Thursday, April 10 at 11 a.m. ET

Major League Baseball

Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 10, 2008; 11:00 AM

Washington Post national baseball writer Dave Sheinin was online Thursday, April 10 at 11 a.m. ET to take your questions and comments from around the major leagues.

The transcript follows.


Dave Sheinin: Hey, folks. Thanks for stopping by our first baseball chat of the season. I just got back from a quick trip to Boston to report on the Detroit Tigers' mysterious struggles (though they finally won a game last night). We can chat about that, or about the goings-on in the NL East (where the Phillies and Mets are in the middle of a three-game series), or, of course, about the local nines. And away we go...


Reston, Va.: David

Are the Cubs ever going to get Brian Roberts?

Will the Nats ever get rid of Felipe Lopez?

Can you right the Nationals boat or should we panic at all?

The Nats blog misses your tunes, dude. A soundtrack now and then would be nice...but where....

Dave Sheinin: Let's see...

Yes, probably by June.

No, unless the Nats are willing to release him.

No need to panic over the Nats. I thought at the beginning of the season they were a 70-75-win team, and I still believe that to be the case.

Tunes... Digging the new Raconteurs record, and can't wait for the new Emmylou Harris.


Damascus, Md.: Ozzie Guillen is clearly mentally unbalanced. Why do the White Sox keep him around? If my kids behaved like he does, they'd be spending lots of time in "time out."

Dave Sheinin: Ozzie earned himself a few years of goodwill by winning the World Series in 2005, and ownership adores him. But all these bizarre outbursts and statements are adding up, and he seems destined to lose his job because of his mouth -- the only question is whether it happens sooner or later.


Navy Yard: Any sense of what Nats' ownership is thinking about the terrible attendance so far at the new stadium? If this continues through this season, do you think the Lerners will loosen up the purse strings and sign a couple of big names to put people in the seats and players that don't stink on the field?

Dave Sheinin: All we know about the view of the Nats' ownership about the attendance is what comes out of the mouth of Stan Kasten -- which is to say, everything is fine. For now, that's a perfectly reasonable stance to take, and I, for one, am not prepared to draw conclusions about this market based on (so far) three home dates. Let's see how things look deep into the summer.

As for opening up the checkbook, I think that is more likely to happen when ownership and the front office is confident the team is only a couple of players away from contending -- which right now, unfortunately, they are not.


Sheinin : Are the Royals as good as their record?

Dave Sheinin: No. But they're good enough to finish .500


Ignominio, US:

Just curious...What ever happened with Barry Bonds? Has he officially retired? Is he still being shopped around? Is anybody seriously looking, and for how much $?

Dave Sheinin: Retired? Not by a long shot. According to his agent, Bonds is working out, is in great shape, and is waiting around for someone to call. So far, everyone seems to have concluded the production he would add (and remember, he led the NL in OPS among players with at least 400 plate appearances) is outweighed by the accompanying baggage. The union has made noise about possible collusion on the part of the owners, but I don't see that going anywhere. Is it possible some surprise contender will take a chance on him this summer (Kansas City? Tampa Bay?) -- yes, it's possible. But it is just as possible that we've seen the last of him.


Detroit Tigers: Could Curtis Granderson be the missing piece?

Is this bad start a result of players showing their advanced age at the same time?

How badly will the Tigers regret giving up Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller in two years?

If the Tigers don't turn it around, will this be a tougher year for Jim Leyland than managing the Florida Marlins in 1998?

Dave Sheinin: Clearly, the Tigers are missing Granderson, who is the catalyst of that fantastic offense -- and a difference-maker on defense, too. But they have also gotten very good production out of center field in his absence, so that's the not the entire problem.

The thing about the Tigers' lineup is that it is full of hitters with long track records who absolutely will put up numbers.

But one thing that has been exposed a little is their vulnerability to right-handed starters. Last year, they were 60-59 in games started by RHPs, and instead of getting a left-handed bopper for their lineup, they got the right-handed Miguel Cabrera. Yes, Cabrera crushes every type of pitching, but it's also true that their lineup is very right-handed.

The degree to which the Tigers "regret" giving up Maybin and Miller is inversely proportional to how much production they get out of Cabrera (and to a lesser degree, Dontrelle Willis) over the next half-dozen or so years.

Once the horrible fire sale was over, Leyland actually enjoyed the 1998 Marlins (I know, because I covered them for the Miami Herald), despite losing 108 games. There was no pressure. The same can't be said for this year's Tigers.


Reston, Va.: I love your taste in music.

