Ask Boswell

Thomas Boswell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 31, 2008; 3:00 PM

Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell was online Friday, Oct. 31 at 3 p.m. ET, to take your questions about the Phillies' World Series victory and his latest columns.

The transcript follows.

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Louisville, Ky.: Dear Tom,

I have immensely enjoyed your crisp writing and penetrating insights into the game of baseball for the past three decades. That said, I wondered what your thoughts were about calls to move the World Series to a neutral warm weather site, play all games there and turn the event into something that is enormously hyped, with related "events" to bring greater attention to Major League Baseball.

Tom Boswell: Louisville,

Thanks very much. I'm absolutely against a neutral warm weather site for the World Series. But I was also against the wild card and, to a lesser degree, interleague and I was wrong on both!

Anybody who was in Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park on Sat, Sun, Mon or Wed knows that there was incredible enthusiasm which surpassed anything I've seen there in the last two years, including the Phils last-day playoff clinch in '07 vs. the Nats, ether of their Division Series in '07 and '08 or the '08 NLCS vs. the Dodgers. I was at all of them and thought that Phils fans went "up a level" at the Series. Also, the Series scenes outside the park are touching. People just can't get enough of it. And "we're in the World Series" simply feels different than "we're playing for the pennant in the LCS."

People wait decades for the experience and want it in their own familiar home park. With the exception of a few games, including two in this Series, the weather conditions have been chilly but adequate in "cold weather cities," including Boston, in recent years. If the Orioles or Nats get to a Series in the next 10 years, wouldn't you want it to be in Baltimore or Washington, not Houston? Also, teams in many cases are built to suit their home fields. Why throw that out in the Series?


Silver Spring, Md.: What are your thoughts on a neutral-site for the WS? Peter Gammons spoke favorably of this concept today.

Tom Boswell: If so, then I'm a bit surprised at Peter. When his Red Sox FINALLY won a Series, did he want it played in Dodger Stadium? That's just ridiculous, imo.

HOWEVER, there are two things which baseball should do immediately to (slightly) improve the post-season. And they are not the usual impossible idealistic rant about "stop being a whore to TV" that have been in papers everywhere this week. Night games should be at 8:00 p.m., not 8:30 p.m. Even a half-hour helps. Especially since Series Games tend to take 3:15+ to play, not 2:45 like regular season. Almost every 8:00 start would be over before 11:30 p.m. or at least midnight. No, not the 5:41 Geoff Blum game. That's better than figuring (EST) that you have to stay up until midnight to see the end of a game and then, as a friend said, "You want to go to bed, but you're all wound up."

Second, the off days in the LCS that are not on travel days HAVE GOT TO GO. Just ridiculous. Now that is bowing down to TV too much. You have to stand up for your product, at some point, even though money matters. Getting rid of gratuitous off days in the early rounds would subtract 2 or 3 days from the whole playoff timetable. Not a big help, but better than a sharp stick in the eye. If this post-season had been just three days shorter, then it would have been OVER before the 1:47 a.m. Game3 or the suspended Game 5.


SU: I am having this big argument with my mom right now. Can you help clear it up. The question is, when MLB teams are on the road, do the players share rooms? I say they do, mom says they get there own room. So who is right?

P.S. -- this is coming from the Rays having to find hotel rooms in Wilmington, Del.

Tom Boswell: As usual, Mom knows best.

I remember when I was a kid, I didn't know what RBI meant. I guess I mentioned it out of the blue because I'm sure I would never have ASKED my mother what it meant. Anyway, she said, "Run batted in." I was impressed for at least two years.


Hamilton, Va.: The NL has now won 2 of the last 3 World Series. I'm a Cards' fan and, when they won in 2006, everyone said this is an absolute fluke. Even after they won the first game, the Tigers were still heavily favored. How about this year? I'm assuming the AL is still thought to be heavily dominant, though I would like it to be otherwise.

Tom Boswell: As many have pointed out, the AL was so dominant in interleague play this season that it had a .593 winning percentage -- the equivalent of a 96-66 season!

That means that when an AL team played an NL team, the results (this year) were like a first-place team playing a last place team. The difference just CAN'T be that great. I don't believe it. But it's also silly to say that the two leagues are currently equal. The statistical sampling, especially from the last two seasons combined, is too great to ignore.

That's another reason why it's so nice that the Cards and Phils won!


NFL and Skins: Tom,

Good morning. Not a conspiracy type of person but does make you wonder when NFL give Skins an extra preseason game, 3 away games against rivals, and the longest wait for a bye week.

All teams have injuries but think the Skins must be leading the list. Hopefully the bye week will allow most to come back against the Cowboys.

