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Ask Boswell: Stephen Strasburg, Nats, MLB All-Star Game, NBA free agency and more

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Thomas Boswell
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Thursday, July 8, 2010; 11:00 AM

Washington Post Sports Columnist Tom Boswell was online Thursday, July 8 to take all your questions about LeBron James, Stephen Strasburg, the Nats, the MLB All Star Game, Tiger Woods, the World Cup, NBA free agency and more.

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A transcript follows

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Tom Boswell: Today's menu: Lets have a tablespoon full of King James, a dash of World Cup, some Tiger in the Tank and lots of baseball. After Dunn's three homers last night, lets start there with Why On Earth the Nats don't extend this guys contract and face the reality that it's insane to break up their No. 3-4-5 trio of Zimmerman, Dunn and Willingham, who now have 51 homers -- the MOST of any such trio in the league.

The first answer is long. If you want to get to shorter ones, just jump down. They're coming, too.

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Alexandria, Va.: Mr. Boswell,

Regarding Adam Dunn, Willingham, and the trade rumors. I'm a loyal sucker when it comes to the Nats and the Plan. I know teams aren't built over night and it can take years and years to get it done. A question: It seems to me that if Dunn and Willingham really want to sign extensions, why can't the team get it done? I obviously don't have the baseball acumen of you, Rizzo, or any others involved in pro scouting, but it doesn't seem to me that the Nats have anyone ready to replace either of those two if they are traded. If, as I, perhaps naively, believe that the team is a year or two away from contending, how can they be prepared to part ways with Dunn and Willingham when they've got no one even close ready to replace them? It seems from my uneducated standpoint that this team has a rather fragile foundation. If it loses Dunn or Willingham, how far are we from starting from scratch again?

Tom Boswell: You are absolutely right on all points.

The issue is Ted Lerner. Nobody else.

He's not anti-Dunn-Willingham. But he's just not convinced yet. It's strictly a money-for-value question. And he's hardheaded, always wants a bargain, if he can get one -- like the original prices for Dunn and Willingham, who came at prices below what they turned out to be worth.

The two toughest negotiators the Nats ever face are Scott Boras and Ted Lerner. And sometimes the owner is tougher.

The Nats internal discussion this month should NOT be about whether or not to TRADE Dunn and/or Willingham, but about how to keep them both and extend Dunn's contract by three years in mid-season, perhaps right after July 31. But the price is going up as the weather gets hot, the ball carries further in 90 degrees than 70 degrees and sluggers do their best work.

Dunn knows exactly how LITTLE the Nats would get for him in trade. The Reds traded him to the D'backs two years ago under identical circumstances. The Reds got back two minor league stiffs (one in AA, the other a AAA utility man) and Micah Owings. Yeah, that Micah Owings who's gone 10-14 with a 5.40 ERA in Cincy.

So when the Nats say they might trade Dunn for prospects, they actually mean, "We will give him away for a Micah Owings and two bums so that we don't have to pay him for '11-'12-'13 at free agent prices. Oh, and we'll get out of the last $4-million of his '10 contract, too."

Dunn knows the problem. "That's what you always get back (for a rental player," he said of the Owings trade. As for Ted, he likes him. A hard-nosed up-from-McKinley-Tech guy who still looks a lttle like he built those Malls with a sledgehammer. But he also knows how hard it is to get a deal done with him. "It is what it is," said Dunn. And Dunn isn't looking for Yankee-Red-Sox-L.A. market money. He just doesn't want to settle for disaster-market Pirate-Marlin numbers.

The Nats are lucky they are dealing with two players who actually love it in Washington and want to stay. As far as I can determine, they just want to be paid like somebody on a team with the 21st best attendance (at top-12 prices) and mid-market revenues.

On the other hand, over the last two years, Kasten, Rizzo (and the brain-trust in the rebuilt front office) have done a progressively better job of making their case to ownership. And they have to do the kind of a selling job that you'd usually have to make in a big arbitration case or in making a pitch to a free agent to come to your team. But they have to do it to ownership. It's been working better, in their view. Or less badly, in mine.

