Ask Boswell

Thomas Boswell
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Thursday, December 16, 2010; 11:00 AM

Washington Post Sports Columnist Tom Boswell was online Thursday, Dec. 16 at 11 a.m. ET to take all your questions about baseball, the Redskins, the Wizards and more.

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Tom Boswell: Good morning. Plenty to discuss. Too bad much of it isn't so wonderful for Caps, Skins, Wiz.

My New Year's Resolutions: Slightly shorter answers and, I hope, a lot less typos. This a.m., however, I'm on a slow computer so we'll see if I can keep my word.


Palisades: Any thoughts as to how many more home runs Werth might hit now that he will be playing half the season at Nationals Park, which is slightly smaller than Citizens Bank?

Tom Boswell: The Nats park always grades out as almost perfectly neutral between pitchers and hitters. Of course, Phiolly is a pitcher's park. However, Scott Boras said yesterday that Werth hits better in Nats Park than anywhere. I haven't double checked him. And the Nats bad pitching is a factor. But he said in the past that he had twice sent players to the park where they'd hit best, including Magglio Ordonez to Detroit.

Werth's 46 doubles last year show that he has extra-base power anywhere. I think he and Zimmerman will be almost equally productive __25-30 HR, 85-105 RBI. Werth hasn't had more than 99 RBI but he probably will at some point. Werth strikes out more, but sees more pitches than anybody in baseball __No. 1. Zimmerman has shown he can hit .300. Werth came close last year.


NL East: Hi Boz,

Any chance that MLB would consider moving the Nats to the NL West Div.? Seems no matter what we do, we will be synonymous to the Os in the AL East Div. Boy, the Phillies, Mets, Braves, and even the Fish will be hard to surpass anytime soon.

Tom Boswell: The Nats are in a perfectly appropriate division for them. If you can't beat the Marlins (eventually) give up. The Mets have plenty of financial restraints. The Braves are smart with a good young team, but they don't have the resources of the Yanks or Red Sox. So, don't complain about that, just compete with them. The Phils are very powerful now but, as others are beinging to notice, they are an extremely old team that, according to Charlie Manuel, stopped hitting in April and never really got back to being the Old Phillies all year.

The Nats never thought they were going to challenge Phillie in '11. Now maybe nobody in the NL East will. But the lesson of the '93 Braves is still out there. They didn't even make the4 Series after they bought Maddox.

By '12-'13 the Nats think they will be arriving as the Phils are aging. We'll see. But that Strasburg-Harper window from '12-'17 is perfectly viable. The Nats have nothing to complain about. It's a great, but not unfair division. (Oh, and they have that thing called the Wild Card.) It's the O's that I pity. So does everybody else. But they have had a very nice winter so far.


S. 315: "In left, Bernadina plays almost Barry Bonds defense," said Rizzo.

Was Rizzo complimenting Bernadina or trying to insult him in public? What does that Barry Bonds quote mean?

Tom Boswell: Bonds in his prime was perhaps the greatest defensive leftfielder anybody anybody has seen in the last 40 years (who was not named Rickey Henderson). Better than Joe Rudi or anybody else you want to name. Bonds was a fabulous devoted student of the game and one of the smartest player's I've ever interviewed (before The Bad Days came and he went into his shell).

It's ironic that one of his few less-than-perfect throws was the one that DIDN'T nail Sid Breem at the plate in the NLCS. Of course, Bonds haters can say, "See...with the pennant on the line, Jimy Williams (3rd base coach) challenged his arm and won."


Albany, N.Y.: Watching Rizzo for the last few months gives me the impression that he is, in poker parlance, a slow-player: he likes to conceal strength and prefers to keep everyone guessing about his next move. Given that, is it possible to assess the front office's current agenda? How hard are they pursuing a trade for Zack Greinke, or a contract with Adam LaRoche? Or are they waiting for some other shoes to drop before their next move?

