Friday, September 21, 2007; 2:00 PM
Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell was online Sept. 21, at 2 p.m. ET to take your questions and comments about the Washington Nationals, Major League Baseball and his recent columns.
The transcript follows.
Presidents Race: Tom, Who are you taking on Sunday? George, TJ, Abe or TEDDY?
Tom Boswell: Teddy will never win. It's like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown. He NEVER gets to kick it. It ruins the gag. But (amazingly) people are still fascinated because they can't believe that Teddy is doomed. The WHOLE BIT is that Teddy never wins. Why would they kill the best in-game gimmick they've got? (They won't. And they won't next year or the year after or until they have something better than the Racing Presidents __which will be never.)
1971: So did any of those fans get arrested for taking turf or parts of the scoreboard? What are my chances on Sunday of scoring a red seat for my basement and not getting in trouble?
Tom Boswell: I think there were some arrests in '71 As I remember, it looked fairly dangerous on the field then __in a random, innocent sort of way. Nobody trying to hurt anybody, but a lot of general craziness.
Security at ballparks is 10 times stronger now. I doubt VERY MUCH that it would be a good idea to go on the field. It hadn't even crossed my mind that people would try. I wouldn't count too much on that red seat either, especially because RFK is not being torn down, etc __it will still be needed for big United soccer crowds.
Section 409, Alexandria, Va.: Tom, thanks for the wonderful
Tom Boswell: Thanks.
I was at the game last night with my son, but I wasn't working, just bought tickets and wandered around the park as a fan. So I didn't look into Carpenter's situation. If I had to rank all the Nats radio/TV people, I'd have had him either No. 1 or No. 2. So I don't what the deal is.
He (of course) has no "feel" for the Washington area. But, because of the 33-year void, what available baseball announcer does? I think it's a field of Zero Candidates. Ultimately, the team needs "voices" that are comfortable making local references. Can you imagine a New York City baseball announcer who had no sense of the area? The best, like Jon Miller in his Baltimore days, make it a point to learn their town. (Which, in time, I assume Bob would have done.)
D.C.: Hey Boz,
How foolish are the Mets looking now considering their reluctance to give up Milledge for a reliever?
If Minaya could do things over, do you think he'd have made a Milledge-Cordero deal?
Is there any way that Bowden could pry Victorino away from the Phillies? They rarely play him anymore! Thanks.
Tom Boswell: I'm a Cordero fan, though he sure makes you nervous because you know his command has to be razor sharp to avoid the Dreaded Lang Ball. Like so many teams on so many trades, I suspect the Mets would like to rewind the clock and see if they could do that deal. (However, there was never a day when I would have made it, from the Nationals point of view.)
I wouldn't give two cents for Victorino, especially playing in the Phillies bandbox. How can you afford the "luxury" (waste) of giving 440 at bats to an outfielder with 11 homers and an OPS of .773? If Church or Kearns had those at bats in Philly, they'd have 20-25 homers. Partly because of the distance to fences, but also because a cozy part lends confidence, helps initial hot streaks.
The Phils are a lot of fun right now. I'm pulling for them, either as a wild card or in the East, though I think their starting pitching is just too weak to make it. Manuel, underrated IMO as I've said before, has done a good job. But not nearly as good as Acta. I was amazed to read an MLB.com analysis of potential Manager of the Year candidates this week. There were SEVEN in the N.L. and Acta wasn't mentioned! Talk about a snub. Many should instantly be on the short list __THEN figure out who the others are.
Pete Broberg: You forgot to mention me in your RFK memory column.
Tom Boswell: Hey, Pete, remember the night you were warming up in the bullpen and the RFK lights went out IN MID-PITCH. The catcher was terrified. This is a distant memory. Anybody recall if I'm right on this one or any details? TIA.
Thank You!: Tom,
I wanted to thank you for sharing your memories of RFK. I have so many fond memories at and around that stadium - from tailgates to concerts to the Redskins glory days to being 10 years old playing soccer at halftime of a Dips/Cosmos game (Pele was still on the Cosmos), wonderful DC United games, international soccer matches. To me, that hunk of concrete symbolizes and reminds me of so many things - the nostalgia it too great to ignore. I'm going to enjoy RFK past this weekend at DC United games but that old stadium means a ton to many of us who grew up in the area. Yeah, the concessions have been bad, it's old, it's crumbling but every time I step foot in her it's reminds me of all those times and it still feels new to me. I'll miss those smells, sounds and overall feel of RFK more than anyone will ever know.