The $25-million offer to Chapman was the biggest tip off to me that, maybe, Ted is starting to understand where the smart value buys are in baseball -- in signing elite U.S. amateur draft players like Strasburg and Harper, where the market is artificially depressed by sanctioned monopoly practices (which ain't gonna change and may get worse for players/agents after the next CBA). And in signing inernational players from Japan, Cuba, etc.

This is just not the way you run a ballclub when you have people as fiscally responsible as Kasten and as old-school as Rizzo making decisions. They are proud of being semi-cheap -- known for being "value guys" within the industry. If they were working for the Angellos of the last dozen years, Peter would be yelling at them, "Why won't you guys spend more of my money?"

On Dunn, you either trade him or extend him. There is no third sensible choice. Ad the only correct answer is to extend him. After last night, he's first in the N.L. in extra-base hits, second in homers, 4th in OPS. His whole career, people asked him to walk less, expand his strike zone and get more hits/extra-base hits that could take him up from a 100-105 RBI guy to 115-120. That's happened. But few have noticed. He's only on pace for 70 walks, but 90 extra-base hits! That's a huge number. And he's batting .280.It's an ACCIDENT that this doesn't have him at 23 homers -- leading baseball -- and 65 RBI -- leading the league in RBI. He's had thee balls hit the very top of walls that were doubles, not homers. He's had poor on-base percentages guys hitting No. 1-2. And he's just starting to get his normal number of multi-run homers.

This is the Nats biggest issue. And they better get it done. He's also only got four errors. If he ends up with 40 homers, 90-extra-base hits, 110 RBI and less than 10 errors this season, then they REALLY arne't going to want to pony up. The price of Dunn-key poker is only going up.

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Adamstown, Md.: Back in the days of Snowmageddon (instead of the current Meltageddon) you were lobbying for the Nats to sign an additional FA starter: Marquis, good, but one more reliable arm would be better. Now with the injuries and lack of depth, the rotation has got to be the Nats' weakest link: Strasburg, Livo, and three designated losers every five days. By the time the cavalry arrives (Zimmermann? Wang? Olsen?), the season will have slipped away. Agree?

Tom Boswell: I'll havea column on that subject soon, maybe tomorrow. Pitchers are coming back sooner than expected. Jordan Zimmerman may be back on August 1 and in the rotation a few days later. Detwiler has had five minor-league starts and could be called up any time he's needed. Wang may have gotten (minor) good news recently when some scar issue apparently broke -- that's what you want to happen; so you may see him in about a month.

They have enough arms to hold the fort. The pitching has actually been decent/average -- 4.12 ERA right at the N.L. average of 4.10. It's the errors that have killed them.

If the hitting is finally coming around, as it seems to be in the last week, and the fresh arms start showing up, the last 60 games could be very interesting. Not playoff-race interesting. But good signs for the future.

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Montgomery Village, Md.: Let me ask this delicately, if I can. Is it possible that some of the difficulties Tiger Woods is having on the links may be related to what is very likely his currently celibate life style? Going from what was clearly considerable and frequent gratification to what may be complete abstinence can be problematic. While he may be interested in resuming even a comparatively reduced level of activity, it is unlikely he is finding any gratification at home and one would think he would need to be EXTREMELY cautious about seeking it elsewhere. Just wondering. I realize that this could raise, er, stimulate, er, generate lots of sophomoric, locker room comments, but I'll leave that to your discretion.

Tom Boswell: In his most recent tournament in Europe, Tiger looked like a mess. Couldn't putt, couldn't score -- like all the problems have just come crashing down and he's facing just how much rebuilding he's going to have to do with both his neglected golf game and his personal life.

Woods says he's going to spend the week before the British Open practicing -- but not on a links course but back home so "I can be with my kids." As far as I know, the $750-million divorce is universally rumored but not substantiated/acknowledged. Still, I think it's possible that the reality of EVERYTHING that he has lost is sinking in on Tiger. Maybe he thought he'd come back and win the Masters or U.S. Open. Maybe he thought he could patch up the marriage. Maybe he thought that the people around him who have allowed him to play the star would all stay with him. Now, he doesn't even have a swing coach.

