Wednesday, Sept. 12, 1 p.m. ET

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Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 12, 2007; 1:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Barry Svrluga was online Wednesday, Sept. 12, 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 washingtonpost.com. He's also the author of "National Pastime: Sports, Politics, and the Return of Baseball to Washington, D.C."

Full Coverage: Washington Nationals

Discussion Archive

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Barry Svrluga: Greetings folks. Hopefully you're in front of a TV getting ready to enjoy some afternoon baseball -- Nats-Marlins, 1 p.m. Alas, I'm not at Dolphin Stadium (trying to avoid the crowds), but am in D.C. gearing up for the final baseball homestand in RFK Stadium history. That starts Friday.

(I also am not in front of a TV because the wireless in my house doesn't work very well in my TV room, so I'm not likely to bring you many game updates.)

RFK: There are 10 games left there. I'm going to write about that soon. But while we're here, feel free to offer up your favorite RFK memory -- concentrating on the Nats, but some of you might have others, even non-baseball ones. (They did play that sport with the funny looking ball there, didn't they?)

OK, let's chat.

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Arlington, Va.: I haven't been able to watch too many games lately but what can you tell me about Pena and his inability to hit breaking balls? Is he awful? If so, why wouldn't opposing pitchers just pitch him breaking balls? Does he have the ability to adapt?

Barry Svrluga: This is a good question to start. Pena has absolutely enormous power. Do you know that in his career -- 1,457 total plate appearances -- he has only six (6) sacrifice flies. That speaks to a lot of strikeouts, of course, but it also shows that when he hits fly balls, they tend to carry out of the park.

Fastballs: He can drill 'em. And yes, opposing pitchers feed him a steady diet of breaking pitches. That said, even big league pitchers occasionally -- for some people, more than occasionally -- can't control their off-speed stuff. So they feel like they have to throw a strike with a fastball. Only one of Pena's 12 homers this year has come when he was behind in the count (0-1). Four have come with the count full -- a time when a pitcher might be scared of walking him and instead come with a fastball.

If he could learn to lay off breaking stuff out of the zone, he'd get a lot more fastball counts -- and could be devastating.

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NattyDelite!: Barry, where do we need more help: Middle Infield, Center Field, Any Field.

I feel like we can compete with the pitching, but we need some more bats, especially with power. But have Logan and Lopez played themselves in and out (respectively) of the Plan?

PS You rock. As does the Talented One. (Ms. Shipley)

Barry Svrluga: Greetings, Natty Delite. You mention the Talented Ms. Shipley, which would be Amy, who is filling in for me spectacularly in Miami (where she lives). I appreciate her giving me a breather.

I think center field is the primary need for this team. If that could be CF/leadoff hitter or CF/40-homer guy, all the better. I guess you could modify that by saying if they get a 40-homer bat, stick him wherever he fits and then you might be able to carry a Nook Logan or some speedster in center.

Lopez: As frustrated as some have been with him over the course of this year, I think he's here to stay. I really do.

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George Mason University: Barry,

Do you know how many times the Nats and Baltimore have played at the same time? From that, how many times have the Nats been put on MASN2 compared to Baltimore? I'm interested to see what the breakdown is.

Barry Svrluga: I don't have the numbers in front of me, but when the schedule was printed last year, we absolutely broke it down and it was (surprisingly) equitable. They definitely knew they would hear about it if there was a big difference.

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seeking info: Barry, according to the paper this morning, John Patterson is having surgery on his pitching arm on Thursday at Duke Medical Center in Durham, N.C. Do you know -- or can you find out -- what time the surgery will take place? Believe it or not, there are still those of us who care about Patterson!

Thanks.

Barry Svrluga: Wow. You want to stand outside the door?

I don't know the time, but I'm sure I can find out. I'll post it on the Journal.

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Washington, D.C.: Barry - If you assume the following,

1. Wily Mo Pena is our starting LF next year

2. Guzman and Nick J return

3. We have our starting pitching already here or in the system

4. All our other starters remain the same, and

5. The Nats want to increase payroll perhaps 25-30 million

Isn't easy to believe that we can/should aggressively go after a center fielder like Tori Hunter?

