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Baseball postseason, Redskins, more -- Ask Boswell

Thomas Boswell
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Thursday, October 21, 2010; 11:00 AM

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

Today's column: With win in ALCS Game 5, Yankees might have found their stride

Column archive

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Leesburg, VA: Any chance Bryce Harper makes the Nats starting lineup in 2011?

washingtonpost.com: Bryce Harper shows he belongs in Arizona Fall League debut

Tom Boswell: No, not if the Nats are in their right minds.

If Harper is super successful and projects to be another Mickey Mantle or Ken Griffey, Jr. __and the odds on that are against anybody__ then Opening Day of '12 would be exactly the same time frame (within a month) in which the Commerce Comet and The Kid made it to the majors as starting outfielders at age 19.

If Mantle can have 519 at bats at AA Joplin at age 18 (hit .383 and slugged .638), then it won't hurt Harper to do the same. Mantle started in April of '51 at 19 but actually went back to the minors for 40 games in mid-season. There's nothing wrong with a teenager being asked to hit his way out of the minors. If he's that great, then he can do it. When EWillie Mays turned 20, he was still at AAA Minneapolis. Of course, he was hitting .477! So, a couple of weeks after he was no longer a teenager, the Giants brought him up.

I guess you'll see Harper early in '12 __either Opening Day or soon. But if he doesn't come up to stay until '13 or '14, he can still have a great career. "The pitchers will tell you when you are ready."

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Washington, D.C.: As a Nats fan, the thought constantly on my mind as I watch the playoffs is "So, this is what real baseball looks like." What makes the Nats think they could possibly get someone like Cliff Lee or Jayson Werth? For that matter, why would anyone on any of the teams playing right now want to leave these teams and join the Washington Nationals?

Tom Boswell: A Cliff Lee would be crazy to come to the Nats. But the futures of Strasburg, Harper, Zimmerman and Zimmermann make the Nats interesting to players who are not quite at the moon-and-stars level.

Wonder how much money the Yanks would take back to trade Javier Vasquez ($11.5M next year). He was 10-10 with a 5.32 ERA and NYC decided to hate him. He's 34 and in '09 was 15-10 with the Braves with a 2.87 ERA and 238 K's in 219 innings. The only place he has ever failed has been NYC __and he's done it twice!

The Nats are going to have to be creative (or lucky) to get that "top of the rotation" pitcher they talk about.

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Arlington, VA: On Tuesday night in New York, there were 2 incidents during the ACLS where fans interfered with a ballplayer trying to make a play. The first was in center, where a fan prevented the outfielder from trying to catch a home run. The second was in leftfield foul territory, where the outfielder could have easily caught the foul popup. What's your view on fan interference ? Are there any penalties to assess the fan ? What are the umpires roles here ?

Tom Boswell: It's a great part of baseball and I wouldn't want to change it. We saw a version of Jeffery Maeier and Steve Bartman in the same game! There are clear rules. The fence extends (hypothetically) straight up to the sky. If the fan reaches across that line and interfers with the play, then you call it. If the fielder goes "into the sdands" __that is to say, crosses the invisible line__ then the ball is fair game for the fan. (And sometimes his glove is fair game, too!)

That Yank fan who prevented a New York player from making a possible catch down the third base line could have regretted it if the game had developed differently.

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Thomasville, Ga.: Hey Boz,

With the Nats seemingly set at catcher for the next decade, do you see Norris as trade bait for starting pitching this offseason?

Tom Boswell: Norris looks like he's about a year behind Wilson Ramos in development. Let Ramos prove he can hit in the bigs before we annoint him. Norris has a very good batting eye and that tends to translate at all levels. As we saw in Jason Heyward's rookie year. At some point, Norris may be "blocked," so you trade him. Nice problem to have. But not this winter I wouldn't think.

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Baltimore, MD: Watching Buster Posey, it reminds me of Derek Jeter in 1996. A rookie who is in the middle of every key postseason play and somehow seems to be better in pressure situations than in meaningless ones.

What bothers me is that Posey can be this good so young and Matt Wieters, who by almost all counts SHOULD be a better player than him, is significantly worse and is close to officially achieving BUST status. It must be something in the Orioles culture because even our pitchers, which must have had the same draft day pedigrees as the Giants starters, are much worse than theirs.

Tom Boswell: Posey's poise is amazing and I was really happyu to see him have a big game __and great tag at the plate__ last night so that he can start building that "big game" resume. And, in time, the Jeter comparison may look apt. Okay, in 10-15 years! S.F. is a great place for baseball, especially with the new park.

