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

Thomas Boswell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 5, 2009; 11:00 AM

Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell was online Thursday, Nov. 5 to take your questions about the World Series, the Redskins, the Nats, the NFL, the Caps and the latest sports news and his recent columns.

The transcript follows.

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Natstown, USA: Hi Boz:

Good column today though I'm not sure I agree that it's great to have the Yankees back on top. This series made me ponder why I dislike the Yankees so much. I think it comes back to two reasons:

1.) They buy their pennants, or at least contention. For every one Colorado, there are 3-4 LA, New York, big market success stories in baseball. If you live in Oakland, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, etc., you have to practically hit the lottery just to make the playoffs, let alone win multiple pennants.

2.) This one concerns me more as a baseball fan: By overbidding everyone, they drive player salaries up and, inevitably, ticket prices go up around the league as well. If it was only in NY, they could reap what they sow, but they raise the rates for the rest of the league, too.

What are your thoughts on these and what, if anything, could be done about it?

Tom Boswell: The Yankees have been presenting a moral dilemma for generations. Without a salary cap, baseball has no way to keep them them from maintaining their long-term structural business advantage. Like "Coke" they have a huge "moat" around their business -- the Yankee image, the huge Yankee "mind share" which induces players to want to sign there. Teixeira is a good example. Had a Yankiee poster on his wall as a kid (supposedly) even though he lived in Orioles territory.

This title and the way the Yanks won it -- and happy for their fans since I know a lot of 'em -- may become an issue in the next collective bargaining agreement. You want the Yanks to be good, but not too good. I have to admit that over my lifetime it's worked out almost perfectly -- seven series wins for the Yankees in 47 years since 1962. That's not really too many. Slightly more than a bunch of teams with four or three, but not real hegemony. The total domination was in the Ruth, DiMaggio and Mantle days. And that's a looooong time ago.

The Yankees have given me so much fun and so many great stories since '75 when I got on the beat -- not to mentioned all the nice people I really liked, can't even begin to name them -- that it's odd as a native Washingtonian that its my role/moral obligation always to look at 'em with my head cocked and memories of "Damn Yankees" in my head. (Shirley Povich wouldn't want it any other way! He was alwasy bustin on 'em but had a ton of Yankee buddies.)

Anyway, the Yankees are an eternal problem/pleasure. When they win, I enjoy watching how good they are. When they lose, I enjoy laughing at how little production they get out of so much money spent. The previous eight years, they spent $1.4-billion in salaries -- a half a billion dollars more than anybody else -- and didn't win a Series. But they livened up every season with their Yankee act. Only six teams in baseball in that period even spent $700M on salaries -- half as much,

What's amazing, and almost inexplicable, is that m,oney doesn't buy even more in baseball than it does. Sometimes I worry that the game has just been lucky to have so many teams get to the Series or win it and that the trend will reverse.


Boston: Who was coaching the Phillies last night, Grady Little? They left Pedro in too long last night when it was apparent from the first inning that he didn't have it. Too bad, I would have loved to have seen a Game 7.

Tom Boswell: Pedro had no zip. He hit 92-93 in LA then 89-90-91 in Game 2, the topped out at 87-89 in Game Six. I don't think he helped his push for a new contract with somebody. He looked like he was wearing down, but building up arm strength.

Everybody is interested in the three-days rest angle. The stats are in. In Games 1-2-3 the Yankee starters had an ERA of 4.05. In Games 4-5-6, same guys, same opponents, they had an ERA of 7.36. That's about what I'd expect or maybe a little worse. The Yankees won, but it was despite the Girardi strategy, not because of it. Just my opinion. But if there's one thing I've learned from the best managers it is that you should never judge a strategy by its results in one small instance, but by its logic and its results over a much laerger time frame. Weaver used to chew everybody out saying, "It didn't work. That doesn't mean it was wrong."


Anonymous: Is The Danny a master of the non-apology apology or what? At no time did he actually say "I'm sorry" or take any responsibility for all of the internal and external organizational turmoil, but everyone seems to be interpreting what he said as such. Am I missing something?

Tom Boswell: I didn't hear "I'm sorry."

Much more important, I didn't hear, "I'll work on changing the way I run my team."

What I heard was, "Okay, I'll make a public comment." So he said he felt bad for the fans and everybody was working real hard out at Redskin Park. How could you say anything less?

It was better than nothing. I'd like to think it was more than "spin control." Because things have spun pretty much out of control.


Sec 114, Row E: Boz,

The Astros and Indians have already hired their managers for 2010. Donnie baseball is rumored to not be interested in the Nats job.

