Wednesday, Aug. 22, 1 p.m. ET

The Washington Nationals

Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 22, 2007; 1:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Barry Svrluga was online Wednesday, Aug. 22, 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 from Houston, a city with which I have a tempestuous relationship. Which is to say I don't like it. But whatever.

Nationals: Two wins to start a 10-game trip. Not bad. Nook Logan with five hits? In a single game? I knew I meant to have my contact lenses checked before I left D.C.

More important: On this Wednesday morning, the Nationals woke up and found themselves out of last place for the first time since April 20. Do you think they can finish out of last? And does that means Manny Acta gets some manager of the year votes?

Those, and other important questions, answered in the next hour. Let's chat.


NattyDelite!: Hey Barry!

I was wondering, given the performance of our "rag-tag" band of pitchers (who ESPN seems to loathe), and with a few of them coming up through the system or back from injury, what is more of a priority to the FO this offseason: a power hitting OF, or more SP? (JimBo's in my head "pitching, pitching, pitching")

Barry Svrluga: I think your instincts are right, and that the focus has changed a bit -- not only at the major league level, but through the minors. After the Nationals signed high school lefty Jack McGeary last week, Stan Kasten said he had started "Operation Belfry." You know, because that's where all the bats are. (Guy's hysterical, isn't he?)

I think, despite Mr. Logan's efforts last night and since the all-star break, the major need remains for a CF/Leadoff guy and a 40-homer-type bat. I believe they will acquire at least one starting pitcher through a trade or free agency, but I think the middle-of-the-lineup guy has become more important. They now feel like a guy like Tim Redding could be in the mix for the rotation next year.


Arlington, Va.: Barry,

I am heading down to the Potomac Nationals game this Sunday for the Dog Days of August promotion. Should be interesting. Looks to me like there's a good chance of my pups barking at Marrero, Maxwell, AND Detwiler. Anyone else I should keep an eye on?

Barry Svrluga: Those are the guys on whom I would focus. Ross Detwiler, the first-round pick from Missouri State, had his most encouraging outing the other night in Kinston, N.C., throwing five shutout innings and picking up his first professional win. Chris Marrero, the organization's best hitting prospect, hit a homer last night, and Justin Maxwell, the University of Maryland prospect, got off to a slow start when he was promoted to Potomac, but has been killing it lately.


Constitution Ave NE walking distance to RFK: Can you shed some insight into how "player to be named later" (PTBNL) works? Did we really promise the BoSox that we would acquire Chris Carter without having an agreement with the D'Backs?

In that situation, wouldn't Arizona essentially have us over a barrel? What happens if they said "well, if you want Carter, we want Zimmerman..."

Barry Svrluga: This is a good question. Typically, the teams will agree on a list of players. "You can have whoever you want from this group of five guys," and then the other team will go out and scout a bit and discuss it amongst themselves and pick one.

So in a case like the Wily Mo Pena deal, which involved Chris Carter going from Arizona to Boston and Emiliano Fruto going from Washington to Arizona, the Nationals could tell the Red Sox, "Hey, we've agreed with Arizona that they'll send us Carter for one of these [four or five or however many] guys. But we have to wait for them to pick one, and as soon as we get Carter, we'll send him to you." The DBacks apparently chose Fruto, the right-hander who was part of the Nationals' trade in which Jose Vidro went to Seattle.

Confused? Good.


Florida: You recently noted that Wily Mo Pena strikes out every 3.15 at bats. That is a bit alarming. More alarming is his .314 career OBP. Have you heard whether the Nats have a plan to change his approach at the plate? Or is the thought/hope that a happier environment will improve his performance?

Barry Svrluga: A bit alarming? Consider that the guy who leads all of MLB since Pena came to the majors full-time in 2003 strikes out once every 3.45 plate appearances, and Pena's rate (he doesn't qualify to lead all of baseball because he doesn't have enough plate appearances) is downright stunning.

