Tuesday, October 30, 2007; 2:00 PM
Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell was online Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 2 p.m. ET to take your questions and comments about the World Series, Major League Baseball and his recent columns.
The transcript follows.
Patterson, N.Y.: Tom,
You're a great baseball writer but a horrible prognosticator with your "Rockies in 7" bit.
Tom Boswell: Well, at least you and my late father agree! He always teased me that no serious/good writer on any other subject spent much time trying to "see the future" concerning an event that is by definition UNPREDICTABLE.
It's always better to have an insight (they're hard to come by), than an opinion (everybody's got one).
In my Rockies-in-seven column, I actually tried for insight (of a kind). My lede in that column said that the key to the Series was whether the Rox, after their long layoff, could somehow find a way to win just one game out of the first two in Fenway Park. If they could, I thought that the HUGE high-altitude advantage that all Denver teams have had for decades would come into play and the Rockies would win at least one and probably two games in Coors, producing an exceptionally entertaining Series. I ALSO wrote that if they COULDN'T win a game in Boston, it would be a fast, ugly one-sided Series, because the Rockies would probably turn from an ultra-hot team into a very cold one. Because that is the NORM in baseball -- hot-to-cold and visa versa. It's seldom Very Hot straight to a few weeks of .500.
Believe it or not, right up until I finished that column, I didn't know which way I'd go on a "pick." (Come on, you've gotta make a pick. Readers enjoy laughing at you. It's part of the job.)
I really do think that Game Two was enormously important. And I still think that if the Rockies had won, 3-2, rather than losing 2-1, we'd still be watching Game Six of the World Series back in Fenway tomorrow night. As Earl Weaver always said, "Everything changes everything." In baseball, it really does. A couple of key plays in one close game can change the shape of a whole Series. Not necessarily who wins the whole Series, but whether it turns into a long beautiful battle or a mismatch.
The Red Sox were clearly the better team from the better league. Everybody knew it. The 2-to-1 odds reflected it. But there really WAS a chance -- not a strong probability, but a chance -- for a long competitive Series. Game Two changed that, IMO. As spirited as the Rox are, they weren't going to be able to climb that big a hill, even in their mountain-high home field.
Hey, how's that for rationalizing being wrong! Pretty good?
Value of a Catcher: Hi Boz,
Tom Boswell: They tried to turn me into a catcher my freshman year in college. You know, good arm, knows the game and "runs like a catcher." My God, what a tough position. (Especially after life as a first baseman.) I was a good enough hitter to play first in high school, but didn't have the power to do it in college (even a small college!)
Still remember the mystery of catching foul pop ups that spin back -- unlike the fly balls, pop ups you get at any other position. I was sorry I didn't work out at that position because, even then, it was obvious to me that the catcher is the most important defensive player BY FAR.
Jason is really a special guy. I remember the first time I talked to him, it took about one minute to think, "okay I understand why he's the Captain." Calm, soft-spoken, smart, unpretentious, looks you in the eye, really thinks before he answers. He looks "macho," and obvious is a tough fellow, but that is his least obvious personality traint traitson.
Just a thought: Will he manage someday? And will be, like Joe Torre, be a star catcher would becomes an even better manager?
Washington, D.C.: Boz,
This is the first time since 1969 I did not watch one pitch of the World Series. Did I miss anything?
Tom Boswell: In Game One, you missed seeing a fine team get screwed by an eight-day layoff. It was painful to watch. Last year's Series, with the Tigers enduring a six-day layoff, was bad luck. This year there would have been another 6-day layoff under the old system. That's bad enough. Maybe the Rockies would have been less rusty, maybe not. But it just made a lousy situation even worse. To end up with eight days is BAD PLANNING.
Game Two was tense and worth watching. Schilling's fear of failure just drips from him -- and drives him.
I enjoyed seeing Matsuzaka get a World Series win and take a shutout into the sixth inning. It's almost impossible to understand how much MORE pressure Japanese players endure from their media than U.S. players do. Our hype level is high. Theirs is almost at the Britney and Prince Di level.
In Game Four, you missed a performance by Lester that I'll remember a long time. And when Carroll ALMOST hit a home run to tie the game in the ninth inning, I cursed, because I would have been totally blown out of the water on deadline, but I really respect him as the quintessential Little Tough Guy. He guessed fastball down and in from Papelbon and he just killed it. Too bad (for him) he's probably really about 5-7, 155 pounds.