So, the problem you suggest, though "interesting," is, I suspect, one of the least likely issues in his currently chaotic messed-up life. Forget him at St. Andrews next week. Never thought I'd say that about such a great athlete in his prime on the major-title course that suits him the most. He may show up on the leaderboard at some point. But if he won, I'd really consider it a sports miracle. As amazing as Watson's runnerup last year? Okay, not THAT amazing.

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Sam from Miami: Boy, am I doing the Happy Dance! Do I need to watch ESPN tonight or is the Miami Super Team really happening? I hope this isn't a media fake out.

Tom Boswell: It's Miami. It's obvious. You don't have to watch.

You also don't have to dance. Even with James, Wade and Bosh, they aren't going to win the NBA title next year.

Stars styles need to mesh. Will they? Don't know. You need at least eight players who function together. Will they get those eight? Will they stay healthy?

Look at the Celtic team that won the title and got to the finals this year. When they won, Garnett was better than Bosh is now. Allen and Pierce weren't as good as Wade and James, but the gap isn't enormous. And look at all the help and luck that trio needed to win ONE title.

If they do win, many will say it was like a pickup game when the best guys decide they want to play on the same team so they can have fun. It's not a "fair" game,. so everybody says, "So what" when they win. (As they should.) And if they lose, everybody laughes at them.

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washingtonpost.com: Boz's column on the Nats' returning arms actually came A LOT sooner than expected ... as in, right now: Boswell: Nats' future rotation offers multiple choices, elusive answers (Washington Post, July 8)

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Rockville, Md: Baring any major trades or free agent signings, who do you project as the Nats five starting pitchers for opening Day 2011?

Tom Boswell: As I mentioned, I've got a column on this subject that's up on the Sports site now.

This is the rotation the Nats would like to have next year.

1) Strasburg

2) Zimmermann

3) Detwiler, a No.6-overall choice who had a 1.90 ERA in September and, at his best, works at 92 mph and hits 94 with good sink.

4) Jason Marquis. For $15-million, you want some return.

5) Mr. X.

Mr. X could be John Lannan, if he gets fixed in the minors, or Livan Hernandez (a personal favorite), or Chien-Ming Wang, still a long shot. Or it could be any of: Olsen, Stammen, Atilano, Martin or somebody who isn't even in the organization now.

The Nats want three power arms at the top of trhe '11 rotation. If Zimmermann makes it all the way back, and it now looks very likely that he will, you are still gambling on Detwiler maxing out. That's why they wanted Chapman so much that they went to $25M when they thought it would be MORE than enough. They know they can't get a liff Lee asa free agent. But there are always Big Arms coming back from injury that you can get in the free agent market or in trade and then there's always the next big international pitcher, like Yu Darvish in Japan.

I still say you sign Livan hernandez as an insurance policy and when everything doesn't turn out the way you hoped, he's your Mr. X and a wise old head on the staff.

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Reston, Va.: So what happened with the Nats getting Oswalt? Is that dead, or still a possibility? With SS and Oswalt, we'd have two legit aces.

Tom Boswell: Never considered. Zimmermann is their Oswalt.

If they can't (yet) drum up the money for Willingham and Dunn, do you think they were ever going to pick up Oswalt's fat contract for an over-30 pitcher?

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Open letter for Ted Lerner: Ted, you're a businessman, we get it. So let's put this into terms you can understand.

The money you paid Strasburg is already coming back to you and he's only pitched six times. That one will pay itself off before the end of the year.

Now, Dunn and Willingham. Throw their pay raises into a pool with the other money needed to pay existing talent and hopefully a couple of quality additions in the offseason. Say it adds $30 million to the team's payroll.

