Ask Boswell

Thomas Boswell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 19, 2008; 3:00 PM

Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell will be online Friday, Dec. 19 at 3 p.m. ET to take your questions about the Redskins, the Caps, the Hot Stove league and his latest columns.

Submit your questions and comments before or during the discussion.

Boswell Discussion Archives

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Alexandria, Va.: Bos, How you feeling today?

Just wanted to say thanks for all the great baseball writing in 2008 and have a great 2009!

Tom Boswell: Feeling great. Thanks! Season's greetings to everybody.

Hope the Redskins can end their season with some dignity __and at least one win. They are, I'm afraid, still a .500 franchise (8-8) that is held to .750 (12-4) fantasy standards.

For the Nats, maybe Santa can bring them Adam Dunn, if not Teixeira and, by Groundhog Day, two other lesser-known but useful "vlaue players" who are left on the beach after the dollar tide has gone back out to sea.

Wish for health for the Wizards. As for the Caps, the way they are playing, they don't need any! They've been amazing these last five games, especially Ovechkin's final minute of overtime against the Island __both the shot off the pipe and the game ender with 10.7 seconds left.


Baltimore: I see that Boston has taken themselves out of the Teixeira sweepstakes -- what odds would you place on Big Tex coming to DC? Staying in Anaheim??

Tom Boswell: Here is an extensive blog of mine on the Teixeira situation from the Post's Baseball Insider this morning.

Hope this answers some of the questions.



Plenty of Nationals fans are scratching their heads, wondering how the Teixeira Sweepstakes have been changed, if at all, by last night's e-mail-to-media from the Red Sox that they had been "outbid" by rivals for Teixeira and were no longer a factor in signing him.

Let me give my views, based on speaking with sources from multiple teams last evening and this morning, plus my own interpretation based on far too many years of following free agent negotiations.

First, let me note a quote from a famous agent in his 10 Rules of Negotiation. "Rule Three: Convince the other side that you have another offer...whether you do or not."

Agents lie. Not all, but plenty. It is widely assumed among baseball executives that Scott Boras negotiates based on non-existant "offers." Does he? That's not the point. It's now seen as part of his M.O. by teams like the Red Sox (who despise him). So, when dealing with Boras, some teams think that, when negotiations get really serious, you have to call his bluff.

Last night was probably the Red Sox calling Boras bluff. Only a few hours before Henry's e-mail, a Red Sox source told me that he thought the Teixeira signing would be done, by some team, within four days and by Monday at the latest. "That's what everybody thought," said an executive with another team in the Teixeira hunt. "Then, within a few hours, the Red Sox do a complete 180-degree reversal? That sounds like a ploy."

Remember, the Red Sox are the team that, supposedly, had a plane on the runway and told Dice-K to get on board or no deal. So bargaining brinksmanship is comfortable for them. Also, the Yankees backed down Boras and A-Rod so badly __after the infamous Alex Upstages the World Series incident__ that Rodriguez came back to the Yankees to negotiate without Boras, completely showing up his own agent. Boston was watching.

Another possibility, according to one of the teams involved, is that the Angels may have come flying in with a big offer. If you are wondering, "Don't the Red Sox, Angels, Nats, Orioles and perhaps Yankees know what the other teams are doing?" the answer is, "NO! That's the whole point." The teams don't talk to eachother. The player and agent play one team off against the others. And the media is used as a means for (often fake) leaks.

"When it comes to the other teams, we're in the always," said one key executive involved with Teixeira. "We've even been known to ask writers what they think."

Ironically, baseball free agent bidding wars are the one time in sports when 1) beat reporters may actually know more information than any one team and 2) those same reporters may be completely misinformed on key issues.

As for the Nationals chances of getting Teixeira, they probably haven't changed much. They are in the hunt and are dead earnest. But the Red Sox, believe it or not, are probably still the favorite at the very moment when they say, "We're out." That's just the hall-of-mirrors that is free agency.

What's changed? The Angels, after Raul Ibanez (their Plan B if they didn't get Teixeira) signed with the Phils, have probably become much more serious about Teixeira.

