Ask Boswell: Stephen Strasburg, GM Mike Rizzo, Nats, Redskins and More

Thomas Boswell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 20, 2009; 11:00 AM

Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell was online Thursday, August 20 to take your questions about the Nats' Stephen Strasburg signing and appointment of Mike Rizzo as permanent GM, the Orioles, Redskins, Caps and the latest sports news and his recent columns.

The transcript follows.

Discussion Archives

Boswell Column Archives

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Lufkin, Texas: Great article on the Strasburg negotiations. You nailed it. It sounds like the Nats are looking for a starting pitcher no matter where Strasburg is pitching next year. Is that a long-term commitment or a bridge that gets the Nats into 2011 and lets their pitching staff develop?

Tom Boswell: They want a 10-10 type pitcher at the least, like the Wolf, Garland, Looper class of '09 that they blew. But I think, will Z'mann down, they will be tempted to go for somebody better. Kasten really wants to win -- in the sense of get to .500, maybe surprise people with a wildcard run -- sooner than expected. He always wears rose-colored galasses. People who are "builders" almost always do. If you wake up every morning seeing negatives, how much gets accomplished. You're always paralyzed weith doubt. But I think there will be a push to get a real mid-rotation guy, not just an innings eater for a year or two.

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Tom Boswell: Just thought I'd start with thoughts on How Good Are No. 1-Overall Draft Picks?

The idea, I don't know how it got started, seems to be that they are busts. That's not true. And it's not the point that has been at the center of the debate on Strasburg. No. 1-overall tend to be good or very good. They have just never been great. Neither have No. 2 overals or 3, 4, 5, etc., out to No. 18 overalls. (Clemens was a No. 19 overall.)

So here's a "comment" I posted after my column yesterday.

*History says Strasburg will be a good-to-very-good pitcher. It definitely does not say he will be a "bust." However, history also notes that very high draft picks -- taken in the first 18 overall -- have never had careers that were both long and truly great. But then very few pitchers do.

There have been eight pitchers since the draft started in '65 who were picked No. 1 overall out of college. They are the logical peer group for Strasburg. It's a small sampling but there is no reason to think it is a poor one.

Four of the eight -- half -- have been very successful pitchers. The Nats should be delighted if Strasburg is this good and he probably will be. Andy Benes (155-139 career W-L record), Tim Belcher (146-140), Mike Moore (161-176) and Floyd Bannister (134-143).

Two others have been effective pitchers who won 10-games five and four times respectively. Ben McDonald (78-70) and Kris Benson (69-74).

Also, Paul Wilson went 40-58, but even he had an 11-win season and a four-year period when he was a regular starter and innings eater with a 33-37 record from '01 through '04. Only Matt Anderson was a flop (15-7).

There are also three current pitchers who can't be evaluated yet -- David Price, key to Rays going to the Series last year, looks like a possible star, beat the O's last night), Luke Hochevar (decent starter for KC, 25, may win 10 this year) and Bryan Bullington (looks like a bust so far, but is in the majors.)

The issue surrounding Strasburg and his pay is not whether he will be a good major league pitcher. The eight No. 1s from college who have finished their careers averaged exactly 100 wins. Odds are that he will be. The problem is that no pitchers taken in the early rounds have turned out to be great (Hall of Famers or close to it). And agent Boras tried to sell Strasbrg as a future great.

The Nats wanted to pay Strasburg in line with past history -- a 50-to-75-percent chance that he'd be a good-to-very-good pitcher, but little chance he'd be a great pitcher, mixed with a 10-to-20 percent chance he'd be a disappointment.

The Nats and their fans have good reason to be excited -- that is if they get a Benes, Belcher, Moore or Bannister, all mainstays and workhorses for many years. Sooner or later, a No. 1-overall pick will be a great pitcher. Maybe it's Strasburg. The history of No. 2-overall picks is more encouraging. Josh Beckett (drafted out of high school), Jason Verlander, J.R. Richard (out of HS), Bill Gullickson (162 wins, HS), Greg Swindell (123). Also, Mark Prior (42-29) and Mark Mulder (103-60) who were big stars until their careers ended with injuries. But there have been a lot more pitchers taken with the second pick and quite a few of them have have been busts.