Now, if you've got Strasburg all year, along with J. Zimmermann and Detwiler and the bullpen and the batting order and a few good additions, you're likely to be a .500 ballclub. Let's assume that boosts attendance by 2,500 per game. Using the Fan Cost Index (typical night for a family of four) of $215 for a Nats game, that equates to an additional $11 million. Assume attendance might go up more than that and that TV/radio ad revenue will go up with a better team and more marketing deals will open up, and tell me how these moves don't pay for themselves?

Thanks. Tell me if you want to do lunch, Ted. I'll let you buy.

Tom Boswell: Strasburg crowds have averaged 37,942. All "others" have averaged $22,211. Do your own math, but that's at least an extra $650K every time SS pitches, without counting extra merchandize, etc. And he'll have 16-17 home starts next year.

If the Nats improve enough that they average 25,000 for "other" games -- and they drew that much the last year in miserable RFK -- then you really have a mid-market team in terms of attendance.

The "economics" of building a winning eam around Strasburg are compelling. In fact, they are more than compelling. Anybody who doesn't know the opportunity that they have here over the next 2-3-4 years with Harper coming and obvious positions at which to add free agents -- 2nd base or RF, after you see where you are with Bernadina -- isn't much of a sport businessman.

Once towns get excited about baseball, they get very excited. And I don't mean New York and L.A. Look at Milwaukee, Detroit, Houston, etc.

We'll see. The next 6-7 months, through the winter, will be a huge test for Nats ownership.

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Rehoboth Beach, Del.: As a Wizards fan, I couldn't care less about Labronathon. But hey, how about some of the pieces the Wiz are putting together: Wall, Hinrich, Booker, Yi, Seraphin, and N'Diaye! Coupled with Arenas, Blatche, Young, McGee and Thornton, these kids could be tough!

Tom Boswell: Those kids will be lucky to win 34 games -- the franchise average since 1979. Thirty would be good.

For many years the NBA has been divided between Haves and Have Nots. After the Clips, the Wiz are the definition of "Not." That doesn't change in one year. Especially not after a nightmare season. (Unwarranted) optimism is the Wizard's worst enemy. Getting Wall will keep them from being awful. It won't make them good in a hurry. Wiz fans are going to need a lot of patience. This was the mega-free-agent offseason and, with the Arenas disaster, nobody wanted to come here. Arenas and Blatche are head cases, until proven otherwise. How will Wall mix with them? Will he be great or just very good? I always bet on "very good" until I actually see "great."

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Fairfax, Va.: Tom:

The Nationals statistically are one of the worst defensive teams in Major League Baseball. Many of their errors are being committed by Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and Nyjer Morgan, players who are defensively brilliant much of the time, but incredibly sloppy (especially on throws) at other times. In your opinion, will these players eventually outgrow their sloppy tendencies or are we going to be stuck with their Jeckle-and-Hyde performances on defense for the remainder of their days in Washington?

Tom Boswell: The Nats defense is THE worst.

Zimmerman has fought The Thing for years with his throwing. I hold my breath on every routine throw. Mt. Dunn must have saved him 6-8 errors this season just by being so huge.

Last night, Desmond passed up two chances to make spectacular but dumb plays in the same 8th-inning Storen jam. I was amazed. He's learning. He didn't try to start an impossible charge-bouncer-throw-behind-you-to-2nd-base double play. And he didn't gamble to try to throw out a runner at the plate on a 6-3. Great news! The plays he DIDN'T try to make -- but usually does -- probably won the game. In the past, he'd have thrown one of them away.

There will, presumably, be a new second baseman next year. And Morgan will play better defensively (and he has been recently) or he won't be in CF in the long-term future.

Worst case, Desmond someday moves to 2nd base and Espinoza (or a FA) becomes the SS. Ian's going to play here for many years, folks, so get used to it and enjoy it. Zimmerman says, "He's SO talented. He just needs to tap the brakes and play a little slower. With his arm, he could catch the ball, count to five and STILL throw the runner out."

The other players on the team ASSUME that anybody ought to be able to see that Desmond (especially) and Bernadina are the kind of talents about which you just have to find out answers. and give them enough time so you get the Right Answers.

