Tuesday, May 1, Noon ET

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Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 1, 2007; 12:00 PM

Washington Post national baseball writer Dave Sheinin was online Tuesday, May 1 at noon ET to take your questions and comments from around the major leagues.

A transcript follows.

Discussion Archive

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Dave Sheinin: Hi, everyone, and welcome to another baseball chat. Oh, and happy May Day. Quite an opening month for baseball, no? Another steroids scandal, the Yankees in disarray, Barry Bonds surging towards Aaron's record, Matsuzaka looking very mediocre (but the Red Sox still looking great), the Brewers in first place, the Nationals. . . well, about where you'd expect them to be, I suppose. Current pace: 56-106. (Amazing, though, isn't it, that three of their nine wins have been against John Smoltz, Cole Hamels and Jake Peavy? The Nats, quite clearly, are the kings of the reverse lock.) Anyway, all of those subjects and more are open for discussion today. . . So let's get started. . .

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Washington, D.C.: Do you believe casual baseball fans care deeply about the steroid issue? Steroids seems to be an, excuse me, "inside baseball" issue. MLB is just sports entertainment - nothing more. Right?

Dave Sheinin: Right off the bat... a steroids question. I believe that casual FOOTBALL and BASKETBALL fans don't care one bit about the steroids issue, but I believe BASEBALL fans do. Why? Because baseball records are sacred. Very few people could tell you what the NFL record is for most passing yards or rushing yards in a season or a career, or what is the NBA record for points in a season or a career. But everyone knows the records for home runs in a season and a career. There is no more important number in sports than 755, and if the guy about to break that record is a steroids-user, I think baseball fans care about that -- as well they should.

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Crownsville, Md.: How can a team with Leo Mazzone as pitching coach lead the major leagues in walks, by something like 20-30 walks if I remember correctly? No wonder their games last so long. I say bring back Earl Weaver and make him read them the riot act. That should stop their generosity for at least a couple games!

Dave Sheinin: Through last night's games, the Nationals (123) and Orioles (121) rank first and second in the majors in walks issued. Both teams have walked more than twice as many batters as the Reds (55). Yikes. That's ugly. As for Mazzone, the people who speak of him as some sort of genius forget that there were three good reasons for his success in Atlanta: John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux.

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Alexandria, Va.: By my calculation the Nats will win 1/3rd of their games, giving them 54 wins and 108 losses. Would you say more or less wins?

Dave Sheinin: I'm sticking with 57-105. I guess that makes me an optimist.

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Severna Park, Md.: Dave, I may be the only person who is not paid to do so who has seen at least part of every Orioles' home game this season. (I didn't stay until the final out when it was raining or freezing or both). And I continue to be baffled by their lack of fundamental skills: not covering a base, throwing to the wrong base, base-running gaffes, and more. Don't they practice stuff like this in spring training? Hey, guys, you're in the major leagues! I had high hopes a couple weeks ago but they seem to have crashed even earlier than usual this year. Dang.

Old geezer in section 338

Dave Sheinin: Hey, Severna Park. That's some serious dedication on your part. Sorry you're not getting better baseball for your money. Not sure what to make of the Orioles' lack of fundamentals. Sam Perlozzo has always been a stickler for that sort of thing. But plenty of old-timers around the game will tell you that fundamentals have slipped across the board.

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East Lansing, Mich.: So far, which team is the biggest surprise on the winning side? Which is the biggest flop?

Dave Sheinin: Most people would pick the Brewers as the biggest surprise team of the first month, but actually they've been on the verge of a breakthrough for awhile now, so I'll go with the Giants at 13-11. When I saw them on Opening Day in S.F., they looked incredibly old and tired, and Barry Zito looked terrible. But now, their rotation seems so solid, they don't even have room for Tim Lincecum, who has something like a 0.29 ERA at Triple-A.

As for the biggest flop? Definitely the Yankees. Even though they were in this position a couple of years ago and still managed to turn it around, that kind of thing can never be expected to happen again. Sure, they may end up with Roger Clemens by the end of this month, or early June. But what is he going to give them in the AL East? Probably six innings every fifth night, and a 4.00 ERA. They're in trouble.

