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Ask Boswell: Nats, Santan Moss's HGH trouble, Floyd Landis, Lance Armstrong, Stephen Strasburg, MLB, Redskins and more

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Thomas Boswell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 20, 2010; 11:00 AM

Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell was online Thursday, May 20 to take questions about the Santana Moss's alleged HGH use, Floyd Landis's admission to using performance enhancing drugs and accusations against Lance Armstrong, Stephen Strasburg, the MLB and the Redskins offseason.

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The transcript follows.

Discussion Archives

Boswell Column Archives

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Tom Boswell: Lots to talk about today. If you haven't seen it, the Post now has multiple sources reporting that Santana Moss of the Redkins received HGH (against NFL rules) from Canadian doctor Anthony Galea who faces federal charges. Check our site.

As to the supposed "ethical issues" surrounding players using HGH, it's clear cut. If your league says it is against the rules, then it is -- because they make the rules. If you break the rules, for whatever reason -- to enhance erformane or heal an injury -- you cheated.

Also, Steven Strasburg pitched 6 1/3 shutout innings last night and struck out nine men even though, by his standards, he was not sharp for the first four innings. It seems clear that, unless rain messes up his schedule, he will debut at Nationals Park on June 4th. No one can be sure. If he pitched poorly his next two ties out, etc., it might be some other day. But, for those who want to get tickets, this hhas gone from "probably June 4-5-or-6." To very likely June 4th.

The Nast and Orioles meet for a three-day series this weekend here. Complete contrast. Nats 21-20 and playing quite well, even during the five-game losing streak that they broek last night. Orioles have the qworst record in baseball (13-28) and look almost as desperate as the Nats a year ago, even though, on paper they look like they "ought to be" better this year. Of course, that's what the Nats were moaning 365 days ago as their season disappeared.

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Washington, D.C.: Bos,

Why do so many people (mostly journalists) get on their moral high horse when they hear a player has done HGH or steroids? How does someone else doing HGH effect their lives? I for one am happy that Moss tried to get back on the field quicker by using everything that was available to him. That makes him a good teammate in my book. And please don't give me the "won't somebody think of the children?" argument. People should focus on raising their own damn kids and not expect athletes to do it for them.

Tom Boswell: Society has rules in all areas of life. And we debate what those rules should be. And, of course, as the culture changes or knowledge in some area (like medicine) increass, the rules change.

BUT at any particular time, society says, "These are the rules." In sports, if you break them, you cheated. In the case of steroids and HGH, the main reason they are baned is because the medical community -- not everybody in it, but the majority -- think that they are dangerous. That is the best imaginable reason to make something against the rules in a sport. You want a level playing field. f you allow a drug that is harmful, then anybody who wants to have an equal chance to win has to endanger his/her health to compete.

If the day ever comes when steroids and/or HGH are considered safe, then let athletes use them. Until then, don't. Remember, these athletes have knee problems, damaged muscles or ligaments; they don't have a fatal disease. By "denying" them steroids or HGH, you are NOT prevently them from getting proper medical treatment for cancer or some terminal illness. You are just prevently them (like Andy Pettitte) from getting back into the pitching rotation more quickly.

The people who sound ridiculous in this "debate" -- if it even deserves the term -- are those who get on their soap box to defend athletes who cheat so they can get their knee to feel better faster, or ride their bike a little faster, when there is plenty of medical evidence that steroids (for example) can do terrible damage to the health of young athletes who copy pros and use them.

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I'm Callin' It Shea, N.Y.: A few years back there was this young pitcher with nasty stuff who won a Cy Young award with a 24-4 record.

As a rookie.

He spent the rest of his career trying to live up to that, fell into coke and smack and lost just about everything.

His name was Dwight Gooden.

Before casting Stephen Stasburg's plaque at Cooperstown already, can we please at least give him a bit of a quelling on the expectations?

Tom Boswell: Good point, as I've pointed out, too. (Actually, Doc went 17-9 his first year at age 19.)

That much success that fast can be as disorienting as failure. Strasburg has so much talent that, by this time next year, I assume that expectations will, and probably should, be quite high. How high? That's what we're going to find out. At EVERY LEVEL as you move up through the baseball chain, "The hitters will tell you" how good your stuff and command are. They will define what the proper expectations should be. Until major league hitters -- a real lineup, not spring training -- face Strasburg for 10-12 games, we don't know what we should expect.