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... and about The Hammer?: You just gave a great summary of the justification to extend Dunn. Willingham should be locked in, too, of course. My question is: If the Nats come up in price to meet Dunn's needs and get him extended for three years, would the front office feel less pressure to re-sign Josh, and possibly lose him? Or if Dunn's deal is considered too pricey, would they simply pass on giving Josh a comparable increase?

Tom Boswell: Don't talk like that! Somebody could be listening.

Willingham is still under team control for '11. It is unthinkable to trade him now. If you aren't willing to pay a fair (arbitration) market price in '11, don't own a team. The issue is when, and at what price, to try to extend him for '12 and/or '13. No need to sign anybody beyond their 35th birthday. But, man, you have to be able to pay your producers, especially when they are model citizens.

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Anonymous: LeBron reportedly has said that he didn't want to end up "31 years old, with bad knees and no title."

Well, if that happens, then he doesn't deserve a title, does he? He needs to go out and earn it and win it. This seems like a weak move, and almost smacks of desperation.

Tom Boswell: Not many people have enjoyed the interminable LeBron Show. I've managed to (totally) ignore it until the last week. Because now, in its proper place and time, it's apporopriate to pay attention to it and enjoy it. 'm not jaded by the subject because I haven't paid an iota of attention to it.

ESPN, and its 17 channels, drives the whole sports world aggenda. Sometimes for good. Sometimes for ill. It doesn't drive mine. (Or as little as humanly possible.) I tape Sports Center, watch it later on "mute" and pick what interests me or is of importance. All "LeBron Segments" immediately went on "fast forward."

I'll tape the foolishness tonight and watch the 10-15 minutes that has some meat on the bone.

BTW, I'm really enjoying the World Cup -- after it gets to the Final Eight. That's the level (for me) at which every player on the field has special skills and the beauty of the teamwork in the sport -- and the ability to turn imagination into reality -- really does make it a Beautiful Game.

However, even in the round of 16, the quality of the sport -- in and for itself, leaving aside whether the U.S. is playing -- doesn't compell me to watch. I suspect that the final may very well prove watching closely, though.

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Burke, Va: "Even with James, Wade and Bosh, they aren't going to win the NBA title next year. "

Boz, I'm surprised you don't know your NBA history a little better. Don't you remember when the Sixers put together those superstar teams in the mid 70s? Dr. J, George McGuiness, World B. Free, Doug Collins...I forget how many titles they won, but it must have been lots.

Tom Boswell: Thanks.

I don't deserve my high-quality chatters.

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Anonymous: What's the value you having a speedster as leadoff, if he can't get on base. And it's not like Morgan is burning up the base paths.

So why not put Willingham, who has the highest on base percentage on the team, as lead off? Getting that first runner on can do wonders.

Tom Boswell: Earl Weaver batted Ken Singleton at leadoff! And it worked reasonably well.

But the Nats are in the N.L. and Riggleman likes Little Ball. Doesn't "love it." But thinks it's essential. I'm mre of a Big Inning guy, even in the N.L.

However, I like Willingham right where he is. What's missing is a quality No. 6 hitter. After you've finished your '10 evaluations, go get one this winter until Harper arrives in '13-'14.

BTW, you will not see Rizzo push people through the mirrors as rashly as Bowden did. Whene you see a supposedly top (18-year-old) prospect like Chris Morrerro play at AA for three straight years, that defines "bad player development." You establish yourself in one league (level) and dominate it, THEN move up. Unless you show Griffey/A-Rod talent. Or recently, maybe Justin Upton who destroyed A+/AA ball at age 19 and was playing in MLB at 20 with a .816 OPS. Harper will have to have Upton numbers -- which he might do -- before he moves fast for the Nats.

Dominate, THEN, move up. That's the right way to do it and the best way for the player, too. Maybe the best way for the player ESPECIALLY.

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Frederick, Md.: Jordan Zimmermann struck out the side in the first inning of his rehab start for Potomac this afternoon.

