Thursday, July 16, 2009
A Few Minutes With Charlie Slowes
Before Our Washington Nationals played their final game before The All-Star Break at Houston last Sunday--and one day before Manny Acta was relieved of duty as Manager--Radio Broadcaster Charlie Slowes was kind enough to give me a few minutes of his time to discuss what he's witnessed on the field this first half of 2009. Despite not knowing at the time of this chat that Manny would no longer be in Washington--the interview actually held up well.
So with that--here we go with A Few Minutes With Charlie Slowes.
Has it stunned you that this has been as difficult of a season as it has been? (SBF)
“Oh yeah. No one expected this. No one expected all the strange ways the games have turned. How they lost games. Just bizarre things like (Adam) Dunn missing second (Saturday, July 11th) against Houston on an appeal play. So Josh Bard loses a double because it ends up being a fielder’s choice ground out. We’ve seen stuff in the first half of this year that you don’t see for years.”
Speaking of years, you were with The Tampa Bay Rays for a few years as well. Was it ever this difficult there? (SBF)
“We had one year where we only one 55 games, but we never won more than 70 (at any time Charlie was broadcasting their games). They were all difficult. They (The Rays) were expected to be bad--initially.”
But was the play as erratic as that of the 2009 Nationals? (SBF)
“We had a time where we had (Jose) Canseco and Paul Sorrento in the same outfield. We (at Tampa Bay) had bizarre combinations of players that didn’t fit—like Greg Vaughn and Gerald Williams.”
Wasn’t Vinny Castilla there at one time? (SBF)
“Yes, then he got hurt in Spring Training and never recovered from it and had a terrible year. Then, got off to a terrible start the next year and they told him they would release him if he deferred his money because they were going to call up Aubrey Huff to play 3rd Base. And Vinny said no and they (Tampa Bay) called up Huff anyway and Castilla was benched until they agreed to defer his money to get his release. Then, he (Castilla) signed with Houston and had a very good year and parlayed that into a two-year deal with Atlanta.”
So after seeing The Nationals for 80-some odd games now—where do you see the hope in this team? (SBF)
“The starting pitching—John Lannan, (Jordan) Zimmermann—guys like Craig Stammen, (Ross) Detwiler) and don’t forget about Shairon Martis.”
Has Craig Stammen surprised you? (SBF)
“He’s very good. He keeps the ball down. We (Charlie & Dave Jageler) saw him in a spring training game and we said to each other: ‘who is this guy?’ He’s good. When he can’t keep the ball down—then he gets hit—simple as that. I don’t think he has as much movement and stuff as some of the other guys. Ross Detwiler was getting hit because he was up (in the strike zone). He was up in the zone with everything. He is not mixing up and down. You can be up, if you are only up occasionally. But when you start being up a lot—then you are going to get crushed.”
How much of a difference maker has Nyjer Morgan made this team in the short time he has been here? (SBF)
“In the close games, he can be a big difference. Since we (The Nationals) don’t have any speed in the (outfield) corners right now—it’s huge. There was this ball he got to in Colorado that was almost in leftfield—not like left center. The ball got hit and Dunn started to go back and I was sure it was over his head. But if it’s one of these balls that’s in the air for a long time—Morgan will get there.”
“They have got to continue to improve their defense. I know they went, offense, offense, offense to start the year, but unless you strike everybody out and get ground balls in the infield—you have got to catch the ball in the outfield. We have lost too many games because of that.”
And Nyjer Morgan’s speed at the top of the lineup could really change the batting order. (SBF)
“Well, they really didn’t have a leadoff hitter—or a guy that could steal any bases. When Nick (Johnson) bats second—he (NJ) will take pitches to give him (Morgan) the chance to steal. If (Cristian) Guzman is batting second—not so much.”
Because he swings at everything. (SBF)
What do you think of Alberto Gonzalez? (SBF)
“I think he should play second base. Anderson Hernandez needs to show he's a take charge guy on pop ups. He originally was a shortstop. Gonzalez might have caught that ball last night (Friday, July 10th) that dropped in foul ground (between Hernandez & Johnson) that basically ended up costing them the game.”
“But the defense has been horrendous. There is no way around that. Even guys that you expect to make plays—Nick has a lot of errors. Ryan Zimmerman has a lot of errors. Guzman has a lot of errors. And when you go play some of these other teams their first and third basemen have only two errors. (Casey) Kotchman hasn’t made an error since he joined The Braves (in 2008).”
I remember you mentioning on the radio recently that Washington had just committed its 81st error of the season. And their opponents had only made 37 or 38 against The Nationals. (SBF)
“Yeah, it’s more than two to one. Look at The Nationals in 2005 when they won 81 Games. They were not a good offensive team. They didn’t have enough power. They had to scratch for their runs. They didn’t have a leadoff batter or base stealer—because (Brad) Wilkerson was leading off. But they had starters that gave them innings. Their bullpen was great and they were second in the league in defense. So they had the chance to win every game. And then when the game moved to the late innings, they slammed the door on people. If it was a one run game, Chad Cordero was hotter than a pistol during that stretch.”
“But the starting pitching is the future here now. The fact they are getting innings and getting their feet wet is important. I don’t think you learn a lot from losing. Nothing good comes from losing. You lose a lot—you learn to lose a lot. There is no silver lining—draft picks maybe. But you would rather not do it that way. Drafting is a crapshoot anyway. Look at all the years The Braves were good. They didn’t draft at the top of the draft. They still developed players.”
In the bullpen, other than Sean Burnett, who do you see staying with the team? (SBF)
“We (Charlie & Dave) have said this before. If Steve McCatty (Pitching Coach) can get into Jason Bergmann’s head, he could be very good. He threw two pitches at 96 MPH last night to strike out Carlos Lee (Houston) and I have never seen that from him. He’s the one guy--and he had a long rope when he was a starter last year—before they pulled him from the rotation. He would have those games just blow up all of a sudden. But all these other guys get all these chances to come back in relief. He (Bergmann) would have one bad game and there would be a roster move—because he’s the guy with options—he gets sent out. I would like to see him challenge some people—because he does throw strikes. And he throws 96 MPH. If you thought Jesus Colome was the guy you thought you could bring in to get a strikeout—Bergmann is the guy. He’s the same type guy.”
“We still don’t know about the second half—all these decisions. We don’t know about Mike Rizzo as permanent GM. There are still a lot of things they (management) have to get to. And over the last half, I see the team continuing to develop their pitching and make decisions on where they go forward at second base. There are a lot of decisions to be made. What the outfield is going to be? We do the games and see and hear the same things everybody is asking. We don’t know the answers yet. We are waiting like everybody else.”
With that final answer--A Few Minutes With Charlie Slowes concluded.
A reminder--Charlie will be on hand at The ESPN Zone in Washington, DC at 12 Noon on Tuesday July 21st--along with Pitcher Scott Olsen for the monthly "Meet & Greet" With A Nationals Player. The third such opportunity this season to ask questions, get autographs or a personal photo with Charlie & Scott.