Dave Sheinin and Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, October 15, 2007 2:00 PM
Washington Post baseball writers Dave Sheinin and Barry Svrluga were online Monday, Oct. 15 at 2 p.m. ET to take your questions and comments about the baseball postseason.
The transcript follows.
Dave Sheinin: Howdy everyone. Greetings from Cleveland. Let's talk some playoffs.
Washington: Will the lake bugs plague the Red Sox tonight at the Jake? Will we get to see Papelbon's neck covered with midges at the crucial moment? Will this spur tourism in Cleveland?
Dave Sheinin: I don't think there is any danger of seeing the Lake Erie midges return tonight. Remember, the weather was unseasonably hot for that game (like, 87 degrees, I think), and tonight is supposed to be 20 degrees colder. Too bad.
Barry Svrluga: Hi folks. I'm in Denver. Sheinin's in Cleveland. We both have games tonight -- though I'd say his holds a bit more intrigue, and is on at a reasonable hour.
We've got lots of ground to cover and plenty of questions, so let's go.
Section 214, Row 10: Please guys! Explain to us why they made them play in those conditions last night. Cold is one thing, but rain throughout? Is the TV schedule that sacrosanct?
Barry Svrluga: I talked to an MLB official before the game, just after their weather meeting, and they said they felt like they had to play if the conditions didn't get much worse than drizzle. Well, for a little while, it was worse than drizzle. And with a built-in off day on Tuesday, they could have postponed it without much problem.
But, you're right about TV: It was a night when only the NL was playing, and pushing it back would have made both Monday and Tuesday games at 10:15 p.m. Eastern, way way way out of the spotlight. So they chose to play. And interestingly enough, I didn't hear any of the players from either side complain.
Clovis, N.M.: How does the rather improbable run of the Rockies look from the East Coast? Does it give hope to Nationals fans -- that in 15 years, maybe this can happen to them too?
Barry Svrluga: Well, my view is actually from Denver, and I have to say it looks pretty darned impressive. The thing that I think most people don't know/understand/care about is that this Rockies' pitching staff is decent. Jeff Francis is a legit No. 1 starter, and while Ubaldo Jimenez has some maturing to do -- working on his command -- he has four pitches and throws 100, which is a nice place to start. Throw in a back end of the bullpen that's exceptional (Fuentes and Corpas), and they're a threat to the AL champ in the Series.
Dave Sheinin: Well, and let me just add that three of the four teams here have been built primarily through homegrown talent, and even the high-payroll Red Sox can point to key players like Papelbon, Pedroia, Delcarmen, etc., who came up through their system. So it's not as if the Rockies' method is a big secret. It's clearly the right way.
The Sandman: How much sleep have each of you had in the past 48 hours? Is there ever a point in your exhaustion when hallucinations interfere with your work? E.g. "Is that really H.L. Mencken in the press box? Is Charlie Sheen pitching for Cleveland?"
Dave Sheinin: Hey Sandman ... you've got me cracking up over here. I got about four hours' sleep on Saturday night, after that five-hour-plus marathon in Boston, but got caught up last night. I actually had it better than a lot of writers. One poor soul got to his hotel room 45 minutes before he needed to be up to get on his way to the airport.
Barry Svrluga: I'm okay now as well. The tough nights are the late game/early morning travel. For me, that was Saturday -- got back to hotel room from ballpark at 1:30 a.m., wake up call was for 5:30 a.m., sleep on flight, drop bags at hotel, head to ballpark for off-day interviews.
I have hallucinated such things as the Rockies having won 20 of their last 21 games, Josh Fogg allowing only one run in six innings -- crazy stuff like that.
Silver Spring: Chris Marrero initially hit well in Potomac, but then tailed off. Any idea why? Also, what are the Nats having him do this fall/winter? Arizona instructional league, winter ball, speed work with a personal trainer?
Barry Svrluga: Marrero did, indeed, tail off, but GM Jim Bowden is unconcerned about it. He points out that he's a 19-year-old kid who had never played that many games before, and though they have extremely high hopes for him, it's normal to go through a bit of a skid. He's at the instructional league in Viera, Fla., now, getting more at-bats, etc. Long-term, the organization believes he's a first baseman because he's so slow. But we'll see. In short: They're not concerned about the slight tail off toward the end of the season.
Vienna, Va.: If the Rockies win tonight, they will be off until a week from tomorrow. Talk about time to set up your pitching. Will one of you get a paid vacation with the Rockies? Thoughts on the scheduling?
Barry Svrluga: Boz wrote about this is a pre-playoff column, and he was right. Obviously, the AL isn't going to be a sweep now, and it could bridge the gap between series. But if it goes five, then there's a whole weekend without baseball. The sport seems to be struggling to stay in people's minds given what some would consider a lackluster NL matchup and all the late starts/finishes. It goes beyond just being able to set up your pitching.
