Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My Conversation With Phil Wood Part Two

This is The 1000th Post in The History Of The Nats320 Blog. How fitting the subject matter is an interview.
They may well be just a "Third Year" Expansion Team, as Phil Wood stated in yesterday's post, but they are still Our Washington Nationals. And they have a Fan Base always curious about the next move, or moves, Our General Manager Jim Bowden may make over the course of this upcoming off season--in rebuilding Our Franchise. Staying on the same subject line of possible roster moves as we ended Part One, Phil and I continue our chat discussing what trades might be possible this winter.

With that, here we go with Part Two of My Conversation With Phil Wood.

What can people reasonably expect Jim Bowden to do over the next few months leading up to The Winter Meetings and Spring Training? Recently he said The Nationals were going to be active. (SBF)

“Well, I am sure he is talking trades, but in terms of what people want and what people reasonably want to give up—you are not going to want to give up Jesus Flores or (Ryan) Zimmerman or (Cristian) Guzman.”

Jim said something last night that was sort of scary. He said to get a one or two starter you have to be willing to say that no one on your roster is untouchable. (SBF)

“I can tell you this. I don’t think Mark Lerner would ever sign off on a deal to trade Zimmerman. If you were offered a deal that would bring you a number one or number two starter and a good catcher prospect, then you might think about moving Jesus Flores. There were offers on the table down the stretch for Guzman that would have brought in some prospects just to rent him, basically (before re-signing). Then, he ended up getting hurt again and that killed that. Are you solid enough with middle infielders that you can afford to swap him (Guzman)? He signed for basically cheap money (Two Years-$16 Million).”

“They are loaded now with guys that can play middle infield, but in terms of having an everyday player? Not really.”

Alberto Gonzalez is a great fielder, but probably not much of a hitter, I would think. (SBF)

“He certainly has played better for Washington than he played for (The Yankees—SBF)—No The Justice Department. (Laughing about former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales--some fans call Our Number 12 The Attorney General)

“In terms of outfielders, a lot of the scouts love (Roger) Bernadina. They think that Bernadina can be a leadoff hitter for a lot of clubs in The Major Leagues. He’s a good fielder. No power, but the kind of guy who can get on base and steal a few. He might be of interest to some clubs and I think he might be someone you are willing to part with.”

“But top of the rotation guys are few and far between in terms of being available. Would they trade John Lannan? I hope not. It would be almost like trading away a guy and only getting his replacement back. (Especially since they control him for 5 or 6 more years—SBF) Exactly.”

From everything I've heard, Jordan Zimmermann is going to be a big part of Spring Training next year, whether he makes the team, I don’t know. (SBF)

“I think he has to make the team. I really think he has to. I think that Jordan Zimmermann has to be on this club next year because, again from my perspective, why would you not have Zimmermann on this club if you were willing to bring up (Collin) Balester?”

How do you see their bullpen now? It’s so much in disarray now after being the strong point for the first three years in Washington. (SBF)

“It’s unfortunate. I know they are going to non-tender (Chad) Cordero. But will there be people lined up to sign him? I don’t thing so. I think he might have to come back and sign a minor league contract and hope it works out. Coming off his type of surgery, who is going to risk a million dollars on him? I don’t see it.”

Do you see Joel Hanrahan as a real successor in the closer role? (SBF)

“Absolutely, sure. (Bowden raves about him—SBF) I like him too. I said last spring that if they trade Jon Rauch, because there was talk of trading Rauch early last season. If they trade Rauch, I think this guy (Hanrahan) has the makeup and pitch selection to close. He loves doing it. He really kind of thrives on it.”

“The other guy who I would not give up on is (Jason) Bergmann. Bergmann had a stretch last season where he was really good and then he got really bad again. He’s got a big league fastball. He’s got a big league curveball. He lost a little command, but he’s just 26 years old.”

I live in the fish bowl of The Nationals. I hear or read about everything good or bad with the team and the negative can sometimes overshadow the positive here. Outside of DC, what do others think of The Nationals? (SBF)

“There is a tendency that negative stuff gets spread out far and wide. And there are a lot of people who believe there is something in the water here. That a baseball team in Washington will never win. That, well, it’s Washington, they’ve always been terrible, The Senators were terrible and The Nationals will always be terrible. Again, I think that’s the same mindset that existed about Tampa Bay. There’s a surprise factor in a few years with The Nationals. People will say: ‘Gee, I didn’t know they had that guy? That other guy is pretty good too.’ It’s one of those things, that nationally, where the perception is they seem to always be destined for the 102-loss season. People look at that Won-Loss Record and that is all they see. They don’t really look behind it and see how that happens. Well, it happened because they used a couple AAA Guys and Career Backup Guys and they did not play with a Big League Roster this season.”