In other words, the odds are very good that Strasburg will have plenty of 10-win seasons. The harder question: How many 20-win seasons will he have? None of the No. 1-overalls did it. But among the No. 2-overalls, Beckett, Mulder, Swift, Gullickson and Richard were all 20-game winners.

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Manny who?: I note you have moved your views on Acta and his effectiveness as the Nats manager. What is the current thinking in baseball on Acta? Will he get a job this winter or is he headed to the Spanish media side of MLB?

Tom Boswell: The Nats position, as recently as this morning, is, "We still love Manny. But we're glad we have Riggleman." I think it's clear that Manny looked zoned-out beaten to fans, though not to his players. But they were all worn out with losing, needed a change for change sake. And Rigglemnan does run a game better, IMO. He was bench coach, but I don't think Manny switched pitchers in mid-inning to get "matchups" as much as Rig. Manny wanted to build long-term confidence, not yank'em, save the pen. Rig wants to win with what he's got. And which of these guys, besides Burnett and maybe Clippard or Bergmann, has a longer-term place in the picture anyway?

The better Rigg does, the worse for Manny's reputation, fair or not.

By the way, it's happening again -- the Riggleman No. 1-overall Draft Pick Curse. He helped the Mariners improve their defense and play with more focus after he took over in mid-season last year. The net result: They improved just enough so that they passed the Nats and lost the rights to the Strasburg draft pick! So, Riggleman ended up getting Stasburg for himself -- a year later. Looks like the Nats, one game over .500 under Riggleman, may be good enough -- ok, less awful enough -- to avoid 100 loses and Worst Record.

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Washington, D.C.: Tom

Is Stan done and looking for an exit strategy? It might not get any better than this month if the Lerners really are as controlling going forward as they have been these first 3 years.

Tom Boswell: If Kasten gets the kind of support ($$) from ownership in free agency this winter, I think he's around for awhile. Stan looks like a man who wants to stick around and see the vindication of his plan. He really likes to be proven right. Ever notice that about him? And he really doesn't like to leave town with tin cans tied to his tail. There are people who'd like to see him leave. They are going to be disappointed for quite some time, I suspect. Post-Strasburg, with Rizzo being announced at 4 p.m. as GM, he's a lot happier and more optimistic about the fture.

But if this off-seasoin is one long "no, no, no," when he walks up those golden stairs for deal approval, then that will probably change. As Weaver said, "Everything chanes everything." And Strasburg changed a lot.

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Takoma Park, Md.: Hey, thanks for the chats. A couple weeks ago you mentioned in a column that the Nats should extend Dunn's deal. I think you're 100 percent right about that. A guy like him with his power game has a lot of good years ahead of him, in my humble opinion. I know Marrero is coming up through the minors, but what do think are the odds the Nats front office shares our opinion and takes your advice?

Tom Boswell: The Nats should try very hard to extend Dunn and as soon as possible. Is Marrero goes to hit 400, 500 or more home runs? Dunn is. "Dunn is the most misjudged guys I've ever seen," said one Nat exec recently. "Great slugger, great guy in the clubhouse, a colorful character." Also, he's already better (less bad) than I thought he'd be at first base. His big target seems to help Zimmerman overcome his throwing prolems (fears).

Those who think he is a terrible outfielder because of dubious fielding metrics (that, imo, are often wildly inacurate) are just wrong. Nobody gives up astronomical numbers of runs in LF -- 30-40+ runs a season. It's silly. There aren't enough at-the-margin plays out there to make that much difference. How can you possibly watch the game for years, have a sense of the range of an "average" outfielder, and think that Dunn (or anybody else) has that much negative impact?

However, at first base, there is absolutely no way that poor defense can cost tons of runs. Some, sure. But Dunn is no Dr. Strangeglove.

In short, Dunn was a steal. He said he'd hit .270-.280, not his <.250 career average. He may do it. Sign him up for more years, then figure out Marrero later.

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Raleigh, N.C.: My understaning of arbitration in MLB is limited but if I read it correctly, the Nats have the "rights" to Strasburg for six years: the four year contract he signed plus two more arbitration years. Is that correct?

