Plenty of former ballplayers turn into media members when they walk away from the game. If there’s something that differentiates Mark DeRosa from his peers, it might be this: DeRosa played with eight teams over 16 years, and was teammates with more than 200 players who remain in Major League Baseball. He has cell phone numbers for two or three players on virtually every current roster, and he said he uses those contacts to try to find out what’s actually going on in clubhouses across the country.
DeRosa will get an opportunity to showcase those contacts this month with the launch of MLB Central, MLB Network’s first regular-season morning show, which will debut Monday morning. Hosted by Matt Vasgersian, Lauren Shehadi and DeRosa, the show will air weekday mornings at 10 a.m. DeRosa will do interview segments with players — he’s already taped spots with Jose Bautista, Cole Hamels and Brett Gardner — and will also offer his “pointed opinions” in a regular segment called The D-Train.
I talked to DeRosa recently about his thoughts on the Nats — one of his former teams — and his new gig, which he repeatedly called a “humbling” opportunity. That conversation is lost to history, due to my computer being a jerkhead, but DeRosa shared similar thoughts on the Nats this week with 106.7 The Fan’s Chad Dukes.
On Washington’s NL East chances
With the starters they have, again, I just keep going back to that. You keep trying to find flaws with every team. It’s very hard, outside of maybe a bullpen piece, to find a flaw with the Washington Nationals.
On the glut of spring training injuries
The worst thing you can do is rush these guys back and then you play hurt the entire year. It’s better to take that extra week to 10 days in April — and then come back and know you’re full-bore go for the rest of the season — than to play with a knee tweak the entire season and protect it and play at 80 percent. The depth that this team has and the pitching staff that this team has, they should be able to overcome it, but at the same time, those are big pieces. I mean, Rendon was fifth in the MVP. I’m a huge fan of the way Jayson Werth plays the game. … So, concerned? Maybe a little bit. Worried? No, not yet.
On Washington’s clubhouse and expectations
It was different in 2012. I don’t think that team really understood how good they were coming out of spring training, and I felt like it was my job to kind of tell them, and let them know — being on teams that went to postseasons in the past — that that was as talented a group as I had ever been in spring training with. Were they ready to take that next step and win?
And now I feel like they’re the target. Everyone knows they’re really good; the rotation obviously could be historic with the way they run out one through five. I think they need to really use it as a lightning rod for, I don’t want to say coming together, but [thinking] we’re really tight-knit, we’re going to avoid the noise, not listen to it.
They have leaders in that locker room. Maybe not at the time I was there, because they were younger players, but Jayson Werth prepares for a game and prepares for a season like nobody’s business. Ian Desmond has matured into one of the better players in the game. It’s tough for a pitcher to be the bona fide leader of a team, because he’s not going to the post every day, so it kind of falls onto the shoulders of a position player. And I definitely think they have guys in there that can shoulder that burden if not share it.
On whether Bryce Harper is baseball’s most overrated player
Absolutely not. I think that’s totally unfair, and I totally disagree with it. You know, he’s been a lightning rod since he was 16 years old. When you grace the covers of Sports Illustrated as a teenager, there’s a bull’s-eye put on you. He’s got expectations, and the thing about Bryce, he kind of embraces it. He’s got a charisma about him, he likes his voice to be heard, and with that comes some backlash.
But for me, watching him in 2012 when I was there, he ignited that team for us. We were playing really well at the time, and he kind of came up and not only brought an electricity to that ballpark but also to our clubhouse. So no. When I hear Bryce Harper’s name, I want to ask people, what were you doing when you were 19? I’m sure it wasn’t batting in the big leagues. So I take a lot of what’s said about him with a grain of salt.
I just think it’s one of those things where people have their idea of what they want a superstar-type player to hit, and how they want him to act, and talk, and Bryce is a little different from that. He’s a trendsetter. He comes with the different hair, the different beards, the shoes. He’s modern, he’s progressive, he’s kind of trying to take [baseball] to a young man’s game, and it kind of ruffles some old-school people. But he certainly plays the game with an old-school mentality.