“Then, ‘it must have been because they were too cheap!!’ Cheap didn’t have anything to do with it. It’s one of those things where perception is reality and people perceive them to be bad because they perceive Washington to be bad. The whole issue of ‘nobody went to the games!’ I don’t know about that, nearly 2.4 Million people seems fairly decent to me. And a big part of that was the horrible marketing job that the club did. All we heard last off-season was there was not going to be any parking. You will not be able to park there, so you will have to take the subway or not go. A lot of people who make their season’s plans based upon that are going to say: 'We are not going to those things because there is no place to park.' That killed them."

"I think the local media has killed them to a large extent as well. It really ticks me off, here is The Washington Post, which when I was growing up had the greatest baseball writers out there. And while Tom Boswell certainly ranks in that category, you have a guy as the beat writer (Chico Harlan) on The Nationals who did an online chat and was asked about why the first base coach has a stopwatch—and had no idea why. Well, that is inexcusable. Sorry, that is just inexcusable.”

“But this is again typical of all the people (who cover the team). They understand the object of the game and they think that is all they have to know. I live in the Baltimore Market, the radio show I do is on a Baltimore Radio Station, but it’s also on MASN. We get some decent calls from people in Baltimore and we get some good calls from people in the Washington Area, but the big part of it over there is that many don’t know it’s on. I did the show on 980 (WTEM) for about a year and a half. Then, when Dan Snyder (Owner of The Washington Redskins) bought the radio station (to promote his team), the guy he brought in as Program Director tells me: ‘We just can’t see moving forward with this show that is just about one sport.’ I felt like saying--What if the sport was football? Would you change your mind on that? It’s certainly not because I was making too much money. I did it as cheaply as I possible could, because I did the show basically from my house. So, I didn’t have to drive down there (to Rockville). I cut them a deal on the price, but that show was great fun and it was Baseball and Rock & Roll. And I don’t think there was anything like it on the air or around the country. I could do that show there (on WTEM), but I can’t do that show where I am right now (1300AM WJFK) because I am doing it with two other people. That show (on WTEM) consistently got great calls and they would comment how there was nothing quite like it on the air. And how nobody else in town really seemed to have the passion for baseball—which is absolutely true (when it comes to local broadcasters).”

“Sportscasters in the DC Market are in love with The NFL--which pulled off the greatest con job in the history of man. My epiphany about The NFL: I was out this summer listening to a Baltimore Sport Talk Show and the host for the show was saying he had been out to Ravens Training Camp. He saw Demetrius Williams make two great catches down the right sidelines. The ball must have traveled 50 yards in the air. Now, there was no one playing defense (chuckling). So basically, all by himself, he ran down the right sideline and caught these balls. Well, if I went on the air and I said: I went to Batting Practice and saw Anderson Hernandez hit two bombs into the seats—people would laugh in my face. But yet football has convinced people that anything they do is important. Whatever shoe they are lacing up, that is worthy of a sidebar story.”

“Years ago, (Former NFL Great Coach for The Washington Redskins) George Allen took hundreds of old NFL Broadcasts and was asked how much real action was in an NFL Game, it’s a three hour broadcast. The average was slightly under 12 minutes. You are sitting in the stadium for three hours, or watching on television for three hours and you are getting 12 minutes of action. Yet, The NFL has convinced people that it’s end-to-end action. It’s the greatest game out there.”

“Baseball is the hardest game to play. Football players don’t play in The Minor Leagues. They go to college and play and they go right to The NFL when they are 21 or 22 Years old. You don’t do that in baseball. Baseball is too hard. And I think it’s the difficulty, the degree of difficulty baseball represents, is part of the reason why you have fewer kids playing baseball now because kids these days don’t want to do hard things. Kids these days want to sit at home with their controller in their hands and that is the extent of their athletic participation and it’s really unfortunate.”

Getting back baseball in Washington. (SBF)

“The core is here, but the one thing that people always want to do is mention The Senators in conjunction with The Nationals. Well, you know what, 33 years passed between the end of one team and the start of another. It was like there was never baseball here to start with. So pointing to The Senators as meaning anything at all now is pointless. Their failure to thrive on the field and at the box office has nothing to do with The Nationals. As I have said before, if you don’t win, people don’t show up. It’s that way throughout the game. One need only look at Baltimore to see a team that use to draw huge crowds, sell out all the time, and now struggle. They didn’t draw 2 Million Fans this season. And why? Because they have been losers for 11 seasons.”

Yet a lot of people will say that is The Washington Effect? (SBF)

“Well, you know what, there was no Washington Effect in 2005. Both teams drew very well and The Orioles Attendance stayed the same from the previous year. So something that was brand new (DC Baseball) and it didn’t have any impact on The Orioles. There was a new stadium in Washington this season, but that did not get people from Baltimore to drive down to see it. The people in Baltimore kind of just threw up their hands and said ‘Let me know when they (The Orioles) start winning.’

