Thursday, April 9, 2009; 12:00 PM
Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell was online Thursday, April 9 at noon ET to take your questions about the Masters, the beginning of the 2009 baseball season, the latest sports news and his recent columns.
Crofton, Md.: Good afternoon!
Can I suggest we alleviate the logjam among the outfielders by trading Thrilledge? I would rather have Dukes, Dunn, Kearns and Willingham make up my outfield than a combination that included Lastings. He seems out of place batting first, and makes everyone hold their breath when a ball is hit to center (we do that already in left, and don't need TWO of those!)
Tom Boswell: Milledge certainly has value. If the Nats are confident that they know who Dukes is and think his major problems are behind him, then trading Milledge, who has value, is viable. You also have Juistin Maxwell and Bernadina at AAA. However, it's a bad idea to trade a young player who has obvious talent and had a decent year in '08 at a time when he's struggling.
No, he doesn't look like a leadoff hitter. And, after two spring trainings and a full year in centerfield __which is quite a bit, he still almost never runs directly to a fly ball. The Nats FO used to joke "Touchdown" every time he made a running catch because it looked like he had run an NFL double-move pass pattern. And that was often Bowden, who loved Lasting's potential.
Just remember, if you trade away a young player who's under club control for more years and you get burned, you really look dumb. Lets give the grumbling at LM a little rest for a while and re-evaluate when he's as hot as he is cold now. And that will happen. Streaky game for everybody always.
Business Is That Bad!: Boz, Just bought 8 tix to the Nats/Red Sox series in June. Didn't make the cut for the Nats 1st lottery go around but since they didn't sell all of the tix for the three games in that offering, they had a 2nd 'drawing' today. Business must be bad -- and the Nats, too -- if they can't even sell out the stadium for three games against the Sawx the first time around. Maybe Stan Kasten will go up to Boston, get on the air, and hold a lottery for their fans to buy any leftover tickets.
Tom Boswell: I'll have to pass the word to in-laws and friends in New England.
Fairfax, Va.: Boz:
Is Adam Dunn getting a little more selective at the plate? Seems like he has a bunch of walks already...
Tom Boswell: That's typical Dunn. It won't change and it's his second biggest value. His last at bat yesterday was a perfect example. Nats trail, 6-3, bases loaded in the ninth with only one out and Willingham-Kearns on deck. Dukes took one strike, then fouled off FOUR pitches __mostly 96 mph fastballs. So, he's trying to clear the bases with a blast. He got his hacks. But when the 3-2 pitch missed, he didn't chase it and damage the rally. He walked home a run and put the Nats in a position where a "mere" single by either of the next two hitters would have tied the game. In fact, Kearns did end the game on a line-drive out. It happened to be a line drive at the LFer.
Dunn makes a lot of good things happen. Believe it or not, his 3-for-10 with a double and long homer, plus three walks in the first four games is only slightly better than a typical Dunn series. If he played a four-game series and went 4-for-16 with a double, homer and three walks, that would be about his norm.
Washington D.C.: What's up with that multi-armed statue in front of Nationals Park? Are the Nats trying to curry favor with Vishnu? Well it can't hurt, right?
Tom Boswell: Uh oh. Looks like I better take a quick look on line at the statues. I'll get back to you in a minute.
Tom Boswell: If someone could send a question that includes a link to photos of the statues I'd love to see them. They are not on the Nats MLB site yet (that I can find). TIA
Arlington, Va.: Mr. Boswell;
Enjoyed today's article regarding the "Chronicles of Mis-Spoken Stan." I think it's safe to say that at this point Mr. Kasten has zero clue about D.C., the D.C. Metro and D.C. sports fans in general. I think he has miscalculated on all things D.C. sports, including the 1M pound gorilla AKA the Redskins. As a STH going on year 5, this stunt almost makes me want to call to get my money back. Tom what will it take for this organization to realize the errors of their ways?
