Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 25, 2007 12:00 PM
Washington Post national baseball writer Dave Sheinin was online Thursday, Sept. 25, at noon ET to take your questions and comments from around the major leagues.
A transcript follows.
Dave Sheinin: Hey folks, and greetings from Pittsburgh, where I'll be checking in on the Diamondbacks tonight, as they look to close out the NL West title. Very interesting team. Lots of youth. One great starting pitcher. Fabulous back end of the bullpen. But the lowest OBP in the league, and not much of a rotation beyond Brandon Webb. Anyway, you can read more about them in tomorrow's paper.
For our chat-starter topic this week, how about favorite breakout players, and biggest disappointments in 2007 -- both on the national scene, and on the Nationals.
And now, on to the questions...
Stan The Man:
So Dave, you looked a bit incredulous during SK's continual rant against the WaPo during the videocast last week. Wow. It seems that SK believes the WaPo has it in for the Nats. A fine line a newspaper must walk, trying to maintain professional, cordial relations with the home team's mgmt/coaches and being objective in reporting even when it is critical. How common is this situation in other MLB towns, ie. relationship between the team and the paper that covers it?
Dave Sheinin: I figured this was going to come up, so let's just dispense it with it from the top... Yes, Stan seems to think we at The Washington Post "has it in" for the Nats. Not true. We simply expect accountability. I have no problem whatsoever with Stan. In fact, I relish the sarcastic give-and-take between us whenever I see him. But I will say I believe Stan is accustomed to less scrutiny by the media, having spent most of his career prior to 2006 in Atlanta. Things are different in Washington. If you watched the Comcast interview, he really didn't answer a single question posed to him -- or, rather, his "answers" could be boiled down to one thought: "Trust us. We're smarter than you." And frankly, I find that to be insulting and unacceptable. Stan gets a free pass here for awhile, because of his track record in Atlanta. And to be honest, I buy into "The Plan." There have been huge strides made in the farm system. That's undeniable. The point I was trying to make is that the Nats, at the major league level, appear to be farther away from contending than I believed they were at the start of the season, not closer.
Arlington, Va.: Nationals president Stan Kasten kind of ripped into you on WaPo Live right after coming down on beat writer Barry Svrluga, according to a post on NatsJournal. Highly entertaining stuff, but also perplexing. How do you guys maintain open communication with a team and also retain your own integrity without going completely on the defensive? Obviously, the team can't dictate what you write or say.
Dave Sheinin: Oh, I just realized I didn't really answer the last chatter's question -- about whether it is common for the media and the team to be at odds. Yes, it is extremely common. In fact, if there isn't some tension between the media and the organization, I'd think somebody wasn't doing a good enough job. Our respective jobs are often at odds with each other, by nature.
New York, N.Y.: Dave, I know you're probably sick of Sox/Yankees questions...so here's another one: what is the immediate and long term future of Manny Ramirez? Is he going to play again this season and are the Sox finally tired of his antics?
Dave Sheinin: Actually, I'm really not tired of Yankees/Sox questions. In fact, I always enjoy covering them. I hope they meet in the ALCS, because it will be a great story -- which is what I always root for. Anyway, with Manny... yes, the Red Sox are tired of antics. But they've been tired of his antics for a few years now, and they have merely decided his production outweighed the negatives. But this winter, I suspect, they will revisit the trade route with him. It will be much easier to deal him this winter, since he will have only one year left on that massive contract.
As for the immediate future, I suspect we will see Manny in the playoffs. Despite the perilous grip on the AL East, the Red Sox have almost clinched a playoff spot, and there's no need to be aggressive in playing guys like Manny.
Columbia, Md.: Will you keep doing the MLB Sunday page until after the post season? I don't want to see baseball go and I don't want to see your page go. I'll miss both so much. Maybe you can do a smaller version throughout the winter, wouldn't that be nice (for us)? Please say you will continue to do it next season.
Dave Sheinin: Thanks for the nice words. Unfortunately, this week's MLB Sunday page will be the last until 2008. I will be writing baseball stories all winter, however, and MLB Sunday, as far as I know, will return next season.
Washington, D.C.: For national breakout player, by performance, it's Curtis Granderson.
