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Redskins, Stephen Strasburg, Nats and more -- Ask Boswell

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Thomas Boswell
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Thursday, August 19, 2010; 11:00 AM

Washington Post Sports Columnist Tom Boswell was online to take all your questions about the Redskins, Stephen Strasburg, the Nats and more.

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El Segundo, CA: Tom,

There's usually more hype than substance in August in the NFL. However I wonder if you have any take aways from the Redskins and what you've seen so far. Thanks.

Tom Boswell: I'm guilty of being excited by their crushing of the lowly Bills, who were 6-10 last year, but not an awful team. McNabb makes a huge difference. Presence, brains and confidence. I've said here that their schedule is so brutal that, even if they do many things right, it's going to be very tough to go better than 7-9. But lets see what the Ravens game shows up. I may have to change my tune.

The defense looked OK, but far from "coordinated" or polished against the Bills. You wouldn't expect it in a new system.

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Alexandria, VA: I keep hearing that they are projecting Harper as a #3 hitter. But, we've already got a #3 hitter who is locked up for a long time, as long as he doesn't get ejected by a rookie umpire.

I can see Harper and Zimmerman here at the same time. Who's the 3 hitter in that scenario?

Tom Boswell: Teams like to go left-right-left in the middle of the lineup or right-left-right. So I think it depends on who the third middle-of-the-order bat is. If it's Dunn in late '12 or early '13 when Harper arrives, then you might see Harper-Zimmermann-Dunn __once Harper gets established. At the beginning, you may hit him 5th or 6th. But that's far in the future. Lets see if he chews up the minors or not. BTW, Atlanta's Heyward, as wonderful as he sometimes looks, is "only" hitting .253 with 12 homers as a rookie. So, remember that even Griffey took a year or two to be an impact hitter.

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Fairfax, VA.: Tom:

Do you ever wonder if the Nationals front office sometimes refuses to do some of the obvious things you suggest (such as resigning Adam Dunn immediately) because they don't want fans to start thinking that Boswell is the brains behind the operation? Seriously, now that Bryce Harper has been signed, what could possibly be a higher priority on Mike Rizzo's To Do List than resigning Dunn? If the terms of a deal are relatively simple and reasonable, why does the front office insist on playing these ridiculous mind games with the fans and with Dunn???

Tom Boswell: Dunn is certainly the next issue and a big one.

With Willingham out, for the season it seems, it just underlines how important Dunn is. Willingham does well when he stays healthy but the last three years it's looked like he's a 120-game player who is valuable but doesn't approach the unique durabilty of Dunn.

Got to admit that when Dunn is struggling, as he is now, you wonder if he will ever get another hit with men on base. And his recent error (only his 7th) on a throw that went directly to the leftfielder can make you say, "$42M? really?" But the harder you dig, the more obvious it is (to me) that we all have a hard time giving Dunn his due because of the Goliath Syndrome and the ugliness of 200 K's.

Dunn makes a great debate on about 10 levels. Maybe best of all, he gets everybody to further their "baseball education!"

I've tried to find stats that show Dunn is a poor clutch hitter or that he doesn't hit for power with men on base, but is a "solo artist." The harder I've looked, the more I've found the opposite. Throughout his career, he's hit the same in all situations, though slightly better in "high leverage" (clutch) spots. Because of the 200 K's, maybe it doesn't feel that way.

For example, Dunn averages 1.61 RBI-per-home run in his career (and 1.5 this season). This measures whether he tends to hit bases-empty homers or when men are on base. This places him above Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Frank Robinson and Palemiro (among others) who hit 500 homers. He's also well ahead of current stars like Chipper Jones, Vlad Guerrero and slightly ahead of Ryan Zimmerman.

Every year stats are kept in so many categories __especially for cluch hitting__ that you can usually "prove" whatever you want. The sample size is too small. This year, in "late & close" Dunn has a .988 OPS. In tie-game situations, he's a monster __1.109 OPS. Also, in blow outs (at bats with>4 runs difference in score), he doesn't hit at all __.626 OPS. So, does that mean that he ONLY hits when it matters? Actually, no. You can also find other stats where he looks like a terrible clutch hitter __like two-outs RISP hitting .096! But it's only 52 at bats. And he's hit better with no one on base this year.