Does The MASN Deal help or hurt The Nationals? (SBF)

"I'd say it's been a financial benefit to the Nationals, but still too many people seem to have a problem finding the game when it's on MASN 2. I think the ratings have been terribly skewed because of that. It simply doesn't make sense that you could have 29,000 people in the park and only 9,000 watching on TV."

How about Manny Acta, is he on the hot seat? (SBF)

“I tend to think not. I don’t think anyone blames him for what happened last season. People thought he was a genius when he won 73 Games the previous season with a club most people thought wouldn’t win 50. I don’t think he got stupid in the off-season. He was not playing with 52 cards (A Full Roster). He was forced to do some things he didn’t want to do. But I don’t think he is on the hot seat at all. I will say this: If Jim Bowden would leave the club, a new GM might say he wants his own guy in here. You never say he is going to be here forever and ever, but if Manny were suddenly available, he would have an offer in 24 hours. I think there are clubs who have managers who would bring in Manny over their own guy.”

The New York Media has been saying The Mets, The Mets, The Mets. (SBF)

“Yes, that true. If he were available, I think Manny would have been their choice over Jerry Manuel.”

Finally, last question: I see possibilities and always say things are half full, yet so many others say things are half empty and getting worse with The Nationals. (SBF)

“Its certainly better to have a club than not have a club. If the average fan could talk to the people I talk to on a weekly basis, I think their opinion of this club would be different. It’s very difficult to do what The Rays did--to go from the worst record to The World Series in one season. It could be argued that Tampa Bay is a year ahead of schedule. The Nationals have a plan. Why people believe you need to deviate from that plan and simply throw money at a free agent you might be stuck with is beyond me. It’s not their money, I guess, but it’s not really how the game works anymore.”

With that final answer, My Conversation With Phil Wood about Our Washington Nationals concluded. Yet, we are not done--not by a long shot. Talking about the current state of Major League Baseball in Washington, DC was just half our chat. As I mentioned yesterday, Phil Wood is considered one of the foremost authorities on The History Of Washington Baseball. He grew up in D.C. during the waning years of The Original Senators--before they moved to Minnesota and became The Twins. And he lived and died, as only a young fan could, through all 11 Seasons of The Expansion Senators--now The Texas Rangers. For a good 45 minutes we had a wonderful conversation about Our Beloved Lost Ball Clubs. That Two Parter coming this weekend to The Nats320 Blog.


Edward J. Cunningham said...

One more thing about the MASN ratings that have hurt. I've gone to Hooters on Fridays and asked to see the game. They've told me the game is blacked out. Fortunately, I've been able to tell them to switch to WBDC (now WDCW) or channel 20. A lot of folks with cable or satellite TV aren't even aware that games are being broadcast on that station.

Anyway, thanks for a great interview!

Anonymous said...

Great interview. Phil Wood is the best.

Everybody is talking about the success of the Rays and wondering if we can duplicate it at some point I say, let's see how the Rays do next year. I have a feeling they are a one year flash in the pan, just like the Rockies were last year. Next year, at this time, the Rays may be trying to clean house like the Rockies are doing now.

Anonymous said...

Phil Wood is the only real choice to host Nats Talk Live. Then the show might really be worth a listen after the play-by-play. What a concept that would be....a baseball guy hosting a baseball show with historical perspective and actually knowing both the infield fly and save rules.

Edward J. Cunningham said...

One more thing...Phil Wood is absolutely right about the attitude concerning baseball at the Washington Post. Atlhough they have (reluctantly) begun to prioritize stories about the Nationals over Orioles stories, they list list the American League in the MLB standings they publish to the left or on top of the National League standings. No other newspaper in a city where the home team is in the NL does this.

I've heard some people at the Post defend this, saying that they are "honoring" the National League this way? Oh, really? Then why does the Post treat the NFC---where the Redskins play---the same way in the NFL standings as they do the league where Washington's home team doesn't play???

Anonymous said...

The Post is losing money and subscribers. It cost them too much money to cover baseball adequately, which is the very reason that I canceled my subscription. In the days of the Senators, the Post covered Redskins football and Nats baseball equally. As Mr. Wood points out, the paper will run a feature on Fred Smoot's lunchtime chicken-tenders. And that is a shame.

Anonymous said...

Got to agree with anonymous above about Nats Talk Live. The number of times I am heading home from the game and want to hear some intelligent conversation and analysis on the just completed game and none is really available. Charlie & Dave are two of the best baseball broadcasters out there. Why not surround them with another quality talent to make the presentation complete on the post game show. Nothing against Byron Kerr, but he has no understanding of baseball. Phil Wood is perfect in every way for the spot. Bring him on, if he's available.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on your 1,000th post, SBF!

