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Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 5, 2005; 1:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Barry Svrluga took your questions and comments Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET on the latest baseball news.

A transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


Barry Svrluga: Whew. Catch your breath yet? How many people made the trek up I-95 yesterday? How many watched Mel Proctor and Ron Darling on TV? How were they?

Well, I'm sure the 8-4 loss to the Phillies wasn't the result most folks were hoping for in the Nationals' first game. But baseball WAS back -- at least in some form. An off day today, and though it sounds strange, this team needed one. Back in Philly tomorrow night. For now, let's knock around some Washington baseball questions and issues. (Sounds kind of nice in the regular season, doesn't it?)


Washington, D.C.: Barry,

Thanks for your time ...

I know it's early, but why choose free swinging Brad Wilkerson as the leadoff batter?

Don't the Nats have a more patient hitter for that spot?

Leadoff guys are supposed to draw walks, not strike out 140 times.

Barry Svrluga: A great question, and an absolute key for the Nationals all year. The answer is actually pretty simple. Wilkerson DOES get on base. His OBP in three full major league seasons has been .370, .380 and .374. That's not going to lead the league, but it's the best the Nationals have.

You're right, though. The strikeouts are an issue. Three yesterday to start the season, and 152 last year. Wilkerson understands he must put the bat on the ball more often.


Silver Spring, Md.: Why was Livan so uncomfortable on the mound yesterday? Was it just the muddy mound or something else? Does he usually take so long between pitches? He really seemed to be laboring out there.

Barry Svrluga: Good observation. Indeed, he thought the mound was too wet, and his landing foot was sliding when he hit the ground. He didn't use it as an excuse, but that explains why pitching coach Randy St. Claire went to visit him in the second inning.


Alexandria, Va.: Granted this observation is based on one regular season game -- But wouldn't Guzman be better suited in the eighth spot? He just doesn't seem to have shown a knack for putting good wood on the ball.

Barry Svrluga: Early in spring training, Guzman was wacking the ball all over the place. He seemed to hit it hard every time, and I was more than a little surprised. Now, he seems to have reverted back to his old self; in six major league seasons, only once has he had an on-base percentage hither than .311, and it's .303 for his career. That sounds like a No. 8 hitter to me.

But remember: This team isn't perfectly constructed. Moving Guzman to eighth likely would put Nick Johnson at No. 2, which would slide Vinny Castilla to fifth, and the Nationals would rather Castilla hit sixth. I'd expect some tinkering with the lineup over the course of the year.


Dulles, Va.: The NATS really lack a leadoff hitter!

Barry Svrluga: Please place a call to directory assistance in New Orleans and ask for: Chavez, Endy.


Dulles, Va.: Barry --

Loved the Nats blog, and in that spirit, had to share this true story of the power of Panera:

Last month, my wife and I were down in Viera to check out the Nats-Cardinals game. My wife wanted to grab breakfast, so we stopped at the famous Panera Bread in the strip mall near Space Coast Stadium.

Soon after eating her muffin, my wife started to feel nausea. Turned out to be her first sign that the Nats will be getting a new fan around World Series time.

That Panera is powerful stuff.

Barry Svrluga: Yikes. I knew those sandwiches had some sort of extra kick, but this?


Bethesda, Md.: I enjoyed the Nationals Journal blog you ran during spring training. Do you plan to keep that up during the regular season? Are there any Nats-related or baseball-related blogs you regularly read?

Barry Svrluga: Wow, many Nationals Journal fans out there. That's great. There were many mornings I sat in the press box at Space Coast Stadium with my large Starbucks coffee ($1.91 in Viera, $1.98 at my local Starbucks) and wondered who the heck was reading that thing.

For now, the blog is on hold. It's not as practical to do when you're traveling with the team, etc. I'll have a weekly Nationals chat (which will be on Wednesdays beginning next week), and you can sign up for an email that will be distributed previewing each upcoming series.

Other than that: Buy the Post! We'll give you the best coverage in the paper.