However, I looked up the minor league careers of every other pitcher who was taken No. 1 overall in the amateur draft and none of them had anything remotely approaching the success in the bush leagues that Strasburg has had (0.89 ERA). The lowest career minor league ERA I could find for any of them was 3.30. Floyd Bannister had a tiny sampling of innings and was exceptional. He's the closest. But "the hitters told us" about Andy Benes and Ben McDonald -- one very good, the other pretty good for a few years -- before they got to the majors. They were good. But the AAA numbers suggested that we should worry about them making the Hall of Fame. Hitters were not overpowered. When Big Ben was called up from AAA in '90 as a rookie, he had a 3-4 record and 3.60 ERA in 10 starts in the minors. He looked good. But that actully ended up predicting his career fairly well. Career ERA: 3.91.

That's why Strasburg has everybody so excited. What if he is even remotely as efficient in MLB as he has been so far? That seems unthinkable. In about 15 days, the hitters will start telling us.

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There are no heroes: Very sad about Floyd Landis, but I think most of us suspected this all along and would not be surprised to learn of his teammates' involvement, as well. (I'm sure that even as I type this, Sally Jenkins, who adores him, is writing furiously in Lance Armstrong's defense.) I grew up in a village outside of Interlachen, Switzerland, and loved watching the cyclists, with their 0% body fat, racing up and down the Alps. I don't have the body type to do that, but I enjoy casual biking and always followed the major races. Now I just feel very let down, although, as I said, I'm really not all that surprised.

Tom Boswell: The day I offer a view on cycling just push me out a window.

However, there are many sports where you have to decide whether you want to break the rules -- and hope you don't get caught -- to try to be the best oif the best or whether you will simply do the best you can within the rules. Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey, Jr., were for years, and probably still are, friends. Bonds wanted to break every record, no matter what he had to do. He got his seven MVP trophies, but he's now paying a high price for them. Griffey, it appears, will certainly go into the Hall of Fame with a clean reputation -- but no major record. The worst that anybody can be said of him is that he might have taken a nap in the clubhouse during a game once; no, actaully, you can't even say that anymore.

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Charleston, S.C.: This may not be your area of expertise, but I am interested in hearing your take on the Wizards potentially getting John Wall. I think it is great that all four of the area's teams are giving the fans a little dose of hope. I like to think that it will work out for at least one of these teams right? I mean the odds are in our favor...

Tom Boswell: I covered a lot of basketball for a long time, including much of the wing era at GU. I agree with Magic (in Wilbon's column) that point guard is a more important position than it has ever been. So, assuming Wall is a star, then getting an outstanding point guard can really help a team like the Wiz quickly. Arenas has NEVER been a natural point guard. The guy is a scorer. He and Wall, in theory, should be able to work together.

But I still don't think Wall, or any point guard, can utterly transform a team the way a great big man like Tim Duncan or Shaq have done in the past.

I'm stunned at the changes of fortune of so many local teams so quickly. I wonder if three teams that were as bad and as mortified as the '09 Nats, '09 Skins and last season's Wiz have ever had so much reason to hope for better days and to see it happen in a matter of weeks.

It's almost silly to think of the same town having No. 1 draft picks -- and not ordinary No. 1's, but potentially best-of-the-best No. 1s -- like Ovechkin, Strasburg and, conceivably Bryce Harper. Don't know if Wall has ever been quite that highly touted,even after his success at U-Ky.

Also, it's only in reccent months that the Skins got Shanahan and McNabb (one of the great steals, imo).

Right now, the Nats, Skins and Wiz all have the same goal -- get back to .500, then see if you can build from there. I'd say the Nats are clearly in the lead in that race right now. If not this year, then next year it looks like .500 is in the cards. Baseball is starting pitching. In a couple of weeks, the Nats rotation should be Strasburg, Lannan (healthy), Olsen (career back on track), Livan Hernandez, Craig Stammen (good stuff, but needs to get better results) with Jason Marquis rehabbing and Chien-Ming Wang a possibility. Then Jordan Zimmerman, with better stuff than any of them except Strasburg, should be working out of the bullpen in September at the lastest and probably in the rotation next year. With Store-Clip-and-Save in the bullpen, this team is not far from having well above average pitching. And last year they were The Worst.

I'd rank the Skins No. 2 in that comeback race, although losing Moss -- potentially for four games for a suspension if things work out badly for him -- certainly wouldn't help the outlook. But that possibility, and that's all it is now, is a long way off.