Dave Sheinin: I think Barry should have to go cover the Redskins' game or something next weekend if his series ends in a sweep.
Washington: Dave and Barry, these playoffs are excruciating -- like watching paint dry, grass grow, you name it. I was pulling for the Cubs and against the Yankees; now I would just like to enjoy the games. But at not even the halfway point, they have to have set the record for greatest number of four-hour games! Talk about kids not staying up that late -- I don't stay up that late! I time three or four minutes between half innings, longer between some. I know it's all about the money, but if the powers that be are trying to kill the game, they are doing an excellent job.
Dave Sheinin: You're preaching to the choir here. In fact, other than the question of whether the Red Sox should bring back Josh Beckett in Game 4 on short rest, this seems to be the No. 1 topic of conversation among the media members here. This year has been worse than ever.
I'm not naive about the reasons behind it. It's because of money and because of TV. But don't you think MLB could take, let's say, $30 million less (to pick a convenient number) in their TV packages, but in return demand that games start at 7:30 p.m., and that at least one game per series be played in the daytime? You'd open it up to an entirely new market of potential fans (read: kids), and while you'd lose some money, that $30 million comes out to a loss of $1 million per team, once the TV revenue money is distributed. So, for the cost of a utility infielder, you could make an investment for the game's future.
Doesn't that make sense?
Barry Svrluga: It's a huge issue, and MLB officials realize it. I'm planning on writing about it in the next week or so. There are so many factors, and not all of them have to do with TV (though most do). The Red Sox and Yankees clearly have game plans to take, take, take, take pitches. They foul off pitches, etc. Then you get relievers like Betancourt of Cleveland taking their sweet time between pitches. There's so many angles here, and it all adds up to a giant mess. This stuff must be addressed. Last night, I covered a 3-hour, 4-minute game, and it felt like a breeze. There's something wrong with that.
Silver Spring, Md.: Given Dave's last prognostication ("Byrd is going to get crushed, and everybody knows it") how do you see the ALCS turning out?
Dave Sheinin: Well, I want to point out, first of all, that I wasn't exactly wrong about Byrd. Dude gave up, I think, 10 base runners in his five innings, and lasted as long as he did only because the Yankees' hitters -- primarily A-Rod (not surprisingly) and Jeter (quite surprisingly) -- kept choking in big situations.
As for the rest of the ALCS, I still like the Red Sox. After seeing what they did to Sabathia and Carmona, neither of whom could make it through the fifth inning, I shudder to think what they'll do to Westbrook and Byrd. And I'm on record as predicting that Joe Borowski will cost the Indians at least one game in this series.
Section 108: A Nats question please. Last season the fans accepted the Nats not going after any major free agents. Whereas I can see not overpaying for one of the three top center fielders, don't you feel that management has to do something other than just offer the fans another year of baseball without a No. 1 or possible No. 2 type starter or any real power hitter in the lineup? I am afraid the new park will create more scoring, and the Nats really were winning because scoring at RFK was down. In the new stadium, I suspect their pitchers will yield many more additional runs than their current hitters can produce. I realize the need to build from within, but how long can ownership wait?
Barry Svrluga: This is a great point that touches on the theme of this offseason. Ownership has committed to raising payroll this offseason, but they're going to be careful about how they do it. With a sub-par free agent market -- other than centerfielders Andruw Jones, Torii Hunter and Aaron Rowand -- and Stan Kasten's view that free agency is the third-best way to acquire players, they're going to have to be creative about how to raise the payroll. Can they trade and take on some bigger contracts? Can they sign someone like Fukudome, the Japanese outfielder? Will they sign Ryan Zimmerman to a long-term contract? (Bet here is yes.)
I have said all along that I believe 2009 is the crucial season for baseball in Washington, the year after the ballpark opens. But I am starting to think 2008 is just as important. How many season ticket holders will there be? What will the crowd on the second home game of the season be like? And will the team take another step forward on the field?
Bethesda, Md.: Barry: Is the Coors Field press box heated? Just concerned for your well-being.
Barry Svrluga: Thanks so much for your concern. When I was here for the division series against Philly, Game 3 started in perfect conditions, 73 degrees, I believe. But by the third inning, it had dropped to 40-something. They can close the windows when that happens, and they were closed the entire game last night.
I'm a big believer in keeping the windows open because it allows you to feel the atmosphere. But I'm also a big believer in being able to feel my fingers when I type, so warmth wins out.
Leesburg, Va.: Will the Nats go after Tom Glavine?
Dave Sheinin: I'm going to take a stab at this, even though it's better suited for Barry.
I just don't think it makes sense for either side. From the Nationals' perspective, we've heard Stan Kasten say a jillion times that big-name free agents are losing propositions until a team is ready to win, and the Nationals, frankly, are not going to be ready to win next year.