Tom Boswell: Here's a Rizzo run down. They were never interested in Cliff Lee. He said that all along. Sure, talk to his agent, hope for a miracle, but they put zero eggs in that basket. They think Greinke is better than Lee and four years younger and are far more interested in him. "Their evaluation of Greinke is the same as ours. It will take a king's randsom to get him. And it should __a 2-3-or-4-for-1 trade," Rizzo told me the other day. So, I think they resigned to not getting Greinke because their talent surplus positions are not a perfect fit with the Royals. Garza is plausible but also a difficult match.

The Nats aren't getting as many offers for Willingham as you might think because of his bad back and history of not playing 140+ games. They'll try to rest him more early in '11. "We will not trade Wilson Ramos." So that means Norris or Flores can be discussed. Also, everybody wants Ian Desmond. Maybe the scouts are right. I still see him as always having error problems. But maybe the jitters will subside.

Derrek Lee is a possibility at 1st base. The reason I said he was "washed up" last week is because I didn't know he was playing hurt. He's had surgery (wrist) and may bounce back. I tried to show Riz the LH-RH splits for DLee, LaRoche, Overbay, Zim, Werth, etc. He grinned and said, "I've seen 'em. You can get by with a lineup that's 'too righthanded' a lot easier than you can a lineup that's too lefthanded."

The Red Sox will have FIVE everyday LH hitters.

Don't overlook 1st baseman James Loney, 26, who had a terrible year in LA and might be a trade target for the right price. Buy low...


Jason W.: I'm worried because he hit 18 homers and batted 320 at home in 2009 and hit 9 homers and batted 270 on road.His at bats were about equal 332 at home, 320 on road.

Tom Boswell: Look at his full career. Home OPS .863. Road OPS .832.

Even in L.A. with the Dodgers in '04 before he hurt his wrist (Riggleman was a Dodger coach then), he had a half year that, if you'd doubled it, would have been 32 homers and 94 RBI. This guy is a helluva hitter. And he was not in a great Philly lineup in '10. He was in a constantly depleated lineup with big injuries to Utley, Rollins, etc.

Stop worrying. As long as Werth is healthy, he'll hit just like another Zimmerman (through probably not with as much total production as Dunn, who's still underrated.) Will he stay healthy? How will he age? He pointed out "my grandfather played 19 years in the major leagues. (Ducky Schofield). I hope to play into my 40's."


Jenny, D.C.: Phillies is a pitcher's park? What? WHAT? It's one of the most ridiculous bandboxes in baseball. The right field wall is little league-esque. I'm just going to assume typo and not head injury here Boz

Loved your article today. Keep up the good work and Happy Holidays. With Jayson Werth signing, Washington Nationals' owners and general manager are on the same page (Post, Dec. 16)

Tom Boswell: While trying to cut typos I may have sacrificed a fact! Yes, of course Philly is a hitter's park and especially a home run park. If I typed "pitcher's park" by mistake, sorry. That's why they call it a "chat," not a "dissertation."


Leesburg, Va.: Hi Tom. Have you heard the rumor that Rex Grossman may start at QB instead of McNabb against Dallas this Sunday? How viable is this? Are the Shanahans really that stupid?

Tom Boswell: Everybody'd go nuts if Grossman played but I don't think it would be crazy. Why get McNabb hurt? Why not find out how bad Grossman really is? Actually, you already know on a career basis that there's no way Grossman can beat out McNabb. He might have one good game, but he's a backup.

McNabb's had a perfectly decent year. He's been the whole offense except in four games when Torain has run for 100. He's on pace for 4,200 yards __7th in the league. And he's only lost one fumble, so his total turnovers, while worse than his norm, are not bad for a QB behind a second-worst-in-sacks O-line. McNabb is, at worst, a proven good quarterback who can buy you 2-3 years to fix other problems. At best, once you put talent around him, he goes back to the 90+ QB rating he had last year in Philly.

