Ask Boswell

Thomas Boswell
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Thursday, December 23, 2010; 11:00 AM

Washington Post Sports Columnist Tom Boswell was online Thursday, Dec. 23 at 11 a.m. ET to take all your questions about baseball, the Redskins, the Wizards and more.

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Tom Boswell: Happy Holidays, everyone! Throw in a bunch of Season's Greetings, too.

Lots to chat about. Skins, of course. They've lost the season but that doesn't mean fans have lost their voices. Nats had a deal done with the Royals for Z Greinke before he used his no-trade clause to kill it. Rizzo liked him better straight up than Cliff Lee and four years younger. Lot of implications to that, even though they didn't get him. More great stuff on the Caps/Pens last night on HBO. I don't know if you folks want Rex Ryuan allowed in here or not. Just say I'm surprised that the Jets illegal "trip line" was done with knees. Why not just trip 'em with your feet?


Ranking Football Receivers: Why do we rank rushers by yards (not rushes) and receivers by catches (not yards)? Shouldn't the NFL rank receivers by the number of yards they've gained as opposed to the number of catches they have? If you agree, maybe you can try and get a dialogue started on this. If not, please explain why this doesn't make more sense. Thanks!

Happy Holidays!

Tom Boswell: Maybe nobody wants to make the Skins feel bad that Brandon Llyod is second in the NFL in receiving yards (1264 yard-79-10 TDs).

I like yards better and that's how the site lists it, not by number of catches.

Interesting to me that Skins have three of the top 30 receivers by yardages, partly because McNabb (remember him) completed so many long passes.

13) Moss: 79-956-6

28) Anthony Armstrong 40-772-2

30) Cooley 67-748-3.

Only two receivers in the NFL have more catches for more than 40 yards than Armstrong. He's got 6> 40 yds. He's not as small as he looks on TV. About average for a fast wide out. If he stays healthy, he may have some big years.


Section 307: I'm glad to see the Nats land Werth but still can't get over losing Dunn. I understand pitching and defense make for championship teams but I would have really loved to see the right, left, right order of Zimmerman, Dunn, Werth next season. The potential for home runs of 30, 40, 30 would have been a real crowd pleaser.

Tom Boswell: JMO, but I think they will regret losing Dunn for some time and not just because of his bat. Would Greinke have signed with the Nats if they'd already had Zimmerman and Dunn with Harper on the way.

BTW, it seems obvious to me that the Nats traded Josh Willingham to Oakland for two prospects __one of them reliever Henry Rodriguez, 23, who touched 103.4 mph with one fastball last year__ because they wanted to free up the option of trading Drew Storen (or Rodriguez) in a deal for Greinke or Matt Garza in Tampa Bay.

And the signing of Rick Ankiel (for $1.5-M, not a tiny amount) makes me think that they really want to make a trade for Garza. They now have Storen and Bernadina as pieces they could include. The Rays have lost a fast LFer and will end up losing two r three relievers including, probably Rafeal Soriano and his 45 saves. It's a"match" for a trade.


Hedgesville, W.Va.: Hi Tom. What do you think of the 'Skins creating a "package deal" with Haynesworth and McNabb and trying to get a high draft pick? Do you think they might get a bite?

Tom Boswell: I doubt that they'll get much of anything for either of them.

What's going to be interesting is how Shanahan handles McNabb now that it's obvious he's never going to play another down for the Redskins. Because of his new contract, they can keep him locked up until the very beginning of next season __see if a team gets a QB hurt in the exhibition season. And because they probably aren't too happy about that $3.5-million sorry-you-got-insulted bonus just before the Monday Night game, they may leave him out to dry. (Hey, you're getting paid. Now we're trying to get some value back.)

There is no free lunch. And there is certainly no free $3.5M when you work for Shanahan and Snyder. I think this will be a distraction to the Skins through the summer and maybe right up until the first game. But what would the Redskins be without distractions! Nobody is going to come of this looking very good.


Centreville, Va.: I like what Rizzo has done so far. I'm wondering if he is going to get a top-line pitcher or not like he said. Your thoughts.

Tom Boswell: They have to "finish" now. If you let Dunn get away and he signs for 3 yrs in Chicago, but you have to go 7 yrs for $126M for Werth just to replace his bat in the order, that is a terrible off-season. You've got the big-money path and sent a message that you want to get to .500, or close, in '11, then you miss on everything else? That doesn't work. So, not signing Jorge De La Jose, even though they may have offered him more than the Rox, then not getting Greinke, they may be in a box. They "promised" Werth that they would compete. So, they need to get a 1st baseman. Everybody says Derreck Lee or Adam LaRoche. But if they have to move way back down nthe food chain to settle of Brad Hawpe or the like, it's not going to look like "Phase 2" of the plan is very well coordinated.