And from Glavine's perspective, why, if this is going to be his final season, would he want to pitch for a non-contender, when he might be able to latch on with a team that has a chance to win the World Series? Money could sway him, I suppose, but I certainly don't see the Nats outbidding a bunch of other teams.
Barry Svrluga: I basically agree, but I'll make a (soft) counter argument.
The Nationals do like the idea of bringing in an established veteran pitcher who could work with their young staff. Glavine would be the perfect candidate. Matt Chico, for instance, idolizes him, and his presence could mean a lot in Chico's development.
So say the market for Glavine doesn't develop. Say his value drops from $10 million a year to $6 million. I can see the Nats taking a stab if that happens. When I asked Jim Bowden about this at the end of the season, he said he likes the idea of having someone like that, but you can't let that salary affect the more important long-term things you're trying to do.
Boston: Will the Indians lay off Daisuke's nibbles on the corners like they laid off Schilling's split? I'm still tired from that last game. Did Daisuke fly to Cleveland ahead of time instead of doing the red-eye with the rest of the team?
Dave Sheinin: I honestly don't know whether Matsuzaka flew ahead of the team, although with the off-day giving him around 36 hours to get acclimated, I doubt they felt it was necessary.
You've hit upon the problem with Matsuzaka -- when he faces a patient-hitting team, which refuses to offer at his nibbling pitches, he generally gets himself in a lot of trouble. I don't have a good feeling about his start tonight.
Marrero follow-up: The kid is 18 -- he's not used to working for a living, period. He'd probably have a slump after being at any job for a few months.
Barry Svrluga: That's their point, basically. He was named the best prospect in two leagues -- low-A South Atlantic and high-A Carolina. They're fine with his progress this year.
Boston: Do Managers get pressure from above to keep expensive trade guys on the roster? Gagne blew four games in the regular season for the Sox, and if you only are going to bring him in for junk time, why bother having him? Julian Tavarez was key long relief for most of the season, which they could have used. I know loyalty doesn't mean anything in pro sports, but Gagne isn't performing, so why snub Tavarez?
Dave Sheinin: I don't think there is any pressure being exerted on Terry Francona in regards to Gagne. In Game 1, they simply brought him into the game during garbage time to try to allow him to work out his problems, in hopes that down the road he can be trusted in a key situation. In Game 2, they were down to only a handful of options by the 11th inning, and I assume they felt like they needed to save somebody as the long man, in case the game kept going.
Arlington, Va.: Of course the Sox (and Yankees) are going to take pitches. It wears out the starter and gets them into the bullpen. Patience is a virtue. Now, a pitcher taking his sweet time on the mound is a different story. Actually, it's the same story from a different angle -- it messes with the hitter's timing. But somehow that annoys the crap out of me, while taking pitches doesn't. Go figure.
Barry Svrluga: Yeah, I'm not saying taking pitches is a bad strategy or that it should be done away with. I'm just saying it has an impact on the game times.
Boston: So, is Eric Gagne the chokingest pitcher ever in the history of the universe, or what?
Barry Svrluga: It's pretty amazing. The Boston bullpen was certainly better without him. I've only seen the Red Sox once in this postseason (Game 3 in Anaheim), but even in that blowout, he came on in the ninth and gave up the only run the Angels scored all day.
My brother, a Sox fan who was at Game 2, texted me during that game from the Fenway stands with one word: Unusable. It'll be interesting to see if they keep him on the World Series roster should the Sox advance.
Dave, could they leave him off?
Dave Sheinin: Yes. If Gagne can't be trusted in close games, they will have no use for him in the World Series (if they make it). And actually, a previous chatter mentioned Tavarez -- he's not on the ALCS roster, but he's a guy who could be activated in the place of Gagne for the World Series.
Natpatriate: I just saw on ESPN's Bottom Line that John Schuerholz stepped down as the Braves' general manager. I'm worried this bodes poorly for Jim Bowden. Any rumors?
Barry Svrluga: No, no. Good thought, but Schuerholz actually stepped up last week -- to the Braves' presidency. He'll oversee the whole club while his former assistant, Frank Wren, takes over the GM job. Schuerholz, 67, has a four-year deal to be the president.
Alexandria, Va.: Do you see C.C. and Fausto rebounding, or have the Sox their number? Can the Tribe take 3 in the 'land?
Dave Sheinin: Interesting question. With Sabathia, it's two very iffy starts in a row now, going back to the Yankees series. I think he will be better his next time. But with Carmona, I think he was baffled by a bunch of hitters who weren't fooled by his fabulous sinker. It's extremely hard to lay off those pitches, as the Yankees' found out, but Ortiz and Ramirez are two of the best in the game at identifying strikes. He may need to make an adjustment or two to deal with this.
