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Thomas Boswell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 13, 2010; 11:00 AM

Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell was online Thursday, May 13 to take your questions about the surprising Nationals, Stephen Strasburg's rise through the minor leagues, the rest of baseball and the continued deconstruction of the Capitals' playoff defeat.

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The transcript follows.

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Tom Boswell: Lots to chat about.

Nats in second place. And, as Riggleman says, they "haven't hit their stride." Strasburg in AAA with 0.00 ERA and 1 hit in 12 innings. Curt Schilling on ESPN (he'd never look for attention, would he?) says Strasburg may be "the best pitcher in baseball" on his first day in the majors. Nuts?

The Pens go down to the Canadiens. When are people, especially hockey experts, going to give Montreal credit for mastering the style of hockey they play and actually beating the Caps and Pens, not "upsetting" them in some sort of fluke. And when are their foes, especially the Caps, going to face the fact that there is an enormous difference -- as I've written -- between regular-season hockey and the playoffs. The Caps seem to be in complete denial about this. "We took 100 shots in Game 100." And 90 of them were lousy chances.

Tiger's not so badly hurt after all. If he can play on a broken leg when he has a chance to win the Open, should he gut it out with a sore neck even if he has to sign for another 43 on the back nine? Pain? Or protecting his image, mystique?

Another mystique in trouble tonight -- LeBron's. I won't be rooting for Cleveland. Loved the gall of James saying that he'd had "three bad games in a seven-year career." I may become a Rondo cultist.

Would the Phils steal signs!? If they didn't, Charlie Manuel and Davey Lopes would fine the whole team.

But first, let me add one key point to my column on the Nats this morning. Can they improve enough in one year to make the playoffs?

Yes, absolutely.

Will they?

That's why we watch the games.

How can I say, "Yes." Because I covered the '89 Orioles who went from 54-107 to 87-75 -- a 33-win improvement -- in one season. The Nats, once they get Strasburg and Storen up, have more talent than tholse O's without question. That doesn't mean they'll even go 81-81. But it does mean that they are capable of something like an 87-75 season.

After 34 games, the '89 O's were only 15-19! It took them a long time to realize that they were no longer bad. (The Nats knew that even when they were 0-11 in spring training. How they could be so sure I don't know, but I was down there then and they were.

The O's caught fire May 15th and went 16-3 to reach 31-22, capping the streak with a 16-3 win over the Yanks in New York. Then they got hot again, went 7-0 and were in first place by seven games (!!) on June 22nd.

Now, here's what's most amazing to me. The O's fell apart completely in July and went 1-13 -- yes, 1-13 -- to see their lead drop to one game. How will the Nats react when they have their slump? Maybe not 1-13. But they'll be tested.

The Birds kept fighting and on Sept 27th went to Toronto for a three-game series just one game behind the Blue Jays for first place. No wildcard then. They lost, 2-1, on Friday night.

But if those O's, who'd traded malcontents like Eddie Murray, Fred Lynn and Terry Kennedy over the winter, but added nobody who was considered a star (Phil Bradley?) could improve by 33 games, the Nats could do something amazing.

That's not the same as "will." But don't waste the pleasure of imaging how it could happen.

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Washington, D.C.: Will Storen be coming to the Nationals at the same time as Strasburg?

Tom Boswell: They can bring him up sooner and it would be all right with me.

He might come up a few days earlier. The "clock" usually kicks in for that extra year before free agtency by late May. They'll hold Strasburg back, perhaps until June 4th, just to be sure.

Storen faces an easier psychological task. He only has to work behind Capps and Clippard in the bullpen. Nobody's asking him to save or set up. Oh, wanted to note that, the best I can tell, the phrase "Clip, Store and Save," that I used in a column a while back, was coined on the Nationals Journal by poster "BinM." I'll see if I can look up his name. Just a tip of the hat.

