Ask Boswell: World Series, Redskins, Nats, Caps and More

Thomas Boswell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 29, 2009 11:00 AM

Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell will be online Thursday, October 29, at 11:00 a.m. ET to take your questions about the MLB playoffs, the Redskins, the Nats, the NFL, the Caps and the latest sports news and his recent columns.

Submit your questions and comments before or during the show.

Boswell Discussion Archives

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Washington, D.C.: Do you think, after last night's performance and team effort, the media and the rest of the baseball world will take the Phillies seriously? I mean, they are the defending champions but huge underdogs.

Tom Boswell: I think they are waking up.

But will the Yankees? They often, in recent years, suffer from over-confidence and a lack of urgency in the playoffs. They realize "it's a crisis!!!" one games later thqan they should. And in October (Nov) that is almost always one game too late. The Yanks crisis is tonight. A.J. Burnett, despite the knocks that he has trouble concentrating and is an underachiever, has exceptional stuff and usually keeps his confidence when he pitches at home. And Pedro Martinez, as you may have seen from all his quotes yesterday, may want this game too much. However, when future Hall of Fame pitchers psyche themselves up for a huge effort, it usually works for them. They have special gifts, including the ability to rise to big stages. This is an elegant contrast. Burnett -- all the physical gifts, but only an average amount of the mental/emotional ones. Pedro -- at 37, just the opposite.

A lot of reporters were happy last night because they've wanted a long great Series and thought the Phils Game One win would now insure it. I disagree. Right now, this feels like a lot of recent five-game series where one team is confident, poised and ready to play (Phils) and the other seems to have self-doubts, doesn't entirtely love the stage or trusts its stars to produce (Yanks). If the Yanks win tonight, with A.J., A-Rod (three K's vs Lee), Tex joining the party, then I will think we will have the long classic Series that most of us want but that baseball hasn't produced in several years.


Jenkins Hill, Philadelphia: From a Philly writer. Were you and Sheinen the "savvy veteran journalists" able to stay dry?

"Rode to stadium with six Inquirer colleagues and a cooler packed with our postgame meal - or, more simply put, with six turkeys and seven turkey sandwiches.

Four hours before Game 1, the main press box resembled the Tokyo subway. Bodies and computers made things impassable. The adjoining work rooms were overflowing too, the precious spots apparently having been claimed at dawn by savvy veteran journalists." Welcome to New York, the worst seat in the house (Philadelphia Inquirer, Oct. 29)

Tom Boswell: Sheinin and I are pretty savvy, sitting together in the "main". After 20+ years in the aux box in right field, from 400-to-500 feet away, it's nice to represent a paper from a "major league town" and get normal seating at post-season games. I've probably written 100 World Series game columns when I had a worse view, less access to anything, than any viewer at home. It's still always a ball. Everything that you've studied all year (or for many players or teams for many years), everybody you've talked to all season (or interviewed before that night's game) comes into play. And all on lovey deadlines: You have to your first column finished and in to your editors before the game ends. File your final column, with quotes, 60 minutes after the game. Same for Sheinin. I've always loved it. As the golfer's say in the 'major championships,' the tougher the conditions, the more it weeds out the field.


Arlington, Va.: I love this Snyder drama. They are the gang who couldn't shoot straight and are running out of feet to shoot themselves in.

But there is no real recourse. Snyder is not all that concerned with his public image or the press vilifying him. He prints his own money out of Ashburn. And fan mobilization is really a pipe dream.

So, he has about another 30-40 years to play in his sand box with all his toys. Maybe he will get it, maybe not. Everything else is just fun drama.

Tom Boswell: I think you have a sliver of the truth correct there. But entirely. Nothing (bad) lasts foprever. Even the worst owners (usually) have some sense beaten into them by the misery of it all -- eventually. What's amazing is that it usually takes so long -- five to 10 years of real dark comedy and constant disapppointment. And I suspect that it will be that way with Snyder, too, though I certainly hope not because it is a rotten fate for the fans, the town and, well, it is just hellish to cover. I know. Think it was fun waiting for 10 years for Peter Angelos to have just the first faint sliver of a reality check? Snyder is really only into Year II of the realizationn that he and Cerrato are clueless. The Gibbs II years, even tough they weren't special -- under .500 but two playoff trips -- shielded him almost entirtely from the experience of: You Are A Really Bad Owner, So Let Somebody Else Do it, Please.

