Major League Baseball

Les Carpenter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 22, 2005; 1:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Les Carpenter was online Tuesday, Nov. 22, at 1 p.m. ET to talk about the latest baseball news.

The transcript follows .


Les Carpenter: Hello everyone welcome to another baseball chat. It appears we have the first big trade of the offseason and the Nats still don't have an owner.

If anyone has any questions I will be happy to try and answer them


RFK: SECTION 308, Good afternoon: As trade talks seem to be heating up throughout MLB, what is the Nationals status about signing their free agents or arbitration eligible players? Seems to be all quite on the East Capitol Street front! Is Bowden just coasting along waiting for the Shuttle to Fenway?

Les Carpenter: I think it's going to remain that way until we get a clear idea on an owner. The Nats might be able to make some small moves like the Marlon Anderson signing. But even something more significant -- say like signing Juan Encarnacion -- might have to wait and the players who could be hanging on will probably go elsewhere. How can this team put down any significant money on a player without consulting with the person who will have to sign the checks.

This came up before the 2004 season with the Dodgers who supposedly had a deal in place for Vladimir Guerrero only to have the then potential new owner Frank McCourt and MLB reject the signing because McCourt wasn't official. I imagine things might have gone a little differently in LA with Guerrero there.


Herndon, Va.: Any movement whatsoever on the Nationals TV/Radio front for 2006...or is this also pending for a new owner? Who in the Nationals organization really came up with that absurd Radio deal...Taveres, Bowden or both? That alone should be grounds for demotion!

Les Carpenter: well the bulk of that deal was done by MLB so I don't think it's fair to hang that on anyone in the Nats organization. I do think a new owner will be able to revisit it in some form. I can't believe someone is going to spend $450 million for this team and not want to do something with the TV deal.

As for the radio portion of things, I assume that's going to have to wait for another season.


Alexandria, Va.: I can't even begin to express my anger over the continued politicking over the Nationals' future between MLB and the DC Council.

Most times I can't even tell who to be more angry at, but right here and now, I'm more mad at MLB for balking at the $6 million rent payment that's required for the bonds to be issued for the new stadium. And what's more is they're using this as leverage to get the new stadium lease! Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Wall Street actually say that MLB--and not DC--has to cover that $6 million payment in order to issue the bonds?

As to the ownership debacle, there is NO EXCUSE WHATSOEVER that we should be made to wait one more minute for an owner. So far, the only thing Bud Selig has done right in this whole scenario is to award the vagabond Expos to DC. Everything since then has been one disaster after another. The TV deal was a stab in the back (technically, isn't one team's TV revenues being owned by another team the very definition of "conflict of interest"?), and the constant delay of a new owner isn't any better. I don't know about everyone else, but I'll be very glad once a new owner is named and we don't have to hear the name Bud Selig ever again (though we probably WILL hear it, if Jeff Smulyan is named owner).

I'm really not looking forward to another late-December DC Council meeting where it comes down to the wire on approving the bonds so that stadium construction can begin. Last year's by-the-skin-of-our-teeth debates on financing were painful enough! Even less am I looking forward to the anti-baseball council members looking to break into the game and try one more time to scuttle the whole deal.

Don't get me wrong--I dearly love my Nats, going to RFK to see their ballgames last summer was joyous, and I look forward to next season already! But the outrage that I and many others feel in the off-season is unbearable, and what upsets me the most is that the fans (the very people who have waited and waited so eagerly for a team to come back to Washington) are the ones who will pay the biggest price--not being able to see the games on TV, not being able to see a team that's competitive or put together smartly. It really is unfair that the fans can't have any kind of say in all this, that our collective anger won't amount to a hill of beans in the eyes of MLB or the DC Council. Yes, I know life isn't fair, but it really is difficult to see something you love get bullied--and be powerless to do anything to help.

Thanks for letting me vent.

Les Carpenter: I am happy to publish your vent because I'm sure there are many others who share your frustration. I agree there is blame all around and at some point, no matter how ugly the negotiations get on the stadium deal, MLB has to just go ahead and pick an owner. Bob DuPuy said as much at the World Series and he is right. It's not fair to the fans here and the players, coaches, executives, etc on the Nats to let this thing twist in the wind. It's not like they are lacking for qualified buyers


CLEVELAND PARK, DC: Aren't the Marlins entering a player meltdownn phase? If so, what other MLB teams stand to profit from this? Is Loria as inept an owner in Florida as he was in Montreal?

Les Carpenter: It's starting to look that way a little. Loria is doing this because no one will give him a stadium in Miami. There doesn't appear to be that much interest down there in paying for a new ballpark for the Marlins. I suppose it is a piece of what MLB is worrying about in trying to get the lease done before naming an owner. What would happen if the DC Council were to back out of the stadium deal? Almost impossible but never count it out. MLB is probably trying to guard against such a possibility.

The good thing for the Nats in all this is that the Marlins will likely be awful next year. At least that's one team they know they should pass in the standings.