The thought isn't so much to change his approach. The hope is that with regular playing time, something he was never going to get in Boston, he will cut down on the strikeouts. But they're not blind. They know he's not going to become Wade Boggs. If he hits 40 homers (though he's never hit more than 26), they feel like they can deal with all those punch-outs.


Brisbane, Queensland (on round-the-world tour): From my reading of the notebook interview, it seems as if Ryan Church is struggling to make a considerable adjustment to his mindset as well as to his playing time.

While he sounds as if he's trying to make the best of both, is it realistic to think his career as a Nat will survive these adjustments?

Barry Svrluga: Tally-ho, Brisbane! Church is an interesting case. He admittedly allows things to get in his head, and that's particularly tough because his place in the organization always seems a bit unstable. His name was in trade rumors throughout the winter and up to the trade deadline -- and they weren't just rumors. Other teams were interested, and the Nationals thought they might be able to get something in return. I suspect the same thing will happen this offseason, when Church is eligible for arbitration for the first time.

That said, Church has told me that he's fine with whatever role he has, even if it's a fourth outfielder. In some ways, I think playing every day has been tougher than he thought it would be, and there are some days I believe he wants a day off but can't say anything because he spent so much time saying how if he just played every day, he'd produce. Now, he's a bit disappointed with his output -- particularly homers and RBI -- and he's probably headed into another offseason with an uncertain future.


Fredericksburg, Va.: Last year the Nats signed SS Smiley Gonzalez and proclaimed themselves players in the International market.

There are still several name international free agents available. Will the Nats try to sign any or did they use up their funds on draft picks?

Barry Svrluga: A good question. It was a bit interesting that they trumpeted the signing of Esmailyn Gonzalez and the $1.4 million they spent, and then went a bit dormant. They have signed several other players in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, and one of their Dominican summer league teams (they have two) is playing exceptionally well.

But there is a relation to how much they spent in the draft, which was $7.6 million or so, second-most in baseball, according to Baseball America. With that kind of outlay, their chances of being big players internationally this signing period are slim. I would expect, though, some news about the pursuit of players in Asia to come fairly soon.


Washington, D.C.: So exactly how frickin huge is Wily Mo Pena? Has he been exposed to some sort of super-power creating radiation? Have you ever heard him say "Hulk Smash?" If not, could you ask him to say that for your next podcast?

Barry Svrluga: He's a really big dude. I was off over the weekend, so the past two nights were the first times I was really able to concentrate on him. One thing that surprised me is how well he runs. He's not fast by any means, but he beat out a double-play ball that allowed a run to score last night. I think he's just a pretty darned good athlete. Would've made a good tight end.


G'town: I have a truly unimportant question. I noticed at a game at RFK during the Mets series that the Nats bullpen pitchers sit on seats adorned with the logos of other MLB teams -- including the Giants, Yankees, and Twins. Any idea what the story is behind this oddity?

Thanks for the good work.

Barry Svrluga: This is really getting to the bottom of things.

There are lots of these old chairs sitting around RFK, and I believe -- though I'm not certain -- they came from Montreal. They're all through the press dining room and the room where Manny Acta holds his pre- and postgame news conferences. In fact, if one of those seats with another logo is behind the mic when Acta comes to sit down, he moves it out and gets a blank, plastic folding chair. He doesn't want to be associated with another team's logo.


Alexandria, Va.: Any word on when Josh Smoker or Jack McGeary are making their professional debuts?

Barry Svrluga: They're both in the Gulf Coast League on throwing programs now. I was told that, if McGeary's first couple outings go well, he could be bumped up at the end of the GCL season to short-season Class A Vermont, where the season is a bit longer. They should both have an appearance in the GCL within the next week or so, I'd say.


Bethesda, Md.: Who's got a better chance of being a Nat in 2009 - A-Rod or Santana?

Barry Svrluga: Santana.

Based on nothing.


