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Q&A with Matt Capps

Matt Capps agreed to a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Nats some time around 1 a.m. on Christmas Eve. He was visiting family in Asheville, N.C., at the time. Hours later, he went to the local mall in hopes of buying a Nats hat at the Lids store. But they were already sold out. (Capps has a huge family in Asheville, he said. Many beat him to the mall that morning.)

Anyway, he's flying up to D.C. on Tuesday to take a physical and make his deal with the Nats official. Also, he plans to stop at a team store to buy a cap for himself.

Today, I talked with Capps by phone just after a morning workout near his home in Bradenton, Fla. A transcript of 97-percent accuracy follows.

Q: So at this point in the offseason what kind of workouts are you doing?

Well, today was the first day that I played catch. Today was more about playing catch, my shoulder stuff and then just a regular leg workout. Most of the heavy workouts, lifting stuff, I like to do earlier in the offseason, and then this time of year I like to do more range of motion stuff, getting the flexibility down. More baseball-related activities.

Q: I read that last year you reported to spring training about 15 pounds lighter than in 2008, and you were thinking that would spell good things in terms of velocity and endurance. Numbers aside, how did that work for you?

Well, I felt good throughout the year. I think with me it's a fine line. I've done a lot of soul-searching with my weight and what kind of shape I'm in. I mean, I'm a big guy. I'm never going to be 205 pounds. But I don't need to be 265 either. If I'm between 245 and 250 I think that's when I'm at my best, just looking back over the last few years. I'm also the person, I can step on the scale today and be 252 and tomorrow be 243. My weight jumps up and down real quick, and I don't know what the cause is. But I try not to put too much emphasis on weight. A lot of it goes on how I feel. I've had two pretty rough years in my career, one in 2004 and one last year. And the one common denominator in those two years is that I came into camp in unbelievable shape.

Q: So what do you make of that?

Like I said, if I'm moving around well, I don't get tired covering first base and going through baseball activities -- there's not a magic number for me or a body fat percentage. Look at Babe Ruth, David Wells; some guys perform better when they are heavier.

Q: I've asked this question of other free agents who've recently joined the Nats, but I'm curious to hear your thoughts. Was there a specific point or moment when you really started to take the Nats seriously as a destination?

I took them seriously from Day One. From the very first day that we talked to them. I like the moves they've made, not just this offseason but during the season. Even competing against them last year, you look at their lineup -- they're one of the toughest lineups in the National League. So the opportunity is there. And now with them getting Pudge to control the pitching staff and a guy like Marquis to lead the pitching staff, and going out to spend the money on Strasburg... and then the opportunity for me to come in and be a part of it, it's exciting. Look at what they did offensively. If that can be repeated and we do our job, I think we'll be one of the top clubs.

Q: You obviously dealt with your share of losing in Pittsburgh, and here all of a sudden you're with a team that's lost 205 games in the last two seasons. But what, if anything, makes this situation in Washington different from the one you left?

That's a tough question. You know, that'll be hard to answer until I get there and see how things come together. I think the biggest difference I've seen so far is ownership's devotion to winning and financially getting the pieces they need. But as far as everything else, I only know what I've heard. Ask me again at the end of March.

Q: There are a few former Buccos on the Nats' roster now -- Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett. Describe their role as recruiters once you became a free agent.

You know, Nyjer cracks me up. He's one of the most genuine people I've ever met. Nyjer called me when he first found out it was a possibility, and he was talking so fast and so excited that I couldn't even understand him. But that's Nyjer. He wanted me there, and that's important to us as players. When Nyjer is a part of something, you get everything he has to offer. Bt it's nice to be wanted. Also with Rizzo. Jim Riggleman, I talked to him. I talked to Burnett a few times, same thing. He kept saying, 'I think you'll be a great fit here.' And my wife knows his wife, so it will be a little more comfortable for her.

Q: The Pirates drafted you and brought you up through their system. What will you miss most about playing there?

The guys. The guys and the fans. The fans were great to me from Day One. The people too. The other writers, the media, the fans were great to me -- even in the bad times, the bad days. When I got hurt everybody was supportive. I have some great friends over there and will continue to have great friends over there.