Tom Boswell: The Nats have rights to him for six years, just like any other rookie. They've settled on his bonus and salary for the first four years. He'll get arbitration, if he wants it, for years 5 and 6.

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Strasburg: We are seeing more and more young pitching phenoms go down with bad arms, with Zimmerman being the latest example. Could it be that the human arm is literallly just not supposed to put the type of stress that these pitchers create with their "stuff?" And therefore, what are the chances that Strasburg ruins his arm with his 102 mph fastball and nasty slider??

Tom Boswell: See my earlier post on No. 1 and No. 2 overall picks. There's a significant danger of injury with any pitcher. But Tommy John has been pretty much mastered. Josh Johnson and Josh Beckett have come back from it. As long as his shoulder is okay, he should have a long career.

Everybody talks about his down side. Flip the coin. I'll do a piece soon about the upside for pitchers who have Strasburg's specific profile -- for size, stuff and control -- at the same age (21). It's stunningly good.

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The District, Washington, D.C.: I don't know how Kasten and the Lerners think, but when I hire people who haven't worked with me before, I have to allow for the risk that what I think and hope I'm getting, and what I actually get, are not the same thing.

The Nats know Rizzo and he appears to have done a good job in all respects. Why would they even consider the risks of hiring an outsider for GM?

Tom Boswell: I think they always leaned toward Rizzo. Maybe more heavily than people think. Remember, Rizzo was the first person hired the day that the Lerners and Kasten took control of the team. Hire No. 1 has meaning. Even if rebuilding the farm system is his first task.

However, Kasten loves to do "searches" for GMs. What an opportunity to pick some of the best minds in the game and ask, "What do you think of our teams." Since they want the job, they say what they really think. Especially with a bad team they are not going to mince words.

"There are 10 people still walking around today who are convinced they were No. 2 in the search for the Braves job after John in Atlanta," said Kasten. "That's fine with me. One 'real No. 2' for this (Nats) job hasn't even been mentioned by anybody. Confidentiality matters in GM searches."

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Anonymous: So how soon do we see Straus pitching in a Nats uniform. Any betting pools going on that date?

Tom Boswell: I think he'll get 10 starts in the minors in '10. (Prior had nine). Then come up if all is still going well. Wait until the weather gets warm. I'd say June 1st next year.

If they rush this guy, I'll kill 'em. If they leave him in for 110-to-130 pitches, start after start, as Dusty Baker did with Prior and Woods, I'll kill 'em. Of course, that may not stop 'em! Baseball-Reference has all the game-by-game pitch counts for Prior and Wood. It's criminal. I'm surprsied they survived as long as they did and were as exceptional. These 6-foot-5 220-pound guys who throw 98+ can take a lot of abuse. That does not mean that they should.

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Columbia, Md.: Boz, Do you think the Nats will keep Adam Dunn for next year, I know he's signed for it. If not, what about the O's? I think he would fit in great, and is what they need to turn a corner. Thoughts?

Tom Boswell: The Nats have their 3-4-5 hitters for '10 and '11. Zim is signed for five years. Willingham is under club control through '11. And I'll be amazed if they don't extend Dunn. He seems to love D.C. And D.C. should love him. Those who nag Dunn are blind. I've watched hard-hitting lineups and winning teams be buld around cleanup hitters like him for decades. Except his walks make him better than some of them. Harmon Killebrew, Reggie Jackson. He's already better than Willie McCovey (2 40-homer years, 4 100 RBI years) or Wille Stargell (2 40-homer years, 5 100 RBI years). Go on, look it up. Even adjusted for more offense in this era Dunn's better half-way through his career than many, many highly-regarded cleanup hitters of the past. There's no reason he won't age as well of better than the Willies.

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Arlington, Va.: The Nat's failed to sign their first-round pick from last year, Aaron Crowe. The pitcher was drafted again in the first round this year, but has yet to sign (with Kansas City). Doesn't this redeem the Nats (i.e., Bowden) just a little from the ridicule that was visited on them at the time?