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Washington, D.C.: Imploding closers -- e.g. Rivera, Hoffman, Cordero -- any reason they won't return to form?

Dave Sheinin: Funny you should ask this. We're going to take a look at this on our Sunday baseball page this week. It's incredibly hard to find an excellent, durable closer these days. The shelf-life seems to be about three years. In fact, Hoffman and Rivera are the ones who have bucked the trend -- by being excellent over a long period of time. Most of the others (Lidge, Gagne, Cordero) put up great numbers for a year or three and then disappear.

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Racine, Wisc.: So, my Brewers in first place. Do you think that's because they're good, or because the division is so bad? Will they still be there come September?

Dave Sheinin: Can I say both? I mean, they've got as good a young core of talent as exists in baseball (with the possible exceptions of Arizona and Tampa Bay), and Suppan was a tremendous signing. So I like them a lot, but it's also true that this is an exceedingly weak division -- so weak, in fact, that I found myself picking the Cubs to win it before the season started. What an idiot.

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Alexandria, Va.: Sorry for another steroid question. With all the potential legal jeopardy and media grief that Bonds is now going through, can he still be using steroids as we speak? If so, how does he not get caught? If not, and he's now hitting a ton, what does that say about all the speculation about tainted home run records?

Dave Sheinin: It's difficult to address this question in the limited forum we have here. So this will be a simplistic answer. But yes... players can still be using performance-enhancing drugs. Many experts have pointed out the loopholes in baseball's testing. And it is also well-known that baseball does not test for human growth hormone.

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20009: Dave, can we start a contest? Let's see who can come up with the most creative suggestion for how fans can protest when Bonds hits No. 756. My entry -- the fans in attendance that day maintain absolute silence as he rounds the bases. No cheering, no booing, just total quiet.

Dave Sheinin: I like this. I like it a lot.... Anyone else?

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University Park, Md,: Regarding the steroids issue, it is clear that Bonds is going to break Aaron's record, and soon. Nobody has proven Bonds has taken steroids, therefore, the record will be his (until ARod or Pujols break it). Having said that, I think it just makes baseball "records" that much more interesting to discuss. Yes, Aaron hit 755 and Ruth hit 714, but those were distinctly different eras. Bonds may set the record, but in this era of cheap home runs, Aaron and Ruth will still be the kings in the eyes of many fans.

Dave Sheinin: I like your look-on-the-brightside argument. But here's the problem: Many people feel those Ruth and Aaron records are sacred, and they feel personally insulted by Bonds's assault on them. (And to be fair, it isn't just Bonds -- it's McGwire and Sosa and others.) So if Bonds breaks this record (and I'm still saying IF, as opposed to WHEN, because there are still a couple of active investigations out there that could bring him down), a lot of people are going to feel very icky about it.

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Washington, D.C.: It seems every year we give the Last Rites to the Yankees, and every year, they fight their way back. As their starting pitches come off the DL, why can't they be close to the division lead by the All-Star break?

Dave Sheinin: I know, I know, I know... In 2005, they were something like 11-19 and then their season was saved by Shawn Chacon and Aaron Small. And yes, they get Mussina back this week, and they'll keep Phil Hughes around, and they might get Clemens. And they might score 1,000 runs. But I have questions about how good Mussina, Hughes and Clemens will be this season. And then there are the questions about the bullpen, which is already torched.

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Md.: Dave -- great article on Sunday.

Question- what current players are your favorites to

watch?

Dave Sheinin: Thanks. Off the top of my head, favorite players to watch: Grady Sizemore, Jose Reyes, Felix Hernandez.

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Baton Rouge, La.: What's your methodology behind the claim that baseball fans "care" if players used steroids? Attendance is through the roof, particularly when the Giants are in town.

And in case you've forgotten, the only drug test Bonds failed was for amphetamines, the same drug Aaron admitted to taking in his autobiography. If Bonds is tainted, then so too is the Hammer.

Dave Sheinin: Obviously, when it was a generalization to say baseball fans care about their records. But it's one I feel comfortable making. As for your implication that Bonds must have never taken steroids because he never failed a test, that's incredibly naive. Read "Game of Shadows."