Q: Pittsburgh's decision to non-tender you certainly wasn't predicted. Those initial hours after you found out -- what were you feeling, and what were you thinking?

I mean I wasn't happy about it; it was upsetting. But I understand the game of baseball is a business to a lot of people. It's a passion for me, but for many with that business comes their livelihood. No hard feelings. I'll go about my way. I know what I'm gonna do. I know what I'm capable of doing. A lot of things I'm going to miss, but I haven't been this excited for spring training in a long time. That (getting non-tendered) happened Saturday night, and within 24 hours we talked to several teams. Then the offers -- 'yeah, we can do this, we can do that' -- I started getting real excitement. Then Christmas Eve morning when I signed, I was pumped. Real pumped. I called everybody in the phonebook at 3 a.m. Hardly anybody picked up, but oh well.

Q: Once you were on the open market, what were the biggest priorities in what you were looking for?

First off came the opportunity to win, and I really believe in what they've done there. I think the opportunity to win is going to be sooner than later. Also the opportunity to close. It was a big part of my decision. It wasn't every part, but it was a big part. Another thing -- my mother being in Atlanta and my brother, being in the NL East and going to Atlanta more than once a year was enticing as well. A lot of things played into it.

Q: Why do you think last season (2009) didn't go quite as well as your previous ones?

I think '09 was a lot of hesitation for me, with being injured lots of 2008. I had to prove to myself I was healthy, and that was in the back of my mind, especially early last year. A lot of things just didn't go my way, but that's just the way baseball is. I got into some bad habits physically as far as my mechanics. I was beginning to iron that out in the last six, seven weeks of the season, and that's something I'll continue to work on now that I've started playing catch again.

Q: What have you been told about your role with the Nats?

It's like anything in life. You'll have to go in and compete and earn the position, and that's how I've approached it my entire career. It wasn't handed to me. I had to earn it, and when I had it I had to keep it, maintain it. And that's what I'm expecting to do. I haven't been told it's my job; I haven't been told it's somebody else's.

Q: Why did the one-year deal make sense?

That was a decision I talked with my agent about. I came off a poor year last year. I have a lot of confidence in what I can do. So I can go in, prove that. I don't want to come to Washington for two years. I want to come, pitch the way I can, and then [re-sign] for three, four, five years if I pitch the way I can.

By Chico Harlan  |  January 4, 2010; 1:50 PM ET
 
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Comments

Nice questions. He's apparently a quotable and talkative guy. I like his confidence.

Posted by: natbiscuits | January 4, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

He's looking to buy a cap?

Posted by: joemktg1 | January 4, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Capps could cop a cap when he comes for his checkup.

Posted by: joemktg1 | January 4, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

The Nats pay $3.5 million for a Matt Capps, and Matt Capps pays $30 (or whatever) for a Nats cap.

Is there a tongue twister in there somewhere? Should Capps have held out for a free cap? Maybe it's "no cap until you pass the physical."

Posted by: KenNat | January 4, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps Capps could cop a cup of Mayorga coffee to cap off his visit when he comes to cop a cap.

Posted by: Cosmo06 | January 4, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

No Nats caps for Matt Capps?

On a somewhat-unrelated note, this was one of my favorite books as a kid:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caps_for_Sale

Posted by: JohninMpls | January 4, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

If his family beat him to the mall that morning, did that mean he slept in?

While Matt Capps naps...

Posted by: JohninMpls | January 4, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

While Matt Capps naps...

Matt's clan copped the cache of caps...

so as Capps cruises into the city, he could cop a cup of Mayorga coffee to cap off his visit when he comes to cop a cap...

gets his checkup and clears out of the clubhouse.

Posted by: joemktg1 | January 4, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

With a total of nine letters in his name, he should be able to sign a couple of hundred autographs every minute.

What he said about Morgan - how can any sane person not love Nyjer? Has anyone ever loved the game as openly and joyously as Tony Plush?

