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BaseballByline: Thomas Boswell

With the debut of the Washington Nationals, a professional baseball team is representing Washington, D.C., for the first time since Sept. 30, 1971.

Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell was online Friday, July 15, at 11 a.m. ET to take your questions and comments on the team, Major League Baseball and his recent columns .


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The transcript follows.

Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: Church is too good (right now) to be on the bench (at least against righties). What do you think is more likely, a platoon of him and Wilkerson in left (since Wilkerson hits better against lefties), or Church being traded (especially coming off a "slightly" separated shoulder which could nag him)?

Can Nick Johnson at least pinch hit?

Tom Boswell: The best is just what they've got now. Preston Wilson hits lefthanders. That's it. (OK, for some reason he hits much better in the day, too.) But even with the help of Coors Field, he was lousy against RH pitchers this year. Once Johnson (presumably) gets healthy, Wilson is the new Marlon Byrd and Nyrd is the new Will Cordero, except Byrd can play all 3 OF positions.

You shouldn't trade Church. Too much potential. Also, Wilson is a free agent. What if you don't resign him? Then you've traded Church and lost Wilson and have to go into the free agent market hoping that you can replace them.

Assuming Day doesn't win 100 games in the next seven years, then Wilson really is a great insurance policy. You have four key Nats hitters, assuming Vidro now stays healthy. Wilkerson, Johnson, Guillen and Church. If any ONE of them gets hurt, you simply add Wilson as an everyday regular and you still have a plausible lineup. (Wilkerson goes to first base.)

What's interesting is if either Bowden or Frank is in love with Wilson. He's a great guy. But nothing in his stats (or eyeball evaluation) in the last couple of years indicates that he should do more than be a very good platoon with Church. However, a very good platoon -- think Lowenstein Roenicke, long ago -- can be very valuable.


Hillcrest Heights, Md.: With this current 3-game skid, are we seeing what the Nats are really gonna be like? I've always felt that the Nationals are a .500 team playing on inspiration. Do you really believe that the Braves and the Marlins are gonna stay content being in 2nd or 3rd place?

Love your articles, by the way. Keep up the good work.

Tom Boswell: The current little losing streak is meaningless. Everybody has a 1-5. Or two or three of them. But what this lull becomes is certainly significant.

I assume the Braves will past the Nats (because they're better and deserve to) and that Washington will be involved in a long and fascinating wildcard battle (because they still have a 6 1/2 lead over any other WC contender).

The best news about the Nationals bad hitting is that it is so bad that it looks like a "washout" to me. EVERYBODY in a slump at once. Teams tend to break OUT of those slumps together, too. Believe it or not, I suspect the Nats will score a lot of runs (for them) when they emerge from this slump. The Question is: Do they turn that corner very soon, pretty soon or after 1-5 become 3-15?

I've chatted with numerous Nationals vets and they all understand that several small slumps a season is the norm and unavoidable but that big slumps __where you go -10 or more_ are what you need to avoid. Washington has had a 26-6 streak __which is like a DOUBLE +10 streak. Quite unusual.

How much of it will they give back and how quickly.

This is the stuff that makes the Long Season so fascinating.

ALSO, whenever the Nats hit their low point in the second half, whenever that happens, they will probably have a reflex rebound when they say, "We blew it." Then they'll relax and reel off a few. That may happen (if they are lucky) in September.


Gaithersburg, Md.: Do Preston Wilson's stats justify the Nat's interest in him?

He is hitting for pretty low average and will surely hit fewer HR's in RFK than he hits in Colorado -- and the most he's hit there is 36.

I'm not finding him compelling as an addition to the Nat's lineup. And Day, I think, still has a lot of potential up-side.

Tom Boswell: You know I like Day's potential to be a 10-14-game winner. But those can be replaced. It's only if he turns out to be a Jamie Moyer type to becomes a 15+ winner that comes back to haunt you.

However, the Nats no longer have that sixth "emergency starter" in the wings if somebody in their rotation goes down.

Bowden had to make a call. What if Johnson is out much longer than expected and Bowden DIDN'T give his team a decent shot at a playoff run because he was too much of a cover-my-butt GM to do the Wilson-Day deal?

It's a tough call, but I vote, "Yes."


Washington, D.C.: Tom,

Great column on the Nationals/Braves similarities, quite odd indeed! But one thing you did not address -- and something I fear could be another unintended similarity -- is that the Milwaukee Braves relocated to Atlanta, leaving Wisconsin with nothing until the dreaded Brewers came to town. Is there something we don't know afoot here? Are the Nationals only here for a few years as well?

Tom Boswell: I really enjoyed that e-mail column on the '52 Boston Braves and '53 Milwaukee Braves who improved exactly as much as the Nats have when they moved from a city that ign ored them to one that adored them. So, thanks.

I'm fascinated by the gloom-and-doom attitude that the Nats are only going to stay in D.C. blah, blah. Open the old eye balls! If the team had been awful and attendance poor, then maybe things go sour. (Or not as long as the new owners and new stadium are in view). But everything has gone right! Selig was breaking his arm to pat himself on the back at the All-Star Game about how the "timing" of the move to Washington had been perfect and how great it was for baseball. Yeah, like he planned it.

Get used to it. They're the Washington Nationals. They're here to stay. It would take almost as much to screw it up and lose them now as it took to get them back! In other words, a LOT of screw ups by a lot of people.


Midlothian, Va.: Hello Tom,

Wilkerson and Armas to The Giants for Jason Schmidt? Ridiculous?

Tom Boswell: Wilkerson should be untouchable. He's at the center of the team personality. He crushed long home runs in Florida and hit for the cycle early in the season. That's the real Wilkerson. The guy you are seeing now is a Wilkerson playing with one arm. And he still has an OPS over .800. He won't be right until next season.

If I were with another team, the FIRST thing I would find out about the Nationals is whether they are stupid enough to trade Wilkerson because he's gone from 32 homers to a pace for 9.

I don't mean to be mean. Bowden is going to be tempted to package Armas with Somebody in a trade for an impact pitcher in his walk year __then try to resign him. Just so Wilkerson isn't in the package.


Fredericksburg, Va.: Is Preston Wilson likely to be with the team beyond this year or does it depend on his performance? Is the team inclined to part with Church while his stock is high, since it appears he may not be durable enough to contribute over the long season? What do you hear about Nick Johnson? I think his situation may be the key for the rest of the year.

Tom Boswell: Wilson, like Loaiza, is "playing for a contract." Nobody knows if they'll be back __though the Nats will certainly WANT Loaiza back. A lot is in flux, but that was unavoidable with a team with no owner. Bowden couldn't/shouldn't have signed people to long-term deals last off season because it would have been irresponsible to saddle new owners with such big contracts. He had to build a team for one year. Well, looks like he did a helluva job. But it means the new owners are going to have to work hard to keep the team together. BUT with a mere $48 million, they should be able to retain almost anybody they really want.

Once you get to listen to Wilson and see the work he does in the community, you are going to HOPE that he plays well enough to be back next year.

I think he should have his eyes checked. His day stats are astronomically better than at night. An undetected vision problem is always one possibly when that stat jumps out at you.


Section 314, Row 6: Bos, I'm not sure why such a strong backlash against Preston Wilson. We gave up 2 players who weren't part of the plan for the rest of they year. Wilson is only 31. He is an established professional hitter - who does whiff a lot. I'll admit, there are players that I'd rather we acquire, but of the players available for what we have to offer, Bowden did fine.


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