Where is out managerial search? Have the Nats even interviewed anyone? If they (Rizzo) decided that Riggs earned the job, fine, but can you fill the rest of us in on the details?

Tom Boswell: I've thought all along that it will be Riggleman and probably should be. As I mentioned, I thought Mattingly sounded more excited about Baltimore than Washington. As an ex-Yankee he knows the town and the A.L. East. D.C. may feel kind of alien to him.

Now that the Series is over I'll get back to looking at the Nats more.


Washington, D.C.: (Submitting early Wednesday before Game 6)

This actually supposed to be a journalism/columnist question so try not to take it too personally.

How do you decide what topic goes into a column?

All I've ever heard about lately is how Girardi will have blown it if he made all his pitchers go on short rest. Then after days of this on TV/radio/etc., your column appears on Wednesday, belaboring the exact same obvious points.

Tom Boswell: I tried to show the thinking process that goes into baseball decisions. It's like algebra -- "always invert." By approaching the subject from a different angle -- "Lose the right way" -- I hoped it would be clearer why so many of the best managers I've known over the years would have been beating their heads against the wall as what Joe did. Of course, 30+ years ago, "short rest" would have been two dqays rest, not three days. But the argument then would have been the same -- and was. Gene Mauch was infamous for this in '64 and in other years, too, when he shortened up his rotation late in the year because he didn't trust his No. 4 guy and it almost always blew up on him.

By the way, just a great classy guy and nobody smarter about baseball. But he may have had a couple of basic assumptions wrong that tainted a lot of his thinking. I remember Weaver, who believed in the Big Inning, snarling one day, "Gene Mauch (pause) Play for one run early, lose by one run late."


In the Gloaming: Is there any precedent for Yanks' four long-timers (Jeter, Mo, Posada, Pettitte) re-finding such success after such a long hiatus? More important, is there no buzz about PEDs with respect to all the 35-37-39-year-olds who found new life in New York this season?

Tom Boswell: I don't know, but if any chatters have thoughts about similar cases, I'd like to learn.

On PEDs, who knows about anybody in any sport. The goal, and it is a cynical one, is to make your testing program credible enough that the press stops screaming at you and the players who don't want to cheat (and potentially harm themselves) don't feel that they absolutely have to.

But are plenty of people taking PEDs in MLB, NFL and NBA? What do you think? Is it a lot less in MLB than it was five years ago? Yes, I think so. And hope so.

Leigh Montville, when he was with the Boston Globe, once said that if they was a drug he could take that would help him write as well as Shakespeare, but it was as medically dangerous as steroids, that he might take it. (Hey, Leigh, if it wasn't you that said it, sorry. The old story was just making the rounds in the press box last night.)

Of course, I always quote Emerson who said, "Talent writes with coffee. Genius writes with wine." I'm a coffee guy. But the geniuses have been known to go a lot further than wine.


Arlington, Va.: Reading Snyder's non-apology makes the future clear. Snyder really doesn't understand that he's the problem.

So here's how it plays out:

1) The Redskins fire Zorn at the end of the season and immediately hire whatever big name coach they've lined up to take the massive payday to Captain the Titanic;

2) The front office continues to be run by Danny through his puppet Vinny;

3) The Redskins finally draft OL in the first round and sign the biggest big-name free agents (QB, OL, RB, etc) imaginable and completely rebuild the offense.

That placates the fans temporarily. Of course, it won't work and we'll suffer through another mediocre year after year after year.

Any hope at all that I'm wrong? That Danny essentially fires himself, boots Vinny out, and turns over control to a real GM who hires a real coach and they together embark on a multi-year rebuilding project?

Tom Boswell: I'm working on a column on How George Steinbrenner Finally Learned His Lesson and what Snyder might learn from it.

Look for it in Coming Attractions. The Boss and The Danny are different in some ways, but they are similar in quite a few. Of course, George went to three World Series ('76-'78) right out of the box.


Paris, France: Oh yeah those poor Yankee fans - they hadn't outspent... uh, won a pennant in nine years. Boo hoo hoo!

So what if you like the people? That's no reason to feel sorry for them as sports fans. And I don't think that that is a good opinion column either. Who cares if they don't win another pennant? What about sports fans in all those other cities that haven't won a pennant in a longer time?

An article about "poor" Yankee fans is just a load of ...

Tom Boswell: Paris,

I'm a proud Yankee Hater and have been for many years. Shirley was before me. For a columnist, especially one from Washington, that's a perfectly sensible position. When I found my old baseball cards in a closet in my parent home in '91, there we a couple of thousand of them. All the Senators cards had been handled so much that they were beaten up and worthless as "collectibles." But all the Yankee cards -- including 11 Mantles -- were in "near-mint condition." Because I hated the Yankees so much that I would even touch their cards when I was 8-9-10-11-12.

