Ask Boswell

Thomas Boswell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 12, 2008; 3:00 PM

Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell was online Friday, Dec. 12 at 3 p.m. ET to take your questions about the Redskins, the Caps, the Hot Stove league and his latest columns.

The transcript follows.

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Fenway: Two reasons why Tex will sign with Boston, (without Boston offering the highest contract):

1. Real competitors (like Schilling) want to play in Fenway. (All things being equal, we don't even need to address no. 2, but I will.)

2. We're probably talking in the range of $150m at the low end and $200m at the high end. He (nor his children, nor his children's children, etc.) will ever know the difference (other than on paper) between the extra $50 million. He won't be able to look at himself in the mirror if he signs with a loser.

Tom Boswell: That is the best argument for Boston. And it is probably the correct one. As wrote this a.m., Boston is the favorite and the team the Nats fear the most -- and quite logically. It's very hard to explain to other players why you'd go to the Nats or O's if you could be a Red Sox.

Also, the Phils just signed Raul Ibanez for three years ($30M) today. That impacts the Angels. He was their No. 1 alternative if they didn't get Teixeira. They'd already started preliminary talks on a contract. Now, no Ibanez -- one of only five OFers who had 100 RBI each of the last three years.

So, the Angels will now be more interested in Teixeira. Too bad. Just what you don't need -- more competition.

However, the Nats money is real at $160M for 8 years. This isn't PR. Although it will also serve as PR. They really, really, really want him about as badly as you'll ever see a team want a player. It's become clear that the Lerners will pay a great deal for an A+++ player -- the perfect player for their needs. Not just the 35 HR, 120 RBI, Gold Glove switch hitter, but the Ripken attitude, the local roots, the Navy pilot dad. He's the whole package. It's Ted Lerner who actually REALLY gets it.

However, nobody knows what the Lerner spending threshold will be for mere mortals on the market. We'll find out if they don't get Tex.


Sec 114, Row E: Bos, what am I missing? Besides stealing bases and being a "true centerfielder" - defensively, what do the Nats see in Willy Tavares? I mean he's not even a great defender. Sure, he can steal bases - he just cannot get on base.

What am I missing here? Don't get me wrong -- I won't miss Redding, but why acquire someone who'll be 6th on my OF depth chart (Dukes, Willingham, Milledge, Willie Harris, Kearns).

Tom Boswell: It's a bit of a mystery to me. Redding has value, especially to a 102-loss team trying to get 10-15 games better. If Tavares could get on-base better than his roughly .330 career mark or had any power, you could see him as a leadoff man. Obviously, he'd help the whole pitching staff by covering more ground than Lastings. Still, many of us thought that Dukes would get a shot in CF before you went after a defense-first poor-hitting stolen base king.

Besides, Acta is a New Stats guy who doesn't worship stolen bases, even 68 of them.


Washington, D.C.: Tom, I'm such a big fan of your columns, but your quote:

"There's a world of difference between a coach who never tells a lie (Gibbs)"

ranks as one of the dumbest things you have ever written. Gibbs lied ALL the time. All of the NFL coaches do. It is part of their job description. He just prefaced his lies with "aw shucks" blah, blah, blah. I didn't realize you still believed in Santa (Gibbs). Truth, Consequences (Post, Dec. 10)

Tom Boswell: I covered Gibbs, in one form or another, since he first arrived. I don't think he ever lied to me. If you ask a coach about his game strategy, he's not supposed to tell you. If you ask much about injuries, it's a betrayal of his team to give out much info. So, I never asked him questions that put him in that box.And, yes, he could put on his rose-colored glasses -- or hype up the opponent -- as well as anybody.

I'll stand by it. Within the context of his job description, Gibbs was as honest as they come. However, if you can come up with a list of a dozen big fat whoppers from the past, I'd love to see it.

However, I certainly know what you mean. The bedrock level of candor in the NFL, and in football generally, is probably the lowest of any sport. It's not the nature of the people;it's the nature of the game. Secrecy, injuries, etc.


