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Wednesday, Oct. 3, 1p.m. ET

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Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 3, 2007; 1:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Barry Svrluga was online Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 1 p.m. ET to take your questions and comments about the 2007 Nationals and the baseball postseason.

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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."

Discussion Archive

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Barry Svrluga: Greetings folks. Sorry I'm a bit late. Cab to Citizens Bank Park in Philly took what we'll call an alternate route.

I believe this chat is labeled as a Nationals chat. But I'm open to any and all postseason questions as well. As I told folks in the Journal, there's a chance by this time next week I'll have seen all four division series.

So bring it on.

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Arlington Nats Fan: So do you believe enough in Justin Maxwell that the Nats are off the market for a center fielder this offseason?

Barry Svrluga: I've said it before: I'm of the mind that center field is the Nationals' most important problem to solve in the offseason. It could serve one of two purposes -- getting an impact bat that could provide 30 HR, or it could give them a true leadoff hitter (because they were asking Felipe Lopez to be something he's not this year, and Nook Logan leading off for 150 games doesn't make anyone comfortable).

That said, Maxwell needs to show more. He has to do it at a higher level for a longer period of time. That's why Arizona Fall League is so important for him. He needs to perform again against good competition.

But the crucial time for him is coming. Remember, he turns 24 in November, so he's not just out of high school.

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Springfield, Va.: Since no open-air parking lots are planned to be available, where will fans tailgate in the new stadium next year?

Barry Svrluga: Wow, great question. Tailgating is a problem in other urban ballparks, too (Boston comes to mind). I was talking to Ted Lerner the other morning right here in Philadelphia, where parking lots seem to be the only things between here and downtown. He said, "If you win, the fans will come." He's got that right.

For now, maybe folks could tailgate at the cement factory b/w the ballpark and the Anacostia.

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Fredericksburg, Va.: Barry, as someone who has followed the Nationals as closely as you have the last three years, I was wondering which year you think has been the best.

I know it's hard to compare teams to teams sometimes, but I would argue this year's team has been the best of the three since baseball returned to D.C. When you consider how these guys played with a patched together rotation as well as all the young players that really stepped up. People talked about 120 losses yet eight teams ended up with worse records and they never rolled over at the end of the season. They played hard to the end which is a tribute to the team and Manny Acta.

The 2006 team had less wins even with the bats of Soriano, Guillen, Vidro and a healthy Nick Johnson as well as the innings Hernandez gave. Enough said there.

Most people would point to the 2005 team as being the best. It's true they had 8 more wins than the 2007 team and was in the race for a majority of the year, but when you look at it, from July 1 forward the 2005 team really collapsed going from leading the division by 4 1/2 to ending up 9 games back, a turnaround of 13 1/2 games. During that stretch they were 17 games below .500 at 33 and 50. This year's team ended up 16 back of the Phillies. But during the same stretch from July 1 until the end of the season they were only 1 game below .500 at 40 and 41.

I was just wondering what you thought. I think there are great things on the horizon for this team and hopefully in a few years when you cover the playoffs you will be sleeping in your own bed.

Barry Svrluga: I can see the arguments for this season, but I have to go with 2005. The team wasn't just in first place, but it was the best story in baseball for much of the first half. Throw in the national attention received -- first for baseball returning to Washington, then for Frank Robinson and Mike Scioscia going toe-to-toe, and we haven't had that kind of electricity since. And the collapse was a compelling story in its own right.

Did this year's team achieve more? You could argue that. But I think 10 years from now, I'll remember lots more details from 2005 than I will from '07.

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Washington, D.C.: Barry,

Is there any actual hope that Andruw Jones dons a Nats' jersey come spring?

Barry Svrluga: The price would have to be right. And by that, I mean it would have to be much lower than what agent Scott Boras likely envisions. The Nationals will look at his 2007 -- known in the biz as his "platform year" -- and argue that he can't possibly be deemed a $15-million a year player.

I wouldn't completely rule it out. But man, it seems like a long shot to me -- given how team executives have said they want to build this club.

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Washington, D.C.: What's the latest on the fate of Bob Carpenter? I think he's terrific and works well with Sutton. What's the Nats problem with him?

Barry Svrluga: Carpenter and Nats are supposed to talk this week. The Nats approached Dan Shulman of ESPN, but he's under contract. So the Nats then went back to Carpenter and said that maybe they can work something out for next year.

Stay tuned.