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Tallahassee: I'm trying to keep my Strasburg-mania to something less than Schilling levels, but it's not easy. Compare Prior's and Strasburg's AAA statistics (3 starts vs. 2 starts):

Prior: 16.1 i.p., 10 hits, 1 HR, 8 BB, 24 Ks, 1.29 WHIP. Stras: 12 i.p., 1 hit, 0 HR, 2 BB, 13 Ks, 0.25 WHIP.

I know it's a small sample, different leagues, different times... But maybe Schilling is right. Maybe our generation has never seen this good a -pitcher- this young before.

Tom Boswell: Lets keep a little sanity. And take some pressure off the guy. He's only 21. The Schilling hype was over the top and probably self-serving. If Strasburg turns out to be one of the greatest, then super. But don't put a gorilla on his back with premature talk.

Many dominant pitchers comepletely shut down minor league hitters. Here are some career ERAs in the minors when these pitchers first got called up.

Josh Beckett ...1.75.

Tim Lincecum ...1.01. (13 starts-62.2 IP-26 hits-23W-104K)

Justin Verlander ...1.29

Roger Clemens ...1.47.

There are many more. Yet Clemens came up at the same age as Strasburg and had a 7.13 ERA after six starts! His rookie year, in 24 starts, he was "only" at 4.23. The next year, he missed almost half the season (with injury, I think) and went 7-5 with a 3.20 ERA.

If that happened to Strasburg, people would spend his first two years screaming, "Over-hyped" and then "injury prone."

Then Clemens went 20 years with almost no injuries.

If Clemens can start that way, and everybody knew he had unbelievable stuff from Day One, we need to cut Strasburg some slack. If he wants to be the best ever, fabulous. I think we can find a way to cope with that.

However, I gotta say that Strasburg really did look amazing last night. Much better than his previous start, even though the lines were similar. He had command, real command, of a 96-98 fastball, an even better curve and slider and a plus changeup.

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Hagerstown: Tom,

Let's say the once unthinkable happens and the Nationals find themselves in playoff contention in August and September. I'm now going to assume that Strassburg pitches effectively for the Nats. Would the Nats really "shut him down" once he reaches the organization's inning limit if the team could make the playoffs?

Second question, when SS reaches the big team in 3-4 weeks, who comes out of the rotation given that every starter is suddenly providing quality starts?

Tom Boswell: SS will pitch about 160 innings this year in all leagues combined. So, if he has about 55 IP in AA-AAA, then he'll probably get about 105 IP with the Nats or perhaps 16-17 starts.

When he hits his limit, around Labor Day, they will shut him down, even if it costs them the playoffs. That's a no-brainer.

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Arlington, VA: Hey Bos,

what's your impression of Ian Desmond so far? I know he's had flashes of brilliance, but in the games that I've seen, he's also blown some easy plays.

Tom Boswell: He's wonderful. They've found their SS for many years. Way above average range. Capacity for really special plays. Not nearly as careless or scatter-armed as I expected. After three errors in his first four games, he only has three more since then. He may not even have 25 errors this year.

Great energy and team spirit. Good guy.

His hitting speaks for itself. Last year and this year, in 182 at bats: .264/.315/.489.

So, project that to a full season in '11. In 546 at bats (3 X 182), he'd have 36 doubles, 12 triples, 21 homers, 81 RBI and a 12-0 mark on steals. Is that good enough? And he's been hitting a lot at the bottom of the order with no protection this season.

Is he durable? Will he improve? Is his OPS of .850 last year or .750 this year more indicative? Davey Johnson said his "pop" reminded him of Cal Ripken. Lets not go crazy. But he is a major game-changer for the franchise, assuming his minor-league history of (a few) injuries is a fluke.

Just enjoy him. Fab arm. The left side of Zimmerman and Desmond may be talked about here for a long time. And Roggleman is handling him just right, imo, with the three-way platoon at 2nd-SS. Don't ask him for 600 ABs as a rookie. He's on a pace for>480 ABs. That's fine.

