Wednesday, July 18, 1 p.m. ET

The Washington Nationals

Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 18, 2007; 1:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Barry Svrluga was online Wednesday, July 18, 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. Thanks for joining me for a little in-game chattage on a Wednesday afternoon. First pitch is still five minutes away for the much-anticipated Jason Bergmann v. Jason Jennings matchup.

More important: It's two weeks to the trade deadline of July 31. Of course, deals can get done after that (as we saw with Livan Hernandez last year), but it's much easier to do it now, when you don't need to pass a player through waivers to trade him. I see there are a lot of Dmitri Young questions, so that might be the theme of today's chat. Let's get going, and I'll try to give you an update or two as the innings slide by.


Glen Echo: Barry

Stan Kasten says that the big spenders, who splurge for the Suites and the other high end seats, keep prices approaching reasonable for regular folks like me who can't afford a $300.00 seat. I'd be interested in knowing, therefore, how the sales/leases are going for the Suites and other high priced seats. Any ideas? Thanks.

Barry Svrluga: This is a good question, and though Kasten doesn't give specific numbers (is he ever specific about anything?), he says sales are going briskly. He really feels like they'll sell out the suites and sell out the high-priced tickets, which will be a huge revenue stream for the club. But it's all a gamble backed by market analysis, and we won't know until the winter, likely, how all that works out.


McPherson Square, D.C.: Is there any concern within the organization that Felipe Lopez may not be the answer at SS? He seems to often play lazily and he lacks the type of high OBP that one would think would be necessary for a speedy player like him.

Barry Svrluga: Indeed, there is some concern about all of that. Keep in mind, the organization would like him to be at second base. I think he's much, much better suited there. But with Guzman's injury, that's not happening right now.

He's in the leadoff spot today, which is a surprise, given that he's 1 for his last 13 and his OBP is down to .293. (Wow.) But they need to get him started somehow, some way, and when Escobar returns (if, if, if, I suppose), then they'll need a leadoff man. He needs to produce more than he is right now.


Dupont Circle: Barry, I haven't heard any mention of Roy Oswalt's appearance last night. I'm assuming it was his day to throw a side session. Could this be a new trend, having starters pitch in certain situations (two outs with runners on was last night's scenario) on their off days? Did anyone ask the Astro's manager about this?

Barry Svrluga: That's exactly what it was. The Astros have an off day, so he had an extra day before his next start and it was, indeed, his "throw" day anyway. A bit odd, to be sure, but he also appeared as a reliever last July.


West Downtown, D.C.: What would be worse: paying Andruw Jones the big bucks in the offseason to come here (and get fatter than he already is) or finding out that the Twins actually DID offer us Matt Garza for Soriano last year?

Barry Svrluga: There are lots of people who believe Jones wouldn't come here, and certainly won't come if the Nationals don't offer the largest check. It'll be an interesting offseason for him, though, because he's performing so poorly this year. If he doesn't turn it around in the second half, will teams want to pay him Soriano-type money? That's certainly what he'll be asking for.

Garza: I can assure you, the Twins did not offer him last year.


20120: Barry,

Is the possibility of Young winding up as a type B free agent affecting Bowden's asking price?

I.e. He walks ala Jose Guillen and we get another sandwich pick.

If this is the case I have no problems with Bowden holding out for a higher return.

Barry Svrluga: This is a very complicated process. The classifications of free agents -- Type A and Type B (w/ Type C now eliminated) -- are determined at the end of the year by the Elias Sports Bureau. Bowden said yesterday that the organization has done some studies and projections, and they feel as if both Young and Belliard would bring compensation if they stayed here the rest of the year but left via free agency.

That, however, hasn't been locked down yet. Bowden also said that his first preference is to keep the players beyond this year (posturing?). Second would be to trade them for "pieces that help us win a world championship." Third would be to take the draft picks as compensation.


Navy Yard: What was up with Nook Logan changing his belt in the middle of the game last night??

Barry Svrluga: Forgot to ask, to be honest. With all the weird stuff that happens here on a daily basis, seemed to be normal.