Elkridge, Md.: Is there any concern that, once the Nats get their stadium built, Dan Snyder is going to demand his own billion dollar, publicly funded stadium within DC?

Les Carpenter: Oh lord don't suggest such a thing! I honestly don't know what would be the point. The whole key to the Nats stadium is the surrounding development. The only other land I could see the Redskins using is the RFK site and no one seems to want to develop over there.

No, I think Snyder has a highly effective money-making palace in Maryland.


Washington, D.C.: If Bowden is selected for Boston's GM position, where does that leave the Nationals in the near future? Does Taveres take over? What are his qualifications in this regard, or is he a MLB puppet?

Les Carpenter: I presume Tony Siegle, the assistant GM would take over. He is highly-respected and very competent. The Nats would be in good hands.


Alexandria, Va.: Are the Nationals slightly overloaded in the outfield at this point? If so, what do you see as a resolution for next year?

Les Carpenter: I wouldn't worry about overloading in the outfield. If anything they are probably in need of a more significant addition. Assuming Jose Guillen is healthy he would fill one spot. Brad Wilkerson is probably the center fielder if they don't make a trade. Ryan Church showed flashes of being a very nice player but the Nats were concerned that he was hurt so much of the season. Bowden has talked to Juan Encarnacion about a possible contract and I expect a new GM to try and make upgrades as well.


Waynesboro, Va.: First, let me say that if ESPN is smart, its Sunday night season opener next year should be the Indians-White Sox from the South Side. That is going to temporarily bump Yankees-Red Sox as baseball's marquee rivalry next year.

Second, if the Lerner-Kasten group is awarded the Nationals, what does the GM situation look like? I'm wondering whether Kasten had a good relationship with Schuerholz; bringing him to the Nats (and remember, he does have ties to nearby Baltimore) would be a coup. I'd prefer him over the overrated Epstein any day.

Les Carpenter: I covered some Indians-White Sox games this year and loved the competition on the field. I hope you are right. Both are fun teams to watch.

As for John Schuerholz, I doubt he'd leave Atlanta. Not with the rich farm system he has that is still bringing up players. If Kasten (should he get the team) lands him that would be a coup. Epstein seems to be linked to the Malek group so I'm not sure he would be pursued by one of the other owners.


Fredericksburg, Va.: Hi Les. I read in The Post that three members of the Washington Nationals were in town last week making an appearance to show off the new alternate uniforms. Why doesn't the team promote these appearances more? And do you think there are any plans in the works to do a fan fest type event like the Orioles do each year with all the players prior to spring training? Thanks.

Les Carpenter: Again it falls to ownership. The Nats had such a shoestring operation last year it was hard for them to put too many events together. A new owner would have the resources and the freedom to do these kinds of things. There is no doubt that Jeff Smulyan, should he get the team, will insist upon all kinds of public events. If I'm not mistaken he started the Mariners fan fest which is a huge success in Seattle.


19th & K St.: While I think that it's great the "Trader Jim" Bowden is active on the free agent market, the signing of Marlon Anderson represents a total mistake in a baseball sense, and in baseball cents...

The team just devoted $2 mil to a player who has skills that are ultimately very similar to better, cheaper players already in our system - Harris and Short, specifically. This represents another failure by the Nats front office to make smart moves on a limited budget. And it will cost us a roster spot that could be used by a true talent from our farm system (Short, Harris, Sledge) or by a player who was a Rookie of the Year candidate (Church) who for whatever reason keeps getting the "silent treatment" from Robinson and Bowden.

I love the Nats, but dangit, I cannot wait until we are freed from MLB ownership and the horrible management of Bowden, and can start to act like a real team.

Les Carpenter: Well the Nats need more certainty from their pinch hitters than they got last year and it's hard to expect a young player can walk into the big leagues and be effective one at bat a night off the bench. Ryan Church, despite all of his other promise, struggled in the role. Players who became good pinch hitters all talk about the moment they had to put their fulltime hopes aside and dedicate themselves to being great role players. This team didn't have someone like that.

Like you, I would love to see Rick Short here next season but I fear his chance may be over. The recovery from his injury was supposed to stretch into spring training. Then he will have to catch back up and try and find the groove he was in last year. By then the Nats will have to make other decisions. I'm not sure Brendan Harris has advanced to a point where a big league team is comfortable making him a pinch hitter. He would have to show a lot in spring training. Plus Anderson is a left handed hitter. Harris and Short are right handed.


Washington, D.C.: Ouch. Theo Epstein vs. Bowden or Beattie. Sawx fans can't be thrilled.

Les Carpenter: I still think a third candidate might emerge


Vienna, VA, RSN: So, Beckett and Lowell to the Red Sox.

Is that it for Billy Mueller then? Would be disappointing for sure, but he's had an amazingly good run in Boston. Youkilis to first, say? Think Lowell will pull any more hidden ball tricks? Catching, say, A-Rod on a hidden ball trick would elevate Lowell to at least the level of "Saint" in Boston.

