Washington Nationals

Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 14, 2006; 1:15 PM

Washington Post staff writer Barry Svrluga was online Wednesday, March 14, at 1:15 p.m. ET to discuss the Washington Nationals and the latest baseball news.

Full Coverage: Washington Nationals

The transcript follows.


Barry Svrluga: Hey folks. Sorry to be late. Just finished up an interview, and it's already the top of the second here at Space Coast Stadium, where Livan Hernandez is on the hill against the Florida Marlins. Scoreless tie so far.

Check out the designs for the new stadium at the link below. I'd be interested in your thoughts.

Let's chat.

_______________________ Proposed Nationals Stadium Design

Barry Svrluga: Here it is.


Waynesboro, Va.: I have seen the ballpark design, and I like it. Sort of reminiscent of the new park in Philadelphia, but with more realistic dimensions. All I ask -- and I can't emphasize this enough -- is that the seats be navy blue, as it's one of the Nationals' colors and the park IS near the Navy Yard. Leave the green seats to Baltimore.

Barry Svrluga: Not sure on the color of the seats, as I wasn't at the press conference today in Washington. But I took the drawings to many of the players, and they seemed fired up about it. But their main question is probably the main question of every fan out there: When will it open?

Here's hoping it's 2008.


Downtown D.C.: What is the wierd triangle building jutting out in the rendering of the SW corner of the stadium? As far as the ugly parking garage, I am going to assume that they made it as obtrusive as possible in an attempt to shame someone, somewhere to cough up the money to put it underground.

Barry Svrluga: I believe the triangle building are the team's offices, etc. Parking: I'd say everyone should take the Metro.

Another strikeout for Hernandez. Big questions about how his knee will feel like after this, his second outing.


Baseballfeverishville, Va.: Okay Barry, I've seen the new stadium design from all angles, and try as I might, I just couldn't see into the owner's box to find out who was there ... Maybe you can help, any word out of Bud Selig about an owner, or is he in mourning over the USA's lost to Korea yesterday ...

Barry Svrluga: My understanding is there are plans to have 30 different owners' boxes, one for Jerry Reinsdorf, one for George Steinbrenner, one for John Henry, etc., because after all, that's who owns this team.

Just kidding. Sort of.


Richmond, Va.: I'm sure this has been asked before - but I don't recall anyone addressing this question recently.

That is - why don't the Nats simply play Soriano at shortstop?

Didn't he play SS in the minors before moving to second while he was in the Yankee organization.

Barry Svrluga: Asked that the other day of Jim Bowden, the GM, particularly when Guzman went down with an injury. He said that they wouldn't consider that at all. The reason is that they feel like their best lineup is when Soriano is in left field (if he ever goes out there). Soriano is a poor defensive second baseman. He would be even a worse shortstop.


Baltimore, Md.: There has never been a unanimous first-ballot Hall of Fame election. Do you think there will ever be one?

Barry Svrluga: Well, Baltimore, I think I know why you asked. Wouldn't you think Cal has a chance next winter?


Rockville, Md.: Hey Barry -- the esteemed commissioner of baseball has interviewed all potential ownership groups and he has had months to ponder his decision. In a logical world, Selig's mind should've been made up long ago, and he should've named his choice 5 minutes after the stadium deal was finally sealed. What's the holdup now?

Barry Svrluga: You inserted the phrase "in a logical world," which hasn't applied to this situation since ... well, ever.

MLB seems to be easily distracted. They can't multi-task, working on DC ownership and the World Baseball Classic, etc., all at the same time. All we know is that they're closer than ever before. But until they name an owner, I wouldn't try to guess when it'll all go down.


Section 320: Hey, Barry...seen any of that WBC? It's been great fun to watch. Seeing the enthusiasm for the game in the faces of people from all the nations is uplifting.