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Washington DC: I know you're trying to temper our enthusiasm when you say Ubaldo Jimenez is a good Strasburg comp, but I just looked at Jimenez's AAA numbers (when he was 22): 78.1 IP, 74 H, 64 K, 43 BB and a 5.06 ERA. I mean, there's no argument that Strasburg is worlds better as a 22 year old, right? Lincecum's AAA numbers are much more like Strasburg's, and he was a year older. Shouldn't we just go ahead and hope for something no one's ever seen before? I promise not to be too disappointed if he looks human against the Cincinnati Reds.

Tom Boswell: What knocks everybody out is how advanced SS is FOR HIS AGE. But I don't see how he can get much better! Is hed suddenly going to three 3 m.p.h. faster? He's already hitting his spots most of the time with four pitches. His mechanics look excellent to me. Standing 10 feet behind Pudge in ST (Ib ehind a chainlink fence), I could see exactly what SS looks like to hitters. The ball comes out of his shirt, like it is shot out of the upper right side of his chest. He's not "over the top" where you can pick up the ball sooner, sometimes. You never see the ball until it is already on the way. So, he's a sneaky fast 95-98.

OTOH, that 100-to-102 fastball we heard scouts talk a bout last year hasn't materialized. It;s not needed. Much rather have a sinker-breaking-ball-changeup combination with great movement on them all, not a four-seamer that's faster but straight.

It's my job to observe, not jump up and down. In his first AAA start, his velocity on all pitches dropped 3-4 m.p.h. as sson as he went to the stretch. He's TOO quick to the plate with men on base. The guy who tried to steal on him last night was out by 10 feet.

Since '69 when Teddy Ballgame was manager, Washington has had one fun baseball summer -- '05 -- so I don't begrudge anybody some "irrational exhuberance" at 19-15 with SS and DS coming up and (maybe) Wang, too. Why not?

But the tests come when things don't go as planned. That's why Wednesday's win, after a really ugly blown-lead loss on Tuesday night, was another good sign. Like the 1-0 Sunday bounce back against the Dodgers after the 13-inning loss the night before.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Boz,

Looks like the only reason Strasburg isn't in the Majors right now is MLB's stupid "Super Two" rule, etc.

If he really is as good as he seems, and doesn't get injured in the next few years, when he's up for arbitration, what's to stop him then from demanding the money he could/should have made had he entered the Majors at the start of the season?

Tom Boswell: There's an issue of holding down total money spent on SS's salary. But much more important is the 2016 season. If you bring him up today, he might be in New York or L.A. that season. If you wait until June, he'll be in Washington in '16 -- making a ton of money -- but here, not somewhere else.

The Nats aren't going to win the Series this year (probably). But you never know about '16. Why not keep that possibility open.

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Kearneysville, W. Va.: Yes, you are correct, the Habs did beat the Pens and Capitals. Can we now say that guy Crosby is over rated since his 'team' lost to Montreal and he only scored one goal in seven games? These comparisons seem ridiculous.

Tom Boswell: Oh, I thought Crosby missed the whole series with an injury. Wasn't he out with two broken ankles?

He played like it.

Ovechkin was good against the Habs, just not goods enough. Crosby stunk it up. Who cares if Canada won the Olympics? Hockey is their sport. They should. Big deal. (Okay, I know it's a big deal.) But, right now, I'd take Eight over Crosby.

Last night, after his stupid penalty in the first 10 seconds -- the biggest play/mistake of the game since it gave the habs an instant 1-0 lead -- Crosby just disappeared. Did he and Gonchar have a plane to catch?

As for lame excuses, I've never heard Ovechkin say anything like Crosby's whine: "I don't know how that's a penalty (for boarding) in the first 10 seconds of Game Seven. Yes, I'm stunned."

They called it for the same reason it's been called in every minute of the season, dope. It wasn't even close. If Ovechkin had done it, it would have been called borderline dirty, too.