Washington, D.C.: Thanks for your coverage, Barry. I know you deal with the on-the-field stuff, but is there any sense that MLB just seriously decreased the monetary value of this club and turned off the potential buyers with the TV deal they struck. I wouldn't want to buy a team that's only on TV 76 times a year, would you? Is there any sense that the potential buyers might raise enough of a stink about that exact problem so that MLB would get the games on TV here sometime soon?

Barry Svrluga: There's no question the deal struck with Angelos devalued the Nationals, and there's no question that any interested owner would want to know what, if anything, could be done to rectify the situation. It'd be hard to seriously compete financially with a TV deal that only broadcasts 76 games. There is still hope for cable or satellite broadcasts this year. Stay tuned.

(Oh, man, that was bad.)


Washington, D.C.: Isn't there a Kenny Lofton-type floating around there somewhere in the league that the Nats could pick up to lead off? I feel like these guys always pop up on new teams just when you think their careers are over, and the Nats could use one of them right now. Does Ricky Henderson have anything left?

Barry Svrluga: I believe that Rickey Henderson, now 74 years old, swiped 32 bags in the independent Northeast League last year.

I understand your point, but the answer is: No, there aren't any guys like that floating around. Plus, if GM Jim Bowden is going to stay true to his word, he'll build this club largely with young players. He's got enough veterans for leadership purposes -- Castilla, Wil Cordero, etc. -- that I'd be shocked if they spent money on an older leadoff man.


Sterling, Va.: Barry,

Did the players ever mention the press coverage they were getting in Spring Training this year as compared to last and have most players gotten situated in the D.C. area?

Barry Svrluga: At the beginning of spring training, it was a big deal, because all the Washington area TV stations were down there, and the guys seemed pretty excited. But after the first week or so, the TV reporters and camera folks headed home, and it was pretty much left to the grunts: the beat writers. But they have been exceptionally accommodating with the media thus far. That's always tougher to do when times get tough.


Washington, D.C.: I have split a four-seat full-season box with three friends and we are about to meet to assign tickets. I have a seven-year-old son I'll be taking so I'm curious about whether or not there will be any Promotion games at RFK. (Not that my son needs bobble-heads or anything to keep his interest, it's just an added bonus.) The schedule for the Nationals lists no promotions. Do you know if there will actually be any games with give-aways? Thanks!

Barry Svrluga: You're right, nothing listed, and they likely won't be before your draft. Keep in mind: Everything -- EVERYTHING -- about this team is a bit behind schedule. They only slightly resemble an up-and-running major league club. Those promotional dates will probably be announced in the next month.


NOVA: I want to be able to watch my Nationals on TV. Should I invest in the MLB extra innings package because we're probably not going to get more than the 70-some games allotted to us?

Barry Svrluga: I believe the MLB.com package is $99.95 for the whole year, right? Seems like a pretty good gamble to me. Like I said: There definitely remains the chance that cable and/or satellite could still develop, but if you're going to worry as time slips away, I'd buy the .com package.


Vienna, Va.: I noticed in the picture in Monday's paper that D.C. United's championship banners were no longer visible. Let me get this straight -- they haven't finished the dugout or clubhouse, but they had time to take down banners that weren't obstructing anyone's view?

Does this team simply not care about building goodwill? Judging by the fight with the D.C. Council this winter, MLB seems to think we should all genuflect because a baseball team is here. (And frankly, the Post has been on bended knee since then as well.) Well, a lot of us aren't bending our knees -- we're turning out backs. See you at a United game and maybe an Orioles game if we're in a forgiving mood.

Seriously, what's the deal? Do the Nats envy United's titles, knowing that merely contending in the NL East is a long, long way off?

Barry Svrluga: Wait a second. Let me get up off my bended knee before I answer this.

Ah, there, much better. I would be shocked -- shocked -- if United's banners weren't back up somewhere by the home opener next week. Several things were being moved around -- including the Ring of Honor, which will reappear as a sign in right field. For the exhibition game, I'm sure they thought it was more important to have those banners of the Nationals players up in left field. Those looked nice, no?