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Anonymous: In a way, I root for Bonds. The chickens have come home to roost for MLB, which benefited by the spike in home runs. And we know that home run hitters were/are not the only players who used/use performance-enhancing drugs.

Dave Sheinin: This is a very, very legitimate stance. There are plenty of people who would agree that MLB is getting what it deserved.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Dave-

Are the O's kicking themselves for trading away John Maine yet? What happened to him? It can't all be attributed to pitching in the NL, can it?

Looking back, I'd still make that trade though. Unless you knew Benson would get hurt. Same with the Jaret Wright deal and the Sammy Sosa deal. Those trades have not worked out, but they were all worthwhile gambles.

Dave Sheinin: Absolutely, the Orioles wish they still had John Maine. I think baseball sometimes get carried away with "stuff." Maine's stuff is fairly ordinary, and in his brief call-ups with the Orioles, he got hit hard. So they essentially gave up on him at the age of 24, and it has come back to haunt them.

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RE: Rockin' Leo: Good point about Mazzone. The "Big 3" made him look awfully smart all those years in Atlanta, but in fairness to the man, a lot of guys had career rejuvenations under his tutelage. Just sayin...

Dave Sheinin: Fair point.

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Bowie, Md.: When do you think Bonds will hit number 756?

Dave Sheinin: I don't know, but I'd bet my life savings that, one way or another, he will make sure it happens in San Francisco. For poetic justice, I'd love to see him hit No. 756 in Milwaukee, Bud Selig's hometown, when the Giants are there June 18-20.

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Washington, D.C.: Manny Acta says nothing in baseball frustrates him. Well, he must not be watching the same team I'm watching. Dave, please share some logical reasons why the Nats will improve. They are EMBARRASSING.

Dave Sheinin: I wish I could help you, but this team as presently constructed is not going to improve greatly this season. Everyone could see what was coming, and now it's here. But I'll stress again that wins and losses in 2007 is nowhere near as important as the process of identifying a handful of players who are worth hanging onto as the rebuilding moves forward. Jason Bergmann is one example. A month ago, no one was viewing him as part of the future here.

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Washington, D.C.: Dave, how does baseball get past this steroids thing? It's May -- let's talk baseball, not drugs.

For the Nats, Shawn Hill and Jason Bergmann have been great. Young pitchers like them and Maine and Pittsburgh's ace (forgot his name) should be our focus.

Dave Sheinin: Believe me, I'm with you. But I'm afraid the steroids story is now going away. If anything, it's gaining speed.

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Section 213, Row 12: Shiner,

For all the Doom and Gloomers out there, note that the Nats finished April 2007 with 9 wins; this is one more win than in 2006.

I might remind the folks that the Nats did not set a record for losses last season, and they won't this season. After a 1-8 start, our Nats have gone 8-8.

Also, note that the Nats nine victories are the same as the Yankees nine victories, for about $150 million less.

Dave Sheinin: Excellent points, all around. Thanks.

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Washington, D.C.: The Yankees need pitching, and the Nationals need to save money; any chance the Yankees will go after Patterson or another pitcher close to arbitration, and any chance the Nats will listen?

Dave Sheinin: I'm sure the Yankees will be looking for pitching this summer, but I doubt they see Patterson as a good fit there.

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RFK Section 502: To the suggestion: "Let's see who can come up with the most creative suggestion for how fans can protest when Bonds hits No. 756."

I'd suggest that any fan sitting in the outfield seats at any game where Bonds might hit 756 should come equipped with a black indelible marking pen. If the fan should wind up with the ball, use the marker to write "cheater" on the ball, then ship it to Cooperstown.

Dave Sheinin: Another good one... Not sure Cooperstown would put it on display, but still...

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Portsmouth, N.H.: in addition to total silence when Bonds breaks the record, who about also turning around and facing away from him as he rounds those bases...

Thanks, Dave, love your work.

Dave Sheinin: Thanks.

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Washington, D.C.: Did you see that Todd Helton got on base 6-6 the other day? 1 hit and 5 walks. Amazing.