Tom Boswell: For now, it looks good for the Nats. Crowe still unsigned, perhaps delusional or stubborn about his value. Drew Storen looking very good in the minors. (How did Rizzo do on that pick? Everybody said "signability." Rizzo said, "Polished. Smart. Major league ready in a hurry."

But draft picks can only be measured years later. In 5 years we'll know the shape of Crowe and Storen's career. Remember to nag me if Storen is excellent. I said I'd have drafted Strasburg and G Green (SS) at No. 1 and 10.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Boz,

What are the chances that Scott Boras' attempt to fiddle with the slotting system was merely a smokescreen, that he knew no team in MLB would go for it, just to make whatever the final dollar amount ended up being a lot more palatable to the Nats front office and fans? If you'd told me right when Strasburg was drafted that the Nats would pay him $15 million over four years or whatever, I would have cringed. Now, after all the posturing, $15 mil almost sounds like a bargain.

Tom Boswell: Since Opening Day the Nats have worked on the theory that they could get Strasburg signed for $12-14M because, from all their back-channel sources, he wanted to play so badly and wasn't a money-is-everything. They gambled that he wasn't a "Boras foot-soldier." I wondered if they were right and how much they'd bend if $12-14M wasn't enough.

The Nats and Strasburg both got an excellent deal. Boras looks like he oversold a flimsy case -- the strained analogy between Dice-K ($52M) and Strasburg. But Boras still got him 50% more than anybody ever.

All sides handled themselves well. The Lerners-Kasten-Rizzo hit a number that MLB (Bud) can live with. But it didn't lead to any cheering in other front offices. The benchmark still moved up.

Remember, the amateur drafts is (legally) rigged. teams are supposed to get great bargains there -- if the players pan out -- because so many are flops. Boras told methat he thought "99.5%" of all drafted players were not worth the money, but that his studies (hold the laughter, he's studied everything and can prove anything-and it's opposite) showed that the "elite" picks were a bargin.

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Annapolis, Md.: Boz

Have you talked with Strasburg? Kasten et al seem to think he's got a lot going for him personality-wise, just wants to play, etc. Do you have the same impression of him as a regular guy who just wants to perform?

Tom Boswell: Seemed like a regular guy when I talked to him at the All-Star game. No chatter box. Pitchers need "baseball intelligence" -- understanding of their own mechanics and how to correct them in mid-game, a sense of how to "read hitters" based on the previous pitch. We'll see over the next couple of years how well he does at that. Tony Gwynn and Davey Johnson, who have both coached him, seemed to think he was just fine in this area. Davey really loved him at the Olympics and thinks he's going to be one of the Big Names for a long time. Davey is hard to satisfy.

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Washington, D.C.: Bos - what are the medium to long term solutions for the Nats at short stop, second base, and right field? Free agents? Guzman, Gonzalez, and Dukes don't look like long-term answers.

Tom Boswell: Move Guzman to second base next year. I think this will happen. Get a human vacuum cleaner to play short stop and bat eighth. (Human Vacuum Cleaners are always on sale.) Dukes is a problem. He still looks like a .240-.250 hitter with lots of K's. So he better have power. He jaked on a play in RF last night. He's not nearly good enough to play at less than 100% and survive with the Nats. Especially with Rizzo who just won't put up with it. He'll be high-characer every minute he's on the field or he'll be gone before next year.I hope he makes it. He likes to hit in RBI situations. But it would be natural to look for a 20-HR lefthanded bat in RF to hit between Willingham (RH) and Flores (RH).

It's nice to have young mediocre starters stock-piled now. None of them impress me much. But maybe somebody thinks they see something and you can trade "inventory" for a hitter. It would be better if Dukes would just wake up,hit more balls to RF, then go for the pump in hitter's counts. He needs to see far more pitches. He has a good eye and can draw walks. He's a "mistake hitter." So he needs to give 'em as many chances as possible to throw him a mistake.

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Rizzo as GM: If, indeed, he is to be have the "interim GM" tag removed today, what is your opinion on the decision, and on his performance in the GM role to date?

Tom Boswell: I'm sure I'll write that column for tommorow.