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Rockville, Md.: How are you enjoying Philly? I wish I was up there today; I'll just have to enjoy my tickets for tomorrow's game.

Barry Svrluga: Just got in this morning, thanks, but was obviously here over the weekend when the Nats were in town. I'm excited for these games. These offenses are both explosive, and it'll be interesting to see how Hamels and Francis fare. The view of the downtown Philly skyline is very nice from the press box, though it's a bit muggy and overcast for a fall day. Let's get crisp!

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SW DC & section 405: Hey Barry - Great job this season.

Do you think the Nats might give any consideration to moving Zimmerman to short, freeing up 3rd for Chris Marrero? While he is bigger than most shortstops, his quick hands and excellent range make you wonder whether he could transition to short like Cal did... This would also get Marrero and his bat to the majors (maybe in '09?) in his natural position, rather than as a shaky outfielder. While Guzman played well at short while he was healthy, I doubt that the team is counting on him as the long-term solution there. Thanks.

Barry Svrluga: I understand where you're coming from, but I just don't see it happening. While Marrero played third in high school, I don't think we should consider it his "natural" position. His footspeed is not good, and that would hurt him at third coming in on bunts, etc. The Nats feel like they have a multiple-time Gold Glove winner at third in Zimmerman, and while he was a shortstop in high school and it's possible he could play there at a major league level (he did a couple times in his first month in the bigs in 2005), why fix what ain't broke? It's the only thing on this team that seems secure.

Marrero: There's still time to work with him in left field and at first base. He's just 19.

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Indianapolis: Barry, your work this year was outstanding! Thanks so much for everything. My question -- any specific names you've heard bandied about as possible offseason targets? Cameron, Fukudome, etc.

Barry Svrluga: Indianapolis, you are kind. Thanks for reading.

It's a bit early for that kind of stuff, though I would say that given the Nationals' intention to get involved in the Far East, the Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome could be a target. Keep in mind that while the Nationals would have to pay him like a free agent (and again, there's no guarantee they'll pursue players like that), they don't have to pay the posting fee to the Japanese club (a la Boston and Matsuzaka) because he's a free agent in Japan. So the total package wouldn't be as bad.

If Fukudome heals from a late-season injury, the Nationals plan on sending scouts to Japan to see him.

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D.C.: Is Matt Holliday the next household name in baseball?

Barry Svrluga: I really hope he becomes more recognized in these playoffs. Monday night should have been a start (though he butchered that ball in the eighth inning). And this series here -- Rockies-Phillies -- should provide a good forum for the MVP debate between him and Jimmy Rollins.

But look at all those Rockies, from Holliday to Garrett Atkins to Troy Tulowitzki to even guys like Brad Hawpe. That lineup is every bit as deep as that of the Phillies (Rollins, Utley, Howard, Victorino, Rowand, etc.). You think, after today, we'll see some 9-8 games? I'd say so.

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Problem with Carpenter: SEE YOU LA... and it's caught for an out in LF

Barry Svrluga: It's interesting. I can't really offer much of a perspective on the announcers because I so rarely hear them because I'm at the games. I know Carpenter has some really vocal and strong supporters, but I also know there are people who would rather give someone else a shot.

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Arlington, Va.: Have you ever asked Kasten about the relocation of season's ticketholders from RFK to the new park? It seems to be taking a long time. For those of us who have had tickets from day one when they went on sale in 2004 (literally) this is an especially touchy subject. If their most loyal customers get the short end of the stick as to their new seat location it is really going to hurt their fan base over the long haul.

Barry Svrluga: I know that Kasten is taking this process extremely seriously, and he was hoping to have the process completed in mid-November or so. I think he understands the ramifications, too, and if it takes a couple extra days or an extra week to get it right, then they'll do that. Opening Day, after all, is six months away.

That said, he also knows that there's no way everyone will be happy. All of the lower bowl seats behind the plate at the new park are "premium," which translates roughly to "hideously expensive." So people who had those seats at RFK at lower prices are going to be moved to the sides. People have to go in understanding that the pricing structures are lots different.

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Mt. Rainier, Md.: Cristian Guzman. He was on the verge of having a "comeback player of the year" type of season until he hurt his thumb (IMO). What do you think may happen with him since this is the last year of his contract coming up?