College Park, Md.: What are your thoughts on the Nationals and Manny Ramirez? Any chance and under what circumstances?

Tom Boswell: No chance under any circumstances.

The Nats don't want an old complex slugger who patches things up with the fans for 2-3 years. No matter what 102 loses seems to indicate, they really are trying to build a first-class organization. But they took a big step backwards last year. To remedy that, the Nats want Teixeira and are going to go to the wall to try to get him. Odds are, they can't. But they certainly have the Severna Park and High Money on their side. The Lerners have put themselves out to both player and agent.

Jason Stark wrote this a.m. that -- paraphrase -- "you can bet your inaugural tickets that the Nationals will sign Adam Dunn if they don't get Teixeira."

Did you ever think, three months ago, that you'd hear anybody say that? The $160M bid changes a lot of things. BUT if they don't end up with a significantly better product NEXT year, even without Tex, that moment of good feeling will be largely wasted.


Anonymous: It's a rare coach who can control players who make many times what he does. Clinton Portis is a "teacher's (owner's) pet" whom for some reason Coach Gibbs, who I think is/was an excellent coach, coddled beyond belief. I don't think there's any way Coach Zorn can undo these two situations, but I do wish him well in his efforts.

Tom Boswell: I wish him well, too. I thought he handled the aftermath of the blowup about as well as he could.

And, after such a stink, nothing beats playing a 1-11-1 team the next Sunday.

Important to note that while Portis has been spoiled, he is a million miles from the Idiots in sports who commit crimes, shoot themselves, etc. Clinton just got his feelings hurt, didn't get a pat on the back the next day and went and told everybody. Not a great sign that he immediately mentioned how much he loved the owner and visa versa. That's pretty close to going over the coach's head and saying that if he's okay with the big boss, then the little boss doesn't matter too much.


Washington, D.C.: What skills do college quarterbacks have to have that transfer over to NFL success? It seems a lot of QBs who win the Heisman, go virtually undefeated in their college careers or are much hyped in the media either don't get drafted high or are busts in the NFL.

Tom Boswell: Man, everybody wishes they knew the answer to that. Ryan in Atlanta may be having the best (statistical) year of any rookie QB in NFL history. But when we watched him at BC, would anybody of guessed it? I don't mean that he'd be good. Plenty of people thought that. But that he'd adapt immediately. Or perhaps it would be better to say that he doesn't seem to have had to adapt at ALL. What he did in college and how he did it translates to the NFL.

However, I will say that, hard as it is to "project" college QBs, it is often obvious almost immediately how they will do in the NFL after you see them on the field for a relatively short time. For example, we've barely glimpsed Colt Brennan. But I think he'll have an NFL career. He looks at home. Or did in exhibitions. Don't know where or if he's a starter. But he's got too much moxie and accuracy to disappear, in my opinion. Now that is REALLY projecting off limited data!


Real competitors (like Schilling) want to play in Fenway: Oh, puh-leeze. Schilling went to Boston because he knew he could be the big cheese there that he could never be in NY. And when was the last time a Boras client took the second- or third-best offer?

Tom Boswell: When players go to Boras there is an implicit understanding about how he does business. Go for the top dollar. There must be an exception or three somewhere in his career. If anybody can mention an example, I'd appreciate it. That is actually the Nats fondest hope (dream). Because they are going HIGH. That's why the Red Sox (and if they pop up) the Yankees worry them most. Rich as the Angels are and much as the Orioles want Tex, too, it's the Red Sox and Yankees who can pull out the checkbook with a Boras client and make it, "Game over."


Ashburn, Va.: As a Nats fan..I have mixed feelings about spending all that money on Texiera...I'd love to have him, but wouldn't it make more sense to spend that money more wisely to acquire 3 soild players such as two decent hitters, and a starter? Not asking for All-Stars, just guys who can get the job done. Your thoughts?