Barry Svrluga: Yeah, that's a great way to look at it. Keep in mind that there will be some natural increases in payroll through arbitration cases (Cordero, F. Lopez, etc.) and bumps in salaries for veterans with new contracts like Belliard and Dmitri Young (whose salary increases by $4.5 million).

I was having this conversation with Stan Kasten the other day. If he, in general, has an aversion to big-ticket free agents, and he, specifically, has an aversion to this year's crop of free agent pitchers, how is he going to increase payroll? He's not telling me, but I would definitely keep your eyes on those CFs, and I would also think they would be predators -- trying to look at contracts that other teams might want to unload, getting those franchises to eat some of the money.

It's going to be an interesting offseason.

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Bethany Beach, Del.: Hi Barry,

Many use this forum to raise concerns on Nats business/fan experience items. I have a MASN issue. MediaCom here on the Eastern Shore does not carry MASN2 or MY20 from DC. If the Nats are not on the main MASN channel, the many Washingtonians here over the summer (and year-round) are out of luck. And with no radio affiliates here, we have no options. Please help!

Barry Svrluga: I will pass this along.

MASN, Stan, please read the above note. Thank you.

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Bratislava, Slovakia: If the Nats can get to 75 wins (and I know that's a big "if"), does Acta have any realistic shot at the Manager of the Year award?

Barry Svrluga: I think that's a great number to look at. But in talking to some of the national media types who are starting to think about awards, it seems to me that if the Nationals finish with more than their 71 wins from last year -- which would mean going 7-10 the rest of the way -- then I think he'd get a good number of third-place votes, maybe even second. Seems to me that Bob Melvin of Arizona is the runaway winner of the D'Backs make the playoffs.

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Washington, D.C.: Barry,

The Nats front office has previously indicated that the payroll would be increased, perhaps to as much as $75 million, in an effort to field a competitive/contending team upon entering the new stadium. However, they have also said that The Plan does not involve tying up a big chunk of the payroll in one or two players (hence the departure of Soriano). The latter stance would seem to preclude them from throwing heavy five-year contracts at the likes of Andruw Jones, Torii Hunter and Aaron Rowand. How do they get to $75 million without (over)spending on one or two big-name free agents? Has their surprising success this season led them to think that maybe they are just a player or three away? Or, conversely, has their success created a consensus that the team can be reasonably competitive as currently constructed, leading them to re-sign the likes of Meat and Belly, take a flyer on Wily Mo, and sit out a relatively weak free agent class?

Barry Svrluga: This is addressed a bit above in the predator theory, but you hit on a solid point. Kasten is on the record 100 times over as saying that he thinks they're closer to competing than he thought they'd be a year or so ago. That, to me, means that they understand they have some decent complementary pieces, but they need a big bat. That won't come cheaply. Do they trade for an Adam Dunn (if the Reds pick up his $13-million option) and sign him long-term? Your point is good: If they don't sign a huge free agent, how are they going to increase the payroll that much?

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Sect. 419 -- RFK memories:

The Skins' final game -- a win over Dallas, appropriately enough, with a parade of all-timers at halftime. Ran into Billy Kilmer at the airport the next day and got him to sign the ticket stub.

The Nats-Mets exhibition game, in the freezing rain, in 2005. Took my entire family and I'm not ashamed to admit that I choked up when a team representing Washington took the field for the first time in 34 years. I don't think I fully believed it was real until that very moment.

Also... the '05 home opener, seeing Zimmerman's first big-league hit and Ortiz' near no-hitter.

Barry Svrluga: Oooh, a good list encompassing a few eras. Very nice.

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RFK Memories: Barry,

I grew up on the Senators and Redskins. Favorite Senators memory - watching Hondo Howard crush the ball into the empty centerfield upper decks and enjoying the dotted seat color landscape up there where his HR balls landed. I was fortunate enough to be present at RFK on November 27, 1966 in highest-scoring NFL game, Washington Redskins defeat New York Giants 72-41. Favorite Nats memory - Zimmerman's walk off HR on 4th of July against the Marlins back in 2006.