I love it when some over-the-top Yankee fans act outraged that a columnist wouldn't love their team and would point out that they have an insane financial advantage but (usually) do a lousy job of using it. However, the smart Yankee fans (the majority) know that I'm trying just as hard to have insights into their team -- and give them a sense of what's going on with the Yanks, how it feels to be at the Series, etc -- as I am with any other team.

The feeling in Yankee Stadium last night really was the definition of that overworked word "electric." Mike Lupica, who's a Yankee Worshipper (and prouds of it as he has every right to be, that's his birthright), pulled me over with a grin and said, "You guys may know how to do Presidents and Inaugurations. But we know how to do this."

And the feeling in the Big Ballpark really was a bit magical.

But tomorrow, I promise to resume my sneering. By the way, could Mark Teixiera look any dopier in those post-game save-my-precious-eyes goggles. Hey, Mark, the season is over. Take 'em off. Jeez, get a little bubbling in your blinkers. He had a really bad Series. It took A-Rod until his eighth postseason (counting Seattle) to really break out.

(Actually, coming into this year, he wasn't that awful, counting his Seattle days, but his OPS was 100 points lower than his normal regular season mark and his 17 rbi in 147 at bats was very poor for a great player.)


Bethesda, Md.: So the Yankees buy themselves another World Series. Would Bud Selig please explain to me why I should care? At least when I was a kid in the 50's and 60's, they won through trades and developing their own talent. They could win the next ten straight and it would mean absolutely nothing except that they are filthy rich.

For years my wife has been trying to get me to summer in Nova Scotia. Next year just might be the summer I take her up on it.

Tom Boswell: Yes, in a sense it's worse now than it was in the '50's and '60's beacuse the "buying" is more shameless. But then their failures from '01-through-'08 are that much more fun!

Don't worry, the Yankees will find a way to minimize their best of all possible worlds. It's in their DNA.

Don't forget that the reason TV ratings were up 45-to-50 percent this year is 1) lots of new Yorkers watch to see the Yankees win but 2) even more non-New Yorkers watch to hopee they lose. Hey, Girardi did his best to mess it up. But Lidge lost the game you knew he'd lose -- Game Four -- and that was the turning point. If the Yanks had lost the CC-Blanton match up game -- and it was 4-4 in the 9th -- this might have been a truly great World Series.

And, as I have said before, there is one pre-requisite for a TRULY great playoff series -- like the '04 ALCS or '01 Series or '60 Series. The Yankees have to lose Game Seven.


Springfield, Va.: Boz,

Enjoy your columns and chats- you always seem to have a novel thought that nobody else has come up with. Your writing this week on the World Series has been great.

I've read your explanation of how the deadline process works, and how quickly you have to get your stories in to be published the next morning. And being a frequent reader of your chats, the occasional typo doesn't bother me.

My question to you is, how do you feel when you work your tail off to submit a story, and clearly there is nary a copy editor in sight? I know that The Post, like all newspapers, is cutting costs wherever they can, but your story in Monday's paper did not appear to have been edited at all. I thought about writing to the ombudsman using your story as an example of what happens when costs are cut too far - your great work was diminished somewhat. Does this sort of thing bother you, or is it just par for the course now?

Tom Boswell: Our deadlines now are much worse than they once were. I have always had to have a "running" column in the paper that is filed before the game ends. But, in the past, that might only go into 50,000-to-100,000 papers, so any typos or errors caused by typing/writing faster than is humanly possible doesn't cause too much laughter. Then, within 30 minutes of the end of the game, I'd add post-game quotes and clean up mistakes for the next edition -- again, only a fraction of the full Post "run." Then, by 1 a.m., I do a final story -- the best I could turn out. of course, a lot of games in recent years have ended at 12:30ish.

Now, the process is actually the same! But what you see is different. I still have to file a running column that is in my editors hands before the game ends. Or in the case of Game Four within 10 minutes of the end of the game since the score went from 4-2 to 4-3 to 7-4 and the "theme" changed a few times! However, that running column is now the only column that goes in the paper. The story I write for roughly 1 a.m. is the one you see on the internet.

