Major League Baseball

Les Carpenter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 15, 2005; 2:15 PM

Washington Post staff writer Les Carpenter was online Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 2:15 p.m. ET to talk about the latest baseball news.

The transcript follows.


Les Carpenter: Good afternoon, sorry for the delay in getting onto the baseball chat today. Lots going on, we have an NL MVP Albert Pujols and we apparently have a new baseball steroid policy -- 50 games for a first offense. And of course there is that little issue of Nationals ownership. Sadly that seems to still be quiet.

If you have any questions, I will be happy to try and answer them.


RFK: SECTION 308, Good afternoon: This may be 'Hot Stove League' time, but isn't it apparent that there's no fire or kindling in the Nationals stove? With no owner in sight, where does this realistically leave the team for next year in relation to on-field improvement? In 50 years of following baseball, I have never seen such an absurd situation...what is your assessment?

Les Carpenter: Yes it does seem the oven is cold and I can't see that changing much in the near future. Say Baseball can name the owner in the next week or so it's still going to take a significant amount of time for the new ownership to get into place and for moves to be made. One thing I do find interesting is Theo Epstein's backing off the Dodger job apparently to wait and see what happens here. Does that mean he knows something? Does he feel good about the Malek group?

Until an owner is in place it appears the Nationals are going to have their hands tied in pursuing free agents. So expect them to sit out all the significant negotiations for the key players.


Homeland, Md.: If Congress had any 'Cajones', and yanked MLB's anti-trust exemption...might that resolve the ownership issue in a heartbeat? Have you seen anything quite as inane in baseball before?

Les Carpenter: well congress seems to have rattled baseball enough that a steroid policy is finally done. I doubt we'd be at 50 games without congressional intervention. I wonder if this has consumed so much of baseball's time that the Nats thing has been pushed back. Certainly the game does not want to look foolish on the doorstep of congress so I would have to think the Nats thing will be done quickly.

That said, Congress is never excited to take on the problems of the District, there is no political value in taking on BB over the Nationals in say Iowa the way there is in taking on steroids.


Herndon, Va.: Have the Nationals given any serious consideration to replacing their radio announcers for next say nothing of that absurd station? Would Frank Herzog be a good local choice? Do the Nationals have any input in the TV announcers for next season? Lastly, what is the status of a TV contract to reach a broader audience?

Les Carpenter: Any decision like that is going to be made by the new owner. You are right about the station's horrible signal strength but I'm not sure what the alternative would be. Baseball isn't a lucrative deal for radio stations, look what happened in St. Louis with KMOX and that's a city where people actually listen to games on the radio.


Arlington, VA (when not in Section 221 at RFK): Les,

The skeptic in me wants to know if you think this scenario might have legs...

MLB still owns the Nats. Now it's looking like Selig/DuPuy/Reinsdorf will not announce a new owner till the January meetings.

In the last collective bargaining agreement, the MLBPA gave up the right to fight the contraction of two teams after the 2006 season.

The Twins and Marlins still don't have new ballpark deals. The Marlins, in fact, are getting kicked out of Dolphins Stadium after the 2009 season by their former owner, Wayne Huizenga.

Twins owner Carl Polhad wanted to contract them back in 2001 and MLB wanted to contract the Expos, but the House Judiciary Committee put a stop to that.

My wild prediction... MLB holds onto the Nats for the duration of the 2006 season and then contracts them along with either the Marlins or the Twins.

Then, the remaining team moves to DC (ideally the Twins, to right the wrong that Griffith did 45 years ago) and in 2009 plays in the $535 million ballpark.

Either one of the local bidders gets the team or has to partner with Jeff Loria, who wanted to move the Expos to DC a few years ago.

Does this sound too far-fetched and a conspiracy theory worthy of Oliver Stone, or might I actually be onto something?

Les Carpenter: I like your crazy conspiracy thought process but I don't believe baseball has any intent in pulling something like that. This franchise is going to pull a $350 million profit for the owners, that's essentially free money. The Nats are a gold mine for baseball.