The District... : Hi Barry,

Walter Johnson pitched his first game for Washington on Aug. 2, 1907; 100 years ago next month! Are there any plans for something to commemorate this? Also, do you think they will honor him and other Washington legends in any way at the new stadium (i.e. statue)?


Barry Svrluga: Yes, I'm well aware of this, and I can tell you that I am planning a story around this event. Can't speak for the club, however. Not sure yet.

Bergmann walks first man, Burke, and then gets the dangerous Hunter Pence to fly to center.


Tel Aviv, Israel: (Temporarily transplanted from Northern Virginia). Washington is, at best, a mediocre baseball town. Always has been, always will be. Nats attendance continues to drop. The answer is NOT to field a Triple-A team, still charge Major League prices, and think it will work because we are all just sooo happy to have baseball back. Despite all the talk of stocking the farm system and the glitzy new ballpark, a few more of these limp, lackluster, last-place finish seasons and this franchise will take on the character of the Senators, circa 1970. Or, maybe the present day Pirates and Royals.

Given Washington's persona as a hyper-competitive political town that lionizes winners and ridicules losers, this team better start winning soon, or their done. There's no such thing as a lovable loser in this cutthroat town.

Barry Svrluga: Greetings, Tel Aviv. I know there are others who feel similarly to you. The Lerner family and Stan Kasten have made large promises about how this team will be run and whether it will produce. They will be held to those high standards over the next several years. But for now, their ownership is still in its infancy (in fact, official transfer anniversary is this weekend), so I think some leeway has been granted.


Barry Svrluga: Bergmann gets out of the first by striking out Berkman and getting Carlos Lee to pop out to -- the pitcher? Yes, he called off Flores.

It's actually dark here now. Clouds seriously out. Tiny, tiny crowd for now. On to the bottom of the first.


Silver Spring, Md.: Do you think Nook Logan will stay with the team the rest of the season? He is my son's favorite player.

Barry Svrluga: Oooh, not sure about that. (And why is he your son's favorite, may I ask?) When Alex Escobar comes back -- perhaps by this weekend, almost certainly next week -- the club will have to make a decision about who to get rid of. There could be a trade between now and then to clear a spot, but if not, Logan will be one of those considered to be sent down/out.

Now raining at RFK. Fairly hard, though the light sky around indicates it's probably a passing shower.


Glen Echo: Barry

Will the Washington Post spring for a Suite at the Nationals Stadium or does it limit that kind of spending to the local team, the Baltimore Orioles??

Barry Svrluga: It is amazing to me that by far -- by far -- the most passionate discussions about baseball in this town surround whether The Post should cover the Orioles. It'd be nice if that same passion was put into discussing ... oh, I don't know, baseball.

(Side note, Glen Echo: You might note that our Orioles reporter, Adam Kilgore, is not with the O's on the West Coast. You would note that this Nationals reporter will be making all the trips with the team, and we would not leave them unattended.)


Silver Spring: Hi Barry. What's the latest on the return of Guzman? Also, I know Johnson's rehab is slow slow slow, but he (like Schneider) are such stalwarts of grit for the team, and I'd think even a September appearance would do wonders for his mates and the fans.

Barry Svrluga: Guzman is almost certainly out till next year. I agree with you on Johnson. I've talked to several teammates about this casually in recent weeks, and they want him to be out there almost as badly as he wants to return.

Johnson received a cortisone shot in his hip earlier in the week and hasn't been able to do lower body work for the past few days. But perhaps the shot will help him get over some of that soreness where he had an incision to insert a rod into his leg. We'll see.


Juggling too: Trade Da Meat Hook and Belly, sign Franco? 1B with a bat and vet leadership....

Barry Svrluga: Ooh, not sure that fits the plan. A 48-year-old guy who, understandably, appears done?


Sec 515 (but not for Day games): What's the deal with Luis Ayala? He looked horrible last night and has been uneven at best.

And please do follow up on the Nook Logan belt story! That was really strange.

Barry Svrluga: I'll check on Nook. Apologies on that.

Ayala: I asked Acta last night if that's the kind of thing we can expect from Ayala as he comes back from ligament replacement surgery. Acta's response was swift: I hope not.

