Wednesday, June 27, 1 p.m. ET

The Washington Nationals

Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 27, 2007; 1:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Barry Svrluga was online Wednesday, June 27, at 1 p.m. ET to take your questions and comments about the 2007 Nationals.

The transcript follows.

Svrluga covers the Nationals beat for The Post and writes the Nationals Journal blog for He's also the author of "National Pastime: Sports, Politics, and the Return of Baseball to Washington, D.C."

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Discussion Archive


Barry Svrluga: Greetings, folks. You'll never guess where this chat is coming at you from (old-school Nationals Journal people unite): The Panera Bread at the Lenox Square Mall in Atlanta. Why? Well, to confess, I'm not getting lunch here. Just a large iced tea. But they have free wireless.

Just waited in line behind Ronnie Belliard at Macy's. Thirty minutes I'll never get back, as he bought half the store.

Plenty to discuss. Let's chat.


Minneapolis: Barry,

I hate to keep being the "Who's going to play this position when..." guy, but if Guzman is indeed out for the year, who will fill in at second (or short) if/when Belliard is traded?

Jimenez? Castro? Abernathy? Svrluga?

Barry Svrluga: An interesting question, Mpls. I am a left-handed thrower (but a right-handed writer (don't ask)), so am not very adept at playing shortstop.

They will make due, calling up someone like Bernie Castro or playing Jimenez or something like that. But I'll also add this: I'm no longer certain they'll trade Belliard. There is some thinking that the club couldn't find a more valuable utility man -- can play all four infield positions -- and he might be a good piece to have on a contending team (ask the Cardinals). Could they work out a two- or three-year deal that wouldn't be too expensive?

Not saying that's going to happen. But it's occurred to me the more I watch the guy.


Arlington, Va.: Nats All-Star: Da Meathook. End of discussion?

What about the O's? Guthrie?

Barry Svrluga: Yeah, I think that's the end of the discussion. Since May 17, Dmitri Young is hitting .436. As Austin Kearns said to me the other night, "It's a joke." One thing to consider: It's not like this guy's beating out a lot of bunt singles. Every single one of those hits is legit.

I'm going to mine the Young story more prior to the all-star break. It's really quite a tale.


Washington, D.C.: Why move Lopez back to shortstop? Why not leave him at second and play Belliard or Jimenez at short?

Barry Svrluga: Because he has been a shortstop for most of his career, and as well as Belliard plays defensively at second, he doesn't have the range to play short every single day.

Jimenez? The guy hit .368, I believe, in the minors. He has one hit in 16 at-bats in the majors, and is 0 for 14 as a pinch hitter. He hasn't earned regular time.


Presidents Race Conspiracy: Wow, Barry, I was at the game Saturday night when TJ face planted about 3 times during the race. It looked unscripted. And the bandage seen on TJ's nose the next day for Sunday's race was a nice touch.

But the reason I write is about TR. Hasn't won a race yet. Isn't going to win one this year, either. My bet is that Teddy's first curly W will be opening day in the new stadium next year. Am I onto something?

Barry Svrluga: I, too, was at the Saturday night game in the stands, and I can assure you that Thomas Jefferson's face-plant in the Presidents Race was not scripted.

Teddy Roosevelt is having some serious problems. I know they've talked to him about his offseason conditioning, and he showed up in Viera during spring training to work out a bit. He didn't win a race last year. He hasn't won this year. I have heard whispers that he's not focused. But I really don't know the guy.

I think it'd take a lot of offseason work for him to be ready to win Opening Day.


Silver Spring, Md.: I don't understand the Nats' infatuation with Nook Logan. He's a one-tool player (runs fast). That's it. That's the list (in honor of T.K.) I mean, Darrell Green probably still runs fast too, but like Nook, doesn't have any baseball skills. That play at third base the other night was my last straw. How can the team honestly think this guy can be a legitimate big league player?

Barry Svrluga: You have echoed a lot of what has been said by those around the team lately. That one tool, speed, is what makes him intriguing. But he hasn't shown that he can use it on a baseball field to much positive effect.

That said, the Nationals aren't contending, they aren't going to contend this year, and they would rather hang on to Logan and see if he can capture anything while also hanging on to Brandon Watson, albeit in the minors.