The Argonaut: Hey Barry,

So, will Nook Logan's recent success influence the team's decision to pursue a free-agent center fielder this off season? I'm pretty torn. Part of me thinks that a guy playing this well deserves to be considered as part of the Nats future, but then I come crashing back to reality when I remember that it is, after all, NOOK FREAKING LOGAN!

Barry Svrluga: I really don't think it will. Has Logan improved and gotten more comfortable since he dropped switch-hitting? No doubt. But are there questions about his instincts and up-side? Absolutely.

This is a few weeks of a hot stretch, and you can't take that away from him. But let's see how he does against teams in a pennant race who are playing for something. I still believe the Nationals will go hard after an impact outfielder, whether it's a CF or a 40-homer guy -- or both.


Section 213, Row 12: Just curious... any info on stadium naming rights?

Barry Svrluga: Couple questions on this, and to be honest, I haven't checked in on it in a while. (Where's Thomas Heath when I need him?) The way it was explained to me is that this could happen very quickly. It's a hugely important transaction for the Nationals, as it's a revenue stream they didn't have at RFK. I'll make sure we keep an eye on it as it develops. Sorry I don't have better info here.


Arlington, Va.: This isn't a Nats personnel question, but about ballpark ambiance. Last Saturday's game was not the best ambiance-wise. First, the ladies' room closest to section 511 WAS OUT OF TOILET PAPER in the fifth inning. Thank God I had napkins in my pocket. Second, I had to go to three beer stands to get a bottle of water because they were all out. I have yet to hear from Nats management about these snafus. Will I hear from them, do you think?

Barry Svrluga: Don't know. They're usually pretty responsive on stuff like this. But I've said this before and I'll continue to say it: The Nationals and Kasten came here preaching that they will provide a superior ballpark experience. They should be held to that standard, and y'all should make sure they hear about stuff like this. Is RFK a logistical problem? Sure. But as they move into the new ballpark, if things like this continue to exist, then they'll be failing you, the fan.


Ashburn, Va.: Wily Mo shows how he fits in with the Nats plan. He ran out that ground ball and for those that didn't hear he sent a telegram to the Boston Herald to thank the Red Sox fans for everything.

"To my sisters, brothers and fans of Red Sox Nation:I wanted to take a moment to thank you and the entire Red Sox organization for your support during my time in Boston. Your constant passion for baseball and your beloved Red Sox is unmatched and has touched me deeply. I will always consider you with a special place in my heart. The Red Sox organization deserves only the best and Red Sox Nation is just that! Peace in life, Wily Modesto Pena, The MoPeace Foundation"

Wily Mo Pena is a true class act!!

Barry Svrluga: Early read is that he's a nice guy. Hard-working. Doesn't mean he can hit a breaking ball, but whatever.


Boston: I feel bad for Wily Mo in that he seemed like a real nice guy but just was never going to get the time here. Oh and I still don't know why any pitcher would throw him anything other than low breaking junk.

That being said, it looks like the Sox got a great player in Carter. What do you hear about him?

Barry Svrluga: Carter: He has produced at every minor league level (check out his numbers), but with all the young talent in Arizona (Conor Jackson at first base, tons of young outfielders led by Upton and Quentin and Young), it was going to be hard for him to break through there. If the Sox don't sign Mike Lowell, it's possible Youkilis moves back to third and Carter becomes the first baseman -- or at least the left-handed hitting half of a platoon there.


Glen Echo: Hey Barry

I feel like I'm losing my grip and my expectations for the 2008 season are getting way out of line. Please remind me, once again, why this team can not contend in 2008. Thanks for bringing me back to earth. Really, thank you!!

Barry Svrluga: I think, in a division in which the Braves, Mets and Phillies are all still likely to have higher payrolls than the Nationals -- who will likely land somewhere between $60 and $70 million next year -- contending in 2008 is a bit of a stretch. They could, however, take a step toward .500.