Section 502: Barry, I'm enjoying your copy from Denver. I'm just back from after covering the annual Great American Beer Festival -- the World Series of brewing -- that was held there last week. (People don't think it's really work to drink beer and write about it, just like they don't think it's really work to go to ball games and write about them.) Knowing you like a good beer when the opportunity arises, I want to offer two quick suggestions for you if you have time while you're there. Both are a short walk from Coors Field. First is the Falling Rock Tap House, 1919 Blake St. It's near the top of a lot of lists of best beer bars in the U.S. Second is the Flying Dog brew pub at 2401 Blake St. A note of journalistic interest is Flying Dog's early-days connection to Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.
Barry Svrluga: This is the kind of information that is essential to surviving in the postseason, and I am grateful, Sect. 502. The beer festival filled up my normal hotel in Denver, so I'm well aware of your presence.
I've been to the Flying Dog before and very much enjoyed it. Will try Falling Rock at some point. Had a great meal the other night at a neighborhoody place outside of downtown called Cafe Brazil. Really spectacular.
Alexandria, Va.: Do you think the Yankees still have a chance to win the 2007 World Series? Oh ... wait ... the Yankees aren't playing anymore, are they?
Barry Svrluga: Wait, let me check.
No, no, it appears they've been eliminated. But they are, of course, in the news, with the powers that be meeting in Tampa this week to discuss Joe Torre's future, etc. They find a way of making news even when they're out, don't they?
Payrolls Related to Playoffs: Dave, Barry: I am fascinated by team payroll costs as related to postseason appearances. Barry shared some payroll numbers on all teams that made the playoffs this year, and most were below $100 million with some around the $50 million-$60 million range. It seems that every year there are teams that make the playoffs and even go far with relatively modest payrolls. However, each year the teams with the low payrolls seem to be different, with the exception of maybe the As and Twins, though neither of them made it this year. I guess my point is that low payroll teams can make the playoffs now and then, but it's the bigger boys like the Red Sox and Yankees that seem to get in consistently. I guess my conclusion is that teams that want to continually make the playoffs, and go far, will have to spend more than $100 million. What think both of ye?
Barry Svrluga: I'd say this: Those low payroll teams eventually have to bump their payrolls up if they want to keep their homegrown talent. Take a guy like Matt Holliday. He very well might win the NL MVP this year, and he's making only $4.4 million. But if the Rockies want him long-term after his arbitration years (and his salary will go up through that process, too), they're going to have to sign him for something like $12 million/year.
So one of two things happens: The low payroll teams that make the playoffs keep their star players, and therefore their payroll goes up; or they allow the stars to leave and try to fill the gaps with younger players, but then it becomes difficult to make the playoffs year after year.
The Rockies, Indians and Diamondbacks will all be interesting to watch in this regard.
Dave Sheinin: It's become relatively commonplace for a low-payroll team to make the playoffs, but it's much, much harder for those teams to sustain success. Even for a franchise like the A's, think of all the talent they've had to let go over the years -- Giambi, Tejada, Mulder, Hudson, Zito -- because they couldn't afford to keep them.
It's also tougher now, because while the A's for a long time almost had the market cornered on this type of thinking, the publication of "Moneyball" and the sustained success of the A's eventually led to other teams following their example. And now, almost everybody does it that way.
In the case of the Indians, Mark Shapiro told me he already has gotten the green light from ownership to bring back the entire 2007 team in 2008, if he wishes. This would result in a payroll jump of perhaps $15 million or more (from arbitration raises, etc.), but that would be partially offset by the added revenues stemming from the playoff run.
Vienna, Va.: I know this is an old complaint. I would love to be able to watch tonight's Diamondbacks-Rockies game with the chance to see Coors Field erupt at a pennant clinching win ... but since this game will end no earlier than 1 a.m., that's impossible. Does anyone at MLB ever answer questions about such a policy, which shuts out fans, especially those under 20 and over 30? (I figure the college-aged set can hang until that hour).
Barry Svrluga: Yes, and it's kind of interesting. I asked Jeff Moorad, the CEO of the Diamondbacks, about this before the NLCS. His team actually wanted the late start time because it would help the local fans. Originally, Game 2 of the NLCS was supposed to be a 1 p.m. local start last Friday. But the D-Backs asked MLB to switch it, if they could, because they wanted better access for their local fans.
I don't buy that that's good for the game, however. I really feel like this NLCS -- with two teams with a total of 25 years of history combined -- is being pushed to the back pages. Late starts, new markets, unfamiliar players, etc. If Game 4 was on tonight BEFORE the Sox-Tribe, it seems to me that some baseball fans on the East Coast would tune in early and learn something about those clubs. But they're not going to stay up AFTERWARD and watch them. People have lives, right?
Vienna, Va.: If Colorado and Cleveland win, I can see the headlines now: Cleveland Roxs
Dave Sheinin: Another possible headline: MLB, Fox Executives Suicidal Over Prospects of Colorado/Cleveland World Series.
Pizza Junkie: Dave -- Pasquini's Pizzeria on Broadway in southern Denver. Cool converted rowhouse, excellent food. Fat Tire on tap.