A little, slightly OT nugget that you might appreciate: a link to a Philadelphia Inquirer column ripping the so-called Phillies "fans" that during even the World Series act the way they acted toward you and your sweetie last month:

Anonymous said...

Great piece and I agree re. the lack of coverage (and not only in the print media). I would have canceled our Post subscription some time ago but couldn't convince my husband (he likes to read the funnies with his coffee of a morning and I usually snag the sports section during the baseball season).

An Briosca Mor said...

here is The Washington Post, which when I was growing up had the greatest baseball writers out there. And while Tom Boswell certainly ranks in that category, you have a guy as the beat writer (Chico Harlan) on The Nationals who did an online chat and was asked about why the first base coach has a stopwatch—and had no idea why. Well, that is inexcusable. Sorry, that is just inexcusable.

Tom Boswell a great baseball writer? Maybe he used to be. (Or maybe we just thought he was when he was beat writing the Orioles, a team that was never really our team anyway even though they brainwashed us into thinking they were.) But he surely isn't a great baseball writer any more. The same Tom Boswell who tells us in his column this morning that Pat Burrell scored the winning run for the Phillies last night? The same Tom Boswell who failed to notice that Pat Burrell was pulled for a pinch runner after doubling to lead off the seventh? A simple mistake, you say? Well, I might agree - but for the fact that Tom Boswell made a big deal about Burrell not running hard on the double when he could have had a triple in the paragraph before. You know, Tom, the kind of thing that might make a manager put in a pinch runner late in a close game? You might want to keep an eye out for stuff like that, Tom. Lots of managers pull that move. Think maybe there's a reason for it?

I will give Tom Boswell credit for one thing, though. He may be the only writer at the Post who doesn't think that the Shirley Povich Media Center is named after Maury's first wife, the one he must have ditched to marry Connie Chung.

Anonymous said...

Not that I want him to cut into your action, SBF, but here's a man who should be writing a blog.

Anonymous said...

SBF- nice article. Phil has seen a lot of b-ball in his lifetime, especially the Senators. Speaking of Senators, Stan's letter to STH's mentions the statues in place for '09. Can you find out and publish any details about any ceremony that may take place with the unveiling? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Phil's the best and is truely missed on 980. He's dead-on regarding his comments about the local media covering baseball. The "excuse" given by 980's new management is lame ("We just can’t see moving forward with this show that is just about one sport"). The real question is how can the only local dedicated sportstalk radio NOT have a weekly (or more often) baseball show, especially during the season?

Screech's Best Friend said...

Anonymous at 4PM--Yes, I have updated information on the statues coming very soon. I have been in touch with those involved and am just waiting for some specifics.

As to the other comments concerning the Nats Talk Live Program--I got to agree with the various comments. Phil is very knowledgable and if Washington, DC wants to continue to grow as a baseball town--we need quality and informed folks handling the microphone. Clearly, Phil Wood has that knowledge and, more importantly, A FAN BASE, that appreciates his every effort. Just Bring Him On!!

Then, add some type of Winter Baseball Show that features Phil here that keeps the game alive during the off season--that is what really counts when you are building a franchise--and a FAN BASE.

Edward J. Cunningham said...

One more thing about Sportstalk 980 (or ESPN 980) that really bugs me. One of the sports reporters--Steve Czaban?---called Sonny Jurgensen the most popular sports figure EVER in the history of Washington, D.C.

Ever? Taking nothing against Sonny, but hasn't he ever heard of Walter Johnson?

(I would even argue that Cal Ripken, Jr. in this area may possibly have been more popular than Sonny Jurgensen. It says a lot about Ripken's personal popularity that despite the enormous resentment against the Baltimore Orioles, I have yet to read one complaint against the prominent quote by Cal Ripken diplayed at Nationals Park.)

(Before anybody goes ballistic over that last paragraph, I was just a toddler during the Sonny/Billy era so I'm probably wrong.)

Anonymous said...


One of my dreams is to be on a radio show with Phil Wood interviewing me about my upcoming book on the 1969 Washington Senators. I will keep you posted on progress toward an April 2009 release.

ps. -- EJC re: Sonny and Cal - You're right. You're wrong. :-)
Both are class acts all the way, though.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if club managmement would see the light to spend money on the product. Why have a post-game call-in show when no knowledgeable baseball fan will speak to the host. Phil should be on before and after games and they should utilize Craig Heist's abilities to get pre or post-game interviews...the player actually know who he is. That would make a great show and might actually boost ratings on a station no one listens to. And they need to do it for all games (at least those that start before 8:30 Eastern time, not just home games. Give the fans some consistency. I'd like to know how much it matters to other Nats fans but if they bring back Byron Kerr they might as well not have a show at all. Or pay Charlie and Dave to do it again that would be the next best thing.