Crosby was "stunned" because they had the guts to call it on HIM in his own building.

I always hated the Igloo. Nothing but bad memories. Glad to see 'em close the barn that way.

The Pens lost even though they had been given fair warning by the Caps-Habs series that Monmtreal was good, hot and playing a system that would thwart their style. That just says to me that they were ready to be taken and that, if the Caps had beaten Molntreal, they'd have handled the Pens, too. That's what I thought all season -- undefeated vs Pittsburgh -- and I think it even more now.

When will the Caps retool -- not rebuild -- their roster so it can cope better with a Montreal-type series next spring?

Bruce Boudreau's wonderful chat here yesterday, always so honest, seems to shopw that the Caps have curled up for the summer with the Hot Goalie, We're Better, We Didn't Really Choke, Don't Need To Change Much line of easiest possible excuses. There's truth in all of those points. But you don't get better by focusing on them. You need to look at one goal in each of the last three games and say, "That isn't ALL the goalie. If you let those guys get even one goal ahead, they've mastered a style that'll drive you crazy if you can't score in close and ugly."

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Sec 114, Row E: Cannot find anything on the Nats site, but heard the rumor that the Nats had added more blackout dates to their Red Carpet Rewards - for the entire Reds/Pirates homestand.

It's more important to court the single game fan, than reward the STH?

Tom Boswell: You better get your RCR done fast. It's first come first served. I got mine done. Not in the same section with our tickets, but the next one over. Not bad for "free."

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Washington,DC: Tom,yesterday we saw major contributions from the bottom of the lineup.That seems like a very good sign.

Tom Boswell: "Miracle seasons," or even really-really good ones, usually require contributions from about 30 players. The best sign of the season is that Ryan Zimmerman hasn't gotten to wear the Elvis Wig yet. And he's slugging .629. What do you have to do around here to get to look like a fool?

The starts by Matt Chico and Luis Atilano remind me of the wins in '89 by RH O's pitcher Dave Johnson (now TV in Baltimore). He had the worst stuff I've ever seen in the big leagues (except his spitball, wich was pretty decent). He gave them a nice boost -- and proof that ANYBODY can contribute -- after that 1-13 collapse.

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Washington, D.C.: Boz,

Will you write a column on Pudge soon? It's a great story and I'd love to see him in the All Star Game as a Nat!

Tom Boswell: Great story. And typical of HOFers who are embarassed by a poor season or two late in their career, then suck it out, rededicate themselves, maybe change their hitting style a bit, and have a couple of more fine years. Pudge has cut down his stroke, may only hit a few homers this year, but he may hit>.290. He could milk this style for a few years. Carlton Fisk was still a solid hitter and fine catcher from age 38 to 43 (when he made the All-Star team and hit 18 homers with 74 RBI).

Ted Williams hit .254 at 40, then came back the next year to prove he could still do it and hit .316, slugged .645 and hit 29 homers in 310 ABs. Stan Musial hit .255, .275 and .288, then hit .330 and was 10th in the MVP voting at 41.

What Pudge is doing is a classic old story. And he may do it again next year. It is NOT a fluke. The Nats are No. 2 in stopping stolen bases, behind St. Louis with Molina at C. Last who was No. 2 behind St. Louis in preventing steals? Pudge's Houston team.

Also, I've wasted a lot of time trying to see how the ERAs of pitchers who worked with Pudge compared to their ERAs with other catchers. It appears that he is an exceptional pitch caller -- not a poor one and you sometimes hear dopes say. I'll give the stats some time, but his catcher-ERA is usually much better than the other catchers who have worked with various pitchers. I think he and Livan are a wonderfuldiabolical pitch-calling match right now. The fact that I can't get either of them to talk about it with me is all the more reason to think so. Livan just looks like the cat that swallowed the canary.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Boz - Do you believe the rumors of the Phillies stealing singals from the bullpen? Is this a little secret that happens on every club?