Would I be surprised if Logan was gone in the next month, week, day? No. But I also understand why they kept him for the time being.


Barry at shortstop?: Everyone knows Barry "3-hole" Svrluga plays first base and manages. Watch out Manny.

Barry Svrluga: A weekly chatter, obviously. I'm still juggling personalities on our Post sports staff baseball team. Man, the egos.


ref: 2B & SS: Would be nice to have Jamie Carrol back! How's he doing this year anyway?? I feel bad for Guz...

Barry Svrluga: Ah, Jamey Carroll. It's amazing what a warm spot Washington fans have for him.

I'm sorry to report, however, that Carroll is struggling for the Rockies these days. He isn't playing much, and he's hitting .200 with just a .314 OBP in 48 games. He did sign a two-year, $4 million contract in the offseason, so for a guy who was close to giving up the game three years ago, that's tremendous. But after hitting .300 in 136 games a year ago, it's been a bit tough.


Walking distance to RFK, Washington, D.C.: When Flores is catching, who calls the game? Does Jesus call it, Schneider from the bench or another coach?

Barry Svrluga: Flores calls it. He's more likely to be shaken off by pitchers than Schneider, but Manny Acta said the other day that they haven't had to have one conversation with him about the way he goes about game-calling. It's one of the reasons they're high on him.


Screechtown: Have you ever figured out why Screech doesn't take off his hat during the anthem? Or better yet, whatever happened to that loon who was obsessed with it?

Barry Svrluga: Not going there. Never going there again. Please move on.


Fairfax, Va.: So we traded Jermaine Van Buren to the A's. This means:

1. Beane won't go Krivsky on us because Snelling got hurt soon after we traded him to the A's, and

2. Bowden flipped another scrap-heap acquisition.

The question is who we are getting. Despite the denials, could it be the recently released Milton Bradley?

Barry Svrluga: No, I have been told that it's not Milton Bradley. I was told when Bradley was designated for assignment last week that the Nationals were not interested in him.

I think it's more likely that it'll be someone we've never/rarely heard of. (Right now, that deal is for the "player to be named.")


REF: Teddy R: Is it true that Teddy R is out of options and that's the reason he's still up here? They should give his cousin, Franklin a chance. I hear he has some wheels!

Barry Svrluga: Easy on the wheels jokes with FDR, my friend.

Teddy is, indeed, out of options.


Watson's tall, double shot, skinny, soy foam vanilla latte: Watson provided a spark for the Nats. Yet the Nats demoted him and retained the incompetent Logan.

Barry, do you sense this move could backfire in the clubhouse? Could players resent a good performance going unrewarded?

Barry Svrluga: I don't think so. As I mentioned in the Journal, some players wouldn't care if Logan moved on. But they also understand that this is a business, and a big part of the business as it pertains to roster moves is whether a guy has options remaining or not. As I've said, the Nationals want to collect pieces. Who knows? Maybe, in August after the trade deadline, a contender will need a pinch runner/defensive replacement, and they'll give the Nationals a bag of balls and a fungo bat for Logan.

Don't read Washington's keeping Logan, though, as a belief that they think he's the long-term solution in center field.


Cheap seat lover, Md.: In last week's online chat you stated, "In general, a team's best prospects aren't at Class AAA, but rather at Class AA." While I believe you, it seems counterintuitive. Please explain. Luv the journal!

Barry Svrluga: Yes, it is a bit counterintuitive. But Class AAA has now become a place where you stash a lot of guys who have appeared in the majors, guys you might call up when there's an injury who might make the adjustment more quickly (Jimenez, Restovich, Batista, etc.). You don't want to be moving your top prospects -- like a 20-year-old Collin Balester -- back and forth to the majors. When you bring them up, you want them to stick.

The Nationals do have some prospects at Class AAA Columbus (Casto, Emiliano Fruto, now John Lannan), but in general the young prospects would remain in the Class AA Eastern League.


Oakland, Calif.: Why weren't the Nats interested in Milton Bradley? Not toolsy enough? They're cheap?

Barry Svrluga: Attitude/off-field problems/character. That's what I was told. He was, however, long ago part of the Expos chain, and Brian Schneider was his roommate in the minors. Schneider really likes him. They got along back then. But there's a lot of water under the bridge since then.


