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Thomas Boswell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 27, 2009; 11:00 AM

Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell will be online Thursday, August 27, at 11 a.m. ET to take your questions about the Nats, Orioles, Redskins, Tiger Woods and the latest sports news and his recent columns.

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Boswell Discussion Archives

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Tom Boswell: Glad to have Livo back. He loves DC. That counts, too, in whether he has a good impact on the team this year and perhaps next year, too.

My take on Livan is that he's the same pitcher (exactly) that he was when he left DC in '06. Exactly the same. He was 9-8 with a 5.34 ERA then and is 7-8 with a 5.36 now.)Same stuff. Same results. He's not what he used to be. His last good year was probably '05. He could still hit 89-90 then. But he's very useful. And I think he has 2-3 more good Livan-type years in him. What is "Livan type?"

'06 13-13 4.83 216ip/34s

'07 11-11 4.93 204/33s

'08 13-11 6.05 180/31

'09 7-8 5.36 141/24, 6-7 more starts, 180+ IP.

How can a guy with an ERA over 5.00 for the last four years have a (winning) 44-43 record?

Partly it's "he's a winner, clutch pitcher, better in close games, bunts and hits well, etc."

But mostly it's just his percentage of quality starts. When he gets rolling, he has a good game. He gets other lineups muttering to themselves and feeds off it. When he has a bad night, it's sometimes really bad __5-6-7-8 runs. But half the time, he wins and the team wins. And I think he'll be that way with the Nats. Do they need 31/33 starts, 185/200 innings, and 11-11 record with a 4.90/5.30 ERA? In '10, probably. By '11, sure hope not.

This year, Livan has 13 quality starts in 24 starts, including last night __52%. Only one Nats starter, Lannan (15/26) is even close. Nobody else is over 40% (Martis, 6/15). Aside from Lannan, all the rest of the Nats staff has 31 quality starts in 100 games.

THAT is why their records are so bad despite the team's fine offense. They often pitch respectably (for rookies) but they only pitch well enough to WIN about a third of the time. Livan does it more than half the time. I'm not worshipping the 'quality start stat.' Create your own standard. Livan will come out much higher than any Nat except Lannan.

Also, Livan goes 7 innings or more far more often than any Nats pitcher __eight times in 23 starts. Ballester, Zimmermann, Stammen, Mock, Detwiler, Cabrera and Martin have only gone 7 innings six times in 74 starts. They almost NEVER give the bullpen an easy 0-1-or-2 IP night. Livan gets KOes occassionally. But overall he's easier on your bullpen.

Because his bad games can make his ERA fluctuate (and pitching in Colorado inflated it one year), it's easy to think that Livan has "better or worse" seasons. He doesn't. He's the same. Exactly the same, at least the last four years. He's an average big league pitcher who can have a .500 winning percenatage and, even at 34 or whatever age he is, pitch about 200 IP. For his whole career, he has averaged 53% quality starts. In '06-'07-'08 he had 50 QS in 98 games (51%). This year, 54% entering lastr night. The major league average for QS is 49% __much better than every Nat except Lannan, but not quite Livan.

The Nats should be patient with him and consider him very seriously for next season. That is, unless, with Zimmermann hurt and Strasburg unproven, they think they have five starters who are better than 11-11, never miss a start, have 17 QS in 33 games and 11 games with 7IP or more. (IMO, they probably don't.)

Of course, if his last three bad starts in NY mean that his arm is suddenly dead, that's different. Someday, it'll die. But it looks just the same to me. And he's always had brief slumps when his mechanics got off and he "misplaced a pitch," and needed a week or two to "find it" again.

I enjoy Livan a lot and hope the young pitchers, especially the RHers with marginal stuff, like Stammen and Martin, can lean a lot. Martis told me he wants to learn the swing-back fastball. Except Maddux, Livan has one of the best. Mock is more a stuff pitcher, at this point, but maybe he can pick up some tricks, too.


Arlington, Va.: Nyjer Morgan has been a great addition to the Nats; what is his contract status? Can/will the Nats lock him up? And, will he get a chance to skate with the Caps?