It's now widely seen as a three-way race with the Red Sox, desite what they say, in the lead with the new possibility that the Angels really have made the top offer. Chances are good that Boras says he has a 10-year contract __his original goal__ but that the Red Sox don't believe him. Teams have their little games, too, not just agents. For more than a month I've heard variations on, "The deal won't be for more than eight years." Now why would multiple teams feel the same way about that issue? Common sense? A 'wink' among teams?

As I posted last night, the Nationals should be developing all their post-Teixeira options because they are probably going to need them. But they shouldn't be paralyzed by Boras' notoriously lengthy timetable. If memory serves, he wanted a 10-year contract for Carlos Beltran and, finally, settled for a seven-year deal that wasn't finished until well into January.

Washington fans should enjoy the Hot Stove League. This is the first time in the city's history that the Nats or Senators have been part of it. When the old Sdenators were in town, there was no free agency yet. (Curt Flood played for them in '71.)

But don't have a heart attack every time there is "news." Because it usually isn't really "news" at all. It's the rumor and negotiation game. That's how, for example, ESPN can report last night that Boston is "close to signing Teixeira," then have Henry state flatly that the Red Sox are "not a factor" just a couple of hours later.

When it comes to free agency, lots of people know something. A few people know quite a bit. But nobody, except the player and his agent, have all the facts in their hands. The player never speaks. And when the agent does, you can believe every (other) word.


Reston, Va.: Boz thanks for your insight on the "Baseball Insider" and for talking us off the ledge, so to speak. My question is how many years will it take till we're not looked at as some sort of joke in the bidding process? Will that day ever come as long as Jim Bowden is GM?

We need you more today Boz than we ever have in the past. Thanks for being an objective DC man... GO NATS !!! Baseball Insider

Tom Boswell: In the last month, the Nats have left the "joke" stage. Finally. Their 8-year $160-million bid set the market. They didn't get into the battle, they set the terms of it and every other team as been playing catch up. Just a fact. However, they are still very much an underdog.

Believe me, they are working constantly on post-Teixeira or Non-Tex plans. ny free agent they sign, like Dunn, will create an overload at some position __like an excess of outfielders__ that broadens the possibilities for trades.

Bowden isn't the problem. He's been working with a shoestring budget. When your top-end possible move is signing a Tim Redding or Odalis Perez, or unearthing a Dmitri Young or taking a heart-stopping chance on Elijah Dukes, when nobody else in the sport will, that is the definition of "limited resources." His trade of Wilkerson, who has done NOTHING ever since and is now unwanted, for Alfonso Soriano is, with hindsight, an amazing steal. The Nats got a fab year for Soriano. The lerners got a chance to resign him to a long-term deal. They couldn't, or didn't, do it. But that had nothing to do with JB. And the nats got draft picks, too.

The question about the Nats has always been the lerners willingness to spend a reasonable amount to be competitive. We now know that they will go to the very top of the bidding for an A+++ free agent who fits every imaginable requirement. We still don't know what they will pay for players at every OTHER level. But we do know that they will now add payroll in trade, dealing a minimum-salary rookie for Scott Olsen and Josh Willingham just as they are eligible for arbitration and multi-million dollar contracts.


Bethesda, MD: How far off is this read? The Nationals offered Texeira just enough in their opinion to energize the fan base that the team was 'trying' to make a major move, but not enough to ensure they were going to close the deal (ie offer 10 years).

Meanwhile, the strategy all along was to warm things up with the Tex offer while angling for a deal with Adam Dunn to play first base and pay one-third the price?

Tom Boswell: Absolutely backwards, though I understand the cynicism.

The whole industry has responded by saying, "Well, look who's decided to come to the party."

Everything that has happened with teixeira is an absolutely necessary, but 100-miles-from-sufficient condition for the Nats to become what they should be: a winning team. When you start with a blank slate, a low budget and a new public ballpark, you should have an initial eriod, after a few years to develop a farm system, when you are quite good. Long long term, the Nats are no different from any other team in a similar market. But there is a window here, starting in '10-'11, when there is no excuse for the Nats to be a mediocre product. They should be a winning team, which usually means a wildcard contender, at the least.


