Ask Boswell: NFL, MLB, NBA and Washington sports

Sep 28, 2020

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

Past Ask Boswell chats

We've never had so many sports going on at once! 

Certainly ironic --or something-- in a pandemic year that we have (simultaneously) the NBA Finals, about to start, the Stanley Cup, with Game Six on tap, the MLB 16-team playoffs starting on Tuesday, the NFL in Week Three, college football and several other sports as well. 

Let's talk about all of it. But I have a few questions for YOU, too. 

Does WFT coach Ron Rivera think that he can redeem unused time outs for extra draft picks? 

If I played for the WFT, I would not think Rivera was "protecting me from injury" by killing the clock on his own team. I'd think he was saying, "We can't possibly come from two scores behind in the last half of the fourth quarter, so let's just give up now." 

Also, it makes me think that playing under hurry-up come-from-behind pressure would expose Dwayne Haskins even worse and damage his confidence even more. That's "being nice and protective," but it may also tip off how far Rivera thinks Haskins still has to go --and how inaccurate he thinks his QB's passing is. In other words, if we TRY to win, we'll just end up throwing more INTs. 

Right now, in the NFL there are 11 QBs with a completion percentage over 70, 11 more at eight and eight MORE who are at 60%. Haskins is 33rd out of 34 QBs at 56.4% which is hideous in a built-for-passing league where everybody completes five-to-10 passes a game which are just disguised running plays. Subtract those 5-for-5 or 10-for-10 swing passes, hitches and screens and what is Haskins' accuracy? It's a worry. How big a worry? 

Also, what do you folks think will be the first-round MLB upsets and why? I've got my picks. Who is the Nats MVP in a bad year --Juan Soto, slash-line triple crown, or Trea Turner, with 7 RBI on Sunday and a higher WAR, aided by his speed and defense at a premium position. 

OK, lets have at it! 

Also, anybody who claims $70,000 in a year on his federal taxes for having his hair done gets?

A Free Question!

I know there’s no easy solution to this, given the Boras factor among others. But the Nats have to extend Soto, right? Even if it takes Mark Lerner out of his comfort zone in terms of salary and years? Even with a World Series win, I don’t see how a fanbase can be expected to tolerate continually losing every star player aside from Strasburg.

We can just drop the Soto contract talk. This is not the time for that --from the perspective of either party. Soto is under Nats team control for FOUR more years.

Now is the time to work hard on a big, long extension for Trea Turner who is free after the '22 season. Trea made $7.45M this year (of course, he only made 37% of that because of the short season). He may make $30M the next two years in his Arb 2 and Arb 3 years, though that's a guess because nobody knows where post-Covid salaries will be. Trea will have just turned 29 when he becomes a free agent. I'd be VERY aggressive on this contract because Turner can lose speed with age but still be a fine SS, or in time perhaps a 3d baseman. I'd say that the starting point for a Turner deal is $30M for '21 and '22 plus five years at $30M-a-year for a seven-year deal worth $180M.

Why would the Nats do it? Because they'd get Turner through age 35, but not further, like the Harper and Rendon deals that put the Phils and Angels on the hook past age 35, when not many players are still worth the big money. Rendon just got $35M-a-year. Trea, who's been unlucky with injuries that cut seasons, with short seasons and with being called up mid-season, has never had a year with a WAR above 4.1. And he's average 3.2 WAR for the last r5 years. Each "WAR" is worth about $8M, in theory. By giving him $30M-a-year --worth almost 4 WAR-- you are saying that you think he has Rendon, Harper, Soto years in his future and you will pay for them IN FULL before he even has ONE of them. IOW, you think his slash the last two years is the Mature Trea --someone who's also maybe the No. 1 team leader right now: .309/.366/.525.

I doubt the Nats would go to $30M for that many years. They tend toward "Make 'Em Prove It."

Why should Trea take it --especially if the Nats offer something like $150M for seven years? ($30M for '21 & '22, then 5 x $25M)?

He should take it (I would) because he DOES get injured --especially the two times he's had broken bones in his finger/wrist. Is he going to have more two-month injuries like that? Is that his "weak point" because he attacks the plate? That is a huge contract for somebody who has never been an All-Star, isn't one of the truly elite defenders (although he's good) at SS and, until this year, isn't in the MVP conversation. Remember the Average Annual Value is brought down, always, in such cases because the Arb 2 and Arb 3 salaries will not be huge. 