AL ROY - Dustin or Delmon?
Dave Sheinin: Granderson is a great pick. I'm still formualting my picks for the major awards, which will run on the MLB Sunday page this week. But if you give me the choice between Pedroia and Young, I'd go with Pedroia, because of his season-long impact on a team in a playoff race.
Fave breakout player...: Rick Ankiel!!!!
oops...uhhhhhhh..... never mind....
Dave Sheinin: Yeah, such a shame.
Arlington, Va.: On occasion, we local baseball fans will try to hide some bias. So if you can be impartial, what do you think of Manny Acta's chances for Manager of the year ? Also, how about Dimiti Young as comback player of the year ?
Dave Sheinin: Unfortunately, Manny Acta is not going to win Manager of the Year. I suspect Bob Melvin will finish first, with Ned Yost or perhaps Charlie Manuel finishing second. However, Manny will get some votes -- deservingly so. Dmitri's chances for Comeback Player are somewhat better. Without having studied the field very much, I'd have to say the choices are Dmitri, Rick Ankiel and Josh Hamilton. Am I forgetting anyone?
Suffern, N.Y.: Wow, SK thinks The Post is unfair to the Nats? He should feel lucky he isn't in New York. This isn't to suggest that The Post isn't as tough on the Nats as NY papers are on Mets and Yankees -- you guys do a great job. But NY papers are full of cheap shots as well, while you guys manage to avoid them.
If you do have it in for the Nats, however, I would ask that you find a way to sabotage them for the next two games -- but only the next two. Thank you.
Dave Sheinin: Thanks for the support, I think.
Ellicott City: So where is ARod going to be playing next year? I know he has had a hard time in NY ,before this year of course, but I find it hard to believe that they are not going to try to keep him, especially after the year he has had. But of course it remains to be seen how he will do in the postseason where he has always been really bad. I just don't want him to become a Red Sox, I don't want to have to like him, respect his playing ability yes, like him, no. Arrogance is something I look for in a man.
Dave Sheinin: I fully expect A-Rod to be back with the Yankees next season -- but at a higher price. I think he will opt out of his contract (as is his contractual right), explore the possibilities out there, but ultimately re-sign with the Yankees. (As for the price, I'll guesstimate seven years $210 million.) The Yankees remain the only team capable of paying A-Rod that much -- or if not the only team, certainly the one best equipped to do so.
Vienna, Va.:"The Nats, at the major league level, appear to be farther away from contending than I believed they were at the start of the season, not closer." While I'm not sure I totally agree with this statement, I think you strike at the core of the problem with the team right now. A lot of promising talent deep in the farm system, not so much talent percolating just below the big league level, and a major league roster that can win 70 games if everything goes well. How will Kasten and Co. justify not making significant upgrades (read: some free agents) going into the debut season of the new stadium? Putting aside the baseball "plan," it's clear they're currently losing the marketing battle in town here, with attendance dropping. Don't they have to do something significant to upgrade the big league roster to really leverage the new park?
Dave Sheinin: This is almost exactly, word for word, the question I put to Stan on the Comcast show, and his answer, to paraphrase liberally, was "Trust us."
And let me explain what I mean by "farther away from contending." When the season started, I thought the Nationals had a pretty decent core of 27-and-under players that could form the core of a contending team two or three years down the line. In that category, I included (off the top of me head here) Zimmerman (obviously), Cordero, Patterson, Schneider, Kearns, F. Lopez, N. Johnson, Rauch and Church. But my own opinion is that the list not only hasn't grown over the last six months, it has actually gone down, as certain players have been exposed, so to speak. I like the fact that Shawn Hill and Jason Bergmann proved themselves to be very solid candidates for the rotation-of-the-future, but I'd need to see both of them stay healthy for a full season before I add them to my list.
Washington, D.C.: Do you think this is the last we will see of Miguel Tejada in an Orioles uniform? It seems like just yesterday when the O's made the efforts to get Tejada and Javy Lopez (and failed at getting Vlad Guerrero) and then in 2005 grabbed at free agent straws and got Sammy Sosa. Is it the fate of Tejada to regret his time as an Oriole? Will he be the last big name free agent to ever "want" to play here?