Enjoy the United games. And Camden.


Manassas, Va.: Hi Barry,

Yes, I made that trek up to Philly yesterday with the Washington Baseball Historical Society and Sports Fans Magazine bus trip. It was great!!!

I noticed the POTOMAC NATIONALS have an Ender Chavez on their roster. Does this mean that Endy got sent down to Carolina League A level ball? Are they one and the same? Is it because Potomac is relatively close by as compared to Harrisburg or New Orleans?

Barry Svrluga: Very, very astute observation. But no. Ender Chavez is Endy Chavez's younger brother. As my wife pointed out, that'd be like if my mom named me Barry and my brother Barrer. Guess that's how they do it in Venezuela.


Fairfax, Va.: I'm curious to see what sort of personality Nats fans will take. I think, the die-hards at least will hold the guys to a high standard. I noticed that Castilla was lustily booed for not running out a grounder on Sunday at RFK. But I think they will fall in love with the team. Thoughts?

Barry Svrluga: Great point, and it'll really be interesting to watch that develop. I absolutely noticed that on the groundball Castilla hit the other day at RFK. I did, in that instance, have some sympathy for Vinny, as it was cold out, it was an exhibition game, and he didn't want to mess up his already injured knee one day before the season. Now, if he doesn't run out grounders during the regular season, it's your right to boo, absolutely.

My first impression, though, is that the DC fans won't be as critical as ... well, as the ones in Philly. Man, those guys were brutal even yesterday -- when their team had a 7-1 lead!


Washington, D.C.: How come I can't hear the Nats on both the Z104 and 1050 Web sites? Neither one runs the broadcasts online!

Barry Svrluga: I always find it interesting when people call the newspaper about why they can't see things or hear things on various TV or radio stations.

My advice would be to call either of those stations, or the parent company, Bonneville Corp.


RE: MLB Package: In Arlington, it's $149 for the whole season (they do let us break it out in four easy payments), but I doubt the Nats will be on. Knowing Angelos, he will probably have them black out any Nats games like they do with the O's games. I would much rather hear the RemDawg than some of the O's announcers when they play the Sox, but I have no choice.

Barry Svrluga: Ah, the RemDawg. Don't get me started. One strange thing about covering this team here is it means a paucity of Red Sox viewing for me this summer. (Easy, folks. Grew up up there. Hard to get out of the blood.)

Remember: The TV stuff is still developing. I don't feel like we've gotten the final answer.


McLean, Va.: Barry, I miss the blog. Couldn't you have done it during the game? Between MLB's money hawking for internet radio rights, and my little portable radio not picking up the stations in my office, I thought Citizens Bank Park might as well have been Space Coast Stadium.

Got a question for you: I'm looking at getting a Nats jersey, and was looking for suggestions for both style, and a name. Do you have any recommendations? I was thinking maybe Wilkerson or Sledge in the red BP jersey. Are these guys on Bowden's No Trade list? I want someone who's gonna be around for a little while. Thanks!

Barry Svrluga: I'm very happy to hear that there are actually people who read the blog enough to now wake up with a void in their life because it has departed. The problem, though, is this: It was much easier to blog during spring training, when you're not so much covering the games as much as looking for the best news story or feature on a given day. That means you're watching a lot less baseball than you do during the regular season. Now, the games count, so I feel like I've got to pay much closer attention in order to give the best coverage/analysis we can in the paper each day. The blog loses out in that battle.

As for the fashion advice: I would be shocked if Wilkerson was traded. Bowden likes Sledge very, very much, but other teams keep calling about him. He could be dealt if the return price was right.


Gaithersburg, Md.: My memories of Livan Hernandez are entirely based on the Marlins World Series where he could do no wrong. Do I need to forget that Livan entirely? I know he's been an "inning-eater" and given the team solid chances to win in the past, but what is his style as a veteran? Is he a control pitcher (a la Mussina), a power pitcher? What do we look for in him, to know when he's going to have a good day or a bad?