To show how unrealistic it would be in try to sign Soto now, consider 1) the mystery of what MLB revenues will be post-pandemic, whenever the hell that is, 2) the unknown state of the Lerner's finances in future since they are in one of the absolute worst industries in America right now AND after the pandemic --commercial real estate and 3) you'd probably have to try to sign Soto through age 35, at least. That would be 14 MORE years --when you already have him tied up for the next four. Are you going to pay him Rendon Money of $35M-a-year (or more) for the last 10 years of the deal? The whole thing would be $400M or more. 

Maybe it would turn out to be brilliant business --like the Ovechkin contract-- if Soto is Stan Musial. (Which is entirely realistic.) Maybe, by 2034, it would cost $50M-a-year for a Soto-Musial-level hitter. You might think $35M-a-year was a bargain. And Juan might Hit Forever.

Washington has gotten to see some AMAZING young players in Harper, Strasburg, Rendon, Soto and Turner, as well as a future HOFer in Max and a fine career from Z'man. That has made this a dazzling period for stars and a WS win, too.

But they have been just a little bit TOO good for the sake of keeping as many of them as you;d hope. Right now, I suspect most Nats fans are glad they didn't keep Harper. The Phils aren't winning with him and if J.T. Realmuto leaves Philly now as a FA that may be a tip that Bryce isn't Mr. Clubhouse Chemistry and stars don't want to stay for the joy of playing with him. Harp wasn't a problem in that area with the Nats. But he wasn't a plus either. He's not a leader, he's a self-brander, hard worker and star player (though not in all areas). The Nats chemistry got much better after he left. Partly coincidence.

The jury is out on keeping Strasburg, not Rendon. It seems likely that a big part of that was Strasburg WANTED to stay while Rendon, with hindsight, seems to have been leaning --maybe leaning a lot-- toward SoCal. 

It's not so hard to keep home grown very good players. But nits really tough to keep home grown SUPERSTAR players, whicyh Soto is and, in my book, Trea Turner probably became over '19 (with nine fingers) and '20.      

Remember the days of old, when a writer would finish a page, rip it out of the Underwood, scan it in an unsatisfied manner, crunch it into a ball, take a drag and a sip of joe, and start over with a new page? That crumpled page is this MLB season. It doesn't count because not only was the page horribly written, full of words that meant nothing, typed only to fill the financial urge to fill the page, but also because the only thing coming off the Underwood was asterisks, filling a page already spotted with the stains of covid shots and fake crowd cheers. Crumple it up, and start over later with something that works. The only good pages were those signed by Rizzo and Martinez.

Now THAT is a good "question."

The only thing missing from the description of my early days is that I not only started with an Underwood typewriter, using four-ply paper, but after I tore out one of the "plies" (duplicates) to send, I didn't send it back to the Post office with any kind of computer that I carried with me. I HANDED it to the Western Union operator who sat in the back row of the press box. Yes, Western Union --one step up from tossing your story to the Pony Express rider as he galloped past! (I think Shirley and Red may have done it that way.) 

I must say that I was expecting 60 games to be about 37% the pleasure of a full season --in other words, not much. That is, if the games got played at all --which seemed unlikely after the mass virus outbreaks on the Marlins and Cards. Now the Marlins and Cards are BOTH in the playoffs and the Nats aren't! As it's played out, I'd say that '20 may ending up feeling more like a "half season" --maybe a little better than I expected. It sure beat "no baseball at all."

There's a lot to be said for continuity. Even 60 games allowed young players like Luis Garcia to develop, or other like Carter Kieboom and Victor Robles to kind out areas where they need to improve. A total "void" season would really have screwed up a sport where everything, including career progression, usually has such a comforting sense of sanity and fairness. 

Tom, it's a rebuilding season. Stick with him and force feed him some experience, or see what else the WFT has to offer? Even ... dare I say it .. Alex?

You have to play Haskins until the last dog dies. And then even after you bury the dog.

He has a big arm, a big body that takes a hit and he seems to have gotten over that rookie "star thing" to understand that he has a long way to go. I don't think we'll see any more "selfies" with fans when he's supposed to be holding for an extra point.

You spent a first-round pick on him. You MUST find out, especially because if you go 3-13 with him that is better (for your draft spot than going 5-11 with somebody who already knows the system or with (oh, please, no) Alex Smith.