Thank you for the memories.
Tom Boswell: As a piece of period architecture, I still think RFK holds up very well. And, as Jon Madden said, it may have been The Best stadium in the NFL __loud, intimate, great crazy fans.
But, as I looked at it again last night, it is just horribly designed for baseball. In the early '80's (I think) I did a piece on everything a ballpark should, and shouldn't, be. I imagined RFK and said, "Make everything exactly the opposite and you have a great baseball park."
And that's what Camden Yards turned out to be __the anti-RFK.
It does seem that, at 39-to-41K, they are now building parks that feel even more intimate and have closer sight lines, than Orioles Park with 48,000.
I was also out at the new park yesterday. It will have a lot of great seats __the upperdeck is even better than I thought. The outline of the huge CF scorebaord is up, too. And it is HUGE. If there is a problem in design, it may be that those who are Scoreboard Crazy (Kasten) may overdue it. It's tempting to turn a ballpark into an 40,000-seat living room with a big-screen TV in centerfield on which you constantly try to sell things to your captive customers (and, meanwhile, a game is being played as an afterthought). I hope the Lerners resist the impulse to Snyderize the Nationals experience. Ugh.
Metro Centro: Did RFK have that new stadium smell and feel when it first opened?
Tom Boswell: Yes. I was praised, in its time, almost as much as Camden Yards when it opened. D.C. Stadium was the first of its kind and was quickly duplicated in Atlanta (same blueprints, minor changes, no wavy roof line), Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis. Great for football. It took a while to realize how bad they were for baseball. I said they looked like Fram Oil Filters, not baseball parks.
Section 425: Second the kudos for the Thursday article. Anything new to add about parking at the new park? I got real nervous on several levels after hearing about the press lunch the other day. Nothing like 20 minutes, driveway to your seats at RFK. Parking, even on crowded days is great. If I have to take METRO to the new park, I won't go. Too much hassle.
Tom Boswell: Parking will be The Issue. I fear the worst __thousands of fans being forced to park at RFK, then take a 10-minute bus ride (oh, they've timed it) to be let out a few minutes walk from the new park.
The contrast with the fabulous parking at RFK will be a bitter contrast.
However, I keep being told that the expanded Metro stop at the new park will be bigger and closer than the one at RFK. As in considerably bigger (when finished by 4/08) and a block or two closer. You can't fib about something that basic, can you?
I'm wondering if people will pick the most convenient Metro stop that is ONE STOP AWAY from the park, then leave their car there and jump on the Metro for a one-stop-hop to Nationals Park. Even if they, somehow, get 7,500 spaces, fans are going to be trying any and every option.
I just hope they don't pick the last option: Stop going.
morose O's fan: I was going to write in about the O's then I remembered this a baseball chat.
Tom Boswell: How true.
The O's pitching staff is right where the Nationals was in May __destroyed, as bad as any you'll ever see, at least on paper. One small difference. Since then the Nats have gone 59-60. Interesting contrast.
Alexandria, Va.: As a slightly younger native, I of course enjoyed your column. I remember many years ago you described the multipurpose stadiums as "mutant oil filters" -- but I could never quite put RFK in the same category. It always seemed to me that RFK was a "modern" (in 1960s terms) baseball stadium that made allowances for football, while the newer buildings were the other way around. The way the roof line extends around first and third base supports that perception. I always liked the way it fits into the end of East Capitol Street -- it's somewhat imposing, but the scale is reduced on that side because half the structure is below street level. All things considered, it was fairly well executed for what it is -- but like you, I'm ready to move on.
Tom Boswell: Nice points. Thanks.
Herndon, Va.: MR B: Even if the Red Sox hang on to win the division, am I going overboard to say they look right now like first round losers? (and I HATE the Yankees)
Tom Boswell: Just go to the Boston Globe Internet site if you want to hear screams of pain in the night. My buddy Bob Ryan's latest column reads like a post-script on a season that has already ended.
The obvious: The Red Sox peaked a little too early. Like about 100 games too early. When their lead hit 14 1/2.
NOW, they suddenly have the bright idea that it might be time to give several days of extra rest between starts to Dice-K and Schilling. And shut down Okajima for a while.
If the Red Sox get semi-healthy __Manny back and the rotation all able to stand upright__ they're still the best team in baseball, IMO. But that's been true a few other times when they didn't get to the Series.
I'm not surprised that they've sputtered. But I am dazzled that they have come so close to a complete collapse. They may recover. Even if they do, Theo and the rest of the brain trust gets a grade somewhere between C- and F+ for using that huge lead to arrive in last September with A HEALTHY TEAM.