Posted by: gilbertbp | January 4, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Oh thank the gods for Chico. Any Nats tidbit on a day when the saturation point regarding the B&G is off the chart is a welcomed sight for sore eyes!

Welcome aboard Mr. Capps, buy a Blue Curly W bonnet, its more soothing then the Red one.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | January 4, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

"Has anyone ever loved the game as openly and joyously as Tony Plush?"

Yes. Ernie Banks. Let's play two!

Posted by: JennEric1 | January 4, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

MLBTR is still guessing that Hudson will sign with the Nationals:

http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2010/01/remaining-top-50-free-agents.html

Not sure there is sound logic there, and it is just a guess, but he would make a decent number two hitter behind Morgan.

Plenty of irony if that happens: Declines to sign with Nats in 09, signs with Dodgers, loses job to Belliard who could not win full time job with Nats, gets job with 2010 Nats...

Posted by: natbiscuits | January 4, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the new post, Chico, and Happy New Year.

Y'all are too funny with the cuppa/caps tangents.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | January 4, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Happy New Year everyone and here's to a bunch more wins in 2010...

Is it just me or does Capps' take on his off-season workout sound pretty unstructured? Is there a framework in place for a typical player during the off-season? I think we've got a strength and conditioning coach - wouldn't they have a program laid out for each player (at least on the MLB roster) with process and goals?

Maybe he's new and hasn't gotten into the system yet but it seems like lots of in-season injuries happen right now with what they do in the off-season. I was always a runner and don't know much about lifting but I'm reading Agassi's book and it seems clear you can do a lot of damage doing the wrong things/doing things the wrong way.

Posted by: natslifer | January 4, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Half-full version: the teams swap 2nd basemen, Dods get veteran who can help win now, Nats get younger veteran who can help win in a few years.

Not that I'd sign the guy.

*****************************
MLBTR is still guessing that Hudson will sign with the Nationals:
http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2010/01/remaining-top-50-free-agents.html
Plenty of irony if that happens: Declines to sign with Nats in 09, signs with Dodgers, loses job to Belliard who could not win full time job with Nats, gets job with 2010 Nats...
Posted by: natbiscuits | January 4, 2010 3:32 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | January 4, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

I'm just impressed there were Nats caps for sale in Asheville, NC. The legend of the curly W grows!

Thanks Chico for the interview!

Posted by: jfromPG | January 4, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

natslifer,

Last year, I attended the Nats luncheon and sat at the same table as Terrell Young, the rule-5 guy they drafted and then kept on the DL all year. I asked him what contact he had with St. Clair at the time, and he said none. I was surprised too, because it didn't seem like there was a lot of off season work with the players.

Posted by: psubman | January 4, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

The O-Dog is a decent player, but nothing too exciting - which is why Rizzo probably LOVES the guy.

I would have liked to see the Nats take a chance on Kelly Johnson at a lot less money and with the potential offensive upside, but what can you do.

Posted by: dfh21 | January 4, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

So with Capps coming to DC for his team physical tomorrow, I guess we'll finally see who gets moved to clear a roster spot.

Posted by: BinM | January 4, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Great post Chico & Happy New Year!

This is really beginning to look like a team.

Some say that character doesnt matter in baseball. That may be true for the Yankees but not for potential over achievers like the Nats.

Guys signed previously (read Flop, Tavares, Lo Duca, Dukes) poisoned the club house, adding 5-10 losses when they dogged and mailed it in.

With the positive outlook from high character guys, next years' team could ADD 5-10 wins to their PYTH.

Hey --- if you think character doesn't matter, check the last 5 games of DC's gridiron team.

Posted by: nattydread1 | January 4, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

My gut feeling about the team still has the following as 'most-likely' scenarios -
1) Marco Estrada will be the DFA for Capps being added to the 40-man;
2) Barring a trade, Bruntlett only makes the 25-man by beating out BOTH AGonz & Morse in Spring Training;
3) Guzman will play more games at SS than at 2B in 2010;
4) Rizzo & Co. will pull off at least one trade between now & April 4th, 2010.

