Thomas Boswell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 6, 2006; 2:00 PM

Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell was online Wednesday, Sept. 6, at 2 p.m. ET to take your questions and comments about the Washington Nationals, Major League Baseball and his recent columns .


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The transcript follows.


16th & K, N.W.: I have never been a fan of these new-age young "kids" becoming GM's with absolutely no experience in baseball. I guess they remind me all too well of McNamara's "Whiz Kids" who mismanaged the Vietnam War. Having said that, I don't think that I am being overly harsh in saying that Theo Epstein is in totally over his head. He overestimated the strength of his pitching when he gave up Arroyo. He grossly overestimated Coco Crisp and vast underestimated Johnny Damon. He completely goofed when he didn't do something before the trade deadline, thus ceding the season to the Yankees, who did get two valuable players. These amateur followers of Billy Beane have been the ruination of more the one team in MLB. Do you agree that Theo Epstein should be fired, the sooner the better?

Tom Boswell: Here we have what may be the perfect post to capture the Red Sox Nation mentality. It's unique, passionate but also truly bizarre. The argument is subtle and probably correct on many points, but the object of the anger is the only GM to oversee a Red Sox world champion in 86 years. Oh, and McNamara still hasn't been forgiven. My wife is from New England so I see up close this every summer. It's fascinating.


Patterson, N.Y.: How on earth can the Florida Marlins put together a .500 season with a $14 million payroll (two known entities and 23 unknowns) while the Orioles spend $73 million and never escape the Groundhog Day of fourth- place finishes? Is there something magic with the player development down there in South Florida, or is this more an issue of the O's being in a tougher division and league?

Tom Boswell: That is a stunning comparison.

The Marlins are as big a surprise this year as the Nationals were last year -- both playing .500 and hanging in the wildcard race until mid-September.

The difference, of course, is that the Marlins are extremely young and have a great future. Of course, the Nats, on a smaller scale, have tried to trade veterans for young prospects so that, in '08-'09, they may resemble the Marlins of '06.

Barry and I are in the press box at RFK -- Nats 1, Cards 0 after three innings --reconstructing how the Marlins were built. Getting two top players for Josh Beckett, using Rule 5 to get Dan Uggla. But we both said, "Where did Josh Johnson come from?"


Washington D.C.: Hey Boz, thanks for the chats. The Nats can't seriously think that Nook Logan is the long-term solution to the team's center field issues, can they? Isn't this just another example of Bowden trying to squeeze every drop of talent from a bunch of cast-offs that no other team wants?

Tom Boswell: Nook Logan isn't a joke. He lost the CF job in Detroit this year, otherwise he might be playing for the best (W-L) team in the AL

The general thinking is that if the Nats resign Soriano, then they could afford to have a low-offense, lotta-range CF to support their weak starting pitching. If no Soriano, then maybe no Logan either. They kind of go together. "Kearns, Logan and Soriano wouldn't look like a bad OF next year, would they?" said one Nats exec today.

Logan actually has a track record as a young hitter -- .267 average in 469 career at bats with 31 steals in 39 attempts. Granted, no power and not nearly enough walks.


No. 756: I personally hope Barry Bonds breaks Hank Aaron's career home run mark. I have nothing against Hank Aaron. And it's not that I like Bonds or believe he should break the record even if he used steroids (and I believe he did).

It's just that I know Bud Selig and the MLB brass do not want Bonds to break the record. I want to see their awkwardness and discomfort when he does. It would serve them right for trying to single him out the way they did.

Bonds can easily break that record if he goes over to the American League and is a designated hitter for two seasons. The way he's hitting them out lately he may be able to do it in one season.

Tom Boswell: There would certainly be justice in seeing Bud shake Bonds's hand after a No. 756. But, when guilt for the steroid age is being measured out, Selig and the rest of baseball management has to take a back seat to the player's union. It's really Don Fehr and Gene Orza who should meet Bonds as he crosses the plate if he ever passes Aaron. Whatever happened to the responsibility of a union to protect its members on crucial "safety in the workplace" issues. The union never had the guts to face down the top agents who didn't want their players to come off the juice. So, they hid behind high-minded talk about privacy issues and let a generation of their players poison themselves.

OK, that's a simplification, but it'll do for a chat.


Washington, D.C.: Can you give us any update on the Sean Black situation?

Tom Boswell: News flash. The Nats just learned 30 minutes ago that Black went to class today at Seton Hall. Now the Nats can't sign him. Washington signed seven of its top eight picks.


Annapolis, Md.: Sometime back in June, I believe, you wrote an article about the dominating AL pitchers as the primary reason for the old-fashioned whipping that the AL gave to the NL. I have thought long and hard about this since you ran that article. While what you wrote is absolutely true, I believe that AL teams were literally forced to become better to keep up with the AL East, whose teams were literally forced to become better in their attempt to keep up with the Yankees. There is no dominant team in the NL forcing the other teams to get better. Does this make sense to you? I'm very interested in your input as to see if you agree with my summation. Thanks.