But if Grossman plays __which I doubt__ it will be column heaven. The over-reaction should be a wonder to behold.


Silver Spring, Md.: How will we know that our trust has been verified with the Lerners and Rizzo?

Tom Boswell: I don'tr think it will be a mystery. We will know b y Opening Day of '12. They have two winters to put the proper players __not Yankee buys, but proper pieces__ around Werth, Zim, SS, Harper, Desmond, Espinoza, Ramos, Z'mann, Storen. The biggest piece is a third high-quality starter, assuming that both SS and Z'mann are quality starters.

A note: Maya was doing very well in Winter Ball the last time I checked. "It was unfair of me to throw him into that mix last year after only five games (in the minors)," Rizzo told me. They think his stuff has moved up a whole level this winter. It better. They thought they were getting a No. 3-4 starter for several years. The stuff he showed in September just wasn't going to be good enough. So, if true, that's good news.


Richmond, Va.: Can you share any thoughts and memories of Bob Feller?

Tom Boswell: He had a reputation for being a grouch. Not exactly the biggest flaw in the world in these days. But that kept people at a distance from him. I hope those who knew the best sides of him will tell their stories this week and I'm sure they will. I'll be interested to read them.


Burke, Va.: "But the lesson of the '93 Braves is still out there. They didn't even make the series after they bought Maddox."

But they did win their division twelve straight years (ignoring the strike year).

We're supposed to draw hope from that?

Tom Boswell: This isn't a Hope Factory.

The Braves big four in '93 were 27, 27, 26 and 23. And Maddox, Glavine and Smoltz stayed together for 10 years. The Phils Four Aces are 34, 33, 32 and 27 (from memory). Halladay has two more yuears on his deal. Hamels will be a free agent. As I wrote the other day, enjoly these guys while they are together and in one piece and all near their prime.

Because they are not going to stay together, in one piece and in their prime __not all four of 'em__ for more than the next two years. Everybody likes to be a contrarian __but it's even more fun to be a contrarian about the Phils (and their fans) now that they are a power and don't have to be pitied as they were for so long.


Capitol Hill: If the Nats could acquire Grienke for Zimmermann, Espinosa and Norris/Flores -- why wouldn't they do that? As much potential as Zimmermann has, Grienke has been there and done that.

Tom Boswell: Rizzo hates the words "prospect" and "potential." They are usually surrounded by a curse word. He loves the phrase "proven major-league production." You ALWAYS trade the former for the later. In trades, from his Arizona days, Mike likes to see teams prey on the Baseball America List Syndrome. Find a (poor) team that's greedy to tell its fans that they just traded a star for several prospects who are "Rated No. blah-blah-blah"

The Royals have good young middle infielders and catcher. That hurts the trade match. I think Greinke is just a dream.Zimmermann has at least pitched in the majors, so, just from those starts, you know vastly more. The buyer's market is for relief pitchers and second-tier first baseman. There are plenty of both and the Nats will get one of each. The SP will be tougher. That's why Edwin Jackson hurts, as I mentioned in this a.m.'s column. Rizzo had the SP he wanted but all of us __correctly I think__ were saying "resign Dunn." I'd still much rather see Z'man, Dunn, Werth, Harper in '12 or '13 and forget I'd ever heard the name Edwin Jackson. I think the Dunn $35-$40M/3yr contract could have happened in July. It's the One That Got Away.


Ovid, N.Y.: How much slack do you think Morgan is going to get this year?

Tom Boswell: Not much.

Rig said yesterday that Werth would play some CF against LHers with Morgan getting the day off. I hope Werth plays CF against ALL LHers. Find out what he looks like out there. Morgan has never hit LHers.

Nyjer better return to '09 or close to it. He's a "free player" this year __very low cost. So give him a chance, at least as part of a Werth/Morgan CF platoon. He needs to take it.