(Alert: Zimmerman has walked. Ryan Zimmerman has drawn a walk.)

Pitching coach Randy St. Claire, however, has said we need to be very cautious about out expectations for Ayala this season. Guys coming back from this surgery feel great for stretches and then, on a random day, just don't have it. Last night might have been one of those moments.

Really coming down now. Dmitri up with two outs and a runner on first.


Game Watching Approach: Hi Barry,

How does a beat reporter watch and analyze a game? Do you discuss things at all with colleagues during the game? Do you watch a game differently when you are off duty and sitting in your seat as a fan?

Barry Svrluga: Absolutely different from the stands and from the press box. You know what's crazy? You can actually watch more closely from the stands.

During a typical game, I'm writing my notebook, maybe transcribing some tape, watching the game, then writing my game story during the final few innings (at least for a night game). It takes away from your ability to focus on every pitch, which you can do as a fan.

Yes, I will discuss things with Boz or Sheinin a lot as we take in a game together, if they're here (as Dave was last night).


Fairfax, Va.: Speaking of Johnson and Dmitri: I have read a number of columns which describe Zimmerman's year as "awful." I grant that he has 13 errors, but his hitting is picking up. How much different would these columns be if Nick Johnson were around to have saved probably six of those throws from being errors?

Barry Svrluga: Really? Awful? I haven't read those same columns.

(Young walks. Church hits double (!) down right field line to score Zimmerman, Dmitri to third. Kearns up with two down and two on.)

I agree: Some of Zimmerman's errors would have been saved by a healthy Johnson. But keep in mind: Nick led NL first baseman in errors last year. Uncharacteristic, to be sure, but still ...


Barry Svrluga: Attention Nationals fans! Please have a seat, and breathe deeply.

Austin Kearns has hit a two-out, two-run double. I repeat: Austin Kearns has hit a two-out, two-run double. The Nationals lead 3-0.

Please continue with the rest of your day.


Washington, D.C.: With all the love of Dmitri Young going on in this chat, how about mention of the "Save Da Meat" shirts ( I have nothing to do with the creation but I think they are great.

Barry Svrluga: I saw those, too. I think they're very cool.


Nick715: As a resident uniform nerd I have noticed that teams often take the uniform change jump when they get to a new stadium (see Bullets/Wizards, etc.). Anyway, is there any indication that our beloved Nats will be changing or augmenting the uniform for next season.

I would like to see the DC logo highlighted more myself....

Barry Svrluga: I am almost positive the deadline for such changes has passed and there aren't anything planned for the Nats. And I hate to disappoint, but ... if anything, the "Curly W" (thanks Slowes) will be highlighted at the new park. I know Mark Lerner really likes it, almost as an homage to the Senators and Washington baseball history.


Nook Logan's Belt: Don Sutton said on TV that his belt broke. Not sure why all the intrigue about it

Barry Svrluga: Yes, I'm sure his belt broke. I think the question -- and resulting intrigue -- involves how.


Section 422: Barry-

Did they break Brian Schneider last night? Is he ok? (It looked pretty bad.)

Barry Svrluga: He's ok. Elbow's swollen. Acta expects him to play tomorrow.


Whining over The Post covering the Orioles: I must have missed the new law mandating that people are forced to read every article in The Post's sports section. What's the punishment if you don't read every article?

Barry Svrluga: I should stop asking questions to myself on these chats. I really should.


Progress report: Barry: I know you covered this in an article during the All-Star break, but how can Kasten, Bowden and your buddy Boswell consider this season a success in advancing this team forward? Has even one player really emerged as a likely component of a future winning team? Bergmann, maybe, if he pitches like he did before he got hurt. Hill, maybe, if he's healthy. Who else? Based on the guys on the roster right now, why should I feel better about this team's future now than I did last year at this time?

Barry Svrluga: To be honest, I think most of the pieces that the organization feels better about are in the minor leagues, and in many cases in the low minor leagues. There are lots of pitchers -- particularly at short-season Class A Vermont -- from the past two drafts that are showing promise, though are still a long way off.

On the major league roster, the club feels that the seasoning Matt Chico is getting now will help for the future. They still have confidence in Zimmerman, despite the average. And they really like the makeup of the bullpen.

