Ask Boswell

Thomas Boswell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 17, 2008; 3:00 PM

Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell was online Friday, Oct. 17 at 3 p.m. ET to takes your questions about the baseball playoffs, the Redskins and his latest columns.

The transcript follows.

Boswell Discussion Archives


Faifax, Va: Tom, you're the best. So explain this, please:

J.D. Drew's hit in the 9th last night is apparently a ground-rule single. At the start of the play, Youkilis was on 2nd. Rule 7.05(f) talks about 2 base awards (for all runners including the batter-runner) when a fair ball bounds into the stands. It's not exactly applicable, but it seems like they never let a guy score from first on a ground-rule double, so why does Youkilis score from 2nd on a ground-rule single? Thanks.

Tom Boswell: Nice point. I've always thought players in Drew's situation should (obviously) be awarded a ground rule double. It's logical. Since the game is over, it always seems like nobody cares anymore. (I actually wonder if Drew's hit shouldn't still be changed to a double.)


Fairfax, Va: How much difficulty do you think the Rays will have recovering from last night's meltdown?

Tom Boswell: A lot. Because it was an absolutely brutal defeat.

But not as much as many people think because:

*They didn't expect to sweep in Fenway.

*They think their best pitcher (Shields) is going in Game Six.

*They'd love to win at home. Now they can.

*They really think they are better than the current (injured) Red Sox.

*Since nobody (including them) thought they'd reach the Series, they're not nearly as upset about "blowing it" as a glamor team with a $100M+ payroll would be.

However, if they lose Game Six, THEN we're talking a hug karma shift and it will take something really special for the Rays and Garza to beat Lester twice in one LCS.

So, in my book, Game Six is even bigger than normal in such close-it-out-at-home-in-Game-Six situations.


Glover Park, D.C.: You're Tony Francona. What's the rationale for starting Beckett over Lester?

Tom Boswell: You've got to win two games anyway, not one. You can't bring Matzusaka back in Tampa. Not enough rest. You don't want to start Wakefield. So, it's going to be Beckett and Lester one way or the other, so why not just keep them in turn. One day isn't going to do much to help whatever is wrong with Beckett's oblique muscle.


Alexandria, Va.: I'm originally from near Boston and my husband is from Cleveland. We were both stunned to read in yesterday's USA Today about Manny's "unifying presence" on the Dodgers. Is this sloppy reporting, or can it be true? We were both happy to see him leave town despite his undoubted talent, because we viewed him as a net negative regardless.

Tom Boswell: Haven't you heard, Manny has turned over a new leaf!

It's amazing how disruptive and immature rich players can be when they are unhappy, as Manny was in Boston. And it is amazing how happy they can be, like children who are given what they want, when they get to "start over," prove their critics wrong and -- with 3,000 miles between them and their previous problems -- play for people who have barely paid any attention to the sage and are ready to believe that you are whomever you say you are.

However, like children, such players often revert to previous behaviors. But some actually don't. I've seen ballplayers grow up.

But whatever Manny does, don't you have to like him more than judge him? When you get an absolutely unique person who is also a great player, its priceless fun.

But Manny was as good as anybody at being a disruptive influence when he was upset. It just reached its peak and, in Bay, the Red Sox had a chance to get younger without getting a lot worse on offense in LF.


Chantilly, Va.: What do you want if you're the Phillies? Do you want the series to extend, perhaps making your time off turn into losing your mojo? Or do you want either the Rays or Sox coming off of a seven-game series and tired?

Tom Boswell: If you are the Phillies, you want the Rays to get rattled and for the Red Sox to win because Boston is not as good -- right now -- as the Rays. The Red Sox don't have Lowell and have no idea how much Beckett has left for this season. The Rays are by far the healthiest they have been all year. You rarely see a team reach the Series with all guns blazing. Injuries are just part of the game. But, for the rays, they aren't -- right now.

Also, if the Rays get to the Series after blowing a 7-0 lead in the seventh inning of Game Five, they are gong to think they are bulletproof.

Believe it or not, you want to play the world champs. Also, there is the Philadelphia Phactor. Losing to the Rays would be seen as a disgrace -- "BOOOOO" -- while losing to the Red Sox might be semi-tolerated. So, less pressure for the Phils if they face the Red Sox.


Waldorf, Md.: I think you are best baseball writer in the biz, but I am in disagreement with you on today's column. Yes, Maddon bungled the bullpen, but is it truly fair to place this on him? A team with a 7-run lead 7 outs from victory should be able to close the deal, even if Mister Magoo (or me, even) is managing.

Tom Boswell: Obviously, I felt strongly about it or I wouldn't have spent so much time on it. Also, Maddon's managing is the part of the game where I can bring the most "extra value" to the reader. What am I telling you that you don't already know if I say, "Man, those Red Sox just don't quit," and "the Rays haven't blown a lead of more than three runs all year, so they were due for a nasty collapse." Because I've tried to pay so much attention to the Rays, I think I have a better feel than most for their bullpen and how Maddon uses it. So, I can tell you something about the inside part of the game that you might now already have in hand.