Tom Boswell: The Skins really overcame a huge challenge in going 2-1 on the road in the NFC East so early in the season. Their reward, and it is a big one, is that if they can go 2-1 against those same teams at FedEx, they're going to have a hard time NOT winning at least 11 games.

There has been some luck (obviously) in Campbell having 0 interceptions in half a season. But much more of the reason is Campbell's improvement. He's coachable. And it sure looks like Zorn can teach quarterbacks. Gibbs always loved his "tools," but the contrast between the Redskins offense last year under Campbell vs Collins was extreme.

Irony: Like many, I thought Campbell would find it tough to adjust to the West Coast offense. And I still don't think he looks like a West Coast, just a good QB who happens to be playing the West Coast. But who guessed what a big relief it may have been to get OUT of the Saunders offense. Al's offense is proven. But...


Dud Selig: Has Dud Selig's debacle of Sunday nights WS game 5 brought forth any interest among MLB owners to can the worst commish in all of the major sports leagues? It seems every time Selig has to make a decision it's usually the wrong decision.

Tom Boswell: Bud has gone along with 8:37 p.m. starting times and unnecessary off days in the post-season so Fox will be 100 percent happy. Ask for his head for that, if you want.

But Bud made only one mistake in Game 5. But it was a big one. The top of the sixth inning should not have been played. IMO, Bud didn't have the guts to call it after 5 innings with the score, 2-1, Phils. He would have had to EXPLAIN to tens of millions of people who were not sophisticated baseball fans why the Phils were not ALREADY World Champs. I think Bud and all the suits were praying for a tie in the top of the 6th. They got it, but they didn't deserve it. Another reason to be glad the Phils eventually won Game 5.

P.S.: How about Rocco Baldelli's postseason! Three-run homer at Fenway, game-winning RBI hit in Game 7 of ALCS and a game-tieing HR in Game 5 of the Series as well as throwing out a runner from RF earlier in the Series. And all in tiny playing time because his Mitochondrial Disease -- a blood disorder that can be very serious for many people, even fatal I believe -- drains his energy to such a high degree. He hadn't even played a full nine innings in any game this season until the Series.


Brooklyn, N.Y.: It's one thing to play a one-off like a Super Bowl or bowl game in a neutral site. But how on Earth can you expect fans to travel to a neutral site for a possible seven-game series? It's so unfeasible for so many reasons it's not worth even thinking about.

Tom Boswell: Agree.

Talk about restricting the Series to the rich and idle.

One of the reasons to own a season ticket, or even a 20-game partial plan, is because you get SOME tickets in postseason. Even if you only had a 20-game plan for a $15 ticket, I'm sure you'd get into at least one home Series game.


Hurlock, Md.: Who has greater reason to be optimistic about next season, O's fans or Nats fans?

Tom Boswell: Believe it or not, the Nats would be so much improved by "normal" health in '09, plus the addition of even one quality free agent, that I'd say they're closer to making their fans semi-happy. If they don't improve by 10-to-15 wins, they've got a lot of explaining to do. Also, the Nats pitching in the minors, especially Jordan Zimmerman, is closer to reaching the majors than the O's. Also, the O's may still subtract players in the offseason. The Nats have no free agents that anybody would want to take.


West Chester, Pa.: Very happy Phils fan here. Both times we won the WS, people said it was because our opponents (Royals in '80, Rays this year) were so happy to get to the WS (KC after finally beating the Yankees in the ALCS after many many years of futility) they couldn't be bothered with actually playing the Series. I saw, who the heck cares? The Phils are world champions. Everyone else go home and watch us raise the banner on Opening Day next year. So there.

Tom Boswell: Agreed.

Besides, many champions have been some breaks along the way. Also, good in-season pickups. The Phils never had to play the Cubs, the Angels or the Red Sox who were the three most EXPERIENCED high-quality teams. (The Rays were an inexperienced high-quality team.) And Pat Gillick, whom the O's didn't encourage to come back, had players all over the field with his fingerprints on them -- Jason Werth, Joe Blanton, Brad Lidge, Matt Stairs -- from big trades to cheap pickups. The whole range of moves. Wonder if Pat, at 71, will go out on top. He's still got it.


Arlington, Va.: Really, should Selig have even allowed Game Five to START? The weather was awful at the start and the forecast was worse.

Tom Boswell: MLB KNEW that there would be no game played on Tuesday because the forecast was worse than for Monday. So, they tried to jam the game in, then, when it didn't work, they pretended that the weather forecasts earlier in the day were better than they were. Would baseball FIB about the forecasts it received? Let me rephrase that, after covering these guys for 34 years, on what subject might they NOT lie? Or take spin to the Nth degree.