Money can really insulate your from reality -- if you let it. And Snyder has done about as complete a job of surrounding himself with "yes" men and people who won't challenge him or force him to grow as I've seen. Actually, he seems to have gone backwards. He was much more open in his early years. Now, he feels persecuted. How ironic. He didn't "get a pass" for 10 years. He took plenty of knocks. But he never really got his doors blown off with visceral emotional fan reaction like he has now because he spent so much money that there was just enough hope to neutralize the public's anger. Not any more. It will be interesting -- but hardly entertaining -- to watch the next stage in this story.

As I have said before when it seemed to me that there was some local glee building up about the Skins hard times: You really don't want it to work out this way, even if you think you do.


Triangle, Va.: Tom, amid all the Martinez Red Sox talk, let's not forget his first great outing at Yankee Stadium came as a member of the Nats' predecessors, the Montreal Expos, on Aug. 30, 1997. I was there that afternoon and he was really in command (complete game five-hitter, 10 Ks, one walk).

I wanted to follow up on your D.C. sports "sea change" comment from last week's chat. To those who consider Washington an inherent football town, I bring up this "what if": Suppose Calvin Griffith had kept the Senators here after 1960? He had more or less assembled the nucleus that would contend in 1962 (which would have coincided with the opening of D.C. Stadium, sort of like what happened with Cleveland in the mid-nineties) and won a pennant in 1965. Considering that after World War II, neither the Senators nor Redskins came close to contending for a quarter-century, Washington's sports culture might now be distinctly different -- more balanced like those of other cities -- if baseball had reached the promised land first.

At the very least, this would still be an American League city, battling the AL East's two evil empires (plus Baltimore) every summer.

Tom Boswell: Nice perspective. I remember the Senators looked like they might rise from the depths at the same time, roughly as the Skins when they went 86-76 under Ted Williams in '69. But it was a one-year wonder. So we'll never know.

Of course, you're right, it was the original Senators, who went to Minny and to the Series in '65, that were the big loss.


Burke, Va.: Boz-

Who would you go after as a GM to fix the Redskins?

Tom Boswell: George McPhee. Maybe Mike Rizzo.

Even if they didn't know that there were 11 players on a side in football, they'd be ahead of Vinny in six months. In business, good executives can adapt. Bad ones never do.


Washington, D.C.: What is the Nats' plan for prospects like Ian Desmond and Chris Marrero? If they do sign a middle infielder then where does that leave Desmond - who looked very good in September - and Marrero seems stuck behind Dunn. Should they trade these guys and hope to get some pitching back?

Tom Boswell: Part of the decision on the manager may be connected to the views of the candidates on such issues. Riggleman is very strongly in Desmond's corner and thinks he should get a biug chance to play regularly next season. He's made it clear he thinks Ian is a big talent.

As for Marrero, even if he maxes his talent, there is about a one percent chance that he will have the offensive career of Dunn who now almost perfectly tracks the careers of Killebrew and Reggie Jackson at the same age. The Nats need to extend Dunn next year, move him to first base and let the Marrero "problem" work itself as it will.


Alexandria, Va.: Cerrato says "I've got to look at myself, we've got to look at everybody."

Too bad there are no mirrors at FedEx Field.

Tom Boswell: So, you noticed that, too


Cleveland, Ohio: Hooray for Manny Acta. Although Riggleman did get a little more out of the team, he also benefited from Rizzo's retooling on the fly, especially the bullpen (That said, I bet even the original bullpen would have been able to get a couple of sacks on poor Jason Campbell). As you said, the second job is the charm.

Tom Boswell: Manny beat everybody! Bobby Valentine wanted the Indians job. Mattingly was said to be ready to interview for it. And Acta got a three-year deal! There was a bidding war over him with the Astros, who offered him two years! Believe me, 100 percent of the people currently mentioned as future managers would take a three-year deal.

