Vidro, Tavares Argue About Dimensions at RFK Stadium

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 14, 2006

Jose Vidro was quite clear. He feels RFK Stadium is unfair to hitters. He thinks the club should have moved in the fences during the offseason. He said so on Wednesday night. And he didn't back down yesterday -- not even from Washington Nationals President Tony Tavares, with whom Vidro engaged in a boisterous argument before yesterday's 13-4 loss to the New York Mets.

"I don't regret anything I said," Vidro said. "I speak for the ballclub. I meant what I said."

According to two club sources, Vidro and Tavares met in a hallway outside the home clubhouse in the hour or so before yesterday's game. The two men -- one the franchise's longest-tenured player, the other its outspoken president -- yelled at each other about the issue, in part because Vidro accused club management of not caring about the players, in part because he had done so publicly.

"They were in each other's faces," one source said. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the tension surrounding the issue.

Asked if he had a run-in with Vidro, Tavares said after the game: "I won't comment on that. I won't talk about personnel issues in public."

The issue first surfaced in the heat of last summer, when the Nationals -- who spent two months atop the National League East -- began to lose games, lose their lead in the division and then lose their cool about RFK. Players suspected that the power alleys, which were labeled at 380 feet, were much deeper, and a subsequent laser measurement performed by the club showed they were more than 395 feet from the plate. The club then put the signs that read "380" closer to the foul poles, away from the true alleys.

Now, with three home games gone in the Nationals' second season here, Vidro and some hitters appear discouraged by the ballpark, where they scored just six runs in three games against the Mets. To make matters worse for Vidro, the Mets hit four homers -- three in the first inning -- yesterday.

"I was like, 'Man, they're going to be all over me,' " Vidro said of his reaction to the homers. The Nationals hit one homer in each game of the series.

During the game, Tavares was asked what he made of Vidro's comments.

"What did you make of them?" he said. "I saw four home runs today. The other team didn't seem to have a problem."

When the issue arose last season, right fielder Jose Guillen was one of the most vocal opponents of the deep fences -- despite the fact that the dimensions helped Washington's pitching staff immensely.

"There was only one person that got vocal about it last year, one player I really heard about," Tavares said. "There wasn't an uproar of them telling us directly, 'We want them moved in.' "

Tavares said Major League Baseball prohibits fundamental changes to ballpark dimensions during the season. Cliff Floyd, one of the four Mets who homered yesterday, said such a predicament could have a lasting impact on the Nationals' hitters.

"It gets in your head," Floyd said. "You start thinking, 'Man, no matter what I do.' It changes your game."

That's exactly what Manager Frank Robinson doesn't want.

"If we're going to start complaining about the size of this ballpark now, we just might as well pack it in and go home," Robinson said. "Because if we don't, they're going to be putting us in a little white jacket and carrying us out of here."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company