Tom Boswell: Morgan was rookie in '07 and only stayed in the majors for parts of '07 and '08. The Nats have him under "club control" for at least three more seasons. Maybe somebody can check his exact MLB time and post it.

Though Mrgan, 29, and Willingham, 30, are not young, like Flores, Dukes and the young starters, the Nats still control them (Josh through '11) because they got to the big leagues late.


Washington, D.C. in the 35332: Two questions,

So we know where Stephen Strasburg is going to be throwing a bit in the Fall and Florida, where do you see him pitching after spring training and next season? Do you see him starting in AA or AAA?

On Rizzo, how long is the team going to give him to turn things around? I love the moves he has made to date, but what has been his best move to date in your opinion, is it obvious like the Morgan trade or something more subtle?

Tom Boswell: The Cubs gave Mark Prior, the closest comparable pitcher when he came out of USC, 6 starts at AA, then 3 at AAA, then brought him up. (He was 5-2, 2.27 in minors.) After his mid-season call up in '02, Prior went 6-6 with a 3.32 ERA and 147 K's in 116.2 IP!

The Cubs coulkdn't wait to ruin him. He had a 135-pitch game as a rookie. The next year, as 22, Prior had 14 games with more than 110 pitches, then managed by Duty Baker. FWIW, Kerry Wood has used pretty hard by the Cubs when he came up in '98 __and Jim Riggleman was the manager. I guess maybe the orders came down from above. Use 'em. Get publicity. In '98, at 21, Wood had 233 K's in 166.2 innings, including that 9-1-0-0-0-20 game in his fifth start. But he threw 122 to 133 pitches in seven games for Rig. So, don't do that again with Strasburg! I mentioned Baker's (infamous) use of both Cubs and Jim din't say anything. I forgot he had Wood in '98. Touchy Cub subject.

Kasten said that Rizzo is the "permanent" GM. Kasten believes that GM is a VERY long-term position and, as part of solidifying that impression, never gives the length of contract. But he said "years." One reason they took a while to take the interim off Rizzo is because, at least as long as Stan is callng the shots, he thinks you still with GM's for many years. Consider Rizzo a fixture.

My view of Rizzo is that he has a wonderful eye for players __like picking up Lizan. He's comfortable with Rigglman as manager, imo, but if the club collapses in September then you have evaluate that, too. By adding Livan he cerainly increases Rig's chances of having a credible finish. And 18-20 so far is very strong.

Strasburg is


Washington, D.C.: Now that the court ruled that seizing the 2003 MLB tests results was illegal, will MLB get their information back? They promised to release the information to David Ortiz when it became available, will he be able to prove/not prove anything now? Or will this stay hidden for months/years/until he retires and nobody cares anymore?

Tom Boswell: Don't know the answers yet. Bt this underlines why I have always maintained that ALL the names should not "come out." Lots of people (I don't actually remember who, but I remember there were plenty and it annoyed me) got on their soap boxes and said, "Tell us everything." It's not their life or reputation so, sure, let it all come out. But that position doesn't look very good now, does it?


Washington, D.C.: Who is the best free agent the Nats could hope to get at the following positions?

1) Second Base

2) Right Field

2) Shortstop


Tom Boswell: Probably the wrong list.

1) Reliever: R. Soriano from Atlanta would be the best available, I believe. A proven reliever is an absolute must so Storen isn't rushed and they know it. It will happen. This will be their most important addition. They feel they may need two relievers.

2) Starting pitcher: Livan Somebody. They aren't going to go after the top of the rotation guys like Lackey and (I believe) Danny Haren. Thy really got burned by passing up Wolf (9-6, 3.25), Looper (11-6, 4.47) and Garland (7-11, 4.48) last winter when prices were falling fast and Bowden thought they could have gotten any of these guys __Wolf for three years was his preference. Nats wouldn't meet the price.

