Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Thomas Boswell Pulls a Not-So-Sweet 180 on the Nats

I would have written this a week ago, but my neck still hurts from the whiplash Thomas Boswell gave me. I posted about a month ago on how the Nats 8 game win streak was not meaningful, and used Boswell's article from August 12th as an example of idiotic homerism. The article's title and opening are even-handed, but Boswell quickly rides off the tracks in explaining how the Nats have a juggernaut offense, the pitching staff suddenly has a decent future once Strasburg is signed, and the team hasn't been that bad this year, just unlucky because it should have 7 more wins by its pythagorean record and thus only be the 3rd worst team in baseball. At the time of the article, the Nats were a scintillating 40-73 (.354).....well let's just throw them a freaking parade! Boswell just couldn't keep his Strasboner tucked-in his pants and wrote a series of articles on the Nats as the Post seemed to want to drive the Nats bandwagon.

On September 11th, however, Boswell wrote a piece about the Nats titled "Time to Make Most of This Horror Show." Quotes of his include:

"A horrible season is a terrible thing to waste." (2x)
"Even nice moments....shouldn't take the tension out of this franchise's neck."
"...let's go with an with an old DC standard for compliance: Trust but verify."

Ummm, this was 1 month after the bandwagon article, so something terrible must have happened right? Not really, the Nats record at the time of the new article? 48-92 (.343). If the Nats had managed 1 more win in that month, the winning percentages would be virtually identical. So the Nats continued on the course they had set for the entire season during this month and even signed Strasburg, but Boswell completely changed his tune and realized that a team on pace to lose 106 games is an abortion (one of the 5 worst teams in the NL in the past 40 years he conveniently mentions).

Yes, I admit that Zimmerman, Flores, Strasburg, Storen, and Willingham could all be on the Nats when they are playoff contenders and are good building blocks. The problem is that those 5 guys do not make anything special without a lot of help. Adam Dunn has been great, but is an aging slugger whose profile indicates that his decline will be soon and rapid. Cristian Guzman is 31, has already declined in the field, and can't be trusted to keep hitting like this. Nyjer Morgan had a great partial season with the Nats and seems like a rising star, but he's actually 29 (bet you didn't realize that), which in baseball terms is past his prime, so his glovework and hitting should only get worse, and his Nats performance seems like a fluke given his past. As far as the young guys go, the farm system is not a great source of hope, Ian Desmond and Chris Marrero don't look like anything special, Jordan Zimmermann looked like a player but just had major elbow surgery at a young age, and Drew Storen is pitching well, but is still just a reliever.

There are some good young players around (finally), and indications that the team will splash the cash in free agency, but by the time the pitching staff is even mediocore, the Nats will be down to Zimm, Flores, and Willingham from that 'juggernaut' offense, and that won't be enough to compete. I want to be hopeful, but I think this team is still a few years away barring some major free agent signings.

I generally like Boswell, and appreciate the level-headed stance he took about Strasburg, but that first article was a load of crap, and then to follow it up with this one and no explanation is just pathetic. I think my favorite quote of his from the 2nd article applies, "Misery focuses the mind wonderfully."

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