Posted by: BinM | January 4, 2010 8:14 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm: Just fiddling with numbers, but the current team Pythegorian looks like 79-83. For 2009, I think the number was 67-95, but they finished 59-103 (-8). Split the difference & the 2010 Nationals finish at 75-87 (+16 over 2009 actual).

That would at least be a step in the right direction.

Posted by: BinM | January 4, 2010 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Wow. A 2-game swing from .500? I'm gobsmacked. Get Valverde's agent on the phone.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | January 4, 2010 10:11 PM | Report abuse

BR has the Pythagorean W/L at 66-96, but what's a game between friends? For a comparison, the Nats were at 62-99 two seasons ago, so they underperformed by just three wins in 2008.

Boz called Pythagorean W/L statistical proof of bad luck. I guess I just didn't realize just how unlucky we were in 2009. Look at the bottom-feeders from last year:

WAS: -7
OAK: -6
BAL: -5
ARI: -5
PIT: -5
KCR: -1

The unluckiest team in baseball?

The Yankees, by contrast, were +8 last year. Philly was +1.

When do pitchers and catchers report again?

Posted by: JohninMpls | January 4, 2010 10:46 PM | Report abuse

New computer no posts last few days.

@BinM...If we were under the Pythagorean by 8 last year, we should be over by 8 this year. That would put us into the be still my heart territory.

Speaking of caps, I noticed in the all pervasive B&G coverage that one of their players (DeAngelo Hall?) was wearing, not a B&G hat, but a Curly W. Could our influence be growing?

I do have one question about team gear and maybe someone can answer it. Since Capps signed, and is a Nat for the year, does the UPS guy show up two days later, with a large carton full of Nats wearables? Obviously, this is a much more general question, not just about Capps, nor about the Nats.

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | January 4, 2010 10:50 PM | Report abuse

Little-known fact: Ashville, NC has a higher percentage of masochists than any place on earth outside Pittsburgh.

Posted by: douglaslbarber | January 4, 2010 11:17 PM | Report abuse

All this cap talk reminds me of a great joke by Peter Vecsey, after I think a Ron Artest elbow knocked a few teeth out of the mouth of J.R. Reid. Vecsey wrote that Artest was trying to create some cap room.

BTW Ralph Kramden was a heckuva pitcher.

Posted by: paulkp | January 4, 2010 11:48 PM | Report abuse

Wait, Matt. Don't buy that hat at the team store. There's a two-for-one deal on the team site.

http://shop.mlb.com/family/index.jsp?categoryId=1895768&partnerId=ed-3103052-117030238&source=ed-3103052-117030238

At the presser the guy always dons a personalized jersey and a cap. Don't they get to keep both, or does the team pull a "yoink" right after the cameras are turned off?

The book is that Kramden was prone to giving up moon shots, Paul.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | January 5, 2010 6:32 AM | Report abuse

Knock, knock

Posted by: natbiscuits | January 5, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

I think 1a unintentionally hit on it: the kid isn't signed yet. So until he's under contract, I guess he's on his own. (A small box of swag would not have been a bad goodwill gesture, though.)

Mikecatcher: I'm guessing you were kinda joking, and I don't have to tell you that that's not how Pythagorean W/L really works. Yes, it evens out over time, but the expectation for any one year (e.g., 2010) is that the real won-lost will be exactly the same as the Pythagorean.

Posted by: Scooter_ | January 5, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Who's there? No, wait. He's on first, I think.

---

Knock, knock

Posted by: natbiscuits | January 5, 2010 10:54 AM

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | January 5, 2010 11:17 AM | Report abuse

How cool. I just had a comment held for review or something, for the first time ever.

Why did it happen? I don't know.

Posted by: Scooter_ | January 5, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Austin Kearns to the Tribe on a minor league deal -- so reported by MLBTR.

Posted by: dfh21 | January 5, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Scooter- I've had that happen a couple times for really long posts. I think inappropriate language will also get it held for review.