If only one team wanted Acta, you could say, "What dopes." But can you say that both the Indians and Astros are rock heads? This makes the Nats look smart -- Rizzo anmd Kasten -- for waiting so long to fire him, having incredible patience that exasperated a lot of people. I thought they handled it the right way -- thought Acta had a fine long-term future as a manager but was a bad fit for the '09 Nats. (Just as he was an exceptional fit for the '07 Nats who shouldn't have won 63 games much less the 73 they did win.)

Riggleman was a better manager for the '09 team. Acta was at .299 (26-61) and completely out of bullets -- at wits end what to try next. Riggleman's post-game chitchats, his give-everybody-a-fresh-start approach really helped. You'll seldom seea team improve so much -- to 33-42, including an 0-5 starts.

I've known Mattingly a long time, really like him and think he'll make a fine manager soemwhere. But Riggleman suits this team now, has the nice boost of the 7-0 finish and, at a time when the Nats need all the good will they can get, is one of the few people in baseball who are overjoyed to work in baseball in Washington. Hometown!

Good for Manny. Hope Rigggleman gets the job. But if Mattingly does, it'll be easy to understanmd. He's a hot property. It's hard for a bad team to turn down the idea of "stealing" the next Dodger manager. You might need to make him a three-year deal to get him. Because, for now, it looks like he's next in line after Torre retires. But, remember, a bad year by the Dodgers in '10 would drive down the stock of both Torre and his coaches. That's just how it works. So Donny Ballgame doesnm't want to be too picky. There are only 30 MLB jobs. You don't want to say, "Oh, I'll get the L.A. job." It doesn't always work out that way.


Springfield, Va: Enjoyed this morning's Utley column. But don't you think you should have paid a bit more attention to Jimmy Rollins' brilliant double play? I think he knew he caught the ball and intended to catch it all along. Going over and touching second base was a deliberate move to trick Matsui and it worked. It was a play for the ages.

Tom Boswell: It was pretty. But not exactly on a par with the Knoblauch phantom double play that fooled Lonnie Smith and defined the Twins win in the Series.

You right though, that Rollins play sent a message. It was the opposite of the untouched dropped infield popup in Game 1 of the ALCS by the Angels. That play made them look "not ready for prime time." The way Matsui wandered around -- he could easily have gotten back to first base as Rollins yelled to Howard to "tag him" -- made the Yanks look "not ready for prime time." They better show up tonight. I assume they will. But they've let the Phils get into their com fort zone -- and in Yankee stadium.

Two words for Phils fans so they don't get ahead of themselves: Brad Lidge. Everybody says he's "found it" again. Maybe. But that's not what I see. I'd say he has enough stuff and command to get by right now -- but that's all. He's far from the overpowering Lidge. When you nused to throw 96 with precision and had the most unhittable slider in baseball, but now your throwing 87 mph "cutters" in some game, that's a worry. We'll see. Lidge is healthy. His mechanics can "click," just like a hitter who "finds it." I just think he's found it yet.

When the Yanks got the first two men on in the 9th last night and the Phils never got anybody up in the pen, it showed you how little interest Manuel has in introducing Lidge to the Stadium crowd.


Virginia: Why no word yet on the new Nats' manager? Mattingly has been out of the playoffs for a while now. The other mentioned candidates are not doing anything ... are they waiting to speak from someone on the Yanks/Phils?

Tom Boswell: Well, they always thought highly of Girardi. He may be availble soon. (Mostly kidding.)

Kasten loves long searches so he can pick brains for free, just like the interminable GM search. After the Nats talked to everybody who would talk to them, who did they hire? The interim guy they already had in house.

Don't get too excited. That's probably going to happen again. Has any manager in history ever not been retained after he improved a team's winning percentage by .125 and ended the season 7-0? Especially when the team likes him and he's born-raised in that town? I doubt it very much.


Alexandria, Va.: If Snyder's storm troopers continue their ways at FedEx, I worry that this could get truly ugly. People won't take getting shoved around and kicked out much longer.

Tom Boswell: Redskin world just gets "curiouser and curiouser."

So glad to be at the World Series, at least for a while.

Folks, you do realize that Nobody On Earth thinks the Redskins are an interesting subject, an interesting team or worthy of much attention except people from Washington.

Luckily, I'm from Washington. So I get it. But, except for comic relief and as an object lesson in bad behavior, the Redskins only play well as farce.