Tom Boswell: Of course, the Phils steal signs. Charlie, one of my favorites, is proud of it. The only question is the limits of what is "part of the game" and what is cheating. In the era of CF cameras, it's pretty tough to think that binocs in the bullpen are much of an edge!

If a bunch of wise old birds like Riggleman, McCatty, McLaren and Listach can't steal some signs, they should be ashamed. But the Nats have been caught stealing on pitch outs too much this season. Either they're going on predictable counts or they need to change their signs.

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At my Desk: So, very simple, at what point do the Nats become 'formidable?' As in, not a pushover, not a butt of jokes, and just good enough to make the teams vying for the wild card (or NL East crown) nervous?

Soon, I hope.

Tom Boswell: Maybe the day Strasburg and Storen come up.

The Nats leading realist is Rizzo. Don't try to get him to say anything too optimistic. It's not in him. If they were 80-60 he wouldn't say they'd finish over .500. The reason the Nats have so much depth now is partly his phobia about Murphy's Law.

Things can go wrong. What about Lannan tonight? How is his elbow?

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Washington, D.C.: Hey, Boz, I am absolutely loving our happy, scrappy Nats, but sports talk radio still gives them ZERO coverage. It's ridiculous. Yesterday, there was more talk on Brian Cushing's drug positive than on our win against the Mets. What gives? And can you blast these frat morons on radio in a column?

Tom Boswell: The large majority of the sport media in D.C. knows nothing about baseball and wishes it would go away. They don't want to take the trouble to educate themselves.

Why? It's obvious. WEhen a town doesn't have baseball for 33 yedars, then NOBODY who really likes baseball is going to base their radio/TV/writing career in Washington. And people who would rather not talk/write b aseball, but are attracted to other sports, expecially football and basketball -- at which D.C. teams excelled in the '80's -- are going to want to come and be pundits on Skins, Terps, Hoyas, etc.

It was the same with hockey here for 30 years. The Caps choked in the playoffs and had a core fan base but no broad appeal. So no hockey experts were attracted to D.C. That was reality. By going to playoff games for 20 years, and taking the trouble to ask Caps coaches and GM's to help me understand the game, I probably knew as much hockey as anybody who wasn't actually on the Caps beat. I cherished the compliments from the Murrays, Wilson, etc. But that's sad. Then, Ovechkin came. And the fan base -- the basic local appeal of the sport changed. So, you change. That is your JOB. I've spent 2 1/2 years studying hockey more than I ever did before. Larry King always told me I'd fall for it someday. So, now everybody in town has to play catchup on the Caps. They're doing it. And they should.

But the resistance to the Nats is deep. Hockey is still Canadian. But baseball is American. If you're supposed to be a sports expert but you don't know baseball, you look bad. And if you think Hockey People want to chew up and spit out people who Don't Know THEIR Sport, then what about the baseball seamheads!

So, all the radio people just wish the Nats would go away. There's even someone who wrote five columns trying to keep Nationals Park from being built! "The worst idea in the hstory of cities." Hard to forget that one. And, for now, semi-ignoring the Nats can still justified -- to a degree. But as the Nats fan base grows, it will be their JOB to cover it. Just as the change in the Cap fan base defined coverage of the team.

Ovechkin was a game-changer -- in public interest and the coverage that followed. Will Strasburg -- who could throw a no-hitter any night he pitches -- do the same? We'll see.

I'm not going to be like the Hockey As Religion folks who resent "newbies" and want to act special. I'll tell the newcomers to the Nats Wagon -- if it arrives -- "welcome to baseball ... come enjoy what you've been missing."

If you think the hockey season and playoffs are gripping, wait until you see a pennant race and post-season that runs almost every day for 200 days. Now THAT feeds Talk Radio and blogs and chats and newspapers like nothing else in sports. Just listen/read in NY, LA, Philly, Boston, Chicago.