So, I look at his whole career because; if you're going to sign him to a three-year contract, you're probably going to get "normal" long-term production. Over 10 seasons, Dunn's OPS with men-on-base is .908 while with nobody on base it's .902! In every clutch situation __2-out RISP, Late & Close, Tie Game__ his career OPS is between .930 and .859. He's the same hitter all the time and in every situation. The best clutch stat is probably "Leverage." In his career, Dunn's OPS in "high leverage" (clutch) situations is .919. In medium leverage, it's .895 and in low leverage it's .907. That's based on> 6,000 plate appearances.

He isn't a good clutch hitter. He isn't bad. He's average __for a big-time slugger. He doesn't elevate his game (a little) like Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Jimmy Foxx, Eddie Murray, Ruth and Manny Ramirez. And his numbers don't drop (a little) like Bonds, Palmeiro, Mays, F. Robby, Mantle, etc.

Everybody has an opinion. I think the most likely outcome over the next three years is that he stays the same guy, but hits more and walks less, so his flashy numbers (HR, RBI and batting average) will go up, but he'll score less runs and kill more rallies. Net-net, maybe he's slightly better now that he's expanded his strike zone somewhat. Imo, at $60M for four years, you can debate the risk/reward. At $40M for three years, if they can do that deal, I think it's dumb not to resign the guy. He's a "bridge" to Harper in the middle of the order in '13 or '14. (Oh, and then there's the whole debate about defense, it's value and how to measure/guesstimate it.) This is exactly the kind of in-depth baseball debate that columnists are supposed to write about __and take a stand on, if they have a firm opinion. I try to see the other side, but keep coming back to the obvious __sign Dunn.

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proud Nationals management: Why does the Nationals' management boast that no team before them has ever got the overall number one draft pick two years in a row. Do they want to go for three? Is this something to be proud of, that they were the worst team in baseball for two years in a row?

Tom Boswell: How soon they forget. The Rays had back-to-back No. 1 overall picks in '07 and '08: star lefty David Price and Tim Beckham (hitting .249 at Charlotte in A+ ball.)

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Arlington, VA: It seems very clear that Rizzo definitely wants to keep Dunn and Dunn wants to stay; so is it Kasten or Lerner that has kept if from happening already? Also do the Nats have until the last day of the season to reach an agreement before he becomes a free agent or is there some other deadline?

Tom Boswell: Kasten is very pro-Dunn __at a fitting price, of course. They have an excellent teasing relationship. Stan keeps telling Dunn that the Nats will be sure to bench him the last week of the season to "protect him" from striking out 200 times and embarassing himself. The home run title? Just joking. They have the same sense of humor. After Dunn hit three homers, Kasten went past his locker and said, "We'll be back to talk contract after a night when you strike out three times." The next game (I think) he fanned three times. "Here I am," said Stan.

Ultimately, it's the owner and nobody else who makes big money decisions. Ted understands that you can pay the most for high high quality talent __Strasburg, Harper and Teixeira, even though they knew they had little talent. He may have a hard time seeing a player with Dunn's obvious flaws as a bargain and a central piece of a team for the next few years. But I think he'll get there and it'll be Dunn.

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thousands of bunkers: If the crowd can stand in a bunker, is it really a bunker? If a player doesn't know he is in a bunker, is it really a bunker? Can there really be thousands of bunkers on a golf course, and if so, where are the windmill and clown obstacles?

I'm not asking for 10 foot deep British bunkers and of course, the caddie/golfer should have known better, but this was a ridiculous ruling. (Sincerely, please enlighten me because I was baffled by this.)

Tom Boswell: I have sympathy for Johnson. (Especially since I was 10 feet from him when he was searching for his lost ball at Pebble Beach in the 4th round and somebody found it 5-to-10 seconds too late. As a result, he made a 7 instead of, almost certainly, a 5 or even an up-and-down from 70 yards for a par four).

However, I think this one is simple: Johnson and his caddie were wrong. The PGA was right. Too bad, but not complex and not like Roberto De Vicenzo.