I watched the tape of the Monday Night Game again. The defense was still involved. But I thought that Zorn and the whole offense came as close to a complete give up as you'll see. They would barely talk to each other on the sideline, turned their eyes away from one another, looked lost, sad, disspirited. Of course, you can understand it. But it is still inexcusable. It was not an NFL effort. It was not a high school effort. It was group depression.

Zorn even cut his hair so that the tuft that stuck out in front -- that kinda looked like a mini-unicorn horn -- is gone. Unicorns are extinct, right? I don't think I've ever felt sorrier for a guy punching the clock to make another $4-million. Of course, emasculating pro football men is a Redskin specialty. Dr. Freud, call your office.


Indianapolis, Ind.: Tom you are right on Lidge. I am praying every game that the most we see out of him is a one-out save situation. I am not convinced he is what he was for the Phils last year. Actually, I think his troubles in Houston and in Philly are not aberrations, and we should look for closer help next season.

Tom Boswell: I certainly wouldn't go into '10 with a championship-caliber team and Lidge as the primary/only closer option. Yikes.


Laurel, Md.: At what point is Brian Cashman acknowledged as the most overrated person in sports? He's had a virtually unlimited budget for years, and has yet to build a deep rotation or bullpen. I was delighted to hear Sabathia threw 20+ pitches in the first inning last night, as it ensured the bullpen would be exposed.

Tom Boswell: Along the value-for-money lines, Yankee fans point out to me that the Bombers have always spent money on free agents. That's just who they are. So why bring it up or hold it against them.

Well, they have never spent money like they did last year. No team ever has in the history of the sport. They were lucky that some big salaries, like Mussina, dropped off the books. But they grabbed the No. 1, 2 and 3 free agents in a monster free agent class! And they got Swisher, too.

So if there was ever a Yankee team to root against, it is this one. This is the single worst example of trying to buy a world title in baseball history. What would even be in second place? Seriously, I'd love to hear other examples. The Yanks have bought two big names in a year before. But they have never bought the No. 1 and 2 starters in the World Series, their No. 3 hitter who is an MVP candidate and a RF who hit 29 homers. This is a joke. And why did they do it? (Okay, "because they can.") Because, for the first time since '95, they didn't make the playoffs last year. Oh, the poor broken hearted babies., And they were getting a new stadium.

Jeter, Rivera, Posada, Pettitte -- love 'em. All gamers, and great gamers. CC -- good guy, smart, team first, charismatic pitcher. Teixeira -- got that trying-to-hard-to-polish-the-image Steve Garvey facade goin' on (but without the postseason production ... yet). But he's a great two-way player and, unlike Garvey who really was a plastic man, I think Tex will mature into a player who's very popular and deserve to be. He's well-liked by teammates. Okay, what about A-Rod? I pity Goldie Hawn. What do you tell your daughter, Kate Hudson, when she's dating a narcissist who makes the leading men in Hollywood look modest. Ok, A-Rod is trying to change. (Maybe.) Getting caught cheating will lead to an Extreme Makeover every time. Is it sincere? Lets give it five years. No, I'm not a real nice guy.


The way Matsui wandered around __he could easily have gotten back to 1st base as Rollins yelled to Howard to "tag him": Howard did not need to tag Matsui -- Howard had already caught the ball while touching first so Matsui had already been doubled off. Given the ineptitude of the umps this postseason, it was good insurance for Howard to tag him anyways. But wasn't necessary. McCarver and Buck missed this, too.

Tom Boswell: I'd say it was 60-40 the 1st base ump wolujld have missed it. Hey, it was a close call and wasn't obviopus until you saw the replay. Utley missed a double down the right field line by about a foot just before he hit his 435-footer. The right field ump never gave any signal, looked like he'd been interrupted from a yoga meditation.

As I think I've said last week, I never thought I'd be in favor of instant replay in post-season, but I never thought the umps would get this bad. They're just MLB civil servants now. They need to be evaluated, used in post-season on a merit basis, fired or sent to the minors if they can't cut it. No, don't judge them quickly. Don't be in a hurry to discard honorable lifers. It's a tough job. Some mistakes are inevitable and tolerable. But, good Lord, don't excuse this level of screw ups in what has been an area of trength for baseball for a century.


