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May 24, 1:00 PM ET
Chat with Jayson Stark

Buzzmaster
  (1:08 PM)

Hi folks! Jayson is running a little late, but keep your questions coming!

Jayson Stark
  (1:16 PM)

Sorry I'm late. Massive technical difficulties! Let;s get started.

Jason (St Louis)

Jayson, welcome. What's going on with the Natinals? Is it just growing pains?

Jayson Stark
  (1:19 PM)

I don't think it's that simple. Beyond Bryce Harper, almost no one has hit. Their bullpen hasn't been the same. They haven't caught the ball as consistently as we expected. And they've just had a hard time getting rolling in all facets the way a team with their talent should. You know, it's tough to be the team with the big expectations when you get off to a slow start. But I still expect them to be playing in October. Too much talent for them to be a .500-ish kind of team.

jaybird (redondo beach, ca)

Small sample or legit Halos turnaround?

Jayson Stark
  (1:21 PM)

They still aren't pitching the way a playoff team pitches. But this is a lot closer to what they ought to be offensively. They were 21st in the big leagues in homers in April. They're first in May. They were 12th in runs scored in April. They're tied for fourth in May. Trout and Trumbo have been awesome. So what happens if Hamilton and Pujols finally get going? This could still be the best lineup in baseball. But their pitching worries me -- and worries them.

Todd Boss (Arlington, VA)

Are some of the Nationals troubles clubhouse related? They shipped out Michael Morse, a joyful character and brought in Soriano (with his history of clubhouse issues) and Span (an apparently serious fellow). Is there any joy in the Nats clubhouse right now?

Jayson Stark
  (1:23 PM)

They definitely have a little different mix. They miss Morse and Mark DeRosa. And Soriano's presence has completely changed the vibe in that bullpen, on several levels. But I don't think this is a chemistry issue or a clubhouse issue. This is a play-up-to-their-talent-level issue.

Mike (No Va)

As a Tigers fan, should I be worried about Verlander? With the postseason the last two years he's put a lot of innings on his arm!

Jayson Stark
  (1:25 PM)

I don't know if we're at the "worry" stage yet. He's always tended to get better as the season went on. So it's a little early to panic. But his stuff hasn't been the same, especially his fastball. Did you see the stat after that game in Texas that said over the previous two outings, he'd given up 10 hits on his fastball and gotten just one strikeout? That's not like him, no matter what time of year it is. And you always wonder how much of a toll pitching that extra month takes on a workhorse like this. The Giants staff is showing signs of the same issues. So stay tuned.

Greg (Cleveland)

Stock Indians question - We've been here in 2011 and 2012. At what point do we dare hope in the Tribe's playoff chances? End of May? ASB? I know the rotation will come to earth but how long can they fly high before any regression is too late?

Jayson Stark
  (1:28 PM)

I don't think this is going to have the same ending as the last two years. I think Masterson has taken that next step, and Ubaldo's delivery is much better, and McAllister is the best-kept secret in the AL Central. I think the lineup and the whole roster are deeper. And I just like the vibe around that team. A lot of positive energy flowing out of guys like Giambi, Bourn, Swisher and the manager. So I don't know if I'd pick them to finish ahead of the Tigers, but I really see them contending when Labor Day rolls around.

Jason (Philly)

Will the Pirates make the playoffs?

Jayson Stark
  (1:30 PM)

This is another team I think is for real. They're one of the most underappreciated organizations in baseball in the way they work with pitchers on refining and repeating their deliveries. And you're seeing the evidence of that again with Liriano. The only reason I'm reluctant to say they'll make the playoffs is the division. The Reds and Cardinals might be the two best teams in the league. And playing the Cubs and Brewers isn't like playing the Marlins and Mets. Just hard for me to see three playoff teams coming out of that division.

B Mand (Sarasota, FL)

Do you envision any scenario where Ellsbury is playing for the Red Sox next season?

Jayson Stark
  (1:32 PM)

Slim and none. He'd have to fire Scott Boras or just tell Scott he wants to be in Boston, no matter what it takes, for that to happen. And even then, the Red Sox have his heir apparent in Jackie Bradley Jr., so I can't see them spending the kind of money it would take to keep Ellsbury, even on a hometown discount.

Brian (CA)

Do you think pitchers who are struggling after pitching deep into the postseason is a result of them being coddled too much? If they were trained to pitch that deep in the year (ie simulated games after the season is over), I'm sure their body would be able to hold up better in the long year and recover faster for the next.

Jayson Stark
  (1:34 PM)

I really disagree that this is about "coddling." Has Justin Verlander been "coddled?" Ever? Has Matt Cain? Or Lincecum? This is about the postseason extending deeper into the year than it ever has, and pitchers making five and six high-stress starts AFTER the regular season, then just not having enough time to rest and recover and build back up. It's a big issue in the sport. And nobody has found a solution to it yet.

person (dc)

He only has 129 career "wins" but would Verlander already have an HOF case if he retired tomorrow?

Jayson Stark
  (1:37 PM)

I don't believe in magic numbers and the Hall of Fame, so the "wins" total isn't the issue. It's that the guy hasn't been in the league 10 years, so if he retired tomorrow, he wouldn't even be eligible. But he's definitely on a HOF track. He just needs to keep dominating. And I'm going to guess there's a much better chance of that than of him retiring tomorrow!

Jon (Bozeman, MT)

Jayson, I respectfully disagree. The solution is shortening the regular season and changing the playoff format so that the Divisional Series and Championship Series are 5 games rather than 7 games. MLB just doesn't want to lose the revenue, regardless whether it would be better for players' health.