Columbus, Ohio: Hey your columns. Why with all the talk of the Redskins bringing in a GM/player-development type like a Parcells is there no mention of the former Packer GM Ron Wolf? Last I heard he was living in Annapolis and if I'm not mistaken he was on somebody's list (possibly Snyder's) at one time. Also, how many of the Redskins roster should go for 2009? About half?

Tom Boswell: Ron Wolf was first rate. Len Shapiro has often mentioned him. But I think he's now been out of the game long enough that he's no longer a realistic option.

All discussion of Zorn, Campbell, etc., come after discussions of Cerrato's ablity, imo. If you want to see what a razor-sharp GM looks like, acts like, talks like, look at the Caps' George McPhee.


Cleveland: Mr. Boswell,

As a former NOVA resident, I've read you for a long time and love your columns and insights. On Teixeira, I had a couple of questions:

1. Earlier in the offseason, I thought you were advocating that the Nats just make a credible offer for him. Now, it seems like you are saying they really need to get him. Has your thinking changed, or did I misunderstand you earlier?

2. In your 12/6 column, you compared him to a group of sluggers (Delgado, Thome, et al.) who did well from ages 28-38. You noted that "conveniently, they're all fresh in memory." Doesn't that really mean they're all of the Steroid Era? One of the big things steroids do, as I understand it, is allow you to recover from injury faster and better. I suspect that's a huge reason we saw lots of guys play longer than normal, and if steroids are really gone from the game, that may make 10-year deals for 28-year-olds even more dangerous.

Keep up the good work. Nats Need to Buy Some Pop

Tom Boswell: 1. The Nats, and the Lerners, have taken Teixeiura more seriously than I had hoped. Ted Lerner, in particular, seems to have a handle on the value of buying the very highest quality, but not mediocre mechandise. He has told me repeatedly that his family will pay for quality but not "spend just to spend." Maybe I should have looked for a simpler explanation than, "What does he really mean by that."

2. Good point. But most assume that the testing of the last 1-to-2 years is what will prevail over the next several years. So, those who continued to hit well in '07 and '08 are the new "norm." Delgado, in '08, and Thome in '07, had fine years at age 36 and Thome, in '08, did well at 37. (Bagwell hit a wall.)

Still, 8-year deals are a risk. Players in earlier eras similar to Teixeira had problems staying healthy in their 30's __McCovey, Will Clark, Kent Hrbek.

I don't think Dunn gets enough respect for a guy who has hit 40 homers five years in a row and has a top-10 on-base percentage. he made $13M last year. In the current $ environment, he sure won't make more and may make less. His career comparables, as I've mentioned, are Strawberry, Canseco, Killebrew, Regghie Jackson and Colavito. You can probably get Dunn for haf the years and lwess than 1/3 the money of Teixeira.

Still, Tex is a franchise changer. Dunn is seen as a player who helps a bd team become decent bt is not complete enough to help a winning team become a champion. By the time a Dunn contract runs out, the ultra-optimistic Nats fan is allowed to hope that the eam is good enough to aim even higher.

But, man, that's a long, long way from 102 loses!

It's quite a change to be talking about a variety of positive outcomes for the Nats. Lets hope that continues and isn't just a winter illusion.


Washington, DC: I think you mis-state the Wilkerson/Soriano/etc. process.

The Nats had a technical chance to re-sign Soriano. But it was obvious from day one that they weren't going to spend the money to do so, so that "chance" was basically a way to look nice to fans. A "see, we tried" PR move, just like this Teixeira thing is.

Instead, Bowden and the Nats blew the chance to make a solid trade for Soriano at the deadline, meaning they didn't pick up quality players that could've helped the team long term.

I'm a DC guy who wants to root for the Nats. But this team is still a joke. No willingness to spend real money to build a TEAM. Token offer to a single player. There's no way they sign Teixeira, they are a ploy to Boras - who is almost certainly telling his client that coming here would be like A-Rod going to the Rangers. And there's no way that they take that money and start investing in other players. A cheap team willing to spend big on one guy can't create a winning product on the field.