Pudge, Marquis and now Capps all shared at least one comment in agreeing to sign with the Nats: they like the direction the team is going in since signing Strasburg. I find this very interesting- am I the only one? Granted most (not all- see Taveras) free agents want to say good things about their new club, but the fact that the Nats' signings all mentioned that one detail speaks volumes to me.

Posted by: cheeseburger53 | January 5, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, cheeseburger. Truth be told, though, I mainly just wanted to get an "I don't know" in there, since Abbott and Costello were being quoted. I thought someone might appreciate a nice, slow hanging curve.

And on that subject, a note to all my beloved fellow commenters: I am very disappointed in each and every one of you.

Posted by: Scooter_ | January 5, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

According to an e-mail I just received from MASN.
Ben Goessling Joins MASN as Nationals Reporter. Goessling will continue writing about the team on a daily basis, hosting live chats and video blogs and making frequent appearances during MASN's pre and post game show, Nats Xtra. He will also interact with fans using Twitter, the popular social networking platform. He joins Phil Wood and Byron Kerr who continue to cover the Nationals for MASNsports.com.

Posted by: HALjr | January 5, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Austin Kearns to the Tribe on a minor league deal -- so reported by MLBTR.

Posted by: dfh21 | January 5, 2010 11:43 AM
____________________________

So the Manny/Austin (Maustin? Mantin?) bromance continues, as they take it the next level, or at least the other league...

Posted by: TimDz | January 5, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Congratulations to Ben!! ... And to MASN. ... And to us.

Posted by: natbiscuits | January 5, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

"Austin Kearns to the Tribe on a minor league deal -- so reported by MLBTR."

First Saul Rivera. Now Austin Kearns. Manny's getting the band back together!

Posted by: JennEric1 | January 5, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

hehe. Thanks, Scooter!

---

Thank you, cheeseburger. Truth be told, though, I mainly just wanted to get an "I don't know" in there, since Abbott and Costello were being quoted. I thought someone might appreciate a nice, slow hanging curve.

And on that subject, a note to all my beloved fellow commenters: I am very disappointed in each and every one of you.

Posted by: Scooter_ | January 5, 2010 11:58 AM

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | January 5, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and thanks to HALjr for the update on Goessling. Hope that Zuckerman lands something as well.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | January 5, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

I never really believed that Kearns wouldn't be back with us until today.

Posted by: soundbloke | January 5, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

MASN press release (hat tip to Hendo's Hutch on the Nationals Pride blog):

http://masnsports.com/2010/01/ben-goessling-joins-masn-as-na.html

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | January 5, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

@Scooter...Of course I was joking (wishing, hoping). I do realize that projections, based on long term statistics are never (well, almost never) predictors of short term results (classic case: he is hitting .250 and is 0 for 3 today, so the fourth AB is a lock for a hit).

I wasn't kidding about the UPS guy and big box of wearables. It is a legitimate question that I have wondered about.

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | January 5, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

And new post up.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | January 5, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Apparently, he's our shortstop.
**********
And on that subject, a note to all my beloved fellow commenters: I am very disappointed in each and every one of you.

Posted by: Scooter_ | January 5, 2010 11:58 AM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | January 5, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

As a neighbor of Matt Capps in Bradenton, FL, you are in for a treat. This young man and his family (wife Jenn) and Golden Retrivers Piper & Hudson will be a credit to any community. He will spend hours with the Little Leaguers and not leave the ballpark until everyone has his autograph. We are going to miss him. We hope Washington will make him feel at home as we did

Posted by: lpbrodersen | January 5, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

lpb, thank you for that insight. Given Rizzo's demonstrated preferences for Men Without Issues, it's not suprising, but good to hear all the same.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | January 5, 2010 6:39 PM | Report abuse

Now, is anybody else having trouble with the next post?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | January 5, 2010 6:44 PM | Report abuse


Yup. Can't get to the comments.

Posted by: Drew8 | January 5, 2010 9:05 PM | Report abuse

and again. whole page is down.

Does Zuckerman know anything about fixing Web sites, while we're at it?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | January 6, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Test. If this doesn't work, you may assume that I can't get to the comments, either. ;-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | January 6, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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