Tom Boswell: Outstanding!

For Nats fans, this is really important. He has the same quality stuff -- whether measured with a radar gun (93.2 mph fastball in '09) or with advanced stat metrics (9.1 % swinging-strikes, 81% contact on swings) -- as Yovanni Gallardo and Oswalt. Also very similar to Chris Carpenter, Doc Halladay. He needs plenty of polish to have a chance to get to those levels. But very few even have the possibility of getting there.

Zimmermann does.

And some Tommy John pitchers actuslly throw harder with their "new" elbow. That's why FOUR pitchers on the current N.L. All-Star team have T.J. scars on their elbows. Josh Johnson and others have come back better. Will J Z'nn?

The Nats will "settle" for just-what-he-used-to-be.

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Sacramento, Calif.: I can't help but snicker at the Lebron James extravaganza. How many times have MVPs or MVP caliber players who haven't won a championship switched teams and gone on to win it all? Mostly big men have been able to switch teams and win. Shaq, who teamed with perhaps the coach in NBA history, and one of the top guards of all times, Wilt who won in '67 (76ers) several season after his arrival, Moses Malone also the 76ers, Bob McAdoo with his 6th team, and Garnett all managed to move and win. Oscar Robertson also did it in Milwaukee, though he teamed with a young Kareem. It seems that even if Lebron were a dominant center, it would probably still take years for his team to win. And this is the best case for Lebron. In the worst case, he'll have the career of Barkley, Webber, Grant Hill, T-mac, Steve Nash, or numerous others.

More likely than not, the team that gets LeBron won't win a championship next year. Or the year after that. How likely do you think this ultimately will be much ado about nothing?

Tom Boswell: Thanks. All good stuff. I'll believe LeBron's SECOND NBA championship when I see it. Man, he's just got to win one somehow somewhere someday.

LeBron is overvalued in the market -- different than "over-rated" -- because everything he does best always provides an ESPN highlight. The things he does less well -- the nights of clang-clang-clang and turnovers -- don't get shown. And it's hard to measure "raises the whole team with him."

Sorry to see Danny Ferry out in Cleveland as a casualty of the LeBron Era. Who will end up someday with more NBA Finals rings/credit: Ferry in various front offices or James?

Ferry would make a good GM for somebody...

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Anonymous: If the NFL counted touchdowns as one point, not 7, the scores would be similar to soccer scores. But here's the difference. A 1-0 soccer match (like USA v. Algeria) can be exciting, and often is. You'll never see an exciting 7-0 game in the NFL

Tom Boswell: So the Skins would only have lost to the Bears 10 3/7ths-to-0, not 73-0?

Counted that way, the average NFL game is about 3-to-3.

Baseball, when it's healthy, as it is now, has an average score of 5-4. And you have the possibility of scoring 2, 3 or 4 runs with one swing. Or, you have the possibility of scoring nine runs in the ninth to win 12-9 as the Rox did to the Cards the other night because "extra time" doesn't run out.

But then you know that I just think that baseball, by some wonderful accident of its rules, ended up with a better game.

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Re: the rotation: Bos, great column and it sparked a thought about that old phrase that the Orioles front office used so often in their glory days: "you can never have enough pitching."

A little trip down Memory Lane: in 1979, the Orioles had an excellent rotation: Palmer, Flanagan (who'd win the AL Cy Young that year), McGregor, Dennis Martinez. So a lot of people were puzzled when they signed Steve Stone as a free agent and made him the fifth starter. What good was he?

Well, in 1980, he was crucial when Dennis Martinez began to have problems. Stone stepped up, threw every curve ball he had left in his arm, won 25 games and the Cy Young.

You can never have enough pitching.

Tom Boswell: Nice. Thanks.

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Nats Pitchers: Whatever happened to Sharon Matis? Thought he showed some promise.

Tom Boswell: Has a 4.04 ERA in 17 starts at Syracuse. More like 3.03 his last 10 starts. He's lost in the muddle.