Bethesda, Md.: How impressive is Mariano Rivera? That guy is still lights out all of these years later. I do not like the Yankees but I really like Rivera. I guess the Phillies are hoping he stays on the bench.

Tom Boswell: I assume his post-season performance over so many years will be the most remarkable set of playoff performances I've even seen in any sport -- MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL.

The only person who might rival him was Bill Russell with the Celtics. Any other suggestions for best-post-season-superstar of the last 50 years?


Arlington, Va.: What's really scary to Redskins fans is looking at the Pittsburgh Pirates. For the Pirates, it hasn't been 16 years since a trip to the World Series. It hasn't been 16 years since they've gotten into the playoffs. No, it's been 16 years since they've had a winning season.

At this point, folks in Pittsburgh aren't angry at the situation, like they are in D.C. Most former Pirates fans have just plain given up on the team, and in many cases on baseball entirely.

Pittsburgh's beginning to look like the Ghost of Christmas Future to me.

Tom Boswell: No, the Skins are 100 miles from Pittsburgh.


Empty seats?!?: I don't know if you could see this from the press box, but on TV it was obvious that by the start of the 9th, with the Yankees down only by 4 in game 1 of the World freaking Series, many "fans" in the most expensive seats had already gone home. Lots of empty seats between first and third. I'm sorry, but I'm a life-long Yankee fan and I just can't care any more about a franchise that has sold its soul in this way.

Tom Boswell: The bar tender in my Manhattan hotel was closing up when I got back at 2 a.m. Big baseball fan. He brought up that point. "How could you ever leave a World Series game, especially if your team was in it? The tickets are too expensive. The wrong people get to go."


Annapolis, Md.: What I thought was funny about the Rollins play was how the Phillies seemed to get outs five different ways on it:

1. Rollins catch

2. Rollins tags 2nd

3. Rollins throw beats runner

4. Howard foot on base beats Matsui

5. Howard tags Matsui

Bottom line, I really thought the umps were only going to give one out!

Tom Boswell: Nice.

We got the best chatters!


West Annapolis, Md.: Boz,

I'm no Yankees fan, but why does it matter how they assembled their team?

Tom Boswell: Sorry, if you don't know, I can't help you.


Instant Replay: Hi Tom,

First thanks for these chats - always some great insights and exchanges shared among true sports fans. Last week there was some discussion on instant replay in MLB, at least for the playoffs. What is Bud Selig's concern with it? Isn't 'getting it right' paramount to maintaining some outdated sacrosanct tradition associated with umpires and their occasional errors 'being part of the game'? Time to use the available technology.

Tom Boswell: Time of game -- especially in postseason -- is already horrific. Replay makes it worse. It's a powerful point. And should make more replay a last resort. But, man, it's getting close.


Dallas, Texas: What are your thoughts on the "records" constantly being broken in the MLB post season. Of Course, there are more games, but shouldn't the record books reflect the different generations? It's pretty wrong to say that the records that, say, Pettite, has puts him more into Yankees lore than, say, Whitey Ford? i.e. Lee's ERA 'record' was set in one post season.

Tom Boswell: Good point. Goofy "records." I try to ignore them if they have little weight becauise of the increased number of games.


Alexandria, Va.: Bos,

I saw/heard one of the local stations say that the Redskins have prohibited them from interviewing fans in the parking lots (essentially a no interview on our property stance).

Wouldn't the appropriate response from that station be to pull all Redskin coverage? No scores, no replays, no interviews. All that stuff is really free advertising for the team, right. It is not the TV stations' faults that the Redskins are all bad news.

Tom Boswell: Just another area in which they don't have a clue.

And have no chance of winning.


Alexandria, Va.: How about Michael Jordan as one of the best postseason superstars of the last 50 years?

Tom Boswell: Noted -- with a bullet.


Alexandria, Va.: Best postseason superstar - I'd throw Joe Montana and Jerry Rice into that mix.

Tom Boswell: Consider them "mixed."


Takoma Park, Md.: Wow. I knew Mariano Rivera was the bomb, but I had no idea his post season ERA was 0.77.

Lights out, indeed.

Tom Boswell: And that is in 84 postseason games -- more than a full regular season and every game against a superior foe.


Post Season Superstar: Reggie Jackson?