This will be, as we've said before, a long process. Kasten continues to say he believes it'll happen faster than he initially thought. If that's true, it'll likely involve trading some of those minor leaguers for major league parts.


Rain will pass: A quick look at the radar for D.C., once this small shower passes, you should be good to go for at least a few innings.

Barry Svrluga: Indeed, now the sun is out. Lights at stadium on. Lamb just drilled a 1-1 pitch from Bergmann for a solo homer to make it 3-1 Nats. Two out, one on in top of second.


Alexandria, Va.: I am serious about this. Might Austin Kearns suck less with runners in scoring position if his intro song sucked less? His "Just another Louisiana Saturday Night" bit doesn't seem to get him or the crowd pumped up.

Barry Svrluga: Well, I didn't notice his song before he came up last time, but he just hit that two-run double down the third baseline, so who knows? I know he tweaks it from time to time, asking to change up. Always country, though. That boy likes his country music.


Arlington, Va.: Barry,

I have read that Jim Bowden, just like last year, is asking for the moon for Young, Belliard, Cordero, Rauch, etc. Is this true? Furthermore, is this turning off GMs? If so, how much? Are there GMs who would/could like to acquire some Nationals but aren't even entering trade talks because Bowden is unrealistic in his demands? Thanks.

Barry Svrluga: This is the central issue about all of this, isn't it? You have to find two teams that like each other's players, and then you have to agree on a price. I have talked to a couple -- but not a league-wide sampling -- of execs from other clubs that indeed believe Bowden is asking too much right now. But they're also protecting their own interests. Bowden's job, just as it was last year with Soriano, is to line up the interested parties and draw the highest price he can. The company line last year was that no one came up with the appropriate price. Will that be the case again?


Georgetown, Hoya Saxa: Does the rain affect the pitchers or the hitters more? Given the way this inning has gone, should the Nats hire a rainmaker for RFK?

Barry Svrluga: Jennings definitely looked disgusted about continuing to play during the 30 seconds it really opened up. Harder for pitchers to grip the ball in such a case, to be sure.


Free Union, Va.: Kearns. Is it time to conclude that what we're seeing is what he is? That his somewhat better -- never overwhelming -- offensive numbers were earned in Cincy's ballpark, and that he's gonna at best be a .275/20HR guy and in other years look like he does today? His at bat with Church on second last night was so ugly -- after being ahead 3-0, two ugly swings resulting in a groundout to third not even advancing the runner? Maybe he and Church are both fourth outfielders on a kinda good team.

Barry Svrluga: I'm intrigued by this whole question. One Nats person pointed out to me earlier in the week that he homered something like once ever 22 at-bats as a Red, and is homering once every like 44 at-bats as a Nat. (I'll do actual numbers and put them on the Journal at some point.)

If -- if if if -- he's a .275/20 HR/90 RBI guy in a good lineup, I don't think the Nationals would have a problem with that. But I think what Barry Larkin said earlier in the week is telling: He's clearly not a guy who carries a team. In a good lineup, maybe he hits sixth, and with dangerous hitters around him, he excels.


Washington, D.C.: Escobar? Really? I remember when he was the Mets "sure-thing" but he has only played 110 games TOTAL in his career. Do we want to see what he has? Of course, but do you agree that he should just walk into a starting role?

Barry Svrluga: Yeah, I do, given that the alternatives are the Langerhans/Logan platoon. As Acta said, "We've seen the other guys." Escobar's history shows that he won't be healthy for long. But for 30 games or so last year, he really impressed. Perhaps he could capture that for 60 games? Who knows?


Barry Svrluga: Ronnie Belliard with a two-out double to left-center that scored Jesus Flores from third (he had singled). Nats lead 4-1. Belliard now has an 11-game hitting streak, matching the longest by a National this season (Ryan Church in April).

That's four two-out RBI for the Nationals today. Zimmerman, however, grounds to short to end it.


Columbia Heights: Now that the bald eagle has been officially removed from the endangered species list of protected animals...can we please please please kill Screech? Or do I need to wait for the Supreme Court to rule on the District's gun ban first?