Tom Boswell: Very interesting.

Competition is at the core of the success of markets -- including, I assume, competitive baseball markets.

Will the Orioles gradually become better, or less bad, as a result of their increased need to compete with the Nationals for fans? Note: the Orioles, along with the Angels, are considered two of the teams most likely to go hard after Soriano this winter. Are the Orioles still using "Confederate money" in their free agent chases because so few players want to end up wanting to play in Baltimore? (They went as high as $200-million in the A-Rod bidding when Texas gave him $250-million -- one of the worst contracts ever.)


Reston, Va.: Tom,

If the Nationals hadn't lost Patterson, Lawrence and Ayala to the DL, and if Hernandez had been healthy all season, I think this team would have won 85 to 90 games and been contending for the wild card. Your thoughts?

Tom Boswell: I predicted before the season that the Nats would win 75 games. That assumed reasonable, but not perfect health for their pitchers. If Patterson had won 15, the Nats might have won 80. Their current pace for 70 wins, all things considered, is probably a respectable performance. Assuming they keep playing hard to the finish and don't mail it in. Their recent five game win streak --and the way in which those games were won -- probably shows that there's still as much or more life in the club than you'd expect.


Chevy Chase, D.C. : Where did the Yankees' Wang come from? He JUST got on my radar a month or so ago and now he is the chalk for the Cy Young. Do you know anything about his back story?

Tom Boswell: The New York Times had a 4,000-word story on him recently. Check their archives if you're a subscriber.


Washington, D.C.: Boz...

Has Lopez commented on the possibility of second base next year? Can the same team who benefits from Logan in the outfield take away a similar advantage in the infield?

Tom Boswell: You can't have bad starting pitching and ALSO be weak defensively up the middle at CF, SS and (with Vidro's decreased range) at 2nd. Lopez will probably move to 2nd at some point. Guzman can come back at short.

With hindsight the nationals biggest blunder of '06 was NOT trading Vidro in May when he was hitting .340, his value was high and his legs had not worn out yet. They could have gotten plenty for him AND gotten out of his $8-million contract next year. LAST WINTER the Nats were dreaming about a fast start for Vidro so he could be traded. Then, when they had the chance, they fell back in love with him and didn't deal him. (He's a very classy guy who's had an excellent career -- all with one franchise.) The Nats have tried everything to deal him since June. The market disappeared completely.

In the end, if Soriano isn't resigned, it may be the weight of Vidro's contract --with two more years left to run -- that kills 'em. But don't write Soriano off yet.


Silver Spring, Md. Oh, please. Young GMs, old GM -- they're all about the same based on age alone. Theo's decisions about Pedro Martinez (currently on the DL, no?) and Johnny Damon (who will be 92 when his NYY contract expires) took courage.

And Theo's decision to stand relatively pat at the trading deadline bit him in the tail when Varitek AND Trot Nixon went down with injuries so soon after the deadline.

The Red Sox have a lot of money. They don't have an infinite amount of money. Signing Damon through 2009 would have been truly Idiotic. And keeping Pedro for four years would have been even dumber.

But what would have been even worse would have been compounding the initial mistakes and thinking a couple tweaks (or heaven forbid, NAAAtional Leaguers) would have turned the 2006 Red Sox into a playoff team.

Tom Boswell: I didn't know Theo had relatives in this area.

Seriously, I always say that the questions here are better than the answers.

(The Nats had chances to get to Carpenter early. Church and Vidro went out with men on second and third in the first -- Vidro on a 405-foot drive that was barely caught in center. Robert Fick defused a two-on, no-out rally in the second when O'Connor missed a sacrifice bunt attempt and he was caught between second and third.)


Farragut West: Why isn't Kearns starting today? The guy has been swinging a big stick....

Tom Boswell: Just a day off. He wasn't hurt by the HBP last night.


Rockville, Md.: Cal Ripken Jr. says he would consider purchasing the Orioles if owner Peter G. Angelos put the club up for sale.

"I think I could have value to a group, an ownership group," the former Orioles star said in an interview. "I like Mr. Angelos, and I don't know what's going to happen to his club, but if it were for sale, it would be interesting to explore."

Boy, one can only dream eh?

Tom Boswell: That's everybody's dream. Except the one person who matters.

I'm surprised that the O's -- 61-77 -- are only one game better than the Nationals -- 60-78. Granted, the AL is tougher. But I don't understand how you can have a rotation with as much promise as the O's with Mazzone coaching it and have the second worst ERA in baseball. Oh, I could cook up theories. But it's still one of those one-season anomalies as far as I'm concerned. The Orioles shouldn't think too much this off season. Just leave their starting pitching as is, try to add a middle-inning arm in the bullpen and let Leo work with it another year; then sign one big free-agent hitter at 1st or LF and come back next year and roll the dice again.


Which is it Tom?: Last week you said:

Soriano is gone: I can't imagine him staying. This can't be any fun for him and next year doesn't look much better. A contender will say, "Here's a no-trade, $75 million, 5-year contract. Make a home with us." How could he resist? Tom Boswell: He can't. And he won't.

