In the wake of the Jim Riggleman debacle, I’m guessing that Boswell fields and opines a lot on Riggleman. Boswell and I differ in our opinions of Riggleman as a manager, and I found it telling that Riggleman noted on a radio show last week that Boswell had never interviewed him (a point refuted by Boswell below). That would put a severe damper on Boswell’s opinions of Riggleman in my mind; if you don’t have the courtesy to interview the subject of multiple highly critical columns and op-ed pieces, then how can you claim 100% credibility? Now i’m not sure who to believe, since Boswell reports near daily conversations with Riggleman. Perhaps Riggleman meant that the two had never talked about one particular topic.
Regardless, here’s Boswell’s 6/27/11 chat. As always, I read the question, write my own answer then interpret Boswell’s answer. All questions are paraphrased from the chatroom for clarity here.
Q: Given the latest string of performances, should the Nats be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline?
A: Clearly their amazing run has reversed my answer to this question from a few weeks ago. Now, if the team continues at a 111-win pace (as was noted today on twitter … the team’s form in the past 14 games would put them on a 111-win pace for a full season), then they will factor into the wild card race amazingly. If you’re in the WC race, you are buyers at the deadline. If you have a shot at the playoffs, then you take that shot. (Boswell thinks they’ll be “non-sellers,” preferring to stand pat b/c they have no obvious holes. A fair assessment of the team right now).
Q: Why not just leave Bernadina in leadoff instead of all these lineup experiments?
A: Good question. Its hard to guess what will happen tomorrow (with a new manager) based on what happened yesterday (with the old manager). Personal opinion; batting a pitcher 8th is asinine, Bernadina should be batting leadoff until Desmond either figures out how to hit or we acquire a replacement, and you leave Werth in a power-hitting position where he should be. Simple as that. Boswell says Bernadina should be leading off and cites his defense as a reason to include him.
Q: What does Boswell think about Riggleman’s pointed statements about him to the press?
A: Wow, can’t wait to read this answer. I’m guessing Boswell will trash him, again. (Boswell refutes Riggleman’s comments, that I alluded to above, about how he was never interviewed by Boswell. Hmm. Otherwise Boswell deflects some of Riggleman’s comments and actually excuses his statements as being heat of the moment. Interesting.
Q: What changes will Davey Johnson institute on this team?
A: No idea. Johnson certainly was a master strategist and depends on matchups and stats, so perhaps we’ll see more platooning. He’s old-school, so perhaps we’ll see pitchers going longer into games and less bullpen churn.
Q: Is the Werth-Leadoff and Pitcher-8th experiment dead?
A: Probably. Honestly it smacked of desperation from Riggleman, though I’d be desperate too if my $126M hitter was batting in the .220s.
Q: Is small-ball dead (Nats were 2nd in NL in sac bunts)?
Q: Which player benefits the most from Johnson’s arrival?
A: I’d guess Jayson Werth, who clearly was fed up with Riggleman and should have more respect for Johnson.
Q: Does Johnson’s arrival raise expectations for this team for the season?
A: Yeah unfortunately. Or fortunately, who knows. For me, if you’re not going to make the playoffs I’d rather finish dead last and get higher draft picks. There’s not a lot of value in winning 78 games year after year. I still think .500 is a great goal for this squad.
(Boswell punted on these last 5 questions, saying they’d all be addressed in his 6/28 column).
Q: Did ownership somehow derail the team, or were they responsible for Riggleman’s departure by being cheap?
A: I’m not going to blame the owners for being cheap, despite Riggleman’s contract paying him 2nd to last in the league. I will blame Rizzo for letting him hang on the option and failing to be a professional and just grant the guy a meeting. (Boswell says that ownership gets some blame here… but then explains why they shouldn’t since Riggleman signed the contract and that’s that)
Q: How is the bullpen holding up? When will Zimmermann be shutdown for the season on innings limits?
A: I think the bullpen is starting to fray. Kimball, Slaten out, Clippard with a “tired arm” and Burnett continuing to blow leads. Storen got hammered the other night too. Mattheus has shown that he’s a nice mid-season callup, and we have other such arms in AAA that we can try out soon (Mandel, Wilkie).
Zimmermann may be done sooner than we think. He’s at 94 innings now, is averaging 6 1/3 per start, and if you think 150 is his limit then he’s only got 8-9 more starts. That’s only going to take us to the end of July. (boswell doesn’t really answer, just notes that Storen is on pace to appear in 80 games, which is ridiculous for a high-end closer).
Conclusion: Boswell seems to really soften his opinion on Riggleman, gives him many compliments throughout.