Barry Svrluga: There are other ways to kill him, right? Why wait for the Supreme Court? Isn't the term over?


comment from former Arlingtonian now in Richmond: Does the Nats management understand that they are alienating fans with the product they put on the field? After "bonding" with and losing Sopriano, I am reluctant to bond with Young or Belliard. I was a HUGE Senators fan and ecstatic when the Nats arrived but lately I find myself turning off the games. I drove to D.C. several times from Richmond the first year, twice last year, but not once this year. I'm losing interest in their product. Doubt that I'm the only one.

Barry Svrluga: Interesting point, former Arlingtonian. I have to believe the Nationals are aware they are making this kind of gamble, and believe that people will run like lemmings to a new park with a competitive team. But in these days, it can seem pretty glum, and I agree -- I doubt you're the only one.


Washington, D.C.: Who are the organization most passionate about in the farm system at this point? The Potomac Outfield, other than Maxwell's injury, have justified their promotion so far. June draftees Michael Burgess and Adrian Alaniz are off to blazing starts to their professional careers. While there is still a long ways to go, there is some glimmer of hope, no?

Barry Svrluga: That's certainly what the organization believes. I suggested to Bowden yesterday that with arms such as Ballester, Lannan and maybe Detwiler on the rise, the club might focus more on obtaining/developing hitters. He cut me off and listed a ton of other pitchers the club likes (Glenn Gibson, Willems, Jordan Zimmermann, Martis, etc.).

Burgess, they believe, could be a steal. Bowden said Maxwell hasn't looked the same since he hurt his ribcage while sneezing. (Seriously.) But he's a very very good athlete. Marrero has heated up again at Potomac. He could, theoretically, sniff Harrisburg by the end of the year.


Stafford, NY: It isn't even really about gripping the ball (there's always rosin) but mud piling up the mound. Thanks Don Suton.

Barry Svrluga: Sutton knows pitching, no?


Oakland, Calif.: Barry, rumors out here is that Beane wants to pluck Hanrahan out of AAA and bring him to Oakland, have you heard anything along these lines?

Barry Svrluga: Yes, that could well be true. Hanrahan is also a guy who the Nationals might want to give a look-see in the near future. Bowden and Billy Beane have a history of working well together (Chris Snelling for Ryan Langerhans, trading Jermaine Van Buren to Oakland earlier this year). I'll check in on it.


Washington, D.C.: With Josh Smoker lining up new representation, does it follow that the Nats expect to sign him before the signing deadline in mid-August? If they bring him in the fold, the 2007 draft would be a pretty remarkable haul for the Nationals. I understand teams don't normally sign the number of players drafted that the Nationals have this year?

Barry Svrluga: My guess is that Smoker will sign, and he'll sign for about $950,000. That would make sixth-round pick Jack McGeary the only unsigned player in the top ... well, don't have it in front of me, but several.

McGeary was a gamble in the sixth round because he's committed to Stanford and the family appears to prefer he go the college route. He believes he can get three years of college and still retain the same draft standing, and therefore just be delaying a bonus. The Nationals would have to come up with first-round money -- likely in the range they paid Detwiler, $2.15 million -- to land McGeary. That seems unlikely.


Nick715:4 runs in 2 innings!! Get out the record books...

Ross Detwiler - I realize he just signed last week and he's probably just started shaving but where is he at? In Florida, on his way to Potomac? Were they serious about a September call up for him?

Just curious about where to buy my jersey and how many Cy Youngs I should expect him to win...

Barry Svrluga: Bowden told an interesting story about Detwiler that was in my notebook this morning. Tim Foli, the Nationals' roving field coordinator in the minors (and the former Pirates infielder and double play partner of current Astros Manager Phil Garner), saw Detwiler throw a simulated game in Viera and told Bowden that Detwiler would be the best pitcher Bowden had ever been associated with in the game. Hmmmm.

The plan, Bowden said, was for Detwiler to make three or four starts for the rookie level Gulf Coast League entry, with the first coming on Thursday. If all goes well, he'd be promoted to Class A Potomac after that.