Long on lefties: Did the Red Sox escape a bullet, with five everyday lefty hitters, with Lee going to the Phillies instead of the Yankees?

Tom Boswell: Right! That's one reason everybody was SO sure the Yankees would get Lee.

And they were sooo wrong.

I really like Lee going to Philly. I'm not much on their fans, but I really like that team __like the late-'90's Yankees. Really gritty, a true old-fashioned ballclub with lots of good people like Manuel, Lopes, Perlozzo and, in the past, Gillick running things. I just enjoy walking into that ballpark and being around that team. So did Lee.

The Nats can take a lot of lessons from the Phils. The two new parks are of similar in style and quality, imo. But Philly looks better because it's always full and crazy. That should be the Nats goal. It happened with the Caps. In a blink.


Alexandria, Va.: Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the A's "are in serious discussions to obtain outfielder Josh Willingham from the Nationals. for two minor league players.

Tom Boswell: Maybe. But Willingham will get $6-million in arbitration this year. Is that what the still-poor A's want? Does feel like a match to me.

But I don't think Willingham, much as the Nats respect him, is part of their plans in '12 and after. So, if they love prospects that they are offered, this might a rare time when Riz takes the "potential" over the proven production.


Typos and short answers: Boz, thanks for doing these chats. They're better than a month's worth of anyone else's columns.

Typos must be forgiven. No one who has ever sat at a keyboard is typo-free. As long as there's no compulsion to use white-out on the computer screen, typos are an occupational hazard that must be accepted.

With regard to shorter answers, shame on folks who can't follow a train of thought through more than three sentences. Some of your most illuminating stuff, like your discussion of the impact of the count on hitters effectiveness, necessarily take more than a few phrases to cover. I'd hate to lose out on the benefits of your experiences covering baseball (or any other sport, for that matter) for the sake of brevity.

And I'd like to take this opportunity to extend to you, and your readers, and your families, my best wishes for a happy and safe holiday season.

Tom Boswell: Thanks very much.

But I hate looking back at a chat that I liked and seeing the typos. I'm a fast typer but not lightning. My dad was the fastest I've ever seen __a touch typist. Okay, a story. In WWII, he enlisted in the Army in '39 because he didn't want anybody to get at Hitler before he had his chance. I just pulled down his old copy of Hitler's "Mein Kampf" that was translated into English in '39. My father read it and joined the U.S. Army.

They tested everybody's skills. He got very high grades in accuracy with a machine gun and in typing. He figured out later that maybe everybody wasn't really trying to hit the target with the machine gun __maybe not a skill you want to reveal if you're an Army grunt and value longevity. But fast typing was ever rarer. Much rarer. So, he did two tours of Europe, including the second wave at Normandy, as the "Radar O'Reilly" of his company, doing all the paper work, etc. So, if he'd just shot straight, but not typed well, there might never have been a little me after the War.


Flores?: Boz, I've seen his name mentioned a couple of times in this chat. I thought he was pretty much 'damaged goods'. Is he well, now? I can't imagine other teams are beating down the door for him.

Tom Boswell: Seems like he's doing better. I think Adam Kilgore had a Nationals Journal post that included some info.

So far, the Nats have not had dumb good luck on any player sionce they came to town __a prospect who turned out far better than expected, a "free" All-Star. It's usually been more like the Flores case. Less than expected. It all evens out. I thought Lannan might be a Scott McGregor surprise. But, over the years, we'll get nice surprises as well as the bad ones. Just not many yet.


Anonymous: So far, it looks like your New Year's resolutions won't take effect until next year! But it's always good to have you online. Do you plan to continue chatting weekly through the offseason?

Tom Boswell: Uh oh, I thought the typos were better today. Guess not?

Hey, that's what New Year's is for.

As for long posts: "Sorry for the long letter. I didn't have time to write a short one."

Some say Pascal said it first in the 1600's. Voltaire gets credit. Lincoln, Twain and George Bernard Shaw used it.