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Optimist in Va.: Wow. I don't remember such optimism about D.C. sports in a long, long time. Strasburg and Storen coming up to a nice Nats team; McNabb and Shanahan taking control of the Redskins; The Great Wall of Chinatown about to be the number one pick; Ovechkin and company still young and strong to give us thrills for many years to come. Tell me this won't end with injuries, DUIs, and other dramas that will take away from the excitement? Please.

Tom Boswell: I love The Great Wall of Chinatown.

Cities can go in sports cycles. D.C. was down in the '50's and '60's, then came back fast in the '70's with George Allen, Lefty D at Maryland and then, by the early '80's, Washington was as hot as any town in the country with the Redskins under Gibbs, the Hoyas and Terps, Sugar Ray Leonard a kind of local franchise and (for those who don't cringe) the '83 Orioles in the picture, too, giving a lot of pleasure to a lot of people who wouldn't have had any connection to baseball -- even a semi-local, stricly-temporary-solutiuon kind of baseball.

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Nats Stadium: Minor Q, but of interest to me. Are the Lerners going to keep the name of the stadium Nationals Stadium (which I like for purity sake) or sell the rights? If so, any rumors on who is interested in buying the rights? Does the arrangement with DC play into the naming issue?

Tom Boswell: If they get their price for naming rights, then they'll do it. But in this bad economy, they don't want to lock up a long-term deal on poor terms. They've alweays said they intend to sell the rights.

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Raleigh, N.C.: Do you think we'll see Portis in a Redskins uniform in the fall or will the Redskins go with Parker and Johnson?

Tom Boswell: I think they'll hold an open competition. But I don't think Portis will be shown much loyalty because of past performance. That's been neutralized by past transgressions by being a poor teammate.

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Manassas, Va.: First Nook Logan, now Santana Moss! I have lost my faith in steroids.

Tom Boswell: Gotta say that was also my forth or fifth level of reaction to the Moss news.

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Washington, D.C.: Mr. Boswell, thanks for these chats! What are your thoughts on Bryce Harper? I've read about attitude problems, but I think those are nonsense. He seems like a well-grounded 17 year old, emphasis on SEVENTEEN year old.

I think the Nationals should take him, and that we shouldn't see him at Nats Park until 2012/13 at the earliest. I envision him being the right fielder of the future, in the hopes Derek Norris (or even Jesus Flores) can be the catcher of the future.

washingtonpost.com: Bryce Harper, potential No. 1 pick in the MLB draft, faces questions about his attitude, not his ability (Washington Post, May 15)

Tom Boswell: No 17-year-old is a safe pick in terms of future personality development.

Ken Griffey, Jr., once told me about his suicide attempt after his rookie year in pro ball. All the pressure got to him. From the day he signed, everybody talked about how he would break every home run record in the sport. I wrote about it in a profile in Playboy. Even 15 years later, he viewed it as a serious attempt on his part.

So you can't be sure about Harper who rubs some people the wrong way. Actaully, the more I learn about him, the better I am liking -- or at least not disliking -- his personality. I'll go into this in more depth in a column in future. I suspect that growing up in Las Vegas as a Mormon is not easy. For years, I was the one non-Mormon member of a regular golf foursome. I think all my talks with them may help me understand Harper, or at least a part of his background, a little bit better. But this isn't the place for any depth on that subject.

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Landis's allegation: A current poll on the Le Monde website is asking readers what they think of Floyd Landis's admition that he used PEDs and that Lance Armstrong and other members of the US Postal team did, too. The results so far:

17 percent self-serving: He has nothing to lose and hasn't proved anything.

34 percent courageous: It helps to lift the veil of silence surrounding doping.

50 percent useful: Active riders need to be held accountable

If the Post ran a similar poll do you think that the results would be

25 percent who?

25 percent Lance is the man!

50 percent what's this got to do with the Redskins?

Greg Lemond was quoted in Le Monde a couple of summers ago that it is a shame that no one will ever know who the great champions of the past 20 years are and that he, Hinault and Fignon wouldn't finish in the top 20 nowdays. Makes me wonder why Indurain went from 5 straight victories, to a poor showing, to retirement so quickly. Did they develop a new test then?

Can we expect a reaction from Sally on this?

Tom Boswell: Thanks for the "results." But I'd go with at least 60% "what has this got to do with the Redskins."

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Silver Spring, Md.: Could you clarify what happened during that triple play last night? It seems to me the umpire near the outfield either signaled Pagan did NOT catch the ball, or maybe he made NO SIGNAL at all? The runners are at the mercy of the umpire's call, right? The only fair thing to do was rule the ball was caught and return the runners to first and second; kind of a modified infield fly rule. What's your take?