Dave Sheinin: I think this will be the last we see of Tejada at shortstop, but I'm not sure it's the last we'll see of him with the Orioles. From what I've heard, the Orioles are adamant about getting Tejada out of the shortstop position. They would love to trade Melvin Mora and move Tejada to third base, except that the front office (foolishly) gave Mora a blanket no-trade clause in his last contract, and I seriously doubt he would waive it. So the Orioles may have to move Mora to the outfield, or into the "super-utility" role he used to have. The other option, obviously, is to trade Tejada. But for all his faults, he's still a very productive hitter, and the Orioles need his bat.
Biggest Disappointments - Nats: Dave,
First, I agree with your overall assessment of the Nats. Those that last year were dubbed 'future pieces', i.e. Zimmerman, Kearns, Lopez, Johnson, Patterson, etc. didn't develop as hoped. Other than Zimmerman, I don't see anyone else that is a 'lock' for the future. Kearns and Lopez are solid but not WS caliber players. Johnson and Patterson are always hurt and not getting any younger. The players that were surprising and fun to watch, Young and Belliard, don't seem to be factors for the long term future. Schneider is great defensively but his offensive numbers hurt the team. Flores will hopefully be the future at that position. Our entire outfield, as far as I am concerned, needs help. And we'll need a SS after next year.
Dave Sheinin: Good points, all around. I want to point out that I think it's fabulous that the Nats are going to win 70 games. It's been a fun season. And it's a tribute to Manny Acta and a bunch of proud, talented players. But if you gave me the choice between 110 losses with a half-dozen young players emerging, and 90 losses with only one or two young players emerging, I'd take the 110 losses in a heartbeat.
Anonymous: Did the Orioles make a mistake extending Trembley ... the Os's have just completely fallen apart since then.
Dave Sheinin: I fully believe the Orioles would have folded even if they had Connie Mack managing them. By now, I think it's obvious the problem with this franchise is not in the manager's office -- unless you think Ray Miller, Mike Hargrove, Lee Mazzilli, Sam Perlozzo and Trembley were all losers. This franchise's problems go way above the manager's office.
Harrisburg, Pa.: Jeremy Guthrie was well on his way to being my breakout player. . now it's like he doesn't even exist. Did he just wear down, or are there reasons for long-term concern?
Dave Sheinin: I think he just wore down. He's still a rookie. It happens.
Washington, D.C.: Where does Barry Bonds end up playing next year? Does this move even make sense for the Giants since they are giving up a top 10 offensive force in the NL for nothing, not to mention someone that draws the fans in. I can understand wanting payroll flexibility, but Bonds at $15 million on a one-year deal isn't as bad as say locking up a mediocre lefty for 7-years, $126 million. The Giants aren't exactly brimming with position players in the farm, either, and Brian Sabean's plan of helping aging major leaguers bridge the gap between their prime and eligibility for Social Security hasn't exactly paid off.
Dave Sheinin: I suspect Bonds is done. There are teams that might entertain the notion of signing him (the Texas Rangers come immediately to mind), but they're going to expect him to take the Sammy Sosa deal -- which is to say, a very, very low base salary, with tons of incentives. And I suspect Bonds is too proud to accept a 75 percent reduction (to pull a number out of thin air) in guaranteed salary.
As for the Giants' reasons, well, it's harsh to say -- but they essentially bled all the revenue they could out of him, and now are throwing him to the side of the road. Now that the march to 756 is over, he's not going to fill that stadium the way he used to. And while the offensive production is still good, it no longer outweighs all the baggage and all the negatives with his defense and baserunning.
"Nats Sweep Cards at RFK": I wrote the Post Ombudsman to ask why we couldn't have an above the masthead note like "Nats Sweep Cards at RFK" after we swept the World Series champions. I received no reply.
We sweep the Orioles in Baltimore...no header on page 1. But I find Tiger there, and the Ravens, and the Redskins' pre-season games, and on and on.
The Nats had a very exciting win over Atlanta one night, and the next day Sports headline was about the upcoming football season for Texas and TCU. Now, I have lived here 49 years, and have never even MET at Texas or TCU alumni! WHY WON'T THE POST FEATURE THE NATIONALS ON THEIR SPORTS PAGE?