3) RF: The Nats still have OFers they want to find out about, like Maxwell. Despite his recent RBI run, Dukes looks like he isn't even a consistently good RF. Dropped a ball carelessly last night and misplayed another over his head. Poor base runner. Elijah needs a good September. verybody wants him to succeed, but don't be amazed if the Nats "non-tender" him if he finishes weakly. The Nats need all the defense they can get with Dunn and Willingham both on the D. Look at Dukes "hit distribution" on MLB.com. It's awful. he has only two hits all season to the right of the 370-foot sign in right. He tries to pull everything. Never goes to RF. Doesn't even hit grounders to the right side. All his fly balls to RF are when he's late on fastballs. As I've said, he has Dan Uggla-like potential as a slugger, but he has to become a better student of the game and pretty quickly. JMO.


Bethesda, Md.: Boz,

There has been a bit of a hoo-hah in the SABR LISTserv about Weingarten's column on Sunday. While I'm a SABR member, I'm not exactly exercised, after all, it is Weingarten.

To me, the real question is the one that Weingarten raised, and which no one (including us SABRmetricians) can seem to answer adequately: Why no left-handed catchers?

Comment? Do you have an answer?

By the way, I've coached and umpired left-handed catchers and I have yet to see a problem.

washingtonpost.com: Gene Weingarten : Weenies at the Ballgame: A Frank Look at Baseball Statisticians (Washington Post, Aug. 23)

Tom Boswell: I missed Gene's piece. Just scaned the first few graphs. The search for the Unified Field Theory will be completed before SABR developes metrics that demystify baseball much beyond the current level of improved understanding. And I'm a stat nut. Still proud that at baseball-reference.com you can find my Total Average for every player who ever lived. However, I think the gnre has reached a point of diminishing rturns. I suspect that the pretense of being able to compute defensive value with any precision will be the rock their ship flunders on. But it really is delicious to live in the age of "splits" and "charts" for where players hit balls and their tendencies in every situation. Lots of noise, but plenty of it meaningful. Why do married players with children tend to hit better in day games at home than in home night games while single players do better at night at home? I'm not kidding. I think there is a pattern. The married guys get home from the road and they have to be dads and fathers all day (as they should) and come to the park tired. So a day game suits them fine. The unmarrieds party too much and need to recover the next day, so they do better in night home games.

Okay, there is a senior thesis in this for somebody!

The conventional wisdom is that LH catchers are hindered by the 2-to-1 dominance of RH hitters. IOW, they are twice as likely to have to "throw through the hitter" on a steal. This is especially tough on a steal of 3rd. Anybody got any other reasons, besides convention?


Prince William Co., Va.: If Riggleman is not retained as manager for 2010, which of the possible replacements -- Melvin, Valentine, maybe Randolph -- has the best track record of handling young pitchers? I want to avoid a Dusty Baker situation at all costs with Strasburg, Lannan, etc..

Tom Boswell: Just want to say that Valentine is NOT a candidate in the Nats eyes. He is "a Bowden guy." Randolph didn't distinguish himself. He looked overmatched, too nice, too controled, with the Mets. And I'm "a Randolph guy." Melvin doesn't do it for me. As I have said, Don Mattingly is the guy I'd go after first __L.A. hitting coach now. Is he Torre's heir? Or waiting for the NYY job someday? I'd make a run at him if they decide to go away from Rig.


Chicago: Boz,

Thanks so much for your piece about Wrigley Field and the Cubs. I've been to probably 100 games there and you hit the nail on the head.

One question -- What the heck happened to Alfonso Soriano? Did the Nationals suspect it when they let him go? Thanks.

Tom Boswell: No, the Nats didn't suspect anything with Soriano. They just didn't want to spend $75M for five years when they figured they'd be bad in '07 and '08, then he'd be getting older in years 3, 4, 5. They didn't think he'd lose his SB ability they fast. I'm amazed that he hit 46 HR in RFK __hell of hitters__ but then hit far fewer in Wrigley!

He has a great attitude. The Cubs like him. He's just not worth the money __probably half what the Cubs paid him up until this point with deminishing returns in the 'out' years.

Nats thought they'd get a good trade for Sori at the '06 deadline. Then the marketplace dried up. Carlos Lee (considereda better acquisition in LF than Sori) didn't bring much in trade. The Nats said, "Ut oh, better get compensation picks instead. By not trading Soriano and Jose Guillen they got three picks __Jordan Zimmermann, Josh Smoked and Michael Burgess.