But getting Nyjer Morgan could really be significant. He has both raised and changed his game since he left Pittsburgh. Morgan had four bunt hitts and 8 total infield hits in Pitts in 278 at bats. In DC in 171 at bats, he already has 10 bunt hits and 16 total infield hits.

Also, in Pitts (and throughout his career) he has been an abysmal hitter against LH pitching. He hit .151 off leftied in Pitts __as bad as I've ever heard of. Pitchers hit that well. With DC, Nyjer still can't hit 'em (.192), but he is more patient and has gotten enough walks and HBP to have a .353 on-base percentage as a nat off lefties!

Morgan is a career .300 hiter with an OPB over .360. He's stolen 22 bases in 43 games for the Nats. So, even when his bat cools down to normal levels, he looks like a 50-60 steal man. And every game he looks like a more remarkable CF. I don't want to go overboard to fast. His arm is average. But I think he changes the whole defense as well as some pitcher's mentality.

And that's a Rizzo "call" on talent that others missed. As Boras said, "Rizzo knows his %^$#@. He has an eye." Boras also thought the Nats would be too dumb to hire him as GM because he's not slick enough as a speaker. Wrong.

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Desmond model Hoover : Boz,

If the Nats move Guzman to 2B, what are the chances that they have their human vacuum cleaner already in Desmond?

Tom Boswell: Good question. Anybody out there seen Desmond play in person enough to have an opinion?

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Alexandria, Va.: Hiya Tom

Any chance that the Nats, led by new G.M. Mike Rizzo, might pursue the 21-yr-old lefty fireballer phenom who recently defected from Cuba (Aroldis Chapman)?

After all, he has another legitimate 102-mph fastball, like Stephen Strasburg, right?

Or do the Yankees have the inside track, with both money and a potential salesman mentor of the likes of El Duque?

Tom Boswell: Strasburg's salary was set in a fixed market where only the Nats could bid. So they had every advanatge. For any big international player, they have to compete with everybody, including the big spenders. So I assume they have absolutely no chance whatsoever.

The Nats have now gotten Dunn, Willingham, Zimmerman and Strasburg at what are clearly bargain prices or close to it. What lesson is that going to teach? probably "Spend, but with restraint." That's better than "Spend? What's that?"

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Fairfax, Va.: Interesting comment on Rizzo being "not slick enough" for some. Perhaps there's a column for you in comparing Rizzo to Boudreau, who feels he was held back from the NHL because he didn't "look" like a pro. The two seem to be somewhat similar in terms of visual perception by others.

Tom Boswell: Nice!

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Usain Bolt is a Tall Man: Hi Boz,

A non-baseball, -football or -any-other-team-sport question/comment for ya:

In Michael Wilbon's column today about Usain Bolt, the only part of this essay that is spot-on are these words:

"It's the height (6 feet 5), it's the stride".

Bolt has transformed the sprint because up until last summer, the conventional wisdom has always been that tall people can't sprint fast. Bolt just blew that theory out of the water. When he starts competing against runners as tall or taller than he is, only then will he truly be challenged. Until then, Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell and the rest of those shrimps might as well forfeit any race with Bolt in it.

Whattya think?

washingtonpost.com: Michael Wilbon: Usain Bolt Can Outrun Everything But a Cynical Public (Washington Post, Aug. 20)

Tom Boswell: In Beijing all anybody talked about when Bolt was discussed was his height. How can anybody that tall get out of the blocks and get into full gear fast enough to win a less-than-10-second race? And how can anybody that tall have just as many r.p.m.'s in his stride as somebody who's 5-foot-11 and a ball of muscle?

But he can do it. So that's why the sky is the limit. Once at full speed -- and his start was still technically poor in China -- he gains ground with every stride.

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Alexandria, Va.: Nyjer Morgan has made watching the Nats so much more fun. I love watching him drop a bunt and make it to first base. I love his range in the outfield. How long is he likely to stay here?

Tom Boswell: Forever.

This is only his third year in the big leagues and he probably won't even have three full years of "time" by the end of this season. So, at least three more years and maybe four -- minimum.