Barry Svrluga: I expect him to be the Nationals' shortstop on Opening Day in 2008, and I expect him to have a year that's between his .219 2005 and the .32something he was posting this season before he got hurt. He still wants to play -- beyond this contract. And there's a pride factor, too. One indication of his desire: He's playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic, which he doesn't typically do.

I think the more interesting problem for the Nats comes at second base, where they must figure out what to do with Felipe Lopez and Ronnie Belliard.

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Penn Quarter: Hi Barry:

Did I miss it, or did Felipe not provide -- or The Post not (yet?) print -- his take on his miserable season? He did say he'd talk after the last game, right?

Also...what do the Nats have at the ML-level that could be parlayed into immediate help via trade? Is there a likely partner out there that would take a couple bullpen arms, a spare outfielder and a prospect for a solid SP or a legitimate leadoff hitter?

Thanks, as always...

Barry Svrluga: Actually, Lopez lifted his ban on talking to the media a couple weeks after he put it into effect. He said -- in a profanity laced diatribe -- that he was so frustrated with his season, that he found it somewhat embarrassing, and that his mind was screwed up because of it. He vowed to come back strong in 2008.

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Arlington, Va.: Rumor Central on espn.com mentioned Glavine and the Nats. Have you heard anything on this?

Barry Svrluga: That was based on a column in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, one that said it would make sense if Glavine ended up in Washington because of his history with Stan Kasten. Both Manny Acta and Jim Bowden said toward the end of the season that they wouldn't mind signing a veteran free agent to help guide what will once again be a young pitching staff. Whether that could be Glavine -- he still has an option year with the Mets -- is unclear. Bowden basically said that such a signing would have to be in the framework of what they're trying to do elsewhere. In other words, they couldn't overpay for a half pitcher/half coach if it affected what they were trying to improve with the offense, etc.

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D.C.: I look at the Rockies and say, "wow, the Nats aren't that far off." The Rockies have some youth in their rotation and they are unproven. Their only notable pitcher is Jeff Francis. Having said that, their offense is awesome, and they were able to win 90 games and get into the post-season. My point is, while its encouraging that the Nats want to build their farm system, they cannot maintain status quo for 3 years and expect the fans to be patient. Go after the Tom Glavine and Curt Schilling's of the world, go after Aaron Rowand...try and build something better than AAAA team, and they could be playoff bound in 2-3 years.

Barry Svrluga: But if you look at how these Rockies were built, they didn't do that kind of thing -- signing an Aaron Rowand, etc. As I wrote in a piece this morning, the core of the Rockies -- Holliday, Atkins, Helton, Tulowitzki, Francis, closer Matt Corpas -- were homegrown. They made a shrewd trade last offseason, obtaining CF Willy Taveras, P Jason Hirsh and P Taylor Buchholz from Houston in exchange for P Jason Jennings, who was a bust with the Astros. That's the kind of deal the Nats would love to make.

Keep in mind, though, that the Rockies didn't have a winning season before this one in this stage of their building. It shows that if fans are patient -- and the Nationals are smart about their scouting and development -- that they could build the same way.

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Lopez? ....or Belliard?: Do you think they can keep both? Maybe start Belliard as your everyday 2nd baseman and have Lopez in more of a utility role.

Barry Svrluga: Here's the thing: They signed Belliard as a backup guy, and he started, and performed like a starter. I was really impressed with him, the way he handled himself and the quality of his at-bats. Lopez, I think, would not work well as a backup. He believes he has the talent to play every day (which he does) and my guess is he would mope as a backup. Plus, he's due to get a raise from his $3.9 million salary this year, so paying a backup $4.5M or whatever he'll make in arbitration doesn't make much sense.

The question: Do the Nationals deal from a position of strength? Or do they keep all three of those players?

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Silver Spring, Md.: Thanks for the great work this season covering the team. I enjoyed your writing.

Randy St. Claire should be the MVP of the team for the job he did with the pitching staff. Do you think the Mets will try to pry him away from the Nats? With St. Claire the Mets would be in the playoffs.

Barry Svrluga: Thanks very much, Silver Spring.

Of all the Mets' problems -- and there were many -- I'm not sure Rick Peterson, the pitching coach, was a primary one. There is some thought that Randolph didn't assert himself enough with the pitching staff, but Peterson's reputation is outstanding.

St. Claire obviously has a connection with Mets GM Omar Minaya from the past, with the Expos. But I think the Nats will lock St. Claire up quickly -- now might be the time to give him the first multi-year contract of his career.