Tom Boswell: I think Teixeira is worth $160-M for 8. I doubt he's worth $200 for 10. I know that seems like a ridiculous distinction. But I wrote a column last week on the long-term productivity of players comparable to Tex at age 28 -- Delgado, McGriff, Thome and Bagwell. At 8 years, you have a very good chance of getting your money's worth. But years nine and 10 can be a big "0." Also, the more years, the harder to make a trade or the more money you have to take back to get it done. Also, if Tex gets a no-trade (and Kasten has never given one), the extra years complicate what is already complicated enough.

I'll add that the world isn't going to end if the Nats don't get Tex, but do get Dunn, plus a couple of other useful pieces before spring training. There's value at all levels this winter.

(One reason you might want Tavares is so that he can play part of LF for Dunn!)

Coming out of the winter meetings, it is now assumed that the Nats are competitive players until they prove otherwise. Going into the meetings, it was the opposite. A week ago, nobody was absolutely sure Tex would get 8 X 20 from anybody. Probably, but not for sure. This is NOT like the Nats offers to Soriano which, to me, looked like they were calculated to look decent but not get a deal done. This looks like a team that is clearing the rebound, saying, "This guy means more to us, changes us more, helps us financially more, than he can possibly help you. If you think you're going to get him away from us, get ready to bleed some red ink."

Of course, that still doesn't mean he won't say, in private, "Come on, get real. I'm goin' to Boston." (Or California. Or new Yankee Stadium.)

Isn't it nice, if only in one offseason, to see what it's like to have a local baseball team involved in actual hardball? This is every bit as real as, for example, the Nats run at the wild card in '05. Because if you somehow get Tex, it may be the first major piece in becoming an 85+-win team fairly soon.


Burke, Va.: Boz,

Thank goodness for the Caps - and I don't even really care much for hockey. That's about all I can say positive for the entire DC pro sports landscape. And to think the whole NHL almost became extinct a short time ago.

Tom Boswell: I really thought it'd go under. Or become a very minor sport.

The Caps are a pleasure these days. When I mention the latest Caps score to my family, they just shake their heads.


Reston, Va.: Bos,

My patience is running thin with the Redskins. What do they need to do to turn things around? When will this start to hurt Danny boy?

Tom Boswell: This has been the same franchise since '96 when Norv Turner got them back to 9-7. After 10 years, the verdict is in on any owner, isn't it? The Redskins are a (slightly under) .500 franchise under Snyder; in other words: not bad, pretty good, fairly interesting, often frustrating, poor wins-per-dollar-spent. But they're tantalizing if you have Washington roots or, somewhere along the line, became a serious Redskin fan.

But here's the piece of the truth that hurts. If you are 1,000 miles from Washington and mention the Redskins, they are no longer considered one of the Players in the league. They're more of a wannabe curiosity. Got to admit, to me, that's kind of infuriating. BTW, there ARE truly bad owners. And after 10 years, they absolutely destroy franchises in various sports. The Redskins have not been destroyed. (Of course, maybe it was four years under Gibbs that brought them back from the brink -- from 5-11 under Spurrier and head down, to two playoff trips.) But it's a fact that they were 9-7 and in the playoffs last year. They are still 7-6 now. So those who think Snyder is a downright bad owner might want to develop a more sophisticated (though less soul-satisfying) view. He got Gibbs back. You have to count both the good and the bad.


Strasburg: Boz, you seemed to like what you saw of Strasburg during the recent Summer Olympics. Will he be pitching for the Nats this next season or do his time in the minors?

Tom Boswell: The Nats certainly seem to have made up their minds about him -- until, like any prospect, he gets hurt, etc. When I saw him in China against Cuba's team of pros -- the equivalent of a 75-win major league team, maybe -- he had poise, determination and some presence. But it was the end of a long season for him and he looked like he was throwing around 95, not the hyped 100 mph. He locked some veteran RH hitters up badly with his curveball.

If all goes well (famous last words), I wouldn't be surprised to see him called up in September and be in the rotation early in '10. Opening Day '10? Maybe. That's where they project him now.

The Caps were transformed by a No. 1 overall pick -- Ovechkin. Some think Strasburg is a truly Big Arm like Roy Halladay, Josh Beckett, Justin Verlander. Nobody is going to be the baseball Ovechkin. But look at the RHers who struck out 200 last year in the NL -- Billingsley, Haren, Lincecum, Volquez. That's the outcome the Nats expect.


