Scherzer is your 2015 opening day starter. Photo via Scherzer’s twitter account.
So, I’ve been quiet on the blog front lately. Not much to write about right now, other than the injury bug that seems to be going around camp. Max Scherzer named the opening day starter; I guess that’s news for a Monday.
Lets peek at today’s Tom Boswell 3/23/15 chat to see what kind of questions he fielded. Despite it being post-March Madness, there’s still some baseball talk going on. As always, I answer here before reading Boswell’s answer and edit questions for clarity.
Q: Say the Nats are under .500 after a couple of weeks. Will a full-scale panic start, or are team and fans’ nerves stronger than that?
A: Maybe the media’s panic will set in, but probably not the fans. If the team is sub .500 after two months … you’d have to start asking some questions. Same kind of questions we asked basically all of 2013. Of course, that being said, the Nats’ early-season calendar isn’t exactly challenging: 10 of their first 11 series of the year are against teams that were sub .500 last year. Now, we are expecting some of these teams (especially Boston, San Diego, Miami) to be much improved from last year … but the point remains. The team has no excuse to not come out of the gates firing. Boswell notes that if all the current injured Nats remain hurt on 4/1 … that fans will expect a long April. He then goes on a long tangent about how screwed up the Dodgers are right now.
Q: Notwithstanding Taylor’s excellent weekend; I don’t understand why Williams would bat him lead-off (regardless of Taylor’s leadoff “skills”) but wouldn’t bat Harper higher than sixth. Does Williams have a double standard for prospects not named Harper?
A: A good question. Certainly some people have questioned Matt Williams‘ ongoing public criticisms of Bryce Harper. Why call him out, in the media, for his supposed transgression of baiting the runner into trying for second? Dude; its the 2nd week of March; it isn’t a big deal. Except by calling him out in public, it *becomes* a big deal since Harper is such a lightening rod in the National media (deserved or not). My two cents: there’s no lack of evidence coming out of the Arizona Diamondbacks organization over the last few years about the institutional bull-headedness concerning “the right way to play” and other old-school baseball idioms, and it seems to me that Williams has continued his dogged old-school ways as the on-field leader of the Nats. Is this a good thing? Probably not. Harper is talented enough to back up his actions (see last year’s NLCS when Harper was one of only two Nats hitters to bother making the trip to SF). But will this conflict become a distraction? Will it drive Harper from this team eventually?
Sorry for that tangent. To answer the question at hand; with Denard Span out, *someone* has to bat lead off, and if you’re an “old school” guy who do you pick? Do you pick the skinny, fast center fielder? Or do you take a smarter look at your hitter capabilities? I guess we’ll see. Boswell says that Taylor batted leadoff in the minors, so he’s ok there. Uh; the bush leagues playing infront of a few hundred people isn’t quite the majors. Oh, and Boswell conveniently “explains” why Harper was batting 6th too. Williams, the old-school manager for the old-school baseball writer Boswell.
Q: Why is Pete Rose back in the news with regard to reinstatement?
A: Because new commissioner Rob Manfred was dumb enough to engage Pete Rose‘s request? The Dowd report was a pretty galling chronicle of Rose’s activities. I think Rose appears as a sympathetic figure because of the ardor to which former commissioner Bart Giamatti pursued his penalty. I too was sympathetic to Rose, feeling like baseball went far out of its way to rid themselves of him at the time.
But, now with time and retrospection, Rose’s sins were pretty bad.
I think the best way for baseball to deal with the likes of Rose, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens and perhaps others will to eventually create a special election with large caveats to their enshrinement. Yes these players were among the best in the game … but broke cardinal sins against the game. Imagine a veteran’s committee designed to create a permanent special exhibit in Cooperstown dedicated to great players who have clouds surrounding their names. I dunno. The cynical part of me says that the museum based in upstate New York has no incentive to *ever* stop the rhetoric surrounding these guys. It gets tiresome to argue about the *same things* over and over … but we do it anyway, year after year.