Washington, D.C.: Some (cough, Svrluga) have suggested that Juan Pierre would make sense for the Nationals. He's now a Cub. So what's your guess? Who who who will be the Nationals Opening Day starting centerfielder?

Les Carpenter: Yeah the Nats never had a chance with Pierre, too bad because I love his game. I would say there is still an excellent chance Brad Wilkerson is the opening day centerfielder, though hopefully not the new leadoff man. Unfortunately the Nationals hands are tied when it comes to making moves. All the hopes of significant upgrades that were discussed in the waning weeks of the season have to be discarded. By the time an owner comes along the market will have been picked clean. This means Washington is going to have to take chances again, hoping to strike gold.

Two possibilities -- Dave Roberts ( a great defensive player and base stealer but one with a surprisingly low on base percentage for a leadoff guy and bad hamstrings) or Milton Bradley (who will come cheaply but with plenty of baggage).


Silver Spring, Md.: Like many, many others, I am sorely frustrated with baseball's failure to make a decision on the ownership of the Nationals. However, I think that in all fairness that the DC government, whether it be the Mayor's office or the Council, are partially to blame since they are not taking the actions necessary to finalize the deal they made with baseball over the stadium. There is enough blame to go around, but both sides need to stick to their commitments and take the actions necessary to make sure that there is a team in DC for the long haul. DC needs to stop trying to "renegotiate" the stadium deal and start taking steps to get it built as agreed upon and baseball needs to decide the ownership and allow the team to operate in a stable and reasonable manner without all the uncertainty of how much they can spend and who will be in charge.

Les Carpenter: Remember everybody has a personal interest in this, a mayor's race is looming next year and nobody wants to be known as the one who gave away the farm for wealthy baseball owners. Of course Baseball, trying to squeeze every dime from this team, is to blame too


Va Beach, Va.: What's up with Johnny Damon? Are there any rumors as to where he will end up?

Les Carpenter: I think he comes back to Boston but he will get some tempting offers elsewhere, don't be surprised to see several California teams make a pitch for him including the Angels, Dodgers and maybe Padres


Alexandria,Va: Hi Les, do you think that the Nationals will get a leadoff man, a powerhitter, and a power pitcher and by the way when will we have a new owner without Bud saying by opening day.

Les Carpenter: Again, I think the new GM will have to be very clever this offseason. The Nats are further hurt by the lack of great prospects to trade in hopes of landing a big bat. Say they wanted to get in the Carlos Delgado sweepstakes, what do they have to offer? The same goes for pitchers. Forget any dream of Billy Wagner or B.J. Ryan or Kevin Millwood. The Nats are going to have to pick the waiver wire clean or look for bargains elsewhere. Again, let me suggest the best player available to them might be Milton Bradley


McLean, Va.: Isn't it in the best interests of the other MLB team owners to effectively shut the Nationals out of the free agent market (by delaying on choosing the new Nats owner) so that they won't have to bid against the Nats for the players they want? I don't see a down side to this strategy, since I don't think free agent pick-ups (or not) will have any effect on how much the new owner is willing to pay for the team.

That's really depressing.

Les Carpenter: No I think Baseball's management team wants the club here to be successful. I don't think this situation is as simple as competitive advantage. Winning is always trumped by making money and there is plenty of money to get out of this team.


Arlington, Va.: I'm a Phillies fan looking for an answer to the Jim Thome/Ryan Howard dilemma. I think they have to keep Howard, but can they get any value at all for Thome without paying most of his salary?

Les Carpenter: Sure they can get a prospect or two for Thome. But remember he is in his 30s and coming off an injury. It depends on how many teams get desperate for power and want to take a chance. I do think the Phils will have to hold onto some of that money


Alexandria, Va.: Have the Nationals been relegated to a sub par performance next season because of the lack of an ownership group? Could this affect attendance for next year? This doesn't seem to bode well for competition in the NL East, do you see it that way?