The Orioles analogy is the right one from their point of view. What the Giants have done with Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarten, 20, with Posey catching them is just what Baltimore envisioned with Weiters catching Matusz, Arrieta, Tillman, Bergesen, etc. That is the way you build. Young starting pitching and exceptional players up the middle. That's what the Nats are trying to do with Strasburg, Zimmermann, Ramos, Espinoza and Desmond up the middle.

You're right, it's probably time to worry about Weiters. At 24, he should be hitting more than .249 with 11 homers and 55 RBI in 446 ABs in a hitter's park. Not to late to blossom by any means. But after 800 MLB at bats, I expected more. He lacks superior bat speed, especially for a big guy. Everybody says it. But he's still going to be a good player for a long time. Just probably not great.

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Oswalt in relief: This reeked of desperation, did it not? Also tells Lidge that Manuel has no confidence in him. This move made no sense to me. Not an elimination game so I really didn't get it. Going down 3-1 is not ideal but as you pointed out, 20% of teams down 3-1 have come back to win. Seemed like a Hail Mary when it wasn't necessary.

Tom Boswell: I agree. I was shocked to see it. Oswalt only threw fastballs and a couple of changeups, no breaking balls. That's probably all the pitches he felt he had time to get ready. Manuel has seemed excessiveloy worried the whole series, talking about how his team hasn't really hit very well "since the first three or four weeks of the season."

How about showing some confidence, Red Devil!

I wrote before the playoffs that the best thing about baseball this time of year was that you never guessed __or even came remotely close to guessing__ what would actually happpen. But if you'd told me that the Rangers and Giants would both build 3-to-1 leads over the Yanks and Phils, I really wouldn't have believed it.

But both series still feel tense __the NLCS because the Phils will be tough if they get back home. In the ALCS, somebody should remember to thank the Tampa Bay Rays for playing so hard to the wire to win the A.L. East from the Yanks and force New York back into the wild card. That's why the Rangers now have the last two games at home. I really don't think Texas could have won a close out game in Yankee Stadium with their franchise history, etc.

But in Texas I think they can. Will they? Probably. But when something seems almost too good to be true __like the Ex-Senators knocking off the highest-paid Yankee team ever to reach the Series__ is usually is too good. Feel free to fret.

Oh, I heard from both Maury and David Povich, Shirley's sons, about my Time To Forgive The Rangers column last week and both volunteered that they thought their compassionate dad would have come around to the same point of view by now.

But they wouldn't go past "probably."

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Washington, DC: Boz, Love your work, but can you please write a sentence about the Yankees without mentioning the payroll. We get it; it's high. But so is that of the Red Sox, Cubs, Mets, etc. Where are those teams? This is a great team (with more homegrown talent than most) that you underestimate at every step of the way. After they win the World Series, how about a column acknowledging that.

Tom Boswell: If you win the lottery and buy a $20-million mansion, does that make you a great architect?

Or does it make you a rich guy who bought the actually work of talented people.

I seperate the individual Yankee players __including A.J. Burnett__ and treat them as gifted people who just happen to play in pinstripes. But the Yankees as an entity are a different matter. "See pervious post."

I thought last year's Yankee win was moving because George Steinbrenner's health was failing and it was a fine send off. I'm not going to go all mushy over III. But he saw the long-term competitive advantage that the Yankees had by virtue of geography (NYC) and history (The Yankee Tradition) and he milked it to the capitalist hilt.

But that was last year. Good for them. I enjoyed doing a Pettitte, Jeter, Posasa, Rivera piece because they are such fine players and people. But enough already. However, if they win again, there will be aspects of their performance that are worthy of high praise. Look at what Cano is doing!

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San Diego, CA: Had both LCS been four game sweeps, there would have been a one WEEK wait from yesterday until Game One of the World Series next Wednesday. Would it not make sense for baseball to institute a kind of dynamic scheduling for the post season, with the next series (be LCS or WS) starting one off day after the last game of the previous series is completed?

Tom Boswell: It would be logical. It would be logistically difficult. And it won't happen. (It's baseball.)

At least they're made the post-season schedule a bit more compact and moved some starting times of games up by as much as an hour. I was shocked and pleased. Nice going.

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Washington DC: Are head injuries a threat to the long-term future of football? Having read about the emerging research, I know that I will strongly discourage my son from ever stepping onto a football field, and I have a number of professional colleagues who feel the same way.