Dave Sheinin: They open late?
Chantilly, Va.: Since three-fourths of the promised pitchers-duel participants in the first two games of the ALCS didn't hold up their ends of the bargains, is it safe to assume tonight's probable slugfest instead will turn out to be a 2-1 thriller (hopefully with the Red Sox having the 2)? Question 2: Can either AL team stop the Rockies?
Dave Sheinin: Hey Chantilly. It would be fitting if Game 3 turns into a pitcher's duel, after all those aces (with the exception of Beckett) got pounded in the first two games.
You know, I've been watching the NLCS on television whenever possible. And no disrespect intended -- but I think either the Indians or Red Sox would destroy the Rockies.
Barry Svrluga: I basically agree with Sheinin's assessment of the Rockies' hopes in the World Series, but there's something eating at me, too. First of all, you can't help but think there's some magic associated with this run. I mean, on Sept. 15 they were in fourth place in the NL West. They've lost just once in 21 games since then.
Secondly, the Cardinals won the World Series last year. And I can't help but think that these Rockies are way better than those Cardinals.
There's a reason why they play the games.
Washington: Any chance Tim McCarver and Joe Buck will not be doing the broadcast for the World Series this year? I'm reminded how much I dislike them as an announcing team. Fox should have the home team's main broadcasters work the booth -- they actually know the players and probably are better at explaining the manager's thinking than McCarver and Buck.
Barry Svrluga: No chance. They're there.
Second home game attendance?: Aren't you expecting a near season sell-out for 2008? The O's sold out for the first several years at Camden Yards, if memory serves.
Barry Svrluga: Nope, I'm not. It's just not realistic given what we know about attendance thus far. The season-ticket base fell to 15,000 and change in 2007, down from 22,000-plus in 2005. In order to sell out every game, they'd have to be working with a season-ticket base of about 30,000 -- and doubling it just doesn't seem possible.
If they can average 30,000 a night, that'd be okay, I guess. But it still would be less than the 2.7 million they drew in 2005.
Section 517: Barry: How can I get a "Rocktober" T-shirt?
Barry Svrluga: Catch flight to Denver. Walk to Blake St. Visit street vendor. Display proudly.
Ellicott City, Md.: Hi guys, a question about how you write your columns after a game -- I am really curious about it. Do you start writing during the game then go back and edit, or do you just take notes and sit down later to put it together? I am just amazed by the deadlines you have to live under while still being able to both write wonderful pieces for the next day's paper. But I also would think it would be hard to be writing while watching the game so carefully, and I am sure that after the game you are trying to interview players and managers, which must also cut into your writing time. You both do it well, and I am amazed by it every time I read the paper. Thank you.
Barry Svrluga: Ah, the sausage-making question. We appreciate your comments and your curiosity, Ellicott City. For the rest of you, move on.
In general, we have to file one version of the game story (about 960 words) right when the game ends. So yes, we're writing throughout the game, and yes, it does take away from your ability to chart every pitch. I generally start writing around the fifth or sixth inning, depending on the pace of the game, etc.
In an ideal world -- meaning the game didn't take 5 hours -- we then have time to go down to the clubhouses, talk to players and managers, etc., and then come up and re-write. Sometimes (like last night), I just scrap the entire "running" story that was already filed and write the whole thing over (had about 30 minutes to do so when I sat down). Other times, if you're more pressed for time or happier with your early story, you just feather the quotes and context you learned in the clubhouse into the early story.
Sheinin, who is the best in the world at this, might have some other thoughts.
Dave Sheinin: Not much I would add to Barry's response, except to point out that our night-side editor back at the paper, the incomparable Donald Beard, deserves a ton of credit for steering this stuff into print (or in the case of those five-hour marathons, straight to the Web site). As you can imagine, it gets a little hairy when, say, one team grabs the lead in the top of the ninth. We rely on Don to tell us what time we need to file our story by, and typically you have only a couple of minutes.
And Barry is giving me far too much credit. Most nights, I'm not even the best member of our baseball coverage team.
Pipe dream: So, who would we have to kill to get Grady Sizemore? I'm sure Kasten has favors to call in, and Sizemore's not getting paid that much in Cleveland. Isn't it time to bring him back to his rightful franchise? Just picture it: Your 2009 Washington Nationals -- Sizemore in centerfield, Zimmerman at third, and Ross Detwiler on the mound.
Barry Svrluga: It is completely and utterly amazing to me to think how much not having Sizemore on the Nationals hurts. I believe their greatest offseason need is a center fielder, and if he was still around, not only would it not be a need, it would be a position that is set for the foreseeable future. A real killer of a trade.
But to answer your question: No, Mark Shapiro won't be trading him back to Washington because he feels bad for the Nats.
Springfield, Va.: Hello D & B! Do you guys like the fact that some new teams have participated in the postseason? I think it's great and good for the game. Thanks.