Barry Svrluga: Also very nice. They were thinking of painting the stair where Zimmerman hit his upper-deck shot with a red Z, but like a lot of things, they didn't get around to it. (Not to confuse Zim's upper-deck shot w/walk-off against Marlins.)

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Arlington, Va.: What percentage what you put the new stadium being ready by opening day? What you say, 99 percent? What effect does weather (snow) have at this point?

Barry Svrluga: If they're behind, then a lot of people aren't telling the truth. I'm in touch with some people from the construction company, and they seem quite pleased at the progress. Yes, snow and/or a harsh winter could be a concern, but there's some time built in. I'm not going to put a percentage on it, but I don't think there is any grave concern right now that it won't open on time.

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Next Year: Barry,

Since we don't know what the Nats will do in the off season in way of acquiring free agents, for this question assume that they are locked in with who they have now. Who would start the opening game next April position by position and what would be the starting rotation, in your humble opinion?

Me thinks Zimm at 3rd, Guzman at SS, Belliard at 2b, Young at 1st, WMP in left, Logan in center, and Kearns in right. Starting pitcher - Hill.

Barry Svrluga: I agree with you, except to say that I think Lopez would be the starting second baseman.

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Penn Quarter, DC: Precisely what, to the best of your understanding and ability to relay here, is the deal with Felipe Lopez? The guy looks like he's on a chain gang and would rather be anywhere else than on a baseball diamond. Is there an issue between him and the club, him and Acta -- what?

Thanks...

Barry Svrluga: Previous question brings us to this one.

Lopez is indeed having a down season, and there's every indication he's miserable about it. Bill Ladson from MLB.com and I approached him the other day in Atlanta -- I had approached him before, both before and after games -- and said simply, "Can we talk to you about your season?" He declined. He said he'd talk the last day of the season.

The way it's been described to me, this is a guy whose attitude is fine as long as things are going well for him. Well, right now, they're not going well. He's having a miserable year, and it's reflected in his body language, his demeanor.

That said, I don't think he'll be jettisoned in the offseason. Just a hunch.

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Vienna, Va.: Just wanted to chime in on favorite RFK moments...

All Sports -- The one and only championship won by a DC team AT RFK Stadium, with DC United defeating the Colorado Rapids 2-1 in 1997.

Nats related -- The come-from-behind win over the Phillies last September, the game that started at 11:30pm to a crowd including several hundred Phillies fans and seemingly 5 Nats fans (including me).

Barry Svrluga: I will never forget that 11:30 p.m. start. At one point, in like the seventh inning, I looked to my right and saw Stan Kasten, who had dropped by the press box, sitting in a seat dozing off.

(No, it wasn't me who wrote on his forehead. Really, I swear.)

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Section 318: September 23, 2007 when the Nationals play their final game at RFK and we no longer have to put up with the rude food vendors.

Barry Svrluga: You HOPE you don't have to put up with the rude food vendors. Centerplate, the new concessionaire, will have to do a better job hiring, it seems. The Nats, I know, are optimistic. We'll see.

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Scituate, MA: Barry -

Do you have the courage of say, Dave Sheinen, to give us your playoff and World Series picks? He picked the Yankees! Agree?

Barry Svrluga: I absolutely think the Yankees will make the playoffs. Here's my gut:

NL:

East: Mets

Central: Cubs

West: Padres

Wildcard: D'Backs

AL:

East: Red Sox

Central: Indians

West: Angels

Wildcard: Yankees

You want league champs? Yikes. I'll reluctantly take the Mets (every NL team has serious flaws) and the Red Sox, though I'm very wary of the Angels.

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Brest, France: Barry -

RFK is a DMZ to many suburbanites. Unlike Boston and N.Y., fan base in D.C. is not riding the metro at night to get to the new ballpark. Do you see the lack of access by car and parking depressing attendance next year?

Barry Svrluga: I don't think attendance could go down next year. I just don't. I was pressing Kasten on season-ticket sales so far the other day, and he basically told me he won't give us a number until maybe next spring because "it wouldn't mean anything." That said, he professes to be "pleased" with sales.

Parking: Yes, it could be a problem. The one thing the Nationals can't afford to have is a family come to one game -- buying single-game tickets -- and become so frustrated by the experience that they vow never to become again. This should be a major concern.