So, if I could go back in time, I'd say the Nats did the right thing.


Washington, D.C.: What happened to Elijah Dukes? Last year he looked great (when healthy). He was a patient hitter and hitting to all fields. Even this year at AAA he was dominant with an OPS over 1.000.

Is he doing something different this year at the top level that is contributing to his poor performance?

Tom Boswell: The league figured him out. Can't hit a breaking ball away. Won't learn how to hit it back up the middle or to right. Has a "slider-speed" bad. Really good fastballs at the letters eat him up, too. You CAN have this hitting profile and still have value. But you have to adapt and adjust at least a little. You can have some patience with him because he really does love to hit with men on base. Just try to tell Earl Weaver that there is no such thing as a cluthc hitter. In big spots, MANY hitters just don't think that they are the guy who can get the big hit against a tough pitcher. It's not their self-image. Dukes thinks he can hit anybody. He can't. But as long as he believes it, it's worth something.


Washington, D.C.: I've read that you do not like to use most of the advance defensive metrics out there. How should teams and fans account for defense when evaluating a player? I believe the Nationals have shown this season how important defense is, but how do I say (as a fan or a GM) "the Nationals should sign Player X to fill their need for a defensive second baseman" without using these statistics you believe are too unreliable?

Tom Boswell: Among other things, at the simplest level, I think that assists-per-9-innings for a third baseman is excellent and reliable over a period of several years as is put-outs-per-9-inning for a CF. Both players "get to everything they can." The stolen-base-against recordsof catchers have meaning. But remember to see how often people TRY to steal on catchers. The guys with great arms have less chance to throw out runners because only the fastest guys will even try.

I really think the Nats are going to move Guzman to second and try to find the best-fielding SS they can get. Why? Qality 2nd basemen, like Orlando Hudson, are expension. You can create a Hudson by moving Guzman. But good-field-no-hit SS's fall out of trees and are cheap. This seems obvious to me. Look what the O's did getting Izturis.


Proud member of the Crustacean Nation in D.C.: I went to see the independent Southern Md. Blue Crabs in Waldorf the other night, something I highly recommend. Old Major League friends were managing or playing, including D'Angleo Jimemez, Armando Bentiez, Mike Torrez, Butch Hobson, Ron Karkovice ...

My question is, how does one evaluate players in the independent leagues? Is .900 OPS the same as high class A, or AA, or something else? Or is it scouting, or specific knowledge? For example, right after my visit, Benitez was signed by the Astros to their AAA team.

Is there a good read anywhere out there about the modern independent leagues?

Tom Boswell: Anybody able to help this nice chatter?

Got to say a visit to the Blue Crabs sounds like fun. But then I used to go to Industrial League games in the area


first Livan, next Vlad?: Boz,

How about a return of Vlad to play RF for the Nats? Isn't he a FA this winter?

Or, how about Abreu, who would be a left-handed bat and threat on the bases? Imagine a lineup that starts like this:

CF - Morgan

2B - Guzman (yes, 2B)

3B - Zimmerman

1B - Dunn

LF - Willingham

RF - Vlad or Abreu

Tom Boswell: Did Abreau sign for only one year in '09? I like him. Vlad is getting old fast. Vlad has missed 60 games this year. That could get worse. His OPS, still good, has fallen over 120 points in two years. He wouldn't interest me.


Sec 114, Row E: As a RH catcher - in my younger days - I want to add one more reason for the lack of lefty catchers...

One more reason is - righty pitchers. With a right handed pitcher, most of the pitches will move from left-to-right (from the catcher's viewpoint), with the ball traveling towards his bare hand. With a lefty catcher, the ball would be moving away from his bare hnad much of the time. Thus, making the transition from catching to throwing just a split second more difficult.

Tom Boswell: Oh, nice point. never heard that.