Whistling Straits has 1,000 traps. If you put the ropes so far back from the course that the crowds never gets a foot in any of the traps, then you punish the paying crowd for no reason __because hundreds of those traps are so remote that no major-tournament pro "should" be in them.

What should the PGA do? They put the crowd ropes in places where the fans are allowed to stand in many of those remote traps. I agree with that. What next? Well, they can't realistically have a whole bunch of rules for different traps. So they make one rule for every trap and they pass out sheets to every players explaining that, in essence, You Better Be Careful. Everything Is A Trap. nd they post signs in the lockerroom.

Johnson didn't seem to have a good hold on the rules at the U.S. Open when he was searching for his lost ball at the third hole. He almost seemed to be saying to the official, "What do I do? Explain this to me?" He should read the darn sheet. Then he'd have known to be careful after he hit the ball 50 yards off line on the 18th.

It's too bad. And I'm rooting for Johnson (hard) in the future. But it's not an injustice. The (local) rules were exactly what they should have been at the PGA Championship, unless you think that fans should have been forced to watch the tournament from Canada so that Dustin Johnson wouldn't have to figure out the rules.

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Nats: Why haven't they announced the starting pitcher for tomorrow and the rest of the weekend series against the Phillies? When will Strasburg pitch again?

Tom Boswell: As of a day or so ago, I thought it was Marquis Friday and Strasburg on Saturday. Maybe that's changed. If anybody knows for sure, let me know and I'll post it here.

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Fairfax, Va: Is Bryce Harper being sent to the AFL to humble him or does the team think he is much closer than everyone else does? Or do they just want to find out?

Tom Boswell: They just want to find out.

So do I. Arizona Fall League isn't that easy!

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Sec 114, Row E: Bos, MLB sounds like it wants to go to a hard-slotting system for the amateur draft.

Will that be able to withstand an anti-trust suit? It looks a lot to me like price fixing and restraint of trade.

Tom Boswell: Ha! Baseball is a sanctioned monopoly. Ain't ya heard about Chief Supreme Court Justice OliverW. Holmes long ago and the anti-trust exemption for baseball.

There will slmost certainly be a hard-slopping system __whatever name they actually put on it__ in '12. Who's going to stand up for college and high school players in the next CBA negotiations? Nobody. The MLB union wants all the money in the game to go to them __the actual MLB players. They could care less about "unproven" amateurs. And, of course, the owners want to pay as little as possible. So, you'll probably never see another $15.1-M contract like Strasburg's.

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Skins: Having only rooted for one great team in my lifetime, the Skins of the 80's and very early 90's I was suprised during the Russ Grimm HOF celebration how close the team was, acting more like a family than teammates. Did those relationships help them become a great team or is it usual on great teams? Or is this an artifact of the NFL of the past?

Tom Boswell: I have never seen a great team that won multiple championships in the NFL, MLB or NBA that didn't feel like a family. The bonds are incredibly close. Those who underestimate "chemistry," especially in MLB and NFL, are just mistaken.

The old Gibbs Redskins had it. I was around all those teams. The feeling of commitment to winning, to physical toughness/training and mental preparation was completely different than the disorganized foolishness of much of the last nearly-20 years. From Norv through the lightweight Spurrier to the out-of-his-depth Zorn I kept saying/writing, "Where is the discipline? These are mistakes that top high school teams in the D.C. area don't make." All great teams police themselves __they discipline those who make stiupid mistakes or who aren't in shape with internal teammate-to-teammate criticism. Actually, they reach a point where the bonding and constant reinforcement creates a "winning culture." The Redskins had it for many years and it was a pleasure to be around. So did the Orioles until the Angellos catastrophe after '96-'97.

How long will it take Shanahan/Allen to rebuild something like that? And can they do it at all? There certainly seems to be progress, despite Albert's best (worst) efforts to be a team kliller. But they're going to be some tough loses this year. How will they react? Will Snyder be a problem in that process or actually a help. He'd certainly like to help. But is it in his nature? In his TV in-game interview, you saw him trying to reach out to fans a bit.

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Navy Yard: What's your take on Zimmerman's ejection last night? I think he deserved it for throwing his bat and helmet and for dropping an f-bomb. It seems way too many players get away with throwing equipment and cursing on the field. I think the game and its tradition deserve better. Leaving the hyper-clowning to the NFL.