Every week Haskins throws two or three balls that make me go, "YES! That was good. That was new." He really gunned that second TD pass on a slant at the goal line --very "real NFL QB" moment.

However, there are stats that matter and stats that don't. Right now in the NFL, if you have a truly bad completion percentage that is BAD because with all the spread formations, all the short-passing designs, all the flea-quick slotbacks who get open to turn 5-yd passes into 10+-yard gains, plus flanker screens, bubble screens, short dumps in the flats, you are drawing up a LOT of plays that a good high school QB could complete. (I covered a lot of high school state championship football games. The world is full of people who can understand an offense and fire a football 50-to-60 FEET and hit a receiver in the chest or in stride. It is not that hard.)

Haskins has completed 56.4% of his passes for a 75.7 QB rating in a league where the NORM is 66.4% and a 96.0 QB. That is a big gap. Dwayne has a lousy line, especially with Scherff out and he only has one real weapon --McLaurin. But Terry is a REAL weapon. And the basket of running backs are decent. The skill players are poor, but not as awful as I thought before the season.
When he fumbled a handoff, then fell on it at the Browns 11-yard yard line, then just missed McLaurin --by two yards-- when he was WIDE open for a TD on a basic "out" move in the end zone, I was thinking bad thought. Then he came right back and FIRED that 11-yard TD perfectly --which showed heart or maybe anger.
Check me if I'm wrong, but I think I've said from the beginning that there were reasons he was still on the boar at No. 15 overall. He has always been the definition of an unpolished "project." So, give the guy a fair chance. And grade on a curve. By the last bunch of games, he's got to be completing over 60%. He's got to be protecting the ball, throwing it away or taking the "smart sack," not the strip sack. And he's got to WIN a couple of games by playing well against weaker teams, or when the WFT --which isn;'t THAT bad-- just has an "A" day.

Says he may not change the name again - what are the odds of that? I mean he's leaving too much marketing money on the table with WFT no? How in the hell has the NFL not forced him to sell given all the crap that seems to keep on coming - I mean it seeps out of the pores of the team/place/owner!

Every time I see Washington Football Team on a standard NFL site I just shake my head in disbelief --it stick out so  much that the franchise might as well change its name to Most Screwed Up Team on Earth. By that, I mean screwed up before Rivera and other recent front office and coaching changes --which look like at least margin improvements. For now, I'm stick with "marginal." Rivera and Del Rio are competent pros. That is not the same thing as cutting-edge geniuses. They're old school. Generally speaking, give me new school --in anything. I've already SEEN Old School. What do I need with that?

For example, State's Exhibit No. 1-- the No. 1 Seed in the A.L. playoffs is NOT the New York Yabkees, who signed The Cole Train. It is the Tampa Bay Rays who use so many players in so many ways, including platoons and "Openers," that they only have TWO players who got enough plate appearances this year to qualify for the batting title! You have to beat their whole roster and their coaching staff and their front office --in every game! They win a lot of one-run games, which will be dicy in the playoffs, but they are GOOD at winning one-run games. 

If the Rays get to the second round to play the winner of the Yanks-Cleveland series, THAT will be fun.

The sentimental pick for this year in MLB is the Dodgers against the Indians (no titles since '54) in the WS. The Indians have a fairly serious chance. Just to get your attention, four Cleveland starters --Shane Bieber (1.63, 8-1), Carlos Carrasco, Zack Plesac and Triston McKenzie have pitched 234 1.3 innings this year with --you won' believe this-- a 2.38 ERA and only 160 hits and 63 walks while fanning 303.

Put another way, the four of them are like a peak Max Scherzer season --'15 through '18. They are all dominant, even after subtracting Kluber and Clevenger as starters. Their bullpen is good. But, offensively, Francisco Lindor, who's had a poor season, absolutely must hit like a star for them to max out this chance. Third baseman Jose Ramirez (avg 5.0 WAR the last five years, and one of the most under-rated players in MLB) can't do it alone.

Who are the Nat's starting 5? I think, in order: Strasburg Corbin Scherzer TBD Ross Who fills in the TBD spot? I have no idea, but do you see who might be signed?

Fair question. But I'm not there yet. The world is FULL of back-end starters, especially when it is the health and performance of the Big Three that will define the season.