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Section 511, Row 5: Barry: only one question for you today:

do you get as much childish glee out of typing

"Fukodome"

as I get out of typing "Spanky" when I refer to Ryan Zimmerman?

If so, you're having a helluva good time.

Oh; I lied. One more line of questions: how can Boras conTINUE to be successful with his "tactics"? Doesn't his success suggest that a LOT of agents should be doing the same thing if they want to fulfill their fiduciary duties to their principals, the players? Even if they deem it distasteful, and it messes with their ability to hang out with the glamorous folk?

Barry Svrluga: Fukudome Fukudome Fukudome

Man, that's fun.

(Fukudome.)

For those wondering, that's the last name of Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome -- the guy who I suspect, if the Nationals are going to pursue a free agent outfielder, might be the leading candidate. He's a high-OBP guy who just had elbow surgery but who most scouts believe would succeed in the majors. Some folks believe he would be better in right field, but he has played center in the past.

Fukudome Fukudome Fukudome

I feel like Beavis. Or Butthead. (Could never keep them straight.)

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20003: RFK Memories -- it's kind of cheating, but in 40 years of baseball fandom, I've got no better memory than getting to know the Nationals in June 2005. Winning game after game, huge crowds at the stadium, Rick Short!, the Angels series, Cordero's save record, first place with a big lead from a team you really couldn't have imagined being more than .500, it was really special.

And as good as all that was, July 2005 was soul-numbing and miserable to just the same degree.

(Someone ought to write a book about all that.)

Barry Svrluga: Rick Short! Man, that was a good one. Loved that. Sheinin wrote a story about the career minor-leaguer who finally got the call that ran in the Post that day. And when he came to the plate, it was like everyone knew his story. He got that RBI single, and man, that was cool.

A book? Hmmmmm.

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Arlington, Va.: How does the Washington Post do covering the Nationals compared to other papers covering their local teams? I'm not talking about talent (you're No. 1) but coverage? For example, let's say you get 2,500 words a day. How about Denver, Seattle, Detroit? Do you see a lot of coverage of the minor league teams in other baseball cities? Same question but overall including Sheinin's Sunday page and O's coverage and the occasional article by Boz.

Barry Svrluga: A good question. I buy the papers in all the towns to which I travel -- in part because I like reading newspapers and in part because I like to compare coverage.

In general, I'd say that we devote more space to our game stories than most places. Some places have whittled gamers down to maybe 10 inches (mine are between 20-24 inches, or between 800-960 words, depending on a bunch of factors). Our notebooks, in general, are a bit shorter -- but we make up some of that by getting some stuff that would be used in notes in "Personnel Dept." and the other items that run at the top of the page. (I usually put minor injury updates in there.)

Sheinin's Sunday page is one of the best in the biz. Other places have long national notebooks -- most notably the Boston Globe, where Peter Gammons invented that art. In general, I'd say other cities have more of a columnist presence at games. Boz comes as often as he can, and he loves being there. But we really don't have a second columnist voice on baseball, which many other cities do.

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Favorite RFK Memory: The impromptu gathering of fans behind the Nats dugout after the last out of the first season. Standing ovation that seemed to go on forever and yet seemed too short at the same time. A lot of love going both ways.

It's a damn shame, but the good vibe was lost in the '05-'06 offseason of MLB neglect and stadium bickering. The Lerners are still digging out of that hole.

Barry Svrluga: That was a pretty cool day. I can remember Chad Cordero, absolutely gassed, coming into the game and failing to get an out, exiting for a curtain call. Then, after the game, he was throwing balls into the upper deck as thanks. Very cool.

Yes, ownership is indeed digging out from under MLB's mess, no doubt.

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Infield Fly My Eye: In the top of the seventh Monday night with two on no outs, in a driving rain, Jesus Flores hit a short pop, no fielder could see it in the rain, and it dropped fair behind third base, where Pena coming from second was thrown out. At some point -- and this is after the ball hit the ground -- the umpires decided it was an infield fly AND that Pena was out at third because he ran at his own risk despite the IFR.