Get used to him. He's a ball. Dirty uniform, tats, hockey-tough, hat cocked, eyes darting to pick up every detail, funny, T-Plush. And I think he'll be a team leader. fans in Pittsburgh were screaming an anger when he left. And he was stuck in LF there.

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The Airless Cubicle: Dumb question: Who pays for a MLB players' bats, the team or the player?

Tom Boswell: I don't know!!!!

(Probably the team. The union makes sure they pay for everything except the air he breaths.)

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Lufkin, Texas: An article on ESPN. com is really talking up Rizzo, improvement on his watch, and organizational stability. There is no mention of managing candidates going forward. Who do you see in the dugout next April?

washingtonpost.com: Baseball Prospectus: How the Washington Nationals can use Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman & Co. to become contenders (ESPN.com, Aug. 20)

Tom Boswell: If the team continues to play well -- and survives the N.L. East showdowns in September -- it will be Riggleman.

If the team folds it's tent and quits on him, it won't be. It's that simple. But if they keep playing anything like this, he stays. Maybe he's just a "transistional manager." Or maybe he's found a home. The young pitchers besdes Lannan may decide his fate. Man, they all take turns -- they look adequate one day then horrible the next. probably for the best for the truth about them to come out nopw and not be disguised by a nice year from Zimermann.

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Marketing Hype: Will Strasburg be the new marketing 'face of the franchise' for next season, Boz? Strasburg has generated a lot of 'buzz' and the Nats should be smart enough to take advantage and market the heck out of this guy. He'll generate more than $15-16M in revenue regardless of whether he becomes a great pitcher or not.

Tom Boswell: Look at the awful crowds the last two nights for the Rockies games. They need to do anything they can to get the town back. If marketing Strasburg shamelessly helps, do it. The other players want fans in the seats. They get it. They're on SS's side because he signed for a sane amount and they desperately need a Beckett, Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, Ubaldo Jimenez (what great stuff), Tim Lincecum, Josh Johnson or Matt Cain in their lives.

And that's who everybody in baseball thinks Strasburg resembles, assuming he's healthy and isn't intimidated by the bg leagues. Why would he be?

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Washington, D.C.: Guzman to second? Seriously? I know you've brought it up before, but has anyone else? Are you making this up or have you actually heard such an idea.

Tom Boswell: Yes.

But it's for the future, not mid-season. And various people have to buy into it -- like Guzzy. But it's gone beyond the "in the wind" stage.

This guy has another 3-4-5 years in him as a .315-hitting second baseman.

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Bethesda, Md.: Ooooh, good eye in comparing Rizzo to Boudreau! I've been reading excerpts of Boudreau's forthcoming autobiography, and he talks a lot about the perceptions people had of him because he was "short, fat, and dumpy." lol. I'd love to see each of them talking about the other and how perhaps a lack of polish might have held them back but their knowledge and skill still came out.

Tom Boswell: Rizzo isn't "short, fat and dumpy."

Those of us who have heard the words, "You look like a catcher. Here's a mask," like to say that we are "stocky."

Actually, I don't think Riz was a catcher. 'll hae to ask him. And he's in (a lot) better shape.

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DiPoto for assistant GM?: Boz,

After the Edes-fueled rumors yesterday, does DiPoto still have a shot at the assistant GM job here, or did the unnamed sources close to him ruin his chances?

Tom Boswell: Ha!

Edes is a good reporter. I'm sure he had multiple sources. Who were all completely wrong. or had an aggenda. Who knows? As soon as I saw it, I called an editor and told him, "This is ridiculous. They're on the verge of naming Rizzo as soon as they get around to it." One Nats official said, "Gordan is good. But sometimes you get one a million-percent wrong."

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Arlington, Va.: What do you think of tying players to goal posts and pouring ice water on them? They call it rookie hazing. I would call it something else. Time for players to grow up.

Tom Boswell: This seems to have worked so well for the Redskins the last 18 years that I think they should go right on doing it.

Actually, I prefer that hazing and such, if it has to be done, take place in public. If frat houses did all their initiating on the house lawn in full view of the campus there were be a lot less sad stories.

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Virgil, N.Y.: So what did Rizzo see in Morgan that others missed?

Tom Boswell: Everything.