Tom Boswell: He deserved it. But Zim didn't say a word until after he was tossed. As soon as he SLAMMED down his bat and showed up the rookie ump, I thought, "He's gone." But he didn't get heaved until he also threw down his helmet __hard. The ump played it exactly right. But I don't blame Zim. He's fed up. The whole team thinks it should be playing much better. And they are mystified that they are "only" on pace for 70 wins after a 21-19 start. They should be better. They are 7-4 in Strasburg's starts and 13-12 in Livan's starts. They should be about 16-9 in Livan's starts. He's had 16 games where he went at least six innings and gave up TWO or less runs. Sort of "quality plus" starts. But he gets no run support. Ever, it seems.

Just a note: Here are the "quality PLUS starts" for the leading winners in basball. Compare them to Hernandez who is 8-8 and has 16 of those six inning and two runs or less starts.

Wainwright...18 Q+ starts...17-3.

Ubaldo Jimenez...17...17-3.

CC Sabathia...12...16-5.

Roy Halladay...17...15-8.

Pavano...13...15-7.

Price....13...15-5.

Buchholtz...11...14-5.

Hudson....18...14-5.

Hughes (Yanks)...8...14-5.

Nolasco...9...14-8.

Arroyo...14...13-7.

Chris Carpenter...15...13-4.

Lester...15...13-7.

Remember, Livan is: 16...8-8.

No justice in this world.

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Alexandria, VA: It's nice to see Ryan Zimmerman starting to gather a lot more attention. And it looks like the Nats got a very good deal on his last contract extension. I get the sense that Z is throwing his weight around a bit more this season (his comments on keeping Dunn/W'ham for example).

Is the Nats window 2013 when Zimmerman is in his last year. I'd guess that the Nats have to absolutely be a serious contender to retain Zimmerman. Do you get the feeling that 2012/13 is what the Nats have targeted and their FA signings will be geared in that direction?

Tom Boswell: Yes, there are players that you need to put a decent or promising team around if you want to keep them. Z'man is now one of them. I compared his career, so far, to Mike Schmidt. At age 25, Zimmerman is ahead in HR, RBI, batting average and has a gold glove before Schmidt go one. Looks like Zimmerman really is a 30-35 HR man. Maybe a .300 hitter this year. In a peak Career Year on a good team, he could be an MVP.

He's speaking up about Dunn because it's important __to the team and to him. That's what stars who are also leaders do. He's in his 5th full season. It's time.

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Sec 114, Row E: In a previous response, you noted that Ted is in charge of the money. Isn't that disfunctional? You hired a baseball guy in Kasten who hired (what appears to be) a very competant GM in Mike Rizzo.

Shouldn't the Lerners give Rizzo and Kasten an MLB salary budget to work from and let them do their job? Or is the 2011 budget not set yet (which seems screwy)? Or are the Lerners looking to dial back salaries this winter?

Tom Boswell: There are a dozen different kinds of relationships between owners and their brain trusts. I'm sure Kasten was amazed that his views were only given a fraction of the weight that Ted Turner gave to them. Mostly, Stan takes flack for everything that goes wrong, says 100% of the public words for the team, pulls many strings behind the scenes and protects the Lerners (while they learn a new industry) because that's who he is: the loyal sarcastic bulldog on the front lawn.

But, to be brief, I've never seen a greater waste of a major talent than the way the Nats have used Kasten.

And if you like Rizzo a lot, which I do, ask yourself this: Who was the Lerner's first hire on THE DAY they took over the team? It was Rizzo. And who do you think decided that? Kasten, of course. On Day 1 who in ownership would ever have heard of somebody in the D'back operation?

Then ask yourself another question: When Kasten brought in Rizzo in May '06, do you think he assumed that Rizzo wouldn't be GM until 32/09?

That pie in the face bit after the Harper signing should have told you what a great relationship Rizzo and Kasten have. And Rizzo and "The Old Man" seem like a good match, too. They are both school-of-hard-knocks blunt tough guys. After Strasburg-Harper, Rizzo has really earned his spurs.