Re: Best Interest of the Game: The Nats are giving away Teddy bobbleheads on Sept. 1. There's a nasty rumor going around (well, in my head) that the fix is in and Teddy will win that day. If that happens and the race is rigged for Teddy, then how can any little kid believe in the integrity of the Huge Headed Presidents' Race ever again? Say it ain't so Teddy. Think of the children.

Barry Svrluga: George bobbleheads on July 4 against the Cubs.

I get the feeling, though, that this team will seem more legitimate if/when they start giving out bobbleheads of actual players.


Rockville, Md.: Barry, any idea if the Lerners are planning a logo/uniform change for next year? I want to get a Zimmerman jersey, but the Nats' current threads look exactly like a last minute rush job approved by a man who would do something stupid like declare a tie because two teams ran out of pitchers.

Barry Svrluga: I will look into this more, but thus far I have been told that there are no dramatic reconfigurations coming. They are going to emphasize the Curly W more in the new park than the interlocking DC. But I'll double check that one. I know people are interested.


Washington, D.C.: Did Zimmerman's moon shot at RFK do strange things to his approach at the plate? If he had a more compact swing, wouldn't he still be able to hit almost as many home runs (although they would land in the bullpen rather than by the yellow seats) and, more importantly, sharply increase his doubles production and overall batting average? Yes, I know the old saying about long ball, but Zimmerman strikes me today as being a much less effective player than he could be.

Barry Svrluga: This is really one of the interesting questions about the team right now. Zimmerman's current power numbers translate to 25 homers and 88 RBI, which is respectable for a 22-year-old being asked to hit third on a team with very little offensive weaponry. But more concerning is his recent inability to lay off bad pitches and take walks. His OBP of .298 is way, way off his .351 of last year. I really expected his OBP would go UP this season, not fall off precipitously. His last walk came June 13 in Baltimore. He hasn't had a multi-hit game since June 16 in Toronto.

That said, keep in mind that this guy is not only 22, but he's being asked to be the guy around which the lineup turns. When David Wright was 22 for the Mets, they could hide him in a lineup that included other studs. Zimmerman doesn't have that luxury. It'll be a test of his mental toughness to stay afloat this season.


VIenna, Va.: Barry,

Is there not enough interest in the product on the field to take real questions?

Barry Svrluga: Vienna:

If you're interested in the product on the field, why ask this one?

We've got 34 minutes to go. Plenty of time for all comers. I'm chopping wood here, man.


Arlington, Va.: I was in awe of the Lopez/Zimmerman double play in the first last night. Talk of a play sucking the air out of a team as early as possible. Are plays like this called from the dugout or are the players freelancing?

Barry Svrluga: Called from the dugout? No, no. Third base coach Tim Tolman sent Lopez home, and Matt Diaz threw him out. Just being aggressive. I don't think that was a big deal.

The big deal was Zimmerman getting thrown out at third. Though some replays appeared to show he was safe, the larger issue is that he shouldn't have tried to go. He took the bat out of Kearns's hands in a situation that would have been two outs, runners on first and second. He knows he made a mistake.

But yes, it did suck the life out of the offense.


Tysons: Hey Barry -

What's the outlook on Langerhans? How much longer do the Nationals have control of him? What do they think of him so far? Does he figure into "the plan"? He's nothing flashy, but there's something about him that appeals to a lot of fans (myself included) it seems.

Barry Svrluga: I think he could be part of "The Plan" (I know, Stan, there's no capitals on "the plan" because it's so flexible, but it's still fun). He could be a fifth outfielder, left-handed pinch hitter, and really good defensive replacement.


Washington, D.C.: Barry - What the heck is wrong with Lopez and Kearns? We keep hearing that they are keepers, well, quite frankly, if this is all they have to offer then don't they need to be included in trade discussions?

Barry Svrluga: This is a really, really important question. Lopez and Kearns were acquired last year because Bowden believed in their ability long term. Acta was asked about it last night, and he basically said, "We expect better." Those two players, too, expect better. I've talked to both of them about it in recent days.