It's getting That Bat that matters. George Springer has the name and the post-season big HRs to draw attention and dollars away from other FA options. That's good. The Nats don't need someone who plays a lot of CF. Anthony Rizzo has the Cub identity and may also draw off more interst and $$ than he merits. Will that help the Nats have a shot at J.T. Realmuto? He'll be expensive. And Yan Gomes finished the year strongly. He and Suzuki certainly team well, but when do they get OLD in a hurry. Both are also excellent (and willing) at breaking breaking balls --countless sliders, curves and change-up-- in the dirt which is essential when all of your Big Three depend so heavily on getting Ks on "chase" off-speed pitches in the dirt. Unfortunately, Marcell Ozuna will be close to NL MVP --that could rive up his price a lot. After last season, when he had very high velocity off the bat, but terrible bad luck with BABIP, he looked like a potential steal after '20. Not anymore. He'd have been the perfect (bad defense) LFer with Soto in RF. 

Looks like Castellanos and Brantley, 33, may be left available. At any rate, the Nats WILL get one of them. And it'll be a big help. Either Realmuto or Ozuna would be a real team-changer in '21. '22 and beyond.

The better team you have, the more likely Max is to want to come back past the '21 season, so he can, perhaps, ease into that No. 2 or No. 3 starter role as he ages behind Stras and Corbin. He's already showing some age. Having the DH in the NL hurts him. It's one more HR bat --and he gives up HRs. And, with the pitcher hitting, he's really excellent at manipulating the No. 7-8-9 spots in the order to get out of one or two innings with "O' runs in almost every game. Extending Max would be a great move if Max is feeling reasonable. It's always hard to get pride under control and do what's smart and makes you happy. He SHOULD want to finish his career in DC. JMHO. But if he's looking for the last dollar --or anywhere real near it-- he's just not going to get it with the need to sign Turner and Soto. Max isn't "setting the market" for every other pitcher any more, so he doesn't have to feel that responsibility as much to other players and the union. I have a hard time figuring out what Max will, or should do. Seems to me that you keep your DC poor man's equivalent of Maddox, Glavine and Smoltz together as long as you can.   

Ok, they seem to be as advertised - truly bad if everyone does not play a perfect game and if no one is hurt. I see a win (maybe 2 more) - both Giant games (and they are not certain - of course). Who else can they beat? would 3-13 give them the #1 pick - would you take yet another QB with that pick. Will it be that much harder with limited CFB season games to make the right choice?

I refuse to watch college football this year. Sorry. Partky, it's sports overload right now. But the whole indifference to player health, impact on students, just turns me off.

I mentioned after they beat the Eagles that the win might "haunt" them because the WFT has no depth anywhere (except D-line and now that's getting nicked), so once the inevitable injuries arrived, the level of play could drop even faster for them than for most teams. I didn't think it would be Scherff who'd go down. I'll be very interested to se how long it takes Chase Young to get back. He, and WFT, were smart to get him out. But high-talent players have another important skill that doesn't get measured until they are in The League --availability. Some players feel a "pull" or "strain" and can stay in the game. Some know they need to get it healthy or they'll miss a month or more. But there are also players who just keep getting nicked and banged up. Young missed so time in pre-season. I'm sure he's tough. But that is not the same as "durable." His groin problem on Sunday happened on a play when there was almost no contact --just a slightly awkward step. (Maybe the problem preceded that play, of course.) Some players just tend to get hurt --like TE Reed and his concussions. Some almost never seem to miss a play --like almost everybody on the Gibbs I teams. (Or maybe they were just scared of Joe. The first time around, he was a real hard-ass on players who spent much time in the trainers room. He wanted Gary Clark or Darryl Grant who would get off the table during their own autopsy to play on Sunday.)    

That was a gem of a line you pitched in your article on the National’s lost season. A hat tip to you from a college English major! As for a question, do you have any inside knowledge on why Jordan Spieth has disappeared so completely from golf’s leaderboard?

Thanks.

Many think "paralysis from analysis." He's one of those players who believes, almost obsessively, in his "team." It's like Team Spieth plays, not Jordan. I think it's partly a psychological defense mechanism. Anyway, his swing coach has always been part of the team. And Jordan and Cameron McCormick sometimes look at EVERY swing on the range on their smart phone before he hits another ball. It is VERY rare to heasr people on Tour say that Player X "needs to fire his coach" or "get away from his coach" or "go hit balls by himself and, like Hogan said, 'Find your game in the dirt.'" But you now hear all those things --sometimes from TV analysis Brandel Chamblee who isn't shy on the subject.