They tried to make me a catcher in college for about 2-3 weeks. Oh, what an ugly experience. After a lifetime of catching pop ups and fly balls without even thinking about it, I couldn't get within 10 feet of a foul pop. Amazing to watch them curve back. Got over blinking when the bat swung pretty quickly. Good enough arm. But, man, you've got to love misery to stay back there. I said, "Outta here." It made playing option QB in HS (badly), and theoretically getting hit on every play if you ran the fakes right, seem like minimal discomfort.

Catchers are different. No wonder they are the only player on the field who "faces the other way."


Blacksburg, Va.: Does this sound like a quote that a coach should say:

"For some reason, they're not processing it," said Samuel, who has served as the Orioles' base running coach the past three seasons. "It's just a lack of concentration, because they know. They are major league players, or at least we think some of them are. To me, some of them are not. Some of them to me have to be thankful that expansion came because some of them wouldn't be here."

Do you think that sounds like a coach trying to save his job? O's fans thought with Trembley bringing his ideals of respecting the game that the future was brighter, but it seems just more of the same. I know coaching changes usually don't solve anything, but do you think it might help here?

Tom Boswell: The O's have been generally a little disappointing this year. Tillman is special. He's comparable, imo, to a healthy Zimmermann. Matusz looks like he was brought along too fast. No AAA time. Doesn't have a big fastball. It's tough to give up 38 hits in 23 innings, but he's done it. Detwiler may be a better prospect. I never thought I'd say that. But it's very early with Matusz. Bseball s full of pitchers who became middle-of-the-rotation guys who had ERAs in the 5.00's and even 6.00's in their first 10-15 starts. I was just looking at Scott Feldman (13-4, 3.87 in Texas at age 26) and Scott Baker (12-7 in Minn). But the O's and Nats hoped Matusz and detwiler would be top-of-the-rotation. I don't see that. Yet.

Also, in Baltimore, Adam Jones has tailed off badly at the plate. His "break out" year is beraking down. Still a great CF and good hitter. But I thought we has a lock to be a big do-it-all star. Now, not certainly. Weiters looks okay at the plate, but at 23 I thought we'd see more in a hurry. Mora is finished. Huff is gone. And there's still doubt that the OI's are willing to spend much in free agency. Their non-competitive for-PR-only bid for Teixeira, when the Nats were at least trying to be taken seriously, may have been a "tell."

Will the O's collapse in eptember again? It's getting mighty old. Looks like only KC has a real chance to "beat" the nats for worst record and No. 1 pick. But the O's aren't looking too good. One former O's person said recently, looking to '10, "Seems like the Nationals are going to pass us fast."


Yes, Abreu's a FA this winter: Yes, Boz,

Abreu signed for only one year in 2009. He got caught in the bad market like many good veteran hitters in their mid-30's.

As I wrote what I did about Vlad and Abreu, I should have made it more clear that I like Abreu better as well, because of his plate discipline and stolen bases, along with him being a left handed bat.

Make it so, Rizzo! Bring NatsTown Abreu and, ideally, Marquis!

Yes, my question now is about Marquis and what would it take for the Nats to sign him this winter ... and would they be willing to sacrifice the No. 1 or No. 2 pick to get both of them and really accelerate their "building" process. They have the revenues to afford a $100 million or more player payroll -- for the right players. And Abreu and Marquis have the goods to be those guys.

Tom Boswell: Thanks. All intersting. I think the Nats can afford a $70-$80M payroll now. But they have to see some evidence of stronger attendance before they can go higher. It's partially their own fault that they killed part of their fan base. But they did. And it will probably be '11 before we see any evidence that they're getting much of it back. In baseball, always "add one year" to any change in attendance that you expect. People have to have it PROVED to them that you are giving them a better product. If Strasburg arrives in '10, it will add some attendance. But they need 75 wins and an obvious "future" before they'll get people back in larger numbers.


Virginia: Do you see the nats finishing with the No. 1 overall pick again this year? Bryce Harper fast-tracking to the majors in your opinion?

Tom Boswell: I wouldn't touch a high school player with a No. 1 overall pick if there were any remotely-comparable college player. As for Bryce Harper, the SI piece worried me (for him) more than it impressed me. In any Harper-or-somebody-else choice next year, I'd take somebody-else. Jut my first impression. Subject to change.