Tom Boswell: I was at the game (as a fan with friends). Pagan caught the ball. I thought the ump made no call or one that few saw. I certainly didn't see it. But that doesn't matter. The instant I saw it go in his glove, I said out loud, "Triple Play." The runners were just dead ducks. Livan, because he is slow, simply guessed that it would fall and went to third. A reasonable split-second decision. Morgan looked confused, but it wasn't a "mistake" on anybody's part. It was just a weird play. I'm surprised it doesn't happen more often.

BTW, I've never seen a fine outfielder go into a "jump slump." Morgan has been getting bad jumps on fly balls all season. I have no idea why. He was nearly perfect last year. Always headed direcly to the ball instantly. Just relax out there, Nyjer.

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Great Wall of Chinatown: Kudos to Steinberg. He and the 70 people who follow the Sports Bog had it the morning after the draft.

Tom Boswell: Good call.

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Tallahassee: Boz: Even on the Nats' recent 5 game losing streak, they never really looked horrible - as in 2009-horrible. They gave up 6, 4, 2, 6 and 3 runs. In fact, all season the Nats have only lost 2 games where they've scored 4 runs or more.

That's not to say I'm satisfied - the pitchers have been a bit lucky and the team needs more power. But it's nice to finally see professional baseball in D.C.

Tom Boswell: I agree. Perhaps more strongly. That's one of the best "losing streaks" I've seen. All the years I covered Earl Weaver's teams, he probably emphasized one thing more than any other: analyze how the game was played, not the final score. If you play the game properly, the wins will follow over a 162-game season. That applies to every detail of the game. Do the pitchers have good command? Are they getting ahead in counts? Are hitter's swinging at good pitches, etc. It's a thousand thing but it leads you to an overall sense of how a team is playing.

That's why last night's game was important. Some of the random aspect of one-run games -- call it luck if you want -- evened out in those 5 games in Colorado and St. Louis, all of which were close until the eighth inning, at least. But, if you keep losing, at some point it begins to bother you, make you press. So, an accidental slump can lead to a real slump. Now, it looks like that won't happen. Last night, they overcame an inside-the-park home run, a fluke triple play that probably cost them at least a couple of runs that inning and a start on three days rest by a veteran pitcher. And they faced a knuckleballer. I hate knuckleballers. Even the ones like Wakefield that I admire. They ruin the sport for me. You can't outlaw them. But I always hope they lose.

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Oakton, Va.: Boz,

You've mentioned you don't really make judgements on manager's in-game decisions. But there was a play last Sunday that really bothers me. I think it was the 7th inning, there were two on and none out with Scott Olsen batting. The Rox first basemen came charging right into Olsen's grill on every pitch and he continued trying to bunt. Olsen said every pitch was inside. Why wouldn't the manager have him swing away when any ground ball would easily get past the defender and you knew the pitch was going to be inside? He ended striking out trying to bunt and that was really the game.

Tom Boswell: Teams are running down the nats throats on sac bunts. They need to let a couple of pitchers fake the bunt and try to slap hit the ball ast the charging fielders. Even if it doesn't work, you'd be surprised how it takes the starch out of a first or third baseman when he's 30 feet from the hitter and the guy takes a huge swing. The idea is to try to instill the idea in the charging fielder that you're much more inerested in killing him than in any other possible outcome of the play. It costs little to fake the bunt, then take a Ruthian hack just one time with the guy in your grill. Hey, and it's fun, too.

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Arlington, Va.: Do you think that Tyler Clippard is a temporary fill-in for the Nats or a keeper?

Tom Boswell: Oh, he's a keeper. Wonderful changeup-fastball combination with s tricky delivery and a good enough breaking ball to compliment it all. He's on pace to pitch in 84 games. He's just been overused. Rig knows it. They'll kinda balance. Clippard is very good at getting more than three outs -- 4-5-6 outs. If Storen eventually takes the set-up role, Clippard can be very valuable as the guy who gets you from the sixth OR seventh inning to the eighth inning.

At 25, I think Clippard is part of the nucleus. He was excellent last year. Here are the pitchers who could all be part of the long-term Plan who are 26-or-less: Strasburg, J Zimmermann, Lannan, Olsen, Capps, Storen and Clippard. That's four starters and three relivers! With pitchers, everything can change fast. You end up needing more of them than you ever thought possible. But it's encouraging.