Tom Boswell: It's the first thing that has ever seemed like it could, even in the future, put some limits on the popularity of the game.

Concussions and neck injuries aren't new. On my high school team, we had a player taken off on a board by ambulance in mid-game. One of my friend who played safety and was a hard hitter came up to me as we were taking off our pads after a game and said, "What was the final score, Boz? We won 17-7, right?" Well, that was the halftime score, anyway. So, I assume he played the second half with a concussion. In those days, at least as I remember, they held up fingers and if you could count them and knew your name and where you were, then you were okay to play. I only got knocked out once, making a tackle, and probably only for a second. So I don't even think it counts. But we weighed 150-215 pounds, not 200-to-350 with superhuman speed and strength.

The human skull and backbone haven't gotten any thicker or stronger, but the force that's hitting them certainly has.

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True or False: After wins by the White Sox, Red Sox (2), Dbacks, Angels and Marlins (2!), would a Giants-Rangers World Series be just another kick in the pants for Indians and Cubs fans?

Tom Boswell: Yes, it sure would. But, remember, the Giants haven't won a World Series since they moved to S.F. and the Rangers had never won a post-season series since they left Washington. So it looks like some old curses are being lifted.

Why not the Cubs and Indians someday, too?

(I can't even say that with a straight face.)

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Tom Boswell: This is one of those "skip it if you don't like the subject" posts that I do for the chat.

Whenever the Yankees are in the playoffs (which is almost every year), the question of money and whether they "buy the pennant" always comes up. And it should. Because they do.

It is the gorilla in the room. And baseball never wants to talk about it because attendance and TV ratings are good. A very good but not totally dominant Yankee team seems to be healthy for the sport. "Oh, just let 'em contend every year, then we'll cross our fingers and hope they blow it in the post-season because the three-round format is such a crap shoot."

However, starting in '01 when the Yanks began ramping their salaries from $100M-a-year to over $200M by '05, things really went through the looking glass. This year is the most expensive Yankee team ever __$214M. The Yankee dollar gap is now so enormous and warps the sport so much that it should always be the first topic of conversation when we discuss How to Improve Baseball.

This tells it all. In the last six seasons, here are the only teams that averaged a $100-million-a-year payroll. (Source: Cotts contracts.)

1. Yankees: $203 million.

2. Red Sox: $135 million.

3. Mets: $122 million.

4. Cubs: $112 million

5. Angels: $111 million.

6. Tigers: $106 million.

7. Dodgers: $102 million.

8. White Sox: $101 million.

So, the Yanks spend at least 51% more than anybody else in baseball and 67% to 100% more than the other big spenders. The other 22 teams are outspent by 2X, 3X or even 5X.

A GREAT player may make $15-to-$20-million a year. So, the Yankees get to have four superstar players a season more than the Red Sox, five more than the Mets and six more than the Cubs, Angels, Tigers, Dodgers and White Sox.

And the Yanks get to have NINE players at an average of $16-million-a-year more than a team like the Nationals (or Rangers) who had payrolls around $65M this year.

This is insane. It's a competitive joke. This year, here are some key Yank salaries. Compare them to a team like the Nats with one $10-million player __Adam Dunn; and he'll probably be lost in free agency because they refuse to pay a $40-million/3-yr deal.

Alex Rodriguez $31-million.

CC Sabathia $23 million.

Derek Jeter $21 million

Mark Teixeira $20 million

A.J. Burnett $16.5 million

Mariano Rivera $15 million

Lance Berkman $14.5 million (Pro-rated and Houston took back $4M)

Jorge Posada $13 million

Andy Pettitte $11.75 million

Javier Vasquez $11.5 million

Kerry Wood $10.5 million

Robinson Cano $9 million

Nick Swisher $6.75 million

Curtis Granderson $5.5 million

NICK JOHNSON $5.75 million

Do you know how many>$9 million players thee Rangers have?

Michael Young $16 million.

That's it. He's made six All Star teams, had five 200-hit seasons and won a batting title.

After that comes Cliff Lee ($8 million), Cristian Guzman ($8 million) and Vlad Guerrero ($6.5 million) who had few offers because of age and deteriorating stats.

Cristian Guzman!??? Lee may have incentive bonuses that kick in, too.

But you get the point. How can anybody with even an iota of a sense of "fair play" not root for the Rangers and against the Yankees.