Sad to say, because I really like Maddon, but he looked like an "Oh, dear" in the headlights throughout the whole disaster.


Atlanta: Despite last night's meltdown, I believe the Rays will rally and win the series on Saturday night which is good and proper anyway. The baseball gods couldn't allow a worst-to-first team to clinch on the road. Their fans deserve it. There's much more to this game than what happens on the field. (Cue the spooky music.)

Tom Boswell: I agree. Including the a "spooky music" part for daring to write it in public and jinx your team!


Arlington, Va.: Boz,

James Shields had a 5.85 ERA vs. Boston during the 2008 regular season.

Are we about to witness another Red Sox comeback from being down 3-1 in the ALCS?

Tom Boswell: Shields Game One performance is probably what you should expect in Game Six. What we are going to see is something wonderful -- either way. Either the Red Sox are going to win their TENTH STRAIGHT elimination game within a five-year period -- something I doubt we'll ever see again. Or we're going to get to see the Rays try to be the first team EVER in any sport to go Absolute Worst to Absolute Best from one season to the next.

Only the '58 Minneapolis Lakers, the year they got Elgin Baylor, and the '91 Braves, ever got to play for the title in that situation. Both lost.


Chantilly, Va.: So I've never been to a World Series game. Given that Tampa didn't sell out one of the ALDS games, what are my chances of getting tickets to a World Series game in Tampa should the Rays make it past Boston? And just for fun, what's the ratio of how much harder it would be to get tickets to a game in Philly? Ten times harder?

Tom Boswell: You've certainly got a much better chance in Tampa. With the bad economy, you just might pull it off. Good luck.

It's been so long since I saw the Trop that I've almost forgotten how much I hate it. Almost.


Alexandria, Va.: Tom, maybe I haven't been paying attention, but did something happen to Paul Byrd? Shouldn't he be in the rotation?

Tom Boswell: He was used in relief and got hit pretty hard in Game Four. However, after Wakefield's showing it's a valid question. Remember, Wakefield is a bit of an icon in Boston, despite the Boone moment.


Sad in LA: Got any consolation to offer my husband, a lifelong Dodgers fan? I'm from Philly so am not a whole lot of help.

We both admire and enjoy your work tremendously.

Tom Boswell: Thanks. You've got a lot of nice young players in L.A. Maybe a HOFer in Martin. Billingsley will never have a postseason that bad again. He just looked nervous to me.

The three teams that are left are all among my favorites. It's tough when you don't have the Yankees to hate. You get all conflicted. Last night was perfect pain -- a balance between my lifelong fascination with the Red Sox and my recent fascination with the Rays. You don't want to see the Rays hearts broken. But you also want to see 'em keep playing each other another game or two!


Dulles: Speaking of Manny ... where do you see him ending up next year? Do you think he goes to the Yankees just to spite the Sox?

Tom Boswell: He sure seems to love L.A.

Unfortunately, his agent, Scott Boras, who long ago turned into a parody of himself, will try to get the last dollar, regardless of where Manny might be happiest. Manny, at some point, needs to take control -- as A-Rod did when Boras made a fool of him with his upstage-the-World-Series stunt in Game Four last October.

Someday, Boras will be gone. But not soon enough. There was a devastating piece on him in -- of all places -- the New Yorker. Even if you disliked him before you read the piece, you had to change your opinion...and like him even less.


Fairfax, Va.: Think the Rays will actually have a sellout for Game Six? Cross your fingers!!

Tom Boswell: That'd be nice.

For their 151st game of the season, they drew only 17,000!

The Nats outdrew them by exactly 30 per cent! Now THAT is a bad baseball town. But they got an expansion team before Washington.


Boonsboro, Md.: A real difference between how the Phillies acted with a 5-0 lead in game 5 and how the Rays acted. The Phils treated it like a one run game with Madson and Lidge, and great defense. Do you think this was just an aberration or a sign of the Phils greater experience?

Tom Boswell: I really think that the Ortiz Moment in the 7th jumped up in Maddon's face and he wasn't ready for it. It's 7-1. The ONLY way you can lose that game is for Ortiz to hit a home run. People in my press area must have wanted to throw things at me when I kept saying, "Where is Howell? How can he not have Howell ready?"

I'd already written a Rays Win column (like everybody else). But as soon as Balfour threw his first pitch I opened a new "window" on my computer in case I needed to write a Red Sox come back column. One pitch later, I was typing. Glad to say the column was filed one minute after the game ended. Sometimes you just know what is going to happen. Bringing in Wheeler in the 7th (not the 9th) was almost as bad as not bringing in Howell the perfect-Papi-antidote in the 7th. Oh, well.


process, D.C.: How many times did Sheinen and others in the press box re-write their stories last night? Red Sox Back From the Dead (Post, Oct. 17)

Tom Boswell: It was a scene. But that's how postseason always is. Long ago I once saw a reporter throw his computer out of the upper deck in fury after multiple rewrites -- but not until he was finished writing long after the game.