Now...about the Nats...enough with these minor issues surrounding left fielders, second basemen and owners. Who is going to say something to management about Screech keeping its hat on during the National Anthem at RFK? Such ironic disrespect. The national game's representative in the nation's capital refused to appear in "hatless" mode during the playing of our national anthem and honoring our national flag.

It's time this flagrant affront has been addressed by the team!

Don't you love this game?

Barry Svrluga: I believe Screech had his hat stitched into his head (which could explain some of his behavior).

The WBC: I agree that it's been great fun. I watched the Dominican Republic-Puerto Rico game the other night, and Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan was jumping.

Now, about that US team ...


Reston, Va.: Barry,

What are the dimensions of the stadium? Will it be a pitchers park or a hitters park? Also, what the lastest on Soriano? I think he'll be forced to the outfield but am concerned about his attitude? Has Guillen mellowed in D.C? I see him as one call away from throwing haymakers all over the park.


Barry Svrluga: Good question, Reston, and precisely what the players wanted to hear today.

Right field line: 335 feet

Right field power alley: 370 feet

Center: 409 feet

Left field power alley: 377 feet

Left field line: 332 feet

Seems pretty fair. Not like the 390-foot alleys at RFK.


Washington, D.C.: How is Jose Vidro's knee looking this spring?

Barry Svrluga: As Jim Bowden and Frank Robinson said yesterday, much betteer than they expected at this point. On the surface, that's a good thing. Everyone expects Vidro to be ready for Opening Day, which is somewhat surprising.

The fallout: This means when Alfonso Soriano returns from the WBC, he can't just go out to second base and take over for Vidro. It's going to be dicey. Watch.


Arlington Fan: So glad to have you back!

I loved the Nats Journal from spring training last year and have been dissapointed that it was so significantly cut back this year (though I did enjoy the piece about the panda!). Was the coverage last year more complete because it was the Nats' inaugural season?

Barry Svrluga: Thanks, Arlington. Good to be back.

The blog was special for last year because of the first season, and because I was away at the Olympics and the incomparable Dave Sheinin was here at Nationals' camp, so we didn't have the continuity this season.

I hope the coverage in the paper and the chats help keep you up to date. No one really wants to hear what I had for lunch, anyway.


Bethesda, Md.: Barry,

The Nats can't win a Grapefruit League game to save their lives. Should I be more concerned with the lackluster pitching or hitting this spring?

Barry Svrluga: The whole thing, Bethesda. The whole thing.

Really, I'm trying not to be too critical given the fact that several pitchers (Cordero, Armas, Majewski and Ayala) and the catcher (Schneider) are in the World Baseball Classic. Guillen hasn't played (though he's feeling better). Soriano mess hasn't been straightened out. So they just don't have their full team out here to evaluate.

That said, I can't be overly optimistic. Give me two mroe weeks, and I'll make a more complete assessment.


Fairfax, Va.: I agree that the WBC might be holding up the ownership announcement. but, how about the merchandising snafu with Bygone sports people, could they be waiting for a settlement on that as well?


Barry Svrluga: They sure could be. They're clearly trying to make money off the Nationals. Nothing more.


Silver Spring, Md.: First of all, I'd like to say it's great to have weekly Nats chats again. I also appreciate the two articles you write each day.

I have to say, however, that I miss seeing you on the blog. It was great what you did last year. If there is anyway you can pick up doing the blog this year, please do so. We want to here your take on Viera and the Nats, with more insights about the team and spring training. Interesting stories, line-ups, game summaries.

The one or two lines about each game just isn't enough. How about box scores and reports on how the various players did and other interesting things about the game? I appreciate that you are getting across the big picture about how the Nats are preparing for the season, but we want more details.

Barry Svrluga: An interesting suggestion, Silver Spring. The games, for the most part, are irrelevant, and I try to put the most salient points in the paper. We do run box scores for both the Nationals and the Orioles, so you can check stats there. And if there's a big movement to bring back the blog, we might be able to revive it next year.

Thanks again.