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Raleigh, N.C.: Tom,

What is your assessment of the Orioles at this point and can you be critical of Andy MacPhail at this point in his "plan"? Many of us fans were clamoring for help in the middle of the order and in my opinion that has disrupted the entire lineup along with Brian Roberts shifting the responsibilities around. I don't think MacPhail deserves a free pass on this. Thanks!

Tom Boswell: The injuries to Roberts and lefty closer Gonzalez have killed them. But the orioles don't seem to understand that they have no "heart" to their heart of the order. All Markakis' career stats -- on-base, slumping, RBI-per-at-bat -- are close to Josh Willingham of the Nats. Or are lower. The O's have a bunch of pretty-good hitters, but not one hitter that you really fear, especially for power, like Dunn and Zimmerman. Or, on better teams in the A.L. East, three or more power bats in a row.

Offensively, they are just outgunned. I don't think they'll ever end up with Dunn as their DH, but he'd be perfect. He'd eat Camden Yards alive just the way he does Wrigley Field.

The O's have made a lot of progress with their starting rotation. Their pitching was abysmal last year. Bt now, their bullpen looks pathetic. Andy's done a pretty good job. Partly, they are in a perfect storm at the moment. When they get healthier, they'll get a lot better. But it's bad right now. They look almost as demoralized as the Nats did last spring. The Nats may be catching them at the right time this weekend. They are feeling sorry for themselves. Don't say anthing to wake them up.

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Burke, Va.: Boz, I am beginning to really like Desmond and Bernadina. Is it the end for Maxwell with the Nats? Might be good trade bait at this point. Thoughts?

Tom Boswell: Desmond is special. He's the answer at SS for years. And he's a leader. Bernadina and Maxwell have some tools, but I don't see either of them as long-term pieces. Glad to be wrong. Maxwell is 26. If he's ever going to hit, it's time to show it. Even at AAA. He can do everything else. Even at .240 with 20-25 homers, 80+ walks and 20+ steals he'd been a nice plus. But he can't seem to find a way to do it. Ever wonder why hitters try 1,000 stances and theories? They are all a version of Maxwell, thinking, "If I could just find IT." And sometimes, even after 26, they do.

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My Man Nyjer: I totally agree with your observation about Nyjer. He looks like a different player as compared to last year -- making baserunning gaffes as well as getting bad jumps on balls hit to the outfield. He seems determined to be the "spark" on the team. He just needs to be more focused and relaxed.

Tom Boswell: He wants to be good too much for his own good. He would do anything to help. Instead, if he tried to do less, he'd probably end up doing a lot more.

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What about Ross Detwiler?: You never mention him among the future pitchers on this team and he's supposed to be coming back soon from hip surgery. He had a combined ERA of about 3.00 in AA and AAA last year and pitched pretty well in the bigs down the stretch, after being rushed to the big leagues.

Is he not part of the plan?

Tom Boswell: Detwiler and Wang are both coming back slightly slower than expected, I believe, but neither is considered a problem.

The problem is going to be finding a place for all these guys, including Marquis, to pitch.

At some point, an Atilano or Stammen may give you a nice long reliever to replace Batista. Did you think the Nats would get to the point where they'd bring up a 25-year-old like Atilano, have him go 3-0 with a decent 3.90 ERA and say, "Hey, he could be a nice long reliever someday."

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Tres Rios do Osa, Costa Rica: IF Santana Moss or some other Redskins Player used banned chemicals, it is indeed cheating, however, some players may be better able to compete by using these substances, and if so, the way the NFL, and other sports are structured, that can mean millions of dollars. So, even if a player believes that they may be eventually found out, it still is often a good business decision for the player to go ahead and use the banned substance.

Sports organizations, including in the NFL, the owners, the NFLPA, and other stakeholders should take every available step to removing the incentive to cheat, and making it more costly to cheat than not to cheat. This means that there must be testing, and there must be rules along the lines of requirements that all player contracts include language that causes major loss of income to players if they are caught, and major fines for teams if their players are caught. As long as it pays to cheat, it will continue.

Tom Boswell: All good points.

But, as far as the NFL goes, I'd say, "That'll be the day."

Breaking the rules of a professional sport isn't the worst thing a human being has ever done. We need some balance to evaluating it.

On one hand, Phillip Daniels was right when he said (in today's Post piece on the Skins), "There's no excuse. Every guy knows that we can't use that ... HGH, you know what it is. there's really no excuse."