Barry Svrluga: This is something we've touched on here, and there's part of me that would like to believe it's good for the game. I would hope that people like Troy Tulowitzki (my goodness, he's going to be a star) would gain some fans during this postseason.
But I think the reality is, if you walked up to someone on the street and said, "What do you think of Troy Tulowitzki?", they'd say, "Huh?"
The other part of the reality: If the Cubs and Phillies had advanced to the NLCS, there would be a lot more buzz about the National League side of things. Not saying those teams are better or more deserving or anything like that. But they each have more than a century's worth of history, most of it filled with frustration, and the nation would be far more interested.
Dave Sheinin: My view is simple: I root for the best stories. Now, I'll admit -- that means I definitely pull for a Red Sox/Yankees matchup in the ALCS, because it's always a great story, and it gets the most people interested. But I'm also fascinated by stories like the Rockies. I don't know if people really appreciate how hard it is to run off 20 wins in 21 games, or whatever it is now.
Washington: Do the rules governing time between pitches and during warmups just get thrown out the window during the postseason? Are umpires given a little extra something in the locker room from Fox before a game to allow teams to milk a game for every precious second possible? They're squeezing blood from a rock as far as I'm concerned, because I'm done watching postseason baseball until we get a game that clocks under two hours 45 minutes. It's just not worth my time!
Dave Sheinin: I believe I had a game during the first round (Red Sox/Angels) that was played in 2:27. But your point is still valid. I don't think umpires enforce the between-pitches rule in the postseason the way they do in the regular season. And the between-innings commercial breaks are also longer.
A long way to go, Nats: Dave and Barry: Watching these playoff games (at least the ones that don't start before 10:30 p.m.!) it's clear how much the Nats are lacking: a stud, hard-throwing No. 1 starter, and one if not two, big-time RBI machines in the middle of the order. Have you talked to Stan Kasten about this, and what are the current plans for upgrading the team during the offseason? Thanks.
Barry Svrluga: You know what was interesting? In Game 2 of the NLCS, I noticed that everyone who came into the game threw at least 97 mph -- Tony Pena from Arizona, Ubaldo Jimenez of Colorado, Manny Corpas, Jose Valverde, etc.
I was sitting next to Mark Zuckerman, the Nats beat writer for The Washington Times, and said, "Is there anyone in the Washington organization that throws 97?" We went through the list of prospects -- including the guys that excelled at short-season Class A Vermont this year -- and couldn't think of one. Jose Rijo says that a couple of the young Dominican prospects throw that hard.
Anyway, your point is well-taken. They have some very good pitching prospects now -- led by Ross Detwiler -- but they don't have a jaw-dropping power arm.
Taking Pitches in Silver Spring, Md.: Baseball doesn't allow unlimited bunt foul tips -- why not install a limit on swinging foul tips? Batters didn't abuse unlimited swinging foul tips until about 15 or 20 years ago. If you are going to ban steroids and standardize strike zones, let's eliminate other recent trends that are hurting the game.
Dave Sheinin: I'm going to have to disagree here. I love the drama that builds up over the course of a long at-bat. The other night, Kevin Youkilis had an 11-pitch at bat, in which he fouled off six straight two-strike pitches, and it was tremendous.
Vienna, Va.: When are you going update the National Journal Picture? Going on a third week of the same picture. When are you going to update the coaching staff issue? How can the Nats say they are going to decide before the end of the season, and three weeks later still not have a decision? Hold them accountable for what they say, please.
When are you going to write something about how Nick Johnson is doing with his weight? We know that was the real issue this whole past season ... he came in very heavy and Nats lost $5 million ... is it going to happen again? When are you going to cover the Nats? Can you not tell nobody is watching? We are Nats fans...
Barry Svrluga: Easy, Vienna.
1. Not sure what you mean by the "Nationals Journal Picture." Dave and I have been trying to do regular playoff updates on the Journal, and I've had a couple Nats posts recently.
2. Coaching staff: Indeed, this is a curious issue, but I've reported that all are expected back and they're working on contracts, etc., before they make an announcement. I'll keep on top of it to make sure it doesn't change.
3. Nick Johnson: I wrote late in the season that he realized he needs to drop weight, and he has hired a personal chef, etc., to get him to adhere to a diet. But I figured I'd let him at least get started before calling him out on it. I also threatened him that I'd travel to Sacramento and attend some of his early-morning workouts with him. We'll see how that develops.
This is an important offseason for the Nationals, and believe me, we'll cover it.
Washington, formerly Seattle: I just have to say that I used to hate the fact that the World Series games would be on at 7 p.m. Eastern when I lived on the West Coast, and I do not at all mind having them at 10 p.m. now that I live here. Yes, I have to stay up late to see them, but it's so much better than not being able to see them at all because I was at work and then driving home from work for most of the game. Sure, it's obnoxious for us, but I support having start times appropriate for the local fans.