Now, that call was wrong. I refuse to believe that an umpire can call an infield fly after the ball hits the ground. And to be in infield fly, the ball must be readily catchable -- this ball was totally uncatchable.

Anyhow, I'm all for Manny's even keel, but it stuns me he did not fight more and/or get thrown out. It sort of worried me -- while some managers howl too much, a good manager should fight obviously bad calls that directly hurt their team. Do you think has the balance right on this?

Barry Svrluga: I didn't see the play in question, but I've talked to Acta many times about his demeanor. He has been ejected once this season -- when John Lannan was ejected for "throwing at" Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

Acta is a firm believer that getting thrown out does his team no good at all, that no team has ever rallied behind a manager getting tossed. I know there are lots of people that disagree with that view, but it is his. I would not expect him to change his ways anytime soon. He's really adamant about this.

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Section 419: Barry, I wouldn't trust the judgment of someone in Brest, France, when it comes to predicting whether or not Washingtonians will take Metro to the new stadium. If they won't, then who are all those people crowding on to the Blue/Orange line with me after games at RFK, and why would they suddenly become afraid to take the Metro to a new stadium that's only a few stops away from RFK and where the metro station is actually a closer walk to the stadium than it is at RFK?

As for your family of single-game ticket buyers becoming frustrated due to lack of parking and vowing never to return, isn't it pretty much the case that any parking spots that will be under the Nationals' control will be taken up by luxury box/season ticket holders anyway? Whatever other parking is available in the ballpark district will be privately owned commercial lots, right? So wouldn't you expect a major advertising push by the Nationals telling fans to take Metro to the games next year?

Barry Svrluga: Absolutely I would expect the Nationals to get the word out that Metro is the way to go. I think they'll be very aggressive in trying to determine what the best way to get to the park is and then promoting that. They need these customers to have a good time that first trip in so they come back again and again.

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Ryan Church: My line is the same as Zimmerman's, except for homers, but I haven't had as many at bats. I am clutchy. Why can't I be loved?

Barry Svrluga: It's interesting. His line is actually a bit better than that of Austin Kearns, yet Kearns is looked at as absolutely an every-day player within the team and Church is not.

I think there is a feeling that is the opposite of what you think. I don't think the club believes Church is a clutch player, a good grinder. I think we're headed to another offseason of "what's the future for Ryan Church?"

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MLB Players: Our favorite away sites are Chicago and New York, followed closely by San Diego. Least favorite are Milwaukee and Detroit. Boston is 4th. How about you?

Barry Svrluga: Those are all top places. Love NYC, Chicago, San Diego. Boston is near and dear for me. But I'd put San Francisco right up there -- maybe at the top. Love that park. Love that city.

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Sec 515 : My favorite RFK moment was from a meaningless Senators/White Sox game in 1969 when at age 9 my parents took me to my first baseball game. I still remember being in awe of how HIGH the foul balls flew in the air.

My Mom taught me to keep score that night. I still have that program and the one from the next year when I kept score myself.... that and about 500 more programs from every game I've attended since, including almost every home Nationals game.

Naturally, my mother doesn't remember the 1969 game at all, but she has managed to finally turn my Dad into a baseball fan and they sit nearby many times a year.

Barry Svrluga: That's a very nice memory.

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Section 213, Row 12: Brry,

Have the Nationals announced their plans anywhere for the season ending and RFK closing extravaganza?

Barry Svrluga: No, they haven't announced them, but they do have some plans to have former Senators on hand. I have a feeling this will all be under-played. They moved the start time to 12:05 p.m. to accommodate the Redskins game at 4 p.m., and I think they should market it along with the Skins -- they could bring in people like Riggo, etc., to stand on the field where they had some of their great moments, and encourage fans to make it a doubleheader -- getting misty-eyed at RFK about those Skins' glory days, then going out to FedEx for the actual Skins game, all while watching the last MLB game at RFK.

Not a bad plan, is it?

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Silver Spring, Md.:"The one thing the Nationals can't afford to have is a family come to one game -- buying single-game tickets -- and become so frustrated by the experience that they vow never to become again. This should be a major concern."