Anonymous: Hi Tom,

Any good Harmon Killebrew stories, as he was my baseball god growing up? Thanks.

Tom Boswell: When I finally met him, years after he retired, he was the nicest, friendliest easy-going guy you could meet. Just a pleasure. And he looked like a short stocky bald middle-school math teacher. On the all-time You'd Never Guess Who He Is team. Next to Greg Maddux in glasses and ball cap.


Alexandria, Va.: So does anyone want Trevor Hoffman? I think he'd be a great pickup as a closer for someone.

Tom Boswell: The Nats could have had him THIS year. Another semi-castoff after last year. They didn't want him. Why would you want a washed-up bum like Hoffamn when it would obviously slow down the developement of future-star Joel Hanrahan? Ya gotta love baseball. It teaches humility 24/7.


Ladysmith, Va.: Boz:

Why Mattingly? He's never managed on the big league level, just as Acta never had prior to taking the Nats job. I realize that every good manager has to start somewhere, but also think it can be argued that a bad, building team needs a stabilizing presence who's been there before. Riggleman's definitely not a winning manager that the team will ultimately need, but he seems good enough for now.

Tom Boswell: I've been a sucker for Mattingly ever since I watched the Yankees taking infield one day in his prime and he was playing shortstop __smoothly, quickly and throwing RIGHTHANDED. You couldn't tell he wasn't the real SS.

Some people are just different. He's one of them.


L'enfant Terrible: Tom - thank you for taking these chats more seriously than pretty much anybody else. Your answers, in terms of depth and length, are worlds better than almost any others.

Tom Boswell: Appreciate it. I've never really had a forum where I could talk sports at any length and on any subject I chose. Not everything belongs in the newspaper. It's not a"column" or it's only worth a few paragraphs, etc. So this is a real pleasure for me, one of the highlights of my week. Since I spent many years as the Post's tennis writer, boxing writer and even bowing writer __in additon to every kind of b'ball, football, hoops and golf__ there's just a lot I never get to chat about. And you, the audience, are by definition wonderful __you have to come here and want to talk with me. You're questions/analysis are even better than I hoped. Thanks.


Yogi Berra Says I Don't Exist: My skills never got me beyond high school baseball, but I am left-handed and I played catcher -- and a little first base -- from the mid-60's through 1973. My catchers mitts had to be special-ordered but they do make them. And since it was what I'd experienced all my life, I didn't notice any particular problem with catching right handed pitching. So to all you people who don't think lefties can catch all I can say is "pffffffft!"

Tom Boswell: Dale Long? No.

So, Not-Yogi, who ae you?


2010 Draft: Boz - There are no comparable college bats in next year's draft. The choices after Harper are a slew of college and high school starters

Tom Boswell: Then I'll take one of 'em. Probably.

I'm rooting for KC to get the No. 1 overall so they can deal with it. The histoy of No. 2-overall pitchers is much better than No. 1-overall pitchers. (No reason.)


Dan Steinberg: Steinie says he would pick you for a WaPo staff basketball team since 'the three point set shot never goes out of style'. Can you drain it consistently?

Tom Boswell: The set shot was well before my time. By '60, when Jerry West and Oscar reached the NBA, it had already been obsolete at the playground level for years.

I grew up on the DC playgrounds in NE. Elgin Baylor, who went to Spingarn, was everybody's hero. I was a decent jump shooter but more of drive-dish guy and a shameless gunner. Used to go see big games at Carroll, etc. ven got into the Lew Alcindor vs. DeMatha game at Cole Field House in '65. Can still repeat bernie Williams triple-double line. So the game was way past the set shot by then, though olph Schayes and Rickie Guerrin stil;l threw them up in the NBA. We mocked them. of course. However, by HS, I'd found out the truth. Our HS team had Mike Neer, 6-7, high jumped 7-0 at Navy (the record) at center (coached national champs at Rochester) and a couple of 6-4/6-5 guys at forward. We were top 20 in the metro area back in the '60's. On the playgrounds with them, I learned fast that, at 5-10 with no elevation, I was doomed to JV. But it was fun throwing to Neer when he played WR in football. Now don't drag me back to days when dinosaurs roamed the earth.