Now you say don't give up on him yet...

Tom Boswell: I've been doing a little more digging. Neither New York team looks interested. There's no reason for the Red Sox to be interested. Who else, with mega-big money, is interested enough in Soriano to drive the price beyond the Nats appetite for spending? A lot of people in baseball, after August 1st, said, "He's gone. Book it." Including me. But as the dust has settled the Nats emerge as one of the logical contenders. Still, it's probably less than even money for him to resign. I'd make the Angels the front-runner.


Patterson, N.E.: What caused the Orioles to give up on John Maine? Although everyone thought that the Mets were just getting rid of a bothersome spouse in dumping Benson, this year's numbers do not bear that out.

Kris Benson: 10-10; 4.66 ERA; 1.39 WHIP; 4.22 K/9

John Maine: 5-3; 3.44 ERA; 1.03 WHIP; 6.75 K/9

Tom Boswell: Nice numbers.

Other numbers you might want to check. Ryan Zimmerman, at 21, is having an almost identical statistical season to Scott Rolen in his rookie year at 22. But Zimmerman is on pace for about a dozen more RBI and almost a dozen less errors. (Rolen had 24 errors and 92 RBI with a .846 OPS in '97; Zimmerman entered today with 11 errors, 93 RBI and an .825 OPS with 24 games to go.)


Washington, D.C.: Who the heck is Chris Booker?

Tom Boswell: He's the guy who just came in after O'Connor went five shutout innings and gave up a single, a wild pitch and a walk. Then, after Chris Schroder replaced Booker and got two outs (including Pujols on a popup), Scott Spiezio hit a three-run homer off the right field foul pole.

Booker is one of the few pitchers who throws a true old-fashioned forkball that is wedged far back between the fingers and drops with a knuckling action. Today? Just, "Stick a fork in him."


Columbia, Md.: I keep hearing Derek Jeter's name being bantered about for MVP. Although he may well be deserving, can a singles and doubles hitter be named MVP?

Tom Boswell: Absolutely. Especially if he plays shortstop and is the captain of the New York Yankees. (See "Phil Rizutto.")


Sec 515: Did Lopez change to No. 2 because Logan asked for the No. 7?

And who is George Lombard? Never heard of him before his appearance last night.

Tom Boswell: Jackson had No. 2. Lopez wanted it when he left.

Most teams are slow to hand out famous low-digit numbers -- like No. 7 -- to rookies like Logan. Mickey Mantle is more the sort of "Playing center fielder, No. 7..." that would come to mind. However, Washington isn't burdened by any such tradition. Bernie Allen used to wear No. 7 for the Senators when he wasn't even the fulltime second baseman.

As for Lombard, you're going to see a lot of late-season call up in '06 that you never heard of. It's the late-season pitching call ups NEXT September who may matter -- names like Zech Zinicola (from Arizona State, who has already moved up through three leagues this year) and (lefty) Matt Chico.


Alexandria, Va.: So, right on cue, is this the real Brian Schneider we are finally seeing?

Tom Boswell: Schneider tied the game with a pinch-hit single off Carpenter in the sixth. Soriano then hit the next pitch on a line into center for a 2-run single to knock out Carpenter and put the Nats ahead, 5-3.

Schneider is a career .254 hitter who is currently hitting .242 and has 47 RBI in 351 at bats (better than his norm and more than enough for a strong defensive catcher.) He's just a solid September away from putting up exactly the numbers you'd expect. His early-season slump probably bothered him more than most people because he comes from a very duty-conscious hard-working family --some of whom live in this area -- and he was determined to justify his new $16-million 4-year contract. Sometimes you can try too hard.

He seems back on track now.


Washington, D.C.: According to today's L.A. Times, Grady Little likes to rest his players the game after they have a big game because the players relax knowing they don't have to play the next day. Is this the stupidest decision a manager's ever made, or only in the top five? "Little has made a habit of resting players the day after they excel. Garciaparra, for example, drove in six runs Saturday against the Colorado Rockies and sat out Sunday. " 'A lot of their success has to do with knowing they have the next day off,' Little said. 'It gives them a relaxed kind of feeling.' " Dodgers Display Awful Timing (Los Angeles Times, Sept. 6, 2006)

Tom Boswell: Thanks. That really is hard to believe.

But it only ranks No. 2.

Grady already owns the Worst Decision In History.


RE: Sean Black: Is is true that Bowden had subordinates at the Seton Hall campus trying to tackle the kid while he made his way to class?

Tom Boswell: They tried to tackle him but I heard that they failed to "wrap him up."

That's probably akin to Gregg Williams' NFL statistic "Yards After Contact." The Nats have had contact with Black for three months but couldn't bring him down.

That's it for this week. Gotta watch the late innings of a close ball game on a beautiful September afternoon at RFK. The announced crowd of 21,322 is spread out in the stands, taking the sun, feet up, skipping work perhaps. Molina just homered into the Cards bullpen to cut the lead to 5-4.

Life could be worse.


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