So what they need is a person -- better, a team -- whose responsibility is to do nothing except banging the drum for people to either

(a) use Metro, or

(b) park at RFK and shuttle to Nats Park.

This could be a wickedly funny ad campaign. Happy family tailgates at RFK and boards the bus. Grumpy, sad family sits in traffic on South Capitol Street. Etc.

Barry Svrluga: I definitely think they'll do stuff like that. But wouldn't there be some irony in the District building a ballpark and having people park at the old ballpark -- which might have been a nice site for the new park?

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DC: Barry,

Sports Illustrated polled the players and DC came in 3rd for least favorite city to visit. Is this simply because of RFK?

Barry Svrluga: Indeed that has to be the leading factor. The visitors' clubhouse is horrible. (The home one isn't much better.) The visitors hit a lot of balls that would be homers elsewhere that die at RFK. The teams sometimes stay at the Ritz out at Pentagon City, and there's not a ton to do around there. (Others stay at the Mayflower on Connecticut Ave. NW, which is probably better.)

But I think that poll will be different when the new park opens.

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Herndon, Va.: Best football moment was the 'Skins victory over Dallas in NFC Championship game in 1982 when Darryl Grant took a tipped ball into the end zone and the stands rocked.

Best Baseball moment was seeing the team back in 2006 as the odds were so great since the D.C. council combined with MLB did not instill much confidence.

Best moment of all: 1996 Promise Keepers rally when a packed stadium was full of men who were solid and trying to do right.

Go Nats in '08!!

Barry Svrluga: Wow. A Promise Keepers moment. Didn't see that coming.

Baseball returned in 2005. I'm surprised Grant moment took this long to come up.

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Section 506 (After moving): Avoiding talking about the pitching and Felipe "Charlie Brown" Lopez...

What do you think the future holds for Lenny Harris and for the Nationals' hitting coach position. From everything you've hinted at, I gather they might be different.

Barry Svrluga: I think this is one of the most important hires in the offseason. It's possible, I suppose, that Harris will be back. He definitely likes the job. But because of the circumstances in which he got the job -- Mitchell Page's departure, they needed someone that day, and they hired someone with no hitting coach experience at any level -- I believe the Nationals will take a hard look at that position in the offseason. The call might be Jim Bowden's. He likes Harris from way back, but I think if you look at lots of the factors, they'll see who else is out there. This is a job that goes beyond statistics.

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Last Game: Wouldn't it also be a good idea to get some DC United players there, not only for city unity but to underline the point that the Nats are moving, the stadium is not getting torn down (so don't tear it up for souvenirs)?

Barry Svrluga: Not a bad idea. I know that United players will be happy that the infield/mound will be gone for good, and the Nats will be happy they won't have soccer divots to deal with in the outfield.

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DC: Barry,

Thanks for all of your hard work this season. I'd also like to point out that you're a machine in these chats, answering farm more questions than most of your counterparts at the WaPo (and amazingly with few typos). We could only hope for such proficiency w/the Boz.

This is a sort of silly question, but have the Lerners/Kasten mentioned anything about changing the unis in the off season? The curly W is here to stay, but I've always thought that the block lettering on the jerseys is insanely ugly. What about a little old-school cursive across the chest?

Barry Svrluga: Thanks much, D.C. My fingers are flying for an hour on these chats. Even occasionally use spellcheck. Plus, the boss keeps track of words/chat, and I always want to finish at/near the top of that.

Unis: I don't believe they will change for next year, though I am not 100 percent sure. I'll check. There's a deadline by which they have to file for uni changes. I do know that the Curly W (thanks, Charlie Slowes!) will be prominently displayed at the new park, with less emphasis on the interlocking DC.

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Fair Lakes, Va.: Barry,

Jimenez, Fick and Langerhans in the same lineup today. Please tell us we won't witness this again next year.

Barry Svrluga: Can't assure you of that. I will say that they won the other day with Jimenez at the top of the order -- getting three hits and three RBI.

Joel Hanrahan walking the pitcher in the bottom of the second. Is that good?

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20003: I wrote the earlier comment with Rick Short and I would like to just state for the record that I got caught up in the moment and I realize that the Angels series was at The Big Ed.