Tom Boswell: By the first day of spring training we will probably have a lot more information on whether this view __the kind that 102-loss seasons produce__ still shows up much.

Patience is very easy to preach and very hard to practice. But I think the need for a ridiculous level of patience by Nats fans is about to come to an end. IT BETTER. Fairly soon, I suspect the team will be viewed somewhat differently. Not a 180-degree flip. Bt differently. And better. The team on the field mst be improved. But it is an (invisible) fact that the minors are now much better.


A huge, huge fan, but...: Mr. Boswell, I am a great fan of your and think that every word you write about baseball is about as close to The Gospel as it gets. But, with all dues respect, your column about the Zorn-Portis drama kinda bugged me. I feel like there is, especially in Washington and in the aftermath of Cooke, Gibbs I, and so much else, a tendency to undercut the coach, which is in some ways what I think you did. Simply put, is there ever a case where one player should be bigger than the team? If so, when and who? Truth, Consequences

Tom Boswell: Fair enough.

But it's been a long time since the days of Ralph Houk and Dick Williams, Vince Lombardi and Red Auerbach __the autocrats. I met a few of them when I was very young. Man, what a different world. Pro athletes back then jumped like my two dogs when I call them. (Is that good?)

Now, almost every team has different standards for different players __more "respect" as more respect is earned.

Still, Portis would drive me crazy if I were a coach. I don't think I could hug anybody that much.

By the way, when do the players like London Fletcher __who define Old School, no matter what age they play in__ get THEIR due.

But you're right that there's no sitting duck like a Redskin coach. Maybe Six Flags (stock price now 31 cents) could have a new Fire The Coach booth: Throw a football, knock the coach's out of his job?


Washington, D.C.: I am enjoying the groundswell of love for the Caps. A little reminder to folks out there that HDTV is the best thing to happen to hockey in years and the local production with Joe B and Laughlin is top notch. Now that the Redskins have finished for the year I am excited to turn to a local team in great shape!

Tom Boswell: I'm even taping Caps games and watching replays the next day with that wonderful invention the fast-forward buttom. And hockey is fast with few stoppages, compared to other spors, to start with. (I can't believe I'm writing those words.)


Annandale, Va.: I clearly remember one first half during the Gibbs 1.0 era (definitely not during Gibbs 2.0!) in which Theismann would drop back to pass and continually get slaughtered by a ferocious pass rush. In the second half, there were a lot quick three step passes, quick roll-outs and a lot of counter-trey runs. The Skins dominated and won the game handily. The first Gibbs consistently made great half-time adjustments that have been sorely lacking in Redskin head coaching since. (Though I never did see any games during Schottenheimer's season.)

Tom Boswell: The Redskins get off to some of the worst offensive starts to games that I have ever seen. In Cincinnati, the first five possessions were three-and-out (one was a third-down fumble). Similar against Ravens, Giants, etc.

Yet almost every team, especially West Coast offense teams, almost always use scripts for the first 15+ plays. (Every play is designed to set out or disguise some other play. The script insures that you don't forget to use the trickery that you took the trouble to make a central theoretical part of your offense.)

I'm about to conclude that Zorn must write the worst scripts since "Springtime For Hitler."

See, I knew you'd like that.

What just as bothersome is that, after the Redskins get outscored 83-38 in the first quarter, their offense improves thereafter. It's like the Redskin staff is very poorly prepared at the start of the game to anticipate what's coming, then, after they see what the other defense has prepared, they say, "Ooohhhh, now we see what will work against them."

I hope it's not really that bad. But it's starting to look like a painful working hypothesis.


Washington: "Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell will be online Friday, Dec. 19 at 3 p.m. ET to take your questions about the Redskins, the Caps..."

Woah woah woah, do my eyes deceive me? The Post is actually devoting resources to talking about our hockey team? But hockey isn't even a real sport! Nobody cares about hockey outside Canada! Let's talk about the Redskins more! I hope you can tell I'm being sarcastic.