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Anonymous: How can we pre-empt the inevitable of the Yankees trying to get Strasburg. I bet some Yankee fans are already assuming he'll be a Yankee some day. They think everyone wants to be Yankee. When you interview him, try to bad mouth the Yankees whenever you can.

Tom Boswell: All vet players know that the large majority of superstar young pitchers sign a mega-deal with their first team when they reach arbitration elligibilty and, thus, end up with their first team for 7-8-9 years, not just six full years. Boras clients can be an exception. But son't start saying "Goodbye" when we have so many years to say "Hello."

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Baltimore: Why does Matt Wieters stink? He gets PLENTY of good pitches to hit and either fouls them off or lifts soft fly ball outs. His bat speed is horrible. Does his bat have an invisible three-pound donut on the end that we cannot see?

Tom Boswell: You nailed it: bat speed. Everybody's surprised/disappointed. Maybe he'll get better as he matures. He's 24.

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Lorton, Va.: Just to add -- there will be a lot of season ticket holders like me who will be really ticked off if they break up the trio. Might not even renew.

Tom Boswell: Yup.

The 3-4-5 are part of what make it a TEAM that you'd want to watch on night's that Strasburg DOESN'T pitch.

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Chantilly, Va.: Any insight on why the Nationals are not more active in the international market? As you said there is real value there but the Nats seems to be sitting it out again this year.

The Nats sell the "Plan" but limited international signings seem to hamstring the teams dreams of future success.

Tom Boswell: Good point. We'll see if they improve. Nice try on Chapman, but the actual grade is still: "F."

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Is Tiger through?: Boz,

I know that sounds crazy, but look at two other examples: Ben Hogan and Tom Watson. People forget that Hogan followed his amazing 1953 season (six tournaments entered, five wins, including the only three majors he played) by never winning another major. He contended regularly with a bunch of seconds, but never won another major after the age of 41.

Watson won the British Open in 1983 and never won another major, although he come close (including recently). By the way, Watson's last major came he was 34. Tiger won his last major to this point when he was 33.

Admittedly, Hogan and Watson had physical reasons for the end of their major title runs (Hogan was never the same after his car crash and he had trouble with the putter; Watson also had putting problems), but who's to say Tiger's issues off the tee and on the green aren't the same thing?

I'm not sure I believe this myself but it's worth considering, isn't it?

Tom Boswell: Golf is full of examples of great players who, suddenly, never won again, even though it was assumed that they were far from through. But none of them won 14 majors as fast as Tiger! The assumption has always been that "He is different." I assume he'll be back and win more majors. But you make a good point.

That's if for this week. Kills me to leave so many good questions -- which make so many goood points, plenty of them new to me. You don't know hwo many ideas I steal from you good folks. Many thanks.

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Can It Get Any Worse?: I didn't think anything could exceed the fact that 4 NL pitching staffs have a higher slugging percentage than the Orioles' first basemen, but now I see there's an excellent chance they may become the first team ever to have no 4 game winner at the All Star break! Whatever MacPhail is doing, it isn't working. Thank goodness for the Nats!

Tom Boswell: Wow ...

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Sec 114, Row E: Re: Dunn - there's a third choice beyond signing him or trading him to for middling prospects: keep him through the season, offer him arbitration and take the 2 draft picks that he'll get us back as a Type A free agent. Those 2 top 40 picks are going to be better than a few middling prospects.

Do Rizzo/Kasten really need to go to Ted Lerner for salary decisions? That's disfunctional. You know that right? Ted needs to set a reasonable budget for the market and team, and Rizzo/Kasten need to adhere to it. If Dunn can be resigned for $15M per year and it fits w/in the budget, than Ted shouldn't be bothered. He really needs to defer to his baseball people.

Finally, if I was Stan Kasten, and I couldn't get Ted Lerner to set a reasonable budget, I'd quit - I'd resign (and probably find a better gig almost instantly). There's no way that Kasten can be successful without the proper budget. We all saw how well bottom feeding worked when Bowden was the GM.

Tom Boswell: Lotta good thinking going on there in Section 114.

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