Spieth's full swing is a complete mess. He can't keep it on the planet. He was never more than medium length, or maybe a land confidence, was so amazing that he looked like he'd be Top Five for MANY years. Now, he's not in the Top 60 and, after the U.S. Open came right out and said he was "lost."

Jordan is a favorite of almost everybody. Certainly me.He's prime example of how hard golf is at the top level. There is NO such thing as a tru superstar in NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL who, without suffering an injury of any kind, and while still (very) young simply loses the ability to play his game. Spieth is not in the Ian Baker-Finch category yet --I followed him around once when he was "lost." He'd hit 10 great drives and every iron shot beautifully, but he'd hit about four drives a round that went 150 yards off the tee, then put on their left blinker and didn't stop screaming left-of-left until they were OB. And his swing, even on video, of the horrid swings was almost indestinguishible from the 10 great drives. Evil game.

Spieth is not THAT kind of lost. But it's the driver that's killing him. You gotta hit it. And if you never know when it's going to hit back, you have a big problem.

There's nothing like it in any other sport.

Okay, unless you're Chris Davis.

Or Steve Blass.

Let me change that --it's WORSE in golf than any other sport. I once did a piece on why the golf swing was so hard to keep intact over a career. I wish I could remember which player answer this way. But I'll never forget what he said: "Everything important in the golf swing happens behind you --where you can't SEE it." 

Ken Grifey, Jr. was a good gofler, played a lot with Tiger. Junior, when he played with Adam Dunn, asked Dunn, when they were around the batting cage, to grab the barrel of Griffey's bat when he was taking a practice stance. Grab right on the sweet spot of the barrel when the bat was behind Griffey's head. That seemed like a risky request to me --what if Griffey decided to take a practice swing? But Dunn was big, kind of crazy and funny --so he went with it. I asked Jr why he did it. He said the most important thing in hitting (for him) was being able to "feel where the barrel is." If you can feel where it is when it is BEHIND YOU, you can deliver it squarely to the ball --supposedly, in theory.  

They say that Soto, like Rendon, has a remark gift for feeling where the barrel is at every point in the swing.

One of the hallmarks of the Rizzo's reign as the Nats' leader has been a reasonably solid pipeline of 'can't miss' prospects, especially pitchers, awaiting their opportunity to make a positive impact on the big club. For several years the Post offered articles profiling the progress of players making their way up, often highlighting the success of the renovated Nats academy in the DR. Now, with the promotion of Garcia, there isn't much, if any, buzz around any specific position player - has the focus on draft/development declined within the Nats' organization or have these unprecedented times prevented the media from crafting stories about the Nats' next hero(s)?

Rizzo hates the "experts" who grade players for all those Top Prospect publications. He doesn't hate them personally. Well, maybe he only hates a couple of them. He just doesn't think that their evaluations are worth much, compared to "real scouts" or evaluators. I've probably heard him say a dozen times (not to me) "if you are dumb enough to believe those guys..."

Mike and his scouts has been very accurate in evaluating his own, and other teams players. As soon as he got Trea Turner he told me, "He'll make two All-Star teams." He meant that as a baseline --meaning Trea might be better than that. When everybody was talking about Robles and Giolito, and others, he said, "Wait until you see Soto hit." That was when Soto was 17. Rizzo had Soto's "hit skill" begged as the top skill of any kind, any player, in the whole organization.

It's almost comical to think of the GMs of the WFT, and all the years of Ernie with the Wizards --I can't even imagine any oft them having the strength of opinion, and the guts, to just come out and say, "This is who this player is. I know. That's what I do. That's what I've done all my life. I'm SUPPOSED to know." The difference is: He actually DOES know. And when he trades good prospects, he knows he's losing THEM, too. The Giolito, Lopez, Dunning for Eaton trade was essential, because he assumed (my read, not his words) that Harper would leave, so a big replacement move was needed, far in advance.

One reason he's made so many trades with GM Billy Beane of the A's is because they just tell each other exactly what they think --really think-- of the players involved in a future trade. 

All this leads to one point: over the weekend Rizzo said that he "really likes our pipeline" and that he didn't care about the opinion of "publications." He knows what his eyes tell him --about players who were up with the Nats, but also others back at their camp. Now, we'll see if he's right.

