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Errors in the Outfield

Fences at RFK Stadium
The debate over the dimensions at RFK Stadium continues but recent measurements support the theory that the ballpark favors pitchers. (John McDonnell - The Washington Post)

"And if we're doing a contract with Jose, and I'm still here, I'll say, 'Jose, those count as home runs,' " Tavares said. "He can add them to his totals, and we'll negotiate from there. I know this isn't a hitter's ballpark."

Still, the topic has become one of the most prominent in the clubhouse. On Wednesday night, in a 3-2 loss to Colorado, the Nationals hit at least three balls that players felt would have been out of any other park, including one by new addition Preston Wilson, who came from Colorado, where homers traditionally come easily in the thin air. Wilson said yesterday that his ball, hit to center in the ninth inning, "wasn't hit with everything I've got. It is what it is."

But another player said, when Wilson arrived back at the dugout, he expressed his shock that the ball didn't travel out of the park.

"Those balls are gone," rookie outfielder Ryan Church said. "Any other place, they're gone. It's stupid. I'll just stick to hitting doubles."

Manager Frank Robinson, who hit three home runs at RFK Stadium as a Baltimore Oriole, is concerned that the mislabeled dimensions, and the park's size in general, could affect his team's mind-set.

"You have to know where you're playing," Robinson said. "We play here . We don't play in those other parks. Why would you say, 'That would have been a home run in Cincinnati?' We're not in Cincinnati."

Bowden is adamant that the park, whatever the measurements, has helped the Nationals more than it has hurt them. But he has watched his players become more and more frustrated, particularly as the team has struggled to win in recent weeks.

"I understand from a personal perspective, but we're talking about a thing called 'team,' " Bowden said. "Personally, of course we all want numbers. That's normal. I don't blame them. But we also want to win. And when you're winning, it's not as big an issue as when you're losing. When you're losing, and you're not getting numbers, it's frustrating."

Staff writer Thomas Boswell contributed to this report.

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