Tom Boswell: There's been progress over the last seven months. Both Bowden and Kasten were very firm and united in saying that the team needed to be more aggressive in the free agent market. Bowden basically told the Lerners that if they didn't want Teixeira at $20-million-a-year for 8 years __or probably more__ then they might as well say that they didn't want anybody ever. I don't know how Kasten presented his views. But he was certainly on board. Bowden was infuriated that the Nats weren't going after Dunn and others more aggressively. So, for whatever you think of him, nobody pushed harder for Dunn. Sure, there was a Cincy connection. And that helped land him. Kasten was always fiercely loyal to Ted Turner who was __in different ways__ a nightmare to work for. He started with Ted when he was 25 or 27 years old. The lesson he learned was that every owner, or ownership group, is a package, a combination of good and bad qualities (from a team executives point of view) and that it takes time for a Turner to see the wisdom of a GM or president's advice. Once that confidence is gained, which may take a few years, then the team makes more progress. Kasten has a long history with Turner through the Hawks before he took over the Braves in '87. So Ted had already bought into him. The Lerners seem to be moving in that direction. It's certainly Stan's team now. And, off his track record, that ought to be a position, maybe a major one. But a lot of time was lost the first 2 1/2-years with the Lerner-Bowden-Kasten decision-making process leaving the team __in my opinion__ about one or two Adam-Dunn-quality free agents behind schedule. There should have been a mid-level FDA signing after the '06 and '07 season, too. Dunn, at $10M, was less than half of what Teixeira got (over $22M X 8). The Nats should have been going after significant mid-level FA for two years. Kasten would have been fine with that, as long as they weren't that huge bust-the-bank last-piece-of-the-puzzle buy, like his signing of Maddux. Of course, Bowden always wanted them to spend more. GM's like to win as fast as possible. It helps them keep their jobs. And when you lose 102 games and something else goes wrong on top of it, you're gone.
Washington D.C.: Statues
Here's one of Vishnu .
Tom Boswell: I'm cool with these statues. Now I remember seeing the original drawings or concepts for them last spring. They're a bit modern or at least "dynamic." Washington is as a sophisticated city and Nats Park has some of that East Wing look. We shouldn't have square old-fashioned '50's
statues like St. Louis. Though they look fine there.
I look for ward to seeing them in person on Monday, maybe have a more rounded reaction.
Maybe this is an omen that the Nats should try to sign Young fireballer Yu Darvish (Japan in the WBC). Sometimes it looked like he was pitching with six arms.
washingtonpost.com: Kasten Shows Some Ill-Advised Brotherly Love (Post, April 9, 10:56)
Washington, D.C.: Let's just say for a second that Kasten's comments do result in a huge upsurge in Phillies fans, along with folks from New York, Boston and Baltimore, and let's say they do spend a lot of money in the stadium. What are the chances those bonus dollars will be used to bring in a legitimate ace pitcher?
Tom Boswell: Somewhere Stan is cheering your perspective.
I just think he should sell on the radio, or anywhere else, to every city on earth, except the three I mentioned. And he should welcome fans who root for the O's, Mets and Phils, obviously. They are good customers, nice baseball fans. I just don't think you should go on the radio in Philly and get down on one knee in hopes of drawing the last 132 people in Philly who hadn't made up their minds on whether to come down to DC next Monday. Seems like a high price in civic dignity to pay for an extra 17 tickets.
But, look, he has a product to sell. He's always sold it this way and works 24/7 on every job he attacks. He just needs to fine tune this radio thing. Also, it was an obvious way to write about the other larger problems the Nats are having with ticket sales. I thought Marc Fisher's column this morning made some excellent points on related issues.
Gaithersburg, Md.: Are the Nats really this bad? I was optimistic before the Fish series, now I'm forlorn. The only positive pitching outing was Tavares tossing filth.