Dave Sheinin: Well, this is a very, very valid point. These ALCS games (like tonight's) that start at 7:10 p.m. -- that's 4:10 on the west coast. But I still think starting at least one game (a weekend game, of course) in each series at 4 p.m. east coast time would be a great idea.
Baltimore: Why did the Orioles have such a quick trigger with Mazzone? The team ERA wasn't that great, but most of that came from one of the most wretched bullpens in MLB history. Mazzone was not hired to be the bullpen coach, he was hired as the pitching coach, and he was in the process of grooming a set of great young starting pitchers (Bedard, Guthrie and Loewen). Was this move made for personal reasons (Trembly wanted to bring in "his" guy) or because the club really didn't have any faith that Mazzone could turn the staff around?
Dave Sheinin: Mazzone came to Baltimore in the first place for one reason -- because Sam Perlozzo was his best friend. And once Perlozzo got fired, I figured it was a matter of time before Mazzone was gone. I suspect there were a few factors at work: Trembley might not have felt entirely comfortable with him (Leo has a bit of an ego, as you might have heard), and for that matter it wasn't as if Mazzone did great work with the Orioles' pitching staff. Yes, Bedard and Guthrie had nice years, but the organization really hoped Mazzone would be able to make a breakthrough with Cabrera, and that obviously didn't happen.
Section 427: Hi. Is it easier or harder to write a game recap of a team you don't normally cover? Are you in the locker room asking questions, etc., like you would if you were covering the Nationals, or in Dave's case the Marlins back in the day? Also, is there any chance that Livan is back with the Nats next year?
Barry Svrluga: It's certainly different covering teams you don't cover normally. In the postseason, the clubhouses are closed prior to games, which makes things much more difficult. And it's definitely different being in a clubhouse in which the players don't know you. During the regular season, I know the players and when they like to be approached, when they're willing to sit down, etc. Plus, they know the beat writers and understand they have to deal with you. It's harder to say no to someone you know personally.
In the postseason, you just make the best of it, try to learn early on who are the players on each team who give good insight, and then rely on them. It's fun to get to know a team a little better over the course of the postseason. I've seen all the Rockies' playoff games and now have a pretty good feel for their clubhouse.
Kensington, Md.: Dave and Barry, your comments on payroll and year-to-year success touch on a bigger problem for the MLB, in my opinion. Take the Tigers as an example -- they upset the Yankees last year and generated a buzz about the team, but by not getting back to the playoffs this season it killed any momentum to build a following. The MLB needs somebody other than the Red Sox/Yanks/Cubs/Mets to be able to move the needle. The only way that happens is if some middle-of-the-pack payroll teams can get in year after year. Thoughts?
Barry Svrluga: I actually think the Tigers are built to last, and I was surprised by the fact that they folded this year. But with arms such as Verlander, Bonderman (meltdown this year was inexplicable to me), Zumaya and Rodney, and with youngsters like Jair Jurrjens and Cameron Maybin on the way, I'd guess the Tigers would return to the playoffs sooner than later.
Dave Sheinin: The problem for the Tigers is that they are playing in what has become baseball's best division. The Indians also look like they're built to last, and the Twins might be right there again next year. (The Twins may trade Johan Santana for three absolute studs, but either way they have the potential to be good next year.) And of course, the White Sox are going to reload. But I'm with Barry -- I thought the Tigers would be back in the playoffs. At the all-star break, they were the best team in baseball.
Washington: If the Red Sox are no longer the scrappy underdogs but have become the behemoth of favorites, how can the end of the world not be near? Wouldn't that be a story if the Rox enter he World Serious unbeaten against the Sox?
Barry Svrluga: The old-school New England line of thinking would be that the Sox would advance to the Series and then get swept by the Rockies. It could happen. It really could.
But you're right: I grew up in New England, and the level of angst just isn't the same as it was in 2003 or 2004. Yes, people are hanging on every pitch. But with the Yankees out, there is a sense of relief. And even if they lose, they won it all in 2004, so there's not that "Will it happen in my lifetime" angle to it all.
Washington: Why Dusty Baker? Do the Reds want to ruin Homer Bailey's career and ensure that Votto and Bruce don't get regular at-bats so "veterans" can get more playing time?
Barry Svrluga: That's a really interesting question. I was surprised that that was the choice, and in a way surprised that Dusty wanted that job. I've talked to him on and off over the past couple years -- he really would have liked a shot in Washington -- and he seemed to like having some freedom, being able to stay at home in northern California, etc.
But I think this is a baseball man, a guy who understands there are only 30 of these jobs. The Reds haven't had an established manager in a long time. Maybe they think this gives them legitimacy?
Kensington, Md.: Assuming the World Series were Colorado versus Boston, would the Rockies make this an interesting series, or would Boston blow them away? Or vice versa?