Washington, D.C.: Coco for Cordero? (with Rauch moving to closer for the Nats).
Tom Boswell: I'm not a Coco Crisp fan. He's a good solid but ordinary player, IMO.
However, I was reminded once again by the intimidating closers in this postseason, especially Papelbon, that you don't win the Series very often with Joe Borowski. I really admire Cordero and think he can be a fine closer for any of 20 teams. But I don't think you go to the Series with him in the ninth inning. However, it would take a much better player than Crisp to trade him.
Rauch is good, but not close to the answer either. Perhaps one of the Big Arms the Nats have drafted recently will be turned into a closer. Good question for next spring because several starters in the low minors had almost invisible ERA's. Even the Nats were surprised.
Bethesda, Md.: How is Alex Rodriguez such a PR disaster? He is a nice guy, good looking, has not gotten in any real trouble, great player, etc. but he has created a lot of negative press for himself.
Tom Boswell: A-Rod is a narcissist. "I, I, I...me, me, me." He can't hide it. He's NOT a bad guy. He tries so hard to be "a good guy." But you can tell he's trying. Jeter is completely comfortable in his skin. A-Rod isn't -- at least not as a Yankee.
A-Rod, not his agent, is responsible for this PR nightmare.
Sure, Boras is a jerk. He'd be proud if you said, "Of all the agents who aspire to being the biggest of all jerks, you are the king." He thinks that's his job. But A-Rod is ultimately responsible for anything that involves his name.
Within the game, it will NEVER be forgotten that he deliberately one-upped what turned out to be the last game of the World Series. It's going to sour a lot of people on him who were like me, sitting on the fence -- constantly saying, "Let's cut A-Rod some slack. Let's not judge him too harshly."
Alex needs to go to the Angels, hit 800 homers and, maybe, work on some of the "issues" that hit all the NYC backpages this season.
Difference In Leagues: Tom,
First, thanks for chatting a bit. It's been too long. So, after reading your column today, what must MLB do to change the imbalance between the NL and AL? Is it solely the DH that makes the difference?
Tom Boswell: Frankly, I don't know what to do. A lot of semi-decent pitchers gravitate to the N.L. where they can survive without a big-time "out" pitch, especially a big fastball. They "work around" hitters, use the opposing pitcher to get an important out to kill a rally. Then turn in their pitching line of 5 1/3-6-2-2-3-2 and think they did a good job. In the A.L., pitching is strictly survival of the fittest. Second-tier pitchers are weeded out.
Here is a forgotten point, IMO. Most of the new ballparks built since Camden Yards have been home-run-friendly hitters' parks -- and that is the A.L. style. Club your foe into unconsciousness. There used to be a N.L. style -- like Herzog's Cardinals. Big park, pitching, deep bullpen, one-run innings and speed, speed, speed. Now, turf field are gone. (Okay, that's good.) And there are few big parks.
All the Red Sox said, "The Rockies are like an A.L. Team." And they intended it as a pat on the back. Five straight sluggers in a row in the middle of the order and a pitcher like Ubaldo Jimenez throwing close to 100.
These trends do tend to go in cycles. The N.L. had a long period of dominance -- in the DH era.
The truth: I don't know the answer. And it's a big problem.
But it does make it a lot easier for a team like the Nationals to get to the playoffs, or even into the World Series, by coming out of the N.L.
Curious: Did Don "I used to be a Yankee" Mattingly really believe that he had a shot at managing the Yankees? He has never managed a pitching staff, let alone managed anyone.
What's your take, Mr. Boswell.
Tom Boswell: Like everybody, I've always liked Mattingly. I still remember teasing him long ago about the way he'd take infield practice at shortstop -- and he was lefthanded.
However, I can't imagine handing a $200M payroll team over to a man who has NEVER MANAGED A GAME, no matter who he is.
Remember Lee Mazzilli?
Girardi's only managed for one year and with a young team where he could lay down the law and get away with it. How's that going to work out in the Yankee clubhouse?
And who's going to be LEFT in the Yankee clubhouse.
I feel sorry for Cashman. Even with Joba, Melky and Hughes, he may end up with a team next year that has trouble winning 90 games.
By the way, the Steinbrenner sons sound almost scary with all this stuff about the "honor" of being a Yankee. My fear isn't that the Yankees will be bad. I'm afraid that with Girardi as manager, Cashman constantly in charge of an Insanity Factory, a depleted roster and the Boss Boyz in charge -- sort of -- the Yankees may be so bad that it won't be good for baseball.
