles and probably this young kid Soto by '19. 

Have the Nats had their eye on Realmuto in the same way? Will it do them any good since the demand for AS catchers is always through the roof.

GM Mike Rizzo mentioned last week that the Nats were officially "under the cap" for '20. Also, the Nats currently have six players who could be free agents --and gone-- if the Nats decide to go that way. Their namers, and '20 contracts) are: Eaton ($9.5M), Anibal Sanchez ($9M), Sean Doolittle ($6.5M), Kurt Suzuki ($6M), Howie Kendrick ($4M) and Asdrubal Cabrera ($2.5M).

That is a total of $40,5M coming off a payroll that is already under the luxury tax. That is a LOT of flexibility in nthe free agent market. That is enough to sign TWO front-line upgrade players --a mid-order hitter and a back-end SP-- and still have room to bring back a couple of those six guys at lower numbers. Also, Suzuki's $6M, if you went after Realmuto, would be the first $6M of his deal, at least in '21.

This is all part of why it was so important to get Mike Rizzo locked up and avoid bad-feelings nightmares. You give him, knock on wood, a healthy Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin, Turner, Soto core of stars, plus several other good pieces, and young cheap players like Robles, Garcia, Kieboom, Rainey, Suero and others, and I think he can figure out how to win about 90 games. Then go from there.

Time to get outta here. Thanks for all your great questions. See you next Monday at 11 a.m.

To me he's the missing piece in the next stage of the Nats. Top 5 overall prospect, should be a big contributor for us. But this year he's been ... Michael A Taylor with less power. What do you see? Obviously it's a strange year, was he one of the players that got caught in the mess trying to get to the US and had to sit around for weeks?

You're right, he's absolutely the missing pieces, whether that is as a No. 1, 2, 3 or 5 hitter. Just so he is an >,800 OPS hitter who is also a wonderful CF and base stealer, too.

Career slash: .252/.322/.411 for OPS of .733. BUT his career WAR per 162 games is 2.8, helped by his glove, arm and speed. That is quite a valuable everyday player. If he never gets better than he's been the last three years combined, he'll be in CF forever. And he should be.

My guess is that Robles can add 50-to-100 points to his OPS as he matures. What may be off the table, unfortunately, is the possibility that he is an .875+ player. That was the ceiling --an Andrew McCutchen. 

Remember, always look back at minor league numbers when there are enough of them to be meaningful. It's ALL baseball. They have guys in A and AA ball throwing smoke and nasty breaking balls. They just don't always know where they are going, or don't have a third or fourth pitch, or don't have the command to exploit a hole in a swing. 

Robles DOES have enough minor lague numbers: 1699 plate appearances. His slash: .300/.392/.457. OPS: .849.

That tells me his final career level will not be .733. That is a BIG drop for someone so physically gifted and ferocious to learn. Will he be a .775 player? Probably, imo. Maybe .800. I thought it would be more. But we know one thing: He's working as hard as he can. He lives to play baseball.

Maybe '21 will be bthe year when the Real Victor Robles stands up. He wouldn't have to be a whole lot better than his THREE year numbers --not his '20 numbers-- to be quite good.

 

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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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