With the NFL kicked off and Washington set to return to hits sports normalcy (95% redskins, 5% for the rest of the town’s sports), Tom Boswell did his weekly chat on 9/9/13. Lets see if he took any baseball questions:
As always, I write a response here before reading his, and edit questions for clarity:
Q: I guess they should have traded Haren; Oh Well.
A: If Mike Rizzo got any sort of viable offer for Dan Haren after he passed through waivers, then yeah I’d be pretty irritated right now. The “rumors” were that he was asking for a ton in terms of prospects; but who knows if anonymous GM quotes are reliable. But this is also quite a bit of hind-sight is 20/20; you can’t know if Haren’s going to continue to be good or if suddenly he’s going to fall off a cliff. If any player struggled, hit the D/L, returned and then was great 4 starts in a row, i’d also have thought to myself, “hey, that D/L trip fixed him!” I’m not going to kill the Nats management over not moving Haren post-trade deadline, other than to say this: the entire organization has been in denial for MONTHS about this team, its construction, its manager, its makeup and its capabilities. I’m on record saying there should have been a managerial move long before it came to where we are today. That is the bigger problem with this organization. Boswell seems to be less forgiving than me; he calls this one of Rizzo’s worst moves.
Q: Should the Nats just shut down Harper at this point?
A: No, not unless there’s a medical reason. Bryce Harper came back home to have a hip analysis and it looks like a couple of games. If there was something deeper, this organization (which has clearly shown itself to be medically conservative) would absolutely make a move. Boswell has a different take, clearly criticizing Nats management for bungling several injury recoveries this year. Hmm.
Q: NL Central predictions?
A: St. Louis wins it with their home-heavy schedule running in, Cincinnati uses a ridiculously easy schedule heading in to claim the WC home game and Pittsburgh still wins 90 but has to go to Pittsburgh and loses the coin flip game. Boswell just says that the Nats aren’t going to make it.
Q: How much do you attribute the Nats decline this year to poor medical management? For some reason, they continue to let Harper self-manage. And now the LaRoche weight loss issue.
A: There’s definitely some odd things going on medically with this team, and have been all year, but I blame the bulk of this team’s troubles primarily on three factors:
- Too much clubhouse chemistry damage; adding a cancer in Rafael Soriano, removing fun loving respected vets Michael Morse and Mark DeRosa, and really leaving the team leaderless in some aspects. Ask yourself: who is the “leader” of the offense? Of the pitching staff? There’s no Dustin Pedroia on this team; a guy who is vocal and loud and rallies the troops; the long term contract vets on this team aren’t leaders, and guys like Harper clearly aren’t generating the respect he deserves in his own clubhouse (as evidenced by the beanball war with Atlanta and nobody stepping up to get his back).
- Offense: The bench offense just falling apart, along with key guys (Adam LaRoche) just not coming close to performing like he did in 2012 and Denard Span really failing to be the guy we thought he was going to be. Oh, and Davey Johnson really failing to react soon enough to make changes.
- The starters really taking a step back with no roster coverage, with Haren really, really hurting the team (they are now 9-18 in his 27 starts).
Boswell says the Nats have an explanation for every medical issue that has arisen.
Q: Does Strasburg have a composure/maturity problem?
A: This goes back to the whole meltdown Stephen Strasburg had earlier in the season when Ryan Zimmerman threw a ball away; the most recent issue was the Chicago Cubs game when a tough grounder to short wasn’t converted into an out by covering-man Anthony Rendon and he promptly gave up a 3-run bomb.
I think I’d answer two ways: First yes I think he needs to work on keeping his emotions in check on the field. But Secondly, pitchers have an absolute right to be upset when they work a hitter to hit his pitch, get the grounder he wants and a guy who shouldn’t even been playing SS throws the ball away. Boswell makes a good point; he’s only 25. He’s still young. But yes he still has a ways to go.
(Note: I did not see the 2-balk game, nor read about it. That was the genesis of this question. If the questioner meant to ask, is Strasburg mentally focused enough? Then I’d probably say, not yesterday!)
Q: Athletics or Rangers?
A: Tough call with Oakland vs Texas; I’d go Oakland. As does Boswell.
Q: Nats are 65-51 in games not started by Haren: wouldn’t even a .500 or a little better starter have put the Nats in contention?
A: Possibly. Assume you replace Haren’s 9-18 team record with a 5th starter who guided the team to a 13-13 record in his games; that’s only 4 games more in the Win column, pushing them from 73-69 to 77-65. That’s still outside the division and outside the wild-card. But you’re closer. Boswell basically does the same logic.
Q: Is Ryan Zimmerman’s abdominal surgery part to blame as well as his shoulder?
A: Possibly; it isn’t hard to see a direct link between the drop of Ryan Zimmerman‘s UZR/150 numbers and his surgeries. They both happened the same instant. Boswell embarrasses himself by saying to ignore the fangraphs numbers. Sorry; stats are stats; Zimmerman just made his 20th error of the season, by itself indicative of nothing but a clear indicator of what he’s done to the team this year.
Q: Do the Nationals tweak for 2014, or do they need to make big changes in the roster. What do you think of these predictions: LaRoche becomes an expensive bench player, Span and Gio traded.
A: Reactions to these predictions? Ridiculous, more ridiculous and ridiculously ridiculous. LaRoche is Rizzo’s buddy; he’s going to play 1B. Span‘s value is nearly nothing right now, despite his 19 game hitting streak, why trade someone who’s worth nothing when you can keep him on the cheap and see if he regains his hitting stroke? If not, trade him for nothing next year. Lastly; go look at Gonzalez‘s contract for the next 4 years and tell me who we get in return that gives us that kind of value? And if you trade these three guys, who’s playing 1B, CF and #2 starter?? Why even take this question?
Larger question: Tweaks or major changes for 2014? I think you’re looking at tweaks. Basically the entire team is signed through next year. They thought this was a winner this year. I’m sure Rizzo’s ego will continue to tell him its a winner next year. Absolute worst case for the next 12 calendar months for Nats fans: team starts hot next spring, fades slowly, slowly but stays a few games out of WC through the trade deadline, then falls apart after the point at which we could move all these expiring contracts for prospects. Boswell says tweaks, though a new SP is needed.