Do you feel Detroit is serious about Chad Cordero?

Dave Sheinin: Thanks. The Tigers are looking everywhere for bullpen help -- not only


Dave Sheinin: Oops. Sorry, I think I published that half-finished response by mistake... Anyway, as I was saying, the Tigers are looking everywhere -- not just in the Nationals' direction -- for bullpen help. The problem with Cordero is the same it has always been: The Nationals are looking for the type of return befitting a proven closer, while other teams, in general, view him as a set-up man. Plus, the Tigers are limited by the dearth of talent in their farm system. So I'd say the chances of this deal being made are slim.


Taneytown, Md.: Break up the Orioles! Will Markakis have a break-out season this year?

Dave Sheinin: Breakout season? I'd say his 2007 numbers (.300-23-112, with an OPS of .847) at the age of 23 constitutes a breakout season.


Yankees: Could the Bronx Bombers be undone by their starting pitching?

To me, Mike Mussina looks done and he is the Yankee third starter.

And despite the hype, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain are bound for some growing pains.

Dave Sheinin: Yes, the Yankees absolutely could be undone by their starting pitching, and they knew that going into the season. Instead of mortgaging their future for Johan Santana, they gambled on Kennedy, Hughes and Chamberlain (who is in the bullpen for now, but could get moved to the rotation in midseason). But I would hold off on writing off Mussina. His stuff certainly isn't what it used to be, but he's one of the smartest pitchers in baseball, and his most recent start (vs. Tampa Bay) was solid.


Nats Fan: Was signing Dimitri Young one of the biggest off season mistakes of any team?

How could he let himself get up to 300 pounds and still be looked at as a leader?

I thought he was going to work hard all off season and give the outfield a try?

Dave Sheinin: Technically, Young's signing (two years, $10 million) occurred last July, not this offseason, but your point remains the same. I heard from a lot of rival executives at the time of the signing, and not a single one thought it was a good move by the Nats -- so you can imagine how it is viewed now that Young is unfit to play. You have to cut the guy some slack because of his diabetes, but from the team's perspective, it does not look like one of their better moves at this point.


Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens: We would both be good cures to the Nats attendance woes.

Dave Sheinin: I don't think those guys want to get anywhere near Capitol Hill.


Sec 312: So will any of these guys be on the team next year? Johnson, Young, Dukes, Lopez, Belliard, Guzman, Bergmann, Chico

Dave Sheinin: Oooh, great question. Let's see... I'll say no on Johnson (Marrero will be here), yes on Young (untradeable), no on Dukes (something is bound to happen), no on Lopez (signs a two-year $5 million deal somewhere this winter), no on Belliard (traded to a contender this summer), yes on Guzman (re-signed at a lower price this winter), yes on Bergmann (solid fifth starter/swing man on a good staff), no on Chico (surpassed by kids like Lannan, Detwiler, etc.).


Silver Spring, Md.: Dave, what on Earth is going on up I-95?! As one of those misguided lifelong O's fan, I'm happy and all, since my husband kept telling me I was looking at a 120-loss season (and since he's a Tigers fan, that number holds great importance in our house), but I fear this is all a dream and its all going to end VERY badly. Is the season salvageable? As in, not finishing last? Not being the laughing stock of MLB? PLEASE?

Dave Sheinin: It's great that the Orioles are playing so well, but it happens every year, folks. A good team has a terrible start, and everyone wants to write them off, while a bad team has a great start, and everyone wants to print playoff tickets. You sound as if your expectations are reasonable -- you're asking me if the Orioles can avoid last place (yes, but unlikely), as opposed to asking whether they can be a contender (no way). Keep in mind, the Orioles are still probably going to trade Brian Roberts, and it is possible they will also deal away Aubrey Huff, George Sherrill and/or others this summer -- because the goal here is not to hang around the fringes of contention into June, but rather to build a strong foundation from the ground up. A fast start is not going to change that.


Sec. 114, Row E: Regarding Bud Selig and the Mitchell Report... at one point he was contemplating penalties for the players implicated in the report, can we assume that's not going to happen at this point. Donald Fehr must have set him straight.

Bud cannot penalize a player without the evidence of a failed test. Even he knows that.

But since the previous stance was that he was working on it, shouldn't he come out and announce that there'll be no penalties? Or will he just weasel out of this and let it pass?