I was just reading Pascal's Wager. And the Pascal's Wager Fallacy. And the Pascal's Wager Fallacy Fallacy. And we think that baseball stat nerds are off in another world.

But Pascal's Wager __why not believe in God, it's safer that way__ had a huge influence in other areas: probability theory and current risk management thinking. I don't think he did it in a Tweet.


St Louis, Mo.: You quoted Mike Rizzo as saying, "You can get by with a lineup that's 'too right-handed' a lot easier than you can a lineup that's too left-handed." Maybe this is a dumb question, but if LH hitters do better against RH pitchers and vice versa, and since most pitchers are RH, why isn't a predominantly LH-hitting lineup better?

Tom Boswell: LH pitchers eat up LH-dominated lineups to a much greater degree than RHers chew up RH-hitting lineups. Just the way it's always been. I'll explain it sometime.


Arlington, Va.: I second the opinion from "Typos and short answers:" Your chats rock, Boz! I get so much great information and perspective from these things!!! Don't go-a-changin' Boz!

Tom Boswell: Thanks. I promise you that the sharp people who moderate these chats would appreciate it if I'd stick to my time. I'm not making their work life any easier just because I enjoy it. So, I'll just take one more question. (Heh, heh.)


Redskins: Tom, was firing the punter who let the ball slip through his hands on the infamous PAT play at the end of the game justified? Geesh, make one mistake and gone. Or was there more to it?

Tom Boswell: Oh, Hunter the Punter was having a poor year punting. And he's a better holder than punter __that's his extra value.

But, even though in this case it wasn't crazy, I still HATED it. Just so Redskin. Find a scapegoat. Punish somebody. Even if I intended to change punter-holders after the season, I'd have kept him at least another week, if not until the end of the season.

It's not like the Redskins haven't figured out that Shanahan is a disciplinarian.


Who swears more?: Baseball, football, basketball or hockey players (or coaches)?

Tom Boswell: Baseball wins and has been proud of it for 150 years!

In "real life," I have to say "I'm sorry" a lot.


Falls Church, Va.: Boz, hypothetically, if you were to buy a Nationals jersey as a Christmas gift for an 8-year-old that already has a Zimmerman jersey, who would you go with? Werth? Harper? Strasburg? Wang (inexplicably still available)?

Tom Boswell: Strasburg, Harper, Werth, in that order.

You KNOW what Strasburg can do at the MLB level IF he's healthy. Harper will probably prove it, but hasn't yet.


Anonymous: The point of my previous question is that neither Shanahann nor Allen is known as a talent evaluator so how can they rebuild to a high level? The Eagles Patiots, Colts and now probably Kansas City always find talent in the draft.

Tom Boswell: As Wilbon always pointed out, and I'll have to take over that role I guess, it's rare to find a great coach who's also a great talent evaluator in the draft. One of Shanahan's problems will be that he has two huge jobs.


Washington, D.C., Eyestreet: Tell me we've hit some kind of rock bottom in the Washington sports scene this past week. The Redskins lose (again) on a botched extra point, the Wizards look abysmal and are on pace to win perhaps 20 games all season if they're lucky, the Caps lose six straight and look confused and lethargic, even Georgetown and the Terps lost. And the Nats, well. If it weren't for the Hot Stove, there'd be nothing to dream about. Has it ever been worse around here?

Tom Boswell: Has it ever been worse?

Are you kidding!? I was born into worse in the late '50's. All the teams were awful __pro, college. Okay, not Navy football. Griffith Stadium had color but it was lousy.

Take a deep breath. The Caps will be fine. The Redskins are 5-8, not 1-12, like some teams I rooted for back then. The Nats are headed to .500 in '11 or (more likely) '12. The Wiz....hmmmmm. GU and Maryland have enough talent for good seasons. Etc.

And it's snowing outside. Think positively. It's beginning to look at lot like...

See you next week.


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