He's certainly still high on Garcia, Robles and Kieboom. Look like Stephenson may be a very nice fourth-outfielder surprise. Rizzo sees thing in Voth, Fedde and Ross that I don't see. Not great things, maybe, but good things. Of course, there are MANY others lower in the chain. 

BTW, the Nats really BLEW it --in terms of draft-pick order in '21-- by winning those last 3 games from the Mets. They ended up in a five-way tie for the 7th-worst record in MLB. If they'd lost all three, they'd have finished 22-38 with the THIRD-WORST record in MLB and the No. 3 overall pick in the draft! You know, the slot that produced Manny Machado, Trevor Bauer, Evan Longeria and Eric Hosmer in recent times and, back in the day, Matt Williams, Paul Molitor and Robin Yount. Ouch.   

Good morning, Boz. That was definitely a winnable game yesterday, and it's the first Washington loss that I put on the shoulders of Dwayne Haskins. I think he's got all the physical tools. I love the third down TD pass that put the them up 20-17. It came on the play right after a botched handoff that I thought had killed the chance of a touchdown. But Chris Spielman, who was doing color commentary, said that Haskins was staring down his receivers. You can't do that against a zone defense, which Cleveland frequently employs. That sounds like something easily correctible in a young quarterback. Though I still think they need another weapon at wide receiver, I believe the current group is adequate. I like Logan Thomas at tight end, but I still think they should draft another one next year - Logan is still learning the position. The only thing the team needs to contend in the winnable NFC East is better play from Haskins, but he might not turn the corner until next year. I can wait.

A reasonable paragraph written about the WFT!

Congratulation. This goes straight into the sports Time Capsule to be discovered by Alpha Cetaurians in five light years when they explore Earth someday and try to figure out how the humans wrecked it and killed themselves off. Maybe they can introduce pro football to another star system.

But, even in my nice moods, I gotta say that the WFT needs about five position upgrades, not just another tight end. Right now they have a safety who can't cover, but is supposed to be able to tackle in the box --but can't do either-- and another safety Troy Apke, a 2d-year 4th-rounder from Penn State, who is learning on the job, but in the meantime, is in danger of making me miss Adam Archuleta.   

Is there any reasonable explanation for WFT not using their timeouts at the end of yesterdays game? I get that the odds of them winning were very low but still I feel like you have to at least try. Just being able to put together a good drive to close out the game would have had some value, IMO.

Rivera has done it two weeks in a row. I thought ex-star-LBer Chris Spielman's head was going to explode in the TV booth. There must be a code between ex-LBers because he bit his tongue and semi-second-guessed but didn't blast Riveera who was a fine Bears LB.

In last week's chat, I answered a similar question but only understood the first half of the question. My fault. The U.S. kept me from paying full attention to the 4Q of the WFT game (that's my excuse and...).

I think it's incomprehensible not to use the time outs. If you get the ball back, as long as you aren't trying to complete 30-yard passes over the middle, such situation are ideal for those "cheap yardage, stat-padding drives" that Washington QB' have been so exceptional at for the last 25 years! Why shouldn't Dwayne Haskins get to take advantage of "prevent defenses" trailing by 10 or 11 points, in the closing minutes and go 7-for-7 for 60 easy yards before they stall out, kick a field goal, then fail to recover the on-side kick and lose by 7 or 8? Or maybe, in Arizona, they stall out on downs and still lose 30-15 but get that last cheap drive.

Oh, you say the GREAT QBs sometimes pull out those games! Yeah, well, we're talking about all the OTHER QBs --the kind the WFT usually has.  

Seems to me he's not "preventing injury" so much as he's preventing his sad little offense from alw padding their poor little stats --which is OK with me and maybe helps their confidence a little. The whole LEAGUE does it. It helped Kirk Cousins sign an $84-million contract in Minnesota. BTW, I was always post-Cousins --not insanely, but firmly. Sure looks like I was wrong. Man, is he living down to his critics. Ciusins QB rating is now 73.4 --one of only 4 lower than Haskins.

Maybe Jay Gruden, whatever other faults he had, was an offensive genius! Trivia question in 2040: What former NFL coach coaxed 13,176 yards and an 81-36 TD-to-INT ratio out of (hahahaha) Kirk Cousins in three seasons?   