Prediction -- (Oh, no, the poor fool is going to make another prediction) -- the Yanks don't make the playoffs next year. And things could get bad enough if EVERYBODY jumps ship, that they have trouble playing much above .500.
Washington, D.C.: How great are the Nats going to be next year with Bonds and A-Rod in the lineup?
Tom Boswell: Great idea! I'll start working on that column immediately.
Move A-Rod back to shortstop.
Let Bonds be co-manager, since he always is anyway. Mannu won't mind.
Okay, somebody revive Stan. Just kidding. I'm a little punchy today from jet lag and a few weeks of getting to sleep at 3 a.m.
Washington, D.C.: You want to know why there's an imbalance between the AL and NL: management. Billy Beane, Theo Epstein, Brian Cashman, Mark Shapiro, and Dave Dombrowski all blow the NL GMs out of the water. Only Kevin Towers and former GM Schuerholz are in the top tier.
Tom Boswell: The Rockies and Arizona are doing a fine job of team building. And they are on tough budgets.
Even though the verdict on the Nationals front office is still 2-3 years in the future, it's hard to see how they could have done much better so far on the draft, player development, signing minor-league free agents last year for their "replacement-player" pitching rotation and giving Acta a clubhouse this season (no "problem" veterans) where he could put his play-the-game-properly stamp on the clubhouse tone.
Washington, D.C.: You don't think Jeter's a narcissist? Schilling? Clemens? A-Rod is not alone in that regard. And you say "trying to be nice" like it's a bad thing. I wish more athletes tried to be nice. So what if he opted out during the Series? It was one of the few exciting moments in a postseason that was sorely lacking in them (exception: Indians/Sox series). It's like Maris and Mantle all over again, except this time the outsider is 10 times better than the New York guy!
Tom Boswell: It's so annoying when the people who disagree with you make perfectly good sense.
(I really do appreciate the thought that goes into the questions/posts here.)
Arlington, Va.: Did your run into Stan Kasten at the Series? Was he checking out where they park cars at Coors Field?
Tom Boswell: It's certainly starting to feel like the ground is being laid for a lot of folks to take shuttle buses from RFK's parking lots to the new stadium next year.
Or, should I say, quite a few people will decide NOT to go to games at the new stadium unless early reports on the shuttle-bus system are that it runs PERFECTLY (and fast).
Yes, I know the RFK-Shuttle thing is still in "discussions." Unless a lot of good things happen fast -- including faster work on the expansion of the new Metro stop -- there will be no alternation.
Ted Lerner says the bus ride in question takes exactly 8 minutes one way. (He timed it himself long ago. He's good at anticipating "worst-case" possibilities even as he tries to avoid them. That's a very important trait in business, IMO.)
RE: The Value of a Catcher: Roger Angell wrote a brilliant piece on this about 20 years ago. "In the Fire" I think it was called. Highly recommended Hot Stove reading.
Tom Boswell: Saw Roger at a Yankees playoff game. He's doing very well. But when I said "too bad" about his Mets, he said he was now a Yankees fan! (Transportation is much easier for him to Yankee Stadium.) He said he'd talked with a long-time New York friend about what NYC public figure had acted with the most dignity under difficult circumstances during his career in the spotlight. They included political figures, everybody. Roger said, "We agreed it was probably Joe Torre." That was BEFORE Torre left.
Roger hopes to get to D.C. next spring to see the new ballpark.
D.C.: What is your take on the newly minted adage that the Red Sox are the new Yankees?
Tom Boswell: See today's column.
Alexandria, Va.: So do you think Joe Girardi will find the Yankees' front office easier to work with than the Marlins' was?
To flip that coin over, will the Yankees' front office find Girardi easier to work with than Torre was?
Or, with Girardi and Hank Steinbrenner running things, are we looking at Billy Martin Lite and George Steinbrenner Lite?
Tom Boswell: Wow! Billy Martin Lite and George Steinbrenner Lite!
I plan to steal that as soon as possible. By the end of this chat, I'm pretty sure that I will have already forgotten that I didn't think of it myself.
Rockville, Md.: Boz -- With all the sweeps and interminably long games, the playoffs and World Series were less than glorious. That being said, what do you think will be the enduring storyline from the '07 postseason?