Over the years, there have periodically been perfect-storm running columns that were full of typos. the "daily miracle" of journalism was pushed over the edge oif the cliff and, that day, we lost. But not many people saw it. Now, when we have a perfect storm -- the entire paper being "held" for the series stories, a drop-deal midnight deadline, the game ends at 11:47, you file at 11:55, editors have almost no time to do anything except see what "spellcheck" identifies as a mistake (which I've already done anyway), you can get an ugly result. And we did in Game Four. I had two columns both written -- one with each team winning -- and 'spell-check" said they were free of mistakles. Ha!!! Spellcheck doesn't know that you typed "he" but intended to type "the" or "on" instead of "in" or that you didn't have the split-second needed to think about "bear" vs "bare."

So I'm sorry about the Game Four mess. It's partly the "new world." But, really, it is exactly the same thing that happened many times before, but it only made 50,000 papers, not 500,000 ande everybody said, "Oh, that's an early edition. Read the one in the later edition. That's the real one." No, the real one is on the internet.

That's fine because in 5-10 years, journalism will be 85 per cent on the Internet, not 85 per cent in print. (or whatever the ratio is now.)

But it's ironic. If you really want to read MY column -- not just the "running" column which is a speed-writing attempt to get something in the paper -- then DON'T read The Wahinston Post newspaper. Read

But then you folks already know that -- because we're meeting online right now!

But, again, sorry about my typos and spelling (always awful) in Game Four and the lack of editing by people who are trying their best but sometimes have to yell, "Drop that story now or there'll be no Series column in any print edition tomorrow."

If you knew what went into making a daily newspaper -- especailly a sports section with all the old-fashioned deadline work, you'd be amazed it's ever as good as it is.

Thanks for indulging the long explanation. (It's probably got some typos in it. You can have a fairly long chat with typos, or you can have a very short chat that is perfect. As Voltaire said, "Sorry about the long letter. I didn't have time to write a short one.")


Glenside, Penn.: A Phillies fan here. I don't care about the Yankees payroll. Having won last year, playing the Yankees was immensely more exciting than facing off against a team like Minnesota or Anaheim would have been. Or Tampa, God forbid.

Tom Boswell: Agreed. It made a fine show. The last game was the only one that seemed to lack drama. After Matsui had six RBI, you said, "That's IT. The Phils aren't going to trump that."


A Followup Question: Boz,

Something you wrote earlier -- a throwaway in an anecdote about if there were drugs to write better -- just screams for a followup question.

Why was the press box crowd talking about steroids and other PEDs last night? Are there more as-yet unconfirmed stories floating about?

Tom Boswell: No, no, we just talk about anything and everything all the time and the Montville story came up. A Philly writer, on deadline, didn't like the way his column was turning out and said he wished he had some PEDs for column writing.


Please, no more Yankees talk: I think most people in this market either hate the Yanks or are ambivalent about them. Lord knows we get enough coverage of them and the Sox from the national media. Why do we have to have them shoved down our throats by the local media as well? Can't we have some real Nats talk? Along those lines, who do you see that Nats pursuing in the offseason (which is now!)?

Tom Boswell: The post-season is about national baseball. Not about the Nats. Some day, maybe, they will be one and the same! Until then, you will just have to endure one month of baseball coverage that is not provincial. If the Yanks are in the cen ter of it, you're stuck with a lot of yanks. But the last several years, we got rid of 'em quick for you! In the Nats first four years back in DC, I probably didn't write more than a half-dozen Yankee columns (joy). But we got to learn a lot about the Tigers, Rockies, Rays, Cardinals, Phillies, Angels and ... yeah ... the inescapable Red Sox.)


Chevy Chase, Md.: I am almost 70 and an Indians fan. In the 50's the Indians came in second every year (but '54) to the Yankees. In those days the Yanks would buy someone from Kansas City and he would hit a few home runs. In recent years, I have come to appreciate the Yankees, almost like you describe in today's column. Partly because the Red Sox overdid it; they began spending like the Yanks and became just as arrogant.

I have gradually come to realize that it is certain players in certain situations who win big games. I think that Pettitte was the key Yankee pitcher, not the really expensive guys. And Rivera is simply incredible (but only a small fraction of their total payroll).

There were lots of close games in this year's postseason, and the Yanks won many of them. I don't expect the Indians to win in my lifetime, but we did have a nice run in the 90's and that made me happy.

Tom Boswell: Pettitte, Rivera and Jeter are three of my all-time favorites. I realize I have a lot of company! Presumably, "real" fans have, long ago, learned how to enjoy Yankee players while having more complex feelings about The Yankees. I couldn't wait to see Mantle hit. But I wasn't a Yankee fan. Same with Jeter/Rivera now.


Burke, Va.: Boz:

Personally, I enjoy your evident irritation at the Yankees. I enjoy the anger of every Yankee hater. Yes, it's been a few years since the last championship, but such is life. I even enjoyed your recent column where you brought up CC's salary twice in five paragraphs.