Tampa, Fla.: About the room sharing for road trips: I do recall, however, in my youth (the 1960s), MLB players did share hotel rooms. I recall those who closely followed teams could often tell you which players were roommates -- I also remember reading books like "Ball Four" that talked about players rooming together. Of course, this was back in the olden days when players didn't earn a lot of money and weren't treated quite so nicely - I also remember reading about players carpooling to the stadium because the families, like many, had just one car.

So when do you think players started getting their own rooms when they traveled?

Tom Boswell: Don't know when the change came. But, by the end, Cal Ripken got his own hotel! (Okay, just one room -- but in a different hotel so he wouldn't be swarmed. He figured if he signed 10 million autographs at the park and after games the trade off was that at least he got left alone on the road at his hotel -- well, until he walked through the lobby and heard, "Cal, Cal, Cal..."


Kasten, Bowden, the Lerners, and the Nats: Will Stan "the plan" Kasten be in the Nats front office come Spring Training?

Will Bowden?

Will the Lerners open up their purse strings to get some decent Major League talent to play in Nats Park next year? I've been part of a teason ticket group since 2005 and I'm finding it very difficult to keep throwing a couple grand at the Lerners to entertain me with a double A franchise.

Tom Boswell: Yes.



My decision on my season ticket renewal will hinge on the Lerners decision, too.


Potomac, Md.: Repeating a title in baseball is incredibly difficult. Championship teams consist of players leaving for free agency, role players who have a season (or just a couple of weeks) playing way beyond their abilities, opponents who go cold at the wrong moment, and a certain amount of pure luck.

What are the keys for the Phillies to be contenders again next year?

Tom Boswell: Excellent points. The Phils may lose Pat Burrell (33 HRs). Moyer will be 46. He's not going to go 16-7 again. Lidge isn't going to be 48-for-48 (nobody is). I'd be very surprised if the Phils are in the Series next year, much less win it. That's not a knock. It's just tough to do and they start out short on starting pitching.

The Cubs win the World Series next year, right? ROTFLMAO.


closer to making their fans semi-happy. If they don't improve by 10-to-15 wins: You think 69-93 would make Nats fans semi-happy?

Tom Boswell: Who thought that back to 73-89 would feel like progress?

Nats fans are probably going to have to face the ugly truth at some point that it takes a LONG time (usually) to build a fine team. Since 1953, the average number of seasons that it has taken a team in a new town -- either expansion or relocation -- to reach the post-season has been 10 years. To reach the Series, 17 years. And some franchises -- Mariners, Senators-Rangers, Expos-Nats -- have never gotten to a Series.

So, if you're the realistic type, circle 2014 for the Nats first post-season visit and 2021 for Washington's first World Series since 1933.

That's why it's important to value and enjoy GOOD teams in a town, not just great ones. And, listen up Lerners, that's why you shouldn't fall too deeply in love with fancy-sounding "Plans" for winning 14 straight division title. That lightning is NOT going to strike twice. Worry about putting a respectable, competitive product on the field, not a 102-loss joke with a low-end $54M budget in a new park. THEN, after you're decent, get better. The two are NOT incompatible.


Nervous Nats Fan: Cordero - right move or wrong? Dukes - trouble in the offseason or no? Zimmerman - back in full form next year or no?

Tom Boswell: Cordero: right move. But sad. Also, he's at a point where he just wants to have a career with SOMEBODY. So I don't think any bridges have been burned back to Washington. Right now, Chad has a wide river in front of him, no boat and no paddle, much less any bridge. Of all the players in baseball, over the next couple of years, he may be my No. 1 to root for. A really good kid with a big heart and guts. Deserves to have more career ahead of him.

Dukes: 50/50, as always. The less time he spends in Tampa, the better the percentages.

Zimmerman: Back to full health, yes. Back to rookie-year offensive production? Maybe not until the Nats get a quality hitting coach. Is it Eckstein? Seen him. Don't know him. We'll find out.


Cleveland Park: Is Bud Selig the least-liked commissioner you've ever covered? If not, who was?

Tom Boswell: Selig's accomplishments far outweigh his popularity.

Yet that's not saying much.

He'll be the hardest commissioner in history to evaluate. Don't now if he realizes it yet, but he's about to face his third big storm. The Strike in '94 and the Steroid Era was on his watch. So were a lot of new ballparks, some revenue sharing, record attendance, a kind of parity, some steroid testing (10+ years late). But, if the recession that's apparently coming is as bad as some assume, how well will baseball's financial health stand up. Did Bud build the house's foundation on rock or sand?