Lopez: .237 average, stunning .284 OBP. Why do the Nationals think he'll be better? Because prior to this season, he was a .262 hitter with a .333 OBP. I like him better at second base than I do at shortstop, where he'll play the rest of the year.

Kearns: The .254 average isn't shocking to me. He should probably hit 10-15 points higher, but he could still do that. The shocking thing: 26 RBI from the guy who hits fifth every day. He's hitting .243 with runners in scoring position.

I think they're both better than what they're showing, but I think they are also PIECES of a good team, not guys around which the lineup will turn. If Kearns is your sixth hitter, then you've got a pretty good lineup.


Washington, D.C.: Barry -- I'm going to miss Dmitri so much more than when Soriano left. Why does management insist on bringing players in here that we can get so attached to just have them gone in a year or less? It's best never to have loved, than to have loved and lost, right???

Barry Svrluga: Not if you could end up loving the prospects Young would bring in return. Don't get me wrong: Dmitri is a great story, and just imagine the lineup without him. (Shudder.) But Nick Johnson -- remember him? -- is the incumbent first baseman, and he's signed through 2009. I don't think they'll do what they did with Soriano, keeping Young past the trade deadline. That's just the harsh reality of building a team -- you have to part with people fans have grown to like.


Barry Svrluga: Dave Jageler of WTWP just joining me here at Panera. I might bounce a thing or two off him.


West Alexandria, I guess: Is Randy St. Claire one of the best pitching coaches in baseball?

Also, is it just me, or do the Nats seem to get a good first start or two out of pitchers who have just arrived and then nothing else out of them? I'm thinking Ryan Drese, Mike Bascik, etc.

Barry Svrluga: I don't know that I know enough to say that St. Claire is one of the best. But I do know the Nationals like him, and I haven't ever discussed anything with a pitcher on the Nationals who has said anything bad about him. They love that he's willing to work at any time -- early in the afternoon, coming in on an off day for a side session, whatever's necessary.

But there is the possibility that the guy's only as good as his material.


Zimmerman hates the Plan: That is why the PLAN is so risky..Please comment on how Lopez, Kearns, Zim have been hurt by the cost-cutting. I have seen others never recover from morale-busting seasons like this one will be for them all.

Barry Svrluga: We'll see. I think Zimmerman really buys into the plan. So does Kearns. Lopez is harder to read. But I don't think this is all wearing on those guys. They knew what they were getting into, and they look to teams like the Tigers and think it can happen in Washington. Of course there are no guarantees, but they can hope.


Rip Off?!? (McLean, Va.): I just noticed the other day the the Curly W is strangely similar to the "W" in Walgreens... I can't look at either without thinking that anymore!

Barry Svrluga: I noticed that as well. Maybe they can get their prescriptions there. Lord knows they need them.


Richmond, Va.: D-Young has a history of "character" issues, right? So did Jose Guillen. Both players seem/seemed okay in D.C. True? Is Jose acting up in Seattle?

Also, is it just a matter of time before D-Young is traded? Who is showing interest?

Finally -- how long do you give the Langerhans Leadoff Experiment?

Barry Svrluga: Guillen had his moments -- both good and bad -- in D.C. He really had a way of making everything about him in the clubhouse, and seemed to have an inflated sense of his own ability. I found him highly amusing, but then again, I wasn't his teammate.

He has acted up a couple times in Seattle, challenging old friend Brendan Donnelly of the Red Sox to a fight. Par for the course, really.

My money's on Young to be traded. (Pretend money, obviously, as there's no gambling in baseball.)


Alexandria, Va.: Oooh ooooh ask Jag his take on Slowes's call of Nook's blunder. Please please.

Barry Svrluga: Couple questions on this. Jageler says: "I thought he captured the emotions of Nationals' fans at that moment perfectly."

We'll move on. It was quite a call.


Minneapolis: Please tell Dave that the work he and Charlie do is comparable to the amazing work you do - and that's about as high a compliment as I can give. I pay $15 a month for MLB.TV, and I still find myself listening to the radio feed more often than not. We may have our problems on the field, but with Barry, Charlie, and Dave, we absolutely feel like we have a first-class team.

Barry Svrluga: Jageler: "Thanks dad."

Seriously, thanks for the support.