Washington, D.C.: Hello Barry. Do you have any idea about what kinds of changes and renovations will occur to clean up the, uh, not so welcoming area (Navy Yard) around the stadium? And what will happen to businesses and clubs around the area such as the Nation club? Thank you.

Barry Svrluga: In the mayor's vision, the devlopment that's already going on there (federal gov't buildings, etc.) will spread to include bars and restaurants, etc. Whether that happens or not will be the key to whether the stadium is a success. But as for specific plans right now, I'm afraid I can't offer any.


Viva Vidro!: Barry,

We haven't gotten many reports on how Vidro has looked so far in the Grapefruit League. How is he doing out at 2B and when he's at the plate?

Is Vidro looking like he's back to being the All-Star he was in Montreal, and, if so, will he be here for the long haul as the Nats' 2B?

Barry Svrluga: I put an update in my notebook this morning, and every time I ask him, he says he's genuinely pleased with the way he feels. We need to watch him later in spring as he starts to play seven and eight and nine innings. He's in the lineup right now. Still scoreless with one out in the top of the third, Marlins on first and second and Matt Treanor (Mrs. Misty May) at the plate.


Falls Church, Va.: What's your assessment of the Nationals outfield this year? Could you comment on strengths & weaknesses?

Barry Svrluga: Well, there are only three questions about the Nationals outfield: Who's going to play left? Who's going to play center? And who's going to play right?

Seriously, a lot depends on whether Brandon Watson wins the center field job. If he does, he'll play every day and lead off. If he doesn't and he goes to the minors, it's possible Marlon Byrd and Ryan Church would platoon in center. That, of course, assumes that somehow, some way, Soriano moves to left field. That's as big an IF as there is in baseball right now. This is going to be a contentious situation. And though Jose Guillen is improving every day, there's no guarantee his wrist and shoulder will be ready for Opening Day.

Just a few issues to work out in the next three weeks.


Washington, D.C.: Any update on your book?

You're welcome

Barry Svrluga: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

"National Pastime: Sports, Politics and the Return of Baseball to Washington, D.C." will be in stores on March 28, though you can pre-order on Amazon right now. I'll be doing at least a few book signings in the Washington area early in the season, so look for announcement about those.

Thanks for your support. I hope everyone likes the book.


Section 320: Barry ... the Bygone case has reportedly been settled: WTOP .

Gotta love peeling those excuses away.

And if Screech's hat is stitched on...he's got to be off the field. (I know ... he should be off the field, period).

Barry Svrluga: Thanks for the update, Section 320.


Sterling, Va.: Is there any way someone -- owners -- could donate $50 million so that we could get limestone instead of precast stuff?

Barry Svrluga: Start holding your breath now, Sterling. We'll see how purple you are by 2008.


Columbia Pike in Virginia: Any thoughts on how Ryan Zimmerman is doing? Third base seems to be the Nationals' only sure thing going into the season.

Barry Svrluga: Zimmerman has continued to impress people with his poise and the way he carries himself. He is going to be a stud defensive player, and he just made a fine play diving to his left to snare a grounder by Matt Treanor, helping Livan Hernandez work his way out of a jam in the third. Still 0-0 in the bottom of the third.


Rosslyn, Va.: Given Nick Johnson's contract extension, is Larry Broadway destined to be traded? Have the Nationals given any though to trying him in the OF in hopes of making him for valuable to the Nats as a LH power bat off of the bench?

Barry Svrluga: They consider Broadway a first base prospect, and given Nick Johnson's history of injuries, it'd be good to keep him around for now. But in the longterm: Yes, he might be good trade bait. This team needs to build its minor league system both to produce big leaguers for Washington and to have tradeable commodities to help fill gaps. Broadway could fit in either way.


Chevy Chase, Md.: Did Toronto dramatically improve themselves, or just overspend on a bunch of decent players who were available?