Beckett, being a "bit" younger than Schilling et al. would be a great addition to the rotation. Along with Papelbon and some other young guys, the pitching situation is looking up.

Now they need to decide what to do about second base.

Les Carpenter: I don't think the Red Sox are done by a long shot. They may still move some more players. Plus they are going to want to be sure they have a replacement for Lowell should he go bust again.

When Beckett is on he's a great pitcher but remember the blister problems are a yearly event. Still, putting him in a rotation with Paplebon and Matt Clement should give the Red Sox a nightly power pitcher and could make a Tim Wakefield even more effective should he stay in the rotation. I still think they won't have as good a rotation as Chicago at least in the near future.


Nervousville, Md.: Hey Les,

No owner. Stadium non-sense. Any chance we could loose the team to another city at this point?

Les Carpenter: not to another market, but perhaps DC could lose the stadium to Virginia. Let's hope it doesn't come to that because the stadium process would be set back two years, leaving the Nats in RFK forever.


Bethesda, Md.: Les,

Looks like Jose Guillen had more damage to his shoulder than suspected before surgery. Will he be ready for Spring Training?

And why doesn't Jose Vidro get his knee worked on now during the offseason to be ready by Spring Training or will Vidro suffer through 2006 the way he did in 2005?

Les Carpenter: Guillen is supposed to be ready before the season but his spring could well be shortened. I think his good start last year helped him fit in better in Washington and made the experiment essentially work. The Nats should hope he will have enough spring at bats to get off to a similar start again this year.

Vidro underwent surgery last offseason and then struggled with the results all year. I'm sure he's worried about going down the same path and losing half a season.


Washington, D.C.: Les,

With the tougher steroid policy in place, do you think more teams will try and win with pitching, speed and defense?

Les Carpenter: I wouldn't be surprised to see more teams build that way. But it shouldn't simply be steroid related. Pitching and defense is smart baseball. Over and over the World Series champion usually is strong at both. Players will still take steroids but I doubt we'll have these outlandish numbers that we had in the past. Maybe there will be a 50 home run hitter every once in a while and a good number of 30 home run guys.

Of course everything in baseball goes in cycles. Remember how everyone had a 50 or more stolen base guy in the 80s?


Springfield, VA: So are the Washington Nationals going to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as the shortest lived team in baseball history?

Les Carpenter: No that will be the Seattle Pilots -- at least in recent history. They were taken away by of all people, Bud Selig, in 1970 when he bought them and moved them to Milwaukee.

The Nats will not suffer a similar fate, baseball is in this market to stay.


Washington DC: Les,

Do you think Leo Mazzone signing with the Os will help attract any free agent pitchers to Baltimore?

Les Carpenter: It is possible, especially ones who have worked with him.


Arlington, Va.: Another Smulyan question:

Was he the Mariners' owner when they traded/let go Griffey, Johnson, and Rodriguez? Have there been any questions as to whether he would spend the money needed to retain good players?

Les Carpenter: No he was not. But two of those players left because they didn't like Seattle not because of money. Junior hated the new ballpark because he saw his home runs drop and manipulated -- with Bowden who was in Cincy at the time _ a trade to his hometown. Randy Johnson wanted to pitch in a warmer climate because he worried about his bad back. And A-Rod simply wanted the biggest contract in the world. He also didn't seem to want to play in a park that was as unfriendly to hitters as Safeco Field.


Raleigh, NC: How will the new steroid policy affect those players that have already tested positive once?

Les Carpenter: they will all be treated as first time offenders in the new policy. So if Rafael Palmeiro were to test positive again next season he would face a 50 game suspension not 100.


Washington, D.C.: Today's editorial in the Post leads me to believe that the cost overruns for the new stadium have gotten so out of hand that the City is balking on living up to its committments to MLB. While the stadium deal that was agreed to last year places almost all of the risk of the stadium project on the City, the City could have walked away from the deal (as Virginia did). I don't believe that any of the ownership groups will agree to cover cost overuns without significant (meaning expensive) concessions by the City. In addition, a renovation of RFK is unlikely to sit well with the Lords of Baseball. Although it's a lousy deal, isn't in the City's best interests to agree to adhere to the original terms of the deal and move on? A Balk on the Ballpark (Post, Nov. 22)

Les Carpenter: This is typical of ballpark negotiations. Owners and politicians will bicker over the overruns. It happens everywhere. The stadium will get built, a lease will eventually be signed and the new owner will get stuck with the bill for overruns and he will fight with the city. It's a certainty. Expect the legal problems to linger for years, but that shouldn't affect fans once a deal is completed.

All stadiums cost more than they were supposed to. The big problem here is the longer these negotiations go on and the stadium cant be started the more expensive everything gets.


Les Carpenter: That's all the time I have for questions today. There were several left unanswered and I am sorry for that. Please feel free to email me at

Have a great Thanksgiving.


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