The rebuilding of the front office, based on all the scouts they hired last November, is really starting to work. The minors leagues are going from bad-to-good pretty fast. It's take another couple of years to know.

The Nats signed four other draftees "over slot" for total bonuses of $3.8M on Monday. Look for Sammy Solis, a big 2nd-round lefthander from U of San Diego ($2M bonus) who may be in their rotation in '12-13. I've seen film of him. Maybe a little chunky but a lot of scouts think he can be a No. 2-3 starter. Hey, they always say that, but sometimes they're right. The Nats rolled dice and paid $2M just to find out.

The Nats also paid $1M to 6-foot-5 high school pitcher A.J. Cole. Very "projectable" as a starter or power reliever. We'll know in 3-4-5 years. The biggest surprise may have been that the Nats "asted" a pick in the 12th

round on pitcher Robbie Ray who was universally assumed to be headed to U of Arkansas. The blew him away with a $799K bonus offer and signed him Monday. Only one other player taken after the 4th round got that much.

The ownership has learned that the (only) bargains are in signing young players and international players, so they are trying to win that battle with the first step being the enormous upgrade of their scouting system when Rizzo raided his old buddies from a half-dozen teams; "this is a baseball shop," said Rizzo, meaning scouting got a 60%-40% edge over the Ivy League math nerds (which the Nats also have) in final decisions. Vet scouts, like Rizzo's dad, just flocked to vitually the only team in baseball that's willing to say, "Good Lord, anybody with a brain can understand these 'advanced stats.' They're not that tough. But a scout with 20-30 years experience is a unique edge." We'll see.

Also, more important, they really stole an international star by paying $6.5M for Yunesky Maya, 28, the Cuban ex-patriot who was their Cy Young (equivalent) winner in '09 and has been dominant in the World Baseball Classic against Ichiro and many other big leaguers. I've only seen him on film, but throws 94 and his best pitch is a 12-to-6 curve. Good change, good command, vet poise and mean. Will it translate to MLB? Is he really 28? Cuban pitchers work a lot of innings. White Sox, Red Sox and Yankees were after him. The Nats outbid them and hired El Duque Hernandez __one of his heroes__ to help him with the transition to U.S. Maya has already thrown 3 shutout innings in the low minors last Friday. He may get a start or two in September with the Nats. They think he's the third best pitcher in the organization right now, after Strasburg and Zimmermann, and will be shocked if he's not in their rotation next year. He'll be under team control (since he's a rookie) for 6 seasons __his whole prime. My wild guess, he's as good or better than Hiroki Kuroda, who's 35 and has been solid in the Dodgers rotation for three years.

Also, Wilson Ramos (Capps trade) is now the catcher of the future with Flores (bad arm) a question mark. He just got called up from Syracuse and will get his first MLB start in one hour in Atlanta. Looks the part __6', 220, great arm, threw out 46% of runners in the minors __as high as I've ever seen, except Yadier Molina. Will he hit .250 with 10 homers or .275 with 15? Don't know.

Finally, Danny Espinoza, a Boras client, taken in the '07 draft, is the latest in the tradition of Long Beach State shortstops. He and Desmond will be the middle infielders for a long time, maybe starting next year. Desmond has more range, Espinoza (a switch hitter) makes half the errors and has an even stronger arm. One will end up at 2nd base. Only two players in organized baseball have 20 homers and 20 steals so far this season in the majors or minors. Young from Arizona and Espinoza (21 HR and 23 SB), now working at 2nd base for Syracuse. Oh, cacther Derek Norris is a possibility. Great OBP. Still young.

Two years ago, there was very little in the pipe line. Now people in the game wonder if they don't have more starting pitching prospects than they have rotation slots in their minor league system. You may see Lannan, Detwiler, Olsen and who knows who else trapped in AAA next year with Strasburg, Zimmermann, Maya, (I hope) Livan and Mr. X in the rotation. This is what happens when you get a real grass-roots scouting and player development guru as your GM, not somebody who wants to trade for Wily Mo Pena and Lastings Milledge or reclaim the soul of Elijah Dukes.