Dumb Question: Hi Barry...I put this question up on the NJ blog a few days ago, in the hope that someone from the "peanut gallery" would know...since no one has responded, I'm throwing it to you instead:

When a player has a multi-year contract, and sits out all or most of a season injured, does he get the full salary? Or is there usually some kind of "short/long term disability" clause that gives him, say, 50 or 75 percent for the season?

And if it's the former (full salary), who gets to decide whether he's well enough to play? -- in particular, I'm referring to JP's insistence on being 100 percent, if the team were to decide that JP at 80 percent is better than most of their other folks at 100 percent.

Barry Svrluga: Hey, sorry, I saw that question and didn't answer it myself.

Baseball players get paid their full salaries when they're injured. If a guy who toggles between the majors and the minors gets hurt at the minor league level, he's paid his minor league wage. If it happens in the majors, he gets the major league wage.

In a case like Patterson's, the two parties work together on all of this. The Nationals own Patterson's rights for two more seasons, if they want him, and they want to make sure he's comfortable with his own health.


Barry Svrluga: Nats strand Dmitri Young (single extends hitting streak to 10 games) in bottom of the third, Bergmann now working in top of fourth to Carlos Lee. Still 4-1, Nationals.


Metro Center: We could set up a head on collision between Screech and that Nat Pack guy. Two birds, one stone, everybody's happy...

Barry Svrluga: You are a wise person, Metro Center. Very wise and clever.


Fairfax, Va.: Actually, I believe the most recent incident of Zimmerman bashing was in an ESPN chat in which someone asked who the best third basemen would be a few years out. The host of the chat named others, then asked if anyone else noticed how awful Zimmerman has been this year.

Barry Svrluga: Interesting. I think if you look at the stats, you could come up with that conclusion. I do think any discussion of Zimmerman's season has to come within the context of what he's being asked to do. On another (read: better) team, a 22-year-old wouldn't be asked to hit third every single day. It has worn on him, no doubt, to the point where he was swinging at too many breaking pitches out of the strike zone, etc. As Manny Acta said, he has a lot to learn, which is understandable at 22. He also has no place to hide because he's supposed to be the future of the franchise.


Barry Svrluga: Bergmann a 1-2-3 fourth, has retired seven in a row. Nationals lead 4-1 going to bottom of the fourth.


Sec 417 Row 8 Seat 9: If "former Arlingtonian" was a "huge Senators fan", what problem does he or she have with the NATS? The NATS gave us the Senators best year in 2005 and believe me this team and last years were/are as good as any Senator's team. I know as a former 30 game plan Senator's fan.

Barry, have you been asked to talk at the Smithsonian Associates thing (Cardinals Game) in August? If so, see you there!

Barry Svrluga: No, I haven't been asked to speak at such a gathering. I'm available for birthdays and bar mitzvahs, though.


Washington, D.C.: Our outfield is frankly unacceptable; no power from the corner outfielders and no average/obp from the center fielders. What do you think of blowing it up through trades and starting afresh?

Barry Svrluga: I think that two spots are definitely up for grabs going into next year -- left and center. In fact, I think you could argue that a center fielder is the club's most desperate need this offseason.

I'm going to get into the Kearns situation more soon in the paper, but I think he's here for the time being. He's signed through 2009, if you recall. But you're right: The production from the Washington outfield doesn't compare to that of winning teams.


Da Meat Hook's farewell tour: I know there's a group of fans (and Boswell is with them) who want the team to keep Dmitri Young, but let's get real. We're in last with him, so losing him won't hurt us this year. And he can likely bring something in return. Remember the old baseball truism: Better to make a trade a year too early than a year too late. I love your idea of the Twins grabbing him. That makes a lot of sense.

Barry Svrluga: I tend to agree with you: The plan is about gathering pieces to win in the future. Young seems to be the best person to bring such a piece. That's why the next couple of weeks could be kinda interesting. We'll see.


Barry Svrluga: With that, I bid adieu. Two outs in the bottom of the fourth, no one on, Nationals still lead 4-1. Enjoy the rest of the game, thanks for stopping by, please check out Nationals Journal on a daily (hourly?) basis, and hope you have fun the rest of the homestand. I'll talk to you next week from Philadelphia.


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