Of course, it's that old Yankee Fear __no, it doesn't seem to be dead, even after '04__ that causes the Red Sox to keep their foot to the floorboard all summer when they have a big lead, rather than flowing along in karmic tune with the season. (This is "Red Sox humor.")
Acta MOY?: Acta as Manager of the Year? Are you kidding me? Ok, so this year's Nationals are considerably better than the 1962 Mets, and they won't lose 100 games. But they're still in the bottom 3rd of the NL. Don't you think a team has to at least crack the middle 3rd before its manager can be considered for MOY?
Tom Boswell: No, I'm not kidding. He should be in every discussion. Who was M.O.Y. in the N.L. LAST year? Joe Girardi __for bringing in a middle-of-the-pack Marlins team 15 wins higher than expected.
That's the Acta M.O. this year __but with the twist that the Nats are under .500, but may finished ahead of 6-7-8 teams.
Bronx, NY: Dear rest of MLB,
Ha ha, ha ha ha. See you in October.
Tom Boswell: And the Yankees get to finish the season with four games at Tampa Bay (worst record in baseball) and three at Baltimore (second worst record and the worst team right now.)
Are those last three games in Camden Yards technically considered "forfeits?"
Suffern, NY: so as the only Mets fan not panicking, am I right? Up two in the loss column, 10 to go, Pedro pitching tonight, Wagner and Delgado returning this weekend... and the Phillies throwing Eaton, Kendrick and an injured Hamels.
Tom Boswell: Sometimes, teams that get scared to death late in September get the jitters out of their system and play quite well in October __if they get there.
For example, the Tigers and Cardinals, both considered in a state of "near collapse" in the last week of September, ended up in the Series last year.
Nats fan in Catonsville, Md.: I moved to this area from Montreal, so I am the genuine article!
My question: how cool is it that the Nats are almost certainly going to have a better record this season than the Orioles?
Tom Boswell: I suspect some bets on that are going to collected on that. Or maybe not. Was there even one Washington fan who thought that the Nats __their brass opening discussing 105 loses, and fearing more__ would have more wins than the O's __their brass opening expecting 82 wins. That's a pre-season gap of almost 25 wins. The Nats are currently +3 on Baltimore, and counting. (Actually, I haven't heard of one person who put a cent on that proposition.)
Ex-Nu Yawka: If the Mets continue their collapse and drop out of the post-season, it looks like Willie Randolph will be the fall guy. Former Mets coach, Manny Acta is still reported to be close to Omar Minaya, the Mets GM. Any shot that the Nats can short circuit this drama and extend Manny's contract this week?
Tom Boswell: Manny's not going anywhere. And neither is Randolph, who's a fine manager/person. The Mets should be delighted to have him.
Apple Grove, Md.: Were the Tigers just a flash in the pan last year? Is Leyland's job in jeopardy?
Tom Boswell: The same thing happened to the Tigers that hit the White Sox. They were built on pitching. A lot of key pitchers had more wear and tear, more innings and more pressure, by the end of October than they'd ever endured before. And they had poor seasons or injuries __as a group__ the next season.
The White Sox still haven't recovered. I think the Tigers will. (There would be a line around the block to hire Leyland if he were available.)
Backing in in Boston: Do you think the Angels and Indians will be scoreboard watching the A.L. East the rest of the way to figure out how to draw the Red Sox and avoid the Yankees in the opening round of the playoffs? Which of these question mark players is most important to the Red Sox playoff chances: Daiseke, Manny, Big Papi (hurt knee), JD Drew, Youkalis, Okajima or Schilling?
Tom Boswell: Manny. He's mystical.
Downtown DC: Tom - A Nats question and a compliment.
The question: While much is (justifiably) made about the need for pitching, particularly after games like last night, shouldn't as much or more light be focused on the overall poor batting averages of our starting players? For example, last night we fielded 2 players with averages over .270 - the Phillies fielded 9 (5 starters and 4 pinch hitters) over .280. A few trades won't fix that (tho leaving RFK might help some). Is there some way for the players to improve during the offseason?
The compliment: Your columns are a delight to read. As someone new to sports fanaticism, thanks largely to you and Barry and your coverage of the Nats, reading your columns is as much fun as watching the games. The thought, language, humanity of your columns is much appreciated. Thank you so much.
Tom Boswell: Thanks.