Think about how many things have had to go right for them to get to this point, when they're 12 games under .500 and it's being hailed as an amazingly nice surprise. Tim Redding. Ronnie Belliard and Dmitri Young with career years. Decent work from rookies such as John Lannan and Joel Hanrahan. Mike Bacsik. Even afterthoughts like Micah Bowie and Jesus Colome, etc. Can all that happen again? The pool from which to choose is certainly deeper and full of more quality. But we'll see.


Washington, D.C.: Any good stories from the fan who got popcorn dumped on his head Monday night after his proposal? Have to admit that was pretty funny. I think if you are going to get rejected that's the way to go.

Barry Svrluga: I'm pretty sure -- though Jesus Ortiz from the Houston Chronicle disagrees with me, and that' why he wrote about it in his paper -- that the whole thing was a hoax set up by the couple. It just looked too staged.


Highlands Ranch, Colo.: It seems to me that the progress of Wily Mo Pena stagnated in Boston. Would you agree that he should be played regularly from here on out to see whether he is a part of the Nats future? Do you think he will be a part of the future?

Barry Svrluga: First question: I think he will be played regularly from here on out. Acta said as much, pointing out that they have seen what the other guys can do and they need to find out about WMP (who I like to call "Weapon of Mass Production").

Second question: I really don't know. Part of me thinks that, even though he's only played everyday for really one year, he has been given enough of a chance to show what he can do, and that he'll never be more than a Dave Kingman-type guy. But I don't have enough of a feel for him in person to know yet. Let's let this play out a little more.


K Street: What is Jesus Flores's future with the Nats? Seems like the guy needs more playing time than he's getting...

Barry Svrluga: This will be an interesting offseason question. Flores has impressed everyone in the organization, and they really believe they have their catcher of the future in the system already. But I really believe that Flores -- who is hitting .230 and slugging .344 -- must catch and hit every day for a while. I believe he'll do that at Class AAA Columbus next year, and they'll keep Brian Schneider as the starter and sign a veteran backup. Schneider's signed through 2009.

Schneider, it's worth pointing out, is monumentally frustrated with his offensive year. Some in the organization believe he's the MVP of the team because of how he's handled the pitching staff. That's debatable. What's not debatable is that the guy is hitting .232, which drives him crazy. He badly wants to show that he can put up better numbers. We'll see if he can.


Santana?: Dude, what good is Carlos going to do us? We're on a youth kick, we need a younger picker, more like John Mayer or Derek Trucks.

Barry Svrluga: I certainly would not let John Mayer anywhere near this team.

Santana? He's smooth.


15th and L: Barry,

Love the work - the Journal, Chats, Podcasts, and the TV appearances. Oh, you write great columns, too, in your spare time. You are becoming Kornheiser-esque as you span the many media outlets.

As a full season ticket holder since day 1, I along with 6,000 or so other account holders am anxious to hear about the seat assignment process in the new stadium. They have outlined the priority process pretty clearly, but I am wondering if you have a feel as to whether it will be fairly run, or if the Carvilles and Russerts will again be sitting right behind the dugouts, and the common fans will get sloppy seconds. Additionally, do you have any idea whether we'll find out the location of our new seats as they are assigned, or if we'll have to wait until the end of the entire process? I imagine I am not the only one with great interest in this process.

Barry Svrluga: As part of a season-ticket group since 2005, I too am anxious for this. But one thing Stan Kasten told me when the ticket-pricing thing was laid out is that they are going to take their time and make sure it's flawless. The first game in the new stadium is still seven months away, and the way the Nationals figure it is that it's better to have folks wait a bit and make sure there are no snafus than to rush the process and have all kinds of complaints, etc.

That doesn't mean there won't be complaints. This is a complicated process because the seating structures are so different. Keep in mind that the elite seats behind the plate will jump in number from a couple hundred to more than 1,000, and some of those people who sat behind the plate have to be moved to the base lines, and it's just potentially a big mess.