Nervous Nats Fan: What happens to Bowden if he botches the Strasburg signing?

Tom Boswell: Prediction: The Nats won't draft Strasburg. Either his stock will slip a little and they'll have excuse to duck him or they'll simply chant "Scott Boras is the devil" for three months and pick somebody else. Look at the No. 2 overall picks in baseball for the last 30 years vs. the No. 1s. In recent years, the 1s, like David Price, have improved. But, long-term, last time I checked, it was a wash. Wasn't Chipper a No. 2 overall?


Kingstowne, Va.: I liked your point the other day that the rulebook ought to be amended to provide that no World Series game will end short of the ninth inning. Excellent suggestion.

What I've found myself wondering in the past week is whether baseball has ever considered changing the World Series to a 2-2-1-1-1 format. I understand that the 2-3-2 was instigated at the recommendation of Charles Ebbets, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, back in the early 1920s when the experiment with a best-of-nine Series was scrapped. I can certainly understand why, back then, a 2-3-2 was preferable given that travel was by train (so in 1931, for example, with the Philadelphia A's playing the Cardinals in a series that went 7 games, it wouldn't have been practical to take the trains back and forth for a single game in each city). But nowadays with air travel this concern seems outdated, and certainly we've seen the use of the 2-2-1-1-1 over great distances (Tampa to Calgary, for example) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with no adverse effect.

2-3-2 seems to be to be rather unfair to the team that won the right to have up to four games at home because if they lose either of the first two games, they're then faced with three straight road games with the attendant disadvantages. While even in a 2-2-1-1-1 you "lose" home-field advantage if you lose either of the first two games in the sense that the other team can win the championship by winning all their home games, the 2-2-1-1-1 gives you a fairer chance to get back into the series by winning Game 5 at your own stadium. (Of course, I recognize that in baseball the home-field advantage has nothing to do with either team's performance due to the asinine All-Star Game tie-in, but that's a separate debate for another time!)

Curious whether you have any thoughts on this issue. It seems to me that the Rays were hurt by the 2-3-2 format in a number of ways (including the fact that the Game 5 weather follies never would have happened in a proper 2-2-1-1-1). A Wet 'n' Wild Night (Post, Oct. 28)

Tom Boswell: Lets just go to the 1-1-1-1-1-1-1 so Sheinin and I can commit suicide.

We have invented air travel. We have not quite mastered teleportation.


Pinch-runner alert!: Boz, I've been reading since I was a kid in the '80s and love your work. And I can't be the first person to get you for this, but your post-WS column didn't take into account that the Phils pinch ran for Burrell (which I couldn't believe in a tied game -- he can't be THAT slow, he plays OF!) and you said that he scored on a ground out. When it was actually that guy who had a beard like a lumberjack. Just sayin'! A Full Night's Worth of Drama (Post, Oct. 30)

Tom Boswell: Bruntlett pinch-ran. I called my desk at 1 a.m. Think we got it changed in later editions. You'd be amazed, after you've written on deadline, or finished a Baseball Insider blog on Game 3 at 3:25 a.m., and you're trying to get to sleep and you sit up, screaming, "#$@&*^, Bruntlett pinch-ran!" Okay, you don't actually scream. But it's amazing what your fingers sometimes type when your first column is due before the game ends. Lucky for 1 a.m. "sub outs," which are probably the columns you usually see.


Anonymous: Do you think the Nats will sell out their season opener next year? My guess is it will be close and only because it's against the stupid Phillies.

Tom Boswell: They're lucky it's the Phils.


Woodbridge, Va.: Based on what you've seen this season (and postseason) what can the Nationals learn from the Phillies about building a championship team?

Tom Boswell: Use ALL tools. Stick to you plan.

I may get some of this wrong off the top of my head but Hamels, Howard, Utley, Burrell, Myers, Kyle Kendrick (11-9) Ryan Madson and Rollins -- core stars -- are home grown. That's a LOT of home grown. (Point to Kasten.) Lidge was a major trade with an element of risk when Lidge's stock was down. Victorino was Rule 5. Gregg Dobs was off waivers. Moyer was a mid-season trade for a 43-year-old pitcher (in '06). Joe Blanton was, I think, a sign-and-see-if-we-can-resign-him guy. Pedro Feliz was a mid-level free agent signing for a guy who'd averaged 21 homers the previous four years in SF. Werth was a free agent. Lots of minor Gillick free agents or mini-trades.

No $100-million-plus free agents. Hmmm.

See you next week!


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