Too young to remember his A's teams, hate the Yankees but he always seemed to deliver.

Does his bravado detract from his accomplishements?

Tom Boswell: No.

Hed holds the record for playing in the most League Championship Series -- 11!

Five with A's, four with Yanks and two with Angels.

His OPS in five World Series was 1.212.


Arlington, Va.: I don't mean to defend Snyder, but why does 10 years of mostly-bad teams make him a Very Bad Owner, while Abe Pollin puts up 30 years of mostly really-bad teams and remains a local hero?

Tom Boswell: The impact of the Verizon Center on the whole city, and the fact that Abe built it himself, did a great deal to improve his repuation as an owner.


Washington, D.C.: Did you see Zimm on the ESPN Web Gem show? He's still sort of goofy on TV, but he did a good job representing us. And the little Tony Plush "stage name" conversation at the end was hilarious. Good to see the Nats get some positive media coverage.

Tom Boswell: Missed it.

Zimm has a real nice sense of humor, got the educated sardonic wry edge at times. Got to be the most mature athlete of his age I've ever met. And he is now a great player -- not a player who may become great. Of course, now he needs to do it for 10-12 more years. Which he knows and embraces.


Washington, D.C.: Boz,

Does the fact that the Nats actually played the Phillies pretty well bode well for us in the near future? I watched just about every Phils-Nats game and it always seemed like the games were close and a Nats error or walk or wild pitch opened the door for the Phils to blow us away. Look, I think the Phils are the best team in baseball and I don't know why everyone is surprised that they will dispatch the Yanks rather easily. I might be delusional, but I thought the Nats looked just as good as the Dodgers did against the Phils ...

Tom Boswell: The Nats always battle the Phils It's impressive.


Washington, D.C.: Looks like full-on bunker mode at Redskins Park. Maybe they should send Baghdad Bob out for their pressers.

Big question: Is Vinny in the same bunker as Danny?

Tom Boswell: It's nice thjat the general public gets to see the Redskins true colors. This is who they have been since Snyder has been there. They never would have needed Baghdad Bob under JKC. He'd have taken on the best the media had -- a dozen at a time -- and pinned 'em all. He was great to argue with ... as long as you were respectful. One of my favorite memories was JKC asking me in the middle of a Redskins interview, "What baseball teams are for sale." I said, "The Pirates may be in play." He called his secretary, got on the phone to Pittsburgh and tried to buy the Pirates to bring to Washington while I sat there trying not to drop my jaw. He had a mean streak and could be scary. But he was charismatic, smart and just loved the English language.


Huntsville, Ala.: You argue that with time bad football teams will shape up, and that in the Redskins case, this too shall pass.

Al Davis and the Ford family in Detroit offer a different answer.

Tom Boswell: Ouch.


Titletown, USA: Good column today! It seemed like new Yankee stadium was less than enthusiastic for most of the night and the crowd left early. Do New Yorkers believe in this team?

Tom Boswell: New Yorkers are worried and have been worried since Game Seven in '01.


Columbia, Md.: Boz, With ESPN's coverage of the World Series, why do they bring in, and put on Bobby Valentine as a head commentator, and throw the regulars to the second tier? I think it's an insult to Tim Kurkjian, Peter Gammons and the others. And don't even get me started with Berman!!! Your thoughts ...

Tom Boswell: Love Berman on football. On baseball, he is one of the worst ever -- just a complete boob.

I'd rather hear Timmy or Peter snore than Bobby V talk. And I like Bobby.


Silver Spring, Md.: Okay, Boz

As someone who grew up here and has a long-term view of the situation, just how much of a local and national embarrassment are the Redskins under Snyderratto?

Tom Boswell: They are now the mosty embarassing team ever to represent Washington in my lifetime, going back to '50's. Other teams have been bad. The Redskins shame us. The last team to do it was (before I was old enough to realize it), the George Preston Martshall Redskins who refused to integrate. That was worse.


Brunswick, Md.: So, Bos, how was the anniversary? It had to be better than watching what went on at Fed-Ex Field.

Tom Boswell: It was great, thanks. And continues. Off to take my wife to a Manhattan lunch. Sorry I couldn't get to the next 100 great questions. Really enjoyed it. See you all next week.


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