Virginia: Re: Bryce Harper

I thought you had said before that high school hitters were easier to project in the big leagues. Weren't A-Rod and Griffey high school-to-pro hitters?

Tom Boswell: College hitters are much easier to project. But the lure of No. 1-overalls is powerful because, as you say, they produced A-Rod, Griffey and Chipper. That's the reason for the infatuation with Harper, which may prove justified.


Alexandria, Va. Yankee fan: To: Yogi Berra Says I Don't Exist.

Yes Boz, Dale Long caught in 2 games for the Cubs in 1958, for 1.2 innings total. He was a lefty 1B-OF'er. And it was his 1956 consecutive game home run record that Donnie Baseball tied in 1987 (8 straight games).

Besides, Dale Long was a Washington Senator in 1961 to mid 1962.

Tom Boswell: Thanks.


Not-Yogi: We've never met, Mr. B.; I played my youthful baseball in South Carolina (but I went to college with Dale Berra and I have met Yogi). I also have a friend who's a sportscaster in Seattle, and one of your admirers, who told me once that he almost went up to you in the Safeco Field press box when the Mariners hosted the All-Star Game and told you he hated you. "Because Boswell makes it (writing brilliant copy) look so easy!"

Tom Boswell: Only chatting is easy. (Thanks.)


Arlington, Va.: Thought Livan pitched very well last night. Too bad the old form Nats bullpen showed up though.

From the current roster, who is coming back next year to staff the bullpen?

Tom Boswell: Sean Burnett for sure. All the rest are on a trial basis and September will be important for them __especially Clippard, MacDougal and Bergmann who might actually be good enough.


Washington, D.C.: Can Ryan Zimmerman win a gold glove even though the Nats are awful? I think he's done everything he can do to deserve one. Who else is even in the discussion?

Will you be writing any columns to encourage voting the FoF for Gold Glove in 2009? I think bringing some media support would help him get the award he clearly deserves!

Tom Boswell: Because Wright got hurt early, and because Zimmerman is as good, and maybe more spectacular (and starts more DPs), I'd go with Ziummerman.

Here is the entire list of players this season who are on pace for 100 runs, 30 homers, 100 RBI, a .300 average and have a reasonable chance for a Gold Glove.

Albert Pujols

Ryan Zimmerman.

Here are all the players on pace for 30-100-.300.

Pujols, Fielder, Braun, Miguel Cabrera, Kendry Morales (!), Utley, Zimmerman and Lind.

Dunn is on the list of only 14 playesr who are on pace for 30-100-.280.


Washington, D.C.: On Jason Campbell:

We can all blame Snyder/Cerrato for "undermining" him and say it is the offensive line's fault, but objectively, is he a top 15 quarterback in the NFL? There are reasons that Denver wanted Kyle Orton in return for Cutler instead of Campbell. I want him to do great and think having Orakpo on this team is much better than having traded for Cutler and/or Sanchez, but is Campbell genuinely good enough to take this team to the top third of the NFL?

Tom Boswell: You've nailed the problem. Campbell is certainly capable of being an NFL starter __his 84.2 QB rating and low turnovers last year (with a crumbling line in front of him) says that. But is he the kind of special take-you-deep-in-January QB that Redskin fans want/deamnd? That's one of the things that this Redskin season is about. What is Campbell's top level? Also, is he ill-suited to Zorn's version of the West Caost offense? Would he be better in a different system? As I wrote in a column last year, Gibbs drafted Campbell and Joe's prototype QB __big, tough, max-protection, throw deep, don't need to read and react too fast__ is exactly the opposite of almost everything Zorn emphasizes.


Bethesda, Md.: Bos -

Which Redskins quarterback doesn't make the final roster?