Also, I know that anytime someone submits a comment mentioning that series you will post it.

Barry Svrluga: Yes, I noticed that error, but since that Angels series -- which included the Robinson-Scioscia toe-to-toe and Jose Guillen calling his former manager a "piece of garbage" -- is probably my favorite memory from the last three years, I let it slide.

(I still have the Guillen tape from that night. Man, was that priceless.)

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Hanrahan: I just loaded the bases and got out Scott-free. Top of the 2d 0-0. Am I in the starting rotation?

Barry Svrluga: For next year? Boy, I think you have to try to do better. Guy has to throw more strikes.

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Next Year, Part 2: Why have Da-Meathook at 1B on opening day next year, rather than Nick Johnson? I know MY answer (and I agree with both of you), but I'm curious about YOUR answer.

And given Da-Meat's new contract and new lease on his baseball life this year, how likely that Johnson gets dealt either in the offseason or early next season?

Barry Svrluga: I'm done predicting Johnson's return, as is the team. I know he'll work hard to come back, but the fact remains that his history with healing is not a good one. He's been hurt as often as healthy -- and this goes all the way back to his minor league days. I hate to be a pessimist about it, but I got trapped into being an optimist last year -- thinking he'd be ready for Opening Day -- and he missed the whole year, so ...

As for trading Johnson: I just don't think you could convince another team to take him given what I just discussed above. I also know that there are some people in the organization salivating at getting his bat back in the lineup. That .423 OBP changes things, you know?

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Fairfax, Va.: Favorite RFK memories -

Seeing the Beatles there once upon a time. My seats were just behind the 3rd base dugout, which is where they came out. Known as DC stadium at that time.

John Riggins taking a bow near the end of one his dominant games (I think it was vs Detroit).

Nationals opening game in 2005.

Barry Svrluga: Excellent, all of them.

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RFK: My favorite memory was camping out for Springsteen tickets for 4 nights back in 1984. The concert was awesome but the camping out was fantastic.

Barry Svrluga: Another excellent one. Would this have been the "Born in the USA" tour? Seems to me that would be the timing.

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Arlington, Va.: I remember being in the RFK left field stands in 1971 watching Denny McClain lose rather badly to Vida Blue. It was my last game there for 34 years. The trip from the Metro to the seat seemed shorter then. Sigh!

Barry Svrluga: How'd that Denny McClain trade work out? Ugh. Not good.

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REF: GMU & MASN: To me, it makes no difference if the Nats are MASN I (Channel 62 in Arlington) or MASN II (channel 77 in Arlington). It's all the same. If the game isn't on one channel, I go to the other.

Barry Svrluga: The more resilient among the fan base take this approach.

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Navy Yard: Hey Uncle Barry - Tell us a good Robert Fick story!

Barry Svrluga: You mean one that doesn't involve him walking into Acta's office completely naked saying he should be in the lineup?

Hmmmmm. Let me think.

Well, there's a list in the clubhouse before games where players sign up to put family members/friends on a pass list so they can get to the family area after games and wait for players. Most players put their name, then "Jill Smith/wife" or some such thing.

Fick gets creative. In big black marker, almost every day, he comes up with a new one. He'll put "Eric Goldschmidt/Fick's agent" and under reason "contract extension." Or he'll have Stan Kasten leaving a pass for Dominique Wilkins. Stuff like that.

I'm going to miss him next year. Kind of.

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Seabrook, Md.: To propel himself to the level of David Wright and Ryan Braun, won't Ryan Zimmerman have to learn to be more patient at the plate? Fifty walks in a season are not enough. If he walked eighty or more times, his average would probably rise to .300.

Barry Svrluga: Yes, this is clearly the next step. He has to get to the point where he not only lays off that stuff out of the zone for two- and three-week periods, but for a whole season. His numbers could really go up across the board if he does that.

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Barry Svrluga: Folks, that's it. Thanks for the RFK memories. I'll be dealing with that topic in the $.35 edition as well as on Nationals Journal in the near future.

Lots of questions I didn't get to. Sorry about that. We'll chat again next week -- live from RFK, in the midst of the final homestand. Have a great week.

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