Obviously, and I mean it really is obvious, they wanted to make a blockbuster trade for Greinke. They don't value Garza nealy as highly. If they could get Garza without giving up Jordan Zimmermann, then you are looking at Strasburg (if healthy), Garza and J Zim in '12. That's nice. Do you give up Storen, Bernadina and Desmond/Espinoza for Garza. Seems like too much. What could you get back from TB to even it out. I've looked. I don't see it.

The Nats still have a lot of work to do to make this a successful winter. Werth was a vital first step. But it only makes sense if they make more steps. And they have been thwarted so far.


The QB doth protest too much: Boz, while I am mostly sympathetic to McNabb's plight (I think Shanny handled the benching particularly poorly), I'm also a little tired of the same broken record. In Philly, he was ALWAYS the aggrieved party: Rush Limbaugh said something about him, so he's angry; the local media calls him a vomiter, and he's defensive; T.O. questions his leadership, and he sulks; Reid questions his physical abilities, and he's betrayed; now Shanny questions his ability to grasp an offense, and he's offended. Shanahan has never been a QB's best friend - he barely tolerated Elway (who was on his way out anyway), and he never developed a good relationship with Plummer. That's who he is; I don't like it, I don't agree with it, and I think most of us would chafe if we had a boss like that. But you have to make do with the hand that you have; how long will it be before people realize that maybe McNabb isn't all that great, and while he had some good years, there are too many doubts about him?

Tom Boswell: Lots of good points. McNabb was an extremely consistent QB for more than 10 years. That's not a fluke. But he needs to be who he is __throw deep, break plays to make plays, etc. If he escapes from Redskin Park with enough of his dignity and reputation left to get a starting job next year, I think __assuming he plays for a team that says "We want you to play like YOU. How can we help you do that?"__ then I think McNabb will be back in the playoffs before the Redskins are. As I've said several times, because it doesn't get mentioned enough, 34 is not old for a star QB. I could (and have) named 20 who had big success after they were older than McNabb and got bounced around.

On Shanny, he's about as tough a boss as you'll find. He and Plummer ended badly. In the last 30 years, Redskins fans have had a VERY fine selection of high character __almost "nice guy"__ coaches, including Gibbs, Turner, Zorn and Spurrier. Schotenheimer was very smart and decent, though tough. Yet plenty of NFL coaches wouldn't fit that description. Shanahan, who's proud that he's not a "nice guy" type, may be an education for fans. And for Snyder.


Trading Storen: Not that I disagree with you, but why would they do that? Trading him would indicate that he has displayed a flaw that would limit his potential; otherwise, why trade him and not somebody else? That seems surprising since he got to the big leagues so quickly and did a good job. What's the flaw?

Tom Boswell: Storen is NOT flawed. That's why he has such trade value for a young 15-game winner like Garza. You have to give to get. Relievers, even closers, are generally considered to be the easiest __or least difficult__ of the "key pieces" to replace when building a team. Remember another RH reliever who relied on his curveball as his No. 1 pitch __Gregg Olson. Up at 21, a star at 22 and hurt by 26.

For Greinke, include Storen in the package in a heartbeat. For Garza, that's a lot harder.


Three Ring Circus?: A good morning to you and a very happy holidays to you and yours and your family at the Washington Post. The questions I have are - First, what Shanahan keeps saying, he's always giving Washington its best chance to win. To that I say BS. He went out and traded away two high draft picks for Mc5 when he already knew that Mc5 was the exact opposite of the type of QB needed to run his offense. If this is the case then why give up those draft picks? Next is what about the "D"? Going to the 3-4 "D" and using it exclusively? How is that working out? He is strictly adhering to his "system" instead of trying to integrate his system tailoring it to the players he has. Please don't insult me and the rest of Redskin Nation that he is giving the team its best chance to win.

Tom Boswell: Shanahan hasn't had a good first year. Of course, he inherited a nightmare situation. He had to make a call on Haynesworth after a face-to-face with him. He believed Albert that he would "buy in" if he got the $20M bonus. How'd that work out? Would any NFL coach have cut bait with Haynesworth at that point. Maybe not. But in this chat I said that they ought to give up on Albert and not pay the $20M.