Silver Spring, Md.: According to Forbes, Ted Lerner had a net worth as of September 2008 of $3.5 billion. Even if they lost half of that in the last three months he's still worth $1.75 billion. Why shouldn't the Yankees and Red Sox be worried about his checkbook?

Tom Boswell: That made me smile! It's not the size of the checkbook that's an issue. It's whether anybody has the combination to the padlock on it!

(Okay, no more Lerner jokes. After the way they came up big this week, they deserve the benefit of the doubt -- for a while.)


Sec 114, Row E: The D'Backs signed Felipe Lopez for $3.5M - did they watch how awful he was during his time in DC?

Tom Boswell: They watched him end up hitting .283 in 481 at bats after catching fire with the Cards. Some need a change of scenery. Some players sense that as their mental mistakes add up, everybody is watching them, waiting for the next one. That makes you tense. Nobody's fault. Just the way it is. Lopez drove the Nats crazier in that respect than any other player. But they also saw his talent. Now the D'backs can try to get it out of him.

But that means Orlando Hudson (.305 last year, three Gold Gloves) won't be going back to Arizona at 2nd. It's a mark of the Nats current seriousness -- and of the lower prices in the current free agent market place -- that, when you mention Hudson now, he almost seems like an unacceptable consolation prize. Hope that's not just pre-Xmas fantasy.


Nats going nowhere: Adam Dunn? Are they serious? What use do we have for a sub-.250 hitter who strikes out every third at-bat? He certainly won't be driving in 100 runs on this team. Clearly Bowden will not be happy until he has signed every Cinci player from the past 10 years.

Tom Boswell: The five players in history who are most statistically similar to Dunn at the same age are Darryl Strawberry, Jose Canseco, Harmon Killebrew, Rocky Colavito and Reggie Jackson. Dunn has hit 40 homers for five years in a row and draws so many walks that he was in the top 10 in the NL in on-base percentage last year.

If you can get this guy for $10M/yr, not the $15M that people thought two months ago, he's a steal. This is not a Bowden/Cincy deal. This is a proven slugger -- who strikes out a ton and has limited range.

The only teams that don't want Dunn are those that think they are going deep into the playoffs next year. THEN he may hold you back. The Nats should be so lucky as to reach the point where they say, "Adam Dunn is the problem. He's holding us back, hitting .245 with 40 homers, 100 RBI and 110 walks.

Cheer up! It's the holiday season. Things might even be getting better. For 33 years, the only hot stove in town was one you burned yourself on.

Right now, the Nationals are right in the middle of it.


SW Florida: I had the fun of watching Kearns and Dunn clobber everyone when they played class-A ball together, and I understand they're still close. Think that might help with a signing -- with or without Teixeira?

Tom Boswell: The Nats have two players with truly exceptional attitudes. They are all-ballplayer. Just what you want. Seriously. But one of them can't stay in one piece (Nick Johnson). The other one seems to have forgotten how to hit (Kearns). Yes, they are friends. And I'll bet that someday, somewhere, their stock will be high again. Maybe Nick will be a 36-year-old AL DH in the Series, hitting .290 with an .850 OPS. Maybe Kearns will find the right hitting coach and be a .280-28-90 guy who plays a pure RF. Oh, it can happen. But I'm wondering if it will be in Washington. Too bad. I'd NEVER have guessed that these two would fall on such hard times.

I bet that at least one, and perhaps both of them, will someday reclaim their former stature as solid respected pros. That is not the current consensus.


Washington, D.C.: Tom:

I'll take you to lunch or dinner at any DC restaurant you choose if the Nats get Teixeira.

Tom Boswell: What if the Orioles get Teixeira?

Not crazy. That is REALLY his (MLB) home town. Ripken fan. High school in Baltimore.

Just so I can look like a fool, I'll put the Tex odds at: Boston 55 percent, DC-or-Baltimore 25, "other" (Angels or Yanks) 20. And those odds change every day! At least it's fun.


