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Didn't Make The Paper, Vol. I

So as the Journal evolves into something that can sustain itself during the regular season -- which I'm not sure it can, but whatever -- I figure it might be worth dealing with little things that aren't significant enough to be included in the game story and the notebook from the previous day but might still leave fans a bit curious. I can't tell you how many times I wanted to get in stuff about Frank Robinson bunting in the first inning, but by the time the game had played out, it seemed so insignificant that I couldn't wedge it into my 900 words (each one is valuable, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise).

So let's start with yesterday's decision by Manny Acta to allow Levale Speigner -- the Rule 5 pick, designated long man and dude making his major league debut -- to hit in the bottom of the fifth (which he led off), which meant he would go out for the sixth. Boz dealt with it a bit this morning in the $.35-edition of the paper.

Two schools of thought:

1. By allowing Speigner to hit, you're basically conceding the first game of the season, because the bullpen should be completely rested and, trailing by five runs at the time, you at least want to give yourself a chance to come back by sticking in a pinch hitter, right? Plus, Speigner had survived his major league debut by recording four outs, and maybe pulling him then could have left him with a positive feeling.

2. Acta's explanation is reasonable: "Our starter didn't go far enough. We really needed some innings. We can't start hammering that bullpen from Opening Day."

The manager obviously chose No. 2, and Speigner allowed a run the following inning. But it also points to the realities about this team -- the bullpen is likely to be under constant pressure, even from Opening Day, because the rotation just isn't set up to give you seven innings every night. The notion that this team could carry an 11-man pitching staff at this point is patently absurd. They're going to need 12 guys, and just keeping those 12 guys fresh is going to be a challenge for Acta and pitching coach Randy St. Claire.

Another thought about the bullpen: It's supposed to be the strength of the team, right? But Speigner gave up a run yesterday, and Micah Bowie got shelled by Dan Uggla's towering homer. Still a strength?

I would say yes. Keep in mind, if the Nationals are in the game or even playing with a lead (which presumably will happen at some point over the next six months) then we won't see Bowie and Jesus Colome, we'll see Ray King, Ryan Wagner, Jon Rauch and Chad Cordero -- and, presumably, Luis Ayala at some point. It'll almost be like two bullpens out there -- one for blowouts and one for tight games.

Injury update: In case you missed my story in the $.35 edition of the paper, got word late last evening that early opinion from Nats medical people is that both Nook Logan and Cristian Guzman could miss a week-to-10 days. That's before re-examinations today, which will include Logan seeing a foot specialist. GM Jim Bowden said he wouldn't decide on disabled list moves until after the new exams. The good news on Logan: tests showed no damage to the bones in his foot, and he basically has swelling and bruising in the foot.

One other item for DMTP, Vol. I: Remember Ryan Zimmerman's triple yesterday? What if he had stopped at second?

I think I mentioned this yesterday, but I talked with Zimmerman about it after yesterday's game. Remember last year, he ended up with 47 doubles -- and three triples. What if those triples were doubles? He'd have had 50 doubles. Would that have looked better? Would someone have cast their vote for Rookie of the Year for Zimm and not Hanley Ramirez (who, by the way, has "superstar" written all over him)? I mean, 50 doubles as a rookie?

"There's two outs," Zimmerman said yesterday. "I can't stop."

He is, of course, right, and there's no way he's ever going to stop at second when he could cleanly get to third. It's just a funny thing to think about.

Housekeeping: Did anyone check out the Podcast? (Do you capitalize the "P" in podcast? I have no idea.) Kinda shaky, I guess. It's just going to be me speaking into the recorder, but we'll have lots of sound from players as well. That should make it worthwhile. I'll try to include a few things that weren't in the paper, but -- as with the Journal -- no real promises. You'll get the decent info you need/want/die for/live for. I'd be interested in thoughts from those who listened.

RFK: Interesting reading some of the frustrations about game experience. I will ask Stan Kasten about this (though he is not going to be at the park today because of Passover). Again, my standard answer is that Kasten talks a lot about customer experience, and if that is substandard, he and the team must be held accountable. I'm not soliciting complaints, believe me, and I have only a limited amount of time/space/brain power/sheer will with which to deal with all that stuff (given that, I think, I'm supposed to cover a baseball team on the field. But feel free to use the comment spaces to let me know about stuff.