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Arlington, Va.: Tom;

I'm a five-year season ticket holder and was on the verge of not renewing. However with the Strasburg signing and from what we have witnessed since the All-Star break, I'm once again juiced to lay out the cash.

Can we at a minimum expect a .500 team in 2010? Or is this going to be like the Redskins: Six months of hype only to be let down after a few weeks.

Tom Boswell: I'm going to be back in the season-ticket line.

Lets say Strasburg (24 starts), Lannan (33) and Free Agent X (33) make 90 starts and the team is 47-43 in those games. That's an aggressive but not crazy assumption. Then say they are a .425 team in the other 70 games (31 wins).

They go 78-84.

Tht's just ballpark guessing. But for summer entertainment, it sure beats 100 loses.

How much does a True Ace mean to a team? In the last eight years, Toronto is 145-84 (.631) in Roy Halladay's starts and 477-544 (.467) in its other games. A diffference of +.164 when he starts.

As they say, you do the math.

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Rizzo/Boudreau article: Don't forget Ralph Friedgen!

Tom Boswell: !!!

Go on, write my column for me. I love it.

Chatters for MVP!

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Desmond: I have seen Ian play many times. Rocket for an arm. Great range. The knock on him is he makes the difficult play look easy but fumbles on the easy play ... when he has time to think.

Tom Boswell: Thanks very much.

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Dunn-ville: Boz, I agree with you on signing Dunn now -- earlier the better. At minimum, he is a tradeable commodity and always will be. He's been better at first base than he was in left field, and can sub him out for defense in late innings.

What gets me (well, beyond his strikeouts, of course) is how often he'll watch a borderline called third strike with RISP. I'm all for getting walks with no one on, but with ducks on the pond, that's your role Dunn! Get 'em in! Especially with two outs!

Tom Boswell: No, no, no, no!!!

Yes, he took a backwards "K" again last night in a key spot. But you don't change a guy who is about to join Babe Ruth as the only player to hit 40 hoimers for more than five years in a row. (This would be Dunn's sixth. Ruth did it seven in a row.)

Dunn is a fully formed hitter and an excellent one. You have to Take The Whole Package. He's not a robot with knobs in his head that you can adjust in a RISP spot.

Actually, Dunn is already expanding his game. He beat the shift with two "situational" infield hits to the left side last night. But never ask him to expand his strike zone. That is core to him.

But then the moron component of the Red Sox fan base in Boston tried to get Ted Williams to "expand his strike zone" with RISP for 20 years. Maybe this issue is one litmus test for determining which people are born nay sayers and which are capable of recognizing excellence while allowing it to exist in different forms.

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Falls Church, Va.: Maybe the question should be, not "What did other teams miss in Morgan?", but "How could they miss it?" From the first game that I saw him play, I knew he was special. If Rizzo can see it and ordinary-fan me can see it ... how did Pittsburgh miss it?

Tom Boswell: The Bucs didn't have him in CF much and I don't even think they had him at leadoff much. he didn't have the green light there like he does here. he's stealing much more often in DC and bunting much more often.

Oh, and it doesn't hurt when, finally, at 29, somebody says, "You're the man. We love the way you play. You're in there every day. Now go show the world what you've got."

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Rizzo / Boudreau / Fridge: Trembley too.

Tom Boswell: My God, we have a monopoly.

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Arlington, Va.: There were early leaks about Manny being fired, and they were (for a long while at least) wrong. There were leaks of Rizzo not being named GM, and they were wrong. I figure either (a) The Nats front office is a battlefield of conflicting interests, using the media as a weapon, (b) Some source is just been plain ol' wrong, or (c) Some source is intentionally lying for some reason. What do you think? It seems to me that, no matter the answer, there must be one or more sources in the Nats' front office that can no longer be trusted as genuine leaks.

Tom Boswell: No, actually that's backwards. Most, if not all of these supposed "leaks" are from people outside the Nats organization who have no idea what is going with the team and have only a glancing inerest in the club. Then, when the Nats are a "hot" subject for 5 minutes, they pretend that they have "inside" sources when what they really have are "outside guessers." Whom they are foolish enough to believe or at least quote anonymously. Ah, the 24/7 Internet age. It's pressures and low standards definitely contribute to the Dumbing Down of the culture, even the sport culture.