My advice: Be patient. You'll know where you're sitting well before Opening Day.


Brooklyn, N.Y.: Barry

You know, if your scenario about the Wily Mo trade is right (that the Nats had a minor league deal for Carter and were waiting on the Diamondbacks to choose from a list of available guys) it begs the question -- why not keep Carter. It's not like there are any first basemen in the system and Nick just had a rod removed from his leg.

Barry Svrluga: Because they had already arranged with Boston that if they could get Carter they would send him to the Sox.

Also: The Nats have both Johnson and Dmitri Young under contract for 2008-09, paying them a total of $21 million in those seasons. Contrary to the belief of some folks, Young is not going to play the outfield. So I don't think Carter fit in here right now.


Infield Gallery -- 2008: Barry, How ridiculous is Minute Maid Park in person. Seeing it on TV I don't think I get the full impact of the choo-choo train, the Crawford Boxes, Tal's Hill, the low flying roof, etc. Makes cherry trees in left field look dull.

Barry Svrluga: It's absurd. It's really crazy that no one's broken their ankle running up the hill in center field. Nook Logan had to go there the other night. And there's that right angle in left field. I remember talking to Brad Wilkerson about it in 2005. He said he nearly killed himself on the wall that juts out one year because he was pursuing a ball to left-center, and he saw only the deeper part of the wall out there, and he just barely missed running into that short wall in left.

Zimmerman's homer last night was a fly ball in almost any other park. I asked him if it reached the warning track at RFK. "No chance," he said. A joke, I thought.


Weymouth St.: How concerned should I be that the Nationals are starting to look like the Reds of two years ago that sported a record of 76-86? Are they already getting the jersey sizes on Dunn?

Barry Svrluga: I know there are some people in the organization who wonder about this very fact. Here are some of the former Reds who are involved in this team right now, brought here by former Reds GM Jim Bowden:

RF Austin Kearns

IF Felipe Lopez

OF Wily Mo Pena

1B Dmitri Young

IF D'Angelo Jimenez

VP Bob Boone

Special assistant Jose Rijo

Special assistant Barry Larkin

And yes, it's possible that the Nationals will try to trade for Adam Dunn in the offseason if the Reds pick up his $13 million option, and possible they will pursue him as a free agent if the Reds cut him loose. Hmmmm.


Fairfax, Va.: Barry,

I get the early $.35 edition, and I noticed after reading your account of last night's game that there wasn't one quote in the article. I liked it. I thought, "This is a well-written piece--real writing, not relying on the players to write it for him."

Then I realized that you probably wrote it during the game to make deadline for the early edition.

I don't pay much attention to bylines, but when I read the day-after accounts, I can tell pretty quickly when you're taking a couple of days off. Keep up the good work.

Barry Svrluga: You are kind. And yes, those 3-hour, 44-minute affairs when you start an hour late because you're in the Central time zone are just lovely to write. We write "running" game stories that are filed at the last out for early editions, and when we're an hour behind, those early gamers unfortunately get in the bulk of the editions delivered at home.

I'm glad you liked last night's version. But believe me, most of the time they are embarrassingly bad, and it pains me to think that someone actually might read them. Better to get to the clubhouse and find out what some of the participants actually thought.


WMP: What I love about Wily Mo Pena is that so many people seem to have a strong opinion about him. He is a conversation starter, and could be a great baseball personality if the success comes.

On a team lacking in characters, he is a welcome sight.

Barry Svrluga: I think this is an interesting point. Some people will love the homers and deal with the strikeouts. Others will loathe the Ks and think he doesn't hit enough homers to offset them.

I will point out that when I looked at Acta's lineup from last night, I thought, "Well, there's a little more potential there than usual." It's largely because Belliard was dropped to seventh and the suddenly productive Logan wasn't a joke in the 2 hole. But Pena's presence makes some of that possible.


Re: Wily Mo nice guy: I take it you aren't a fan of Wily Mo. Do you think he has a future with the Nationals?