If the Nats turn the corner, coverage and attendance will follow, hand in hand. And it may be exponential once it starts.

But you have to turn that corner first -- and 19-15 is just a start.

When it comes to good teams, the more the merrier. It's not like we have an excess of them right now.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Dear Boz: I just have to throw my two cents in about the Habs. In hockey, a hot goaltender--remember Kolzig in '98 taking a mediocre team to the finals?--trumps everything else come playoff time. Crosby stunk last night--he must be tired--but Fleury was awful as well. As was Varlamov in Game 7 vs. Pens last year.

Baseball: do you think Dunn will be around another year? The reason I'm asking is that it is rumored that San Diego will shop Adrian Gonzalez at the trade deadline. If the asking price was, say, Atilano, Bernadina, Dunn and a draft pick, would you think that was too much to give up? Gonzalez and Zimmerman would make wonderful book-ends, don't you think?

Tom Boswell: Ah, Washington ... "and a draft pick."

There's no crying in baseball ... and no trading draft picks.

Nice point about the goalies.

Extend Dunn. Today, tom orrow, any day is a good day. His OPS is above his career average and he hasn't even gotten hot yet. He's getting better at 1st all the time, though his footwork needs improving on throws to his left and right. He's not shifting his feet properly -- with a quick sideways shuffle -- and so he's cutting down his own lateral reach.

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Oxon Hill, Md.: So I'm trying to look ahead and buy tickets to one or two games when Strasburg is called up to the majors. Do we know when he's scheduled to pitch?

Tom Boswell: Ah, the mystery.

It'll be the first homestand in June. But which of the six games! The Nats will keep us waiting in part so people will guess wrong and buy tickets to other games! As they should.

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Mayaguez, Puerto Rico: Boz - Since Desmond is finally on the big league roster and looking pretty solid so far, how will this help or hurt Danny Espinosa? Has Rizzo discussed the possibily of moving Espinosa to 2nd base?

Tom Boswell: Espinoza has real-prospect stats. I haven't eyeballed him. The Nats brain trust, which now actually is a brain trust, likes him. Anybody who can play SS can learn to play 2nd. And if he's a better SS than Desmond is now -- and Ian will probably be improving for the next couple of years -- then he's mighty good.

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What is a success for the team on the next 6 games?: I figure if they are back in DC with a record of .500 or better, thats still a good road trip. Your opinion?

Tom Boswell: Some Nats insiders would have been able to live with a 15-25 stats to the season after that 6.11 team ERA in sp;ring training with Marquis and Capps both looking bad.

Now, if they go 2-4 in Col and St. Louis, they come home 21-19. If you'd given me 10 guesses for a $1,000 prize, none of my guesses would have been over .500.

The Nats have played zero "bad teams" yet. Of the teams that have, so far, been outscored by more than a run-a-game, the Nats play 33 games against them in the last 122. Not a ton, but it helps. Their interleague games couldn't look much easier -- on paper. O's six times, Kansas City and Cleveland three each. No games with the Yanks, Rays or Bosox this year. See how little things sometimes fall in place?

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Reston, Va.: Boz, two questions:

What is WHIP?

and, going on the presumption the Nats will pick and sign Harper, how long does a phenom hitter like him take to get to Washington?

Tom Boswell: WHIP is the number of hits-plus-walks that a pitcher allows per nine innings.

It is an excellent measure of dominance, good stuff and low walks. When looking at various teams minor league pitching prospects, I just click the "WHIP" column as the first "sort" to see who's worth learning more about.

And it's one big reason that I can't be too critical about the people who are going over the moon on Strasburg. His WHIP is sick. Compared to anybody in the minors ever. Like Lincecum. Small sample size, but ....

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Redskins?: Isn't it great to have something to discuss during the summer, other than Redskins OTA's?

Tom Boswell: YES! They will have to drag my bloody fingers away from this chat. I'm sorry.