Dave Sheinin: That is amazing. What's also amazing is the "event finder" tool at baseball-reference.com, which I just used to learn that Helton's feat (6 plate appearances, 1 hit and 5 walks) had occurred exactly six previous times in history, most recently by Frank Thomas in 1996.

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Washington, D.C.: Hey Dave. Love your work. In Tim Kurkjian's ESPN magazine column, he had what seemed like a throw away line that I wanted your reaction to. He said that Chipper Jones was an absolute Hall of Famer. Do you agree? Jones's average is the same as George Brett, according to Kurkjian. I agree that Jones merits strong HOF consideration but a lock? This may be a case of a player being so good so consistently on a consistently good team that we tend to forget how great a player Chipper is. What do you think?

Dave Sheinin: Hmmm. I'm going to have to disagree. Chipper has had a great career, and I'd consider him to be a borderline Hall of Famer, but certainly not a lock. You can't compare his stats to Brett's because they played in different eras.

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Laurel, Md.: Dave Sheinin: "I don't know, but I'd bet my life savings that, one way or another, he will make sure it happens in San Francisco. For poetic justice, I'd love to see him hit No. 756 in Milwaukee, Bud Selig's hometown, when the Giants are there June 18-20."

NO NO NO!!!!!

That's where my mother went to her first Major League game and saw a rookie named Hank Aaron.

Dave Sheinin: Sorry, Laurel, but the idea of Bonds breaking Aaron's record right there in Bud's hometown is just too delicious to pass up. It won't happen, mind you, but a man can dream, can't he?

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It is April: Okay, I guess it is now May. Why does every single person need to stress that the Yankees are stinking it up?

Who cares, everyone and their mother knows that they will be at the top at the end of the 74 months that the season is. And that B-more will be at the bottom.

Any chance that MLB shortens the season ever or at least implements a salary cap to make it so the same four teams don't go to the playoffs every year?

Dave Sheinin: Salary cap? No. But shortening the schedule is an intriguing idea that baseball has at least explored, though not for the reason you mentioned. Lots of people in the game want to see the first round of the playoffs expanded from 5 games to 7 games, but this is almost impossible without a) pushing the postseason well into November (where there are weather issues), or b) shortening the season to 154 games again. The problem is, the owners would never agree to it, because they'd be losing money in the deal.

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All that money...: any insights on why Soriano has yet to homer this season?

Dave Sheinin: Obviously, he has been affected by the move from an extreme pitchers' park to an extreme hitters' park.

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George Mason University: Dave,

Back to Bonds. IF he does break the record and a few months/weeks later the feds nail him, can MLB do anything about the record? Better question -- will they do anything?

Dave Sheinin: Great question. Obviously, it would be much easier and cleaner to deal with Bonds's records BEFORE the fact, as opposed to after.

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Gainesville, Va.: Pretend for a disappointing moment you're an O's fan. Do you take heart that they haven't really hit, haven't gotten many IP out of their SP and are still only 2 games under .500 or do you concede defeat and accept this is what the team is this year?

Dave Sheinin: I'd be feeling pretty good right now if I were an Orioles fan. The team has come nowhere close to playing its best baseball yet, and as you point out they're still in the thick of it. If this is indeed a down year for the Yankees, this is the year for the Orioles to make a big, go-for-it move at the trade deadline.

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RFK, Section 308: Discounting the weather, what are your thoughts about the decline in attendance, and more specifically the lowered season ticket holder base? Is marketing the weak link of the Nationals?

Dave Sheinin: I don't think there's any reason to be concerned about the attendance right now. These things are very simple: Put a good product on the field, and people will come. Next year, in the new stadium, will be a better test, and 2009 (once the honeymoon is over for the new stadium) will be an even better test than that.

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Croton-on-Hudson, NY: What's all these wailing about the sanctity of the record book?

It's a list of numbers and events that happened! It's not a Holy Book! It's not a book of moral judgement!

If a cheating jerk owns the record, a cheating jerk owns the record. Does that make him less of a cheating jerk?

Dave Sheinin: All I can tell you is that these things matter to a great number of baseball fans.

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Dave Sheinin: OK, folks. My time is up. Thanks for the great questions. See you next time.

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