Les Carpenter: I don't necessarily think they are doomed to be subpar next year, look at what they did for half a season last year. Surely nobody expected this club to be competitive when the year started. The problem could come in the transition. Say the new owner hires a new GM and manager and the rebuilding begins in March and continues through the season. Frank Robinson did a tremendous job of holding the team together through absurd situations. A new manager might not have as good a hold on his players when changes start happening.


Alexandria, Va.: As things stand now, what do you project for the Nationals in 2006...both on the field and in attendance?

Les Carpenter: There's no reason why this team can't be .500 again. I think it's too much to hope for a lot better at this point. Attendance is an interesting question. If the ownership thing drags on though the holidays and an ad campaign can't take hold, I would expect there to be a drop. But if the new owner can get some momentum (Jeff Smulyan is a master seller if he is picked) then they could come close to 3 million. The potential to do so exists in this market.


Herndon, Va.: What month were the 8 bids submitted for the Nationals? And Selig wants the public to believe that he has only had time to meet with 5 of the 8 groups? How idiotic or plausible is that excuse?

Les Carpenter: yeah I don't know why face-to-face meetings have been pushed back so far. I know they didn't push a lot of the groups to show their investors until the late summer. Why that wasn't done in March is beyond me.


Behesda, MD where Les is More!: Les,

Are we close to seeing MLB throw up it's collective arms, tell Nationals fans they tried their best, had a deal with the District, but the Nats won't be playing baseball in DC anymore as the City Council is renegging on it's deal?

And will that be followed by the words, "I told you so" from Peter Angelos?

The stadium situation is now a disaster where the DC City Council says although we had a deal with MLB we don't honor our commitments. Please tell me there's hope the stadium deal will get worked out and the Nats will have an owner sometime before next season.

Les Carpenter: Oh my don't say that! I think baseball has come too far in this thing to quit now. Even Bob DuPuy said at the World Series that they might just have to go ahead and pick an owner before the lease is done just becuase they can't hold up the process any more. Baseball is going to make a killing of DC, no way does it want to leave this market. I do wonder if some deal might not get worked out at the last minute in Virginia. But I think things would really have to fall apart in the District for that scenario to happen.


Kensington, Md.: What's the latest on former George Mason University assistant coach Dayton Moore being hired by the Red Sox as their new GM? Is that a better job right now than being an assistant GM with the stable Braves?

Les Carpenter: I don't think the Sox are close at all to a GM. There is less urgency there than in LA where the Dodgers desperately need an direction. Boston will have to rebuild somewhat over the next year or so but it's one of the elite jobs in the game.


Baltimore, Md.: Sam Perlozzo at 54 is younger than any of his coaches! How can they ossibly relate to the plyers?

Also, the current image of the Balt. locker room, Migi, Raffy, and at least 2 others routinely injecting who knows what from the DR, is pretty scary. I want to think of them all as good guys, even Raffy, but it's getting harder.

Les Carpenter: Baseball is baseball, it's such a strange, protected world that I think people relate at any age. Players and coaches spend too much time together and have too many common experiences. The bigger issue in baseball now is the language barrier, you need at least two coaches who can talk to the latin players, many of whom come to the Major Leagues knowing very little English.


Seattle, Wash.: Big Guy,

The Dodgers seem to be a real mess. Are they really going to hire a woman GM? What is their obsession with Hee Seop Choi? Do they have a chance to make Sandy Koufax proud again?

Les Carpenter: Hello Big Guy,

Yes the Dodgers are indeed a mess and there is a very real chance they could hire their asst. GM Kim Ng as soon as today. At this point, with Theo Epstein seeming to back off the job, the only candidates are Ng and the Giants Asst. GM. From all indications Ng has done an excellent job as an assistant and would be able to negotiate contracts. And since it seems half the GMs in the game today never played professional baseball, that shouldn't be held against her either.

Hee Seop Choi will probably never be a regular in LA. His defense has been poor and they never believe he will develop into a clutch hitter


Les Carpenter: That's all the time I have for questions today. Sorry for a shorter chat today, please feel free to email me if you have any questions I didn't answer.


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