I almost hope that the Nationals do not finish the season TOO solidly because, despite their gritty season and model attitude, they really have not made very much progress AT THE MAJOR LEAGUE LEVEL this season.
Before the season, what did they hold which was of long-term value in most people's mind, if you intend to be a contender.
John Patterson, Nick Johnson, Ryan Zimmerman, Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez, Chad Cordero, Brian Schneider, Rauch.
EVERY ONE has taken a step backwards this season. Will Patterson or Johnson ever be the same performers that they were in '05 and '06 respectively? I don't know. Are Kearns and Lopez front-line offensive players? Or where they RFK victims this year or are they just decent hitters. I don't know. Are Zimmerman's throwing problems and inability to lay off (or hit) sliders low-and-away a sign of incipient Steve Blass Disease and a basic hitting flaw? Or were they just a byproduct of too much sophomore-season expectation? (Probably "Door No. 2.) Is Cordero a real closer or just a quality set-up man? I don't know. Can Schneider hit enough to catch every day for a contender? How much will the new park help him? I don't know.
Sure, I could give opinions on all of these. But I don't KNOW.
The players who have been added or emerged this year are more like good "depth" __Belliard, Young, Colome, Schroeder. They certainly aren't core parts of a 95-win club in three years. Church looks like a fourth outfielder, not a 25-30 HR regular. Hill (especially), Bergmann and Chico have had their moments, but do any of then look like 15-18-game winners or are they all 3-4-5 starts, at best? Can Hill or Bergmann stay healthy? Again, I have as many questions as answers.
In short, the Nationals should understand that, while everybody pats them on the back for not being bad this season, they are a thousand miles from being GOOD. This team needs enormous improvement. That includes considering all free-agent options, not curling up and saying, "We're not too bad right now. Let's let the kids in the minors grow up."
Going 71-91, even if 51-111 was expected, is no reason to be remotely satisfied. With a couple of free agents in the (combined salary) $15-million range this winter, the Nats could be a 75-to-85 win team next year. And 83-85 wins may get you into the wild card discussion next Labor Day, which would be great for the franchise. Doing nothing this winter, then getting hit with a few injuries and disappointments next spring, is a good way to lose 90-to-100 in your first year in a new park.
Section 422: In honor of this Sunday. Short still stinks.
Weymouth St.: Boz,
Interested on weighing in on the legacy of Mr. Bonds and the 756 election?
Tom Boswell: I think the Bonds No. 756 ball should have as asterisk permanently branded on it AND THEN it should be sent to the Hall of Fame. If they won't take it __in that condition__ THEN blast it into space.
Linthicum, Md.: Do you think Andy MacPhail is having second thoughts about having accepted the Orioles' job?
Tom Boswell: What has happened to the O's in the last few weeks is, at one level, an utter fluke. Their entire starting staff was blown up by injuries. Cabrera, when he isn't suspended, is their ace.
Measure Trembley, Andy and the rest next season when/if they can run Bedard, Guthrie and Loewen out to the mound 90+ times. That's an entirely different team. (OK, still not a GOOD team. But one that might be capable of reconstruction on a Pitching First basis.)
Full-blooded Nats fan: Boz,
I almost can't believe that the final Nats game ever to be played at RFK is this Sunday! I remember like it was yesterday heading up to Phillly to watch the inaugural game against the Phillies in April 2005, and watching the Home Opener at RFK in 2006 and 2007.
I never thought I'd say this, but after three years of baseball memories--and even though I am looking forward to the new ballpark next season--I'll almost miss watching the games at RFK.
Tom Boswell: Take two stiff drinks and call me Monday morning.
Enjoy Sunday at RFK. But, as soon as you see the new park, YOU'LL GET OVER IT.
Section 434; Alexandria, Va.: Mr. Boswell:
One of my best memories of RFK is getting your autograph before an O's-Red Sox exhibition game years ago. Unfortunately, I also got Wade Boggs autograph on the same ball and later gave it my friend's son (a rabid Red Sox fan) on his Bar Mitzvah.
Think you could pull a Cal Ripken and sign autographs after the game on Sunday? I'll be reluctant to leave RFK, but simply gazing around to drink in so many memories (my first game there was in 1963) will be needlessly sad. Standing in line to meet you again would add a smile to the day.
Tom Boswell: Very nice of you. Thanks.
I'll be there, but will leave long before the last out to cover the Redskins game.
Now that's a doubleheader that for 33 years, I never thought I'd see.
There's no way to end a last chat of the season. Except to say thanks for all your fine questions. See you at RFK Sunday. Cheers.
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