Dave Sheinin: Bud was indeed considering penalties for players named in the Mitchell Report, even those for whom there was no positive test. In fact, prior to the report's release, he suspended Jose Guillen and Jay Gibbons in the absence of positive tests. However, it appears as if the Guillen suspension will be nullified (Gibbons is out of baseball right now), and it also appears there will be no additional suspenions of players named in the report. This has been a negotiating point in recent talks about implementing the changes suggested in the Mitchell Report. Management has been pressing the union to agree to all those changes -- but remember, Mitchell also recommending amnesty for players named in the report. So it would be somewhat hypocritical for MLB to press for the other recommendations, while ignoring the recommendation concerning punishment.


Suburbia: Is Barry Zito officially the biggest bust ever yet?

Dave Sheinin: Holy cow, what an awful signing. I think the answer has to be yes. Until now, Chan Ho Park's deal with the Rangers was widely viewed to be the worst in history -- and remember, that was for half the money the Giants are paying to Zito! Yikes. On the other hand, they're only stuck with him for another 5 1/2 years!


Stafford, Va.: No on Dukes? Something is bound to happen?

Nothing like giving a man a chance in his new surroundings. Can you please back up that comment with some of your reasoning?

Dave Sheinin: I'm all for giving guys a chance, and I've enjoyed the handful of conversations I've had with Elijah. But the chatter merely asked me to make a prediction, and that's what I did. Let's just say it's a hunch.


Dem O's: I know its the right thing to do (trading Roberts), but even though I was less thrilled about letting Bedard go, I still find this one a tough egg to swallow. I'm not a teenage girl, I think I'm just a little high right now on a winning streak that I frankly did not expect/hope for. At this point, McPhail is doing all the right things to resurrect Lazar...I mean the Orioles. So the fact that the O's are the best team in baseball at this moment, is just icing on the cake. If at the end of the season they are even close to 500, that would have to be considered a hugely successful season. Having said that, I think they may be a little closer to respectable than people think. They do have (thanks to the trades) some young talent. They have a manager who understands developing that talent. It will take years to restock the farm system but thanks entirely to McPhail (and Angelos apparently letting him do his job) I feel positive about the O's for the first time in a decade.

Dave Sheinin: Nothing wrong with that.


Fairfax, Va.: Rich Harden missed his turn in the rotation. Should I just assume it's a matter of time before he hits the DL?

Dave Sheinin: Personally, I had April 17 in the Rich-Harden-to-the-DL pool, so I'm feeling good about my chances.


Alexandria, Va.: Shiner, Welcome Back to the ChatWorld.

So, Braves prospect Jordan Schafer gets popped for HGH and gets a 50 game rip... do they do blood testing for PEDs in the Minors? Who knew!

Dave Sheinin: This is interesting. No, there is no blood-testing in the minors. It appears that Schafer is the first casualty of the new investigative arm that MLB created in the wake of the Mitchell Report.


Judiciary Square: Dave:

I saw the attendance for one of the O's/M's games was a bit over 10,000. Since this is tickets sold, I assume their season ticket base is, at best, barely 10K. How big a falloff is that from past years, and where does is stand relative to other MLB teams?

Dave Sheinin: The Orioles' attendance has declined in nearly every season since 1997 (3.71 million), bottoming out in 2006 at 2.15 million. They haven't released season-ticket data, but your logic is correct. I can tell you this: as someone who covered the O's when they were still drawing 45,000/game, it is shocking to me to see Camden Yards so empty. But it's a useful lesson in the one basic truth about sports and attendance: if you put a good product on the field, people will show up.


Florence, S.C.: David -- why do so many very good teams struggle early in the season?

Dave Sheinin: It's merely a function of the small sample size. The 2006 Cardinals had two losing streaks of seven or more games, but still won the World Series. The Tigers are getting more attention simply because their seven-game losing streak came at the start of the season.


Washington, D.C.: My first impression of the new Nationals stadium is not good. Maybe I've just been spoiled by Camden Yards, but a new stadium should have character and charm and a sense of history. The view beyond the outfield is blah, it is a mish-mosh of ugly buildings with a rather lame attempt at hiding a parking garage with signs. Ugly views!!! Because the view of the US Capitol is so minimal, maybe they should have turned the stadium around so it overlooked the Anacostia River.

The food stalls -- with the exception of Ben's Chili Bowl -- seem to be concepts designed in the corporate boardroom: pentagon pizza, senator's sausage. Sad. Sad. Sad.

How come D.C. just can't get it right when it comes to sports?

Dave Sheinin: I've heard various versions of this from many people, including some from the visiting teams who have seen it already.


Dave Sheinin: Okay, everyone, we're out of time. Sorry I couldn't get to all the questions. See you back here next time.


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