But Andre Carter is correct, too, when he says, "Regardless, if he did or didn't make that mistake, he's still family. We won't turn our backs on him."

Folks, they're playing for millons of dollars, fame and self-esteem, too. PEDs are part of it. And they have been for the last 30 years. They're not going away. It's complex. But it's important to remember that while taking HGH, for example, is cheating at professional sports, it is not murder. Everybody, in their own personal evaluation of where things rank in the "badness" scale, has to decide where PEDs rank. And there is going to be a wide range of opinions. I say, loudly, "It's cheating. Catch 'em. Then hand out the penalties that the sport has set up for those offenses." Then I go over and say to those athletes, "So, otherwise, how's it going?" They're people. Usually, I like them. Including some of the famous cheaters. I don't know any perfect people.

But I don't try to rationalize that they aren't cheating!

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Stolen signs?: A Bunch of posters on the Nats Journal have been wondering if the Nats' opponents are managing to steal their signs (more so after the Phils got caught stealing signs against the Rockies). I've never bought into it, but after last night (with the perfectly timed pitch out on the suicide squeeze) I'm not so sure. That's a REALLY tough situation to call for a pitch out if you're not sure. And they HAVE really been getting caught stealing a lot, which is especially surprising given how fast the Nats are as a team. What do you think?

Tom Boswell: That was a natural place for a pitch out. Also, everybody knows that Rig comes out of the Cards small-ball school of baseball. It's a guessing game. Kennedy may have won the game by fouling off that pitch out to prevent Bernadina from being out at home by 40 feet. Kennedy then got the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly.

There were more cheers and actual standing ovations in that one inning for the nats than I have ever heard, except for a walk-off win. It was wonderful baseball -- one play after another executed perfectly. And it showed that the crowd was sophisticated. They appreciated Desmond, after fouling off two buns, moving the runner over by grounding out to second. They understood exactly what kennedy had done. Then, Morgan drewa two-out nobody-on-base walk just for the what-the-hell of it. And it kept the rally going. Guzman tripled him home with two strikes on him, then Zimmerman, also with two strikes, slapped a low-away slider perfectly in the hole to rightfield for a 5-2 lead.

One of the people in my group -- more there for a good time than the baseball -- turned to me and said, "So, they're finally a real baseball team now, right?"

I said, "Exactly."

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Rancho Cucamonga, Ca: Has Peter Angelos sold the O's yet?

If not, at what point do you think Angelos finally gives up, sells the O's, and slinks away?

Tom Boswell: I've lost track. Maybe he sold them and just forgot to tell anybody.

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Washington, D.C.: Hey Boz-

Thanks for chatting. Have you been following the Nat's run-differential? Right now we're at -17 and the only NL East team below 0. Should we not get too comfortable in the middle of this division? I also noticed the Pirates (18-22) are -100 so maybe it doesn't matter so much ...

Tom Boswell: The run differential was -19 after the first 4 games. Since then, it is positive (+1) and against a very tough schedule.

Got to admit that, with Strasburg added soon, this looks like a .500 team, or close to it, this year. That would be a 22-game improvement, which is huge. Gotta see it to believe it.

Beyond the possibility of .500, you're really pushing the envelop of what is possible without signing future HOF free agents in their prime (like the D'backs did in '99).

Since 1960, only five teams have improved by 30-or-more wins in one year: '99 Arizona, '89 Orioles (+33), '62 Phils, '93 Giants and '07 Rays.

Since '60, there have been 14 other teams that improved by 25-to-29 games. So, that's 20 monster jumps by teams in 50 years. It's rare. To get anywhere close to the wildcard, the Nats woiuld have to improve more than 25 wins. Thought thought you'd lie to know how much you are asking of these guys if you think that way.

But, as I've said, I covered the '89 Orioles. So I know it's possible. This continues to have the feeling of a semi-magical season. But, for now, lets stick to "semi." The Giants and (surprising) Pads are playing well, so that road trip coming up pre-Strasburg will be another tough one.

Gotta get out of here. Column to write. See you all next week. Thanks again for all the great questions.

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Dallas: what proof will the NFL need to suspend Moss for any length of time? If I'm reading this right, all anyone has is someone's word. Is that enough?

washingtonpost.com: Redskins Insider: NFL doesn't need positive test to suspend Santana Moss (Washington Post, May 20)

Tom Boswell: That's going to be a huge question. What's the level of proof that's needed? There is no test for HGH. However, the NFL has given a four-game suspension for HGH once in the past. So, here's a link that may help.

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