In his de facto GM hat, Shanahan made the trade for McNabb. So, for whatever cosmic reasons, that trade now gets an "F." Wasted a year. Wasted money. Wasted draft picks. And also shows that Shanny misread how fast the Skins could get back into the playoffs. McNabbwas a "win now" or "win pretty soon" move. In Denver, Shanahan the GM probably got Shanahan the coach fired. (Though it took a long time. So, his GM dunce cap is firmly in place. But when you see a supposed bum-of-bums like Grossman come out and play with confidence, then you see how good his offensive system can be. Granted Dallas has a terrible D this year.

Shanny used the 4-3 in Denver for eternity. Now he says it is THE defense. I was surprised to hear him say it so definitively. I thought there was still quite a debate and 4-3's were doing just as well, throughout the NFL, as 3-4s. If the 3-4 is "IT" then it took him a long to make that discovery.

And turned the Skins defense from a pretty decent 4-3 to a 3-4 is a multi-year makeover.

By the way, when an NFL team lines up in the shotgun and the defense plays a standard 3-4, I almost have to laugh. The first football team I ever played on was in 6th grade and they didn't think we were old enough yet to handle the ball-handling and faking of the T-formation. So, we played the old '30's Single Wing __direct snap to the tailback with the "fullback" next to him and a wingback. And the basic defense back then was the "Oklahoma" which was a 5-2.

I'm sorry, but the Gun, when there is a back next to the QB, is so close to the Single Wing and the 3-4 defense is so much like the ancient Oklahoma __but with the two ends standing up (but right ON the line of scrimmage)__ that I wish my father could see it and howl about how much things change, yet stay the same. That stuff was old when I was young. Where is Knut Rockne when you need him.


If you let Dunn get away and he signs for 3 years in Chicago, but you have to go 7 years for $126M for Werth just to replace his bat in the order, that is a terrible off-season. : Dunn signed for four years in Chicago. That was the whole issue all along, despite what you believe could have been done at the trade deadline. Dunn was determined to get four years. The Nats NEVER could have gotten him for less than that. Get over it.

Tom Boswell: Four years, right. But the core of the issue __in Washington__ was whether they could have resigned him for three years if they had tried to do it in mid-season. Plenty, including me and some in the Nats front office, think they could have.


Brooklyn, N.Y.: How often has a Super Bowl coach gone to another team to win it all again? It doesn't seem like it happens too often. So why do teams think they can't win it all unless they have a coach who has?

Gibbs never won it before coming to D.C. Belichick never before New England. Walsh never before SF. And Shanny didn't have one when he replaced Reeves.

It seems the MO of the NFL - particularly the Redskins - is to catch lightning in a bottle. But geniuses should be made, not hired.

Tom Boswell: When Gibbs came back, I looked up every coach/manager who'd won an NFL title, Super Bowl or NBA title to see how many cxame back and did it again IN THE SAME CITY. I think Danny Murtaugh in Pitsbiurgh with the Pirates and maybe one other coach were the only ones I could find in any of those threesports.

But I also came away understanding that it was rare for a coach to duplicate his feat in ANY city. But it has been enough, especially in the NBA and MLB. If anybody knows the list of names __won "world titles" with different teams__ for the NBA, NFL and MLB, throw it to me in a question and I'll post it. Thanks.


Washington, D.C.: While the Greinke trade would have been exciting, don't you think it would have been extremely short-sighted? I think we have a lot to gain by keeping Zimmermann, Storen, Espinosa, Desmond, etc. and bringing up some of the Harpers/Strasburgs/Norris'...thoughts?

Also, is Rizzo paving the way for a Prince Fielder signing?

Tom Boswell: Rizzo doesn't think the Nats will get Fielder. But that doesn't mean he can't change his mind or that circumstances can't change. But they don't see the big free agent sluggers of '11 __Pujols, Fieder...__ in D.C. That's another reason why they got Werthg this year and for so many years. He "fit" what they wanted and he can move to CF for a couple of years, if that's preferable. And, as a Last-Dollar-Scott Boras client, they thought they could win with a high enough bid. Wow it was high enough, all right.


Palisades: I know it's a bit outside your normal coverage, but is the Maryland athletic director expecting too much from this area to get totally ramped up for Terrapin and ACC football? I remember even when Boomer was QB, Redskins still reigned supreme.

Tom Boswell: I was talking to my son the Maryland grad about this the other day. I pointed out that Fridge was almost TOO successful too soon and encouraged Maryland to dream big, spend big on its stadium and create a situation where fans had to lust after Terp tickets. When Ralph couldn't produce more 10-win seasons or another Orange Bowl, etc., then ticket sales dried up. Now, 8-4 with good future prospects just doesn't cut it when you have so many empty seats/suites. Ralph came to semi-easily-satisfied Marylanbd and created a football mini-monster. And it ended up eating him.