Tom Boswell: The Skins have had third-string QB's who became good __Joe T and Jay S. But you could tell that they were special athletes (Joe) or had classic NFL gifts (Jay) very quickly. Colt and Chase should enjoy the attention. I doubt either will ever get much time as an NFL starter. If any. But it's fun now. I'm biased. I always tried to watch Daniel at Missouri. A big fan of the little guy.


Washington, D.C.: That was a nice essay about Livan Hernandez. He brings an air of professionalism about himself that can also be invaluable for our young pitchers to emulate. I would equate him to what Jamie Moyer brought to the Phillies in the years before they won the World Series. Thoughts?

Tom Boswell: There is a long history of final pitchers who, once they lose their fastball, adapt to a junkballing style that _to everyone's surprise__ they can maintain far longer than anybody suspected. Tommy Jones, Frank Tanana, Moyer, Reuschel. I'm not sure Livan, now 34, won't keep chugging along until he's 40.

(Of course, he could be 40 already.)


Midtown, New York, N.Y.: Boz,

So, how much fun did you have writing the lead for todays column?

"Maybe the Cubs aren't quite dead, and Wrigley Field isn't officially a crime scene yet. But when the Cubs look over their shoulders, they don't see shadows, just their own outlines in chalk."

I have nothing against the Cubs, but I chuckled just reading that line. As a Yankees fan, I also have a soft spot in my heart for Alfonso Soriano. He would have had the game winning hit off of Curt Schilling in game seven of the 2001 World Series if unspeakable things hadn't happened in the bottom of the ninth.

I'm working my way through "Feeding the Monster" by Seth Mnookin (know your enemy). I remember all the Red Sox turmoil in the years leading up to the 2001 sale of the team to John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino (who got his start in the sports biz working for Edward Bennett Williams as a VP and general counsel of both the Redskins and the Orioles), but reading it all condensed into a few book chapters made my hair stand on end. I began drawing parallels to the Redskins - arrogant ownership that takes an avid fanbase for granted and a dysfunctional front office with a poor relationship with the media and fans. I'm encouraged that a change in ownership (the right change) could breathe life into a dormant sports franchise. So I guess there is hope for the Redskins, it may just take patience (Job-like patience) until Dan decides to sell the team.

washingtonpost.com: Feeding the Monster: How Money, Smarts, and Nerve Took a Team to the Top (sethmnookin.com)

Tom Boswell: Interesting. Thanks.


Arlington, Va.: Hi Boz,

If, six years from now, the Lerners maintain their conservative spending ways and the Nats are perennial playoff contenders, do you think the Lerners will be able to say, "See, we told you so?"

Tom Boswell: Yes.

And I'll congratulate them.

You learn very early that if you write hundreds of columns you're going to be wroing an awful lot. So if it bothers you to change your mind, or say, "I was wrong," you're in the wrong racket.

I already said, "Lay off Ted" (for a while) in a column and said in a chat that I'd be buying back my season tickets next year. Maybe that's why he came over and shook hands on Strasburg Day. But he didn't say anything. Hmmm.


South Riding, Va.: What do you think about the upcoming bring your dog to the game days on 9/5 and 9/6 (I think there calling it Pups at the Park)? Have the Nats gone to the dogs?

Tom Boswell: Man, they'll try anything to move ahead of KC for 25th in attendance.


Burke, Va.: Boz -- Love the chats. What's your take on the Sox getting Billy Wagner? Does it help them hang onto the wild card? Also, is Penny done in the rotation? Thanks.

washingtonpost.com: Baseball Insider: Red Sox Land Wagner (Washington Post, Aug. 25)

Tom Boswell: Really like Wagner. He's one of the few stars who, when you talk to him, always brings up his near-D.C. roots and gives the impression he'd like to play here someday. He might be the "bridge" to Storen.


Herndon, Va.: Boz,

Just a quick note in response to a question from last week about who pays for players' bats. I was lucky enough to take the Louisville Slugger factory tour last summer and a guy on my tour asked that very question. The guide explained that bats are considered equipment and the teams pay for them. I was under the impression they get asked that a lot.

He also mentioned that the average MLB player goes through about 100 bats in a season!

Tom Boswell: Thanks.

With that mystery solved, seems like a good time to stop. See you next week.


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