I get a hoot out of the headlines here that the Yankees "lost Teixeira for the season!" If A-Rod, Jeter, Rivera, Sabathia, Cano, Wood (the $10.5-million set up man) and Posada all have the same hamstring injury at today's workout that Teixeira suffered (out 6-to-8 weeks, but presuambly no career damage at all), then I'll call it an even series.

I'm sure, as the next CBA approaches I'll offer thoughts in whether/what baseball should do with revenue sharing, luxury tax or salary cap. But for now, it's just silly not to see every Yankee game in light of the players they have bought or paid to keep. When a Tampa Bay develops a Carl Crawford, they probably lose him. On the Yanks, the home-grown stars almost never leave: Jeter gets a $189 million 10-year deal, Posada gets $52 million and Mariano, even when ancient, gets $45 million.

Nice to note that, at least at this minute, the teams leading in the LCS are Giants who are 10th in payroll at a perfectly reasonable (for their market) $98-million and the Rangers at about $65 million. which is in the bottom 10.

The top payroll teams this year may have historically lousy results. (More good news.)

Yanks: $213-million __their all-time high!

Red Sox (Evil Empire II): $168 million.

Cubs: $144 M

Phils: $138 M

Tigers; $133 M

Mets $126 M

Angels: $121 M

White Sox $103 M

Dodgers $102 M

Nice work, folks, only two of the nine made the eight-team playoffs.

On the other side of the "coin," I always point out that the Nats don't spend ENOUGH. A team in a top 10 market like D.C. that does not spend in the $80-to-$100 million payroll range __or have a pattern that will get them there__ is simply not trying to compete. That's the range for teams like Milwaukee, Baltimore, Colorado, Atlanta, Holuston and St. Louis.

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Alexandria, VA: Just remember, the more the Yankees spend, the more some teams get paid. I'm looking at you Florida and Pittsburgh, amongst others.

Tom Boswell: The Nats have gotten paid out of revenue sharing the last couple of off-seasons and it doesn't sit too well with execs of other teams. They understand the problems in Pittsburgh, etc. But the Washington market?

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Washington DC: Are the Yankees poised to enter a period of decline? They have massively overpaid A-Rod, and they are about to do the same for Jeter and Rivera. Can a team possibly remain dominant if they're paying $150 million to 6 players (A-Rod, Jeter, Mariano, CC, Tex and AJ), 4 of whom are likely to severely underperform?

Tom Boswell: This possibility doesn't get mentioned as often as it should. The Yanks have leveled off at this $200-million payroll level for six years. Their resources aren't infinite. Jeter may want and get $100M. Lee would take another $100M obligation.

I've heard that all humans get old eventually.

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Re "dynamic scheduling": It's not just because of the so-called brain trust at MLB. The television networks value schedule predictability over the integrity of competition that would be preserved by dynamic scheduling. So MLB sold that decision to the networks years ago.

(Oh, I guess it goes back to the so-called brain trust after all.)

Tom Boswell: But a good point. Thanks.

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Washington, DC: Is Ted Leonsis now the "Dean" of Washington sports owners?

Tom Boswell: Absolutely.

Very interesting to hear Stan Kasten tell me recently what a high opinion he had of his good friend Leonsis as an owner. In fact, he pretty much thought that the way Ted ran the Caps was the right model.

Gee, does that mean Stan didn't think the Nats were using that model? I must have have forgotten to ask that follow-up question. Kind of hard to believe he'd have left if he thought there was much resemblance between how the two teams __Caps and Nats__ were run.

But Mark Lerner is on the Caps board and thinks highly of Leonsis methods. So, you never know...

It's good news for local fans to have Leonsis running two teams. It's good news that Snyder has stepped back from the Redskins to the degree he has. And it is good news that the Lerner family and the Nats board has shown positive movement in doing things better in the last two years.

But a long ways still to go for the Wiz, Skins and Nats.

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Lynchburg, Va.: Are you planning to go to Rangers Ballpark on Friday for ALCS Game 6 (or the World Series, should the Rangers get that far)? I went to a game there in 2001 (first-ever Astros-Rangers game, BTW) and was impressed with the park -- which, I believe, was designed by a Washington firm, not HOK. Lots of seats under cover to protect from the heat, and since Arlington, Texas, has no skyline to speak of, the enclosed nature of the park (and the faux Tiger Stadium overhang) makes sense. Hard to believe you've never been to the Metroplex for baseball, given all your years covering it.