Finally: You're more than welcome to use the comment spaces as kind of a message board, one you know I'll be reading. Let the comments stack up. But -- KEEP THEM CLEAN or you'll be kicked off.

Talk to you when I have lineups.

By Barry Svrluga  |  April 3, 2007; 11:13 AM ET
 
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Next: Logan to DL

Comments

Wow, did somebody NOT? Who got kicked off? Enquiring minds want to know (in between windging about the hotdog mustard being too warm, or something).

Posted by: Wille Gandabol | April 3, 2007 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Zimmm's triple was the highlight of the afternoon, but if Borchard had immediately run back to the fence instead of attempting to jump 12 feet in the air, he could have held Ryan to a single.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | April 3, 2007 11:48 AM | Report abuse

but it is nice to see a pro butcher a play worse than I do. Usually. In tough sun. Tough fog. Lost it in the moon. It was a UFO, I swear it.

Posted by: Willie Gandebol | April 3, 2007 11:55 AM | Report abuse

"But feel free to use the comment spaces to let me know about stuff."
YOU'RE NOT HELPING, Barry.

Posted by: I Hate Whining | April 3, 2007 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Help me out here - where do I find the link for the Podcasts? Once I can listen, I can critique.....

KUTGW,
K

Posted by: Kirkie | April 3, 2007 11:59 AM | Report abuse

I know this isn't a space for fans to cry in, but I think it's worth mentioning that, from my perspective NOTHING has changed as far as food service at RFK. I attended 30 games in 2005, a dozen last year, and was really looking forward to improvement...NONE! Empty ketchup and mustard containers throughout the stadium by the 6th inning. Talk is cheap, Stan...DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

Posted by: AT | April 3, 2007 12:05 PM | Report abuse

It's cool that Shenin is doing a chat today... will you be doing regular chats soon as well, Barry?

Posted by: SilverSpringNatsFan | April 3, 2007 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Podcast: Link is on washingtonpost.com/sports and should be on the Nationals section of the web site, too. But here it is if you can't find it:

http://cdn.washingtonpost.com/podcast/proddev/nationals/postgame040207.mp3


Chats: Right now, I'm only scheduled to chat every other week, and my first would be this Friday. I would like to do them weekly. If you would like that, too, please speak up.

Sheinin's chat should be interesting. I talked to him from San Francisco this morning. He had a fascinating story on Barry Bonds's homer pursuit in the $.35 paper this morning. Check it out -- interesting quotes from the Giants prez.

Posted by: Barry Svrluga | April 3, 2007 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Barry, how about Manny's earlier decision to let Patterson bat with two on (2nd and 3rd IIRC) and two out in the bottom of the second, trailing only 3-0? It was pretty clear at that point that Patterson had nothing working for him on the mound yesterday, so why not pinch hit for him and maybe get a couple of runs in? Or if you must let him bat, why not instruct him to be bunting from the first pitch? As it was, he fouled off the first one swinging away, and then tried to bunt the second pitch, fouling it off. With two strikes, the bunt window was closed, leaving him no other option besides another clumsy swing and an out. Rally killed, and again as it turned out less than two innings later he was out of there anyway, but now six runs down. What would Frank have done there? Pinch hit? Maybe not. But I bet he wouldn't have had him swinging away.

Posted by: Section 419 | April 3, 2007 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, I know you're not the Customer Service Ombudsman, but maybe from your mouth to Kasten's ear - food and beer service were horrible; worse than any other game in the past 2 years. I sat lower level and didn't see a single beer or food vendor in the stnads after the 1st inning. Inside, lines were long and none of the cooked foods (like sausages and hot dogs) were ready/cooked. After all these years, how do you not have a playbook for keeping a supply of cooked foods ready for purchase.

And the scoreboard info - with so many new and unknown players, how about providing some background info and last year's stats - instead of a lot of .000 batting average info.

