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Baseball, With the debut of the Washington Nationals, a professional baseball team is representing Washington, D.C., for the first time since Sept. 30, 1971.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, May 20, at 11 a.m. ET to take your questions and comments on the team, Major League Baseball and his recent columns .

Rockville, Md.: Tom,

Love the coverage you and Barry are providing. I look forward to the articles every day, and feel doubly lucky when there is a chat.

I wonder if you guys are hearing from folks like me, who, having figured they would go to 3 or 4 games this year, went once and got hooked. Even before I went to the first Sunday home game I had already bought tickets to 2 other games. After that Sunday, I bought a 20 game plan. Now I absolutely hate when the Nats are playing at RFK and I am not going! I didn't think I would be so obsessed, but my team is back an I am loving it!

Tom Boswell: I went to RFK yesterday on my day off. Sheinin almost went. The sports editor and assistant sports editor both snuck out. I think I saw a famous neo-con commentator (no not G Will) JOGGING across the street in front of RFK to make sure he was in his seat by the first pitch. (No, nobody tried to run him down. A very bi-partisan crowd, fortunately.)

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We want Boswell Bobbleheads: It is interesting to me that Castilla and Johnson have made several stolen base attempts. I assume that Frank told them to and it seems like he'll send them when the situation calls for it regardless of the speed of the baserunner. Wilkerson is not running as much as I would have thought. And, Guzman would have to be on base to steal. Are there any runners with the green light? Why not more from Wilky? And, am I incorrect in my belief that Castilla and Johnson are below average in speed?

Tom Boswell: The Phils manager set me straight on the Nats speed. I'd underestimated it. Even though they aren't base stealers, they are ALL good baserunners __1st to 3rd, 1st to home. He said Castilla was the slowest on the team "and he's not slow." Castilla WON yesterday's game by scoring on a short passed ball not more than 20-25 feet from the plate. He gambled. Brewers weren't expecting it and flubbed the play.

In RFK, with scoring so low, it's turning out to be very important that the Nats can run and, just as important, that nobody clogs the bases. Carroll scored from first yesterday on a two-out double to right that died 20 feet short of the warning track.

Wilkerson is not fast, just an exceptional all-around athlete. He gets a good jump in center and catches a lot of balls on cruise control. But he is not a burner and doesn't cover as much ground as some CFs. Johnson runs well for a first baseman.

Guzman is a career .266 hitter who's now hitting .206. That means he'll probably hit .90 the rest of the season (just as Brian Roberts isn't going to continue hitting 100 pts and slugging 300 points (!) above his previous norm.

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Chevy Chase, Md.: Tom, your column in The Post yesterday hinted that the baseball union might "punish" baseball in the next labor negotiations if Congress passes a tough anti-steroid law. What might the union want from baseball as part of any negotiation? Has their strategy been to bring up steroids the next time they have to negotiate an agreement, conceding something on steroids and getting something in return? Now, a new law would ruin that strategy?

Tom Boswell: Nobody ever thought Congress would take the steroid issue seriously enough to act __or at least make a serious threat, rather than a mere PR threat. In essence, Bud is saying to Don: You're on your own now, fella. We can't take this much heat on an issue that is really YOUR issue.

We're finally going to see real progress on steroid in baseball. As usual, enormous public/media/political pressure was needed. For those who say, "Why do you folks make such a fuss about steriods," it's to keep the issue in the public eye so that SOMEDAY something will be done. Now, "someday" is very close at hand. (Only took 17 years.)

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Salt Lake City, Utah: I wrote in a couple of weeks ago asking for advise as to how to end my two-local-teams-induced baseball apathy and you suggested I see the baseball doctor. In the end I didn't need to, I took inspiration from the example of your son -- continuing to support the Orioles (the team I grew up with) and semi-adopting the Nats. So thanks to the Boswell clan.

Now a question if it's not too greedy . . . How confident would you be about the Orioles right now if they'd managed to sign or trade (only) prospects for a front-of-the-rotation-type pitcher in the offseason?

Tom Boswell: If the Orioles had gotten Pavano, I'd think they were 50-50 to make the wild card right now. Which is saying a lot, because the Yanks and Red Sox aren't going to die, even though they're not as strong as the last two years.

Everybody had to raise total hell before the O's finally got Sosa. Rem ember, they had been shutout when Delgado signed while Bowden had added many parts to the Nats puzzle. I'm convinced that getting Sosa was a last-gasp semi-accident. He was there. Nobody else wanted him much. His PRESENCE helps Tejada and all of the rest of the lineup. But, even when he comes back, I doubt he'll equal last year. His bat speed's just not what it was.

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Silver Spring, Md.: What do advance scouts for other teams think of the Nats?

Tom Boswell: Barry's quote from Ned Yost this a.m. summed it up: "That's a nice club...They play the game right. They don't make mistakes. And they're tough."

Larry Haney (ex-catcher, scout, etc) likes their fundamentals and the Frank Factor (intensity, accountability).

Yesterday was the PERFECT Nats win. I wonder if the town can quite appreciate it yet. Castilla got Livan out of one inning with a bare-hand Brooks play on a swinging bunt. Livan worked around the whole bottom of the order TWICE just to get to No. 8-9 hitters and escaped both times. Winning run on a short passed ball, etc.

This is really an "inside baseball" type of team with a VERY serious locker room.

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Arlington, Va.: Although the stadium has been slowly improving its information provided on various scoreboards, I was at Wednesday's game and they were only giving National League scores and standings. I thought that it was Major League baseball and not National League baseball. Other than that, it was a great game.

Tom Boswell: No, the AL scores were up, too. They were on the NEXT scoreboard over __more to the left. One board for AL, the other for NL. Still, it's all a bit hard to see. And, in the lower deck, the PA system is still TOO LOUD.

However, in the park as a whole, there is MUCH less junk noise __you know, the constant audio-clutter that the Redskins abuse__ between pitches. It sounds like a ballgame should feel: announce the hitter, then let the fans and the crack of the bat provide the "commentary."

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Chocolate City: What was up with some of the Nats having mustaches earlier in the month? Were they celebrating Cinco de Mustache or something?

Tom Boswell: Clubs that see themselves as underdogs, as the Nats certainly do, tend to have a lot of team spirit stuff. Lotta goatees, etc, showing up now. Loaiza has a post-victory handshake ritual for several players __all different.

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Washington, D.C.: Could you give a plausible explanation why Christian Guzman bunted with 2 strikes yesterday? Did he miss a sign, or was this a bad managerial ploy?

Tom Boswell: This is a hitter's way of saying, "I am profoundly sorry for not getting my bunt down on the first two strikes. To prove my sincerity, I will 'sacrifice myself' on the third strike and try to bunt again."

This is a players way of PROVING that he didn't just screw up the bunts so he could swing away with men on base on his third strike.

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RFK - Section 436: What is Frank going to do about Jamie Carroll when Vidro comes back? He's played great filling in, but you don't start him over Vidro. Any chance he moves over to SS and replaces Guzman's .206 BA?

Tom Boswell: Frank loves Carroll. Everybody wants to start, but Carroll is an invaluable utility man. He came over to me on the bench one day to show me all FOUR of the gloves that he might have to wear that day __depending on the position. He takes some ground balls with each of them, I believe.

 
 

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