Barry Svrluga: Hernandez has become a crafty change-of-speeds guy. His fastball tops out at 90-91, but his gift is that he can throw two curveballs, a hard one and a ridiculously slow one -- saw one version clocked at 68 mph yesterday -- that can make hitters look silly. He can get hit hard, but he's pretty resilient. To me, that was the biggest surprise yesterday, that he only lasted 4-2/3, and that he allowed Kenny Lofton to hit that ball out.


RE: Radio: MLB blacks out radio stations from carrying games on their Web sites. You have to buy the yearly package on MLB.com for $14.95. Pretty good value if you ask me -- access to all the MLB games for the whole year.

Barry Svrluga: There you have it. Appreciate the knowledge.


Washington, D.C.: Barry, are you tired of all the "Nationals shouldn't be here because this is Oriole country" talk? Why can't fans in the area appreciate the fact that there are two baseball teams in the Metro Area?

Barry Svrluga: I couldn't have said it any better myself. But what I'm even more tired of than the "Nationals shouldn't be here because this is Oriole country" talk is the "Now that the Nationals are here we should blow up Camden Yards" talk. Think about it: On almost any given day during the summer, someone living in Silver Spring or Columbia or even Loudon County, for goodness sake, could drive to a baseball game. Only New York, Chicago, LA and San Francisco can say that. Let's enjoy being a two-team market.


Re: Leadoff Hitter: What's Brady Anderson doing these days? He's not that old yet.

Barry Svrluga: Not that old? He turned 41 in January. He last played for Cleveland in 2002. He hit .162.



For Dulles: So, if it's a boy are you going to name it Nathaniel? A girl Natalie? LOL

Barry Svrluga: Easy, now. Let's not get ahead of ourselves. (Way, way ahead of ourselves.)


Washington, D.C.: WOW! Ender? Endy? Is there a third brother named "Endo?"

Barry Svrluga: Hi, I'm Larry. This is my brother Daryl, and this is my other brother Daryr.


Washington, D.C.: While it's great the Orioles pitched a shutout, let's get a few things straight: it's ONE game, and the first one of the year; they face the Yankees and Boston 19 out of the next 22 games; Oakland has no offense whatsoever. So let's not get carried away. I'm tired of reading "well, what do the critics say about our pitching now?" One game doesn't justify the whole season.

Barry Svrluga: Wait a second. How are you "tired" of reading about the Orioles' pitching? If I'm not mistaken, most of the stories during spring training have been on the dining habits and social mannerisms of Sir Sidney Ponson. You said it best: It's one game.

The Orioles' level of success will be determined by their pitching. When they pitch a shutout -- even against the Bowie Bay Sox -- it's worth noting and pointing out that it could mean good things to come. No one's handing them a pennant right now, I don't think.


Fairfax, Va.: If I choose not to support the Orioles it will be because of Peter Angelos and nothing else. He has done nothing to support good will in this area since last September.

Barry Svrluga: Duly noted. You are not alone.


Arlington, Va.: "I'm curious about whether or not there will be any Promotion games at RFK." ... during the game yesterday, the radio announcers on Z104 said there'd be a "medallion" of some type at the home opener, and a poster for "young fans" at the game on Sunday. Oh, and magnetic schedules at the game on Saturday.

Barry Svrluga: This is one of those gaps that the Nationals are having a tough time with now. They need to be getting that kind of word out through all the available media, including the newspaper guys. But many of the people in their operation hardly know each other right now, and not everything works smoothly. We'll see how it improves over the course of the season.


Glen Echo, Md.: Are us radioheads going to be limited to AM 1050's pitifully weak signal? I have XM satellite radio so it's not an issue for me, but I'm old fashioned enough to believe that a team's radio package is at least as important as its cable package in building a fan base ...

Barry Svrluga: Indeed, you are, except for the games that are simulcast on Z104, which I believe has a better signal. The team is also slowly -- slowly -- building a radio network so that fans in Virginia (mostly out I-66) and other places can pick up the games.


Seaford, Del.: How long before Nick Johnson is batting second? After only one game, I can tell that the free swinging Cristian Guzman is not the answer.