Jayson Stark
  (1:40 PM)

The postseason is never going to get shorter, so that's out. But I'm a proponent of some sort of change to the regular season. These guys need more off days. And baseball is short-sighted if it doesn't recognize that. I think they should shrink the season back to 154 games, or even 158 (which was discussed during the last labor talks). And I'd love to see a day of all scheduled doubleheaders once a month to create even more wiggle room, so every team would have at least one day off every week. But will it happen? Don't hold your breath.

Jason (St Louis)

Are we sure Chris Carpenter is human? If he comes back this season, I'm going to have to assume he is some kind of robot.

Jayson Stark
  (1:41 PM)

This isn't so much about his superhuman or robotic qualities. This is about his will to just keep going, and fighting to get back, to compete, to earn his money, to keep that team chugging toward October. One of the great leaders, competitors and warriors I've ever come across.

Jason (Philly)

Whats your thoughts on Pedro Alvarez? At what point do you give up on a player?

Jayson Stark
  (1:43 PM)

I think he's far enough into his career now that we should conclude that this is what he is. The best-case scenario is that he turns into Mark Reynolds or Chris Davis, and he produces enough that you live with the strikeouts and the limitations. I don't see them giving up on him. But I think it's time to stop predicting stardom. He's never going to put enough balls in play to be a star.

person (dc)

Chemistry is an effect, not a cause.

Jayson Stark
  (1:47 PM)

This is about the Nationals, right? I disagree that it's that simple. I know a lot of people believe that. And obviously, winning almost always creates better chemistry. But anyone who doesn't think chemistry is real, and important, should look at Tampa Bay. No team uses data and info in a more futuristic and creative way than that team does. But there's also no manager who works harder at team-building than Joe Maddon does. It's an important part of constructing a winning atmosphere, whether people on the outside want to believe that or not.

Will B (Livingston, MT)

Dont care what you and all the experts say Jason, the cardinals are simply better than the reds, they will take the central this year. Why do all of you at espn continue to underestimate the cardinals year after year, youd think you guys would learn!

Jayson Stark
  (1:50 PM)

"All of us" underestimate the Cardinals? You need to pay more attention, man. I constantly talk and write about what an amazing organization this is, and how good and deep their team is. When Buster and Tim and I do our Sunday Baseball Tonight shows, we never stop praising the Cardinals. Does Mark Mulder underestimate the Cardinals? Just because we point out that the Reds are a hell of a team doesn't mean we're underestimating the other titan in that division. This is the business we're in. It's called analysis, not disrespect.

Amanda Lay (Kensington)

Ray Searage, pitching coach of the year?

Jayson Stark
  (1:50 PM)

He'd be really high on my list. How many pitchers have passed through that Pirates organization and gotten better? Nearly all of them.

John (Pittsburgh)

I think Will B is underestimating the Pirates

Jayson Stark
  (1:51 PM)

Uh-oh. See what you started, Will?

Julio (Dominican Republic)

Can the Braves survive a deep October run without a true #1 starter? Do you think Beachy will solve this problem or do they need to make a trade before the deadline?

Jayson Stark
  (1:53 PM)

I'm actually more worried about their bullpen now than their rotation. They'll run a starter out there every night in October with a chance to win. But can they dominate the back end of the game without Venters and O'Flaherty? Big question.

Donny (Detroit)

Votto and Miggy .. we are blessed to watch these 2 each day. Thoughts? THeir mechanics and approach is remarkable

Jayson Stark
  (1:54 PM)

Good way to describe it. Miggy is a genius. Votto might be the closest thing we've seen to a Ted Williams-type approach in a generation. It's awesome to watch these guys grind those at-bats. I hope the rest of the planet has come to understand that.

Chris (Mobile, AL)

If the postseason started tomorrow, would be Braves have BJ playing CF or Schafer? Worst signing BJ or Uggla?

Jayson Stark
  (1:58 PM)

I've had a lot of BJ questions today, so I'm guessing patience is running out among the fan base, huh? Just remember, he's always been streaky. And he's always been frustrating to watch when he's in one of his bad streaks. He's also been a creature of the most easy-going place to play in baseball (Tampa Bay) who is now out of that comfort zone and struggling to adjust. Way too soon to draw any conclusions about that signing or where he's heading. But now that I have all that out of the way, that was definitely more years and dollars than I'd have given him!

logic (NE, MD)

How can modern pitchers be over used when they previously threw every 4 days for 7 to 9 innings. Look at Jim Palmers record for complete games. That was the norm, not the exception. The problem is the obsession with velocity. Pitching at max effort consistently is a recipe for disaster.

Jayson Stark
  (1:59 PM)

We're talking about two different issues. The previous discussion was about how long the postseason lasts and the impact of making five or six high-stress starts in October. You're making a different case, but I wouldn't say I disagree with it. A topic for another day.

Jayson Stark
  (1:59 PM)

Hard to believe there's only time for one more. Again, sorry I was late!

Jon (Bozeman, MT)

Jayson, do you think that Donnie Baseball is still the manager of the Dodgers at the end of the season? I can hardly blame him for the injuries that have happened and how Kemp and AGon have recovered from their injuries.

Jayson Stark
  (2:01 PM)

Here's my take: They clearly don't want to fire him. They like him, and they want him to succeed. And people have totally misinterpreted what he said the other day as being a shot at management. On the other hand, there's so much at stake in this season, nothing is guaranteed. Nothing. If that team doesn't play better and doesn't compete the way it should, anything is possible. Any trade. Any firing. Anything. I think he manages out the season. But that's up to his players as much as it is to management.

Jayson Stark
  (2:01 PM)

Thanks to everyone who checked in. Great questions today. See you down the road in Chat Land!