Tom Boswell: Olsen maxing out at 86-87 m.p.h. with maybe a couple at 88 was very disappointing and maybe a real concern. There's been talk that he lost velocity during last season and he says he hasn't gotten it back. If he only has 5-6-7 mph difference between his fastball and changeup, that's a problem. However, the Nats build a pitching staff with a lot of lefties to attack the lineups of the Mets and Phils, and to some degree Braves, which are very left-handed. The Fish are the opposite __the type of team with Ramirez, Uggla, etc__ that has lots of RH power.
Let all of April play out. See how this staff fares against the lineups it was designed to handle adequately. Give Martis and Z'nn a chance. And Lannan will bounce back. Olsen is the concern, so far. Also, Cabrera surprised me yesterday. I thought he might have lost considerable velocity last season and gone to far more sinkers __perhaps as a result of a fairly heavy world load the last five years (by modern standards). But Daniel hit 95 on one pitch vs Ramirez and was consistently at 93-94 with his four-seam. That's encouraging, I'd say. Because he's 6-foot-9, his 94 may get on top of hitters like a 6-foot pitchers '95-96 mph fastball. (I'd l,ove to see if a scientist thought that this b'ball theory about ultra-tall pitchers is accurate.)
There first three games matter __some. All of April matters a ton.
Kasten Kerfuffle: I've lived in this area for 15 years, I now consider it home, and I have fully committed myself to the Nats. I agree wholeheartedly with every D.C. sports fan who hates the invasion of Philly or New York fans into "our house."
That said, I think everyone should agree on the following: if you don't have at least one ticket to at least one of the games where we're hosting the Phillies, you don't get to complain about Katen's comments. Kasten's approach was ham-fisted and sheepheaded, but the underlying 'problem' isn't Kasten's remarks, it's attendance. You want to cut down on the invading hordes of other teams' fans? Go to some games. Otherwise you don't have standing to kill the messenger.
Tom Boswell: Good post.
After my column I decided I'd walk up to the gate on Monday and if there are still tickets, buy one. No, not one of those $330 box seats.
Washington, D.C.: The statues are weird. First off, is there video evidence of W. Johnson's motion? I'd hate it to be a "this is how we thought he pitched" type thing.
Tom Boswell: Johnson and some other pitchers back then had a very unusual delivery in which the right leg never came around and the pitcher actually recoiled as he whipped the ball sidearm. Manny Acta and I had a nice talk about it last week. He actually studied it to see if it was an arm killer or something that had been forgotten/neglected. His conclusion: He can't understand how you can throw with that motion and not destroy your arm. But obviously some of them could. All the Walter Johnson tape I'vbe ever seen __and it's not much__ is this same style: Brace against the front (left) leg, then create torque by lashing the arm around sidearm. Poor description. Sorry.
Brooklyn, N.Y.: Nats fan transplant here. Big thanks to washingtonpost.com for the coverage so I can keep up to date on aging far faster than I should.
It's been difficult watching the pitiful 0-3 start in Florida with all the young players the Marlins are putting out there -- Jorge Cantu, Hanley Ramirez, Cameron Maybin, Emilio Bonifico (maybe I should just put up the whole roster). Now obviously some of these players have shown up through the patented Marlin strategy of trading away payroll for prospects, but haven't the Nationals been in "rebuild" mode since they came to DC? Why does there seem to be a huge gap with the youth that the Nationals are fielding and the youth EVERYWHERE else in baseball? Am I being overly critical? Is help on the way? Or has nearly everyone in baseball just drafted and traded better than Bowden et al.?
Tom Boswell: It seems fairly clear that, being generous, the Nats are a full year behind their original rebuilding Plan. The experiment with young pitching was necessary at some point. Should it have been so blown in April '09? Or more like June '09? Or call up in Sept '09 and a lot of young arms in '10? Good questions. But the pains of testing your young pitchers was going to happen in the '09 to early '10 time frame. By the middle of '10, the Nats may be considerably better. (Thewy better be.) May have Strasburg. Also, by accident, not virtue, the Nats low budget for '10 allows them to be active in the FA market or in trades that add salary.