Dave Sheinin: As I said earlier, I think the Red Sox would crush them. They've already pummeled John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar, C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona (all of whom won 18 or more games this year, all of whom were gone by the sixth inning against the Red Sox) -- so I don't see them having any trouble with Jeff Francis, Josh Fogg and Co.
Barry Svrluga: In general, I'd have to agree -- but my caveat about the absurd magic of this run still sticks in my mind. I mean, 20-1? That includes beating Brandon Webb and Jake Peavy and others.
George Mason University: Barry & Dave, I am interested if either of you have heard good/bad things on how Dayton Moore's first full year with the Royals went. Moore is a former second baseman and assistant coach at Mason.
Dave Sheinin: Hey GMU. Dayton's moves in Kansas City has gotten rave reviews around the industry. In a year when all sorts of free agent pitchers were huge busts (Zito, Adam Eaton, Jason Schmidt, etc.), he scored big with Gil Meche. And their farm system is producing big-time talent (Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, etc.) The problem is the same thing I pointed out earlier: The AL Central is probably the toughest division in baseball now.
Severna Park, Md.: I think the Rockies are to be commended for the Latin American pipeline they've tapped into. But the thing that needs to be stressed, especially with the Nats' own rebuilding project, is that this is the result of seven or eight years of efforts in that area of the world. It hasn't happened overnight. So, for Nats fans, I think the question we need to ask is not how soon our own team's efforts will pay off, but how much effort the team still is making down there. We've all read stories about Jose Rijo, but other than the Smiley Gonzalez signing (which sounded great but was more than a year ago), there hasn't been much actual news. Are the Nats' Latin America efforts humming along at 100 percent capacity by now?
Barry Svrluga: An excellent point, no doubt. Think of the splash the Nationals made when they signed shortstop Esmailyn Gonzalez for $1.4 million last year. The reality is that he was 17, and he played this whole year in rookie ball. He's still realistically four years away from the majors -- if he excels.
There are no guarantees, and no pinning your hopes on just one or two players. You have to get them by the barrel-full and then hope some work out. That's what happened in Colorado -- Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales just rose to the top of the crop.
Falls Church, Va.: I agree wholeheartedly with the poster who expressed dislike for McCarver and Buck. Neither can just shut up and let the game speak for itself. If a local radio station were carrying the games, I'd turn Fox down and listen to Jon Miller, who I assume is doing the game on the radio for ESPN. But none of the D.C.-area stations seem to have the signal.
Barry Svrluga: I thought that Triple-X ESPN Radio, or whatever Snyder's stations are called, had the playoff broadcasts, no?
New Jersey: So, is Torre a goner? Who's next -- Mattingly or Girardi? What do you predict for the Yankees free agents? Also, is Joba a starter?
Barry Svrluga: Sheinin knows the Yankees better than me, but here's a stab:
1. I think Torre stays.
2. From what I've been told, Mattingly is the one they want to groom for the job.
3. A crazy offseason of player procurement for Yankees. Mike Lowell to replace A-Rod at third? Don't discount that chance.
4. Yes, Joba returns to being a starter, and the Yankees' rotation could include Hughes, Chamberlain and Kennedy.
Dave, am I even close?
Dave Sheinin: I think Barry is right on the money. If Torre hasn't been fired by now, I don't think he will be. Mattingly is definitely the heir apparent, but with no managing experience and only one year as bench coach, he's not ready. Maybe with two more years under Torre, he will be.
I think A-Rod returns to the Yankees. They need each other too much to end it.
And yes, Joba will be a starter. At least that's what they're saying now. I would have agreed with this a month ago, but after seeing him pitch in September and October, I'm not so sure he wouldn't be the premier closer in baseball for the next 10 years, if they chose to go that way.
I also think there's a chance the Yankees would offer up, say, Hughes, Kennedy and another prospect (not Joba) for Johan Santana.
Cache Valley, Utah: For all of us Rocky Mountain residents, we are quite familiar with just how cold it can get in October here ... brrrrrrrr cold! How much of an impact do think the cold weather in Denver is having on the playoff series between the Diamondbacks and the Rockies? Also, if the Rockies should win the NL championship, do you think said cold weather would be an influence on the final World Series outcome?
Barry Svrluga: I don't think it had much effect last night. Neither team complained, at least. And I think it's just the reality of the postseason. I don't think Denver will be any colder than Boston or Cleveland during the last week in October.
Dave Sheinin: OK, folks. Gotta get out to the yard. Thanks for all the fine questions. Enjoy the rest of the playoffs.
Barry Svrluga: Thanks for joining us, folks. Please check in with us at Nationals Journal (which is Postseason Journal these days) and make sure you catch all the coverage in the $.35 edition. Sorry we didn't get to all the questions, but we'll have another chat next week, I'm sure -- by which time we'll know who's in the Series.
Enjoy the games. And remember, we stay up so you don't have to.
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