Another interesting stat I found:

Best season AB per HR ratio (20 HRs minimum, Age 22)

Batter Year HR AB/HR

Boog Powell 1964 39 10.87 Reggie Jackson 1969 47 11.68

Eddie Mathews 1954 40 11.9 Ted Williams 1941 37 12.32

Wily Mo Pena 2004 26 12.92

Harmon Killebrew 1959 42 13

Bob Horner 1980 35 13.23

Johnny Bench 1970 45 13.44

Joe Dimaggio 1937 46 13.5

Juan Gonzalez 1992 43 13.58

Wille Mays 1954 21 13.78 Mark Teixeira 2004 38 14.34 Earl Williams 1971 33 15.06

Jimmie Fox 1930 37 15.19

Rocky Colavito 1956 21 15.33

Manny Ramirez 1995 31 15.61

Barry Svrluga: This is an interesting chart, no doubt. And as I said, I really haven't had enough time to digest, in person, what I think of Wily Mo other than to say I find him intriguing. I would have felt different about the acquisition had the Nationals given up, in the offseason, Chad Cordero or Jon Rauch for him. But at the price -- minor league pitcher Emiliano Fruto -- he seems like an interesting guy to take a look at.


Fairfax: "Doesn't mean he can hit a breaking ball, but whatever."

Has he tried abandoning Jobu and taking the Lord Jesus Christ as his savior?

Barry Svrluga: I have not asked, but will.


Section 422: I'm finding the team not very responsive about the fan experience either.

The water fountain behind my section is still broken.

And the ladies' rooms ... I dunno what's going on with them. It's strange. The one behind my section always has TP, but they're not filling the dispensers, they're just setting the rolls in the stalls. Same for the paper towels. (And I am short, so when I reach up to get towels from the TOP of the TALL TALL thing, water runs down my arms, up my sleeves, and makes me unhappy.)

Barry Svrluga: Interesting. One thing that will continue to be the case at the new park, as I understand it, is that the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission will continue to be responsible for staffing and cleaning and security. It's their building. How they do, however, reflects on the Nationals. It's an interesting marriage, one that's not always (ever?) going to be a happy one.


Chantilly, Va.: I liked the marketing discussion in the blog earlier. The consensus seemed to be:

1. Lose the fratboy.

2. Also Screech.

3. Also also Sweet Caroline.

4. The presidents can stay.

But now that we've said our piece, what do you think?

Barry Svrluga: Yesterday on Nationals Journal ("If you don't get it, you don't get it") I asked readers about ballpark experience, and Chantilly has outlined the general consensus on the responses.

I would say that some people have noted -- and I have seen in person -- that Screech is appealing to children. He does, however, badly need a bird bath in the offseason.

And I will bite my tongue on my thoughts. I will deliver them to Mr. Kasten on those occasions when I'm a paying customer, not when I'm an unbiased beat writer.


Boston: Dave Kingman was a FABULOUS player. He is a victim of playing in the days before OPS took over the world. So, his batting average stunk. Dude hit 450 homers in a weak offensive era.

Barry Svrluga: Since Kingman broke in in 1971, he has ranks 10th in plate appearances per strikeout with 4.09. Among the players ahead of him:

1. Rob Deer -- 3.20

4. Adam Dunn -- 3.73

5. Brad Wilkerson -- 3.92

9. Preston Wilson -- 4.09 (as well)

Kingman homered once every 15.11 plate appearances. Of the top 10 on the PA/K list, only Dunn homered more frequently (once every 14.07 plate appearances).


George Mason U: Hi Barry,

I was watching the Tigers-Yankees on Saturday when Cameron Maybin hit his first HR for Detroit. The FOX announcers made some comment about how the Tigers offered Maybin to the Nats last year for Soriano, straight up. Any truth to that?