Mike Rizzo insists, by the way, that he has been given the ability to make any trade that helps the team. That means if player-for-player he gets a deal for Nick Johnson or Austin Kearns that helps get rid of the excess OFers, then he can eat some or all of their salaries to get it done. If that is accurate, then it's a solid step by the owners. And one that very few other teams are now in position to do.
Los Angeles, Calif.: I'm surprised that you haven't mentioned the tragedy of Nick Adenhart's death or that it's not getting bigger play on the Web site. Nick was born in Silver Spring.
washingtonpost.com: Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart killed in accident (L.A. Times, April 9)
Tom Boswell: Just learned about Nick Adenhart, 22, minutes before the chat. Just terrible. From the one account that I read, it appears that another driver was at fault, ran from the scene but was caught by police a mile away. Obviously that's just a preliminary wire service report. I'm sure all our hearts go out to the families.
The radio thing: Could he start with actually having a radio station that people can hear?
1500 WFED is an embarrassment if it were a minor league affiliate.
Tom Boswell: Another county (not) heard from.
Woods vs. Nicklaus: Supporters of Jack like to point out that his competition was tougher, but while the top golfers may have been more plentiful, I would argue that there are many more golfers now capable of winning than back in the 60s and 70s. Maybe Tiger is just that good ...
Tom Boswell: Tiger is just that good. As I've written, I think he'd beat Jack. But would it be 5-out-of-9 head-to-head? Or 6-of-9?
This week should be fascinating. Harrington going for the third leg of the Tiger Slam __but he won the first two legs, last year in the British Open and PGA, when Tiger wasn't playing. There's lots of young talent here like Anthony Kim and Rory McIlroy (19) who didn't seem intimidated to be here in his interview. Kim has had recent injuries, including hamstring pull from swinging his driver too hard. I'd like to have seen him come in here "fit and on form" as the Brits in my row of the press building like to say.
Germantown, Md.: Your brother Wilbon keeps making the point that D.C. is not a sports town and Kasten's invite to Philly fans just proves it. Stan wouldn't have to do that if the fans supported the team, but they don't so if he wants to make the money he needs to buy free agents and keep Ryan Z., he has little choice.
Tom Boswell: Blah, blah, blah. When the Nationals came to town in '05 and had a competitive team __not a playoff team or a team that anybody thought would get to October but simply had a chance to stay in the wild card hunt until mid-Sept__ the town went crazy for them. If the Nats looked like an 85-win team this year, with Strasburg on the horizon, the place would be packed. Look at the Caps! In one year, they went from __roughly__ where the Nats are now (the bottom) to the toast of the town.
The town has gone crazy over every true contender that ever showed up __Maryland and GU basketball, Skins, now Caps, D.C. Untited.
Lets see how they draw when they win 85 games __as every franchise does at some point. Not 90, 95 or 100 wins. Just 85.
Washington, D.C.: Break up the O's?
Tom Boswell: Gotta love Teixeira getting booed in Camden Yards. Funny how he suddenly became such a devoted life-long Yankee fan, all the way back to childhood, as soon as they gave him his contract.
I don't want to say that he's being disingenuous, but during his teenage years I lived not far from where he grew up. Cal Ripken was breaking Gehrig's record. The Orioles and Yankees were doing battle in the '96-'97 with the disputed HR off the glove of the truant Jeff M.
So, Teixeira is trying to tell us that when EVERY OTHER KID who was his age and played baseball in Severna Park was a Cal and O's fan and HATED the Yankees, HE was a closet pinstripe worshipper?
Annandale, Va.: Did you see the footage of Vijay Singh on the 16th hole during the practice round on Tuesday at the Masters? After players hit their approach shot, they are persuaded (rather loudly) by the crowd to skip a ball over the pond onto the green, much like you would skip a rock over water. Vijay skipped his along the water, rolled on the green for a hole in one. Amazing shot.
Tom Boswell: Thanks! No, I didn't see it. But I'll find out about it.