But seriously, where have you been all this time?

Tom Boswell: Well, today, I've been writing another hockey column for tomorrow's paper.

FWIW, I've been volunteering.

Good Lord, I've enjoyed covering everything during my career from hydroplane racing on the Potomac to duckpin bowling. I can certainly enjoy writing about a very exciting hockey team.

Writers crave SUBJECTS.


Va Beach: Mr. Boswell,

You are given $40 to pay for a ticket to any game in the DC area. Do you go to see the Nationals, DC United, Capitals, Wiz, Hoyas, Terps, or other?

Tom Boswell: You get a MUCH better seat for $40 to see the Nats than the Wiz or Caps. Seriously, with the new reduced prices) $40 now gets you a BOX SEAT. Okay, down the LF and RF line. For $40, the Redskins may let you park.

No question the Caps are the most fun of those teams right now. But watch out for the Hoyas. I always love to see Memphis lose. (Lets see, could it be something about the coach.)


Re: Soriano: The Nats got 2 draft picks for letting him go via free-agency. One is Jordan Zimmermann, who will likely crack the rotation this season and is the team's top minor league pitcher. The other is Josh Smoker, who appears poised to come back in 2009 from injuries in 2008.

So it is facile to say Bowden not dealing Soriano at the deadline netted "nothing".

Tom Boswell: Thanks.

Jordan Zimmerman is, almost universally, considered the best prospect in the Nats organization. He has the kind of numbers that say, "Star." 15-5, 208 strikeouts in 185 innings with a 2.50 ERA at multiple levels in '08. He's my No. 1 reason to look forward to spring training. If he's as good as advertized, he may be in the rotation on Opening Day or soon after. (But how often are they are good as advertized?)

Nobody else in the organization currently has THOSE kind of numbers that project major success.


Sec 114, Row E: Bos - a Favor please - can you ask the Washington DC poster what offer(s) the Nats received for Soriano at the trading deadline? Because I've never seen anything in print or even blogged up rumors?

For the WDC poster, keep in mind at the Soriano trading deadline the Lerners had officially owned the team less about a month or so and were re-christening RFK shortly after the all-star break. How would that have looked to fans of the nascent Nats at the time?

And also - just consider that the Nats and Bowden valued the future 1st rounder and sandwich pick as better than the prospects that were offered for Soriano...

Tom Boswell: The closest comparable to Soriano was Carlos Lee. He fetched Francisco Cordero (excellent reliever) and Kevin Mench, Laynce Nix and Julian Cordero.

Will Jordan Zimmerman and Smoker work out better than F Cordero and minor friends? I'd take a shot on that. Especially since the Nats want production in the 2010's more than in '06-'09.


Washington, D.C.: Tom, Happy Holidays!

Steinberg posted this on the DC SportsBog this morning titled, "Caps by the numbers", care to offer any analysis? anything stick out?

35: Number of columns written about the Redskins by Mike Wise, Sally Jenkins, Tom Boswell and Michael Wilbon since Oct. 1, when the local busy season began.

10: Number of columns written about the Wizards by that foursome since Oct. 1.

3: Number of columns written about the Caps by that foursome since Oct. 1.

7: Number of WaPo sportswriters with bylines from Cincinnati last weekend, chronicling the transformation of a 7-6 NFL team into a 7-7 NFL team.

2: Number of WaPo sportswriters who have mentioned reigning NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin Morning Look: The Caps Are Flying

Tom Boswell: Dan's probably cheating. Maybe he knows I'm writing about the Great Eight for tomorrow.


Rainy Stove League in D.C.: Thoughts on the Braves blacklisting an entire agency? What are the rules considering "offer sheets" and hand-shake agreements between teams and players. Scheurholtz's book caused me to turn on agents forever.

Tom Boswell: The Furcal deal is about as ugly as it gets. Looks like John was right to be furious. His rants over the last 24 hours have been heard all over baseball. He's extremely well respected. In a who-do-you-believe faceoff with Arn, that's probably a mismatch.

See you all next week. Have great holidays.


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