Barry Svrluga: Whoa. Not accurate at all, I don't believe. The Nationals badly wanted Maybin, and pursued him again this trading deadline in a deal that would have involved Jon Rauch. But my understanding is that Maybin was off limits in 2006 and off limits again this season. Jim Bowden loved Maybin in the 2005 draft -- the year the Nationals took Zimmerman -- and I believe he would have done a Maybin-for-Soriano deal (though he likely would have wanted a young pitcher thrown in, too).


Metro Center: I like the suggestions. Can we add "While losing Sweet Caroline," can we find that recording we know you have somewhere of "Bustin' Loose," and start playing that?

Barry Svrluga: Another interesting suggestions. Feel free to add others to yesterday's post on Nationals Journal.


Adams Morgan: Regarding the no-toilet-paper:

I saw Stan Kasten and one of his assistants walking briskly around the upper deck at Friday evening's game against the Mets. I don't know if he went into the bathroom, but he would have seen one of the two paper towel dispensers out of paper, and the other one just had a roll sitting on top.

This isn't even a minor league experience. It's third world. And the age of RFK has nothing to do with it. It's an insult to the fans.

Barry Svrluga: Thanks for chiming in. These are complaints that should be taken seriously.


D.C.: Love that you don't like to explain a little?

Also, last week you had a trivia question in the Nats Journal. Aside from getting the answer right myself, it helped my dad pass some time thinking of things other than his poor health while laid up. Can you offer up another good trivia question that I can drop his way?

Barry Svrluga: Houston: No zoning that I can see. Hellacious traffic with people all going to other areas that look remarkably similar to the ones they're already in. A downtown that's trying to come to life, but it's not quite working.

Trivia: I'll try to get a few more Nats trivia questions going on the Journal.


Fairfax: "Think about how many things have had to go right for them to get to this point, when they're 12 games under .500 and it's being hailed as an amazingly nice surprise."

Umm ... but think of how many things have gone WRONG.

Barry Svrluga: A fair point, no doubt. The injuries to the starting pitching staff are the place to start -- Hill, Patterson, Bergmann, Jerome Williams (remember him?), no Mike O'Connor, no Brandon Claussen, Simontacchi, Bowie, etc. Really remarkable.

Acta will get some votes for manager of the year, I believe. I pointed out in the gamer this morning that the Nationals are on pace to win 74 games. That's three more than they won last year -- with Soriano.


Washington, D.C.: Kudos for being able to put work aside this weekend. Tough to have a story breaking and stick to really dropping work for time with the family. You have the proper priorities and I hope will get your share of great scoops from people who respect how you act.

How is the new ballpark's outfield suppose to play? do we need a gazelle in center who can shag everything? Are there weird corners and lines to give WMP trouble? Could our CF be Kearns or Pena? Believe it or not, most defensive ratings (and observers at Fenway) say Pena is faster than expected for his size and better in center than the corners.

Barry Svrluga: Confession: I went to Maine over the weekend for my last little break before a pretty solid run through the rest of August and September and then a month on the road for the playoffs and the World Series. They made the Wily Mo Pena deal on Friday when I was up there, so I was kind of out of the loop because the place we were at -- in mid-coast, two hours north or Portland -- had spotty cell service and no wireless.

Had I been in civilization, though, I'm sure I would have logged on and jumped on the phones, etc. My family is glad I was elsewhere because I likely couldn't have resisted the temptation to get involved.


Fairfax: My plan for Teddy to win:

On his bobblehead day, he stops to admire a couple of his bobbleheads. He realizes, however, that he's about to lose again -- so he THROWS his bobblehead over the finish line. Judges huddle and state that since Teddy technically finished first -- some version of him -- he wins!

Barry Svrluga: A reasonable one to end on.


Barry Svrluga: Thanks for stopping by folks. We'll chat again next week from Los Angeles, where this 10-game road trip wraps up.

Until then, check out all the coverage in the $.35 edition -- gamers, notebooks, etc. -- as well as in the Journal and on the podcasts. Have a great week.


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