Barry Svrluga: I tend to agree with you. Nationals Manager Frank Robinson would like Johnson to become a run producer by hitting him fifth. But if there's no one on, he can't produce runs. His on-base percentage in 1020 big-league at-bats is .372, and he's fairly patient. He doesn't have the speed of a typical No. 2 hitter, but he runs well for a big guy. If Guzman struggles this first week, we could see some tinkering more quickly than Robinson would like to.


Fairfax, Va.: Hey Barry, thanks for the chat. As the grapefruit league was wrapping up, we heard about folks who would be sent down or not based on "options." Do you have a sense for players that might have stayed on the roster if not for this dynamic -- and players that might otherwise have been sent down? (Of those they sent down, who are they likely to miss the most?)

Barry Svrluga: There was some sense that Bowden wanted to keep righty Gary Majewski in the bullpen, perhaps at the expense of one of Robinson's favorites, long man T.J. Tucker. John Patterson could also have been sent down to get a start or two, but he doesn't have any options left either.

With the inevitable injuries to come, Majewski will almost certainly be in the big leagues at some point this year.


MIdway between teams: I live in Laurel, 20 minutes from Camden Yards.

Yesterday's Orioles opener wasn't on my cable system because Comcast in PG does not carry Baltimore stations.

I missed seeing any part of the O's opener for the first time in 20 years.

I don't begrudge Washingtonians their team; but it's not MY team, who I want to see like I always have. If CSN switches, too, I might not see any non-nationally televised Os games.

Barry Svrluga: Wow, there is trickle down to this thing, isn't there? That's a shame. I think by next season, with a new owner for the Nationals, MLB will work out some sort of system where fans can watch the games they want to watch. Most of the profits, however, will still go to the Orioles.


Burke, Va.: Baserunning and speed are two different things. The Nats are slow, but what can we expect from the Nats baserunning? First to third? Hit and Run. How aggressive and smart will they be based on your observations?

Barry Svrluga: Bowden said late in spring training that the team doesn't have any "base-cloggers." Aside from Castilla, that's probably true. As I said, Johnson runs well. Schneider runs very well for a catcher. Wilkerson can go from first-to-third. Guillen's not all that fast, I guess. But Guzman really flies out of the batter's box.

The base-running, I'd say, is about average. No speed burners, but no turtles, either. That's one reason Carlos Baerga isn't around anymore. He can't run AT ALL.


Washington, D.C.: Loved the blog too; don't take it away!

Not to get all in your business, but I bet you find a lot of odds and ends throughout the season that are interesting/funny/worthy/newsy, but that just don't fit in your game column. Reporter's notebook type stuff. As it piles up, I bet you find yourself thinking back to these days and restoring the blog ...

Barry Svrluga: You could be right. I have a stack of notebooks that spilled out of my luggage when I returned from spring training. I'm sure there's some interesting stuff in there (along with some receipts from Panera, which I thought I had lost).


Atlanta, Ga.: Since the Nationals are going to finish last anyway, I wanted to see who you thought would win the AL East

Barry Svrluga: The Yankees. I really don't think the Red Sox -- sans Pedro -- are close to what they were last year. If anything happens to Schilling long-term, they're in big trouble. And the Yankees picked up a certain lanky left-hander who might help them a bit.


Washington, D.C.: Where do they sell the most Nats merchandise? I've seen people with the interlocking D.C. hats, but those aren't for sale on the team's Web site.

Barry Svrluga: The interlocking DC hats have been in short supply. The team simply didn't think they'd be this popular. They're imported, but the team has ordered more, so they should be in shortly. Modell's has tons of Nationals gear, and the official team store is still open -- albeit in a trailer in the RFK parking lot.


Orioles in PG: PAX 66 is broadcasting O's games in D.C. Maybe you will need to unplug the cable and get rabbit ears if Comcast doesn't carry PAX in PGC.

Barry Svrluga: Good strategy.