Arlington, Va.: Boz:

It amazes me how many of the Redskin faithful insist on firing the coach (or coaches) or benching Campbell in favor of Colt Brennan as solutions to the team's problems. Is the Redskins Kool-Aid that good?

Do you forsee a time when fans finally acknowledge the deep seated, systemic management/ownership problems and start giving up on the team? The Redskins won't get significantly better anytime soon, if ever, under the current regime.

Tom Boswell: Look how long Red Sox fans kept the faith.

There are a LOT of teams in a lot of towns in a lot of sports that have much better fans than they do ownerships.

The Redskins are just another example.


Raleigh, N.C.: Mr. Boswell, I heard Peter Gammons on the radio today say that even though the Nationals offer to Teixeira was real, he believes that he will end up in Boston and that would allow Boras to "put" Manny in Washington with a 4-year deal. Now you can make a good argument that 28 year old Teixeira fits into "The Plan" but how can anyone, with a straight face, say a 36-year-old Manny does, especially a 4-year deal. If you could get him real cheap for 2, maybe. What is your take?

Tom Boswell: Peter may be right about Tex to Boston. The only way Manny comes to D.C. is if it's a disaster for Manny. He'd have to come so cheap and for so few years -- relative to his value -- that the Nats would throw up and their hands and say, "Okay, GIVE him to us."

The clubhouse was a borderline problem last year. With Manny, it might be a nightmare.


Los Angeles: Sorry to sound like a jerk, but I think the Nationals are being used and abused by Scott Boras to drive up the salary that Teixeira will get from the Red Sox, Angels or Orioles.

The Nats have a lot in common with the Rangers team that Teixeira was so eager to get away from -- no pitching. And who's going to protect him in this lineup? Elijah Dukes? He could be banned from the league by season's end for all we know.

If Tex wants money/local ties over championship potential, he's going to pick the Orioles, the team he grew up rooting for. Now that team also has no starting pitching apart from Jeremy Guthrie, but they have a good bullpen and much better lineup protection in the form of Nick Markakis and Aubrey Huff.

Unless the Nationals' offer exceeds $200 million, there is no way Teixeira comes to DC. So tell me: Am I the voice of reality or just a naysayer? The Best Fit Isn't Always Obvious (Post, Dec. 12)

Tom Boswell: There's no way for the Nats to lose on this. If they are being "used," they lose nothing. And the market -- players and agents -- say, "Hey, there's real money in Washington. Those guys can get serious."

Remember, the biggest previous Nats contract under the Lerners was $17M for Kearns! This is $160M on the table.


Thomas Circle: Boz -

You see stories all the time that say, "Scott Boras doesn't let his clients do this..." or "A Boras client would never do that."

It leads me to ask, Doesn't Boras WORK FOR the player?? Doesn't the player tell Boras what to do, not the other way around?

I know Boras's job is to get the player the best deal possible, but doesn't the player have any say into what Boras is doing?

Tom Boswell: When you elect to have the most powerful agent represent you, part of the unspoken deal is that you like what he has done for others. You respect his advice. Should they? But they do. And they know that, among players, it's understood that Boras has driven up salaries for everybody over the years. So, if you are the No. 1 free agent and Boras gets you the top price and you say, "Sorry, I don't want it," then other players may say to you, "If you aren't going to let Scott work for you -- and work for all of us THROUGH you to raise all our salaries -- then why did you hire him, you traitor."

Is it easier to understand now why "the last dollar" matters so much in the case of Boras players? Over the years, he has created a role for himself -- "the tough SOB who drives up salaries for us all."

IOW, don't screw around and use up that guy's time if you don't really want to play the top dollar game.

Just saying, that's how players feel. And teams like the Nats and orioles, at least this time, are counting on it. Because "High Bid for Boras," plus "Home Town for Player," is the strategy.

That's why the Nats worry so much about the glamor rivals. They can buy the Boras pot and offer Tex a winner, too.


Tom Boswell: See you next week. Thanks for all the good questions. Just can't get to em all. Cheers.


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