Barry Svrluga: That is one of the best questions in baseball this season. There are a lot of people who thought they overpaid for both B.J. Ryan and A.J. Burnett. But it's possible they both overpaid AND dramatically improved. Can they compete with Boston/New York? That'll be fun to watch.


Alexandria, Va.: It seems there has been more Nats coverage in the Post this spring than last. Will that hold through the season?

And is there any chance that we'll ever get a Sunday Baseball Notes column like every other major league city? If there's no room, how about a Tuesday notes column? a Wednesday notes column?

Barry Svrluga: Good question, Alexandria. I believe our spring coverage has been comparable to last year, and when the Nationals asserted themselves in June and July, we committed more space to them in the latter half of last season.

As for Sunday: We are currently working on a Sunday baseball page that will offer something different every week. It's not likely to resemble the traditional Sunday notes package, but should be a fun way to recap the week that's past and look ahead to the next week. It'll be anchored by Sheinin, but that O's beat writer Jorge What's-his-name and I will both have input. It should be a welcome change for readers.


Herndon, Va.: Barry, did you hit the lights last night just because you couldn't take anymore poor play from the Nats? Was that one of the more wacky things you've seen during a game?

Barry Svrluga: If it had happened during the regular season, I would've thought it was bizarre. But in spring training, anything goes. Gave me a head start back up I-95 to Viera so I was home by 11 instead of 12:30 or so.

(Note to self: Are you starting to get a little too comfortable at your assignment on the road when you start referring to "Via Tuscany" as "home"?)


South Capitol Redevelopment: Here's a Web site with some info on development in the area of the stadium, including a new South Capitol Street bridge:

'Near Southeast' Redevelopment

Barry Svrluga: Thanks for passing that on. That's a big help.


Washington, D.C.: What kind of production can we expect from Zimmerman this year? Eventually, could he be a Scott Rolen-type player who can both put up good offensive numbers and provide a nice glove at the hot corner?

Barry Svrluga: In the long-term, possibly. We know this: He can play great third base right now. But remember, at this time last year, he was a junior at UVa. He's 21. If he were to hit .270 with 15 homers and 70 RBI, that would be just a tremendous year for him. Which is to say -- he could do much worse. His performance in September, while impressive, should not be extrapolated over an entire major league season. Guys will learn how to pitch to him, find holes in his approach, and it'll be up to him to adjust.

But does he have enormous potential? Absolutely.


Fairfax, Va.: Barry-

The design for the new stadium is great! It was worth the wait and all the handwringing and pacing!

Oh, wait- I'm writing this at 9:30, before the mayor unveils the stadium plans. I guess I'm just glad there is going to be a stadium, and that the Nats will play there a long time.

Along those lines, did I mention how much I like the new owner? Proposed Nationals Stadium Design

Barry Svrluga: The new owner's a great guy. Really enjoyed meeting him.

(And then the alarm went off, and I woke up.)


Herndon, Va.: How dire is the National's pitching situation? Any chance of improvement, or of Lawrence returning this season?

Barry Svrluga: How much time do you have, Herndon?

The rotation is very, very questionable. Hernandez is still rehabbing his knee, and we'll see how that goes (shutout through four today). Patterson looks very impressive. After that -- question marks. Armas? Drese? Ortiz? Astacio? Rauch?

Lot of ifs.

The bullpen, once again, should be a strength of the team. But we haven't seen the key guys -- Cordero, Majewski and Ayala -- throw in Grapefruit League games because they've been at the WBC. It's hard to get a handle on the whole thing.


Great Falls, Va.: Barry

I've pre-ordered your book (thanks, Amazon!). When's the book signing party?

Barry Svrluga: Great Falls, you are my hero. Hope you enjoy it.

I'll get dates to you on book signings when they're confirmed. Should be fun.


Greenbelt, Md.: Are you surprised at the kinder and gentler Frank Robinson so far in Spring training? Or is it because he realizes the game results don't really matter because so many players are participating in the WBC?