Charlottesville, Va.: Three points. The Nats' radio network includes an outpost here in Charlottesville, one of the three AM stations here in town. Second, I've started wearing my mid-80's Expos souvenir batting helmet (ala Tim Raines, no earflaps) out in public when a ballcap would otherwise do. I feel like the rest of the area has caught up to me. Third, I'll still be an Orioles' fan and am happy that I'll still get some games on cable down here. I was an O's fan from Gaithersburg long before Peter Angelos bought and tried to ruin the team, and I'll remain a fan long after he's squeezed whatever profit he can get from the Birds.

Barry Svrluga: See folks. Not everyone everywhere hates the O's.

Good look, that batting helmet. I'm sure women flock to you.


Washington, D.C.: As a lifelong Yankees fan (I know, I know, but hey, I became a fan as a kid when they were perennial cellar-dwellers) how long do you think they can go only spending money? Didn't the Yankees used to have one of the best farm systems in the game? At some point will the old expensive bodies give way?

Barry Svrluga: In a way, the Yankees' farm system is irrelevant, because every offseason, they're going to go after the best available players in free agency, guys who have already proven they can do it at the major league level. In a sense, they don't have to wait for prospects to develop, because they can just go sign enough of other people's prospects to remain among the elite teams.

The flip side: This isn't a fool-proof approach. The Yankees haven't won a World Series since 2000 (I know, I know, cry me a river). And if there's one concern about this team, it'd be age.


Proctor and Darling: Proctor was smooth and professional ... nice get. Darling was a little rough around the edges ... probably a bit nervous at the start (lots of "ummms" when reading the lineups). But they both settled down and were pretty decent through a pretty long game. Darling was at his best with anecdotes and being conversational. He stumbled with prepared pre and postgame babble. Where exactly did they find Darling???

Barry Svrluga: Interesting take. I'm sure they'll develop some chemistry over the course of the year. Darling is obviously bright. He's done some work for Fox SportsNet in the past. Proctor is a pro. They'll learn the team and each other, I'd guess.


Rockville, Md.: How much of the Nats' success do you think depends on their pitching coach(es)? What is your impression of the current staff -- are they likely to be retained once the team is bought and Frank Robinson leaves?

Barry Svrluga: Great question. The staff is largely of Robinson's making, particularly hitting coach Tom McCraw (one of his closest buddies) and first base coach Don Buford. But the guy I've been most impressed with is pitching coach Randy St. Claire. Think about it. Last year's beat-up, taped-together staff posted an ERA of 4.33. No, it's not great. But with the people they had to use, it's not bad, either. St. Claire is well-respected.


Arlington, Va.: Barry, great job on the beat. After hearing you on 980 the other morning, it seems to me that you could easily do radio too. Most of us die hards out here think you are doing a great job and we look forward to your coverage being an important building block of the Nats future here. Now if only we could get legit radio and TV deals ...

Barry Svrluga: Mom? Is that you? You didn't move to Arlington, did you?

Thanks much. One of the best things about this job is that it is charting history. It's not just covering a major league team -- which would be fun in and of itself -- but it's covering the return of a sport to a city. Lots of levels to this story, and I'm looking forward to reporting on many of them, both inside and outside the clubhouse.


Fairfax, Va.: The Washington Post has the best sports columnists in the country. Boswell is a god, so please pardon a short complaint. Mike Wise's spoof of a bitter tired of losing baseball columnist would have been more humorous if he did not write so many negative columns in the first place. The Post should revisit the decision to try to match the Washington Times' trite laconic pessimism. On to the question: I know the Nationals don't have great team speed, but what is the evaluation of their baserunning proficiency. Should we see the hit and run? Smart baserunning decisions? Lots of slow runners have been known for good baserunning (e.g., Ripken, Yount, Etc. ...)

Barry Svrluga: Hey, Wise is a good guy. I think it's fair that in the middle of all the "glorious return of baseball" coverage you're going to see there would be an alternative view. (You're right about Boswell, by the way.)

The base-running: I think you'll see some hit-and-runs with a bunch of guys, particularly with Vidro at the plate. Wilkerson and Guillen would not be likely candidates to hit-and-run.