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Arlington, Va.: Boz - save for the high-roller seats, where would you recommend sitting to fully appreciate the greatness that will be Strasburg?

Tom Boswell: Buy a $10 seat, come early, Get one of the "railbird" seats behind the lower deck boxes on the 1st or 3rd base side. Then don't move. "'Cause somebody's going to take it from you!

If you are going to spring for a box seat, try to get about 15-to-25 rows up -- not too low to the field, not too far back. Just my preference.

If you can still get a Gallery seat between the bases (between 1st and 3rd) for $24, you will be in the upper deck, but you will feel like you are hanging right OVER Strasburg as he pitches.

If you're going to go crazy on the most expensive seats, I think the $150's (or whatever they are) behind home plate are almost as good as the $330 tickets.

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Penn Quarter, Washington, D.C.: Tom, just wanted to observe how much fun it is to be able to look forward to each game with anticipation AND a bona fide belief that the Nats can win. Plus I don't have to write snarky questions about the Cold Pizza Man or complain about the "almost criminal" treatment of some player or other to favor an ex-Red. The golden age of D.C. baseball is not here yet, but isn't it great to believe that better days are coming and that the young fans who are growing up with the team may have many years of entertaining baseball to enjoy! (Now I go back to worrying that the bottom falls out at any time.)

Tom Boswell: Agreed on all points (including the last).

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Herndon, Va.: Liked your comments about talk radio. It irritates me to turn on the radio in May and hear Redskins talk. It's baseball season!

What did you think of the collapse vs. the Mets on Tuesday. Was it a case of "had to happen sometime" and it's just one game, and let's get 'em tomorrow (which they did)? Or a troubling sign that leaving so many runners on base will come back to haunt them?

Tom Boswell: It had to happen and it will happen again. Stroen sholuld help lengthen the p;en.

But look up the records of Bruney, Walker, Slaten and Batista LAST year. These guys were all perfectly credible pitchers. If they get back to their decent (4.00 ERA) form, the bullpen improves fast. They all have power stuff. Bruney is a wound-tight guy. He really wants to succeed. If he could ever relax he'd be a mini-Capps.

All the Nats stats indicate that they should have scored more runs this season. They should be on a pace for 750. That will even out -- more hits with runners on and less solo homers.

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Penn Quarter, D.C.: God bless you, Boz. At least some working media professional in this town understands and appreciates the national pastime. Now, if only we could get Phil Wood back on D.C. radio ...

Tom Boswell: Phil is one of the handful of true Links to Washington's baseball past (and future). We sat together for a few minutes doing a radio interview just before the first pitch of the first game back in town, if I remember right. Nice moment.

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Los Angeles: Has a middle reliever ever won the Cy Young?

Tom Boswell: Clippard projects to a 34-5 record this season.

That should do it. More wins than Denny McLain.

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Actually, WHIP is ...: WHIP = walks + hits per inning pitched. Not nine innings.

Tom Boswell: Sorry, brain cramp. Per inning.

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Washington, D.C.: What are the chances Storen is closing next season, either because of Capps' ineffectiveness or being dealt for prospects?

Tom Boswell: Capps may be an above-average closer, not just a guy who's hot. Stroen has fine stuff. A 93-94 fastball and a curve (his strikeout pitch) that's roughly as good as Strasburg's but more over the top. Like the O's Gregg Olsen in '89. But Storen doesn't have a changeup (at least not one he used). He's "just" a very good reliever, not a superstar. His low walk totals will help a lot. But there's no need to rush him. Right now, he's probably not as good as Capps or maybe Clippard who really has a devartating three-pitch arsenal and a wacky delivery.

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Scott Olsen: I've given up three earned runs in the last 23 innings. But I get pulled in the 6th inning so I can watch the inevitable Bruney-Batista Disaster unfold. You better believe I'm bitter.