Barry Svrluga: Good observation. Frank is neither kinder nor gentler. When more cuts are made adn the team needs to start really preparing for the season, he will bring the hammer down if they don't tighten up. He did it last year with about 10 days left in spring training. Expect nothing less this time around.


Washington, D.C.: Is Watson going to make the team? I know it's a big questions, but I want to hear what you think. Is he better than Endy was? Seriously ... who else can hit leadoff? Church/Byrd? Those guys aren't leadoff hitters. Hasn't Watson effectively already been given this job?

Barry Svrluga: Watson hasn't been given it -- yet. But is he better than Endy Chavez? I'd say yes. For one thing, management and the coaching staff believes he listens and adjusts better, which was one of Chavez's major problems.

(By the way, did anyone see Endy's three-run shot for Venezuela last night? Many people here noted that he'll now get even more obsessed with hitting for power instead of acting like a leadoff man.)

But one thing that could affect Watson's future is the fact that he has options remaining, and the Nationals could send him to the minors without using him. Church, too, has options, but he seems like a major league hitter. Byrd doesn't have any options left, and they'd risk losing him if they sent him down.


new ballpark dimensions: Barry,

Overall, I like the OF distances in the new ballpark, but might 370 to the RF power alley be a little short? 377 to the LF power alley looks fine, though, as do the distances down the lines and to dead center.

We want the Nats to have a ballpark that is fair to both hitters and pitchers and not a launching pad like the Phillies' new home. I'm afraid that the RF power ally isn't deep enough.

Barry Svrluga: The right field alley in Philly is actually something like 355, not 370, and is ridiculously short. They mislabelled it.

We have no idea what air currents will be like in the new park, either. But it strikes me as fair.


Anonymous: Soriano also would more vehemently decline playing shortstop (he did when he was with the Rangers) than outfield.

Barry Svrluga: Thanks anonymous.


Fairfax Station, Va.: Baseball parks should lack symmetry. Just as games have no time limit (except some curfews), the parks should be more free-flowing. This park is too neat -- like a football stadium.

Barry Svrluga: Another comment.


Rockville, Md.: Barry,

It's great reading the stories you and the rest of the sportswriting team put into the daily paper. However, you in particular whet our appetites last spring with freqent postings on the Nationals Journal. Two, three or more a day. Whether meaty pieces on the players or Panera fluff, we got contstant and fun updates.

Now all we are getting are videos. I don't care about the panda cub. What gives? Will you consider/be able to post some items?

Barry Svrluga: Asked and answered, Rockville, but with the way the spring coverage worked out, we just didn't have time for me and Dave Sheinin to work on Nats Journal. We had some dedicated staffers from doing it for a while, but they have since headed back north.

For now, I'll concentrate on putting interesting stories in the paper, and maybe we'll bring back the Journal next season.


Kill Devil Hills, N.C.: Hey Barry; I see a potential wind tunnel with the Nationals park opening toward the Northwest and the Southeast cantilevered(sp)seating area. It is a straight line for wind with no difference in place to deflect it. Better check the wind patterns.

Barry Svrluga: Have you ever felt a breeze in August in D.C.?

Me neither.


Lost Springs, WY: What am I missing here? Mr. Robinson: "Welcome back to spring training Alfonso. Report to LF." Alfonso: "Yessir Mr. Robinson." End of discussion.

Barry Svrluga: They'd love for that to happen. They'd love it. But the only problem to this point is that the "Yessir, Mr. Robinson" has been more like a "I'm not doing that."


Barry Svrluga: Okay, folks, tons of questions left, and I just can't get to them. Have to get back to real work. Still scoreless in the bottom of the fifh here in Viera. The Nationals split squad guys are beating up on the Marlins in Jupiter, 4-0.

Enjoy the rest of the day, and look forward to a piece on the Nationals' minor league system in tomorrow's Post.

See you soon.


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