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Fairfax, Va.: I was ready to ask the question for ideas of how to survive the game-less, blog-less winter, but instead I have a tip. I just saw that Justin Maxwell is one of six minor league players who is going to write weekly reports from the Arizona Fall League. He will report for the Peoria Javelinas, while the others will report from the 5 other AZL teams. The season starts Oct. 8, and the official Minor League Baseball Web site> will carry the reports from Maxwell.

Barry Svrluga: Yes, I saw that too. Maxwell will do very well with that. I'll provide AFL updates in Nationals Journal as well. If I have time when I'm in Arizona -- and I'm only scheduled to be there less than 24 hours next week -- I will stop by Peoria and do a story on those guys there.

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Arlington, Va.: Who was interested in Cordero last year and who might be this offseason?

Barry Svrluga: The Mets have long been interested in Cordero. You might recall that it was on Omar Minaya's watch that the Expos drafted Cordero in 2003. But at the risk of flogging Seattle Slew, I believe there's an inherent problem with trading Cordero. Nats sell him as a closer. Other teams buy him as a setup man.

We'll see. My bet is he's a National in 2008, and that he has a better year than he did in 2007.

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Sn, AR (k): How long until your phone rings about that translation of "premium"?

What are your postseason predictions?

Barry Svrluga: 5 ... 4 ... 3 ... 2

Man, I should've had a better answer for this when I began this chat, but I can't really get my arms around any of them. Sheinin, for the record, had Yankees over Rockies in the Series in this morning's $.35 edition.

For argument's sake, here goes. (These predictions are not made with much confidence):

NL

Phillies over Rockies in 5

Cubs over Diamondbacks in 5

Cubs over Phillies in 6

AL

Red Sox over Angels in 5

Yankees over Indians in 5

Red Sox over Yankees in 7 (Lord, help us all)

World Series

Red Sox over Cubs in 6

Did I just say that?

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Bethesda, Md.: Just want to celebrate the fact that for the third straight year in their existence, the Nationals finished with a better record than the Orioles -- and I believe their payroll was slightly less.

Barry Svrluga: Uh, yeah, slightly less. In spring training, when the Nationals and Orioles played an exhibition game, Jim Bowden sent a text message to Stan Kasten saying the "$38 million Nationals" had just beaten the "$94 million Orioles," or some such thing.

You have to admit: There is some satisfaction in getting more out of less than getting that little out of so much.

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Kensington, Md.: Barry, you were great this year -- thanks for your great insider stories and superb analyses.

Looks like the Mets are sticking with Willie Randolph, thus squelching the rumors that they were trying to lure Manny Acta back to NY. But, are there any other teams that might be sniffing around our manager? He did an amazing job of keeping this team moving forward despite injuries and bad seasons on the part of some veterans.

Shout out to Dmitri Young, NL comeback player of the year -- way to go!

Barry Svrluga: You, too, are kind Kensington.

Acta: Jim Bowden said that the Nationals would absolutely deny permission for other clubs to talk to Acta. He is under contract now through 2009, and the club has an option for 2010.

Young: He was very honored to receive that award. Talked to him yesterday, and it was a nice way for him to finish his season.

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Playoff Team Payrolls: Barry,

Do you have readily available the payroll figures for each playoff team? If so, any obvious conclusions that can be drawn other than the Yankees and Red Sox? Who has the smallest payroll in the playoffs this season?

Barry Svrluga: Good question.

Here is rough data from Opening Day:

Yankees -- $189M (1st overall)

Red Sox -- $143M (2)

(Mets -- $115M (had to insert that)) (3)

Angels -- $109M (4)

Cubs -- $99M (8)

Phillies -- $89M (13)

Cleveland -- $61M (23)

Rockies -- $54M (25)

Diamondbacks -- $52M (26)

So it's not all about payroll, is it?

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Cleveland: I think the Indians are a good model for the Nats to look at too. Lots of their roster was assembled via draft and trades. Look at Sizemore for example he could be starting in CF for the Nats.

Barry Svrluga: Oh, the irony of suggesting Sizemore as the Nats' CF, as he was Expos' property back in the day. Man, he would fit well.

Yes, the Indians' philosophy of developing their young talent and then locking it up to long-term deals would work well in Washington.

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Beautiful Wrigley Field: We got your urban tailgate right here: Waveland, Sheffield, Clark, and Addison (sounds like a PI law firm, though)

Barry Svrluga: True enough. Hope to get there before the postseason's over.