At great intervals, Maryland gets very, very good __the No. 1 Tatum team in the early '50's, then Jerry C's teams later__ that they think, "We should be like Penn State." Can't blame 'em.


Arlington, Va.: I wonder how successful an organization can be if the so-called leadership is a bunch of finger pointers. The bottom line is that Donovan has played at a pro bowl level for over ten years including last year and now he isn't good enough for the "mastermind" who hasn't won anything since he lost Elway and Davis. I think a lot of what happen with McNabb is to deflect blame for their incompetence.

Tom Boswell: The Redskins try to "deflect blame" as much as any organization in any sport that I've seen. But, at some point, it backfires and everything comes back and sticks to you. Including some things that you may not even deserve. You become the Anti-Teflon Franchise. That's where they are now __no benefit of the doubt in most of the public mind. That becomes an institutional anchor. They created it, but, for Redskins fans, it's too bad because it's one more thing to overcome.


Don't tell Tracee . . . .: The one bias she'll admit to is that she just loves Storen. He's Strasburg with an engaging personality. She'd be so sorry if he was to be traded. But, hey, I'm Greek-American and was crushed when the Orioles traded Nilt Pappas to the Reds. We all know how that one worked out.

Tom Boswell: I promise to tell Tracee that Storen will be here forever, plus a day. He's good for any clubhouse. And I like the look in boxscores of: (W) Strasburg, (S) Storen.


NBA doublers: Phil Jackson - Chicago Bulls/L.A. Lakers Pat Riley -L.A. Lakers/Miami Heat Alex Hannum - St. Louis Hawks/Philadelphia 76ers

NBA Championships

Tom Boswell: Many thanks.


Anonymous: Just checked a list of coaches who won the Super Bowl. No coach has ever won it with two different teams. Ever.

Tom Boswell: Thanks for looking.

There may be somebody pre-Super Bowl when it was just the NFL Championship.


Baltimore, Md.: Shanahan and Plummer: Interesting that Plummer, after Jay Cutler was brought in as the new Elway in Denver, just walked away from the game even though he was hardly old and banged up. He lives in Idaho, plays handball and does volunteer work with the elderly and coaches youth sports. He maybe never lived up to his hype ( I am sure being on the Cardinals was rough), but from what I've read he has his head on straight.

Tom Boswell: After he lost in the playoffs three times in Denver (post-season record 1-3), it was easy to see him as part of the problem, will-never-be-Elway and get blamed. As soon as Shanahan drafted Cutler, the transition to the rookie took less than one season. And, refresh my memory, there may be some similarities in QB-coach divorce bitterness.


RE: Gregg Olson: Boz,

If I recall correctly you "cursed" Olson by writing a column praising him as having an excellent change to be the best closer ever. A month or so after that, he went in the tank. Do you remember this?

Tom Boswell: If I wrote that in late '93 or early '94 it would be (yet another) example of a good column that...well...just happens to turn out to be wrong! I write these periodically just to prove that I can keep doing it.

Before his 27th birthday, Olson had seasons with 27, 37, 31, 36 and 29 saves with a 1.60 ERA in '93 for the Orioles. It would have been logical to think he was on pace to be the best closer ever, especially since he'd gotten close to age 27 and was, in theory, past the supposed max-danger period for pitcher's injuries before you reach age 25. (But I don't actually remember the column, if I wrote it.)


Lady Huskies: How good are Maya Moore and the Huskies? I didn't see the 89th game, but they've looked reeeel impressive whenever I see them.

Tom Boswell: Maya is amazing. And UConn Women deserve all the credit they are getting.

The people who knock the Huskies streak and say it doesn't compare to the men's record (because of the "levelk of competition") must not have been around to actually see the Bruin dynasty. I was. I was in the Post sports department during all of it. At least 80 per cent of UCLA's games were automatic wins. Competition? In the huge majority of their games it felt like tey had none. College basketball was much more lopsided then. John Wooden had an enormous edge __over everybody combined__ in recruiting. Yes, he had a couple of smallish under-dog teams. But they were an All-Star team most of the time. In the 88-game streak it seemed like there were only a VERY few regular season games, and maybe one or two in the 16-team NCAA tournament, that UCLA had any realistic chance of losing. When they won by 14, it felt like 34.