Is Stevenson for real? If so, that solves some issues. Garcia isn't going anywhere. Kieboom still has promise, but needs to figure out the hitting or he's going to be stuck being a AAAA player. At least Castro will be back as a fall back. Robles needs to mature as a hitter but as long as he can play defense he gets a long leash. That leaves 1st and catcher. Do they resign Suzuki or try to dip into the free agent market (Realmuto anyone?). For 1st they need someone like they thought Thames would be - .250+ average and 30 homers. A little defense there wouldn't hurt. One more starting pitcher and the rotation will be fine. And there seems to be enough pieces in the bullpen to be ok (I would like Doolittle back but it would need to be an incentive heavy deal). Despite the disaster this year I think they will be ok in 2021.

 

I agree. As for fixing the lineup, it will be Realmuto or one of the five "others" at a corner OF spot or 1st base.

Stephenson, 26, has been fun. When he's gotten a brief chance the last THREE years he's always done something --in '18 it was a bunch of RBI. In those three spots, he's had 146 AB and slashed .308/.385/.466 for an .850 OPS. Come on, he doesn't LOOK like that good a player with 45 strikeouts in that time. He doesn't fit a "profile" or a type --not with 15 Ks for every HR (3). But you never know. In 93 games in AAA in '19, he slashed .316/.366/.466. In '21, he might really help the bench, especially if you add a RH OF bat in free agency and subtract the salaries of both Eaton ($9.5) and Michael A. Taylor ($3.25M). 

You folks have indulged me in my enthusiasm for Taylor. But I'm finally ready to say that ELEVEN YEARS in the Nationals organization is long enough to conclude that THIS GUY CAN'T HIT A THROWN BALL. OK, not often enough. When he hits it, it goes miles. Great guy. Hope a change of scenery unleashes him. But I think he PROVES that of the Five Tools there is only one that is ABSOLUTELY necessary --"the hit tool," as in Make Contact.

Yes, he broke into the minors with the Nats in '2009. This is his THIRD DECADE as a Nat.

Reminds me of the scene in Grosse Pointe Blank when Martin Blank (John Cusack, contract killer) and his buddy from high school Paul Spericki meet for their 10-year reunion and, after lighting up as they drive, Spericki (Jeremy Piven) says, in perfect stoned disbelief, "TEN YEARS. TEN YEARS, Man!" Blows horn, tokes again.

That's me thinking about Michael A. Taylor --"Eleven Years, man. Eleven YEARS!" 

We'll always have that World Series home run. And the grand slam against the Cubs in Game Four in Chicago. And the three-run homer in Game Five at Nats Park that SHOULD have pushed the Nats past the Cubs into the NLCS if Gio hadn't, once again, "lost the strike zone." (How do you "lose the strike zone?" It's like, as big as a chest of drawers?

That may be it for today! If so, see you next Monday at 11 a.m.

Be sure not to miss ANY of those EIGHT MLB Wild Card Series games on Wednesday. There will be a quiz.

Brewers upset Dodgers. Brandon Woodruff fans 10 and dominates in one win. Brent Suter, Harvard man and leader of the Brewer Bullpen Band that turns equipmnt into 'musical' instruments to make up-energy noise during games, pitches three shutout inning to start another game while Hadwer pitches the last three innings to break L.A. hearts again.

WILL that happen? Probably not. But COULD IT? Oh, yeah, for sure. That's why three-game series will be a 2020 --and 2020 only--event. So, "enjoy them" or loath them. 'Cause we'll never see 'em again.

Cheers. And stay well.

 

Is it not time to honor our 2020 Washington Nationals for being the only team in the history of baseball to start two players whose first names are derived from brothers who were generals of the Carthaginian empire? Should we not hear it for Hasdrubal and Hannibal, generals in the 2nd Punic War between Rome and Carthage around the year 200 BCE? Surely we shall not see their like again, our Asdrubal and Anibal, who fought for the mighty Nationals in the glorious baseball wars of 2019 and the far less-so ones 2020.

Amen.

And, back then, Hannibal and company rode War Elephants (not camels). 

Hey, maybe that's a nickname for the WFT:

The Washington War Elephants.

You can "look it up" --Hannibal used War Elephants to cross the Alps and then panic the Roman cavalry. If we only had swords, shields and those painful sandals and we saw an army riding on elephants headed our way, we'd panic, too. 

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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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