Dave Sheinin: Uh... I don't make these calls, but I suspect if you asked one of our sports editors, they would tell you that the Nationals were almost always on the front page of Sports during the first four or five months of the season, but now, with football season in full swing (and this being, indisputably, a football town) and with the Nationals out of contention, the play we are giving the Nats has been reduced. We can all dream that someday Washington will be a baseball town, and the Nationals will be a perennial power. But that day ain't here, I'm afraid.
20003: Barry Bonds in left field is the answer to all the Nationals problems. Reasons:
We need to spend money but there's nowhere good to spend it. We could spend it on Barry.
He would only require a one-year deal so we're not bogged down and go after Johan Santana next offseason.
He won't be offered arb, so no loss of a draft pick.
Butts in seats! Also wonder if he might be a good way to connect with/market to the city's African-American community.
What is Washington DC if not the land of second chances?
Lots of lawyers at hand if he should need legal representation at any time.
Would not doubt spur some serious and wonderful bile from Tom Boswell.
What say you?
Dave Sheinin: I'd be all for it, honestly. It'd be a great story.
washington, dc:"Red Sox have almost clinched a playoff spot..."
Who are you and what have you done with Dave, who surely knows that the Sox clinched the playoff spot already. Is that you Gene?
Dave Sheinin: Yeah, I meant to say "already" instead of almost. My bad.
Olney MD : Dave, as a former Georgia resident, I've never been clear why Kasten should get a free pass on anything. John Scheurholz, not Stan, was the reason the Braves became the Braves. Stan's main legacy in Atlanta was his tenure as the head of the Hawks, whom nobody ever mistook for the Spurs....
Dave Sheinin: This is actually a widespread opinion of folks I've talked to in Atlanta. However, given how hands-on Kasten is as a team president, it's safe to say he had a major role with the Braves. And somebody had to be the one who hired Schuerholz. That would be Kasten.
Suffern, NY: That wasn't as clear as I'd hoped- trying to accomplish 6 things before heading over to the clubhouse at Shea. It is a compliment- Post is tough but fair. NY papers are full of ridiculous shots on top of the tough questions.
Dave Sheinin:"Over to the clubhouse at Shea"? Who are you?
Hartford, Conn.: Since you don't mind, here's another Yankees question.
How far can they go with only six reliable pitchers?
As for the flops....too easy. JD Drew. hahaha.
Dave Sheinin: I think they can. Teams routinely shift a greater number of innings to a smaller number of pitchers in the postseason, thanks to all the extra offdays. Think of the Yankees' great teams of the late 1990s. In the bullpen, only Rivera, Nelson, Stanton and maybe Ramiro Mendoza saw meaningful action.
Laurel: Arizona and Pittsburgh have the best and worst records in the NL right now, and the difference between them is only 22 games. Meanwhile, the usual money teams are running away with the American.
Is there really a bigger money difference in the American League, or do the weaker markets in the National just use their resources better?
Dave Sheinin: Good question. The AL, top to bottom, is clearly superior to the NL. I talked to a scout a couple of weeks ago who said the best team in the NL (whoever that is at the moment) would probably be the fifth- or sixth-best team in the AL. Clearly, the presence of the Yankees and Red Sox, with all their vast revenues, in the AL forces other teams to spend money to keep up.
But it's also true that parity is at an all-time high, around both leagues. Read something the other day that pointed out this might be only the second season in history in which no teams finish with a winning percentage above .600 or below .400. Everyone's bunched up between those two numbers.
Another benefit to having Bonds with the Nats: It'd be much easier for him to show up for all of that Congressional testimony.
Dave Sheinin: Good point.
West is the Best: How about the Rockies coming out of the woodwork to compete for the wildcard? Are you following this great story.
Dave Sheinin: The Rockies are a great story. (As a side note: Has Matt Holliday won the MVP award over the last week or so?) And if they manage to get into the playoffs, they're going to be a trendy pick to win it all, or at least get to the World Series, given how hot they are at the end of September.
Howard County: Thank you so much for a baseball-year of MLB Sunday's. GREAT WORK!!!!!!
Dave Sheinin: Thank you. And let me give a shout out to Bonnie Berkowitz, who is the page designer responsible for all those fabulous graphics, charts and other cool stuff that make the page look so good.