Got to tell this story somewhere and there'll probably never b e another venue. We've had a group of about seven guys who've been staying in the same house for the last 25+ years at the Masters __the Posts writers, Dave Kindred, John Feinstein, etc. This year, the Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti is staying with us. He won a charity auction for his son Jack to caddie for Tom Watson in the par-three contest __proceeds to the Bruce Edwards Foundation. A very good cause. Feinstein and Watson run the charity event. So, the winner gets to stay in the house with us for two days, caddie in the Par 3 and see one day of the Tournament.
So, I arrive Tues and I usually get here last and get the crummiest bedroom, often the "child" room. I beat Bisciotti, who's two minutes behind me (though I don't know it) and stake out the last "adult" bedroom. A winner at last! I go downstairs, see Bisciotti (I didn't know he was coming). He chat. He says, "hey, show me the house." We go around and I tell him about this upstairs room where I often stay where you can't always sleep at night because a SF writer who stays with us (and never adjusts to East Coast time) goes his laundry at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. Lotta laughing about how bad this room is. "But, hey, it's better this year," I say. "They put a nice TV in and it has a fold-out sofa bed and a nice single bed with a good mattress cause I've slept on it often enough."
So, Bisciotti likes the idea of sharing the upstairs room with his 19-year-old son. Feinstein says, "No, no, you get the master suit downstairs with the private bathroom. You PAID for it. And you paid a lot to charity. You should be happy." Bisciotti already knows the upstairs room has no bath or shower, that you have to walk downstairs, through the kitchen to get to the nearest shower. But he won't take the master suite. He's figured out that it's been first-come-first-served for 25 years. He came last. He's taking' what's lefty.
So, he and his son are a lot of fun, though it's a little different to see them walking through the kitchen to the shower when you're eating your eggs and bacon. Pretty easy to see why the Ravens organization usually seems to have a smoothly functioning internal dynamic.
I can't help wondering how many other NFL owners fit this profile?
See you next week....after Opening Day in Philadelphia. Sorry, I mean Washington.
Re: Philly Fans: Boz, I take a bit of exception to the post that told the rest of us if we don't buy a ticket to one of the home games against the Phillies we have, in essence, no right to complain about Stan's invitation. First, we local fans that remember the Senators have been very patient waiting for a competitive team. It is year 5 and the 'trust us, be patient' mantra has worn thin. Remember the year the Nats were in the hunt for a while? People came and bought tickets. We aren't asking for a WS winner right now, but a team that plays near .500 would bring in fans so Kasten wouldn't have to go begging outside the D.C. metro area.
Tom Boswell: That's not what I intended to say. But this will let you make your point.
The Radio Thing.: I totally agree with the other poster. I love listening to the games even if they aren't winning, but don't have cable TV and can't pick up 1500 am on any of the 50 radios in my house. And they wonder why viewership is terrible?
Tom Boswell: Lots of the questions here are better than my answers. So I try to include a few of them.
Kasten audio: Let Teddy Win had a link to audio of the Kasten Philly interview. I still think that he went overboard with his remarks, but it was interesting to hear his comments in context (there's also lots of stuff on "The Plan" in the middle of the interview).
Tom Boswell: I want to hear the Plan part. Thanks.
Science of Baseball Strategy: Hi Boz,
If you didn't read the below article by Alan Schwarz in the NY Times yesterday, it is a great read about stats that is right up your alley. Do you know if the Nats employ any of this type of data in their decision making process? Answering Baseball's What-Ifs (The New York Times, April 6)
Tom Boswell: Kasten immediately brought in a bunch of industrious young number crunchers to do stat work that they call "The Mod Squad." I love the numbers but have to admit that I seldom come up with anything that they haven't already discovered. Though sometimes I "stump the band."
Reston, Va.: So, Boz, is now a good time to revive that discussion of "Why we need a competent, veteran starting pitcher"?
Tom Boswell: Thanks. I needed that. This is certainly what I was talking about __and recommending.
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