I went crazy when Notre Dame beat them. Everybody did. Because they had made college basketball so UNCOMPETITIVE for so long. I'd say that UConn, during it's streak, has had as many or more foes that had a chance to beat them. Not many, to be sure. But UCLA had almost none, espcially playing out West. Maybe I'll actually dig out the old UCLA records to see how many legit foes they faced. Memory can trick you.


Potomac, Md.: MLB doublers - Tony La Russa and Sparky Anderson.

Tom Boswell: Thanks. I think there may be more.


Adam Dunn: Adam Kilgore, chatting opposite you, said he received numerous e-mails from season ticket holders after Dunn went to the White Sox, saying they would not renew. I live in Hagerstown so only see a handful of gmes, but like to think I'd be among them. I pretty much like what the Nats are doing, with that one big exception. You have to make some effort to play to your fans! When they 're being reasonable, of course, and this was eminently reasonable. Peter Angelos still does not "get it" why O's fans will never forgive him for firing Jon Miller. I hope the Nats don't make the same mistake.

Tom Boswell: Dunn's gone. Time to move on. But, hey, after two years of Frank Howard II, we get to grump for a few months, don't we?


Springfield, across the street from Burke: Do the Nats win a World Series before the Skins even play in a Super Bowl?

Have a great holiday - your columns are always worth waiting for - your crow reference was superb today.

And I agreed with your column (last week's) so I guess I need some light meat from that bird.

Tom Boswell: Many thanks.

Winninbg the World Series is so far away for both the Nats and Skins that it would even be hard to guess. Except. To go all the way, you have to have GREAT players at several key positions. The Skins have Orakpo. That's it. I mean, that's it, that's all. Other players who'll be good to very good in a few years when they might be contenders, yes, maybe. But the potential to be "great" is only Orakpo.

In the big "might be monsters" category the Nats have Strasburg, Harper and Zimmerman. Stasburg has to be healthy. Harper has to be what 98% of scouts think he is __a home run champion. And Z'man, despite the gold glove and silver slugger, need to get a level better. And the Nats have several other players with big potential, plus Werth (merely very good). At least they have pieces.

Of course, this is why the Caps are so interesting. They are 1,000 miles ahead of the Redskins in core young star-to=superstar talent. They're where the Nats dream of being in maybe three years. I loved the end of the HBO special last night as the Caps ended their 8-game losing streak and sit in their room pumping their fists along with the music. And the last lyric is "We takin' over the world."

Very nice. Can't wait to watch tonite's Pens/Caps. If the Caps win, they could reverse the direction of the next whole chunk of their season. And the Pens are due to stumble some, too. However, have to say that the HBO series is excellent and makes you realize how good, polished and mature the Pens are. They come across as what they are __a team familiar with winning Cups__ while the Caps still have that talented wannabe feel to them. But things don't stay the same forever. Nice to see Bruce and GMGM get a chance to smile for a change.


World Series-winning managers: Sparky Anderson, Bucky Harris, Tony LaRussa, Bill McKechnie did it with two different teams in different cities. Walter Alston, one team in two cities. That goes with Danny Murtaugh, as you said.

Tom Boswell: Thanks, that looks more like it.

Not a lot of 'em, even in three sports combined.


Joe McCarthy: Joe McCarthy won pennants with the Cubs and Yankees.

Tom Boswell: Thanks. What enormous research capacities I have at my finger tips here! What power! (Please, no hot stock tips.)


Arlington, Va.: Is it possible that Grienke declined the trade because he wants to be the headliner? You know, due to Strasburg's shadow.

BTW, you're one hell of a writer! Happy Holidays

Tom Boswell: I think he wants to win. If the Nats had a 1st baseman, say LaRoche, in place, would that have made a difference? Probably not. The Brewers are a lot closer.


Albany, N.Y.: Tommy Gorman was the first NHL doubler, winning the Stanley Cup in 1934 with the Chicago Black Hawks and then in 1935 with the Montreal Maroons. Dick Irvin won the Stanley Cup with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1932 and the Montreal Canadiens in 1944. Scotty Bowman is the only three-timer; he won Cups with the Montreal Canadiens (5 times), Pittsburgh Penguins (once), and Detroit Red Wings (3 times).

Tom Boswell: Thanks.

I don't do pre-Caps hockey! (That 35 yeaars has been painful enough.)


Crofton, Md.: Good Morning Mr. Boswell!

No question here, but a Merry Christmas to you and your family. And thank you for your columns and chats during the year - they are always a high point of the week.

Tom Boswell: Thanks right back. You folks are a highlight in my week, too. Hope you all have wonderful holidays.

Santa, please, can bring all our teams a few more "W's" next year.


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