Give the Nats another year or two and they may be one of the state of the art "youth movement" teams. Time'll tell. F.O. guys and scouts like Clark, Klein and McKeon (Jack's son) are unsung heroes right now.

Sorry for the long answer. But this was draft-signing week.

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Bethesda, MD: Boz,

I agree with you about Dunn's value, but I don't think that there really are any clutch hitters. First, depending on your definition, the sample is too small. Second, I think that there are anti-clutch (don't want to say choke) hitters.

If you look at the bulk of those we think of as clutch hitters, most of them hit at just about the same rate as they do during run of the mill at bats. Even those you pointed out were very close to normal in "clutch" situations.

Zimm is a prime example. We think of him as hitting those walk off homers, but (before the ejection) the TV posted his numbers RISP an they were almost identical to his numbers as a whole.

Speaking of that, the umpire's action really frosted me. I wore dark blue and gray for about 15 years, doing rec league, HS, College , etc. If I tossed more than one player a year, I felt that I had screwed up. Also, virtually every ejection was because of a rule infraction that was demanded by the rules. I may go to the ballpark, in part, to watch the umpires, but my guess is that I'm about 1 in 38,000, who has any interest at all.

Tom Boswell: All good poitns. Thanks, "Blue."

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Reston, VA: Hey Mr Boswell, I enjoyed your article this week as always. However, in mentioning the "big 3" for the Nats you did not turn it into a big four including Storen. Is this because a relief pitcher usually is not as influential as the possible three and four hitters or the staff ace, or do you think Storen will just be a run of the mill closer who we hope can be a 2010 Matt Capps type for a few years whenever the Nats do start to contend and nothing more? In other words do you think anyone will ever say Fingers, Rivera, Eckersley, and Storen in the same breath?

Tom Boswell: The other three have the potential to be major stars for a long time. Storen should be a good relief pitcher. Great kid. As he commands his fastball better at the MLB level he should be even better.

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Justice for Livan: It's not that there's "No Justice" for Livan, it's that the Nats have done a very poor job on offense this year (Strasburg should have another 2-3 wins, losing games to White Sox and KC), and the bullpen has been atrocious at times (albeit they are improved from LY).

The team SHOULD be frustrated with itself. It is time to see Zimmerman start calling out his teammates like Desmond and Morgan, and not management. The players are responsible for performance this year, not management.

Tom Boswell: The Nats clubhouse takes defeats hard enough, but, as a group, they are probably too placid. That's hard to fix. The O's brought in Frank Robinson in '66 to light a fire under a team that was very good but not as good as it could be team. But how often does that happen? Right now, Strasburg actually gives the team it's biggest emotional spark. Livan, despite his wonderful cheerful is a ferocious competitior. Did you see him poundiong his glove after getting Heyward out (for the third time) to escape a bases loaded jam.

Also, gotta mention it, Livan made one of my all-time favorite totally-obscure plays last night. Never seen it before. Bases loaded, one out, 2-2 in the 7th and a liner back to the box. He snags it leaning slightly toward 1st base. THEN, he reverse pivots so that, in a fraction of a second, he can look to 3rd, 2nd, then first __in that order__ to see if he can double off a runner! In a blink, he looked at all three bases, then threw (perfectly) off his back foot to first base and almost got the third out.

If most semi-athlete pitchers try that, they 1) miss the line drive, 2) trip and fall down or 3) throw the ball into the RF corner and let two runs score.

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Crownsville, MD: Does Corey pick Tiger?

Tom Boswell: I think you ask Tiger, privately, and do whatever he prefers. He's the No. 1 player in the world. Still. But he may also know best whether his game is really a mess __and he just held it together semi-well at the PGA__ or that he is really making progress on playing better. Let Woods make the call. He's earned it. Then Pavin should take responsibility for the pick, or non-pick, not throw it on Woods.

The U.S. is an underdog. A big one. If Tiger has the stomach for all the tabloid crap he'll take over the pond, he loves match play and might do quite well. Why not take the chance on a first small step toward PR rehab? How much worse can things get, anyway?

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Ouch: Tribe fan here. Herb Score: these things happen, tho' hopefully not to Strasburg. But the Colavito trade was only one of many that "Trader Lane" made in an effort to ruin the team. While I realize the jury is still out with regard to Mike Rizzo, it certainly looks so far like he knows what he's doing.