Tom Boswell: He and Rig hugged. Olsen's gotten his career back. It was a cold night for a guy coming back from major shoulder surgery. I liked the move at the time. Davey Johnson says he liked to build an A and a B bullpen in his Mets and O's days. For the Nats, that's be Clip-Store-and-Save as A and Bruney, Burnett, Walker and Batista as "B."

"When you get your 'B' bullpen almost as good as your 'A' bullpen, then you can really start rolling off some wins," said Davey.

Rig's trying to get the 'B' bullpen fixed. The arms look good enough. Patience.

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Washington, D.C.: Let's count the number of players who will likely contribute to the Nats team in 2012, as you suggested: Dunn (if he re-signs), Desmond, Zimmerman, Morgan, Willingham (maybe), Lannan, J. Zimmermann, Clippard, and in the minors, Strasburg, Storen, Norris, Espinosa.

This is fun! Am I missing anyone?

Tom Boswell: A lot more, potentially: Olsen (26), Stammen (27, long relief), Capps (26), Wang (29, long shot), Detwiler (23, a No. 6 overall), Burnett. Bernandina or Maxwell or even Flores are still possible. All young. And I've forgotten a couple.

_______________________

Alexandria, Va.: How much credit to Rizzo for the recent success and long term outlook?

Tom Boswell: A ton.

If the season continues to go well, enough that he should be considered seriously for Executive of the Year.

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H Street, NE: Hi Boswell, how do you feel about the rumors of the skins possibly going back to the "gold" pants? Are you a uniform freak?

Tom Boswell: Not a uniform freak.

But I think the Skins need to bring in just one more running back for a tryout to make sure Clinton Portis gets the message:

Jim Brown.

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Section 117: Tom, Strasburg by himself is not enough. All you need to do to see that is look around the league at some teams' groups of front-line starters: Halladay/Hamels, Lincecum/Cain (plus the potential of Sanchez and Bumgarner), Kershaw/Billingsley, Carpenter/Wainwright, Lee/King Felix, Verlander/Porcello, Beckett/Lester/Buchholz, CC/Burnett/Hughes, the list goes on.

So what do the Nats have? Hope that Zimmermann develops? Hope that Wang recovers? Why is Kasten telling you that the pitching is "here"? They have a long way to go. Sometimes, even the best guys don't pan out, as you have noted repeatedly. But other than Strasburg, the Nats don't even really have those guys in the first place. Where will the Lerners go from here?

Tom Boswell: That's why they went so hard after Aroldis Chapman. Strasburg, Chapman and Zimmermann would have been a power-arm trio to envy.

They absolutely need a No. 2 to be a serious contender. That's why Zimmermann matters so much. Not many "Roy Oswalt types" hanging around.

I'm sorry to leave 100+ questions unanswered. But I just gotta get out of here. (This chat ties up other people's days.) See you next week.

What did we forget?

Oh, Tiger Woods.

How soon they forget.

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Western Maryland: Mr. Boswell,

In your opinion, will Haynesworth be a Redskin coming opening night? I get the sense that Shanny/Allen would love to dump the guy but aren't willing to simply give him away. Personally, I'd rather let the guy rot on the bench then trade him for a 4th or 5th rounder.

As an aside, McNabb appears to be the true team leader that this team has lacked since probably the Gibbs 1 days. This trade looks better every day to me, and I already loved it the day it was made!

Tom Boswell: Albert should be ashamed to have the same name on his uniform -- Washington -- as Cristian Guzman.

Guzman has made a ton of money (over $33 million), including $8 million this year, been an All-Star twice, played in four postseasons, hit .300 three times and played over 1,300 games at shortstop. He's only 32, in a contract year, and he gets told that he's now part of a three-way platoon.

His reaction to Riggleman -- within a day of the news? "He came in and told me, 'I'll do whatever I can to help.'

"So, we said, 'How about playing second base and, oh, rightfield, too,'" Riggleman told me. "He went out there and practiced and we started him in RF. I really admire that guy."

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