Boston: Which A.L. playoff team would suffer the worst blow to its franchise from a first round loss? I would rank it this way: Yankees (after last year's heartbreak, all the effort to make the playoffs this year and the uncertainty of A-Rod and others heading into next year), Red Sox (14.5 games up only to bow out), Angels (playing some of the best baseball in MLB) and then Indians (a pretty solid season for them).
Dave Sheinin: Well, there's no doubt in my mind the Yankees would suffer the biggest blow with a first-round exit. If they lose the division to the Red Sox, I suspect Steinbrenner (despite his apparently failing health) is going to be upset, and is going to require a strong performance in October to convince him not to start firing people.
Downtown:"I talked to a scout a couple of weeks ago who said the best team in the NL (whoever that is at the moment) would probably be the fifth- or sixth-best team in the AL"
Was that the same scout who told Buster Olney the Nats could lose 130 games? Sorry, cheap shot. To phrase it less snarkily, how far do you take a scout's opinion? Obviously, scouts are invaluable in identifying talent and the attributes of a successful or unsuccessful player, but is their job description really to analyze teams as a whole? These days, it seems like unnamed scouts say all manner of things that might or might not withstand much scrutiny.
Dave Sheinin: Fair point. I don't put too much credence in any one person's opinion. However, scouts see hundreds of games a year, and some of them see every team in the game. So I would say there's not a more credible group of people, as a whole, than scouts, when it comes to opinions such as that.
Bonds to the Nats: Another benefit - he could take Teddy's place in the President's race. With that big noggin, he'd fit right in!
Dave Sheinin: Hmmmm.
Ithaca, NY: What's your assessment of the Indians' postseason prospects? In all the usual Yankees-Sox hubub, people seem not to have noticed that Cleveland now has the league's best record.
Dave Sheinin: I think the Indians are a very, very strong threat. I love their 1-2 punch of Sabathia and Carmona, and the back end of their bullpen (despite Borowski's high-wire act) is one of the best in the game. They're going to be tough to beat.
Silver Spring, Md.:"But if you gave me the choice between 110 losses with a half-dozen young players emerging, and 90 losses with only one or two young players emerging, I'd take the 110 losses in a heartbeat."
Be honest Dave. Had the Nats lost 110 games would The Post have written the end of the season story that way? Or would it have been "historically bad" yada yada yada.
Dave Sheinin: Well, first of all, 110 losses would not be "historic." And it would have been roughly what people were expecting, so it would not have seemed so disastrous. I can only speak for myself, and I could not tell you what my colleagues would have written, but I would have taken such a season to be a net success -- as long as we saw the emergence of young players, and the continued growth of less-young players.
washington, dc: When wishing Bud Black good luck, is it appropriate to say "Break a leg?"
Dave Sheinin: Post of the day! What a bizarre, bizarre story. I can't wait to find out what, exactly, the umpire said to Milton Bradley that pushed him over the top. I hope we find out soon.
RE: Breakout Players: Gotta be Prince Fielder. I'm only sorry he (probably) won't be in the playoffs next month...
Dave Sheinin: I don't know. Can a guy be a "breakout" player when he hit 28 homers the year before? The Prince was already on a lot of radar screens when this year began.
Centreville, VA:"The point I was trying to make is that the Nats, at the major league level, appear to be farther away from contending than I believed they were at the start of the season, not closer."
Maybe they ought to play more games against the Mets, then! I say this because I'm a life-long Mets fan, and suffering through the last couple of weeks of this season. The Nats always seem to play the Mets tough (c'mon Manny Acta, you were our third base coach, cut us a break!!). Can the Mets hold on to first place? It has been an excrutiating month for sure!
Dave Sheinin: No doubt about it. The Nats are killing them. I still think the Mets will hold onto the division, but they no longer look like the best team in the league. They've gone from having too much starting pitching to having not enough. Glavine, Pedro and (if he's healthy) El Duque might have been a great playoff rotation in 1999, but not in 2007.
Dave Sheinin: OK, everyone, thanks for another fantastic chat. Next time we chat, it'll be October, and the playoffs will be underway. Looking forward to it.
Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.