Tom Boswell: I went there for a wedding in the family and, since the Rangers were on a road trip, called an old friend with the Rangers and got to stand on the mound with my (then young) son. I really liked the look of the park.

It's going to be crazy figuring out which games to be at the next few days and which have to be missed. Can't be in two places at once. And it's tough to justify covering a late-night Saturday game __the worst deadlines of the week, by far__ when you may, literally, not get the column in a single copy of the print edition of the paper even if you file a story a minute before the end of the game.

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Washington, D.C.: So who wins the NFC East? Are the Cowboys done or can they recover? My guess is Giants and Eagles in the top two slots and the 'skins and 'boys in the bottom two, but have no clue to actual order.

Tom Boswell: Cowboys are done. Don't you just enjoy saying the words?

Skins are right in the mix with Giants and Eagles. They're not outclassed I don't think. However, Skins haven't had many injuries or have gotten better play from backups, like Ryan Torain, than they did from the starters who went down. Will they stay healthy? Especially McNabb who, every week, looks like he's in the middle of an interstate trying to dodge 18-wheelers.

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Homegrown Yankees: Sure, many of the Yankees came up through the organization. But they get to keep all of the ones they want to. How many other teams get to do that?

Tom Boswell: The Rays sure won't get to keep Carl Crawford.

And the Yanks record of home-grown talent is mediocre. The same four old guys, plus Cano and Hughes get mentioned over and over. I'm not looking for Brett Gardner or Joba in the HOF. Not even the Yankee HOF.

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Sec 114, Row E: And that's why many people hate the Yanks, the fans who defend them by saying that they have a homegrown team and that money doesn't guarantee success.

Here's the remaining homegrown Yanks who are regulars: Posada, Cano, Jeter, Gardner, Cervelli, Hughes, Rivera, Joba and Dav Robertson.

Free agents or acquired by trade: Teixeira, A-Rod, Granderson, Swishers, Thames, Kearns, Berkman, Nick Johnson, Sabathia, Burnett, Vazquez, Wood and even Andy Pettitte.

Tom Boswell: Thanks for the leg work.

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Damn Yankees: The Yankees aren't going to come back, right? The Rangers will finish them off? Please say this.

Not only because I hate the Yankees (though mostly) but also because that'd be one less team on the "never made a WS" list.

Speaking of that, what's your opinion on "counting" Expos records when it comes to the Nats? The Rangers were the last franchise to win a postseason series, as the Expos won a special NLDS in '81. Do you consider that as relevant to the Nationals, or should we consider ourselves "still waiting"?

Tom Boswell: Sorry, no promises.

I hate to admit this, but the current Yankees are a likeable group, including Girardi. I realize almost nobody wants to hear this. And, individually, I have a hard time pulling against most of them. Okay, A-Rod and a few others are on their own.

But, unless you've been a Yankee fan since the age of six, I really don't see how any normal baseball-loving person is not a BIG Rangers fan right now.

No, I couldn't care less about Expo records. They have no meaning for me and never will. But that's just me. If others feel differently, I get it.

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Silver Spring: So the Yankees win a game after dropping 3 straight. This means they're rip-roaring now? Texiera's out for the season, their bullpen wasn't needed last night, and their offense is still pretty anemic. I know you can't count the Yankees out, but they look pretty toasted to me.

Tom Boswell: From your lips to God's ear.

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Washington DC: Things have been fairly quiet at Nats HQ regarding Adam Dunn. Any word on whether he stays or goes?

Tom Boswell: Like I told you a month ago, he's gone.

The Nats played the whole thing like amateurs for months, then in recent weeks started changing their minds, then rechanging them, then re-re-rechanging them. A dozen things would have to fall in place for the Nats to get Dunn back, including, imo, the Cubs not offering him a four-year deal to come hit in the ballpark he loves best.

I'd be glad to be wrong. I'm not.

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Mike Mussina: With all the talk about the great pitching this post-season, how does my 1997 performance stack up? 29 IP, 41 K, 7 BB, 4 ER, 1.24 ERA, 12.7 K/9, 2.17 BB/9.

Tom Boswell: Moose, you were mighty tough.

Also, when an elite pitcher gets on a post-season roll, how often does he suddenly have a bad game? Almost never. The hot hand continues until the season ends.

So I think you'll see Lee hold his former at least one more game.

Gotta catch a train. See everybody next week. The next few days should be a lot of fun.

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