Posted by: Long Time Reader, First Time Commenter | April 3, 2007 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Here's David Fahrenthold's story in Metro about the whole thing, with the Aramark spokesperson's comment near the bottom.

We'll see how all this goes from here on out.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/02/AR2007040201071.html

Posted by: Barry Svrluga | April 3, 2007 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Barry,
Thanks for the blogs - but where's the love from the editors? Every other blog is linked on the home page, we gotta work to find yours. Nats headlines not on home page either. Chat weekly, please.
Prediction - 60-102 - it's part of the plan, get first pick in the draft. Don't want to be half decent.

Posted by: Va fan | April 3, 2007 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Just thinking out loud - maybe a question for Stan or someone else - could the Nats or DCSEC fire Aramark? If so, is there a pool of companies to replace them?

The issue seems to be as much the person behind the counter - if they're engaged the service is good, if not, not so much. For the record, it has nothing to do with demographics; I've had excellent and horrible service at RFK from people of all ages, races and genders, having been to 50+ games over the last few years in seats all over the stadium.

The unevenness therefore must be a function of hiring and/or training, which I would lay at the feet of Aramark.

Of course, if there really are no alternatives then I can't blame the team - service jobs are extraordinarily hard to fill these days. I'm just curious.

It's too bad that small crowds are the best way to guarantee good service, but that's where we are right now.

Posted by: CoNATStant Lurker | April 3, 2007 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Why does it seem like half of the concession areas that are built in to RFK are closed for Nats games? I would imagine that they were once functional probably during the Skins tenure there but is there a reason why they weren't open yesterday? That would seem to help out the long line problems a ton...

Posted by: Skins Fan | April 3, 2007 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Asking for the best pitcher on the staff to be pinch-hit for in the second inning on opening day is ridiculous. Section 419, you should be banned for that question.

So what if he goes on to give up 8 runs in the next two innings, it's ludicrous to suggest yanking patterson after only two innings when he'd only given up 3 runs. What you suggest is bad baseball 10 times out of 10.

Posted by: court | April 3, 2007 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Oh! Where to begin? Pre-game food lines on the party porch (food terrace) - long and slow.
The food stands were understaffed.
Jet flyover - did anyone actually see the Jets?
Food lines 4th inning - long and slow with sullen, surly, angry, and rude Aramark food service workers. Again, these food stands were understaffed with a specific shortage of competent workers.
We can say, 'Oh well, at least we have baseball'! So, that's what that was?
I think I'm sorry that I bought yet another season ticket plan - Game 1 of year 3 and I'm already fed up.
Pass this on to Stan.....
At the University of Maryland, at both basketball and football games, local high schools are given the opportunity to "staff" a food service stand for a percentage of the sales - you know, fund-raiser for an athletic team, or new microscopes, whatever. What the University gets in return is enthusiastic, cheerful, excellent service for their patrons.
I won't go into the details about the trip out of lot 7 after the game. It seems the Aramark workers also double as traffic directors.

Posted by: 6th and D | April 3, 2007 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Podcast was good - a bit choppy, but it's only the first (of many I hope!). Great to have you online, in the paper, and now in our ears.

Posted by: Greg | April 3, 2007 12:49 PM | Report abuse

I've gone to about 20 games a year since the Nats came to town. In past years, there was some incompetence in the food lines, but I thought that all the workers were actually friendly and nice (for the most part). The incompetence was back yesterday but none of the workers seemed nice either. And the incompetence was definitely worse than it was the second half of last year.

And, is it too much to ask that somebody make sure the soap dispensers in the bathrooms are full before the game starts? I took my 5-year-old daughter to the bathroom yesterday after the second inning and there was no soap to wash her hands.

Posted by: Section 315 | April 3, 2007 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the Padcast link, Barry. Tried it just now; Itunes seems to be having difficulty with it; not being recognised. Anyone else tried it?