Boswell coincidentally advocates for Rose for the HoF but not an active role in the game.
Q: With the Nats celebrating ten years in the District, do you have any random memories that stand out since they’ve been in town?
A: I put out a post periodically that talks about “Best games” in Nats history. This question kind of feels like the games captured in this post and in the comments. No need to re-answer.
Q: Who deserves the opening day start?
A: You can make a pretty cogent argument for any of the three of Strasburg, Scherzer or Zimmermann. Strasburg since he’s gotten three straight such starts and normally you don’t replace the home-grown “Ace” of a team. That’d be my choice and my argument, coincidentally. Zimmermann b/c of his no-hitter last year and generally accepted stance as the “actual” best hurler on the team. But its now known that Scherzer is getting the nod (not a real big surprise once you saw how the rotation was laid out starting from early spring). For me (as noted in the prior thread’s comments), Scherzer is the only guy with a Cy Young to his name, so it isn’t surprising that players’ manager Williams goes with the veteran with the most career accomplishment in that ceremonial spot. Works for me; we just bought our opening day tickets (we’re in section 131 I think) so I look forward to seeing him pitch. Boswell says that Strasburg’s sore ankle cost him the spot. BS.
Q: With the likelihood of multiple starters starting the season on the DL, how do you see that effecting the bench players on the roster.
A: We’ve talked about this before, but clearly it means that at least one, perhaps two NRIs are getting opening day jobs. And it means that some options-limited guys are getting shots too. If Span is out a month, Werth can’t make opening day, if Rendon is down and out, if Escobar can’t get enough reps … that’s a lot of spots to fill. For me, just guessing, i’d say the team heads north with Tyler Moore, Tony Gwynn Jr, Michael Taylor and maybe Ian Stewart to start the season. Dan Uggla? Numbers are good; lots of walks. But he can’t play 3B (not well, presumably) and its 3B where the team might need some cover. Boswell is more bullish on Uggla, thinking he’d be a huge steal. I dunno; can’t play SS, doesn’t bat lefty.
Q: Are there going to be any longer-term impacts to demoting Tanner Roark to the bullpen?
A: Maybe. Is it a coincidence that Roark has the worst starter stats of any pitcher this spring? Probably not; spring training NRIs have a tendency to be uber aggressive, and minor league defenders aren’t always adept at catching the ball when playing out of position. Maybe not; Roark’s attitude has sounded great, and he’s hopefully being told that he’s first in line and likely will get a big number of starts filling in for the inevitable injuries. He’ll have his rotation spot back next year for sure. Boswell doesn’t think so.
Q: If the Nats don’t make it out of the first round of the playoffs this year (assuming they will make it), do you think the fans develop the same anxiety that Caps fans have over the years?
A: Yes. Two playoff appearances, two “best record in the majors” and two impotent first round exits to wild cards. If the Nats fail in 2015, then yeah we may begin to wonder what’s going on. Boswell points out that the Caps have one of the worst track records in professional sports.
Q: What is your opening day lineup (including who leads off) given the injury spate?
A: If it were me? If we assume that everyone who is hurt is *not* making it to opening day, I’ll go with something like this:
Escobar-Desmond-Harper-Zimmerman-Ramos-Moore-Frandsen-Taylor pitcher. Escobar at 2B, Moore in LF, Frandsen at 3B and Taylor in CF. Not a great lineup.
A better assumption is that Rendon and Werth will make opening day, which makes the lineup a lot easier. Escobar-Rendon-Harper-Zimmerman-Werth-Desmond-Ramos-Taylor-pitcher. When Span returns, put Escobar at #8 and that’s that.
Boswell doesn’t give a leadoff-suggestion, but using induction by reduction, he’s likely pushing for Escobar at lead-off too.
Q: Is it time to cut the cord on Espinosa?
A: Not until you find someone else who can play short stop in a pinch who isn’t already slated to start. Boswell gives a non-answer too. I don’t feel bad.