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I was in Philly on Sunday...: and didn't get my butt kicked even with a Nats hat on. Actually had a good time; loved the Liberty Bell and the Rocky theme in the beginning... But can't wait for '08!

Barry Svrluga: Yeah, but the Philly Phaithful didn't have much to be upset about on Sunday, did they? I mean, they had a seven-run present from Queens before they even threw the first pitch.

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Anonymous:"..the Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome could be a target"

Every time I read that name...and recall from studying Asian languages that it would likely be pronounced with 4 syllables...I cringe with concern for Charlie & Dave's broadcast woes should the guy ever make it to the line-up !

Barry Svrluga: Imagine if they had to do it with Svrluga.

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H Street NE: Hey Barry -- Asking for kind of a bold prediction here....

Gimmie the name of a player who isn't on the team this year, that will have a large impact on the team's success next year. Could be someone from the minors, an FA, acquired through a trade, whatever.

Barry Svrluga: This is a great, great question. I'll say RHP Livan Hernandez. 200 IP with a mediocre ERA, sure. But if the price is right, he could be a familiar commodity/personality. I'm going to check with him on this when I get to Arizona (if there's a Game 5 next week, when I'm in Phoenix).

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Washington, D.C.: When will we know whether the Nationals are cutting ties with or non-tendering any current players?

Barry Svrluga: That news should come in the next week or so -- not all non-tenders, but some.

_______________________

Springfield, Va.: So, what IS the fate of the Nat's coaching staff? I thought they would know by Sunday. Were they all sworn to secrecy?

Barry Svrluga: Yes, some were sworn to secrecy, I know, and I am told that they are still working through a decision or two. Not sure if it's that simple, but I trust Acta when he says there won't be any major changes.

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Annandale, Va.: Say, whatever happened to that "super" prospect Ian Desmond? He made such an incredible impression two (3?) springs ago that he almost started for the Nationals and since then we have hardly heard anything from him.

Barry Svrluga: Well, he didn't quite "almost start" for the Nats in 2005, but you're right, he made a huge impression with a very good spring that year.

Desmond has developed more slowly than some initially projected. The highest level he has reached is Class AA Harrisburg, and he hit .184 in a 38-game stint there in 2006. This past season, he spent at Class A Potomac and hit .264. The Nationals have more hope for teenage shortstop Esmailyn Gonzalez.

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Glen Echo: Hey Barry

I realize that Mr. Fenty has much on his plate as D.C. Mayor. This is not really part of your realm but do you think he's doing as much as he can to solve the parking situation? Also, if I were Stan Kasten, I don't think I would push too hard for that Opening Night ESPN gig. It could be embarrassing with so many folks saying they won't drive if they can't park or they hate the Metro. What do you think?

Barry Svrluga: The club is absolutely going to push for people to take Metro next year, regardless of how much progress is made with parking. And while I don't talk to many people down at the Wilson Building, I do know that every time I've asked the Lerners about their relationship with the Fenty administration, they have raved about it. The mayor has invited Ted Lerner to call him at home if need be.

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Potomac Falls, Va.: Any updates on Patterson? Did his holistic treatment have any effect now that enough time has passed? Etc.

Barry Svrluga: If you're just at the out-of-the-box, hyperbaric chamber part of the treatment, you missed much of the story. Patterson had surgery to release a nerve in his right arm last month. He's on the road to recovery in his native Texas. He'll get married this offseason (former Miss D.C.) and is expecting to be ready for spring training.

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: You and your colleagues at The Post have done a great job keeping us informed about the new stadium. But, every story lately has basically given the impression that parking, and now Metro access, are going to be a disaster next season. Is there any room for optimism?

Barry Svrluga: Part of The Post's job in this kind of situation is to look into the potential problems and raise red flags if there are any. This helps those who are running the project know that the public is aware of potential problems and will be scrutinizing them. My colleagues on the Metro staff at the Post -- particularly David Nakamura and Paul Duggan -- will continue with this kind of reporting as we go forward.

Optimism: I have heard only that the park will be ready to go on time.

_______________________

Barry Svrluga: Folks, we're getting close to game time. I'm going to have to sign off. Look for chats from me and Dave Sheinin during the postseason, and we'll both be logging on to "Nationals Journal" -- which will become something of a postseason journal -- from our farflung destinations over the next couple weeks.

Enjoy the playoffs. This is going to be fun.

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