Crystal City, Va.: Fick in the booth was great to hear, but on the radio he mentioned Andruw Jones as a future Hall of Famer. Is there a second tier of the Hall that I haven't seen? That makes about as much sense as keeping Nook on the roster. You know why they are keeping him around right? Because all winter they showed off him and O'Connor as the Nationals Caravan. Someone has to stick around...

Barry Svrluga: Good point about the Caravan. They need O'Connor and Nook for another winter.

A. Jones: He's still young enough to make a run at the Hall, no doubt. But he can't do it hitting .197. Wow. (Guy still kills the Nationals. Fifteen homers since 2005, more than any other player.)


H Street NE: Hey Barry,

Love the chats. Kind of a random question but, in all your interactions with baseball players, do you feel that they are inherently more level-headed and grounded than a lot of other professional athletes (basketball and baseball come to mind)? MLB just doesn't seem to have a lot of the off the field issues that some other sports have? Thanks and make sure to visit the Coca-Cola factory.

Barry Svrluga: Thanks H St.

I like the day-to-day interactions with players because it's so regular, you're just part of the fabric. There's a rhythm to this whole sport that's different than others I've covered (basketball, football, NASCAR (if you can believe that)). Each baseball game is just a mini-chapter, and guys have to be level-headed if they're going to wake up and play another one the next day. Each football game is a major event. I wouldn't make a blanket statement that they're more grounded. It's just different.


WWW: or like the W in the popular northeastern market Wegmans. People often think I'm employed there when I where my Curly W.

Barry Svrluga: Oh, wow. Wegmans. Any central New Yorkers out there?

(I worked in Corning, N.Y., from 1994-96. Wegmans was basically my grocery store/social outlet. Quite a glamorous life, no?)


Mike Bacsik: Was last night my last start? I'm not very good, and Hanrahan or Fruto could probably do what I'm doing, and they at least have the potential to have futures.

Barry Svrluga: I don't think so, but I think it could be close. Those other guys -- particularly O'Connor -- could be ready soon. The rotation, I think, will be evolving over the next month (to say nothing of the next year).


Bethesda, Md.: Alfonso returns to RFK next week when the Cubs come in for four games...any thoughts on the reception he might get?

Barry Svrluga: I think he'd be warmly received, don't you. He brought great energy every day. He went 40-40, a bit of history. He was just really exciting, and he left for $136 million. Wouldn't you have done the same thing.

I would cheer him. I really would.


Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y.: In your soon to be multiple award-winning blog, Nationals Journal, you alluded to the idea that there are some players on the team who are fed up with Logan too. Is it a lot of them? Just one or two? Can you drop hints of who they are? Maybe initials or a rebus puzzle?

Barry Svrluga: These are private discussions, and though the players don't mind me knowing that stuff, they sometimes don't want their names associated with it. I understand that.


Wegman's: Barry ... if you miss the good old days, they are around here now. Fairfax has one.

Barry Svrluga: I heard that. That's a long way to go from Capitol Hill, but it might be worth it.


Washington, D.C.: I know you said move on, but what was the call? I was at the game and missed it. Please tell Dave that he Charlie do a great job.

Barry Svrluga: I'll pass that on. I know they appreciate hearing it.


The Blogosphere: I don't know how many of the Nats bloggers you follow, but my favorite has been Farid of the Beltway Boys. He hasn't posted for over a month, and before that he mentioned an unspecified health problem. Do you know if he's okay?

Barry Svrluga: I follow quite a few of the blogs, and yes, Farid does a very nice job. I also like Chris at Capitol Punishment. It's really great that a team that's so new has such an active following on-line.


Silver Spring, Md.: Barry, I never thought I'd ever write these words: Guzman goes down and the offense disappears. Does his injury affect the team's thinking about trading Young and Belliard before the deadline? If that happens Bergmann, Bowie, Simontacchi and, hopefully, Hill better start throwing shutouts.

Barry Svrluga: I don't think it changes the overall thinking. There is a plan in place, and it's to build for the future. If they don't feel that those guys will help in 2009, they should trade them and get parts that will be useful.


Barry Svrluga: Folks, as usual, many more questions than time. I appreciate you stopping by. Keep checking Nationals Journal and all our other coverage in the paper and on-line.

Talk to you next week from RFK.


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