Silver Spring, Md.: Barry,

Welcome back. What did you think of RFK as a major league ballpark (aside from the arctic conditions on Sunday). Any comments from the players on the condition of the field, dimensions, whether they think it might be a hitters or pitchers park?

Barry Svrluga: Thanks. It's nice to be back.

I think the best way to describe RFK is that it will do. Some things that struck me: It's odd that, unless Frank Howard comes out of retirement, it'll be rare for fans to catch a home run, as the only outfield seats are in the upper deck. The dimensions are fair. I was surprised, frankly, at how well the ball flew out of there for the exhibition game. The swirling wind helped. The outfield is spacious, meaning Brad Wilkerson/Ryan Church will have to cover lots of ground. The clubhouse is smaller than a typical major league clubhouse, and the players were a bit surprised at that. The players did, however, rave about the condition of the field.

One thing's for sure: It'll be in better shape next week, when it's time for the home opener.


Washington, D.C.: It was thrilling to watch my hometown team play their first real game yesterday, win or lose. I can't wait to watch again tomorrow. Oh wait. We can't.

Barry Svrluga: Good point. Wanna listen in?


Rockville, Md.: What are the late prospects for Terps basketball recruiting? Also, I heard that one of Maryland's top football recruits passed the SAT. Any news on that?

Barry Svrluga: Woah. Where'd that come from? Another era, just passed.

I have to admit: I went with Dave Sheinin to a sports bar last night after the ballgame to watch the NCAA title game, and got a bit wistful. I love that event.


Panera Bread Hdqtrs.: Barry,

What details have you heard about with regard to the Opening Night Festivities at RFK next week (i.e. - former players, etc.). We know Dubya & the usual politicians will be there. Also, I went to the exhibition game against the Mets Sunday. Turns out that was a great idea by whoever to have a "dry run," because there were goofs galore (scoreboard errors, P.A. announcer errors, etc.). Had to say that it was great to see Adrian Fenty and Cropp get booed. By the way, you ordering the French onion soup today?

Barry Svrluga: Opening Night developments are a bit secret at this point. Though everyone expects the President to be there -- and I'd bet a lot on it -- there's no official announcement yet. Likely a Secret Service situation.

I thought for a while that they should just scrap Sunday's exhibition game at RFK. But you're right: It was a dry run, and it pointed out all the stuff they must improve on before the opener. Tony Tavares, the team president, believes it was essential. We'll see if everything runs more smoothly a week from Thursday.


St. Marys, Pa.: Are ALUMINUM BATS now being used OR were they ever allowed in the major or minow leagues????

I THINK the answer is NO ... BUT I thought I read in Tim McCarver's book several years ago that they were OK to use.

Barry Svrluga: To my knowledge, they have never, ever been used in the minors. There has been some discussion -- usually dismissed quickly -- that it might be good to use them in the minors to save money (they don't break). But it would fundamentally change the game.


Manassas, Va.: Yankees up, 1-0. A-Rod on second.

I don't really see the Red Sox being who they were last year either, Barry.

Barry Svrluga: Sox rotation is significantly worse than it was last year. Yankees rotation is significantly better. Enough said.


Bethesda, Md.: Is Robinson at all a stats/percentages guy, a la La Russa? Or does he pretty much go with his gut?

Barry Svrluga: Good question. Robinson is absolutely a manage-by-the-gut guy. He says he looks at statistics, etc., but he does not at all carry that stuff to the dugout. From what the folks who saw him regularly in Montreal say, it can make for some strange decisions. It'll be interesting to watch.


Barry Svrluga: OK, folks. Sorry, but that'll have to be it -- albeit with quite a few remaining questions (most of which had to do with Panera and the blog, anyway).

If I remember correctly, the esteemed Michael Wilbon is up next to chat. Man, how do you people get any work done?

And remember: Come by next Wednesday, the day before the home opener, for a chat. We'll have eight games to discuss by then. Thanks again.


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Viewpoint: Paid Programming