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Washington, D.C.: I see your point about projecting out career numbers for draft picks, but it's not like Strasburg is guaranteed to be with the Nats beyond his controlled years. He has Boras, remember. You've cited Alex Rodriguez, Griffey, and other hitters as successful HOF-caliber players picked with the first selection, but those players don't stay with the drafting team. In this era, it's all about free agency. So as long as Strasburg is productive through 2014, wasn't he a good pick?

Tom Boswell: Absolutely.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Hendo here... Re Ian Desmond, I've seen him at Arizona Fall League last fall and a bit in the minors this season. Hard worker, average range, becoming more patient at the plate. Still somewhat of an iron glove (26 errorss this season at AA-AAA).

Helluva nice guy. Leo Durocher would approve, even as he appended his famous caveat.

Tom Boswell: I like the added info. I don't like 26 erroprs at SS at any level. The bush league infields ain't that bad.

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Alexandria, Va.: Boz, Mike Rizzo played 1B-2B-3B-OF in the minors at A ball and was a teammate of Wally Joyner in 1983 at Peoria. But mostly he was a DH for his three years ('82-'84).

washingtonpost.com: Michael Rizzo Minor League Statistics (Baseball Reference)

Tom Boswell: Thanks.

Hey, a real "chat." I like it. Been waiting for that dynamic.

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Fairfax, Va.: I'm with you on Dunn and the backwards Ks Boz. People always forget that baseball is such an intricate game and having Dunn change his approach on those pitches would have a ripple effect throughout his game. His strike zone changes a little bit and then he misses an important knock or two another time... Let him do his thing.

Tom Boswell: Check.

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The guy that said Tiger wouldn't win another major with the Hank Haney swing: I'm 1 for 1. :)

Tom Boswell: Noted, Mr. The Guy.

Sorry I didn't get to write about Tiger this week. Strasburg/Rizzo blew it up.

I have always said that at some point in his career Tiger would, like every player who has ever lived, "learn to lose." Life or age or injury or the odds or your own self-doubts (even Tiger must have one or two) catch up with you -- to a degree. But I wondered if it would happen at 25, 28, 32, 37 or after 40 -- which for a goldfer would be tantamount to "never." Nicklaus learned how to lose at 36-37-38-and-39. Kept falling short -- just barely. Lots of runnerup finiashes. That's why his two major wins in '80, at age 40, we hailed very emotionally -- as "Jack is back."

Is Tiger on the verge of "learning to lose" in the majors. It's going to happen. He's not Superman. But it's a gradual process. You could see it in Jack's face over those late-30's years. "Damn, another bad putting week at the wrong time" or "That kid Watson beat me again. Am I getting a little older?"

I thought I saw a little of it in Tiger's face for the first time when Yang wouldn't fold, then chipped in, then Tiger couldn't make The Tiger Putts when he needed to.

But Woods is resilient. He'll fight it. If I know it then he knows it and more.

First you have to learn how to win.

Then you have to fight learning how to lose.

Then, at the end, which may be 10-15 years from now for Tiger, you just hope that, somehow, you can win one more.

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Falls Church, Va.: How many bad fielders can a championship caliber team afford to have in their starting lineup? With Dunn and Willingham, the Nationals already have two. Can they keep both and still have a chance to win a title?

Tom Boswell: Two.

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Washington, D.C.: So, who do you think will end up with more wins at the end of the season: The Nats or the O's?

Tom Boswell: Pythagoras says they are virtually identical teams.

Tillman looks very good. But, man, 9 gopher balls in 30 innings is astronomical and scary.The hitters give you as much info about a new pitcher as your own eyes. They just blast every Balester mistake. Encouraging that Detwiler only allowed three homers in 51 innings although, otherwise, he didn't seem hard to hit.'mann gaveup 10 homers in 91.1 IP. Okay. Not wonderful. But all his other ratios were exceptional.

Okay, this is ridiculous. I just saw what time it is. I say, "Sorry," to the chat moderator.

See you all next week. Skins on Saturday night!

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