Tom Boswell: We can finally see the light at the end of the steroid tunnel. Although we're certainly not there yet. But life has gotten very uncomfortable for cheaters. That's all you can ask. There will always be people who break the rules. That's not the point. Make it tenable for players who don't want to cheat to feel that they have a fair chance to compete on a fairly level field without risking their health.
Perhaps, in the year of No. 756, baseball didn't really deserve a wonderful postseason.
P.S.: Wasn't it classy of A-Rod not to show up in Denver before Game Four to receive the A.L. Hank Aaron Award from Mr. Aaron. Prince Fielder was there for the N.L. Award.
1313 Mockingbird Lane: Hi Mr. Boswell, are there any news or rumors you could let us in on as to what the Nats will be up to during the offseason? Any juicy trades or free agent pursuits?
Also, you are the sole reason I still buy the Post.
Tom Boswell: The Nats would love to get an innings-eating veteran pitcher who'd accept a 1-2 year contract for reasonable money. Livan Hernandez would have been perfect, but he may have pitched a little too decently in October to be available. (Sorry, I actually haven't kept up with whether Livan is still "free," but I think he is.)
It would be a dream if Kasten could use his relationship with Tom Glavine to get him to come but I assume there's no chance of that.
The Nats know that they absolutely cannot go into next season without adding a credible starting pitcher to the staff. Simply getting out of RFK will improve the hitting more than most fans will believe. But the Nats can't run the risk of having the rotation in '08 turn out to be the rotation they dreaded, but avoided, in '07.
Annapolis, Md.: PLEASE use your influence to object to MLB about the late starting time of the postseason baseball games. These games are too important to the fans to sacrifice them to the greed of the networks for "prime time." The Commissioner of Baseball should have the pull to make the games start at 7:30. Red Sox Nation comprises a LOT of people, and all those people are half-asleep on the job today after staying up so late. There's no way youngsters can see these games. Thanks for your time, a Red Sox fan in Annapolis.
Tom Boswell: I'm afraid 8:30 is here to say because it hits the most people IN TOTAL, including everybody from Chicago to California. That's fair. What's important is that everybody -- especially the players themselves -- learn to "police" this October slow-motion style of play. Give the umps authority and support them when they enforce speed-up provisions. But players have to "get it."
I think that can be done.
Boston: What was Japanese attention like for the World Series, considering the World Series featured three players from Japan, all three of whom were real contributors to the games?
Tom Boswell: I thought that was one of the positive features of the Series. Okajima, Matsuzaka and Matsui are all exciting players to watch. Though it hurts baseball in Japan to lose such players and good long-time fans there are concerned about it, despite all the success of their superstars here.
I still have, and sometimes wear, my "Japan" hat from the WBC.
Aurora, Colo.: While it probably would not have made any difference, I still find myself wishing LaRussa had pinch-hit Pujols in the 9th inning of this year's All-Star game, possibly leading to the NL's having home field advantage in the Series.
Tom Boswell: I would REALLY like to know if Albert was still in uniform or even still in the ballpark when Tony made that "decision."
Springfield, Va.: Bill Veeck told us that there are two seasons -- baseball and winter. Have you any suggestions to help wistful fans get through the 108 days or so until pitchers and catchers report?
Tom Boswell: This winter there actually is one thing thing you can do that you will never be able to do again.
Drive down to the new stadium and watch the final stages of its creation. I go every few weeks and am amazed, excited every time. Just be sure not to have a traffic accident while gawking or get crushed by a truck if you're walking. You can stay safe, and within the law, and still see a lot.
Also, the Nats have a "visit your seat" gimmick. I think that, if you say you're interested in a season ticket, but want to see what you are going to get for your money, I assume that they HAVE to let you visit the park and walk to various seats BEFORE you pay.
If I were them, I'd willingly run the risk that some folks would use this opportunity for a "free tour," then not buy any tickets. Why? Because I think that tour of the park would sell a lot of tickets to people who, when they arrived on South Capital Street, were not really planning to open their wallets. Or, if they were, not buy many tickets.
There are going to be problems next April -- parking, etc.
But the basic New Park phenomenon will exceed the expectations of 99 percent of the people who are on this chat. And you folks are exactly the people who probably think you know what we're going to be getting. After recent re-visits to Jacobs Field and Coors, I'm reminded of how stunning the best new parks are and how long they hold their appeal.
Have a great off-season. See you next spring. Actually, time doesn't begin on Opening Day. When you have a team in your own town again, it begins when pitchers and catchers report. That's only a little more than 100 days away. Cheers.
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