Both Dave and I are expected to have a column finished before the game ends, or within a couple of minutes after if it's a madhouse like last night. Then you get quotes and rewrite for the next edition. Sometimes I don't know how we do it. It's not rocket science, but it's amazing how many words you can type in five minutes. Somehow "the daily miracle" of the newspaper appears.

Though, someday, it may not.

If that post-newspaper age ever arrives, it won't be because the people working under the gun -- including real guns in places a lot tougher than a press box -- couldn't produce on deadline.


Miami, Fla.: Boz,

First off, I think you're the best baseball writer in the country. Off topic, though, will the Wizards ever catch a break? I don't think I can stand another 40 win, 1st round loss to the Cavs again.

Tom Boswell: I have followed the Wizards since my father and I used to go see them as the Baltimore Bullets.

Their bad luck is truly unbelievable.

However, there was a long period where I believe that the bigger issue was that Abe had decent but mediocre people working with a decent but not-quite sufficient budget to produce a product that, inevitably, came up short.

You can tell when an organization has crackerjack people at the top and when they don't. Grunfeld immediately tried to change the culture of ingrained mediocrity.


Chantilly, Va.: So can we read your "Rays Win" column? Seems like interesting reading to me. Or are you just going to adapt it when/if they close out the series?

Tom Boswell: Oh, I think you're see some version of it at some point. Save the best. Burn the rest.


Boston to DC: Tom, while I was thrilled about last night, my joy is tempered in that I can't imagine we'll see vintage Beckett tomorrow night ... can you??

Tom Boswell: During Game Five, with the Rays up 5-0, Bob Ryan and I were talking about how it was "probably better this way" since Beckett -- after all he's done -- doesn't deserve to be sent out there battling an injury.

But Beckett will go old school for us, gut it out, risk injury like that bloody sock guy and -- you never know -- might find a way. There is no such thing as a major league pitcher who can't find a way, with a little luck, to battle through five innings and only give up a couple of runs. If Beckett has a BIG game, now that would be amazin'.


Sterling, Va.: Wow, not a single Redskins question! So do you think they bounce back against the Browns? And were the Browns on Monday a one-game wonder, or is there more to be worried about?

Tom Boswell: I'm really surprised to see no Skins questions, too! Because I'll be at the Skins game, not an ALCS Game Seven if there is one. Odd as it seems, no story on earth will get read a fraction as much in Washington as a discussion of whether the Redskins will go 10-6, make the playoffs and save civilization or be 8-8 and plunge the town into despair.

Lived here all my life. Get it. Okay with it. My son would've turned off Game Six of the '75 Series or the '04 ALCS if there were a Redskins exhibition game on TV.

If the Redskins end up the year with about 18 turnovers (as good as they ever get), they'll probably be an 11-5 team or even 12-4. That's how powerful low turnovers can be. If they revert to the norm of about 28 turnovers -- which would mean 24 in the last 10 games -- they may not even be 8-8.

They are EXACTLY the kind of good but in-the-middle team that is most impacted by turnovers.

However, the Skins ability, so far, to dominate both lines of scrimmage ever since the opening game -- with huge edges in rushing and stopping the rush -- is impressive. That's where most fine teams discover their identity.


Washington, D.C.: Would you hire Manny Acta as manager if you were the GM of the Mets?

Tom Boswell: In a minute, if I could.


22003: Bos,

Please, don't tell me this is going to happen.

Tell me the Red Sox aren't going to go back to the World Series.

Tell me the Rays will beat them down at the Trop and the team with the league's 2nd lowest payroll and the least amount of established tradition will be going to the World Series.

What a story that would be!

Alas...are the Red Sox really going to do it again?

Tom Boswell: I'm still with you.

But if the Red Sox win Game six, I'm jumping ship.

(Then jumping right back on -- twice -- if the Rays win Game Seven.)

Isn't sports wonderful. Every day feels like a World War fought with blanks.

Oh, can't top that. See you next week from the Series. That would be the -- fingers crossed -- Rays-Phils series that I've wanted all along. Cheers.


D.C.: I'm a fan, but I admit, I gave up at 5-0 in the 6th. For all the people who claimed to have stayed up, can you please ask whether they were also at the game where Ruth called his HR and at 2,131?

Tom Boswell: Nice.


New Orleans: Do you think in this post-steroids era, teams that are successful will be comprised of mostly 30 and under youngsters such as the Rays and Phillies?

Tom Boswell: Good point. Gives hope to Nats fans. (In the absence of actual tangible reasons.)


Arlington, Va.: Hey Boz --

What's with the new beards on some of the the Red Sox? Are they doing a House of David throwback impression for the post season? The full beard with a shaved head is a new twist. Always wondered how that combo would look -- think I'll pass on the sideburns to nowhere.

Tom Boswell: I must be the only person who's so boring that he changes his hair style once every 30 years.

Gotta go write a column.


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