Posted by: Kirkie | April 3, 2007 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Had a great time at the game yesterday in spite of the result and I found the staff at the stadium to be helpful and friendly. Logan's catch was superb, it was nice to see Young swing the bat so well and Zimm is worth the price of admission every day. Barry, do you see the Nats trying to do anything about the lack of righthanded hitters in the OF and on the bench? With the game still somewhat in the balance yesterday, the Nats had to send three straight lefties up against Willis and he was able to shut them down. Granted some of this was created by unforseen injuries, but I thought that the roster was too lefty heavy even before the injuries.

Posted by: Hondo Lives | April 3, 2007 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Aramark has stunk since day one. The Red Skins use a different company that also serves larger stadiums around the country, maybe there should be a switch. There are other food service companies as well, but there really isn't much difference.

But what do you honestly expect from the lowest bidder? Competent people who don't put their thumb in your drink or a cleaned-up homeless guy who failed second grade (yes, Aramark has had this program for a while)?

It's not hard to provide good customer service, it's hard to find people who want to give good customer service. Besides if the stands were undermanned, then someone in the ticket office relayed bad information to Aramark in regards to pre-sale and a game-day prediction of walk-up.

Posted by: Aramark | April 3, 2007 1:04 PM | Report abuse

It's interesting that the caption on one of the photos acccompanying the Fahrenthold article (at least in the on-line version) states that fans are waiting for autographs from Billy Wagner. That's going to be one heckuva wait considering the Mets don't visit RFK for 3 more weeks. I'm assuming the fans were actually waiting on Ryan Wagner, now entering his second season of pitching for the Nationals. The curse of Kory Casto strikes again!

Posted by: Kevin | April 3, 2007 1:11 PM | Report abuse

I've become convinced that Stan Kasten is a just plain lousy manager. He can't put a team on the field, and he can't get the necessary business stuff right, either, judging by the concession criticisms. Where are the Lerners? He should go.

I had to revert to radio by the 7th inning of yesterday's MASN telecast. Patterson/Sutton failed to mention that Guzman had pulled up lame. And it took them a while to recognize that there was a new shortstop on the field the next inning. This team of Patterson and Sutton may be the two worst ever--and I once thought the O's 2006 pairings could not be equaled.

Again, these guys are Kasten picks.

Posted by: JohnR (VA) | April 3, 2007 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Barry, opened up your link to the story about Aramark and noticed the caption under the photo:

"P.J. Eason, 10, of Kensington stretches for an autograph from pitcher Billy Wagner."

I think maybe you need to give the caption writer a copy of the Nats Roster. As far as I know, Billy Wagner is on the Mets. RYAN Wagner is on the Nats.

Posted by: e | April 3, 2007 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Hey JohnR (VA), I just stunk it up on the mound, not in the booth as well. I believe your criticisms were for Bob Carpenter

Posted by: John Patterson | April 3, 2007 1:19 PM | Report abuse

JohnR (VA) ... you're my kind of guy. Yearrrghhhh!

Posted by: ntr Tom Paciorek | April 3, 2007 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Love the journal Barry!

In response to JohnR(VA)...Our TV announcers are Bob Carpenter and Don Sutton, not Patterson/Sutton.

Getting out of lot 7 was absurd. It took 45 minutes just to be directed in a circle by an Aramark worker who couldn't have been older than 15. They directed people in circles. Why didn't they have all the exits/entrances to the lot open? It was a waste of $15 (why are we raising parking prices every year by the way? Camden Yards doesn't even charge $15).

I'm a season ticket holder and was hoping for at least status quo when the Lerner's took over, and we haven't even gotten that. But, I'm sticking behind the team.

Posted by: LKitz | April 3, 2007 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Barry, I think you mentioned something a week or so ago about Kasten responding to fan's complaints/inquiries. Where/how would one submit something to Kasten? Is there an e-mail address or phone number hotline? Looks like he needs to hear from quite a few of us who attended yesterday's game.

Posted by: AT | April 3, 2007 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Sorry Nats fans, I forgot to mention the clause in the agreement we forced the Lerners to sign in order to win the bidding for the team. It states that all aspects of the "customer experience" regress in order to make you long for the days of MLB ownership.

We meant to file this under "Be Careful What you Wish For", but forgot.
Cheers,
Com Bud

Posted by: Bud Selig | April 3, 2007 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Yes, I saw the "Billy Wagner" thing. Not good. Not good at all.