Look at it this way -- the kid born on the day of the last Yankee World Series victory is still a kid, barely 9.

The kid who was born on the day the last Redskins Super Bowl victory is now almost old enough to VOTE.

So swallow your bile. Or don't. Yankee fans enjoy your discomfort.

Tom Boswell: Congrats to you and your Yankees. And semi-good luck next year.


Virginia: I watch the World Series every year, but I have to say it was more fun this year to root wholeheartedly against the Yankees than e.g. last year, where I was mildly rooting for the Rays but really didn't have much of an interest other than wanting to see good games.

And hey, now that Yankee fans will be even more insufferable, it will be even more fun to root against the team next year. There's something to be said for having a good villain in your sport.

Tom Boswell: Absolutely!


Boz City, D.C. Metro Area: One reason I don't mind seeing the Yankees win is that New York is the baseball capitol of the world. Two N.Y. teams sell out their stadiums for prices that no one would pay anywhere else. If I owned the Marlins, I'd move them to New York, charge 1/3 what the Yankees do, and sell out every night.

Tom Boswell: Yes, this is important. New York just adores baseball, talks it 24/7/365.


What was he thinking?: When Mark Lerner went after the media this week, who was he accusing of publishing things they knew weren't true and what was he thinking?

Tom Boswell: I missed whatever he said. He wasn't talking about me. I always call people I'm going to criticize so they can scream at me, or say, "That's wrong" before it's in the paper, not after.


Herndon, Va.: As a Yankee fan since 1976 (ever since I got a Graig Nettles baseball card on the back of a Hostess box), I've always accepted the fact that the Yankees are hated around the country. It's something you learn to live with. However, it just makes victories like last night's that much sweeter. And, as hard as it is for others to believe, it does feel like the baseball universe has been righted again. Sorry, but that's just the way it feels.

Tom Boswell: Nettles may have been my all-time favorite baseball interview. We saw each other and just started grinning. He was a classic wise-ass with a great sense of humor. And, now it can be told, a great leaker. He was a Billy guy. Reggie was a Reggie guy. They were both great talkers.

I'd love to have been at the Yankee party when Reggie slapped the beer bottle out of Nettles hand and, as it was told to me, "Reggie hit the floor before the bottle." Great left hook.


Washington, D.C.: Disclaimer, New York native and Yankees fan.

What I don't understand about the complaints about the Yankees winning by buying players - what do you want them to do with their money? They earn it, why can't they spend it? I'm not completely opposed to a salary cap or salary tax. And correct me if I'm wrong, we do have some version of the latter.

But honestly people who say, "Well they bought their championship," just sound jealous to the average Yankees fan.

Tom Boswell: Of course, you're right.

"We" just don't have to like it!

Enjoy No. 27.

(But doesn't that seen like a few too many, even to you? Washington has one in '24. And I don't know a single living person, now that Shirley is gone, who actually saw it.)


Tampa, Fla.: I love this ... "and would point out that they have an insane financial advantage but (usually) do a lousy job of using it.

Fits the Danny to a T.

Tom Boswell: Good point. Thanks.


Steinbrenner learned his lesson?: I think you are projecting a little too much there. The man is not well. I'm not sure it was a conscious decision but a physical and mental reality to let go of the reins. It was easier for Cashman to put his foot down at that point (after George's ill health).

Tom Boswell: No, I was refering to the rebirth of the Yankee organization after the '87-'91 low. George backed off, as much as he could, etc.


Arlington, Va.: What explanation can you give for Mariano Rivera's consistent dominance, especially since we keep hearing that he basically does it with just one pitch - his cut fastball?

Does he have different variations of it? If hitters know what to expect why has he been unbeatable for so long (immune to the psychological frailties of so many closers - Brad Lidge etc.)?

Tom Boswell: The keys to pitching have always been pin-point command, late movement and changing speeds. Rivera is so other-worldly at the first two that he doesn't need the third. However, he does have raw velocity (though less now.)

Think of all the Nats pitchers in recent years who could throw 90-92 with a little late movement, but worked on several other pitches before they had true com,mand of that perfectly nice fastball.

Lannan, who doesn't have any pitch remotely as good as Rivera's cutter, is the only one who has figured it out. Command the 88-90 fastball. Establish it early. Pound the zone with it. Don't worry about getting hit sometimes. Use the changeup as your second pitch and, on nights when it is working, mix in the curveball.

That's it for today. All the 3 a.m.'s are gettin' a bit old. Gotta catch a train and write a column. See you next week. All in all, a pretty nice baseball season. Cheers.


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