Lane was the textbook example of how not to run a team. SABR did an excellent analysis of this last year. GM's and potential GM's should study his record and resolve to do just the opposite.

Tom Boswell: In a book called "Cult Players," Joe Falls wrote about covering the Tigers when the Colavito trade was made.

"It didn't take much to understand the impact of this one __the batting champion for the home run champion. Detroit's leading hitter for...well, for a man who was idolized and adored by all of Cleveland. Oh, my...Rocco Domenico Colavito...

"He was an idol in Cleveland. How do you trade idols? Why do you trade idols? Idols are hard to come by...

"Trader Lane, they called him. He'd swap his mother for two aunts and an uncle to be named later if it would help him. Or he might do the deal just to have something to do. Maybe it was a dull day and he was getting bored."

"

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Lynchburg, Va.: I'm sure you have some thoughts about Bobby Thomson. I lived in New Jersey while he was a resident there, met him a few times, and he was a genuine class act. He admitted, though, that the majors had reached a point with ticket prices, salaries and such that he preferred to go to Atlantic League games. I also thought it appropriate that on Tuesday night, when the baseball community was remembering him, Jim Thome -- whose demeanor and style resemble Thomson, although Bobby was a better all-around player (he was no Francisco Cabrera!) -- provided his own tribute with that big walk-off blast for the Twins against the Chisox.

Tom Boswell: Thomson was a classy nice guy __one of the few autographs I've ever asked for on one of my old baseball cards.

But I think it was always a shadow for him that he knew the Giants were stealing Branca's pitches from CF in the Polo Grounds. Thomson was exactly the kind of guy you WOULDN'T expect to do that. But with the pennant on the line, it's a tough illustrational of "situational ethics." Where are your obligations to...the game...basic honesty...your teammates...your employers...

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Capitol Hill: It seems like everything you hear about the Nationals - from draft experts to former players like Capps - is now about how great the organization has become. Is Rizzo solely to be given credit for this or have the owners changed their philosophy somewhat as well?

Tom Boswell: Rizzo deserves lots of credit. The Lerners deserve credit for learning. Kasten has hung tough. But there is a long way to go. At least they are ahead of 7-8 teams, drawing somewhat better and have interesting core players and an obvious future.

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NW DC: Boz,

Thanks for the insight on Dunn. It clears up the question about his solo homers and "lack" of clutch hitting. But how is the team doing overall, in terms of hitting w/RISP, Late and Close, Tie game...?

Tom Boswell: The 3-4-5 hitters have a normal amount of RBI-per-HR. Slightly low, as a group. Almost everybody else is awful. Desmond __all 9 homers are solo. With normal RBI-per-HR, the Nats would have scored about 18-20 more runs. Not insignificant.

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Os YTD stats: Boz -

Love that the Os have come to life since the Showalter hiring - despite the fact that they have MAJOR holes to fill in the offseason. Feel free to suggest any FAs or trades that make sense to shore up their offense.

But I noticed that a lot of their players (markakis, weiters, etc.) have approximately 40 RBI and it's near the end of August. I know they struggled most of the season, but that seems astonishingly low.

Thoughts/insights?

Tom Boswell: Promise Dunn that you will play him at 1st base for 100+ games a year. He could rest some at DH. He'd be a perfect fit. He'd be the ideal anchor at cleanup and everybody hits a few more HR in Camden Yards than Nats Park.

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Vienna, VA: Tom,

Who gets your vote for current Nats MVP? I am thinking perhaps Livan. The guy has kept the Nats in almost every ballgame he pitches. He has 12 of the team's 25 7th inning or better starts, and had he not gone up against other team's aces (see Jimenez, Ubaldo), he could have 12 or more victories. I think it is close between him and Adam, who might have too many errors and Ks, and has not exactly been clutch in his hitting.

Tom Boswell: My vote, without question: Livan. As for now. Still 40+ games to go.

Will they offer him a contract before the end of the year? He'd sure like to stay.

You can't do much better to end a chat than to say something nice about Livan and look forward to the Skins-Ravens this weekend! See you next week.

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