Posted by: Barry Svrluga | April 3, 2007 2:27 PM | Report abuse

for $.35 your 900 words are worth exactly $0.000388889 (ea).

(sorry, couldn't resist)

Posted by: i hate walks | April 3, 2007 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Let me get this right....RFK is just a lousy restaurant with ballgame out on the lawn...is that it??

Posted by: SC Nats Fan | April 3, 2007 3:54 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure I'm not alone here, but I feel like the Nationals have taken advantage of their fan base this season. I know that we all have the option to pass on tickets, but for baseball fans that have waited decades for a team, that's not an option.

What gets me is that there is (near) universal recognition that RFK is the pits, yet the team still charges the same price for tickets as last year, raises parking and food/beverage prices, and does next to nothing to remind fans that they are valued.

So, people like me buy-in for sets of two or four tickets for three years, under the assumption that being "in" for all three will net us great seats in the new stadium due to our high priority status.

Truth be told, we have no idea where our seats are going to be, and what kind of cost we're looking at. I presume that my seats, directly behind home plate and barely under the terrace, will be worse in the new stadium, and I'll have to pay an extra $10-12/ticket for the privilege.

I understand that teams outside of the top four media markets need to rebuild. Yet for fans, who have no direct financial stake in this thing, we are being asked to pay one game/season at a time for a product that is not major-league ready. In most rebuiding efforts, the team is stocked with young, unproven kids who could really shock the world if everything goes just right. I think we're all in agreement that this team is pretty much a known commodity, so the suspense isn't even there. Kearns, Lopez, Schneider and even Church will hit close to their career averages. Guzman will probably hit 240 if he's healthy. Zimmerman continues to shine, so we can chalk that up in the plus column, but $40/person for his four-five at-bats seems pretty pricey from a value perspective.

I love baseball. I am happy to go to 81 games a year and watch a competitive team get beat on all 81 of those dates. What I don't like is paying more than $10K for four seats for consistent drubbings, with poor service, overpriced parking, and barely a "thank you" in the season ticket packet.

Throw us a bone Nationals! Lower beer prices? Free parking Fridays? Take a Nat to school days? Let a section of season ticket holders take BP one day each homestand? Anything!

Finally, I was pretty happy to see that the price of beer was held steady this year, but is it just me, or were the beers larger last year? Could be that my gut has grown to make the beers just look smaller by comparison, but I thought they were larger last year.

Posted by: Sec 315(2) | April 3, 2007 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Complaints:

1) no paper towels in the mens room in the third inning!
2) my bud bought a bag of popcorn that weighed two pounds (laden with oil). I exaggerate not.
3) we should play a game. the lerners and kastens should have to have their seder at food from the park tonight, and we can all see if they say 'next year at the new ballpark' at the end of the hagaddah.

Posted by: Larry | April 3, 2007 5:32 PM | Report abuse

I went to the Mets/Cards game in St. Louis on Sunday night and then flew into DC for the Nats opener. It was a night and day difference.

Despite the sold-out crowd, it was easy to get food and beer from regular vendors and at your seat in St. Louis. I was also impressed with the situational statistics that were presented during the game. E.g. career vs. RHP, career with runners in scoring position, career with two outs, etc.

Yesterday, I spent twenty minutes getting cash at an ATM, and another twenty minutes navigating a beer line (IPA). I decided not to get a hot dog because it wasn't worth the wait. I did not see a single vendor in section 310 after I arrived in the 2nd inning.

I honestly think that half of the problems in RFK result from Aramark employees who are completely incompetent and unpleasant.

I am confident that everything will improve with the new stadium, though. Baltimore uses Aramark and I have never had major problems there. I do hope that they will open it to competition, or, at the very least, allow some independent vendors into the stadium. They should place another ten ATMs in the stadium and a few outside the stadium. The availability of quick cash should never influence a customer's decision to purchase food or merchandise.

On a positive note, as usual, the people working the gates at RFK yesterday were very pleasant.

Posted by: AO | April 3, 2007 5:45 PM | Report abuse

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